Who is Herod the Great?
Herod the Great, king of Judaea, b.c. 40- b.c. 4. In his reign Christ was born. Matt 2:1-18. He was a man of unusual executive ability, of iron will, of consummate shrewdness and cunning, but of violent Bronze Coin of Herod the Great. passions, and cruel and unscrupulous in the choice of means to accomplish his designs. He was by descent an Idumaean and the son of Antipater, who had been appointed by Julius Caesar procurator of Judaea, b.c. 47. At the age of 25, Herod was made governor of Galilee, subsequently appointed tetrarch of Judaea by Antony, b.c. 40, and afterward, by the Roman senate, king of Judaea. He was obliged to fight for his kingdom, and with the aid of the Romans wrested it out of the hands of his enemies. Antigonus, the high priest, and the last representative of the Asmonaean family in that office, was taken and executed, a.d. 37, Herod's reign was in one sense a most brilliant one. Following the example of the Roman emperor Augustus, he lavished vast sums of money on public works. He founded and built a beautiful city on the coast, which he named, after his royal master, Caesarea. He also rebuilt the city of Samaria, which had been completely destroyed, b.c. 109, and gave it the new appellation Sebaste. In Jerusalem and its vicinity he erected a theatre and an amphitheatre, and on the borders of his kingdom built some strong fortresses, as Herodeion. His magnificence, however, did not confine itself to his own kingdom, but overleaping its boundaries founded temples in various parts of the Roman empire. But the most important building to which Herod gave his money was the temple at Jerusalem. Out of deference to the prejudices of the Jewish people he engaged 1000 priests to work upon the temple itself, while hundreds of other workmen were employed upon the other parts. The work was begun b.c. 20, and continued long after his death. John 2:20. While, by a shrewd respect for the prejudices of his subjects, Herod flattered them into periodical displays of contentment, he was not a popular sovereign. He was, after all, a foreigner, and the Hebrew people could not become reconciled to his dominion and that of Caesar. In many ways he offended them, as by the introduction of the theatre and of games after the model of the Grecian games. In his family life Herod displayed the most cruel and barbarous nature. He had ten wives and several sons; and in reference to his conduct toward them Augustus made the remark, "I would rather be his swine than his son." He committed the most revolting murders amongst his nearest kin. Among the victims of his rage and suspicion were the brother, grandfather (Hyrcanus, b.c. 30), and mother of Mariamne, his wife, Mariamne herself, b.c. 29, his two sons by her, Aristobulus and Alexander, b.c. 7, and his son by Doris, Antipater, only a few days before his death. To this frightful list must be added the innocent children of Bethlehem, whom he had murdered in the hope to thus do away with Jesus, Matt 2:16. When he was dying he ordered that the chief men of all the cities of Judaea should be killed, in order that there might be some mourning at his death. After a long reign of 37 years, Herod died a miserable death in Jericho. His feet swelled, and his bowels became the victim of ulcers which gave him intense pain. He removed to Callirhoe, on the other side of the Jordan, hoping to get relief in the baths. All was of no avail, and he died, nearly 70 years of age, and unregretted by his family, much less by his subjects. The wise men of the East had an audience with Herod on their arrival in Jerusalem, and, alarmed by their interest in One "born King of the Jews," he took the precautions which cunning could suggest, and cruelty execute to do away with his rival. Matt 2:8, Heb 2:16.
Bibliography Information Schaff, Philip, Dr. "Biblical Definition for 'Herod the Great' in Schaffs Bible Dictionary". bible-history.com - Schaff's