Persia: Rome’s and Herod’s Nemesis

Between Daniel’s day and Jesus’ birth, Persia and Rome have “a history.”  Between 333 and 323 BC, Alexander the Great of Greece has conquered all of Asia Minor over to India and down into Egypt.  Then at 33 years of age he dies and his empire is split among his generals.  General Seleucus governs Babylon and Persia and later adds Syria and Asia Minor.  However Persia seems to have retained its identity rather than to be fully absorbed into the Greek culture that Alexander had brought with him.  As time goes on, they grow again to be a force to be reckoned with.

Among its military strengths is the Cataphracti – not a chariot cavalry, but a highly mobile mounted cavalry, the finest in the world – which decimates almost every Roman armies it encounters.  The Roman Crassus takes three legions against the Persians at Carrhae in 55 BC; the legions do make it back – in tatters, minus their commander and 30,000 troops.  Persia responds by invading Armenia, Syria and Palestine.  Although Rome reasserts itself and places Antipater, Herod’s father, in charge of Palestine, they have to run from another Persian invasion in 40 BC.  Mark Antony attempts Crassus’ folly in 37 BC resulting in Persia sweeping Rome out of Palestine, reestablishing Jewish sovereignty, placing a Jewish garrison in charge of Jerusalem, and chasing Herod to the arms of the Roman Senate (who then appoint him as “King of the Jews”).

With all this history in the background, now come the Magi to Jerusalem.  They are not kings, but they are very high officials in Persian government – the word “Magi” gives us the noble word “magistrate” (that is, of the level, strata, of the Magi).  It is most unlikely that they would cross robber-infested desert and then plunge deep into enemy territory without an elite escort of Persia’s finest, the Cataphracti.

Meanwhile, Herod has spent three years of war and then seven months of sieging Jerusalem to finally take the throne from the one whom the Persians had placed on it.  Suddenly the Cataphracti are just cresting the hills.  He and his father had both run for their lives in previous invasions, now the enemy is literally already on his doorstep and all he has in Jerusalem is a small garrison.  Although a larger force is stationed by the Mediterranean Sea, it is too far away and also too small should the Persians be invading – as well, these Roman troops are away fighting in another war.

generic viagra You can have this drug anywhere at any time, right up until Sunday. After the disorder went on to be so viral and it was seen that maximum number of people was affected by this disorder more and more medicines came into existence and where it got its name from. The reason why one should go with this choice. Continue the massage until the herbal oil is completely absorbed into inner tissues and nerves. The Persian Magi come seeking the One born the King of the Jews.  Herod is not a Jew but an Idumaean – the offspring of Esau (nicknamed Edom), Jacob’s brother – and God has said that the throne belongs only to the line of David.  This puppet king of heathen Rome has murdered even those in his own household in his paranoid desire to hold on to his throne.  In fact, Caesar Augustus reportedly quips that it would be better being Herod’s pig (Greek hus) than his son (Greek huios) – the pig, since it is an unclean animal, would never be slaughtered, whereas a number of Herod’s sons have been “disposed of.”

To say that Herod is agitated would probably be a classic understatement.  Yet if he isn’t careful, easily he and his sons may not survive this encounter with the Persians.  The people of Jerusalem aren’t too keen on all this either because they are the ones who pay the biggest price.  Either they are in store for a couple of mutual sieges between Persia and Rome, or Herod may go on one of his binges and who knows who will die next.  Their concern is legitimate, because when Herod later faces his deathbed, he orders all the heads of the Jews to come to Jerusalem, whom he then locks up in the hippodrome with the command to kill them when he dies, so that at his death there would be mourning, even if it is not for him.  Fortunately, after his death, those who are in the hippodrome are released unharmed.

Getting the likely location from the priests and scribes, feigning enthusiasm, he sends the Magi on to Bethlehem, happy to see that their attention is less on him and more on the birth of his rival – a rival whom he will dispose of when he can.

The Magi are no obscure wandering “kings” or however folklore romantically tries to brand them, but rather members of a powerful class within a powerful Persian empire.  Yet in spite of their power and prestige, they humbly come to pay tribute at the birth of One to Whom Jehovah’s prophecies and heavens point.  They willingly travel 1800 miles round-trip across desert and into enemy territory to worship at the feet of Jesus.  When we are called upon to worship this same Jesus, we who have so much greater reason to do so, what is our reaction?

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