Herod the Great. Yes…THAT Herod. The Herod of the bible who was ruling over Judea at the birth of Jesus. Yes, with obvious exceptions, I think Herod the Great and The Donald have much in common.
I have visited the Holy Land many times and every time I see its ancient ruins, I am impressed with Herod the builder. He built luxurious Roman palaces, ingenious saunas, functioning long-distance aqueducts, mighty fortresses, and beautiful villas…all seemingly at will. And of course, his greatest accomplishment was the construction of the Temple…built to secure the allegiance of the Jews. These sites, most in semi-reconstructed ruins now, are some of the most impressive things to see on a tour.
Herod, like his modern day counterpart The Donald, had a endless supply of money, power, and personal will. Herod never met a problem or a challenge he couldn’t solve…or so it seems. Imagine his demands:
See that high bluff over there..high in the distance…above the great Salt Sea. I want a winter palace there…a sauna and a pool in the middle of the desert; I want to sit on a porch up there and watch the sun rise and set without turning anything but my neck. Boom: Masada!
I want a really, really EUGE resort to impress my friends and my Caesar…It’s got to have its own seaport on the Mediterranean, and its own amphitheater…and an arena for watching chariot races. I love horses! Boom: Caesarea Martima.
See that mountain over there. I want to put a palace on it. Wait! It’s too short. Double the size of that mountain because I want to see the City of Jerusalem from the top. And bury me there! Boom: The Herodium
And these Jews need a place to worship their God. Let’s do it. I’m really, really big on religion. Let’s make Jerusalem GREAT again; let’s give it the Temple it deserves. Boom: The eponymous “Herod’s Temple”
Palace after palace, the ‘premier properties’ of Herod the Great were the pinnacle of opulence and vanity for their day. Herod was big; really, really big. And obviously, so is Trump. Really big.
But history shows that Herod was also deeply insecure. He only pretended to be religious to curry favor with the Magi. He was threatened by a new born baby in Bethlehem. He flew into a rage when he learned he had been duped by the kings. And sadly, his most evil act, the slaughter of innocent children, was the result. I am not suggesting that Trump and Herod would have that in common, but they both seem very comfortable with anger, retribution, and intimidation to hold their position.
Do others see that as insecurity too? Who else but a man unsure of himself would say “I’m, like, a really smart person.” Does a secure leader smear a political opponent through his mother as he did the other night at a debate? His comments about women are particularly revealing. What is he afraid of…other than being found out to be less than a perfect self? Really, what settled, secure person would ever say, “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.“?
Self-confidence is admirable; we need our leaders to have it. But often extreme, iron-clad self-confidence is a smoke-screen. Brash, boisterous self-exaltation should scare us. We are all fallen creatures. Imperfect at best. Where is some humility and a deep awareness of a fallen and sinful nature? When asked about his religious life and his need for forgiveness, Trump said, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness. I don’t bring God into that picture.” Enough said.
We can be good…and some people can be great; but none of us are all great. The proud Winston Churchill got it right when he said, “We are all worms; but I believe I am a glow worm.” Perfectly true.
Herod was an builder, for sure. And he was insecure. And today he is remembered NOT for what he built or achieved through his technological advances in construction, but for his terrible instability, insanity, and tyranny. He is most remembered not for what he built but who he tried to destroy.
I don’t know Donald Trump and if he is elected president I will pray for him. But what we need today is a person of stability, humility, and maturity. We don’t need a man who only knows how to blow his own trumpet or else blow raspberries at his opponents. We don’t need peevishness or pouting. We don’t need a celebrity builder driven by deep forces we cannot understand. We don’t need a Herod.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.