During this period we will be looking at the time from Herod's accession as king in 37 B.C. to the execution of his favorite wife Mariamne, and finally the death of the sons of Babas, in 25 B.C., when the last heir of the Hasmonean family was executed.
The Pharisees never liked the fact that Herod was the king of Judea, mainly because he was an Idumaean, a half Jew, and a friend of the Romans. One of the problems that Herod always faced when dealing with the Pharisees was there tremendous popularity with the people. They were well-respected and considered very holy. But King Herod had his ways of dealing with the population. Whoever opposed him he quickly punished, and those who were his friends he rewarded with favors and great honors.The Ruling Class
The second group of powerful opponents to King Herod were the aristocratic
followers of Antigonus. King Herod dealt with them harshly and one time he
executed forty five of the most wealthy and most prominent members of this
class. He seized their possessions and replenished his treasury which had been
depleted because of all of his bribes.
The Hasmonean Family
Alexandra was finally happy but her happiness would be short-lived. King
Herod did not trust her and so he had her watched very closely. Alexandra,
knowing that she was being watched, accepted an invitation by Cleopatra to
escape with her son and flee to Egypt. King Herod heard that she was making and
escape with her son and allowed them to carry it out so that he could catch them
in the act. At this time he chose to overlook the offense.
At the feast of Tabernacles people were showing great affection for Aristobulus, the officiating high priest. Herod considered this a threat and was determined to get rid of this potential rival. After the feast concluded, when Herod was invited by Alexandra to a feast at Jericho, Herod made a plan. He would act friendly to her and Aristobulus and invite them to go swimming since it was a hot day. He then bribed some men to play sports together in the water and drown Aristobulus by accident. King Herod rose up when this happened and made extreme lamentation. He then arranged the most magnificent funeral and he was not suspected in the least, by anyone except by his mother Alexandra, who decided to devote her life to revenge.
She informed Cleopatra of the murder. Cleopatra persuaded Marc Antony to call Herod to give an account for his actions. King Herod had no choice but to go and stand before Marc Antony and face possible death. Herod asked his uncle Joseph to keep watch over Mariamne during the time that he would answer to Marc Antony. Herod told Joseph in private that if he should be executed, that he was to kill Mariamne, because he did not want her to become someone else's lover.
CleopatraThe fourth powerful opponent of King Herod was Cleopatra. As we just saw in the situation with Alexandra and how she went to Cleopatra, who in turn, reported everything to Marc Antony, Herod had serious problems with Cleopatra.
Because of her relationship with Marc Antony her territory was increasing
greatly. After his expedition against Armenia in 34 B.C. she persuaded him to
give her all of Phoenicia, the coast of Philistia south of the river, a portion
of the Arabia, and the district of Jericho with its balsam plantations and many
palm trees. The area of Jericho was Herod's most fertile portion of land in his
whole kingdom. Is interesting that every time Cleopatra visited her territories
King Herod received her with celebration, although he despised her. Whenever she
made attempts to trap him he would never give in.
When the famous civil war broke out between Marc Antony and Octavius (later Augustus) Herod desired to take the cause of Marc Antony and help him in any way that he could. Cleopatra persuaded Marc Antony to order King Herod to go and fight against Malchus, the Arabian king. Malchus was late on his tribute and Cleopatra wanted him punished. But it was obvious that her real intent was that they would weakened each other or hopefully kill each other. This way she could easily overcome either of them.
Herod did as Marc Antony ordered him and fight against Malchus. When Herod had achieved the initial victory over the Arabs, Cleopatra came and gave help to the Arabians which resulted in Herod's defeat.
In 31 B.C. to a great earthquake happened in Herod's territory which killed over 30,000 people. At this time Herod made attempts to negotiate with the Arabs and sent an envoy to Arabia to make peace. When they arrived the Arabs slew them. When Herod heard what had happened he immediately gathered his army and attacked the Arabs and defeated them, he then returned home.
Herod and Octavius
Herod enjoyed the so-called success of his kingdom, but things in Judea were
far from peaceful. While he was at Rhodes, Mariamne had found out from one of
Herod's friends named Soemus that Herod gave the order for her to be killed if
he was executed. Therefore when Herod returned she was bitter toward him. Herod
was very aware of all these things. His sister Salome and their mother Cyprus
had always hated Mariamne and they began to spread slanderous stories about
Mariamne in order to fill Herod with rage and jealousy. Herod did not listen to
Salome bribed Herod's cup-bearer to say that Mariamne had prepared some sort of love-potion for the king. When King Herod heard this he desired to know what sort of potion this was. He tortured the cup-bearer and found out nothing about the potion, but he did find out that Mariamne despised him for wanting to put her to death if he was executed. Herod immediately realized that his friends had betrayed him and he ordered them to be executed immediately.
Herod never really wanted to put Mariamne to death while he was alive, and Herod would not kill her but had her put in prison. Because of all this his emotions were so stirred that Salome took advantage of and somehow persuaded King Herod to have her finally executed.
Josephus describes that Herod was never the same after Mariamne's death:
"For he would frequently called for her, and frequently lament for her in a most indecent manner."
Herod had gotten very sick to the point of death and Alexandra began to plot how that when he died she could secure the throne. When she had begun to make plans, they had been reported to King Herod and he immediately had her executed.
The Death of the Last of the Hasmoneans
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" - Matthew 2:1
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.
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)
Bibliography on Herod the Great
The Many Faces of Herod the Great by Marshak, 448 Pages, Pub. 2014
The True Herod by Vermes, 192 Pages, Pub. 2014