You can’t have a good story with a protagonist as highly exalted as Jesus, not the least in his birth story, without having a solid antagonist — and we’ve got one: Herod the Great who populates Matthew’s second chapter like a crazed power-hungry despot. Which he was in fact.
Oddly enough, everything Herod does paradoxically witnesses to the glory of the newborn King:
1. Herod’s question leads to a biblical “word” search to see where the Messiah was to be born — so his question leads also to the answer: Bethlehem. Connecting Jesus with Bethlehem connects Jesus with Messianic hopes.
2. Herod’s false claim of desiring to worship him leads us to see the Magi as the true worshippers of Jesus.
3. Herod’s standing there at his door waiting for the Magi to inform him where the Messiah was leads us to see God protecting the baby Messiah.
4. Herod’s murderous threats and executions of the babies of Bethlehem lead us to see the Messiah as the one who will eventually also suffer at the hands of another Herod on another day, and to yet another text — this from Jeremiah — that witnesses to events surrounding Jesus’ births as signs of fulfillment.
5. When Herod dies and Archelaus replaces him we discover both that it is time for the Messiah to return from Egypt and that this Herod will also be opposed to the Messiah’s reign: yet another text leading us to see empire opposition to Jesus and Jesus’ future death as the way to end empire ideology.