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Herod the fox

In Hebrew and Greek literature, this animal is renowned for its shrewdness and also for its small size compared with other predators.

ZOE AUTOR 102/Antonio_Cruz TRADUCTOR Roger Marshall 28 DE ABRIL DE 2024 15:00 h
Photo:: [link]Yuriy Chemerys[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

The metaphor of the fox which Jesus invokes in relation to Herod the tetrarch constitutes a psychological and sociological definition of this dark Jewish character.



To the advice that he should leave that territory because the king wanted to kill him, the Master replies: “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! (Luke 13:32-33)



What did Jesus mean by the term “fox”? In Hebrew and Greek literature, this animal is renowned for its shrewdness and also for its small size compared with other predators.



This double meaning was applicable to Herod Antipas. As a shrewd politician, he tried to use Jesus for his own advantage (Luke 9:7-9), and when he failed he tried to get rid of him as he had done with John the Baptist.



However, in the case of Christ he failed, because his destiny was in the hands of the Almighty, and no human power could determine the Master’s future. 



Neither did Herod have as much power as other Roman politicians at this time. He only governed Galilee and Perea, while Pontius Pilate, the governor of the province of Judea, designated by Tiberius, had much greater influence in Rome. In this sense, he was like a fox facing a lion.



Thus this governor of Galilee, subject to the orders of the Roman Emperor, possessed the characteristics that the ancients ascribed to the fox: picaresque cunning and little political influence. 



Traditionally, humans have attributed cunning to this canine species because they go unnoticed until they can seize the opportunity to hunt down their prey by acting swiftly and effectively. T



hey are solitary, stealthy and elusive. If they realise that they are being followed, they distance themselves from their burrows in order to protect their young, and take circuitous routes. They choose particular locations to urinate in order to leave false trails and confuse their predators.



Their foxholes and burrows are connected to the surface by means of numerous exits, to ensure as many escape routes as possible. 



The result of this observation was that from the 6th and 7th centuries AD onwards, a certain symbolic Christian interpretation went so far as to identify the fox with the devil himself, and that anyone who ate the flesh of the fox would participate in its greed ambition and murderous instincts.



Such are the dangers posed by many cases of erroneous allegorical exegesis of Scripture throughout history. 



Despite everything, the fatal destiny awaiting Jesus in Jerusalem would not depend on Herod, nor on Pilate nor on any of the Jewish or Roman leaders butt on the eternal purposes of the Father.



Jesus’s decisive journey towards Calvary was not conditioned by the well-intentioned counsel of the Pharisees, or by any desire to avoid the kind of death that Herod might have been preparing for him, but by his unrelenting determination to obey God.



Jesus had made up his mind to fulfil the will of his father, and drink the bitter cup out of love for humankind. Therefore, his death on the cross was not a defeat, but a perfect and complete success. 



The attitude of the Messiah also stands for us as a supremely significant example. How do we as believers face the risks posed by present-day Herods? Are we afraid of foxes? Are we running away from them or are we facing them with wisdom and courage?



Jesus Christ wants us to follow him, whatever the cost, and without allowing ourselves to be cowered by human power. The essence of the Christian life is the development of a very specific mission: to contribute to the Kingdom of God here on hearth. U



ndoubtedly, this enormous task may incur discomfort, suffering and even death itself, but it will also contribute to the fulfilment of God’s purposes and the Lord will have the last word, at the time he chooses. 


 

 


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