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Herod the Great

also known as: Herod I

Matthew 2:1-22; Luke 1:5; Acts 23:35

Herod the Great

Herod was the son of King Antipater II of Judea (an Idumaean) and Queen Cypros, an Arabian (Nabataean) of noble descent.

In the year B.C. 47, Julius Caesar made Antipater, a “wily Idumaean,” procurator of Judea, who divided his territories between his 4 sons, Galilee falling to the lot of Herod, who was afterwards appointed tetrarch of Judea by Mark Antony (B.C. 40), and also king of Judea by the Roman senate.

His disposition was stern and cruel. “He was brutish and a stranger to all humanity.”

In 36 BC, “Herod makes his 17-year-old brother-in-law, Aristobulus III, high priest, fearing that the Jews would appoint Aristobulus III as ‘King of the Jews’ in his place.” Within a year, Herod had Aristobulus III drowned at a banquet party.

Alarmed by the tidings of one “born King of the Jews,” Herod sent forth his soldiers and “slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16 NASB).

He was fond of splendor, and lavished great sums in rebuilding and adorning the cities of his empire. He rebuilt the city of Caesarea on the coast, and also the city of Samaria, which he called Sebaste, in honor of Augustus.

He restored the ruined temple of Jerusalem, a work which was begun 20 BC. The expanded temple was inaugurated in about 10 B.C., but was not finished till after Herod’s death, probably not till about AD 50 (John 2:20).

After a troubled reign of 37 years, he died at Jericho amid great agonies both of body and mind, 4 BC, i.e., according to the common chronology, in the year in which Jesus the Christ was born.

After his death, his kingdom was divided among 3 of his sons. Of these, Philip had the land east of Jordan, between Caesarea Philippi and Bethabara, Antipas had Galilee and Peraea, while Archelaus had Judea and Samaria.

Known Relatives

  • Father: Antipater the Idumaean
  • Mother: Cypros
  • Wives:
    1. Doris
    2. Mariamne I (executed)
    3. Mariamne II (daughter of Simon Boethus the high priest)
    4. Malthace (a Samaritan)
    5. Cleopatra of Jerusalem
    6. Pallas
    7. Phaidra
    8. Elpis
    9. a cousin (name not known)
    10. a niece (name not known)
  • Brothers:
    —Phasael
    —Joseph
    —Pheroras
  • Sister: Salome I
  • Sons:
    Philip the Tetrarch (mother: Cleopatra of Jerusalem)
    Antipas (mother: Malthace)
    Archelaus (mother: Malthace)
    —Phasael (mother: Pallas)
    —Herod (mother: Cleopatra of Jerusalem)
    —Herod II (mother: Mariamne II)
    —Alexander (mother: Mariamne I)—executed in 7 BC
    —Aristobulus IV (mother: Mariamne I)—executed in 7 BC
    —Antipater II (mother: Doris)—executed in 4 BC
    —etc.
  • Daughters:
    —Salampsio (mother: Mariamne I)
    —Salome (mother: Elpis)
    —Roxanne (mother: Phaidra)
    —Olympias (mother: Malthace)
    —Cypros (mother: Mariamne I)
    —etc.
  • Grand-sons:
    —Alexander (Gaius Julius Alexander) (father: Alexander)
    —Tigranes (father: Alexander)
    —etc.
  • Grand-daughter:
    Herodias (father: Aristobulus IV / mother: Berenice)
    Salome (father: Herod II / mother: Herodias)—believed to be the young woman who danced for Herod Antipas and asked for the head of John the Baptist
    —etc.
Article Version: March 13, 2018

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