Herod originally intended to have his son, Herod Antipas, succeed him as King of the Jews but Caesar Augustus vetoed the appointment. Augustus suggested Herod appoint his other son, Archeleus, instead. Herod consented, only—upon Herod’s death—Augustus changed the terms of their arrangement.
Archeleus would have to prove himself worthy to be called king. In the meantime, Caesar gave him the title “ethnarch” (“people ruler”) and governance over only 50% of Judea. Antipas and Philip were each given the title “tetrarch” (meaning, “ruler of one-fourth”) and controlled the remainder of Judea between them. Clearly Caesar’s desire was to pit the brothers against each other and further weaken the Jewish monarchy in hopes of diminishing their resistance to Rome.
The only thing Herod’s heirs even inherited from their father was his ability to scheme and betray and make enemies. Antipas beheaded John the Baptist and sent Christ back to Pilate. Archeleus and Philip, while less notable in the New Testament, were no less notorious in their own day and age.
I think many of us feel like Herod’s children. We sometimes feel like those who have come before us have either screwed us up or screwed us over. Sometimes “they” are the government. Sometimes “they” are our families. Sometimes “they” are our educators, financiers, or predecessors.
But the truth is that we all have a choice about what kind of person we’re going to become.
And the good news of the gospel of God is that you can choose another inheritance simply by selecting another Father.
Herod and his heirs were crooked to the core, but they weren’t cursed with debauchery. They believed that the only way to get power, wealth, and influence in this life was through trickery and connivance. As a result, they lost what little they had amassed and ended up more miserable than ever before.
There’s a lot we could have learned from Herod, but it seems like—in one way or another—humanity has been content to learn from the wrong King of the Jews.
Make sure you interrupt that pattern, and follow the True One instead.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com