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When HEROD saw that he had been mocked by the Magi, he was greatly enraged,

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and he sent forth [his troops] and he put to death all the boys that were in BETHLEHEM

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and its vicinity, who were two years old and younger, according to the time he had learned from the wise men.

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When THE SELF-PROCLAIMED HERO learned that he had been played for a fool by the wise men he was insanely angry, furious beyond words, so he sent out his troops and killed all the boys that were in

THE HOUSE OF BREAD and its surrounding areas, boys who were two years old and younger, according to what he had learned from his interrogation of the wise men.



Even without an adjective like “greatly,” this word means to be “incensed with anger, full (to the brim) of anger, crazy with anger.” The adjective “greatly” intensifies an already intense term.

Did Herod try to find and kill the wise men? We are not told but it would be reasonable to assume that he tried.

2: “all the boys that were in Bethlehem”

In this case the irony is a sad one. The “house of bread” was a place of God’s provision, thus God’s blessing. But in this case evil reached its hand into that good and wholesome place and wreaked havoc. It was a small town; some speculate it had a population of about 300 at that time, meaning that the number of boys that were killed was relatively small compared to other atrocities throughout history, but that does not diminish how horrible it was. To target babies for slaughter had never been heard of before. His name meant “hero,” right? Indeed, he could be a hero in no one’s mind except his own. Everyone else saw him for what he really was, a monster who turned the “house of bread” into the “house of slaughter.”

3: “he had learned from the wise men”

Why did Herod choose two years? We must recall that most reliable accounts indicate that the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars came together to form a very bright light in the sky two years before Jesus’ actual birth, just as it was foretold in one of the Midrashim. It appears that Herod believed the prophecy in general, he believed the place indicated by other prophecies, and he believed the story of the Magi regarding the time the star had appeared; the only thing he did not believe was that the star preceded the birth by approximately two years. In order to be absolutely sure he had eliminated this threat, he ordered the killing of all baby boys who might possibly fit this prophecy, even if the appearance of the star was not two years early, but coinciding with the actual time of birth. In Herod’s mind it made perfect sense to set the age at two years, just in case the wise men misunderstood the timing of the star and the child’s birth. The command to the soldiers would have sounded something like this: “Kill every male child in or near Bethlehem that looks like it might be about two years old or younger.” They could not and would not ask the parents how old the child was, nor were there formal birth certificates in those days, so the soldiers had to guess at the age of each child. The soldiers would not want to be punished for not doing their job right so if there were any doubt about the age of a child they would kill it just to be sure. So Herod said two years, but the soldiers probably added a few months to that to protect themselves from retaliation.

One of the most amazing aspects of his act of atrocity was that Herod actually believed he could stop God’s plan. He believed the prophecy could be true, yet he also believed he was more powerful than the One who spoke the prophecy and was responsible for bringing it to fruition. Be careful my friend, and be cautious; guard your soul against arrogance, for arrogance will make you stupid.