Herod's Deathly Invasion
(The Jesus Diary Continues. [Caution: realistic description of violence] )
I couldn't sleep. The emotional upheavals of the past few days taxed my mind. First was the exhilaration at meeting those brilliant Magi from the East and befriending some of their men. They were polite guests at my friend Amnon's inn and very generous with his staff. I was sad when I watched them ride into the distance atop their camels.
No sooner had that delightful memory faded when I was shaken from my reverie with a reality shockingly different in its intensity and intent: the arrival of Herod's advance team. They infected the entire town, not only by their loathsome presence but even more so by the threat of impending terror that reeked about them.
On the first night they destroyed the inn at the center of town in drunken violence. The innkeeper tried to restrain them and received a broken leg for his effort. They laughed as he tried to hobble away and kicked him as he lay helpless on the floor. After they returned to their drinks, some friends carried the poor man to safety. The brutes moved on the next night and did the same thing to the inn next door, where the forewarned owner wisely stayed out of sight.
Amnon boarded up windows and doors, hanging a large "Closed for Repairs" sign above the door. Herod's stupid men never figured out they were the cause of his closure, and that by doing so he had eliminated the need for any incipient repairs.
Due to his gigantic size and capacity Og stayed relatively sober while the rest of his men snored in drunken slumber. I approached him when he was alone and begged him to get his men under control.
"They want blood!" he roared. "They are out of my control. I don’t think even Herod himself could calm them down right now!" I asked where Herod was staying.
"He didn't come! Last minute palace duties. When Rome calls Herod jumps."
"He's not here?" I asked incredulously.
"No. But he gave me very clear instructions."
"What kind of instructions?" I asked, my heart and mind racing with dread.
"You will see tomorrow. Right now I have to get back to my men, wake them up. Tell them they will have to be sober for their work tomorrow and to stop breaking up every inn in town. Do you know a good place for me to stay?"
"No," I lied. "I'm not from here either."
"Well," he shouted over his shoulder as he walked away, "Take my advice and stay out of sight tomorrow!"
It was with these words gnawing at my mind that I tossed and turned all night long in Amnon's shuttered inn. It was completely dark with the windows boarded up, adding even more anxiety to my already terrifying sense of dread. The revelry of Og's crew continued, but the muted sound told me they were a good distance from my inn. Finally my eyes closed and I slept.
But not for long. At the very break of day I was shocked to instant alertness by a dreadful combination of weeping, cursing, screams and shrieks. I lay in motionless terror. Was I dreaming? Was I dead and in Sheol? I was paralyzed, immobile. Finally I staggered blindly to the window and peeked through a crack in the board. My brain cried at what I saw.
There was blood everywhere! I saw Herod's savages going from house to house, breaking in and grabbing small children. They yanked them from their mother's arms and hacked them in half with razor-sharp swords, casually tossing the dismembered bodies to the ground. I saw one woman trying to fight one of the brutes. He cut her arm off with one swipe of his weapon and then just as quickly decapitated her child.
I ran down the stairs to the street. I didn't know what I could do but I was determined to try something.
I never saw so much blood! Herod's butchers viciously slashed innocent children, some just babes in arms, and even pursued older ones who tried to run away. They laughed when they caught the terrified child before slicing him in half.
I spotted Og. "What's going on?" I cried.
"Any male child under two will die," he said, "by order of Herod. And any mother or father who tries to interfere will die too!"
"This is madness!" I shouted above the cries and screams.
"Call it what you will. But it's what Herod ordered and it's what we intend to do." Then he added in a businesslike tone, "We'll be done here soon and things will get back to normal." He laughed, "Whatever that means!"
"I know some of these men," I pleaded. "What has gotten into them?"
"Herod threatened them with their lives if they showed any compassion or mercy. He even ordered them to spy on each other and report any signs of pity or lack of enthusiasm. He promised a parade for whoever is voted the most vicious. It's a competition for them."
"I'd like to slash his throat!" I screamed. "I hope one of you is brave enough to give Herod this same treatment someday!"
Og could have slashed my throat for that reckless comment. Instead he patted me gently on the cheek as if I were a child and laughed, then walked away, yelling at his men. I was helpless. He knew it. So did I. He, and Herod's men had sold their souls to the devil. And the devil was winning.
If there was any consolation in this massacre it was that Jesus and his family were nowhere to be found. Herod had been outsmarted again: first by the Magi, and now by Mary and Joseph, who had saved their child from his murderous horde.
But my mind buzzed with questions: How did they know? Who told them? When did they leave town? And where did they go?
(NOTE: The brutality of Herod's men lives on even today in the murderous sin of abortion. Unlike Herod, who allowed children to be born before killing them, our Liberal leaders see nothing wrong with murdering a live unborn child while still in its mother's womb. They call it "reproductive care," and many of them call themselves "Catholic." Yes, men can still sell their souls.)