A Quick Study Of Herod and His Dynasty

Trace the history of Herod the Great and the Herodians.  What were their major contributions to the history of Judaism and the Jews?  What were their main failures?
            According to most scholars the Herodian dynasty lasted from around 40 B.C through the year 100 A.D. This of course began with the man himself Herod the Great who was the first ruler of the Jewish people after the Hasmoneans. Herod’s father was Antipater II was a man who supported Hyrcanus II, while appointing his son Phasael as governor over Jerusalem and Herod as governor of Galilee.[1]Herod’s rule is usually broken up into three parts consolidation, prosperity, and turbulence. The time of consolidation lasted from around 37 B.C. until the last of the male representatives of the Hasmonean family were gone in 25 B.C.[2]When Herod first came to power he was respected by the Romans and the Jews, however over time he became more and more paranoid and eventually he ended up having numerous people in his family murdered; including his wife and several of his sons.  After the death of Herod the mantle would pass on to three of his sons; Achelaus, Philip the Tetrarch, and Herod Antipas.
            While Herod the Great may have been an evil murder of a man, he was also a great architectural mind. He would build many great things but his crowning achievement would be the Temple in Jerusalem which was completed sixty-seven years after his death. According to Lea and Black, “The temple was redecorated with white marble, gold and jewels and became renowned for its splendor and lavish appearance.”[3] He would go on to make Jerusalem strong again by building or repairing a strong wall around the city, and then create a new harbor city which he called Caesarea after the emperor Caesar.[4] While under Herodain rule there was stability in the land, which was important for Rome because it was a buffer state between them and the Parthians. The Herodian rulers did fall in love with certain aspects of the Hellenistic lifestyle but were aware of Jewish religious sensitivities, which is something Roman rulers lacked and there was unrest in the region under their rule.[5]
            Even though the Herodians may have kept the official heavy hand of Roman rule at bay they were no saints. One of the worst things they could have done was exactly what they did. They were abusing the office of the high priest. This was originally an office established to be passed down through a family line and served in for a lifetime. However, that is not how Herod and other Roman officials saw things. According to Scott, “…they installed and deposed chief priest at their pleasure. Josephus lists twenty-eight different persons who held the office between 37 B.C. and the suppression of the revolt in A.D. 70.”[6]

[1] Criag A.Evans, and Stanley E. Porter,  Dictionary of New Testament Background. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000)485.
[2]Ibid., 486.
[3] Thomas D.Lea, and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003)25.
[4]Ibid., 25.
[5] Bruce M.Metzger, and Michael D. Coogan, . The Oxford Companion to the Bible. (New York: Oxford Press, 1993)284.
[6] J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995)92.

One thought on “A Quick Study Of Herod and His Dynasty

  1. Interesting facts. How much do you allow others to control your fate when you are gaining under an immoral and corrupt ruler? Would things have been different if the Jewish people were the sole victims? How much do we overlook when we are comfortable? Just something to think about. Thanks for the blog!


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