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Yes he did order the death of all male children two years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
We are not told specifically why Herod wanted to kill Jesus but it is reasonable to suppose that being an Idumean (a descendant of Esau), he feared that the birth of a boy who could lay legitimate claim to the throne of Judah would, in time, end his dynasty as kings of Judaea.
The time of Jesus’ birth fitted in with the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel.
Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
The prophetic weeks are weeks of years making some 483 [(7+62)x7] years counting from the time of the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince. The commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem is recorded in Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 2:4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it. 6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. 7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah; 8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
Messiah the Prince was to be of the line of David and restore David’s throne. This would be understood by Herod.
Daniel’s prophecy was given in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had made him master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers.
Daniel 5:11 There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods... whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father... made master of the magicians...
The word used for magicians in Daniel 5:11 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) is ‘magi’. This same word is used in Matthew and translated ‘wise men’.
Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
The men came from the east and it is not unreasonable to believe that they came from Babylon and knew the prophecy given by Daniel. They knew that the time period was nearing its end and they had observed the appearance of a new star in the night sky.
From the context they came to Jerusalem because they understood that the star indicated the birth of one born to be the king of the Jews.
Matthew 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Herod asks the Jews where Christ (anointed – Greek for Messiah) would be born.
Matthew 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
The Jews point him to Micah’s prophecy which in the Massoretic text reads:
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
They quote from the Septuagint (LXX):
LXXE Micah 5:2 And thou, Bethleem, house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Juda; yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel; and his goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity.
Matthew 2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Herod correctly believes this to be the promised birth of the Messiah who is destined to rule over all Israel. He tries to ascertain the birth date from the wise men who will have taken several months to reach Jerusalem.
Matthew 2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
He then tries subterfuge to get the wise men to locate the child for him.
Matthew 2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
He is thwarted because God intervenes.
Matthew 2:12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Herod uses the date of the star’s appearance to order the death of all the male children in Bethlehem up to 2 years old to try to kill the promised king of Israel.
Matthew 2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
This fulfils another Old Testament prophecy
Matthew 2:17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Jeremiah 31:15 Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
The Jews fulfilled the rest of the prophecy of Daniel 9 by ‘cutting off’ or killing their Messiah. In consequence the Mosaic Covenant (the sacrifice and the oblation) ceased, the Temple was destroyed and the Jews made desolate by the Romans.
Daniel 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
So the Jews were made desolate and Jerusalem is to be trodden down by the gentiles until the time of the gentiles is fulfilled.
Luke 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh....24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Christ will rule upon the throne of his Father David when he returns to raise the dead, restore the kingdom of Israel and rule the earth in righteousness.
Luke 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
I hope you have found this helpful.
May God bless you,