Why did God let King Herod kill all the children?
Well, people do things God doesn't approve of all the time. This is a higher order of magnitude bad thing. But the reality is that powerful people have done bad things for generations. Herod wasn't the first and He wasn't the last. The list of individuals who ended up committing mass murder or genocides in just the last couple of generations is staggering. Short of sending in the angels or striking the leader or other individual down dead, God really doesn't stop people's free will from being executed. Does God fight on the side of the right? I believe that most times He does. But He also allows people to come to power to further His ultimate will for humanity.
So let's examine a few of the reasons why God might have decided not to send in the angels this time...
- In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel appears to Zacharias while he is ministering in the Holy Place at the temple in Jerusalem. Gabriel announces that Elisabeth, Zacharias' wife, would bear a son who would be named John who would be an evangelist to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, to change the hearts of the disobedient to being just and to make ready a people for the Lord.
- Because he doubted the angel, he was struck dumb and couldn't talk.
- Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her she is going to bear Jesus. Gabriel refers to her fellow countryman Zacharias and Elisabeth who are expecting their first child at an old age (like Abraham and Sarah - well past the age of child bearing.)
- Mary goes to see Elisabeth and when she arrives, the baby leaps in the womb of Elisabeth and Elisabeth is filled with the Holy Ghost. She prophecies that Mary will be blessed because of the child she is carrying.
- John is born, and when the father names him John by writing, to the surprise of all around him, Zacharias is immediately able to speak again. Zacharias is filled with the Holy Ghost and prophecies about the coming Messiah and the work of John in being the prophet of the Messiah. The miracle of his being able to speak and of the prophecy he made is announced in the surrounding area.
- Joseph plans to put Mary away privately so as not to cause her public ridicule, but an angel from God appears in a dream and tells him of who the child is. He chooses to stand with her and not put her away.
- Mary gives birth to Christ - as a virgin - fulfilling prophecy.
- The angels come to the shepherds and announce the birth of Christ. The shepherds go and see with their own eyes and announce what has happened to them round about the countryside. Again, the birth of Christ is announced by angels, and the gospel message is spread about.
- Finally, after a couple of years, wise men come to Herod seeking the new King. (Matthew 2) Herod checks with the religious scribes and priests to find out where the King is to be born and they confirm that the location is Bethlehem. So the religious leaders of the day had prophecy directly in their temple about the coming Messiah and should have been able to hear the word of the shepherds relating the angels had said the Messiah was indeed born in Bethlehem - exactly where He was supposed to be born.
- The wise men tell Herod that they saw the star around two years ago since that is the age limit that Herod sets in deciding what children in at least a 10 mile radius around Bethlehem will die (Bethlehem and the coasts thereof).
- The wise men go to Nazareth where the young child is now living bringing expensive gifts to Him and confirming to everyone that He is the expected King once again.
So all classes of people knew about what was going on. This might not have included 100% of the people, but a substantial majority from the priesthood (starting with Zacharias in Jerusalem) to the rural (from the shepherds), to the friends and neighbors around Mary and Joseph's home, knew the significance of this particular child. He fulfilled long standing prophecy which was quoted by various participants at various times just to emphasize the point. Yet the people were ignoring the whole situation. There was no acclamation in the land. Herod wasn't even aware that a King had been born. People were just ho-humming the most important event in Jewish history - the coming of their Messiah - in spite of the effort of God and His angels and His prophets.
Can you think of another time like this? It reminds me of the time the people of Israel were delivered from Pharaoh. There, God worked over and over trying to get Pharaoh to do the right thing and let His people go. Over and over, Pharaoh hardened his heart and said no. Eventually, the first born in Egypt who weren't protected by the blood of a lamb on the door frame of the house were slaughtered by an angel in a single night. After this, Pharaoh told the people of Israel to get out and they took much plunder from the Egyptians when they left. Pharaoh gave chase and he and his armies died in the Red Sea at God's hand.
Like Pharaoh, the people of Israel in the days following the birth of Jesus hardened their heart. They didn't rejoice that their Messiah was born. The just looked at it and said to themselves - well - it'll be another 20 or 30 years before our lives will change. That's just a baby. Let's go on about our business. Now maybe that isn't what they were feeling and maybe that isn't exactly what happened. All I have listed is speculation on my part. But I do know that judgment starts in the house of God and God expects more from His people than the unsaved of the world. If He judged Egypt, it is not unreasonable to think He might stand by and allow this to happen to those who were ignoring His greatest gift that He had sent His angels to proclaim.
How about you? Have you hardened your heart to the Gospel's Message? How about you as a Christian.... are you proclaiming the gift of God this holiday season or are you wrapped up in shopping? The next time the Messiah appears with the shout of the arch angel, it will be to restore life to the dust and bones of dead Christians and to take the living Christians to heaven. Like the other times, there will be mourning for those left behind. Don't be one of them!