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Herod the Governor


Governor of Galilee (47-37 B.C.)

At around 25 years old Herod became governor of Galilee. It wasn't long before the Galilean Jews and the Roman officials in Syria began to admire this young man. Herod was quick to capture and execute the outlaw Ezekias and most of his followers. At one point many people came to Hyrcanus and tried to convince him that Herod was getting too powerful and that he had violated Jewish laws when he executed Ezekias and his followers. They recommended that Herod stand trial before the Sanhedrin.

Around 47 B.C. Hyrcanus was persuaded and ordered Herod to be brought to trial. Herod got the message and came to the trial but when he showed up he appeared as a king dressed in purple and attended by his bodyguard. Sextus Caesar, the governor of Syria, gave the orders to Hyrcanus that Herod should be acquitted or their would be great consequences.

When Herod was released he came to Damascus to join up with Sextus Caesar. Sextus saw Herod as a remarkable man with much popularity and appointed him as governor of Coele-Syria, and Herod became more and more familiar with Roman laws and Customs, especially when dealing with affairs in Syria.

Herod was very angry that Hyrcanus had called him to trial and to avenge himself he marched against Jerusalem, but his father and his brother both persuaded him to refrain from violence.

Caecilius Bassus, an enemy of Julius Caesar and friend of Pompey, murdered Sextus Caesar and became the new leader of Syria. Antipater, who was a friend of Julius Caesar, sent his troops against Bassus with his two sons leading them. This small War lasted for about three years and after Caesar was assassinated by Cassius, Brutus, and their followers in March of 44 B.C., Cassius came to Syria and defeated Bassus and he became the new leader of Syria.

Because Cassius required heavy taxes Antipater chose Herod, Phasael, and Malichus to do the collecting. It wasn't long before Herod became renowned for his collecting of taxes. Cassius was very pleased with Herod and not only appointed him as governor of Coele-Syria (just as he had been under Sextus) but also swore to make him king of Judea after the war that he and Brutus were fighting against Caesar and Antony.

The Herodians were becoming noticeably powerful because of the Romans and Malichus, a man whose life Antipater had once saved, bribed a servant to poison Antipater (43 B.C.). Herod sought revenge and killed Malichus with the sword.

Once Cassius had left Syria and joined up with Brutus in their campaign against Octavius and Antony, Judea was in turmoil again because of Hyrcanus. With some difficulty Herod stopped the revolt and before long another one broke out. Ptolemy, the ruler of the Itureans, gave protection to Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus. In 42 B.C. Herod defeated them and was congratulated by Hyrcanus and the people.

During this period Herod had a wife whose name was Doris. They had a son together whom they named Antipater, after his grandfather. Herod also became betrothed to Mariamne, the granddaughter of Hyrcanus II and the daughter of Aristobulus' son, Alexander. This would mean that she was a niece of Antigonus, who was the arch-rival of Herod.

By marrying Mariamne Herod would be marrying into the royal house of the Hasmoneans and would become the natural Hasmonean heir, and would cause him to win acceptance in Judean circles.

By 42 B.C. Marc Antony had defeated Cassius at Philippi and then advanced to Bithynia of Asia minor. When he arrived he was met by several Jewish leaders who brought accusations against Herod and Phasael (the governor of Jerusalem), saying that they were usurping their power and undermining Hyrcanus.

When Herod was questioned the gave a good defense against the accusations and the charges were dropped.

In the autumn of 41 B.C., when Marc Antony had gone to Antioch, the Jewish leaders came and spoke the same accusations against Herod and Phasael. But this time Hyrcanus was there and Marc Antony came to him personally and asked him who would be the best qualified ruler. Hyrcanus stated that he was in favor of Herod and Phasael. Marc Antony therefore confirmed their authority and appointed them as tetrarchs of Judea.


King Herod the Great

"in the days of Herod the king" - Matthew 2:1

Herod the Great - A Brief Overview

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Herod I (the Great) was son of Antipater and made king by the Romans in 40 B.C. He managed to keep hold of his throne in the face of the many changes in the government at Rome.

His kingdom comprised Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, Batanea, and Peraea, which was approximately the same size as the kingdom of David and Solomon.

Although Herod had exceptional leadership skills, he was extremely disliked by the Jews. His attitude toward the Maccabean dynasty, to which he was related by marriage, along with his insolence and cruelty, angered them all the more. He even had his brother-in-law and several of his wives and sons executed.

He forced heavy taxes and brutally repressed any rebellions. But it was by his policy of Hellenistic culture that he greatly wounded the Jews. The construction of a race-course, a theater, and an amphitheater in Jerusalem, his wide support of the emperor cult in the East, and the construction of pagan temples in foreign cities at his own expense could not be forgiven, even though he restored and reconstructed the Temple of Jerusalem and continually pleaded the cause of the Jews of the Diaspora to the emperor to his own gains.

There was no close tie between the king and his people; he remained an Edomite and a friend of Rome, only holding on to his power by the use of a merciless military force. This is the same Herod the Great who massacred the children of Bethlehem (Matt. 2).

Herod suddenly died in 4 B.C.


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Bibliography on Herod the Great

The Many Faces of Herod the Great by Marshak, 448 Pages, Pub. 2014

The True Herod by Vermes, 192 Pages, Pub. 2014


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