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             HEROD

KING HEROD, HEROD ANTIPAS, HEROD AGRIPPA:NEW TESTAMENT, BIBLE    
       

NEW: Jerusalem and the buildings of Herod the Great

MAD, BAD, AND DANGEROUS

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'Herod' is a dynastic name, and there are four different men in the New Testament called Herod. They are all from the same family, descendents of the founder of the dynasty, Herod Antipater.

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 occurred.

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. 

LOVELY MARIAMME
To strengthen his hold on power he divorced his first wife Doris and married the beautiful Mariamme, a  princess of the Hasmonean royal family. Herod may or may not have been deeply in love with her - the Jewish historian Josephus says he was, but then 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 - 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. 

HEROD ANTIPAS
Herod Antipas was one of the few sons of Herod the Great to survive, and he did so largely because he was cunning and/or lethargic. He took pains not to be a threat, not to be noticed. This modus operandum seems to have become habit for him, for later in life he had to be goaded before he would take action.

HEROD ANTIPAS FALLS IN LOVE
He managed to rule effectively for many years, but then he divorced his Nabatean wife, daughter of the desert kingdom abutting his own, to marry Herodias, formerly the wife of his half brother. It was not a wise move, and can only have been motivated by love, even though both parties were no longer young. The marriage offended his Jewish subjects, who found a voice in John the Baptist, and it also alienated his Nabatean ex father-in-law, Aretas IV. 

CONFLICT BETWEEN ANTIPAS AND JOHN
John the Baptist's outspoken criticism forced Antipas to imprison him, but he was reluctant to kill the man, since he had a large and excitable following. Something however seems to have forced Herod to eliminate the man, which he would clearly have rather not done. The gospels put the blame on Herodias herself and her daughter from her previous marriage, Salome, but the real story was probably more politically complicated than this. In any event, Herod ordered the death of John, sending a stern lesson to his subject that dissention would not be tolerated.

HEROD ANTIPAS AND JESUS
Later, when Jesus' miracles were reported to him, Antipas believed that John the Baptist had been resurrected. Antipas was in Jerusalem when Jesus was arrested in the combustible week of Passover, and the Roman procurator Pilate sent Jesus to him. This was because Jesus came from a territory governed by Antipas, and was therefore nominally in his power. 

Antipas was loathe to have anything to do with Jesus - he was a man of his time and believed in magic and witchcraft, and suspected that Jesus was adept in both these arts. So Antipas returned Jesus to Pilate, thus relieving himself of the problem.

'He resented the love his subjects had for the former royal family, the Hasmoneans, and ended up murdering most of them, 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, knowing that Jews do not eat pork, commented that it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son.' 

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Though Antipas was cautious in political matters, he was unsuccessful in controlling his family, and had a particularly bad relationship with Herodias' brother Agrippa. 

CALIGULA AND HEROD ANTIPAS
Unfortunately for Antipas, Agrippa had lived in Rome and become a close friend of a young member of the imperial family, Caligula. When Caligula became emperor Agrippa laid charges, partially true, against Antipas. Caligula, now given a pretext, banished Antipas to Gaul but gave Herodias a dispensation. Since she was the sister of his friend Agrippa, she might continue to live in Judea and retain some of her possessions.

 Herodias proudly refused the pardon and accompanied Antipas into exile - though it was perhaps not too bad a punishment, since tradition has it that they lived hereafter in a magnificent villa in Gaul, near Lyon in the south of France.

HEROD AGRIPPA
Agrippa, the brother of Herodias, was a spendthrift and a scoundrel, but he ended up with everything.

He was the grandson of the beautiful Mariamme and through her inherited the prized Hasmonean blood. He had been sent to Rome as a small boy to escape the bloodbath that engulfed his family as Herod the Great lapsed into insanity, and also to receive a Roman education. There he grew up in company with the emperor Tiberius' son Drusus. 

After his mother's death he quickly ran through his inheritance, keeping up with the lifestyle of the young blades of the imperial family. Then he went into serious debt, which meant that when his patron Drusus died, he was forced to leave Rome and go back to Judea. Herod Antipas, now his brother-in-law, gave him a small income and a minor official post, both of which Agrippa despised.

AGRIPPA'S FRIENDSHIP WITH CALIGULA
Desperately unhappy in the back blocks of Judea, Agrippa secured a sizeable loan and returned to Rome, where he secured a post as tutor to Tiberius' grandson. He also became a friend of Caligula, Tiberius' heir. He was foolish enough to made a rash remark about how good it would be when Tiberius died, and his words were reported by a servant. Agrippa landed in gaol.

 However Tiberius died one year later and Agrippa, now close friends with the new emperor Caligula, came into his own. Caligula made him king of the former realm of his uncle Philip, and when Antipas was banished to Gaul Agrippa got his territories as well. When Caligula was assassinated Agrippa supported Claudius, who in gratitude granted him the entire kingdom of Judea.

AGRIPPA AND THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
In Judea, Agrippa carefully supported conservative Jewish policies and repressed the Jewish Christians. He imprisoned Peter the Apostle and executed James, son of Zebedee. Luke, writing in the Acts of the Apostles, believed that Agrippa's early death in 44AD was the result of his pride.

HEROD AGRIPPA II
Agrippa II was the great-grandson of Herod the Great,   raised and educated at the imperial court in Rome. He was a friend of Rome but a loyal patron of his Jewish subjects, and he did everything he could to avert to cataclysm that began in 66AD. 

AGRIPPA II AND PAUL OF TARSUS
In 60AD, when Paul had been in prison for two years, the procurator in Judea consulted Agrippa concerning his case. This happened during a visit that Agrippa and his sister were making to Caesarea (Agrippa and his sister were said to be having an incestuous affair, though the writer of Acts does not mention this). Paul defended himself vigorously, and those who listened to him commented that he might have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor - which entailed a further trial in Rome.

Agrippa assisted the Romans when the Jewish Revolt broke out. In 70AD he helped Titus' son in the final conquest of Jerusalem and after the rebellion had been put down, Agrippa II apparently lived on until 93AD.

 
 

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BIBLE REFERENCE
Herod the Great: Matthew 2, Luke 1:5
Herod Antipas: Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 23:7ff
Herod Agrippa I: Acts 12
Herod Agrippa II: Acts 25:13 - 26:32

 

   
PEOPLE IN THE STORY
Herod the Great, son of the founder of the dynasty, made procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar in 47BC
Herod Antipas, ruled Galilee at the time of Jesus' ministry. Married Herodias and executed John the Baptist
Herod Agrippa I, friend of the emperors Caligula and Claudius, ruler of Galilee, Judea and Samaria, killed James and imprisoned Peter
Herod Agrippa II, heard Paul's case and advised he be acquitted
   
   

FAMOUS QUOTES
'When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16)
'His head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother....' (Matthew 14:10)
'About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, brother of John, killed with the sword. He proceeded to arrest Peter also.' (Acts 12:1-3)
'Saul, Saul, who are you persecuting me?' Paul speaking to Agrippa II (Acts 26:14)

 

   
 

INTERESTING WEBSITES - stories, pictures, reconstructions

Isolated, luxurious, impregnable until the Romans came....  
BIBLE ARCHITECTURE: MASADA

The remote fortress where Herod Antipas killed John the Baptist
BIBLE ARCHITECTURE: MACHAERUS 

The luxurious winter palace of Herod the Great
BIBLE ARCHITECTURE: JERICHO 

Building a hill fortress where there had been only flat ground
BIBLE ARCHITECTURE: HERODIUM

The Wailing Wall is all that remains of Herod's reconstruction of Jerusalem
BIBLE ARCHITECTURE: JERUSALEM 

 A family that has gone down in history for its villainy
BIBLE TOP TEN: VILLAINS

Was Salome an innocent party, or a devious young woman out to kill her mother's enemy?
BIBLE TOP TEN: YOUNG PEOPLE: SALOME

 

ACTIVITY

Herod the Great was one of the greatest builders of the ancient world. He also brought political stability to a country beset by rebellion and social turmoil. Yet he is one of the most despised men in human history.  Set up a mock trial for him to argue for or against sending him to Hell.....

 

 

   
                                                              
   
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Bible Stories: People of the New Testament:  Herod the Great, Herod Antipas and Herod Agrippa
Bible Study Resource