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The Greek name of an Idumean dynasty whose members governed Palestine for a century and a half, which included the NT era. Because Idumaeans had been forcibly made Jews about a century before the reign of Herod the Great (40 to 4bce) he was always despised by authentic Jews. Herod was appointed king by a Roman senate since Judaea had become part of the Roman Empire at the capture of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 bce, where Herod took control in 37 bce with Roman military help. Herod was not eligible on account of his non-Jewish ancestry for the high priesthood. Judaea had formerly been part of the Greek empire of Alexander the Great, and Herod became a patron of Greek culture. He was responsible for important building projects—Caesarea on the coast, the fortress-prisons of Masada and Machaerus, and the vast new (strictly, reconstructed) Temple, which was to occupy a quarter of the entire area of Jerusalem, begun in 20 bce and eventually completed in 62 ce, only to be destroyed in 70 ce. Herod ordered the execution of any potential rivals to his throne, including his wife Mariamne and their two sons. Caesar Augustus who had promoted and supported him was finally disenchanted and penned a bitter pun—that it was better to be Herod's swine (sus) than Herod's scion (huios). (He did not eat pork!) Such cruelty is the plausible background for the story in Matt. 2: 16–17 of the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus; but the historicity of the event has been doubted and is often regarded as haggadah. Nevertheless if he had a reason to suspect that a child in Bethlehem might become a messianic leader, Herod could have engaged a contract killer and though a massacre of such notoriety is not mentioned by Josephus, it would have been regarded as in character by his inimical subjects.

In 4 bceCaesar Augustus divided the kingdom (but denied the title of king) to three surviving sons: 

1. Archelaus as ethnarch was given Judaea, Idumea, and Samaria; he died in 6 ce. 

2. Herod Antipas had Galilee and Perea. 

3. Philip (whose mother was Cleopatra) had Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis; he built Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8: 27); he married Salome, daughter of Herodias and of Philip's half-brother Herod Antipas, and died in 34 ce.

Herod Antipas is described as a ‘fox’ (Luke 13: 31–2); his marriage to Herodias was criticized by John the Baptist, who was then executed at Machaerus (Mark 6: 14–29). His capital city was Tiberias where the coins were stamped with a reed (is Matt. 11: 7 an echo?). Deprived of his territory by Rome, he went into exile and died in 39 ce. He was succeeded by Herod Agrippa I, his nephew, who ruled from 41 to 44 ce with much approval from the Pharisees. He died suddenly (Acts 12: 20–3). His son, Herod Agrippa II, too young in 44 ce, was given territory in 50 ce, augmented in 53 ce. He renamed his capital (Caesarea Philippi) Neronia in honour of the emperor. He lived incestuously with his sister Bernice (Acts 25: 13–26: 32). During the Jewish revolt of 66–70 ce, he took the side of Rome, and died there in 93 ce.


Subjects: Religion

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