Herod and the Parthians
It wasn't long before the new tetrarchs of Judea had to deal with the
Parthians who had appeared in Syria in 40 B.C. Pacorus, the prince of Parthia,
joined forces with Antigonus in order to seize the throne of Hyrcanus and give
it to Antigonus. With the invading of Jerusalem by the Parthians a civil war
broke out and fighting went on every day in the city.
When the feast of Pentecost was approaching, and thousands of Jews entering
Jerusalem, a Parthian cup bearer named Pacorus arrived bringing word,
supposedly, from the Parthian king regarding settlement. The proposal seemed
good but Herod became suspicious and did not agree to go meet the king in
Galilee, although Phasael and Hyrcanus showed up and they were captured and put
in chains. Herod fled to Masada with his troops, relatives, and Mariamne. Later
he moved to Petra, the capital of the Nabatean kingdom.
At this time the Parthians were sacking all of Jerusalem and parts of Judea.
They made Antigonus king. Antigonus had Hyrcanus mutilated and sent to Parthia
so that there would be no possibility of him ever being restored as high priest.
Phasael either died in battle, was poisoned, or he committed suicide.
Herod had expected help and protection from the Arabian king Malchus, but he
was asked to leave. Herod departed for Egypt and finally made his way to Rome
where he was welcomed by Marc Antony and Octavius. Herod told them the whole
story and after hearing it they established him as the king of Judea. In 39 B.C.
he sailed from Italy back to Ptolemais and marched into Galilee. He captured
Joppa and then made his way back to Masada where his relatives were. He found
them under attack but with the help of the Roman armies he was able to quietly
camp on the west side of Jerusalem.
Herod proclaimed that he was the rightful king and made a promise to forgive all
past offenses that were made against him. Antigonus countered by proclaiming
that Herod was and Idumaean, and a half Jew, and not a legitimate heir to the
In 38 B.C. Herod overcame any armies in Galilee, and because the progress was
slow he requested the help of Marc Antony and the Romans. He divided his army
and left part of it with his brother Joseph with orders not to fight until
reinforcements came, and with the rest of his army he went to Samosata where
Antony was besieging Antiochus, king of Commagene, who had sided with the
Parthians. Antony was pleased with Herod's help and his loyalty, and after they
defeated and Samosata, Marc Antony ordered Sossius, one of his legates, to use
the Roman army in support of King Herod.
King Herod returned to Antioch with two legions and crushed the opposition in
Galilee. Unfortunately he also received the bad news that his brother Joseph had
been killed at Jericho.
In the spring of 37 B.C. Herod moved his troops to Jerusalem and set up for
siege. At that time he left the armies in charge and set off for Samaria to
marry Mariamne after about five years of betrothal. By marrying Mariamne he
would no doubt strengthen his claim to the throne, even though it was a
despicable move against Antigonus.
Once he was married he immediately returned to Jerusalem. Antigonus had been in
Jerusalem defending the city against the Roman legions of Sossius, but the city
finally fell in the summer of 37 B.C.
When Herod showed up he realized that he needed to stop the Roman armies, who
were his allies, from defiling the Temple and plundering the city's great
wealth. He went to Sossius and pleaded with him to reward each soldier with a
sizable gift. Sossius agreed and called his troops in to reward them and they
marched away taking Antigonus to Marc Antony in chains.
According to Josephus Herod had paid a large bribe to persuade the Romans to put
Antigonus out of the way. He also records that Antigonus fell beneath the axe.
This brought an end to the Hasmonean rule of 129 years. Herod was now the
undisputed king of Judea.
"in the days of Herod the king" -
Herod the Great - A Brief Overview
Click on the Picture
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
The Many Faces of Herod the Great
by Marshak, 448 Pages, Pub. 2014
The True Herod
by Vermes, 192 Pages, Pub. 2014