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King of the Jews
We can easily conclude from the writing of Josephus that during this period
Herodís biggest problems were domestic. Herod had married ten wives. His first
wife was Doris by whom he had one son, Antipater. Herod renounced Doris and
Antipater when he married Mariamne but they were allowed to visit Jerusalem only
during the festivals.
In 37 B.C. Herod married Mariamne, the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, who bore him
five children. The two daughters were Salampsio and Cypros. The youngest son
died during the course of his education in Rome. 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.
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,
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 arrogance of 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.
In order to somehow correct things 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 east to go to Rome, so that he might present
Antipater to the emperor.
But instead of helping correct things, Antipater used every conceivable means to
acquire the throne. He used slander against his two half brothers. The problems
between Herod and Mariamne'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.
Not long after they had arrived home Antipater, being helped by Herod's
sister Salome and Herod's brother Pheroras, began to slander the two sons of
Mariamne. Alexander and Aristobulus became more hostile in their attitude. Herod
became suspicious and became more and more fearful about the situation.
Antipater played on Herod's 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. This was actually a very sly maneuver on the
part of Archelaus because, in doing this, Herod defended his son against
Archelaus and Archelaus accomplished the reconciliation he desired and then
returned to his home. This probably happened in 10 B.C. Thus there was peace
once again in Herod's household.
During 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 very 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
that he hand over the rebels and pay the debt.
With the consent of the governor of Syria, Saturninus, Herod invaded Arabia and
enforced his rights (around 9 B.C.). This was only to be a disciplinary 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
indicated to Herod that their friendship was at an end and that he would no
longer treat him 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 conflicts 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. 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
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 Roman officials would form part and to have
the charges against his sons investigated.
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 not considered to be
friends of Alexander and Aristobulus and thus they were executed. Therefore, at
Sebaste (Samaria), where Herod had married Mariamne thirty years before, her two
sons were executed by strangling, prob. in 7 B.C.
Antipater, now remaining 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 tense. Antipater knew this and wrote to 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. Herod immediately
recalled Antipater, disguising his real intentions, and Antipater returned with
no suspicion. When he arrived he was committed to prison in the king's palace
and was tried the very next day before Varus, the governor of Syria. With all of
the accusations and proofs against him, Antipater could make no defense. Herod
put him in chains and made a report of the matter to the emperor. This occurred
in 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.
Shortly before his death the Magi had come to Judea to worship the newborn king
of the Jews. Herod summoned these Magi, 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 east 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. Joseph and Mary 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 Roman
eagle from the Temple gate that had been such an offence to the Jews. 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 all
the chief leaders publicly 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 executed at the moment he died so that there would be a
national mourning rather than a festival when he died.
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, and thus he
did so immediately. Herod again changed his mind and nominated 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, five days after the execution of Antipater, Herod died at Jericho in
the spring of 4 B.C. Salome and Alexas released the Jewish nobles who were
imprisoned to the hippodrome.
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 the Herodian, where it was finally laid.
Herod's reign lasted around thirty-three years. It was for the most part one of
violence. The middle of his reign was by far the most peaceful. It is important
to realize that though his reign was characterized by violence, the rulers of
that day were not much different than he was. Throughout his reign he was never
liked by the Jews because of his lifestyle and his unconcern for their law.
Although he was the king of the Jews, many of his subjects would never treat him
as truly a Jewish king.
Table of Contents
Index of Topics
The Family of the Herods
Herod the Governor
Herod and the Parthians
Herod the King 37-25 B.C.
Herod the King 25-14 B.C.
Herod the King 14-4 B.C.
Herod and Octavian
King of the Jews
Herod in History
"in the days of Herod the king" -
Herod the Great - A Brief Overview
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Herod I (the Great) was son of Antipater and made king by the Romans in 40
B.C. He managed to keep hold of his throne in the face of the many changes in
the government at Rome.
His kingdom comprised Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, Batanea, and Peraea,
which was approximately the same size as the kingdom of David and Solomon.
Although Herod had exceptional leadership skills, he was extremely disliked by
the Jews. His attitude toward the Maccabean dynasty, to which he was related by
marriage, along with his insolence and cruelty, angered them all the more. He
even had his brother-in-law and several of his wives and sons executed.
He forced heavy taxes and brutally repressed any rebellions. But it was by his
policy of Hellenistic culture that he greatly wounded the Jews. The construction
of a race-course, a theater, and an amphitheater in Jerusalem, his wide support
of the emperor cult in the East, and the construction of pagan temples in
foreign cities at his own expense could not be forgiven, even though he restored
and reconstructed the Temple of Jerusalem and continually pleaded the cause of
the Jews of the Diaspora to the emperor to his own gains.
There was no close tie between the king and his people; he remained an Edomite
and a friend of Rome, only holding on to his power by the use of a merciless
military force. This is the same Herod the Great who massacred the children of
Bethlehem (Matt. 2).
Herod suddenly died in 4 B.C.
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