Herod stroked his beard. ”Well you certainly are different, though I fail to see what joy there is in it. That crazy way you shave your face! The Romans are clean-shaven, and the Jews are fully bearded, but you! You shave only the lower part of your face – and you, being a Jew at that!”
”It’s true, I was born a Jew.” Manaheem walked over to the wall and picked up one of the chairs that lined it. “But since your father adopted me, I’ve become a citizen of Rome, like you.” Pulling the chair up close to Herod, he slowly sat down. “So I am really both, and really neither. I choose to be identified with neither, but to be my own man. But you, dear Herod, are truly neither, not even by birth. So why imitate either in appearance or action? Why try to fit in where you don’t really fit?”
Herod winced. ”A public servant must bend to those he serves. And, after all, what else is there? Our old Idumean ways are gone for good.”
Manaheem nodded. ”True. And I don’t know if it would have been much better if you’d kept them either. It would have given you your identity as a people, true. But then, customs are customs and all are binding. A man must be free to be himself – to think, act and express himself according to the dictates of his own conscience, free from the scorn, or worse, of others.”
Herod placed the crown back on his head and sat with his chin resting in his hand. ”An interesting philosophy, I must admit, although highly impractical. But tell me, dear brother, just what was it that started you thinking along those lines?”
”A disgust with people, conditions and conformity.” Manaheem leaned back in his chair. “Of course, the uniqueness of my situation may have contributed to my way of thinking. Being raised by a people not my own may have given me an edge of aloofness. I saw the way the royal family lived and wanted no part of it. I wasn’t sure I wanted the way my own people lived either. I wanted not form and show, but reality. Of course, my first real shove in that direction, so to speak, came when I was just ten years old. I shall remember those fateful days as long as I live. You, being part of the royal family, and being two years my senior, had been sent away to Rome for your formal schooling. You missed it, dear brother! And you may thank your lucky stars you were not roaming these streets in those days, for even the tales that came back would have curled your royal blood. We never talked of it because it was so horrible. But I think you should know of it, dear brother, since you are the tetrarch. Perhaps then, you may avoid the extreme cruelty of your father, who for his own selfish vanity sacrificed hundreds of tender, innocent young lives.”
”You have succeeded in arousing my curiosity. Please proceed. I shall have Linus bring in some wine.” Herod pulled a cord that hung from the ceiling and a male servant entered. “Wine for two, Linus.” The servant left as quickly as he had appeared, and, almost as quickly, reappeared, carrying a large pitcher of wine and two goblets. “Proceed, Manaheem, proceed,” insisted Herod. The servant filled the goblets and left.
”My pleasure,” said Manaheem, as he reached for his glass. “It all started with the arrival of those eastern dignitaries to the palace. What fear their words brought to Herod the great!” He took a sip. “Say, this wine is quite good!”
”Nothing but the best,” replied Herod, taking a big gulp. “Proceed!”
”Now, where was I?” mused Manaheem, taking another sip. “Oh yes, those eastern visitors. I had noticed their arrival from my bedchamber window, and was curious as to just what their mission might be. So I silently stole downstairs and hid behind the curtains, listening intently. They told a wondrous tale of a child who was to be born king of the Jews. They told how they’d seen his star in the east and had followed it all the way to Jerusalem. They’d traversed many tiresome miles over rocky terrain. The star had gone before them, guiding them all the way. But, now it had disappeared, and so they came to the palace, seeking information. They wanted to worship the new king. Did Herod, or anyone, know of his whereabouts? I could see from your father’s face that he was extremely troubled at this. He dismissed the visitors, telling them to wait in the hall until he sent for them. Then he called together all the chief priests and scribes, and anxiously asked them where the messiah was to be born. I didn’t understand what they were talking about, but they informed him that, according to the Holy Scriptures, it was to be in Bethlehem. Then, after dismissing his advisers, he sent for the visitors. He diligently and minutely questioned them as to the exact time when the star first appeared, finding it to be about two years earlier. He then sent them to Bethlehem, telling them to search diligently for the child there. When they had found the child, they were to bring him word so that he too might worship him. Ha! He cared not to worship him. His devilish mind was already at work, scheming how to get rid of this young king; for, Herod the great feared for his royal throne.” He sipped the wine slowly.
Herod took another gulp. ”Father always did seem a bit overly cautious in that respect. But, I figured, better safe than sorry.”
Manaheem raised his goblet to his lips and took another sip. ”That sounds good, brother, but it isn’t always true.”
”Be that as it may, did the visitors return?”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish