“Akish Began to Be Jealous of His Son”

Bryan Richards

It is hard to imagine anyone so wicked that they would torture their son to death because of an uncontrollable desire for power. Moroni doesn’t discuss much of the demented psychology of these paranoid Jaredite power mongers. However, Josephus goes to great lengths to describe the same thought process as it occurred in the life of Herod the Great. We know him as the king who killed all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under (Matt 2:16). But this mass infanticide was but one of many atrocious acts which marked Herod’s reign.

Like Akish, Herod’s paranoia seemed to have no end, nor did his cruelty to those who were a threat to him. He “never left off avenging and punishing every day those that had chosen to be of the party of his enemies” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XV, 1:1) Accordingly, Herod had his brother-in-law, his uncle, his mother-in-law, and her father killed. Once, he even considered murdering Cleopatra. In his paranoia, he became suspicious of those who had been his most intimate friends and therefore had them killed. Based on false rumors, he had his once beloved wife killed. He killed everyone who might be a threat to his power, until “there were…none at all left of the kindred of Hyrcanus [his mother-in-law’s father]; and the kingdom was entirely in Herod’s power, and there was nobody remaining of such dignity as could put a stop to [him].” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XV, 7:10)

Of his sons, Herod was perpetually suspicious. Concerned that one of his sons was guilty of sedition, he had his son’s friends tortured in order to extract information from them. This torture resulted not in a confession but in the death of many of the young men. (Ibid, Book XVI, 8:4). Josephus writes, “he was…overrun with suspicion and hatred against all about him…in order to his preservation, he continued to suspect those that were guiltless: nor did he set any bounds to himself; but supposing that those who stayed with him had the most power to hurt him, they were to him very frightful.” This mentality lead to mental illness with paranoid delusions, “because he could trust nobody, he was sorely punished by the expectation of further misery; for he often fancied in his imagination, that his son had fallen upon him, or stood by him with a sword in his hand; and thus was his mind night and day intent upon this thing, and revolved it over and over…And this was the sad condition Herod was now in.” (Ibid, Book XVI, 8:5) Predictably, Herod had three of his own sons killed: Alexander, Aristobulus, and Antipater.

The Lord wants us to have homes which are a “heaven on earth.” Satan wants us to have homes which are a “hell on earth.” The sons of Herod and Akish undoubtedly had homes more aptly described by the latter. Thus we learn what price was paid by the wicked who lusted for power above all. They lived in perpetual paranoia until they had their very family members killed.