King Herod the Great - the Bible story
|King Herod the Great: mad, bad, dangerous|
People in the story
Herod the Great
The New Testament portrays Herod the Great as a ruthless tyrant who, on hearing from the Wise Men that a new king had been born in Bethlehem, killed all the male children under two years in that town. There is no other historical record of this incident, but given Herod's paranoia, it is quite possible that this event really happened.
Herod was born in Palestine at a time of political turmoil. His father Antipater, an ambitious man, had risen rapidly in the service of the king, whom he eventually ousted from the throne.
Antipater appointed his son Herod as governor of Galilee, and six years later Mark Antony made him tetrarch. Six years after this the Senate in Rome named him king of Judea and gave him an army to make good his claim.
By the age of 36, Herod was unchallenged ruler of Judea.
Herod may or may not have been deeply in love with her, though the Jewish historian Josephus says he was. But Josephus was dependent on Herod's favor and always gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Herod supported his patron Mark Antony until he lost the Battle of Actium, when he adroitly switched sides and became an ally and friend of the victor of this battle, Octavian/Augustus.
Herod the Builder
As well as being a clever politician, Herod the Great was one of the most prolific builders of the ancient world. Among other things, he built the port of Caesarea on the coast between Joppa and Haifa, and Sebaste on the site of ancient Samaria.
His most grandiose achievement was the Temple in Jerusalem, which he completely rebuilt. The platform for this construction is the Temple Mount. Herod was also the president of the Olympic Games during his reign.
Much of what he did was an attempt to make up for his birth - he was of Arab origin on both sides, a fact his Jewish subjects never forgave.
He resented and envied the love his subjects had for the former royal family, the Hasmoneans, and ended up murdering most of the members of that family, including his wife Mariamme, their two sons, his young brother-in-law, his mother-in-law, and Mariamme's aged grandfather.
When Herod had his two sons strangled, Augustus commented that it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son, since Jews do not eat pork.
Herod goes mad
During his last years - the years in which the Massacre of the Innocents took place - Herod descended into madness and paranoia. He was in great physical and mental pain, and soon after a failed suicide attempt this complex, demented, brilliant man died.
Bible Stories: People of the New Testament: Herod the Great, Herod Antipas and Herod Agrippa: Bible Study Resource