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§ 220. Persecutions of Herod Antipas. (Luke, xiii., 31.)

Before Christ had passed the border of Galilee, certain Pharisees came and advised him, with pretended anxiety for his safety, to leave that region as quickly as possible, because the king, Herod Antipas, had resolved to slay him. It is a question whether this were really the case, or whether it was a mere invention of the Pharisees to rid themselves of Christ’s troublesome presence. The latter would have been perfectly in keeping with their character. Herod’s previous conduct certainly afforded no substantial ground for suspicion; at first he seems to have been actuated by mere curiosity to see a man of whose deeds so much was said, and to witness one of his miracles (Luke, ix., 9); and at a later period, he was rejoiced at finding an opportunity of the kind (Luke, xxiii., 8). But, on the other hand, had the Pharisees. invented the story, Jesus would have levelled his reproof at them, and not against Herod. It would not have been in harmony with his character to rebuke them over Herod’s shoulders by calling him a crafty “fox,” when the epithet was intended for themselves, instead of telling them directly that he knew their cunning aim to drive him out of the country. Nor is it to be supposed that the feelings and dispositions of a man like Herod Antipas would not fluctuate under different influences. The protracted travels of Christ in Galilee, and the striking effects of his labours, might very naturally excite the fears and suspicions of Herod, especially in view of the relation in which Christ stood to John the Baptist. Even if he did not really intend to kill him, he may have circulated such a report, and thus sought to gain his end by getting him out of Galilee. This would have been characteristic of the “fox,” as Jesus styled him.

But since Herod’s relations with the Pharisees were not the most friendly, and since he must have known their hostility to Jesus, it is not likely that they were his instruments in approaching the Saviour. They probably acted from motives of their own; whether they belonged to the less hostile party, and gave him the warning in good faith, or whether, without inventing the report, they used it to get rid of one who so troubled them by his reproofs, and threatened to injure their authority with the people so seriously.

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