The Family of the Herods

Antipater of Idumaea (67-47 B.C.)

With all of the turmoil that caused the decay of the Hasmonean dynasty, the civil wars and the conversion of Syria and Palestine into a territory ruled by the Romans, the nation of Palestine was undergoing major factions. It was during this time that the dynasty of the Herods became prominent and Rome appointed a man named Antipas as the governor of Idumea (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 1. 3 ; 10). Antipater had a son who Josephus spoke about as being very wealthy and an Idumean by race. (Jos. War i. 6. 2. ; 123; also see Antiq. xiv. 1. 3 ; 9; Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho Iii. 3; Euseb. Hist. i. 6. 2; 7. 11; BT: Baba Bathra 3b-4a; Kiddushin 70b). This son was also named Antipater and it was he who was the father of Herod the Great.

Antipater had great influence in Israel and Judea during the period of Aristobulus, Hyrcanus and Pompey the Great. He acquired great influence because of his father's position. He also became an advisor to the Maccabean Queen Alexandra Salome.

In 67 B.C., Queen Alexandra died, leaving the Kingdom to her oldest son Hyrcanus, and her younger was son, Aristobulus, was eager to have the power. Aristobulus was very strong-willed and self-seeking while Hyrcanus was peaceful and mild. After ruling for about three months he backed out. He never really desired to rule and so he passed all authority on to his younger brother Aristobulus who made himself king and high priest. The two brothers tried to remain peaceful with each other but it turned into a major struggle (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 1. 2 ; 4-7; xv. 6. 4 ; 180; War i. 5. 4 ; 117-119).

Antipater saw a great opportunity and decided to become the primary influence on the life of Hyrcanus. When tension had between the two sons had reached its climax Antipater sided with Hyrcanus, even though Aristobulus was a greater military commander. Antipater encouraged Hyrcanus to flee to Petra and seek help from the Arabian king (King Aretas III), and in 65 B.C. the Arabian army marched on Jerusalem to capture Aristobulus.

It wasn't long before the Roman legions arrived on the scene to put an end to the problems and, the soldiers of Rome marched into Jerusalem under the command of Pompey's lieutenant, M. Scaurus. The Arabians retreated and later Antipater had, realizing that Rome was closely involved with this whole situation, encouraged Hyrcanus to make an appeal to Pompey in Damascus. Aristobulus decided to do the same. Pompey decided to side with Hyrcanus because there was evidence of Aristobulus revolting against Rome (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 3. 3 ; 46, 47).

In 63 B.C. Pompey made war against Aristobulus, besieging the Jerusalem temple for three months. When Pompey won the war he went into the holy of holies but did not plunder it of its valuables (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 4. 4 ; 69-72; War i. 6. 5-7. 6 ; 133-153; Tac. Hist. v. 9; Appian Mithridatic Wars 106, 114; Florus i. 40. 30; Livy 102; Plutarch Pompey xxxix; cf. Dio Cassius xxxvii. 15-17)

Because of Hyrcanus' loyalty, Pompey gave him authority to rule in Judea, not as a king but as "ethnarch", he remained the high priest and Antipater remained in power as the chief minister of state. (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 4. 4 ; 73; War i. 7. 6 ; 153). Jerusalem was made a tributary of Rome and it was placed under Scaurus whom Pompey made legate of the province of Syria.

Antipater proved himself useful to the Romans both in government and in their operations against the Hasmoneans. In 57 B.C. the governor of Syria, Aulus Gabinius, broke Judea apart and Idumaea was given to Antipater. Antipater later joined this governor on an expedition to restore Ptolemy XII of Egypt to his throne.

Antipater married a woman named Cypros, of an illustrious Arabian, by whom he had four sons: Phasael, Herod, Joseph, Pheroras, and a daughter, Salome (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 7. 3 ; 121; War i. 8. 9 ; 181).

It was not long before the Roman civil wars erupted and Hyrcanus, because of Antipater, supported Pompey. Julius Caesar had rescued Aristobulus, who had been exiled, and sent him with two Roman legions to begin a revolt in Judea. Not long after Aristobulus was poisoned and could not follow-through the plan, that's Antipater was spared.

After Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar in 48 B.C. in Egypt (at Pharsalus), Antipater acted shrewdly. He came to Caesar to aid him when the Roman commander was having serious trouble in Alexandria, and Caesar was so thankful that he rewarded Antipater with the title of chief minister of Judea. Caesar also granted him Roman citizenship, and the right to collect taxes for Rome. Antipater himself was also made exempt for any personal taxes.

Immediately after, Antipater went around the country to put an end to the problems and convince the Judean population to be loyal to Hyrcanus. Deep inside though, he felt that Hyrcanus was an unsuitable leader of Judea so he took the country in his own hands and appointed his son Phasael as governor of Jerusalem and his second son Herod as governor of Galilee (Jos. Antiq. xiv. 9. 1-2 ; 156-158; War i. 10. 4 ; 201-203).

In 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was assassinated, and Cassius, one of the murderers, came to Syria demanding support. Antipater and Hyrcanus had no choice but to assist him and Herod collected many taxes to help Cassius in his war against Marc Antony.

The Jews, however, were extremely angry and bitter of Antipater's pro-Roman policies, a group of anti-Romans, led by a man named Malichus, revolted against Antipater and he was poisoned in 43 B.C.