Ten Most Powerful Rulers in World History (Matthew 2.1-12)
10 Dec 2012 Todd Pylant 0
Who were the most powerful rulers in world history? Since I am not a historian, I did some research, looking for the lists that others have made. After reading about a dozen lists, the same names began to show up over and over. And so, in chronological order, is my list of the Ten Most Powerful Rulers in World History.
1. Alexander the Great (356 to 323 BC), the Greek king who created one of the largest empires in ancient history. He was tutored by Aristotle, and became king at the age of 20 after his father’s assassination. He only reigned for a few years, dying an early death at the age of 32. He used his military might to defeat Persia, march through Syria and Egypt, and even invade India. He did not live long enough to fulfill his plans to conquer Arabia. He spread Greek culture around the world.
2. Qin Shi Huang (259 to 210 BC), first emperor of unified China. As the first emperor, he ushered in nearly two millennia of imperial rule in China. He started construction on the Great Wall, and unified China by burning books and murdering his opponents.
3. Caesar Augustus (63 BC to 14 AD), founder and first emperor of the Roman Empire. After consolidating power, Caesar ruled over the Pax Romana, a period of Roman Peace that existed over an empire that reached from Africa, northern Europe, and all the way into Spain.
4. Charlemagne (742 to 814), King of the Franks and Emperor of the Romans. Charlemagne, Latin for Charles the Great, expanded the Frankish kingdom into the Frankish Empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. He conquered Italy and was crowned Emperor by the Pope. He united western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Romans Empire. He is considered to be the “Father of Europe.”
5. Genghis Khan (1162 to 1227), the founder, ruler, and emperor of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death, around 1227. He united the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia, and then spread his kingdom throughout a substantial portion of Central Asia, China, eastern Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. He was known as a ruthless military force, often murdering the local populations upon invasion.
6. Queen Elizabeth I (1533 to 1603), Queen of England. Born a princess, she gained the crown when her sister was declared illegitimate. She never married, and ruled over one of the largest empires in history for 45 years. During the “Elizabethan Era,” William Shakespeare and others experienced the Golden Age of Progress.
7. Peter the Great (1672 to 1725), Czar of Russia. Peter is credited for modernizing Russia’s government, military, and culture along the lines of Europe. He ruled for 42 years.
8. Napoleon (1769 to 1821), emperor of France. A successful military leader, he was proclaimed Emperor of France by the French Senate in 1804. He tried to spread his empire through military power, engaging in military conflict with every major European power.
9. Adolf Hitler (1889 to 1945), dictator of Germany. Hitler was a decorated war veteran of the first great war. After gaining support by promoting German nationalism and anti-Semitism, he became the leader of the Nazi party in 1921. He was appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933. He eventually consolidated all power under his dictatorship and started World War II with the invasion of Poland. At the height of the Third Reich, Hitler’s empire ruled over almost all of Europe and North Africa.
10. Mao TseTung (1897 to 1976), emperor of China. Chairman Mao was the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, a single party socialist state. He is both praised for modernizing China and building it into a world power and for oppressing the population through the denial of human rights and causing the death of up to 70 million citizens.
Obviously, the list is deficient in so many ways. Missing from the list is any ruler from Africa, specifically Egypt, and there are no rulers from either North America or South America. Cases could be made for rulers like Stalin, Lenin, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Henry VIII, Mohammed, Constantine, or Joseph II to have been on the list. But, while the list is far from perfect or complete, it is a fairly good representation of the world’s most powerful rulers.
With the glaring exception of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”(Matthew 2.1-6)
This ruler “born” in Bethlehem would come to be known as the King of the Jews, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Lamb of God, and the Word of God. But this King was different than all of the other powerful rulers that had ever ruled on earth before him or who have ruled in the last two thousand years.
And the greatness of this King is heightened by the differences between the King of Kings and the Ten Most Powerful Rulers in World History.
More on that tomorrow.
(Dr. Todd Pylant is the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Benbrook in Fort Worth, Texas, and the author of Word of God Speak and If: the Conditionality of the Gospel and the Danger of Apostasy.)