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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Who Were the Herods?

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Don Stewart

There are three members of the family of Herod that figure prominently in the life of Christ - Herod the Great, Herod Archelaus, and Herod Antipas.

1. Herod The Great

Herod the Great (73 B.C. to 4 B.C.) was not a Jew- his father an Idumean and his mother Arabian. The Roman senate had made him king of Judea in 40 B.C. Although Herod was a great builder (including the enlargement of the temple) and had been occasionally generous to the Jewish people he eventually lost favor with them. His mixed lineage with his Edomite blood would have made him unacceptable to the people. The Old Testament said of Edom.

Edom may say, "Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins." But this is what the LORD Almighty says: "They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the wicked land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD (Malachi 1:4).

The Visit Of Magi To Jerusalem

It was during the reign of Herod that the Magi visited Jerusalem.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him (Matthew 2:3).

Herod was the king whom the Magi visited. He ordered the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi (Matthew 2:16).

Herod became increasing cruel toward the end of his reign. Thinking that his own family was about to overthrow him he murdered one of his wives (Mariamne), her mother, two of her sons, and his own eldest son. This led the Roman Emperor Augustus to comment that it would be safer to be Herod's pig (hus in Greek) than his son (huios).

2. Herod Archelaus

When Herod the Great died Archelaus, his eldest son, was placed over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. He did not rule over the Galilee.

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee (Matthew 2:22).

The fear of Archelaus was justified. However Augustus withheld the confirmation of his kingship until Archelaus proved himself. The confirmation never occurred because Archelaus began his reign by slaughtering 3,000 prominent citizens.

The Emperor removed him two years later. The Emperor then took away of the rule of Judea from the Herod family.

Though another son of Herod ruled over the Galilee (Herod Antipas) he was a more tolerant ruler. Galilee became known in his day as a place for revolutionary sentiments. This is something his father never would have tolerated.

3. Herod Antipas

Herod Antipas ruled Galilee when Jesus began His public ministry.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar - when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene (Luke 3:1).

He is called a tetrarch - the ruler over a fourth part. He ruled over Galilee and Perea.

Herod Killed John The Baptist

Herod had John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, put to death.

So he [Herod] immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison (Mark 6:27).

Herod Thought Jesus Was John Risen From The Dead

The superstitious Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead.

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him" (Matthew 14:1,2).

Herod Wanted To Kill Jesus

Herod wanted to kill Jesus like he did John the Baptist.

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal' (Luke 13:31,32).

Jesus called Herod, "that fox."

Jesus Was Brought Before Herod To Be Tried

Jesus was brought before Herod when He was tried.

On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends - before this they had been enemies (Luke 23:6-12).

Herod was disappointed that Jesus did not perform any miracle or answer any of his questions.

Three members of Herod's family figure prominently in the life of Jesus. Herod the Great was the king when Jesus was born. When he died Herod Archelaus ruled in his place. Herod Antipas ruled Galilee during the time of Jesus' public ministry. He was the one who had John the Baptist executed. Herod thought that Jesus was actually John raised from the dead. Herod wanted to kill Jesus as he had done John the Baptist. Herod saw Jesus during His trial but was disappointed that Jesus performed no miracle in His presence.

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