Of course, one does not have to be a Bible scholar to know that Herod was not a Wise Man spelled with a capital “W” and ”M,” that is, one of the Magi. But as we read the account of that first Christmas it becomes apparent that neither was he a wise man spelled with a small “w” and “m.”
This accusation becomes apparent as we examine the details related to the arrival of the Magi and Herod’s response. We recall that these prominent personages showed up at Herod’s court telling him that they had been following a star seeking a child that was being born as King of the Jews. The star had led them to that point, but they needed directions to the exact location. (It might be noted that these were typical men, stopping for directions. But I digress).
Herod not knowing the answer called in the theological experts who provided the answer from Micah 5:2:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)
Armed with this information, the Magi headed toward Bethlehem, and again locked onto the guiding star, which led them to Jesus.
What would Herod’s response be? These circumstances make him fear the prospect of a contender for the throne, which led him to devise a plan to kill him by murdering all the babies in Bethlehem.
How smart was that?
In seeking to analyze the situation from his perspective, he had no way of knowing whether or not these Magi were just some oriental Don Quixote’s, off on a wild windmill chase. In that case, he had nothing to worry about. If they were just some disoriented mystics, then there was no king of the Jews being born, and therefore no need to feel threatened and to kill all those babies. However, if these Magi were for real, and the star that guided them was for real, did Herod really think he could outmaneuver the God who placed a star in the heavens? That conclusion doesn’t display a great deal of wisdom.
And if that was dumb, this is even dumber. Herod verified the birth of this King and identified the location of His birth by calling theological experts who quoted from a book written about 700 years earlier. The same logic applies here. If this old prophecy was just a Jewish myth, Herod had nothing to worry about. However, if a prophecy out of a 700-year-old book was valid, the prediction must have been made by a God who was controlling history across centuries of time. Did Herod really think that he would be able to outsmart and overpower that God by killing off some babies? Not too smart.
So we see that Herod missed being a wise man on two counts.
That takes us back to the pronouncement found twice in the Psalms: “The fool has said in his heart, ’There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1) Not believing in God, or not believing in the God of the Bible, leads people to some pretty twisted logic that disqualifies them from being wise men. The Apostle Paul made that observation in the first chapter of Romans:
(B)ecause, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…. (Romans 1:21-22 NKJV)
As the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. We find the same foolishness today among those rejecting God, people who not only assert that a DNA molecule could happen by accident, a mathematical impossibility, but also that a countless number of such molecules could be organized into a functioning human brain by accident.
My son lives in Richmond. We are going there for a visit tomorrow. I especially enjoy the trip because as we pass through the heart of Richmond toward the end of the trip there is a big billboard right on Interstate 95, perhaps the busiest highway in the nation, that reads, ”The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” I don’t know who paid for that sign, but it’s the best Christmas present they could have given me.