In contrast to the travellers from the East who were thrilled to discover Jesus and worshiped him by presenting him with gifts, Herod was filled with fear.
This was Herod the Great, a powerful and ruthless man. He was renowned for his building projects which included the Temple in Jerusalem and the city and harbour at Caesarea. On the plus side of his ledger, scholars have noted his famine relief. But he loved power and displayed aspects of paranoia, even killing his wife and two sons.
Matthew’s observation that Herod was troubled is hardly surprising. If a King has been born, Herod’s position must be under threat and he will take any steps to eliminate his rival, even if his rival is none other than Messiah.
His plan to use the Eastern visitors is thwarted as they are warned in a dream not to return to Herod. In an orgy of murderous rage he orders the slaughter of all of Bethlehem’s baby boys under two – all in a futile attempt to be rid of God’s anointed king.
Worth noting that while the coming of Jesus is a source of great joy to some, it is a threat to the power and empires of others.
Herod might have done well to consider Psalm 2 and the Lord’s dismissal of those who attempt to set themselves up against him.
As for me, I have set my King on Zion.
Tyrants cannot stop the purposes of God.