Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: In the evil shadow of Herod, Shepards were challenged to believe a baby was the messiah, in this evil time we too face the same challenge


Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord

answered his prayer and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other

within her, and she said, “why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the

Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within

you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve

the younger.” Genesis 25:21-23


This may seem like a strange scripture to begin a advent season message with but

there is a reason to my madness. You see, the 2 babies that Rebekah carried would be

Jacob and Esau. Jacob’s descendants became the Israelites, and Esau’s, who would be

renamed Edom after selling his birthright, were the Edomites. OK why is this important?

Well the Israelites and the Edomites would become enemies, fighting many battles against

each other. And the person in the Christmas story we will be looking at today was a

Edomite. That person is Herod the Great


Now just a quick history lesson about Herod the great. Herod the great’s father

was Antipater, and he was installed by Julius Caesar as procurator of Judea. Around 47

BC Antipater appointed his 2 sons to ruling positions, Herod, or Herod the great as he

was known because he was 1st born, became the governor of Judea. Herod became

known for being a ruthless fighter, a cunning negotiator and a subtle diplomat. He also

established himself as a great builder. Undertaking such projects as Masada, the

rebuilding of the temple and the Herodiun. He was a loyal friend and ally of Rome and

was later appointed King of Judea and put in direct control of the Jews.


One of the Greatest Structures Herod built was the Herodiun, which he named after

himself. This massive palace fortress was built about 5 miles from Bethlehem. At the time

it was the 3rd largest palace fortress in the world. It consisted of a upper and lower palace

which comprised about 45 acres. There were 2 walls in this circular fortress about 15’

apart and in between these walls were the rooms for his servants and staff. There were 4

towers on each side of the fortress with the one on the east wall rising over 100 feet above

the palace. The entire complex was comprised of over 100 acres and included a

swimming pool surrounded by a colonnade and garden with exotic plants and large

enough that Herod or his guests could sail or row small boats in it. 100 marble steps led

up to the palace and marble stones adorned the palace inside and out.


This palace/fortress could be seen for miles and symbolized the greatness and power of

Herod. As great as Herod was, his great accomplishments were eclipsed by his vicious

tyranny and paranoia. He had murdered his own wife and killed all male infants who

might have been legal heirs to his throne. Herod used the sword and the cross as powerful

deterrents to keep the Jews in line. And as we read he killed all male children 2 and under

to rid himself of the messiah.


So here we have the setting for the birth of a baby in a manager. The first verse of Matthew chapter 2 sets the scene. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the time of King

Herod.” To the Jew living during this time period, Esau and Edom were symbols for evil

and Herod represented the power and might of the greatest descendent of Esau. So here

we have a king ruling over the Jews who was the epitome of evil and this palace/fortress,

this Herodiun, casting a shadow over the entire area, including a little town called



The Jewish people were familiar with the scriptures and the prophecies concerning

the messiah. One of these prophecies comes from Numbers 24:17-18 and reads “A star

will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of

Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will

be conquered, but Israel will grow strong.” This prophecy foretold that the Messiah

would conquer the Edomites, yet at this time the greatest Edomite yet was king over



It must have been a difficult time for the Jews, they had been conquered by the Romans

and one of their greatest enemies was king over them. The evil and sin of the world was

all around them and so far none of the prophecies concerning the messiah had come to

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