Calling Herod a Fox

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'” (Luke 13:31-32)

Jesus calling Herod a fox catches us a little off guard here. Did Jesus really call people names? Yes, when appropriate. He did not do it to hurt people’s feelings or out of childish anger or to be unkind. But Jesus called a spade a spade.

What did he mean by calling Herod a fox? A fox is a small, weak, wily animal that lives by cunning rather than strength. Jesus was drawing attention to Herod’s crafty, treacherous side. Herod was not a man worthy of trust or respect. He divorced his wife to marry his own niece, who happened to be his own brother’s wife. He beheaded John the Baptist because of a foolish promise made at a birthday party. He was a man of weak character who used his political power for selfish ends.

Now, we need to be careful here. As Christians we are called to love, forgive, forbear and be courteous to others. We should not go around calling people names as a general rule. Jesus rarely did. But there are times when we also must call a spade a spade. Sometimes a thief needs to be called a thief; the unfaithful spouse must be called an adulterer; the pornographer needs to be called perverted. There are times when evil must be confronted and named. There are times when Herod must be called a fox.

(from the message: Traffic and Tears on the Road to Jerusalem)


  1. eclexia says:

    As someone who has been in an abusive relationship (and my husband was very smooth and very influential, not just in the church, but in a large missions organization), I have seen how the church’s propensity to “ban gossip” can keep the church from allowing the truth about sin to be revealed.

    I have also seen it in other friend’s lives. It is very difficult to speak openly and honestly about anything difficult without being judged harshly, and sin is often swept under the rug because of it. I’m not talking about always being beligerant or negative or about people who are eager to find fault and tear down. Gossip really is an issue, but we do no one a favor by including any discussion or verbal recognition of sin swirling around us in that category.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    eclexia – You bring up some good application points on this verse. I have seen churches handle sin and abuse well, and then I have also seen what you report here. It is difficult to name and confront evil, but we must speak the truth in love. Thank you for sharing part of your experience with us.

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