Herod the Great, king of the Jews 40-4 bc, born c. 73 bc. His father Antipater, a Jew of Idumaean descent, attained a position of great influence in Judaea after the Roman conquest and was appointed procurator of Judaea by Julius Caesar in 47 bc. He in turn appointed his son Herod military prefect of Galilee, and Herod showed his qualities by the vigour with which he suppressed brigandage in that region; the Roman governor of Syria was so impressed by his energy that he made him military prefect of Coele-Syria. After the assassination of Caesar and subsequent civil war Herod enjoyed the goodwill of Antony. When the Parthians invaded Syria and Palestine and set the Hasmonaean Antigonus on the throne of Judaea (40-37 bc) the Roman senate, advised by Antony and Octavian, gave Herod the title "king of the Jews." It took him 3 years of fighting to make his title effective, but when he had done so he governed Judaea for 33 years as a loyal "friend and ally" of Rome.
Until 31 bc, despite Antony’s goodwill, Herod’s position was rendered precarious by the machinations of Cleopatra, who hoped to see Judaea and Coele-Syria reunited to the Ptolemaic kingdom. This peril was removed by the battle of Actium, after which Herod was confirmed in his kingdom by Octavian (Augustus), the new master of the Roman world. Another source of anxiety for Herod was the Hasmonaean family, who resented being displaced on the throne by one whom they regarded as an upstart. Although he married into this family by taking to wife Mariamne, granddaughter of the former high priest Hyrcanus II, Herod’s suspicions led him to get rid of the leading Hasmonaean survivors one by one, including Mariamne herself (29 bc).
Herod pacified the territories on his NE frontier in the interests of Rome, and Augustus added them to his kingdom. He furthered the emperor’s cultural policy by lavish building projects, not only in his own realm but in foreign cities (e.g. Athens). In his own realm he rebuilt Samaria and renamed it Sebaste after the emperor (Gk. Sebastos = Lat. Augustus); he rebuilt Strato’s Tower on the Mediterranean coast, equipped it with a splendid artificial harbour, and called it Caesarea, also in honour of the emperor. Other settlements and strongholds were founded throughout the land. In Jerusalem he built a palace for himself on the W wall; he had already rebuilt the Antonia fortress (called after Antony) NW of the Temple area. The greatest of all his building enterprises was the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Temple, begun early in 19 bc.
Nothing that Herod could do, not even the expenditure lavished on the Temple, endeared him to his Jewish subjects. His Edomite descent was never forgotten; if he was a Jew by religion and rebuilt the Temple of the God of Israel in Jerusalem, that did not deter him from erecting temples to pagan deities elsewhere. Above all, his wiping out of the Hasmonaean family could not be forgiven.
This drastic action did not in fact put an end to his domestic troubles. There was friction between his own female relatives and his wives, and between the children of his respective wives. His two sons by Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus, were brought up at Rome and were his designated heirs. Their Hasmonaean descent (through their mother) made them acceptable to the Jewish people. But their privileged position stirred the envy of their half-brothers, and especially of Herod’s eldest son Antipater, who set himself to poison his father’s mind against them. At last (7 bc) they were found guilty of plotting against their father, and executed. Antipater derived no advantage from their death, for 3 years later he too fell victim to Herod’s suspicions, and was executed only a few days before Herod’s own death (4 bc).
Herod’s suspicious nature is well illustrated by the story of the visit of the Magi and the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem (Mt. 2); although this story does not appear elsewhere, any rumour of a rival king of the Jews was bound to rouse his worst fears. This suspicion latterly grew to insane proportions, and in consequence Herod has been remembered more for his murderous outbursts than for his administrative ability.
In his will he bequeathed his kingdom to three of his sons – Judaea and Samaria to Archelaus (Mt. 2:22), Galilee and Peraea to Antipas, and his NE territories to Philip (Lk. 3:1). These bequests were ratified by Augustus.
Archelaus ("Herod the Ethnarch" on his coins). He reigned in Judaea "in place of his father Herod" (Mt. 2:22) from 4 bc to ad 6, but without the title of king. He was Herod’s elder son by his Samaritan wife Malthace, and has the worst reputation of all the sons of Herod. He offended Jewish religious susceptibilities by marrying Glaphyra, the widow of his half-brother Alexander. He continued his father’s building policy, but his repressive rule became intolerable; a deputation of the Judaean and Samaritan aristocracy at last went to Rome to warn Augustus that, unless Archelaus were removed, there would be a full-scale revolt. Archelaus was accordingly deposed and banished, and Judaea became a Roman province, administered by prefects appointed by the emperor.
"Herod the tetrarch" (Lk. 3:19, etc.), who bore the distinctive name of Antipas. He was Herod’s younger son by Malthace, and inherited the Galilean and Peraean portions of his father’s kingdom. In the Gospels he is conspicuous chiefly for his part in the imprisonment and execution of John the Baptist (Mk. 6:14-28) and for his brief encounter with Jesus when the latter was sent to him by Pilate for judgment (Lk. 23:7ff.). Jesus is recorded as having once described him as "that fox" (Lk. 13:31f.). He was the ablest of Herod’s sons, and like his father was a great builder; the city of Tiberias on the Lake of Galilee was built by him (ad 22) and named in honour of the Emperor Tiberius. He married the daughter of the Nabataean king *Aretas IV, but divorced her in order to marry *Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Herod Philip. According to the Synoptic Evangelists, John the Baptist incurred the wrath of Antipas for denouncing his second marriage as unlawful; Josephus (Ant. 18.118) says that Antipas was afraid that John’s great public following might develop into a revolt. Aretas naturally resented the insult offered to his daughter, and seized the opportunity a few years later to wage war against Antipas (ad 36). The forces of Antipas were heavily defeated, and Josephus says that many people regarded the defeat as divine retribution for Antipas’ killing of John the Baptist. In ad 39 Antipas was denounced to the Emperor Gaius by his nephew Agrippa (see 4) as a plotter; he was deposed from his tetrarchy and ended his days in exile.
"Herod the king" (Acts 12:1), otherwise known as Agrippa. He was a son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great. After his father’s execution in 7 bc he was brought up in Rome, in close association with the imperial family. In ad 23 he became so heavily involved in debt that he had to leave Rome. For a time he received shelter and maintenance at Tiberias from his uncle Antipas, thanks to his sister Herodias, whom Antipas had recently married. But he quarrelled with Antipas and in ad 36 returned to Rome. There he offended the Emperor Tiberius and was imprisoned, but on Tiberius’ death the following year he was released by the new emperor, Gaius (Caligula), from whom he received the title of king, with territories NE of Palestine as his kingdom. On Antipas’ banishment in ad 39, Galilee and Peraea were added to Agrippa’s kingdom. When Claudius became emperor in ad 41 he further augmented Agrippa’s kingdom by giving him Judaea and Samaria, so that Agrippa ruled over a kingdom roughly equal in extent to his grandfather’s. He courted the goodwill of his Jewish subjects, who looked on him as a descendant of the Hasmonaeans (through his grandmother Mariamne) and approved of him accordingly. His attack on the apostles (Acts 12:2f.) was perhaps more popular than it would have been previously, because of their recent fraternization with Gentiles (Acts 10:1-11:18). His sudden death, at the age of 54 (ad 44), is recorded by Luke (Acts 12:20ff.) and Josephus (Ant. 19.343ff.) in such a way that the two narratives supplement each other illuminatingly. He left one son, Agrippa (see 5), and two daughters: Bernice (born ad 28), mentioned in Acts 25:13ff., and Drusilla (born ad 38), who became the 3rd wife of the procurator Felix (cf. Acts 24:24).
Agrippa, son of Herod Agrippa (see 4), born in ad 27. He was adjudged too young to be made successor to his father’s kingdom. Later, however, he received the title of king from Claudius, with territories N and NE of Palestine which were increased by Nero in ad 56. He changed the name of his capital from Caesarea Philippi to Neronias as a compliment to the latter emperor. From ad 48 to 66 he had the prerogative of appointing the Jewish high priests. He did his best to prevent the outbreak of the Jewish war against Rome in ad 66; when his efforts failed he remained loyal to Rome and was rewarded with a further increase of his kingdom. He died childless about ad 100. He is best known to NT readers for his encounter with Paul (Acts 25:13-26:32), whom he charged, in bantering vein, with trying to make a Christian of him (Acts 26:28).
Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (469). InterVarsity Press.
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