HEROD (hĕr'ŭd). When the Roman ruler Pompey organized the East in 63 b.c., he appointed Hyrcanus, the second person of that name, to be the high-priestly ruler over Galilee, Samaria, Judea, and Perea. Antipater, an Idumean, was Hyrcanus’s senior officer. Gabinius modified Pompey’s arrangement in 57 by reducing Hyrcanus’s authority and dividing the ethnarchy into autonomous communities. Notable services rendered at Alexandria to Julius Caesar in 48 led to the restoration of Hyrcanus’s authority and the appointment (in 47) of Antipater to the procuratorship of Judea. Antipater had, in fact, been the leading spirit in the policy that won Caesar’s favor, and Antipater used his advantage with an astuteness that foreshadowed the career of his son. He persuaded the now-aged Hyrcanus to appoint Phasael, Antipater’s eldest son, to the prefecture of Jerusalem, and Herod, his second son, to the governorship of Galilee.
When Antipater was murdered in 43 b.c., his two sons succeeded to his position in Hyrcanus’s court. It was the year after Julius Caesar’s assassination. Jubilant that Caesar’s plan for a decisive campaign on the vulnerable eastern frontier of Rome was shelved, the Parthians, the perennial military problem of the northeast, were restive. In 40 they penetrated Palestine, carried off Hyrcanus, and drove Phasael, also a captive, to suicide. Herod eluded both military action and Parthian treachery. He withdrew from Jerusalem, shook off pursuit by clever rearguard skirmishing near Bethlehem, and escaped to Egypt. Outwitting Cleopatra and reaching Rome through the perils of winter voyaging, Herod set his case before Octavian and Antony. It is a remarkable tribute to his charm, daring, political acumen, and consummate diplomacy that he won the support of both triumvirs who were so soon to divide in disastrous rivalry. The whole remarkable story is told dryly in Josephus’s first book, The Jewish War.
The thirteen years that lay between the assassination of Caesar and the emergence of Octavian as the victorious Augustus, after Antony’s defeat at Actium in 31 b.c., were a time of paralysis and uncertainty throughout the Roman world. Herod saw in such confusion the opportunity for decisive action. Landing at Acre in 39, with only the promise of Roman favor, Herod went to claim his kingdom and to unseat the Parthian puppet, Antigonus. Palestine’s hill country, deserts, and walled cities called for a variety of military strategies. Herod showed himself the able master of varied types of war. The two years of tireless activity made him, by the age of thirty-six, the master of his inheritance and revealed all the facets of his amazing personality. He was a ruthless fighter but at the same time a cunning negotiator, a subtle diplomat, and an opportunist. He was able to restrain his Roman helpers and simultaneously circumvent the Jews. Between 39 and 37 Herod revealed those qualities, if they may be called qualities, that enabled him for thirty-four years to govern subjects who hated him, to work within the major framework of Roman imperial rule, to steer a safe course through political dilemma, and to pursue a dual policy without ruinous contradiction.
In 30 b.c. Herod succeeded in retaining the favor of Octavian, shared though that favor had been with the defeated rival Antony. He was confirmed in his kingdom, and for the rest of his life he never departed from the policy of supporting the emperor and in all ways promoting his honor. The restored town of Samaria was called Sebaste, the Greek rendering of Augustus; Caesarea was built to form a harbor on the difficult open coast of Palestine, providing Rome a base on the edge of a turbulent province, and forming a center of Caesar-worship in the land of the nationalistic and monotheistic Jews.
Herod followed a policy of Hellenization, establishing games at Jerusalem and adorning many of the Hellenistic cities of his domain. At the same time he sought to reconcile the Jews, who hated his pro-Roman and Hellenizing policies and who never forgave him for his Edomite blood. During the great famine of 25 b.c. in Judea and Samaria, Herod spared no trouble or private expense to import Egyptian corn. In the eighteenth year of his reign (20) he began to build the great Jerusalem temple, which was forty-three years under construction (
To manage a situation so complex, and to survive, demanded uncommon ability and an ordered realm. Of Herod’s ability there is no doubt, and with his foreign mercenaries, his system of fortresses, and the centralized bureaucracy that he built, he gave Palestine order and even opportunity for economic progress. At the same time Herod was a cruel and implacable tyrant. His family and private life were soiled and embittered by feuds, intrigue, and murder. The king’s sister Salome and his son Antipater by Doris, his first consort, seem to have been in league against Mariamme, his favorite wife. Mariamme was put to death in 29 b.c. and her two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, in 7. Antipater himself was put to death by Herod in the last days of Herod’s reign. Herod died in 4. The murder of the innocent babies of Bethlehem (
Herod’s will divided the kingdom. Archelaus, son of Malthace, a Samaritan woman, took Judea and Idumea—by far the choicest share. Herod Antipas, of the same mother, received Galilee and Perea; and Philip, son of a Jewess named Cleopatra, took Iturea, Trachonitis, and associated districts in the northeast. Archelaus, who inherited his father’s vices without his ability, took the title of king and bloodily quelled the disorders that broke out in Jerusalem. The result was a wide uprising, which required the intervention of Varus, governor of Syria. It was at this time that the Holy Family returned from Egypt (
It was imperative for Archelaus to reach Rome and secure from Augustus confirmation of his position before the situation in Palestine could be presented in too lurid a light by his enemies. Archelaus’s petition was opposed in person by Herod Antipas and by a Jewish embassy. Somewhat surprisingly, Augustus declared in favor of Archelaus, though he denied him the royal title. The incident provided the background for the Parable of the Pounds, related by Luke (
Herod Antipas (the word is an abbreviation for Antipater) equaled his father in having a long reign. “That fox,” Christ called the ruler of Galilee (
It is difficult to say who was primarily to blame for the notorious liaison that took Herodias back to Palestine as the unlawful wife and queen of Antipas. She remained loyal to him in his later misfortunes, though offered release by Caligula, and the immoral partnership of the two seems to have been cemented by genuine physical attraction and community of temperament. But trouble dogged the union. According to Josephus, Herod Antipas’s rightful queen, daughter of Aretas, king of the Nabateans, heard of the liaison before the couple reached Palestine and escaped first to the fortress of Machaerus and then to her father’s capital of Petra, before her returning husband could detain her. Herod therefore came home to find a troublesome frontier war on his lands. He celebrated his birthday, the tragic feast described in
Antipas’s campaign against his father-in-law Aretas ended disastrously. Antipas was forced to appeal to Rome for help, and the task was assigned to Vitellius, governor of Syria. The affair dragged on until a.d. 37 when Rome’s ruler Tiberius died. A prey to the uncertainty that was increasingly to attend changes in the Roman principate, Vitellius hesitated, and Antipas never won revenge. Two years later Antipas fell. He had been trusted by Tiberius, who appreciated his continuation of his father’s pro-Roman policy, to which the foundation of Tiberias on Galilee was a solid monument. Tiberius, in the last year of his principate (36), had even used Herod as a mediator between Rome and Parthia. Presuming on this notable imperial favor, and incited by Herodias, Herod petitioned Caius Caligula, Tiberius’s successor, for the title of king. He was, however, deposed by that incalculable prince on a suspicion of treasonable conduct, a charge leveled by Herod Agrippa I, his nephew. Herodias accompanied the man she had ruined morally and politically into obscure exile. Salome her daughter, the dancer of the Machaerus feast, married her uncle Philip, tetrarch of Iturea, about 30. After Philip died in 34, she married her cousin Aristobulus, king of Chalcis, north of Abilene in the Anti-Lebanon hill country.
Philip of Iturea seems to have been the best of Herod’s three surviving sons (Josephus, Antiq. 17.2.4). His remote province insulated him from some of the problems of Jewry, but he seems to have been a man of generous mold and notable justice. He beautified the town ofand marked his continuation of the Herodian pro-Roman policy by changing the name of the northern Bethsaida to Julias, after Augustus’s unfortunate daughter.
The deceased Philip’s vacant tetrarchy was the first foothold of the third Herod to be mentioned in the NT (
Agrippa left a teen-age son, whom Claudius made king of Chalcis in a.d. 48. In 53 the territory of Philip the tetrarch and Lysanias were added to this realm, together with an area on the western side of Galilee, including Tiberias. The appointment carried the title of king, so in 53 Agrippa became , last of the Herodian line. He appears only in the brilliant account in
In the account of the examination of Paul we see a vivid and revealing picture of the deference Rome was prepared to pay to a puppet king. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that here we see the respect that Rome undoubtedly owed to a remarkable royal house that had been a major bastion of Roman peace in the Middle East for three generations. In the king himself is seen a typical Herod of the better sort: royal, intelligent, pro-Roman, but vitally interested in Judaism, which, with unusual understanding, he saw to be the key to the history of his land.
With this event, which is difficult to date precisely, Agrippa and the Herodian line disappear from history. Festus died in a.d. 64. One brief reference in Josephus reveals that Agrippa lived on in the garrison town of Caesarea to see the vast ruin and destruction of his country in the Great Revolt of 66 to 70. So ended the Herods, an astonishingly able family, whose pro-Roman policy went far to postpone the inevitable clash between Rome and the Jews, and played, in consequence, an unwitting but significant part in holding the peace during the formative years of the Christian church in Palestine.——EMB
HEROD hĕr’ əd (̔Ηρῴδης, G2476). The ruling dynasty in Jewish Pal. during Rom. domination.
The Herodian dynasty (67-47 b.c.)
The dynasty of the Herods became prominent during the confusion which resulted from the decay of the Hasmonean dynasty, the transference of Syria and Pal. to the rule of the Romans, and the civil wars which marked the decay of the nation. The first of the Herodian dynasty was Antipater (or Antipas) who was appointed governor of Idumea (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 1. 3 § 10). His son was also named Antipater and Josephus considered him an Idumean by race and of great wealth (Jos. War i. 6. 2. § 123; cf. also Antiq. xiv. 1. 3 § 9;Dialogue with Trypho lii. 3; Euseb. Hist. i. 6. 2; 7. 11; BT: Baba Bathra 3b-4a; Kiddushin 70b).
Antipater, Herod’s father, came into prominence after the death of Alexandra, the Maccabean queen. Her eldest son, Hyrcanus II, assumed the royal power in 67 b.c. Being a quiet and peaceful man he was set aside by his younger brother Aristobulus after only three months’ reign (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 1. 2 § 4-7; xv. 6. 4 § 180; War i. 5. 4 § 117-119). Hyrcanus, declaring that he never really had desired the throne, surrendered all his honors to Aristobulus who became king and high priest. Although Hyrcanus and Aristobulus publicly made peace with each other it was short lived. Antipater saw in the position of Hyrcanus an opportunity to fulfill his own dream of being a political power in Judea. It was not difficult for Antipater to persuade Hyrcanus that he had been unjustly deprived of his hereditary rights by his younger brother, and suggested he should flee to Aretas, king of Arabia, with a view to recovering his rightful kingdom. Thus he fled to Petra (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 1. 3-4 § 8-18).
It was at this point that Rome intervened. Pompey, the Rom. general who had been so successful in bringing the Rom. power to the E, determined to act. Scaurus, one of his subordinates, felt that Pompey should support Aristobulus, for prob. he was better able to pay the bribe for the Rom. support which had been offered by each of the contestants. However, Pompey decided to side with Hyrcanus because there was evidence of Aristobulus revolting against Rome (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 3. 3 § 46, 47). Pompey made war against Aristobulus, besieging the Jerusalem temple three months. When Pompey won the war he went into the holy of holies but did not plunder it of its valuables (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 4. 4 § 69-72; War i. 6. 5-7. 6 § 133-153; Tac. Hist. v. 9; Appian Mithridatic Wars 106, 114; Florus i. 40. 30; Livy 102; Plutarch Pompey xxxix; cf. Dio Cassius xxxvii. 15-17). Because of Hyrcanus’ loyalty, Pompey reinstated him as high priest (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 4. 4 § 73; War i. 7. 6 § 153). Jerusalem was made a tributary of Rome and it was placed under Scaurus whom Pompey made legate of the province of Syria.
Antipater proved himself useful to the Romans both in government and in their operations against the Hasmoneans. Gabinius defeated Alexander, Aristobulus’ son, for the second time (in 55 b.c.); he went to Jerusalem and reorganized the government according to Antipater’s wishes.
Antipater married a woman named Cypros, of an illustrious Arabian, by whom he had four sons: Phasael, Herod, Joseph, Pheroras, and a daughter, Salome (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 7. 3 § 121; War i. 8. 9 § 181).
After Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar in 48 b.c. in Egypt (at Pharsalus), Hyrcanus and Antipater attached themselves to Caesar’s party. Antipater had risked his life for Caesar in the fighting in Egypt in 48-47 b.c. Because of this Caesar made Antipater a Rom. citizen with exemption of taxes and appointed him procurator of Judea. Also he confirmed the appointment of Hyrcanus to the office of high priest and gave him the title of ethnarch of the Jews (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 8. 1-5 § 127-155; 10. 2 § 191; War i. 9. 3—10. 4 § 187-203). Immediately after, Antipater went about the country to suppress the disorders and appealed to the restless Judean population to be loyal to Hyrcanus. Although appealing to the people in this fashion, he felt that Hyrcanus was an unsuitable leader of Judea so he took the country in his own hands and appointed his son Phasael as governor of Jerusalem and his second son Herod as governor of Galilee (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 9. 1-2 § 156-158; War i. 10. 4 § 201-203). Antipater continued his loyalty to Hyrcanus, yet it can be seen that Antipater was the power behind the throne.
Herod the Great 47-4 b.c.
As governor of Galilee (47-37 B.C.)
Herod became governor at the young age of twenty-five years. Immediately he was admired by the Galilean Jews and Rom. officials in Syria because of his promptness in capturing and executing the bandit leader Ezekias and many of his followers. Some in Hyrcanus’ court persuaded him that Herod was getting too powerful and that he had violated the Jewish law in the execution of Ezekias and his followers and thus should be tried before the Sanhedrin. So Hyrcanus ordered Herod to trial. Herod came to the trial not appearing as an accused person but as a king in purple and attended by a bodyguard. Sextus Caesar, governor of Syria, ordered Hyrcanus to acquit Herod or there would be consequences following. Herod was released and fled to join Sextus Caesar at Damascus. Sextus appointed Herod governor of Coele-Syria because of his popularity, and thus Herod became involved with the affairs of Rome in Syria. Herod began to march against Jerusalem in order to avenge himself for the insult Hyrcanus had given him but was persuaded by his father and brother to refrain from violence (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 9. 2-5 § 158-184; War i. 10. 5-9 § 204-215; cf. BT: Kiddushin 43a). All this occurred in 47 b.c. or the beginning of 46 b.c.
Caecilius Bassus, a partisan of Pompey who was Julius Caesar’s foe, murdered Sextus Caesar and became the leader of Syria (Dio Cassius xlvii. 26. 7-27. 2; Livy 114; Jos. Antiq. xiv. 11. 1 § 268; War i. 10. 10 § 216). Antipater, a friend of Julius Caesar, sent troops under his two sons against Bassus. This minor war dragged on indecisively for about three years. After Cassius, Brutus, and their followers murdered Caesar in 44 (Mar. 15), Cassius came to Syria and defeated Bassus and became leader of Syria. In the need of raising certain required taxes exacted by Cassius, Antipater selected Herod, Phasael, and Malichus for the job.
Because of Herod’s success in collecting taxes, Cassius not only appointed him as governor of Coele-Syria (as he had been under Sextus) but also promised to make him king of Judea after the war that he (Cassius) and Brutus were fighting against Caesar and Antony. The Herodians were definitely growing in power under the Romans and because of this Malichus, whose life Antipater had previously saved, bribed a butler to poison Antipater (43 b.c.). Finally, in revenge Herod killed Malichus by stabbing him (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 11. 3-6 § 277-293; War i. 11. 2-8 § 220-235).
When Cassius had moved out of Syria to join Brutus for the campaign against Octavius and Antony, troubles caused by Hyrcanus broke out again in Judea. With some difficulty Herod quieted the revolt (43 b.c.). Hardly was this revolt crushed when another broke out. Ptolemy, the prince of the Itureans, had taken Antigonus, son of Aristobulus, under his protection and saw a chance to use him. Herod defeated them (42 b.c.) and was received with acclamations by the people and warm congratulations by Hyrcanus (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 12. 1 § 297-299; War i. 12. 2-3 § 238-240).
By this time Herod had a wife, Doris, and by her a son, Antipater. Although she is described as a native of Jerusalem, she most likely was an Idumean. But also during this time Herod became betrothed to Mariamne who was the granddaughter of Hyrcanus II and daughter of Aristobulus’ son, Alexander, and thus a niece to Antigonus, the rival of Herod (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 12. 1 § 300; War i. 12. 3 § 241). This strengthened Herod’s position immensely, for he would marry into the royal house of the Hasmoneans and would become the natural regent when Hyrcanus, who was growing old, should eventually pass away. Being an Idumean, Herod’s betrothal to Mariamne won him an acceptance in the Judean circles.
In 42 b.c. Antony defeated Cassius at Philippi and then proceeded to Bithynia of Asia Minor and was met by Jewish leaders there who brought accusations against Herod and Phasael (governor of Jerusalem) to the effect that they had usurped the power of the government while leaving Hyrcanus with titular honors. Herod defended himself against the accusers with the result that the charges were neutralized (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 12. 2-6 § 301-323; War i. 12. 4-6 § 242-245; Plutarch Antony xxiv; Dio Cassius xlviii. 24; Appian Civil Wars v. 4). Soon after, in the autumn of 41, when Antony had gone to Antioch, the Jewish leaders again made accusations against Herod and Phasael. Since Hyrcanus was there, Antony asked him who would be the best qualified ruler and Hyrcanus pronounced in favor of Herod and Phasael. Antony thus appointed them as tetrarchs of Judea (Jos. War i. 12. 5 § 243, 244; Antiq. xiv. 13. 1 § 324-326).
His struggle against the Parthians.
The new tetrarchs of Judea enjoyed their office for only a brief period. The next year (40 b.c.) the Parthians appeared in Syria. Pacorus, a Parthian prince, joined with Antigonus in the effort to place the latter on the throne held by Hyrcanus. This began a complicated series of incidents which resulted in Jerusalem being besieged by the invaders (Jos. War i. 13. 2 § 250-252; cf. also 12. 3 § 240; Antiq. xiv. 13. 3 § 335). A civil war was inevitable. There were daily skirmishes between the two forces.
As the feast of Pentecost drew near, thousands of Jews came to Jerusalem. At this moment, Pacorus, a Parthian cup-bearer, named like the prince Pacorus, appeared with a Parthian force and claimed to come to settle the dispute in the name of Barzaphranes, the Parthian king. Though Herod was suspicious of the good intention of the proposal, Phasael and Hyrcanus decided to meet the Parthian king in Galilee. Phasael and Hyrcanus were treacherously put in chains, and simultaneously a Parthian detachment which was left behind in Jerusalem tried to convince Herod to accompany them outside the Jerusalem walls. Having heard of the mistreatment given to Phasael and Hyrcanus, Herod with his troops, close relatives, and Mariamne made their escape and took refuge in Masada and then finally moved to Petra, the capital of the Nabatean kingdom (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 13. 7-9 § 352-364; War i. 13. 6-7 § 261-264).
Meanwhile in Jerusalem the Parthians began a pillage which they extended into the other parts of Judea. Antigonus was made king (Dio Cassius xlviii. 41; inferred in Jos. Antiq. xiv. 13. 10 § 368, 369; War i. 13. 9 § 268-270; cf. also Dio Cassius xlviii. 26). In order to prevent the possibility of Hyrcanus’ restoration to the high priesthood, Antigonus mutilated him. Phasael died either by suicide, poisoning, or in battle (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 13. 10 § 365-369; War i. 13. 10-11 § 271-273). Hyrcanus was taken to Parthia (Jos. Antiq. xv. 2. 1 § 12).
Malchus, the Arabian king from whom Herod had expected help, asked Herod to leave. Herod thus departed to Egypt and then to Rome where he was welcomed by Antony and Octavius Caesar. After hearing Herod’s story, they with the Senate’s confirmation designated him as king of Judea (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 14. 6 § 381-385; War i. 14. 4 § 282-285; cf. also Strabo xvi. 2. 46; Appian Civil Wars v. 75; Tac. Hist. v. 9). This occurred in late 40 b.c. From Italy he sailed back to Ptolemais in late 40 b.c. or early 39 b.c., marched through Galilee, and then captured Joppa and finally moved to Masada where his relatives were under attack (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 15. 1 § 394-398; War i. 15. 3-4 § 290-294). With the help of the Rom. armies, Herod then proceeded to encamp on the W side of Jerusalem. He proclaimed that he was the lawful king and promised to forget all the past offenses against himself. Antigonus made counter-proclamations, stating that Herod was a commoner and an Idumean, i.e., a half Jew, and thus not a legitimate heir to the throne.
In 38 b.c. Herod put down the guerrilla bands in Galilee. Herod, being discontent with the slow progress, went to Antony to get effective aid from the Romans. Thus he divided his forces and left part of the forces with his brother Joseph under the orders not to fight until he received reinforcements, and with the rest he went to Samosata where Antony was besieging Antiochus, king of Commagene, who had sided with the Parthians. Herod hoped by giving timely assistance to Antony, who had not been very successful with the siege, that Antony might help him in return. Antony was pleased with Herod’s unsolicited demonstration of loyalty, and after the defeat of Samosata, he ordered one of his legates, Sossius, to use the Rom. army to support Herod.
On returning to Antioch with Sossius and two legions, Herod received the bad news that his brother Joseph had been killed at Jericho, which was a result of disobedience to Herod. Finally Herod defeated the opposition in Galilee (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 15. 8-13 § 439-464; War i. 16. 7-17. 7 § 320-341).
Next spring (37 b.c.), the third year since he had been proclaimed king when at Rome, Herod moved his troops to Jerusalem and prepared for the siege. Having assigned his army to several tasks, he appointed his most efficient lieutenants to supervise the work while he left for Samaria to marry Mariamne with whom he had been betrothed for about five years. This was certainly a contemptuous move against Antigonus, the uncle of Mariamne, since she was a Hasmonean, for it strengthened Herod’s claim to the throne.
After the wedding he returned to Jerusalem. After a long and bitter siege, Jerusalem fell and Antigonus fell captive to Sossius in the summer of 37 b.c. (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 16. 2 § 470-480; War i. 18. 2 § 349-352; Tac. Hist. v. 9; Dio Cassius xlix. 22). One of the great problems that faced Herod was to stop the Rom. allies from profaning and plundering the Temple and the city of their great wealth. Herod did not want to be a king of a wilderness, and he knew that if the Temple were desecrated by the Romans it would never be forgiven him by the Jews. He appealed to Sossius to prevent this pillage of the Temple and city by promising a reward for each soldier as well as a sizable gift for Sossius out of his own purse. The troops were called in, the promised donation was paid and Sossius marched away taking Antigonus to Antony in chains. According to Josephus (Antiq. xiv. 16. 4 § 489, 490), Herod gave a large bribe to persuade the Romans to put Antigonus out of the way. It is recorded that Antigonus fell beneath the axe (Jos. War i. 18. 3 § 357; Plutarch Antony xxxvi; cf. also Dio Cassius xlix. 22). This, of course, ends the Hasmonean rule of 129 years. Herod, therefore, ceased to be the nominee for king for he now became king de facto.
As king (37-4 B.C.).
The reign of Herod is divided by most scholars into three periods: first, consolidation from 37 to 25; second, prosperity from 25 to 14; and finally, the period of domestic troubles from 14 to 4.
Consolidation (37-25 B.C.).
This period extends from his accession as king in 37 b.c. to the death of the sons of Babas (with Costobarus, the second husband of Salome, Herod’s sister) in 25 b.c., when the last male representative of the Hasmonean family was removed from his pathway. During this time of rule he had to contend with many powerful adversaries: the people and the Pharisees, the ruling class, the Hasmonean family, and Cleopatra.
The first adversaries were the people and the Pharisees. The people were under the Pharisees’ persuasion. The Pharisees did not like Herod as their king because of his being an Idumean, a half-Jew, and a friend of the Romans. Therefore, he had to secure the obedience of the population. Those of Judea’s population who opposed him were punished while those whom he won to his side he rewarded with favors and honors (Jos. Antiq. xv. 1. 1 § 2, 3; War i. 18. 4 § 358).
The second of the adversaries were the aristocracy who were with Antigonus. Herod executed forty-five of the most wealthy and the most prominent of this class. He confiscated their properties and replenished his coffers which had been depleted due to the payment of Sossius and his soldiers and the payment of money to Antony in order to gain a firmer hold upon him (Jos. Antiq. xv. 1. 2 § 5, 6; War i. 18. 4 § 359).
The third of the adversaries were the Hasmonean family. It was Alexandra, Herod’s mother-in-law, who caused so much of the troubles. Herod needed a high priest to replace Hyrcanus. Although Hyrcanus had come back from his Parthian exile, Antigonus had mutilated him, which disqualified him to be the high priest. It is assumed, then, that Herod did not choose himself as high priest, as did Antigonus, because he was an Idumean (though he liked to be considered as of a priestly family). He wanted a high priest of insignificance and yet belonging to the Zadokite family, who are considered to be the descendants of Aaron and who held the office before the Hasmoneans. This would seem to be a legitimate change. Herod found his man in Ananel (Hananeel), a priest of the Babylonian Diaspora (Jos. Antiq. xv. 2. 1-4 § 11-22). See Hasmoneans.
This was taken as an insult by Herod’s mother-in-law Alexandra, who thought it was an infringement on the Hasmonean line and felt that the position should be given to the only rightful heir, her sixteen-year-old son Aristobulus, the brother of Mariamne. She, therefore, used every conceivable means in order to secure her wishes. Particularly she wrote to Cleopatra urging her to exert her influence on Antony who in turn would force Herod to appoint Aristobulus as high priest (Jos. Antiq. xv. 2. 5 § 23, 24). Mariamne also pled with Herod to have her brother as high priest. Thus Herod finally gave way to the petitions and set aside Ananel (which was unlawful because the high priest was to hold the office for life) and made Aristobulus high priest. He was only in his seventeenth year (c. late 36 or early 35 b.c.).
This brought peace between Herod and Alexandra but it was short lived. Herod mistrusted Alexandra and so he kept a watchful eye on her. Alexandra grew tired of this careful watch and Cleopatra told her to escape with her son and come to Egypt. Two coffins were prepared for the flight from the city to the sea coast but the scheme was betrayed. Herod allowed the scheme to be carried on and caught them in the act. Even though he overlooked the offense, he became all the more suspicious of her (Jos. Antiq. xv. 3. 2 § 42-49).
When the next feast of Tabernacles was celebrated, there arose among the people a great affection for Aristobulus who officiated. Because of Aristobulus’ growth in popularity, Herod determined to get rid of this dangerous rival and enemy. After the festivities, Herod was invited by Alexandra to a feast at Jericho. Herod acted with friendliness toward Aristobulus and suggested they go swimming since the day was very hot. While swimming in a pool Aristobulus was pushed under the water, as if in sport, by some of those with him who had been bribed by Herod. He was kept down so long that he was drowned. Herod displayed the most profound grief and gave him a most magnificent funeral. No one questioned the official version of the death, but Alexandra was not deceived and resolved to devote her life to revenge (Jos. Antiq. xv. 3. 3-4 § 50-61; War i. 22. 2 § 437).
Since Alexandra believed Aristobulus’ death to be murder, she sent a report to Cleopatra, who persuaded Antony to summon Herod for an account of such actions. Herod was under obligation to go, and, realizing that Antony could and might sentence him to death, he put Mariamne under the surveillance of his uncle Joseph who was also Herod’s sister’s (Salome) husband, instructing him in strict secrecy that he should kill Mariamne if Herod were killed, so that she would not become someone else’s lover.
By eloquence and bribery Herod persuaded Antony to free him of any charges. When Herod returned, Salome charged her husband Joseph of having unlawful intercourse with Mariamne. Herod questioned Mariamne but was satisfied with her denial. But when he learned that Mariamne knew about the secret command which he had given Joseph, who told her as a proof of Herod’s love to her, Herod believed this was a confirmation of Salome’s charge and had Joseph executed without giving him an opportunity to be heard (34 b.c.). He also put Alexandra in chains and under guard for he blamed her in part for all these troubles (Jos. Antiq. xv. 3. 5-9 § 62-87; War i. 22. 4-5 § 441-444).
The fourth of the adversaries of Herod was Cleopatra. In connection with Alexandra she made trouble for Herod. By her influence over Antony she obtained an increase of territory. Although at first he would not yield to her, finally during his expedition against Armenia (c. 34 b.c.) he was induced to give her the whole of Phoenicia, the coast of Philistia south of Eleutherus River (with the exception of the free cities of Tyre and Sidon), a portion of Arabia, and the district of Jericho with its palm trees and balsams, which was the most fertile area of Herod’s kingdom (Jos. Antiq. xv. 4. 1-2 § 88-96; War i. 18. 4-5 § 360-363). Cleopatra visited the territories and Herod, though reluctantly, received her with great honor and splendor. But when she tried to entrap Herod by her devices, he would not give in (Jos. Antiq. xv. 4. 2 § 97-103).
Civil war broke out between Antony and Octavius. Herod wished to help Antony but at the instigation of Cleopatra he was instead ordered by Antony to fight against Malchus, the Arabian king. Malchus failed to pay his tribute and she wanted him to be punished. Actually she hoped that when the two kingdoms weakened each other, she could absorb both (Jos. Antiq. xv. 5. 1 § 108-110). Initially Herod was victorious over the Arabs, but Cleopatra helped the Arabians resulting in Herod’s defeat. In the spring of 31 b.c. a destructive earthquake occurred in Herod’s domain costing the lives of 30,000 and when Herod sent envoys to Arabia for the purpose of making peace, the Arabians slew them. After encouraging his troops who were despondent because of these circumstances, he attacked and defeated the Arabs and then returned home (Jos. Antiq. xv. 5. 2-5 § 121-160; War i. 19. 3-6 § 369-385).
Soon after, on 2 September 31 b.c., Antony was defeated by Octavius in the Battle of Actium. This was a blow to Herod. With political skill Herod had to convince Octavius that he should be regarded as the only legitimate ruler of Judea. Since Hyrcanus II was his only possible rival, he charged Hyrcanus of plotting with the king of the Nabateans and subsequently killed him (Jos. Antiq. xv. 6. 1-4 § 161-182; War i. 20. 1 § 386).
On setting out to see Octavius in Rhodes (spring, 30 b.c.), Herod thought it wise to prevent Alexandra from stirring up any revolts. He placed her and Mariamne in Alexandreion (three m. SW of the confluence of the Jabbok and Jordan Rivers) under the custody of his steward Joseph (not Herod’s brother-in-law) and Soēmus, the Iturean who was a trusted friend of Herod. He instructed them to kill the two women if Herod were to be killed and to preserve the kingdom for his sons and his brother Pheroras (Jos. Antiq. xv. 6. 5 § 183-186).
At Rhodes Herod played his part skillfully. He admitted his loyalty to Antony although actually he did not fight against Octavius because of his war against the Arabs. He showed that his loyalty would benefit Octavius. Octavius confirmed Herod in his royal rank. Herod, then, returned to his own home. In that same summer Octavius left Asia Minor and landed on the Phoen. coast on his way to Egypt. Herod met him with great pomp at Ptolemais and gave him 800 talents and provided supplies for Octavius’ soldiers during that hot season. This was appreciated by Octavius (Jos. Antiq. xv. 6. 6-7 § 188-201; War i. 20. 1-3 § 387-395).
Octavius gained control of Egypt when he defeated Antony. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide in August of 30 b.c. Having heard this, Herod went to Egypt to congratulate Octavius and to secure a great reward for himself. Octavius gave him the title of king (Strabo xvi. 2. 46). Also Octavius now gave back to him not only Jericho, but also Gadara, Hippos, Samaria, Gaza, Anthedon, Joppa, and Straton’s Tower (later became Caesarea) (Jos. Antiq. xv. 7. 3 § 215-217; War i. 20. 3 § 396, 397). Thus Herod secured much for himself.
While Herod seemed to enjoy the outward success of having his kingdom conferred to him by Octavius and of having gained control of new areas, his domestic affairs were far from peaceful. While he was at Rhodes, Mariamne found out from Soēmus that Herod had ordered him and Joseph to kill her if he were killed. When Herod returned she was very unfriendly to him. Since Herod was caught between loving and hating her, his sister Salome and their mother Cyprus saw their opportunity to satisfy their hatred toward Mariamne and spread slanderous stories about her which would fill Herod with hatred and jealousy at the same time. Herod would not listen to them. Later when he returned from Egypt, after congratulating Octavius and receiving the new territories, Mariamne’s attitude toward him was more irritating. Salome seized upon this opportunity by bribing Herod’s butler to say that Mariamne prepared a love-potion for the king. Herod inquired with regards to the love-potion but the butler did not know. Being in an ugly mood Herod had Mariamne’s eunuch examined by torture regarding this love-potion. He also knew nothing of it but did confess of Mariamne’s hatred of him because of the command he had given Soēmus. Because Soēmus, as well as Joseph, had betrayed his secret, Herod felt this was proof of unlawful intercourse and had Soēmus immediately executed. Mariamne, after a judicial investigation, was condemned and then finally executed at the end of 29 b.c. (Jos. Antiq. xv. 7. 1-5 § 202-236).
Herod never sanely accepted Mariamne’s death. He fell ill, and because his recovery was doubtful, Alexandra began to scheme so that if he died she would secure the throne. She tried to win over those in command of the two fortified places in Jerusalem. When this was reported to Herod, Alexandra was executed in 28 b.c. (Jos. Antiq. xv. 7. 6-8 § 237-252).
After Herod recovered from his depression over Mariamne, he found occasion for further bloodshed in this period. Soon after Herod’s accession as king he appointed a distinguished Idumean, Costobarus, as governor of Idumea and gave him his sister Salome, after putting to death her former husband Joseph (in 34 b.c.). Even during this first period Costobarus secretly conspired with Cleopatra against Herod, but Herod granted him pardon at the entreaty of Salome. However, now Salome was getting tired of her husband and so she wanted to get rid of him. She had learned that he along with Antipater, Lysimachus, and Dositheus was planning to revolt. As a proof of her charges she revealed that her husband had preserved the influential sons of Babas who remained loyal to Antigonus and always spoke ill of Herod. When Herod heard this, Costobarus and his followers, whose place of concealment was betrayed by Salome, were seized and executed in 25 b.c. Herod now could console himself that all the male relatives of Hyrcanus (who could dispute the occupancy of the throne) were no longer living (Jos. Antiq. xv. 7. 9-10 § 253-266). This ends the first period of Herod’s reign.
Prosperity (25-14 B.C.).
This period is marked with splendor and enjoyment although there were moments of disturbance.
The first thing mentioned of this period by Josephus is Herod’s violations of the Jewish law by his introduction of the quinquennial games in honor of Caesar and by the building of theaters, amphitheaters, and race courses for both men and horses (Jos. Antiq. xv. 8. 1 § 267-276). Some time later, c. 24 b.c., Herod built for himself a royal palace and also built or rebuilt a good many fortresses and Gentile temples, including the rebuilding of Straton’s Tower which was renamed Caesarea (Jos. Antiq. xv. 8. 5-9. 6 § 292-341). Of course, his greatest building was the Temple in Jerusalem which was begun c. 20 b.c. Josephus considers it the most noble of all his achievements (Jos. Antiq. xv. 11. 1 § 380). Rabbinic lit. states: “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building” (BT: Baba Bathra 4a). Also, it is suggested that it was his “atonement for having slain so many sages of Israel” (Midrash:
Regarding domestic affairs he married Mariamne (who will be designated as Mariamne II), daughter of Simon, a well-known priest in Jerusalem c. late 24 b.c. In 22 b.c. Herod sent his two sons of Mariamne I, Alexander and Aristobulus, to Rome for their education. Augustus (Octavius’ title since 27 b.c.) himself received the sons and they stayed at the house of Asinius Pollio who professed to be one of Herod’s most devoted friends. At this time Augustus gave him the territories of Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis which had been occupied by nomad robber tribes with whom the neighboring tetrarch Zenodorus had made common cause (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 1-2 § 342-349; War i. 20. 4 § 398, 399). It is seen that there was a friendly relationship between Caesar and Herod. Herod, undoubtedly, was considered an important king to Rome for he kept that section of the Rom. empire well in control.
Augustus came to Syria in 20 b.c. and bestowed upon Herod the territory of Zenodorus or that which laid between Trachonitis and Galilee (containing Ulatha and Paneas) and made it so the procurators of Syria had to get Herod’s consent for all their actions (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 3 § 354-360; War i. 20. 4; cf. Dio Cassius liv. 7. 4-6; 9. 3). He also asked Augustus for a territory for his brother Pheroras and apparently Augustus granted the request and he was given Perea (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 3 § 362; cf. War i. 24. 5 § 483). Because of these gracious bestowments of Augustus, Herod erected a beautiful temple for Augustus in the territory of Zenodorus, near the place called Paneion (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 3 § 363; War i. 21. 3 § 404-406). Also, at this same time Herod remitted a third of the taxes under the pretext of crop failure but actually it was to bring goodwill among those who were displeased with his emphasis of Graeco-Roman culture and religion. The remittance of taxes was effective for the most part. There seemingly was a great dissatisfaction because Herod would not allow the people to congregate for fear of a revolt. He demanded a loyalty oath by the people, but excluded Pollion the Pharisee and his disciple Samaias, as well as most of their disciples. The Essenes did not have to submit to this oath because Josephus states that Herod had a high regard for them (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 4 § 365-372).
Herod made a trip to Rome to meet Augustus and fetch his two sons who had completed their education (in 17 or 16 b.c.). Upon their return to Judea with Herod, Aristobulus was married to Salome’s daughter Berenice and Alexander married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 1. 2 § 6-11; War i. 23. 1 § 445, 446).
One can conclude that this period from 25 b.c. to 14 b.c. was the most brilliant in his entire reign. His building program was of great splendor. His domestic affairs were reasonably good, but the end of this period was the beginning of great troubles in this area. Although he had some trouble within his political sphere, he had good control of his people and twice he favored them by lowering taxes (in 14 b.c. he reduced taxes by one-fourth, Jos. Antiq. xvi. 2. 5 § 64, 65).
Domestic troubles (14-4 B.C.).
Herod had married ten wives (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 1. 3 § 19-22; War i. 28. 4 § 562, 563). His first wife was Doris by whom he had one son, Antipater (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 12. 1 § 300). Herod repudiated Doris and Antipater when he married Mariamne I but they were allowed to visit Jerusalem only during the festivals (Jos. War i. 22. 1 § 433). In 37 b.c. Herod married Mariamne I, the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, who bore him five children. The two daughters were Salampsio and Cypros (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 4 § 130-132). The youngest son died during the course of his education in Rome (Jos. War i. 22. 2 § 435). The older sons were Alexander and Aristobulus, who played an important part during this period of Herod’s life. Herod married his third wife Mariamne II in late 24 b.c. by whom he had Herod (Philip). His fourth wife was a Samaritan, Malthace, by whom he had Archelaus and Antipas. His fifth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem, was the mother of Philip. Of the other five wives only Pallas, Phaedra, and Elpsis are known by name, and none of these are of significance (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 1. 3 § 19-22; War i. 28. 4 § 562, 563).
Herod’s favorite sons were the sons of Mariamne I, Alexander and Aristobulus. After they had returned from Rome and had married Glaphyra and Berenice respectively, troubles domestically began to come to the forefront. Salome, Herod’s sister and mother of Berenice, hated these two sons and tried desperately to establish her own son. It may well be that to a certain degree the haughtiness by the two sons of Mariamne I was because of being a part of the Hasmonean dynasty. Salome aggravated them by speaking ill of their mother whom Herod had killed, which caused them to defend her. Salome and Pheroras (brother of Herod and Salome) reported to Herod that his life was in danger because the two sons were not going to leave the murder of their mother unavenged and that Archelaus, king of Cappadocia (father of Glaphyra), would help them to reach the emperor and bring charges against their father (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 3. 1-2 § 66-77).
In order to provide a counterbalance to their aspirations and to show them that there might be another who could be heir to the throne, he recalled his exiled son Antipater. In the spring of 13 b.c. Herod sent Antipater to Rome in the company of Agrippa (friend of Augustus), who left the E to go to Rome, so that he might present Antipater to the emperor. Instead of being a counterbalance, Antipater used every conceivable means to acquire the throne. He used slander against his two half brothers. The rift between Herod and Mariamne I’s two sons became so great that Herod decided to accuse his two sons before the emperor. In 12 b.c. the two sons went with Herod and they were tried before Augustus in Aquileia. After the case was heard Augustus was able to reconcile Herod and his sons, and having restored domestic peace, the father, the two sons, and Antipater returned home. When they arrived home Herod named Antipater as his first successor and next after him were to be Alexander and Aristobulus (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 3. 3-4. 6 § 86-135; War i. 23. 2-5 § 451-466).
Scarcely had they arrived home when Antipater, being helped by Herod’s sister Salome and Herod’s brother Pheroras, began to slander the two sons of Mariamne I. Alexander and Aristobulus became more decidedly hostile in their attitude. Herod became suspicious and became more and more morbid about the situation. Antipater played on Herod’s morbid fears. He even caused the friends of Alexander to be tortured so that they might confess any attempt to take Herod’s life and one friend made the admission that Alexander, with the help of Aristobulus, had planned to kill him and then flee to Rome to lay claim on his kingdom. For this Alexander was committed to prison. When the Cappadocian king Archelaus, Alexander’s father-in-law, heard of this state of affairs, he began to fear for his daughter and son-in-law and thus made a journey to Jerusalem to see if there could be reconciliation. He appeared before Herod very angry over his good-for-nothing son-in-law and threatened to take his daughter back with him. Because of this Herod defended his son against Archelaus. By this sly maneuver on the part of Archelaus, he accomplished the reconciliation he desired and then returned to his home (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 7. 2-8. 6 § 188-270; War i. 24. 1-25. 6 § 467-512). This prob. occurred in 10 b.c. Thus there was peace once again in Herod’s household.
In this same period Herod had troubles with some foreign enemies and with the emperor. Syllaeus, who ruled in the place of the Arabian king Obodas and who was determinedly hostile to Herod, gave shelter to forty rebels of Trachonitis and tried to relieve his country from paying a debt contracted with Herod. Herod demanded the handing over of the rebels and the payment of the debt. With the consent of the governor of Syria, Saturninus, Herod invaded Arabia and enforced his rights (c. 9 b.c.). This was only to be a punitive measure with no intentions of territorial gain, but Syllaeus had meanwhile gone to Rome and distorted the picture with the result that Augustus became suspicious and intimated to Herod that their friendship was at an end and that he would henceforth treat him no longer as a friend but as a subject. In order to justify himself Herod sent an embassy to Rome and when this failed he sent a second under the leadership of Nicolas of Damascus (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 9. 1-4 § 271-299).
Meanwhile the domestic discord again came to the forefront. A certain Eurycles from Lacedemon, a man of bad character, inflamed the father against the sons and the sons against the father (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 10. 1 § 300-310; War i. 26. 1-4 § 513-533; cf. also Pausanias Description of Greece ii. 3. 5; Strabo viii. 5. 1; Plutarch Antony 67).
As other mischief-makers became involved, Herod’s patience was exhausted and he put Alexander and Aristobulus into prison, and laid a complaint against them before the emperor of their being involved in treasonable plots.
Meanwhile Nicolas of Damascus had accomplished his mission and had again won over the emperor to Herod. When the messengers who were bringing the accusations of Herod reached Rome, they found Augustus in a favorable mood and he gave Herod absolute power to proceed in the matter of his sons as he wished but advised him that the trial should take place outside of Herod’s territory at Berytus (Beirut), before a court of which Rom. officials would form part and to have the charges against his sons investigated by it (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 10. 5-11. 1 § 320-360; War i. 27. 1 § 534-537).
Herod accepted the advice of the emperor. Although the governor of Syria, Saturninus, and his three sons thought that the sons were guilty but should not be put to death, the court almost unanimously pronounced the death sentence upon the sons. Tiro, an old soldier, publicly proclaimed that the trial had been unjust and the truth suppressed. But he and 300 others were denounced as friends of Alexander and Aristobulus and thus were put to death. Therefore, at Sebaste (Samaria), where Herod had married Mariamne thirty years before, her two sons were executed by strangling, prob. in 7 b.c. (Jos. Antiq. xvi. 11. 2-8 § 361-404; War i. 27. 2-6 § 538-551).
Antipater, now remaining as the sole heir and enjoying the full confidence of his father, was still not satisfied, for he wished to have the government wholly in his own hands. He held secret conferences with Herod’s brother Pheroras, tetrarch of Perea, which Salome reported to her brother Herod, stating that they were contriving to kill him. Thus the relationship of Antipater and his father became strained. Realizing this strain Antipater wrote his friends in Rome to ask if Augustus would instruct Herod to send Antipater to Rome. Herod sent him to Rome and designated in his will that Antipater was his successor to the throne and in the event that Antipater’s death might occur before his own, Herod (Philip), son of Mariamne II, the high priest’s daughter, was named as his successor.
While Antipater was in Rome, Pheroras died which proved to be the seal of Antipater’s fate. Freedmen of Pheroras went to Herod to relate to him that Pheroras had been poisoned and that Herod should investigate the matter more closely. It was found out that the poison was sent by Antipater with the intention not to kill Pheroras but rather that Pheroras might give it to Herod. Herod also learned from the female slaves of Pheroras’ household of the complaints that Antipater had made at those secret meetings regarding the king’s long life and about the uncertainties of his prospects. Consequently Herod recalled Antipater under false pretenses and Antipater returned with no suspicion. When he arrived he was committed to prison in the king’s palace and was tried the next day before Varus, the governor of Syria. In light of the many proofs against him, he could make no defense. Herod put him in chains and made a report of the matter to the emperor. This occurred c. 5 b.c.
Another plot of Antipater against Herod was unveiled and Herod desired to kill him. Herod became very ill with a disease from which he would not recover. Therefore, he drew up a new will in which he by-passed his eldest sons, Archelaus and Philip, because Antipater had poisoned his mind against them. Instead he chose the youngest son, Antipas, as his sole successor (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 2. 4-6. 1 § 32-146; War i. 29. 1-32. 7 § 567-646).
Shortly before his death the Magi had come to Judea to worship the newborn king of the Jews. Herod summoned the wise men, asking them to report to him the location of the Christ child when they found Him in Bethlehem. Being warned in a dream, the Magi did not return to Herod but departed to the E by another route. The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt because of Herod’s intention to kill Jesus. They fled to Egypt and Herod killed all the male children of Bethlehem who were two years and under.
Herod was now nearly seventy years old and his sickness grew worse. As news spread that he had an incurable disease, two rabbis, Judas, son of Sepphoraeus, and Matthias, son of Margalus, stirred up the people to tear down the offensive eagle from the Temple gate. These rabbis stated that this action would be pleasing to God. Herod, having heard this, seized the offenders and passed sentences of death upon them and had the principal leaders burned alive.
As Herod’s disease grew worse the baths at Callirrhoe no longer benefited him. When he returned to Jericho he commanded all notable Jews from all parts of the nation to come to him and when they arrived he shut them up in the hippodrome, summoned his sister Salome and her husband Alexas, and ordered that all these leaders should be cut down at the moment he died so that there would be a national mourning rather than a festival. At the time he was giving these instructions, he received a letter from Rome in which the emperor gave him permission to execute his son, Antipater, which he did immediately. Herod again altered his will by nominating Archelaus, the older son of Malthace, as king and his brothers Antipas as tetrarch of Galilee and Perea and Philip as tetrarch of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Batanea, and Paneas.
Finally, on the fifth day after the execution of Antipater, Herod died at Jericho in the spring of 4 b.c. Salome and Alexas dismissed those who were summoned to the hippodrome and Ptolemy, who had been entrusted with the king’s seal, read Herod’s last will in public and the crowd acclaimed Archelaus as their king. A pompous funeral procession accompanied the body from Jericho, a distance of one mile in the direction of Herodion, where it was finally laid (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 6. 1-8. 3 § 147-199; War i. 33. 1-9 § 647-673).
Herod’s reign lasted thirty-three to thirty-four years if one reckons from 37 b.c. It was one of violence. The brightest portion lay in the middle. It must be realized that though his reign was characterized by violence, the rulers of that day were not greatly different than he was. Many times he was not liked by the Jews because of his infidelity to or his unconcern for their law. Although he was the king of the Jews, many of his subjects would not characterize him as truly a Jewish king.
Herod’s will disputed
During his life Herod had written six wills (actually the sixth will was only a codicils of the fifth will). As mentioned above the sixth will was made only five days before his death. Hence it needed the ratification of the emperor. So as soon as Herod died Archelaus took over the leadership but he did not accept the title of king nor allow himself to be crowned (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 8. 4. § 202, 203; War ii. 1. 1 § 2, 3). Immediately after the Passover Archelaus and Antipas left for Rome to dispute the last two wills of Herod while Philip took care of the home front. Archelaus claimed that Augustus should ratify Herod’s last will because it expressed Herod’s desire just before he died. On the other hand Antipas claimed that the fifth will which already had been ratified did have greater validity than the codicils because when Herod designated Antipas as king he was in good physical and mental health, whereas when he named Archelaus as king in the codicils he was stricken both in mind and body and was incapable of good reasoning. To complicate the situation further, there was a revolt in Pal. while the two brothers were in Rome disputing the will. The result of this revolt was that a Jewish delegation was sent to Rome pleading for the autonomy of the nation and for its union with the province of Syria. By now Philip had also gone to Rome.
After considerable debate and delay Augustus decided on a compromise solution, viz., Archelaus was designated ethnarch with the promise to be made king if he proved capable of that position and was to rule over Idumea, Judea, and Samaria. Antipas was made tetrarch over Galilee and Perea and Philip was made tetrarch over Gaulanitis, Tranchonitis, Batanea, and Paneas (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 11. 4 § 317-320; War ii. 6. 3 § 93-100). Therefore, although Antipas lost claim to kingship, he prevented Archelaus from being king over the whole realm.
Archelaus 4 b.c.-a.d. 6
He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace (a Samaritan) who was born c. 22 b.c.
As soon as Herod died, Ptolemy, to whom the king had entrusted his signet-ring, read the codicils which designated Archelaus as king and Philip and Antipas as tetrarchs. Although the codicils were not ratified Archelaus assumed the leadership. The people began making demands with which Archelaus complied in order to ingratiate himself with them. There were, however, revolutionaries among the crowd who were out to revenge the blood of those whom Herod killed for cutting down the eagle from the Temple gate. Archelaus, wanting to prevent an uprising of the mob at Passover, sent out an army and killed 3000 people (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 8. 4-9. 3 § 200-218; War ii. 1. 1-3 § 1-13). Consequently his rule got off to a bad start.
While on his way to Rome another revolt broke out at Pentecost lasting prob. for one and a half to two and a half months which resulted in the Temple porticoes being burned and its treasury pillaged by the Romans. This revolt spread to the countryside of Judea as well as to Galilee and Perea (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 10. 2-5 § 254-272; War ii. 3. 1-4. 1 § 40-56). Thus when Herod’s sons returned to Pal. (prob. in the spring of 3 b.c.) after the trial the situation was all but ideal for them to begin their rule.
After returning from Rome Archelaus treated both the Jews and Samaritans with great brutality (Jos. War ii. 7. 3 § 111). This is corroborated by the gospels, for Joseph, after returning from the flight to Egypt, heard that Archelaus was the ruler of Judea, and being afraid to go to Judea, he withdrew to Galilee (
Finally in a.d. 6 Archelaus was deposed. Although there are divergencies in the accounts, it can be reasonably reconstructed. It was triggered by a formal complaint to Augustus by a delegation of Jews and Samaritans concerning Archelaus’ cruelty and tyranny. The co-operation of these two communities, normally bitter enemies, indicates the seriousness of the grievances. Furthermore, Archelaus’ brothers, Antipas and Philip, went to Rome to bring charges against him presumably of his oversight of them since he was ethnarch or the Rom. representative for Pal. The outcome of this was that Archelaus was banished to Vienna in Gaul (modern Vienne on the Rhône, S of Lyons) and Antipas and Philip retained their domains. Archelaus’ domains were reduced to a province under the rule of prefects or procurators (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 13. 1-5 § 342-355; War ii. 7. 3-8. 1 § 111-118; Strabo xvi. 2. 46; Dio Cassius lv. 27. 6).
Antipas 4 b.c.-a.d. 39
He was the son of Herod and Malthace (a Samaritan) born c. 20 b.c., hence was the younger brother of Archelaus.
Of all the Herodians, he figures most prominently in the NT, for he was the tetrarch over Galilee and Perea, the two areas in whichand Christ had most of their ministry.
When Antipas returned from Rome to begin his rule in the domains alloted to him, he found them ravaged by the rebellion at the feast of Pentecost in 4 b.c. He had to restore order and rebuild what had been destroyed. Following in the footsteps of and his father Herod the Great, he founded cities. He began by rebuilding Sepphoris which was the largest city in Galilee as well as being the capital for his domains until he built Tiberias. It was prob. completed c. a.d. 8 to 10 and it is very possible that Joseph, Mary’s husband, plied his trade as a carpenter (
The building of Tiberias should be considered as one of the most important of all those built by the Herodian family (they built twelve cities) for it was the first city in Jewish history to be founded within the municipal framework of a Gr. polis. It was built in honor of the reigning Emperor Tiberius. While building it they struck upon a cemetery. Because Antipas destroyed the cemetery, he had difficulty in getting devout Jews to settle there for they considered the city unclean. He offered free houses and lands and exemption from taxes for the first few years if anyone moved into the new city. It was completed c. a.d. 23 and became Antipas’ capital.
Antipas and Archelaus.
The only significant event that occurred early in Antipas’ career was in a.d. 6 when a delegation of Jews and Samaritans as well as Philip and himself went to Rome to bring about the downfall of his brother Archelaus. Although Antipas remained a tetrarch, he at least gained the dynastic title Herod (cf. Jos. Antiq. xviii. 2. 1 § 26; War ii. 9. 1 § 167) which was of great significance both to his subjects and to the political and social circles of the Rom. world. This title given by the emperor may have been a concession in lieu of giving the title king.
Antipas and John the Baptist.
The episode for which Antipas is remembered is his involvement in the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist (
Around a.d. 29 Antipas made a journey to Rome. On his way he paid a visit to his half brother Herod (Philip) who apparently lived in one of the coastal cities of Pal. Antipas fell in love with his host’s wife Herodias who was also his own niece. She was ambitious and this was her opportunity to become the wife of a tetrarch and so she agreed to marry Antipas on his return from Rome upon the stipulation that Aretas’ daughter must be ousted (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 1 § 109, 110). Aretas’ daughter got wind of the arrangement and consequently fled to her father. This divorce was not only a personal insult to Aretas but also a breach of a political alliance which later led to a retaliation by Aretas.
Soon after Aretas’ daughter’s departure, Antipas and Herodias were married. John the Baptist spoke boldly against this marriage and consequently Antipas incarcerated him. John’s denouncement was that Antipas had married his brother Philip’s wife. The Mosaic law forbad the marriage of a brother’s wife (
A problem arises over the identification of Herodias’ first husband for the gospels state that he was Philip (
First, the gospels would be guilty of three historical errors, viz. (1) that they confused this Herod with his half brother Philip, (2) that they made Philip the tetrarch husband of Herodias instead of the husband of her daughter, and (3) Salome would have been the daughter of Philip the tetrarch who according to Josephus had no children—three blunders in matters of well-known history with which the evangelists otherwise show familiarity. Also, when the Christian community had such as Joanna, wife of Chuza who was Antipas’ financial minister (
Second, the gospels speak of a daughter of Herodias before she was married to Antipas (
Third, the objection that Herod the Great would not have had two sons with the name Philip is untenable for although they had the same father, they had different mothers. Also, Herod the Great had two sons named Antipas/Antipater and two sons named Herod.
Fourth, it is not unreasonable for Herodias’ first husband to have a double name, viz., Herod Philip. Certainly no one disputes that the Herod of
Fifth, if the evangelists meant that Herodias’ former husband was Philip the tetrarch, why did they not call him by that title as they had Antipas right within that same pericope (
Therefore, it is most reasonable to consider that the Philip in the gospels and the Herod in Josephus to be one and the same person. In fact, to do otherwise would seem to create inextricable confusion.
Herodias was not satisfied to leave John in prison and so at a suitable time she arranged for a banquet, prob. for Antipas’ birthday, at Machaerus in Perea in order to get rid of John. Her daughter Salome danced before Antipas’ dignitaries and he promised her with an oath that he would give her anything up to half of his kingdom. Being advised by her mother, she requested John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Antipas was sorry he had made the promise under oath but due to the presence of his underlords he had to follow through with the request. Consequently John the Baptist’s ministry had come to an end c. a.d. 31 or 32.
Antipas and Jesus.
Antipas’ relationship to Jesus is seen in three episodes. The first event is upon Antipas’ hearing of Jesus’ ministry and concluding, possibly, with a note of irony, that this one is John the Baptist resurrected (
Antipas wanted to see Jesus but was not able to do so because He not only withdrew from his territories, but also he did not want to use force because he might rouse his people again as he had with John.
The second episode to be noted is when Jesus was on His final journey to Jerusalem. Some of the Pharisees came to Jesus and stated that He had better remove Himself from Antipas’ territories because he wanted to kill Jesus (
The final encounter was when Jesus was tried by Antipas in a.d. 33 (
Regarding the contents of the pericope itself, Pilate sent Jesus to Antipas who was in Jerusalem for the Passover when he heard that Jesus was from Galilee. Pilate did not make this move out of kindness but to free himself from an awkward case; viz., the Jews insisted on Jesus’ execution but Pilate found no guilt in Him. Another reason for handing Jesus over to Antipas was for diplomatic courtesy in order to improve his relationship with Antipas which had been strained by the Galilean massacre (
Antipas and Rome.
In a.d. 36 Aretas made an attack on Antipas and defeated Antipas’ army. The Jews saw this defeat as a divine retribution upon Antipas for his execution of John the Baptist (Jos. Antiq. 5. 1. 2 § 116-119). Tiberius ordered Vitellius, governor of Syria, to help Antipas but before he attacked Aretas he with Antipas went up to Jerusalem to celebrate a feast (prob. Pentecost in a.d. 37). While in Jerusalem Vitellius received the news of Tiberius’ death (16 March 37) and consequently called off his expedition against Aretas until he received commands from the new emperor Caligula.
Caligula upon his accession gave his friend Agrippa I, brother of Herodias, the land of Philip as well as the tetrarch of Lysanius with the title of king (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 6. 10 § 225-239). Later Agrippa went to Pal. (c. Aug. of 38). Due to Agrippa’s acquisition of the title of king, Herodias prodded Antipas to go to Rome to seek the same title. Finally in a.d. 39 Antipas with Herodias went to Rome but meanwhile Agrippa dispatched one of his freedmen to Rome to bring accusations against Antipas which resulted in Antipas’ banishment to exile at Lugdunum Convenarum, now Saint-Bertrand de Comminges of France. Although Herodias did not have to go into exile she chose to follow her husband. Antipas’ territories were given to Agrippa (Jos. Antiq. 7. 1-2 § 240-255; War ii. 9. 6 § 181-183).
Philip the tetrarch 4 b.c.-a.d. 34
He was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem born c. 22/21 b.c.
As a result of the debate over Herod’s will, Augustus made Philip the tetrarch over the northern part of Herod the Great’s domain, Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanea, Trachonitis, Paneas, and Iturea (Jos. Antiq. xvii. 8. 1 § 189; 9. 4 § 319; xviii. 4. 6 § 106; 5. 4 § 136; War i. 33. 8 § 668; ii. 6. 3 § 95;
He built two cities (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 2. 1 § 28; War ii. 9. 1 § 168). The first city was a rebuilding and enlarging of Paneas, the city near the source of the Jordan. He renamed it
Philip, not being so ambitious and scheming as his brothers, ruled his domain with moderation and tranquillity. He was well liked by his subjects (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 4. 6 § 106-108). He married Herodias’ daughter Salome whose dances led to the execution of John the Baptist. They had no children (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 4 § 137).
After Philip died in a.d. 34, Tiberius annexed his tetrarchy to Syria. When Caligula became emperor in a.d. 37 he gave Philip’s territory to Agrippa I, brother of Herodias.
Agrippa I a.d. 37-44
He was the son of Aristobulus (son of Herod the Great and Mariamne) and Berenice (daughter of Herod’s sister Salome and Costobarus) who was born in 10 b.c. (Jos. War i. 28. 1 § 552; Antiq. xix. 8. 2 § 350). He was the brother of Herodias.
Agrippa I can be considered the black sheep of the Herodian family. He went to school in Rome and lived a careless and extravagant life, esp. after his mother’s death. He soon ran out of money and accumulated debts. When Tiberius’ son Drusus was poisoned by Sejanus in a.d. 23, Agrippa lost the support and favor of the court which forced him to retire quietly to Maltha, a fortress in Idumea, leaving many angry creditors behind him in Rome (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 6. 1-2 § 143-147; 6. 4 § 165). Being utterly depressed over his humiliation he contemplated suicide, but his wife Cypros pleaded with his sister Herodias for help. Antipas gave him a home, a guaranteed income, and a small civil service position as inspector of markets in Antipas’ new capital Tiberias. But the new position in life did not last long. Matters came to a head one evening at Tyre during a feast when Antipas reproached Agrippa for his poverty and claimed that he owed the very food he was eating to Antipas. Agrippa left and went to L. Pomponius Flaccus, legate of Syria (c. a.d. 32/33), whom he had known intimately at Rome, but soon left for Rome after they had quarrelled (c. a.d. 36). He repaid old debts by incurring new ones (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 6. 2-3 § 148-160).
In Rome Agrippa made friends with Gaius Caligula and was imprisoned by Tiberius because of his unwise remark to Gaius (which was overheard by a servant) that he wished Tiberius would relinquish his throne to Gaius who was much more capable of ruling. He remained in prison until Tiberius’ death six months later (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 6. 4-10 § 161-236; War ii. 9. 5 § 178-180; Dio Cassius lix. 8. 2).
When Caligula became emperor he released Agrippa from prison and gave him a chain in gold equal in weight to the chain he had worn in prison. He also conferred upon him the region of Philip the tetrarch and the more northerly tetrarchy of Lysanius and gave him the title of king (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 6. 10 § 237; War ii. 9. 6 § 181). The Senate also conferred upon him the honorary rank of praetor (Philo In Flaccum 40) and subsequently consular rank (Dio Cassius lx. 8. 2).
In late summer of a.d. 38 Agrippa went to Pal. to see his land. His arrival roused Antipas’ jealousy, but Agrippa’s sister Herodias became even more incensed and she induced Antipas to aspire to the title of king. Because of Herodias’ insistence, Antipas finally in a.d. 39 went to Rome to ask for the new title. Upon hearing this Agrippa dispatched one of his freedmen, Fortunatus, to Rome to accuse Antipas. Agrippa’s move was successful and led to the downfall of Antipas; and consequently Agrippa gained Antipas’ tetrarchy and property (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 7. 1-2 § 240-256; War ii. 9. 6 § 181-183).
In a.d. 41 Agrippa happened to be in Rome when Caligula was murdered and he was helpful in Claudius’ ascent to the throne (Jos. Antiq. xix. 4. 1-6 § 236-273; War ii. 11. 1-4 § 204-213; Dio Cassius lx. 8. 2). Upon his accession Claudius confirmed Agrippa in his rule and added Judea and Samaria to his domains which meant that he ruled over all the territory of his grandfather Herod the Great (Jos. Antiq. xix. 5. 1 § 274-275; War ii. 11. 5 § 214, 215).
Agrippa I is known in the NT for his persecution of the Early Church in order to curry favor of the Jews (
Agrippa died in a.d. 44 in Caesarea. According to Josephus on the second day of a festival he appeared in the theater with a robe made wholly of silver. When the robe sparkled in the sun, the people cried out flatteries, declaring him to be a god and entreated him to have mercy upon them. While the king allowed himself to be carried away with the flatteries, he noticed an owl on a rope which was an omen that he would die very soon. Immediately he had severe stomach pains and was carried to his house and died five days later (Jos. Antiq. xix. 8. 2 § 343-352). Luke states that he was in Caesarea sitting on the judgment seat dressed in royal robes addressing ambassadors from Tyre and Sidon with whom he was displeased. While speaking the people called out stating that it was the voice of a god and not man. Immediately an angel of the Lord smote him because he did not give God the glory; and he was eaten of worms, and died (
The principal parts of the two accounts are: the scene of the incident was at Caesarea, he was wearing a brilliant robe, he was cheered and flattered by the people, and a sudden death came upon him. It may well be that Agrippa went to the festival as mentioned by Josephus and on the second day (
His survivors were three daughters, Berenice, Mariamne, and Drusilla, and a son also named Agrippa who was seventeen years of age (Jos. Antiq. xix. 9. 1 § 354, 355; War ii. 11. 6 § 218-220). Becausewas a minor, Agrippa I’s territories were reduced temporarily to a province.
Agrippa II a.d. 50-100
He was the son of Agrippa I and Cypros, daughter of Phasael (Herod the Great’s brother’s son) and Salampsio (Herod the Great’s daughter) (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 4 § 130-132). Upon the death of Agrippa II’s father, Claudius wanted to make him king over his father’s territories but was persuaded by two freedmen that a youth would not be able to hold sway over a large and much-harassed kingdom. Consequently Cuspius Fadus was appointed procurator of Palestine.
In a.d. 50, two years after the death of Agrippa II’s uncle and brother-in-law Herod, king of Chalcis, Claudius made Agrippa II king of Chalcis (Jos. Antiq. xx. 5. 2 § 104; War ii. 12. 1 § 223). In 53 Claudius granted Agrippa II the tetrarchy of Philip, Abilene (or Abila), Trachonitis, and Arca (the tetrarchy of Varus) in exchange for the territory of Chalcis (Jos. Antiq. xx. 7. 1 § 138; War ii. 12. 8 § 247). Nero became emperor in a.d. 54 and shortly after his accession he gave Agrippa the Galilean cities of Tiberias and Tarichea and their surrounding land and the Perean cities of Julias (or Betharamphtha) and Abila and their surrounding land (Julias had fourteen surrounding villages) (Jos. Antiq. xx. 8. 4 § 159; War ii. 13. 2 § 252). In appreciation for the imperial favor, Agrippa enlarged his capital city Caesarea Philippi and renamed it Neronius (Jos. Antiq. xx. 9. 4 § 211). So Agrippa now ruled Philip’s tetrarchy with the added toparchies of Galilee and the three detached territories of Abilene, Arca, and the two middle toparchies of Perea.
Agrippa II’s private life was not exemplary. His sister Berenice was a widow after her second husband (and uncle Herod), king of Chalcis, died in a.d. 48. From that date she lived in her brother’s house. In an attempt to quiet the rumors of incest she resolved to marry Polemo of Cilicia. But she did not continue long with him and returned to her old relations with Agrippa. The incestuous relationship became the common talk of Rome (Jos. Antiq. xx. 7. 3 § 145-147; Juvenal Satires vi. 156-160).
Like his Uncle Herod, king of Chalcis, Agrippa II was in control of the Temple treasury and the vestments of the high priest and consequently could appoint high priests (Jos. Antiq. xx. 5. 2 § 103; 9. 4 § 213; 9. 7 § 222). The Romans would consult him on religious matters, and this is prob. why Festus asked him to hear Paul at Caesarea (a.d. 59). Agrippa was accompanied by his sister Berenice (
In May of 66 the revolution in Pal. broke out (Jos. War ii. 14. 4 § 284). Agrippa attempted to stop the revolt but was unable to do so, and all through the War of 66-70 he was unhesitatingly on the side of the Romans. After Nero’s suicide on 9 June 68, Vespasian sent his son Titus, who was accompanied by Agrippa, to pay respects to the new Emperor Galba. On the way to Rome they received the news of Galba’s murder (15 Jan 69) and Titus returned to Pal. while Agrippa continued to Rome. After Vespasian had been elected emperor (1 July 69) by the Egyp. and Syrian legions, Agrippa returned to Pal. to take the oath of allegiance to the new emperor (Tac. Hist. ii. 81). Agrippa continued to be with Titus who was in charge of the war (Tac. Hist. v. 1) and after the conquest of Jerusalem (5 Aug 70), Agrippa was prob. present at the victory celebrations over the destruction of his people (Jos. War vii. 1. 2-3. 1 § 5-40).
Vespasian confirmed Agrippa in the possession of the kingdom which he had previously governed and added new territories which are not spelled out. In a.d. 75 he and his sister Berenice went to Rome where she resumed being Titus’ mistress (as she had been in Pal.), which became a public scandal (Tac. Hist. ii. 2). Titus was forced to send her away. When Titus became emperor (Vespasian died on 23 June 79), she returned once more to Rome but Titus left her unnoticed (Dio Cassius lvi. 18) and so she returned to Pal.
After this nothing is known of Agrippa or Berenice except that he corresponded with Josephus about The Jewish War, praising its accuracy and subsequently purchased a copy (Jos. Life lxv § 361-367; Apion i. 9 § 47-52). Although some hold that Agrippa II’s death was c. a.d. 93, it is more probable that it was c. a.d. 100. Although the Talmud (BT: Sukkah 27a) implies that Agrippa had two wives, Josephus gives no indication of his being married or having any children. His death marked the end of the Herodian dynasty.
M. Brann, “Die Söhne des Herodes,” Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, XXII (1873), 241-256, 305-321, 345-360, 407-420, 459-474, 497-507; F. W. Farrar, The Herods (1898); E. Schürer, HJ, I, i (1896), 400-467; I, ii (1892), 1-206; W. Otto, Herodes: Beiträge zur Geschichte des letzten jüdischen Königshauses (1913); H. Willrich, Das Haus des Herodes (1929); J. S. Minkin, Herod,(1936); A. H. M. Jones, The Herods of Judaea (1938); J. Blinzler, Herodes Antipas und Jesus Christus (1947); V. E. Harlow, of Jesus: The Story of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee (1954); S. Perowne, The Life and Times of Herod the Great (1956); S. Perowne, The Later Herods (1958); F. O. Busch, The Five Herods (1958); G. Schofield, Crime before Calvary: Herodias, Herod Antipas, and ; a New Interpretation (1960); F. F. Bruce, “Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea,” The Annual of Leeds University Oriental Society, V (1963-1965), 6-23; S. Sandmel, Herod: Profile of a Tyrant (1967); A. Schalit, König Herodes: Der Mann und sein Werk (1969); M. Grant, Herod the Great (1971); H. W. Hoehner, Herod Antipas (1972).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
her’-ud: The name Herod (Herodes) is a familiar one in the history of the Jews and of the early Christian church. The name itself signifies "heroic," a name not wholly applicable to the family, which was characterized by craft and knavery rather than by heroism. The fortunes of the Herodiam family are inseparably connected with the last flickerings of the flame of Judaism, as a national power, before it was forever extinguished in the great Jewish war of rebellion, 70 AD. The history of the Herodian family is not lacking in elements of greatness, but whatever these elements were and in whomsoever found, they were in every ease dimmed by the insufferable egotism which disfigured the family, root and branch. Some of the Herodian princes were undeniably talented; but these talents, wrongly used, left no marks for the good of the people of Israel. Of nearly all the kings of the house of Herod it may truly be said that at their death "they went without being desired," unmissed, unmourned. The entire family history is one of incessant brawls, suspicion, intrigue arid shocking immorality. In the baleful and waning light of the rule of the Herodians, Christ lived and died, and under it the foundations of the Christian church were laid.
1. The Family Descent:
The Herodians were not of Jewish stock. Herod the Great encouraged the circulation of the legend of the family descent from an illustrious Babylonian Jew (Ant., XIV, i, 3), but it has no historic basis. It is true the Idumeans were at that time nominal Jews, since they were subdued by John Hyrcanus in 125 BC, and embodied in the Asmonean kingdom through an enforced circumcision, but the old national antagonism remained (
2. Herod the Great:
With a different environment and with a different character, Herod the Great might have been worthy of the surname which he now bears only as a tribute of inane flattery. What we know of him, we owe, in the main, to the exhaustive treatment of the subject by Josephus in his Antiquities and Jewish War, and from Strabo and Dio Cassius among the classics. We may subsume our little sketch of Herod’s life under the heads of (1) political activity, (2) evidences of talent, and (3) character and domestic life.
(1) Political Activity.
Antipater had great ambitions for his son. Herod was only a young man when he began his career as governor of Galilee. Josephus’ statement, however, that he was only "fifteen years old" (Ant., XIV, ix, 2) is evidently the mistake of some transcriber, because we are told (XVII, viii, 1) that "he continued his life till a very old age." That was 42 years later, so that Herod at this time must have been at least 25 years old. His activity and success in ridding his dominion of dangerous bands of freebooters, and his still greater success in raising the always welcome tribute-money for the Roman government, gained for him additional power at court. His advance became rapid. Antony appointed him "tetrarch" of Judea in 41 BC, and although he was forced by circumstances temporarily to leave his domain in the hands of the Parthians and of Antigonus, this, in the end, proved a blessing in disguise. In this final spasm of the dying Asmonean house, Antigonus took Jerusalem by storm, and Phasael, Herod’s oldest brother, fell into his hands. The latter was governor of the city, and foreseeing his fate, he committed suicide by dashing out his brains against the walls of his prison. Antigonus incapacitated his brother Hyrcanus, who was captured at the same time, from ever holding the holy office again by cropping off his ears (Ant., XIV, xiii, 10). Meanwhile, Herod was at Rome, and through the favor of Antony and Augustus he obtained the crown of Judea in 37 BC. The fond ambition of his heart was now attained, although he had literally to carve out his own empire with the sword. He made quick work of the task, cut his way back into Judea and took Jerusalem by storm in 37 BC.
The first act of his reign was the extermination of the Asmonean house, to which Herod himself was related through his marriage with Mariamne, the grandchild of Hyrcanus. Antigonus was slain and with him 45 of his chief adherents. Hyrcanus was recalled from Babylon, to which he had been banished by Antigonus, but the high-priesthood was bestowed on Aristobulus, Herod’s brother-in-law, who, however, soon fell a victim to the suspicion and fear of the king (Ant., XV, iii, 3). These outrages against the purest blood in Judea turned the love of Mariamne, once cherished for Herod, into a bitter hatred. The Jews, loyal to the dynasty of the Maccabees, accused Herod before the Roman court, but he was summarily acquitted by Antony. Hyrcanus, mutilated and helpless as he was, soon followed Aristobulus in the way of death, 31 BC (Ant., XV, vi, 1). When Antony, who had ever befriended Herod, was conquered by Augustus at Actium (31 BC), Herod quickly turned to the powers that were, and, by subtle flattery and timely support, won the imperial favor. The boundaries of his kingdom were now extended by Rome. And Herod proved equal to the greater task. By a decisive victory over the Arabians, he showed, as he had done in his earlier Galilean government, what manner of man he was, when aroused to action. The Arabians were wholly crushed, and submitted themselves unconditionally under the power of Herod (Ant., XV, v, 5). Afraid to leave a remnant of the Asmonean power alive, he sacrificed Mariamne his wife, the only human being he ever seems to have loved (28 BC), his mother-in-law Alexandra (Ant., XV, vii, 8), and ultimately, shortly before his death, even his own sons by Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus 7 BC (Ant., XVI, xi, 7). In his emulation of the habits and views of life of the Romans, he continually offended and defied his Jewish subjects, by the introduction of Roman sports and heathen temples in his dominion. His influence on the younger Jews in this regard was baneful, and slowly a distinct partly arose, partly political, partly religious, which called itself the Herodian party, Jews in outward religious forms but Gentiles in their dress and in their whole view of life. They were a bitter offense to the rest of the nation, but were associated with the Pharisees and Sadducees in their opposition to Christ (
(2) Evidences of Talent.
The life of Herod the Great was not a fortuitous chain of favorable accidents. He was unquestionably a man of talent. In a family like that of Antipus and Antipater, talent must necessarily be hereditary, and Herod inherited it more largely than any of his brothers. His whole life exhibits in no small degree statecraft, power of organization, shrewdness. He knew men and he knew how to use them. He won the warmest friendship of Roman emperors, and had a faculty of convincing the Romans of the righteousness of his cause, in every contingency. In his own dominions he was like Ishmael, his hand against all, and the hands of all against him, and yet he maintained himself in the government for a whole generation. His Galilean governorship showed what manner of man he was, a man with iron determination and great generalship. His Judean conquest proved the same thing, as did his Arabian war. Herod was a born leader of men. Under a different environment he might have developed into a truly great man, and had his character been coordinate with his gifts, he might have done great things for the Jewish people. But by far the greatest talent of Herod was his singular architectural taste and ability. Here he reminds one of the old Egyptian Pharaohs. Against the laws of Judaism, which he pretended to obey, he built at Jerusalem a magnificent theater and an amphitheater, of which the ruins remain. The one was within the city, the other outside the walls. Thus he introduced into the ascetic sphere of the Jewish life the frivolous spirit of the Greeks and the Romans. To offset this cruel infraction of all the maxims of orthodox Judaism, he tried to placate the nation by rebuilding the temple of Zerubbabel and making it more magnificent than even Solomon’s temple had been. This work was accomplished somewhere between 19 BC and 11 or 9 BC, although the entire work was not finished till the procuratorship of Albinus, 62-64 AD (Ant., XV, xi, 5, 6; XX, ix, 7;
(3) Characteristics and Domestic Life.
The personality of Herod was impressive, and he was possessed of great physical strength. His intellectual powers were far beyond the ordinary; his will was indomitable; he was possessed of great tact, when he saw fit to employ it; in the great crises of his life he was never at a loss what to do; and no one has ever accused Herod the Great of cowardice. There were in him two distinct individualities, as was the case with Nero. Two powers struggled in him for the mastery, and the lower one at last gained complete control. During the first part of his reign there were evidences of large-heartedness, of great possibilities in the man. But the bitter experiences of his life, the endless whisperings and warnings of his court, the irreconcilable spirit of the Jews, as well as the consciousness of his own wrongdoing, changed him into a Jewish Nero: a tyrant, who bathed his own house and his own people in blood. The demons of Herod’s life were jealousy of power, and suspicion, its necessary companion.
He was the incarnation of brute lust, which in turn became the burden of the lives of his children. History tells of few more immoral families than the house of Herod, which by intermarriage of its members so entangled the genealogical tree as to make it a veritable puzzle. As these marriages were nearly all within the line of forbidden consanguinity, under the Jewish law, they still further embittered the people of Israel against the Herodian family. When Herod came to the throne of Judea, Phasael was dead. Joseph his younger brother had fallen in battle (Ant., XIV, xv, 10), and only Pheroras and Salome survived. The first, as we have seen, nominally shared the government with Herod, but was of little consequence and only proved a thorn in the king’s flesh by his endless interference and plotting. To him were allotted the revenues of the East Jordanic territory. Salome, his sister, was ever neck-deep in the intrigues of the Herodian family, but had the cunning of a fox and succeeded in making Herod believe in her unchangeable loyalty, although the king had killed her own son-in-law and her nephew, Aristobulus, his own son. The will of Herod, made shortly before his death, is a convincing proof of his regard for his sister (Ant., XVII, viii, 1).
His domestic relations were very unhappy. Of his marriage with Doris and of her son, Antipater, he reaped only misery, the son, as stated above, ultimately falling a victim to his father’s wrath, when the crown, for which he plotted, was practically within his grasp. Herod appears to have been deeply in love with Mariamne, the grandchild of Hyrcanus, in so far as he was capable of such a feeling, but his attitude toward the entire Asmonean family and his fixed determination to make an end of it changed whatever love Mariamne had for him into hatred. Ultimately she, as well as her two sons, fell victims to Herod’s insane jealousy of power. Like Nero, however, in a similar situation, Herod felt the keenest remorse after her death. As his sons grew up, the family tragedy thickened, and the court of Herod became a veritable hotbed of mutual recriminations, intrigues and catastrophes. The trials and executions of his own conspiring sons were conducted with the acquiescence of the Roman power, for Herod was shrewd enough not to make a move without it. Yet so thoroughly was the condition of the Jewish court understood at Rome, that Augustus, after the death of Mariamne’s sons (7 BC), is said to have exclaimed: "I would rather be Herod’s hog hus than his son huios." At the time of his death, the remaining sons were these: Herod, son of Mariamne, Simon’s daughter; Archelaus and Antipas, sons of Malthace, and Herod Philip, son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem. Alexander and Aristobulus were killed, through the persistent intrigues of Antipater, the oldest son and heir presumptive to the crown, and he himself fell into the grave he had dug for his brothers.
By the final testament of Herod, as ratified by Rome, the kingdom was divided as follows: Archelaus received one-half of the kingdom, with the title of king, really "ethnarch," governing Judea, Samaria and Idumaea; Antipas was appointed "tetrarch" of Galilee and Peraea; Philip, "tetrarch" of Trachonitis, Gaulonitis and Paneas. To Salome, his intriguing sister, he bequeathed Jamnia, Ashdod and Phasaelus, together with 500,000 drachmas of coined silver. All his kindred were liberally provided for in his will, "so as to leave them all in a wealthy condition" (Ant., XVII, viii, 1). In his death he had been better to his family than in his life. He died unmourned and unbeloved by his own people, to pass into history as a name soiled by violence and blood. As the waters of Callirhoe were unable to cleanse his corrupting body, those of time were unable to wash away the stains of a tyrant’s name. The only time he is mentioned in the
3. Herod Antipas:
Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, a Samaritan woman. Half Idumean, half Samaritan, he had therefore not a drop of Jewish blood in his veins, and "Galilee of the Gentiles" seemed a fit dominion for such a prince. He ruled as "tetrarch" of Galilee and Peraea (
On the death of his father, although he was younger than his brother Archelaus (Ant., XVII, ix, 4 f; BJ, II, ii, 3), he contested the will of Herod, who had given to the other the major part of the dominion. Rome, however, sustained the will and assigned to him the "tetrarchy" of Galilee and Peraea, as it had been set apart for him by Herod (Ant., XVII, xi, 4). Educated at Rome with Archelaus and Philip, his half-brother, son of Mariamne, daughter of Simon, he imbibed many of the tastes and graces and far more of the vices of the Romans. His first wife was a daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. But he sent her back to her father at Petra, for the sake of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had met and seduced at Rome. Since the latter was the daughter of Aristobulus, his half-brother, and therefore his niece, and at the same time the wife of another half-brother, the union between her and Antipas was doubly sinful. Aretas repaid this insult to his daughter by a destructive war (Ant., XVIII, v, 1). Herodias had a baneful influence over him and wholly dominated his life (
4. Herod Philip:
Herod Philip was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem. At the death of his father he inherited Gaulonitis, Traehonitis and Paneas (Ant., XVII, viii, 1). He was Philip apparently utterly unlike the rest of the Herodian family, retiring, dignified, moderate and just. He was also wholly free from the intriguing spirit of his brothers, and it is but fair to suppose that he inherited this totally un-Herodian character and disposition from his mother. He died in the year 34 AD, and his territory was given three years later to Agrippa I, his nephew and the son of Aristobulus, together with the tetrarchy of Lysanias (Ant., XVIII, iv, 6; XIX, v, 1).
5. Herod Archelaus:
Herod Archelaus was the oldest son of Herod the Great by Malthace, the Samaritan. He was a man of violent temper, reminding one a great deal of his father. Educated like all Archelaus the Herodian princes at Rome, he was fully familiar with the life and arbitrariness of the Roman court. In the last days of his father’s life, Antipater, who evidently aimed at the extermination of all the heirs to the throne, accused him and Philip, his half-brother, of treason. Both were acquitted (Ant., XVI, iv, 4; XVII, vii, 1). By the will of his father, the greater part of the Herodian kingdom fell to his share, with the title of "ethnarch." The will was contested by his brother Antipas before the Roman court. While the matter was in abeyance, Archelaus incurred the hatred of the Jews by the forcible repression of a rebellion, in which some 3,000 people were slain. They therefore opposed his claims at Rome, but Arche1aus, in the face of all this opposition, received the Roman support (Ant., XVII, xi, 4). It is very ingeniously suggested that this episode may be the foundation of the parable of Christ, found in
Of Herod, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, Simon’s daughter, we know nothing except that he married Herodias, the daughter of his dead halfbrother Aristobulus. He is called Philip in the New Testament (
6. Herod Agrippa I:
Two members of the Herodian family are named Agrippa. They are of the line of Aristobulus, who through Mariamne, grand-daughter of Hyrcanus, carried down the line of the Asmonean blood. And it is worthy of note that in this line, nearly extinguished by Herod through his mad jealousy and fear of the Maccabean power, the kingdom of Herod came to its greatest glory again.
Herod Agrippa I, called Agrippa by Josephus, was the son of Aristobulus and Bernice and the grandson of Herod the Great and Mariamne. Educated at Rome with Claudius (Ant., XVIII, vi, 1, 4), he was possessed of great shrewdness and tact. Returning to Judea for a little while, he came back to Rome in 37 AD. He hated his uncle Antipas and left no stone unturned to hurt his cause. His mind was far-seeing, and he cultivated, as his grandfather had done, every means that might lead to his own promotion. He, therefore, made fast friends with Caius Caligula, heir presumptive to the Roman throne, and his rather outspoken advocacy of the latter’s claims led to his imprisonment by Tiberius. This proved the making of his fortune, for Caligula did not forget him, but immediately on his accession to the throne, liberated Agrippa and bestowed on him, who up to that time had been merely a private citizen, the "tetrarchies" of Philip, his uncle, and of Lysanias, with the title of king, although he did not come into the possession of the latter till two more years had gone by (Ant., XVIII, vi, 10). The foolish ambition of Herod Antipas led to his undoing, and the emperor, who had heeded the accusation of Agrippa against his uncle, bestowed on him the additional territory of Galilee and Peraea in 39 AD. Agrippa kept in close touch with the imperial government, and when, on the assassination of Caligula, the imperial crown was offered to the indifferent Claudius, it fell to the lot of Agrippa to lead the latter to accept the proffered honor. This led to further imperial favors and further extension of his territory, Judea and Samaria being added to his domain, 40 AD. The fondest dreams of Agrippa had now been realized, his father’s fate was avenged and the old Herodian power had been restored to its original extent. He ruled with great munificence and was very tactful in his contact with the Jews. With this end in view, several years before, he had moved Caligula to recall the command of erecting an imperial statue in the city of Jerusalem; and when he was forced to take sides in the struggle between Judaism and the nascent Christian sect, he did not hesitate a moment, but assumed the role of its bitter persecutor, slaying James the apostle with the sword and harrying the church whenever possible (
7. Herod Agrippa II:
Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I and Cypros. When his father died in 44 AD he was a youth of only 17 years and considered too young to assume the government of Judea. Claudius therefore placed the country under the care of a procurator. Agrippa had received a royal education in the palace of the emperor himself (Ant., XIX, ix, 2). But he had not wholly forgotten his people, as is proven by his intercession in behalf of the Jews, when they asked to be permitted to have the custody of the official highpriestly robes, till then in the hands of the Romans and to be used only on stated occasions (Ant., XX, i, 1). On the death of his uncle, Herod of Calchis, Claudius made Agrippa II "tetrarch" of the territory, 48 AD (BJ, II, xii, 1; XIV, iv; Ant, XX, v, 2). As Josephus tells us, he espoused the cause of the Jews whenever he could (Ant., XX, vi, 3). Four years later (52 AD), Claudius extended the dominion of Agrippa by giving him the old "tetrarchies" of Philip and Lysanias. Even at Calchis they had called him king; now it became his official title (Ant., XX, vii, 1). Still later (55 AD), Nero added some Galilean and Perean cities to his domain. His whole career indicates the predominating influence of the Asmonean blood, which had shown itself in his father’s career also. If the Herodian taste for architecture reveals itself here and there (Ant., XX, viii, 11; IX, iv), there is a total absence of the cold disdain wherewith the Herods in general treated their subjects. The Agrippas are Jews.
Herod Agrippa II figures in the New Testament in
Josephus, Josephus, Antiquities and BJ; Strabo; Dio Cassius. Among all modern works on the subject, Schurer, The Jewish People in the Time of(5 vols) is perhaps still the best.
Henry E. Dosker