The Herodian Kings

Today's Bible reading: Matthew 2

While the heirs of the Hasmonean kings were allowed to continue for some time as high priests … political power was now in the hands of Antipater – king of Idumea.  In 40 BC, the Roman Senate gave his son - Herod - the title of King of the Jews.  He became known as Herod the Great.  He was a great builder of cities, palaces, and fortresses.  But he also rebuilt the temple, making it a glorious structure to which every Jew - whether in Judea or in the dispersion - could look with pride and joy.  Unfortunately,  the older that Herod became … the more despotic he became – even murdering many of his own family members out of jealous fear.  That’s also the background to his murder of the innocents at the birth of our Lord.

At his death, Herod’s kingdom was divided between three sons.  Archelaus was given the rule of Judea.  But was disposed by the Romans after only 10 years.  Judea was then ruled by a series of seven procurators who were based in Caesarea on the sea.  And I realize this is a lot of detail, but it's important because the fifth - the most infamous of these procurators - was Pontius Pilate under whom our Lord and Savior died.

The Herod most often mentioned in the New Testament is actually Herod Antipas – the ruler of Jesus’ homeland, Galilee.  Jesus called him “the fox,” – a title which describes his character perfectly.  He is the Herod who had John the Baptist killed … and who was present in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.  He was deposed by the Romans for misrule.  The third Herod – Herod Philip - is not so important for the New Testament, since his land lay to the north and north-east of Galilee, beyond the areas of Jesus ministry.

All the territories once held by Herod the Great fell to his grandson, Herod Agrippa, in A.D. 37.  For seven years the Jews hoped that he would restore Judea to past greatness, but his death in AD 44 brought those hopes to an end.

Prayer: We praise You, Jesus, for willingly giving up Your life at the proper time for our salvation.  Amen.