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Herod the King 25-14 B.C.


This period is marked with splendor and enjoyment but there were also moments of great disturbance.

The first thing mentioned about this period by Josephus is when Herod violated the Jewish law by introducing the quinquennial games in honor of Caesar and in so doing he built great theaters, amphitheaters, and race courses for both men and horses.

Some time later, around 24 B.C., Herod built for himself a royal palace and also built or rebuilt many fortresses and Gentile temples, including the rebuilding of Straton's Tower which was renamed Caesarea (Jos. Antiq. xv. 8. 5-9. 6; 292-341). Of course, his greatest building was the Temple in Jerusalem which was begun in 20 or 19 B.C. Josephus considers it the most noble of all his achievements (Jos. Antiq. xv. 11. 1 ; 3 80). Rabbinic literature states:

"He_who has not ,seen the Temple of Herod clever seen a beautiful building"
-T BT: Baba Bathraa`-Tlso,

It is suggested that it was his "atonement for having slain so many sages of Israel" -Midrash : Num 14:8

Also, during this period, he took great interest in culture and surrounded himself with a circle of men accomplished in Greek literature and art. The highest offices of state were entrusted to Greek rhetoricians, one of whom, Nicolas of Damascus, was Herod's instructor. He was Herod's advisor and was always included in Herod's dealings both before and after his death. Herod received instructions from him in philosophy, rhetoric, and history.

As for his domestic affairs he married another Mariamne (who we will call Mariamne II), who was the daughter of Simon, a well-known priest in Jerusalem around late 24 B.C. In 22 B.C. Herod sent his two sons of Mariamne I, Alexander and Aristobulus, to Rome for their education. Augustus himself took these sons gladly and they stayed at the house of Asinius Pollio who professed to be one of Herod's most devoted friends.

During this time Augustus gave Herod the territories of Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis which had been occupied by nomad robber tribes with whom the neighboring tetrarch Zenodorus had made common cause (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 1-2 ; 342-349; War i. 20. 4 ; 398, 399 ). It is seen that there was a friendly relationship between Augustus Caesar and Herod. Herod, undoubtedly, was considered an important king to Rome for he kept that section of the Roman empire well in control.

When Augustus came to Syria in 20 B.C. he bestowed upon Herod the territory of Zenodorus or that which laid between Trachonitis and Galilee (containing Ulatha and Paneas) and made it so the procurators of Syria had to get Herod's consent for all of their action. He also asked Augustus for a territory for his brother Pheroras and apparently Augustus granted the request and he was given Perea.

Because of these gracious bestowments of Augustus, Herod erected a beautiful temple for Augustus in the territory of Zenodorus, near the place called Paneion. Also, at this same time Herod remitted a third of the taxes under the pretext of crop failure but actually it was to bring goodwill among those who were displeased with his emphasis of Graeco-Roman culture and religion. The remittance of taxes was effective for the most part. There seemingly was a great dissatisfaction because Herod would not allow the people to gather together for fear of a revolt. He demanded a loyalty oath by the people, but excluded Pollion the Pharisee and his disciple Samaias, as well as most of their disciples. The Essenes did not have to submit to this oath because Josephus states that Herod had a high regard for them. (Jos. Antiq. xv. 10. 4 ; 365-372).

Herod then made a trip to Rome to meet Augustus and bring his two sons home, who had completed their education (in 17 or 16 B.C.). Upon their return to Judea with Herod, Aristobulus was married to Salome's daughter Berenice and Alexander married Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, king of Cappadocia.

There can be no doubt that this period from 25-14 B.C. was the most brilliant in Herodís entire reign. His building program was of great splendor. His domestic affairs were fairly good, but at the end of this period there would be great troubles that would arise in this area. Although he had some trouble within his political sphere, he had good control of his people and twice he favored them by lowering taxes (in 14 B.C. he reduced taxes by one-fourth, Jos. Antiq. xvi. 2. 5 ; 64, 65 ). 


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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