There sat the king on a raised dais, surrounded by over twenty members of his court.
Herod rose slowly and looked down upon these nobles whom he did not recognize and had not invited. Once they had arrived at his gate, however, curiosity compelled him to discover why.
He had immediately instructed two of his personal guards to assume the clothing and mannerisms of junior aides and dispatched them to snoop about the visitors’ camp under the guise of being helpful. He sent his steward to welcome the three noblemen, with the intent of separating them from their men. The steward would escort these strangers directly into the confines of his palatial citadel, but without them viewing the city itself, or its defenses.
To give himself time to debrief his two spies, the king ordered a lavish banquet be prepared immediately and that these men be treated like kings... or at least the royal emissaries of kings.
Balthasar was the first to remember his manners, placing his right hand over his heart and bowing in the manner of his people. Herod acknowledged with a slow, deep nod, never taking his eyes off of the trio. Gaspar, too, bowed in turn with his palms together over his breast bone, in the manner common to his land, and received a solemn nod in return. Melchior, placed both hands over his heart, and as he bowed swept them down and away at his sides with his palms forward... and received an unsmiling nod.
And then... silence. No one, it seemed, was prepared to initiate even simple dialog, the king because his spies had discovered nothing informative or remotely threatening in the visitors’ camp, and the princes because they had hoped to avoid an official audience entirely.
After several uncomfortable minutes had lapsed, the bearded steward ushered in two men, one wearing a merchant’s apron and a seriously frightened expression, while the other wore chains. The merchant dropped prostrate before Herod and, aside from an occasional tremor, just lay there. But the silent king neither looked at those men, nor acknowledged their presence. It was the steward who spoke first, addressing the princes directly.
“Herod, king of Judea, Idumaea, Galilee, Samaria and Peraea bids you welcome,” he declared in Hebrew, then muttered an instruction to the man on the floor, who rose only to his knees, and without looking up from the floor, translated it into something else... though the princes had no clue what he’d said. It was the prisoner who surprised them by speaking the local Greek dialect they had heard in Gaza.
“King Herod of Judea, Idumaea, Galilee, Samaria and Peraea makes you welcome.”
Before they could respond in kind, the steward spoke again.
“The great King hopes your travels have been both pleasant and profitable, and trusts that his staff has made your stay restful.”
The merchant thought for a moment before translating, and the prisoner, too, in his limited Greek.
“The King hopes your travels are pleasing and profitable, and your visit is rested.” Then all the king’s men waited.
When neither of his companions spoke up, Melchior answered, recalling diplomatic niceties from his own king’s court, and speaking slowly to give the man in chains a chance to absorb it.
“May the king live long,” he said. “May the king live forever. And may all his days be as pleasant as our stay here has been.” He nodded a brief bow to indicate that, for the moment he was finished.
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world