Herod the Great

Herod the Great was the king of Palestine from 37 BC - 4 BC. We owe the division of BC to AD to a 6th century monk, Dionysius Exiguus. Dionysius placed the birth of Jesus in the year 753 after the founding of old Rome but he overlooked the fact that Herod died in 750 - which is 4 BC by Dionysius reckoning. Jesus was born in the reign of Herod, whose fury at the news of his birth led to the flight to Egypt. Herod, the son of Antipater, sought as did his father the favor of Rome. Jerusalem received the splenderous appearance as it was in Jesus' day until its destruction along with the new temple building, begun in 20 BC. Herod the Great was an Hellenistic-Oriental despot, although he formally belonged to the religious community of Jerusalem. When the king died, the representatives of the Jewish community requested of Augustus the removal of Herodian rule, but the emperor divided the country among his sons. Herod the Great, who, as another has said, stole to his throne like a fox, ruled like a tiger, and died like a dog, had seized Jerusalem with a Roman army in 37 BC in a victory so murderous that he himself had asked the Romans whether they purposed making him king of a desert. He had a passion for building and had embellished the city in the generation before Jesus. His palace on the western hill, his castle near the temple area, and the new temple itself, whose outer colonnades were not completed until after Jesus' death, were the outstanding features of the city. He even built a theater, to the scandalization of the Jews, and in the valley below, an amphitheater as well.

Herod was not actually of Jewish blood. His mother Kypros was an Arab, his father Antipater an Idumaean, and neither of them was of royal lineage. The little that did seem Jewish about him was a veneer which had been applied to his ancestors by violence. Herod meaning "descendent of heroes" shows how little of Jewish spirit his father had absorbed when he gave his circumcised son a name out of Greek mythology. Herod had a frenzy for power. No tyrant in history ever was more hated than Herod was hated by the people who worshipped there. They resented an man not of their blood, he was an Arab from Ashkelon, a tribal warrior, ferocious enough to win many a battle, shrewd enough to be an expert politician, but no true king of theirs. By turns Herod had tried being cruel and kind. Having despoiled their treasury, and with the very money he had filched from them, he built a magnificent house of God. The people took this new temple to their hearts but they barred him from entering any part of it. It may be clear to others why Herod had been called the great, but to the Jews it has always remained a mystery. He was the arch-murderer of his time. He murdered 45 members of the Sanhedrin as well as his family and all the children of Bethlehem.

Herod was married ten times. Of his family those who cross the New Testament were: Herod Philip the First - First husband of Herodias, Herod Antipas - Ruler of Galilee and Perea, second husband of Herodias. Archelaus - Ruler of Judea, Samaria and Idumaea. A thoroughly bad ruler, Herod Antipas was deposed and banished. Herod Philip the second - called Philip also in New Testament as King of Judea meaning almost all of Palestine.

In 37 BC Herod gained complete control of the country, and summarily executed Antigonus. Rome would rule Palestine through puppet kings and governors for four centuries more. Ruled by an Idumean, taxed by both Rome and the temple, surrounded by thousands of Gentiles in their ancestral land, the Jews began to turn inward and examine their faith and history for signs of deliverance. This second son of Antipater was appointed governor of Galilee, where he signalized himself by extirpating the bands of robbers that infested the country. Several insurrections were raised by the Jews against their new ruler, which were not suppressed without great blood-shed. His reign was tyrannical and oppressive.

At his death, all parties appealed to Caesar, who divided the dominions of Herod among his children, giving Archelaus Judea, with the title of Ethnarch. But Archelaus became so unworthy a governor, that the Roman emperor, wearied by the complaints urged against him, deprived him of power, and banished him into Gaul, Judea was now formally made a Roman province, and subjected to taxation. The Jews were very reluctant to submit to taxation, and frequently took up arms against the publicans, or tax-gatherers. 'Herod is dead. It is safe now' Well, it wasn't so safe, really. Herod's son, Archelaus, was now King and was more hated and more cruel than his father. There'd been riots and disturbances and mass executions.

Herod the Great. And great he was called. They remember Herod's senseless murders and forget his loving rebuilding of the sacred Temple, to his own glory no doubt and not to the glory of God. They remember the stupidities at the end of his life and forget the far-sighted good sense at the beginning. He was a Jew who knew how to become a Roman and the Romans recognized his worth. Antony himself made Herod King. And Octavian, great Augustus Caesar agreed. You might say that Herod was mad, it is difficult to believe that he was ever, ever secure. He was suspicious, often rightly so, of everyone around him. Certainly he had little joy of his wife, the exquisite Mariamne. She was like ice. Herod was typical of an age that had produced so many men of intellect without morals, ability without scruple, and courage without honor. Augustus judged him "too great a soul for so small a kingdom". He is also credited with having built a monument over the royal tombs at Jerusalem, after only after having attempted to rob the dead of their sacred treasures.

Herod was not only an Idumaean in race and a Jew in religion, but he was a heathen in practice and a monster in character, exceedingly crafty, jealous, cruel, and revengeful, a true despot. It had been said, "better to be Herod's hog than his son." To many Jews Herod was a semi-barbarian, a usurper, a man who endeavored both openly and secretly to bring them, their city, their way of life into line with the pagan ways that masqueraded under the term civilization. He died in the seventieth year of his age.
[318, 319, 320, 324, 325, 327, 334, 08, 345, 373, BD, 390]

The Lord has given Christians the grace to reconcile the children to their Fathers

As One Body

  • We prepare for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
  • Harvest the Fruit of the Latter Rain
  • Follow Him as the Army of the Lord into His Glory

Help To Prepare A Holy Bride!

Issue Oriented Discussion Newsletter

Index | Search This Site | Aristide.Org | The Latter Rain | Babylon the Great | The Kingdom | The Nicolaitans | Jezebel
The Baptism With the Holy Ghost | The Grand Delusion | World Trade Org | Liberation Theology | Jay Atkinson | Alphabetical Index