You may have noticed that yesterday was Christmas – the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose teachings in later life form the basis of their faith.
Jesus was born into a world of politics and political machinations – the Roman world was much the same as our own in this respect – and had an effect on it, right from his birth.
According to one of the Gospels, when King Herod learned that a child had been born who had been named ‘King of the Jews’, he sent spies to find out who this possible usurper was; failing in this attempt, he gave orders for the death of all boys aged two or less in Bethlehem and nearby.
Joseph (husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother) was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt until after the King’s death – then moved to Nazareth in Galilee to avoid living under Herod’s son Archelaus (the Romans had divided the kingdom into three, and Nazareth was ruled by another of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas).
Regarding the Massacre of the Innocents, doubt has been cast on whether the event ever took place. No other account of the period makes reference to it. Some have said that this may be because the number of male children of the right age might have been less than 20.
Since the point of this article is to compare what happened then with current events, here in Britain, it seems best to bookmark the disputed event; we’ll come back to it if we must.
The part we are told under no uncertain terms is that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until Herod’s rule was over. In modern terms, they were made homeless because of political persecution that was so extreme, they had to flee the country.
The situation in the UK today, as stated by Shelter, is no less than 80,000 times as bad.
The charity told us (in November): “Government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.”
Vox Political said then that government policies had caused the dramatic rise: “The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.” This blog had warned that this would happen, as long ago as January.
In contrast with the Bible story, in which the family fled to safety, most homeless families interviewed by Shelter said they felt more unsafe, witnessing violence, sexual offences, drug use and dealing.
This is more than 2,000 years after the Biblical incident; civilisation is supposed to have improved over that time. Why are we allowing our government to do this to our children on such a massively more widespread scale?
Perhaps we can take some small comfort from Herod’s fate. Modern medicine suggests he had chronic kidney failure, complicated by Fourier’s gangrene – but let us see how it was described at the time. The historian Josephus – in Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6, Verse 5 – describes the disease that killed him shortly after he set out to murder Jesus: “a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety.”
Eric Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith, and above all David Cameron, beware.
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