SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FAMILY OF HEROD THE GREAT

A. Herod the Great

1. King of Judea (37-4 b.c.), an Idumean (from Edom), who, through political maneuvering and the support of Mark Antony, managed to be appointed ruler of a large part of Palestine (Canaan) by the Roman Senate in 40 b.c.

2. He is mentioned in Matt. 2:1-19 and Luke 1:5

3. His sons

a. Herod Philip (son of Mariamne of Simon)

(1) husband of Herodias (4 b.c. – a.d. 34)

(2) mentioned in Matt. 14:3; Mark 6:17

b. Herod Philip I (son of Cleopatra)

(1) Tetrarch of area north and west of the Sea of Galilee (4 b.c. – a.d. 34)

(2) mentioned in Luke 3:1

c. Herod Antipas

(1) Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (4 b.c. – a.d. 39)

(2) mentioned in Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 6:14,29; Luke 3:1,19; 9:7-9; 13:31; 23:6-12,15; Acts 4:27; 13:1

d. Archelaus, Herod the Ethnarch

(1) ruler of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea (4 b.c. – a.d. 6)

(2) mentioned in Matt. 2:22

e. Aristobulus (son of Mariamne)

(1) mentioned as father of Herod Agrippa I who was

(a) King of Judea (a.d. 37-44)

(b) mentioned in Acts 12:1-24; 23:35

 (i) his son was Herod Agrippa II

– Tetrarch of northern territory (a.d. 50-70)

(ii)  his daughter was Bernice

– consort of her brother

– mentioned in Acts 25:13-26:32 

(iii) his daughter was Drucilla

– wife of Felix

 – mentioned Acts 24:24

B. Biblical References to the Herods

1. Herod the Tetrarch, mentioned in Matthew 14:1ff.; Luke 3:1; 9:7; 13:31, and 23:7, was the son of Herod the Great. At the death of Herod the Great, his kingdom was divided among several of his sons.  The term "Tetrarch" meant "leader of the fourth part."  This Herod was known as Herod Antipas, which is the shortened form of Antipater.  He controlled Galilee and Perea.  This meant that much of Jesus' ministry was in the territory of this second generation Idumean ruler.

2. Herodias was the daughter of Herod Antipas' brother, Aristobulus. She had also been previously married to Philip, the half brother of Herod Antipas. This was not Philip the Tetrarch who controlled the area just north of Galilee, but the other brother Philip, who lived in Rome. Herodias had one daughter by Philip. On Herod Antipas' visit to Rome he met and was seduced by Heroditas, who was looking for political advancement. Therefore, Herod Antipas divorced his wife, who was a Nabatean princess, and Herodias divorced Philip so that she and Herod Antipas could be married. She was also the sister of Herod Agrippa I (cf. Acts 12).

3. We learn the name of Herodias' daughter, Salome, from Flavius Josephus in his book, The Antiquities of the Jews 8:5:4.  She must have been between the ages of twelve and seventeen at this point.  She was obviously controlled and manipulated by her mother.  She later married Philip the Tetrarch, but was soon widowed.

4. About ten years after the beheading of John the Baptist, Herod Antipas went to Rome at the instigation of his wife, Herodias, to seek the title of king because Agrippa I, her brother, had received that title.  But Agrippa I wrote Rome and accused Antipas of corroboration with the Parthians, a hated enemy of Rome from the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia).  The Emperor apparently believed Agrippa I and Herod Antipas, along with his wife Herodias, was exiled to Spain.

5. It may make it easier to remember these different Herods as they are presented in the New Testament by remembering that Herod the Great killed the children in Bethlehem; Herod Antipas killed John the Baptist; Herod Agrippa I killed the Apostle James; and Herod Agrippa II heard Paul's appeal recorded in the book of Acts.

C. For background information on the family of Herod the Great, consult the index of Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews.

 

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