Fausset's Bible Dictionary
descent (Josephus, Ant. 14:1, section 3). The Idumeans were conquered
and brought to Judaism by John Hyrcanus, 130 B.C. Thus the Herods,
though aliens by birth, were Jews in faith. They made religion an engine
of state policy. Eschewing Antiochus Epiphanes' design to Graecize
Jerusalem by substituting the Greek worship and customs for the Jewish
law, the Herod's, while professing to maintain the law, as effectively
set at nought its spirit by making it a lever for elevating themselves
and their secular kingdom. For this end Herod adorned gorgeously the
temple with more than Solomonic splendor.
Thus a descendant of Esau tried still to get from Jacob the forfeited blessing (Gen_27:29; Gen_27:40), in vain setting up an earthly kingdom on a professed Jewish basis, to rival Messiah's spiritual kingdom, as it was then being fore-announced by John Baptist. The "Herodians" probably cherished hopes of Herod's kingdom becoming ultimately, though at first necessarily leaning on Rome, an independent Judaic eastern empire. The Jewish religion thus degraded into a tool of ambition lost its spiritual power, and the theocracy becoming a lifeless carcass was the ready prey for the Roman eagles to pounce upon and destroy (Mat_24:28). (See HERODIANS.)
1. HEROD THE GREAT (Matthew 2;Luk_1:5), second son of Antipater (who was appointed by Julius Caesar procurator of Judaea, 47 B.C.) and Cypros, a noble Arabian. At the time of Antipater's elevation, though only 15 (or as other passages of Josephus make probable, 20), he received the government of Galilee and soon afterwards Coelo-Syria. He skillfully gained the favor of Antony, who made him and his elder brother Phasael joint tetrarchs of Judea. Forced to abandon Judaea by the Parthians, who supported Antigonus the representative of the Asmonaean dynasty, Herod fled to Rome (40 B.C.), where he was well received by Antony and Octavian, and made by the senate "king of Judea." With Roman help he took Jerusalem (37 B.C.), slew his leading adversaries there, including the whole Sanhedrin except two, and established his kingly authority.
Undertaking next for Antony an expedition to Arabia against Malchus, he thereby escaped taking share in the war between Antony his patron and Octavian. After the battle of Actium he gained, by a mixture of humility and boldness at Rhodes, the favor of Octavian the conqueror, who confirmed him in the kingdom, and added several cities along with the province of Trachonitis and district of Paneas. But external prosperity did not save him from internal troubles, the fruits of his own lust and insatiable cruelty. He put to death successively Hyrcanus, his wife Mariamne's grandfather, Mariamne herself to whom he had been passionately attached, his two sons by her, Alexander and Aristobulus, and just four days before his death signed the order for executing their bitter accuser, his oldest son Antipater.
At last, seized with a fatal disease in the stomach and bowels, he became more cruel than ever; he ordered that the nobles whom he had called to him should be slain immediately after his decease, that there might be no lack of mourners at his death. It was at this time that he ordered the slaughter of all males, from two years old and under, in and about Bethlehem, the foretold birthplace of the expected Messiah. Josephus does not notice this, probably both because of his studied reserve as to Jesus' claims, and also because the slaughter of a comparatively few infants in a village seemed unimportant as compared with his other abounding deeds of atrocity. Macrobius long subsequently (A.D. 410) says that "when Augustus heard that among the children whom Herod ordered to be killed Herod's own son (Antipater) was slain, he remarked, It would be better to be one of Herod's swine than Herod's sons," punning on the similar sounding Greek terms for "son" and "swine",hus, huios.
Herod being a professed Jew his swine as unclean were safe from death, his sons were not. Josephus records what illustrates the Scripture account of the massacre of the innocents; "Herod slew all those of his own family who sided with the Pharisees, looking forward to a change in the royal line" (Ant. 17:2, section 6). As Matthew says, "Herod privily called the wise men and inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared." So Josephus says: "an Essene, Menahem, foretold when Herod was a boy he should be king. Accordingly when he was in full power he sent for Menahem and inquired of him how long he should reign. Menahem did not define the time, but in answer to Herod's question whether ten years or not, replied, Yes 20, nay 30 years" (Ant. 15:10, section 5).
Herod's keenness to establish his dynasty, jealousy of any rival, craft, hypocrisy, cruelty, recklessness of any sacrifice to gain his object, appear as vividly in the Scripture narrative as in Josephus. The wise men's question, "Where is he that is born king of the Jews?" was precisely one to excite Herod's jealousy. For Herod was not a born Jew, much less born king of the Jews, but an Idumean alien, made king by the anti-Jewish world power, Rome. Unimportant as the event seemed to the world, the murder of the innocents was the consummation of his guilt before God, and places him among the foremost of Satan's and the world's foretold (Jer_31:15) representative adversaries of the Lord and His church, answering to the Pharaoh who oppressed Christ's type, Israel, murdering the male children in the nation's infancy in order to stifle the nation's first beginnings; but in vain, for God secured the nation's Exodus from Egypt by the tyrant's overthrow, just as subsequently He saved Jesus and destroyed Herod, and in due time "called His (antitypical) Son out of Egypt" (Mat_2:15; compare Hos_11:1).
Herod's death and Jesus' birth therefore must have been at least four years before the era known as A.D. Ambition was his ruling passion. For its sake he compromised the Jewish religion which he professed, in order to conciliate Rome, by offerings to the Capitoline Jupiter at his elevation to the throne. He rebuilt the temple of Apollo at Rhodes, which had been consumed by fire, "the greatest and most illustrious of all his works" according to Josephus. He built a theater and amphitheater, and introduced pagan games in honour of Caesar every fifth year at Jerusalem. He rebuilt Samaria and its temple, and called it Sebaste (Greek for Augusta) in honour of Augustus; also Caesarea on the site of Straton, and made provision at it for pagan worship. At Paneas he dedicated a temple of white marble to Augustus. The stricter Jews were so offended that ten men conspired to kill him in the theater at Jerusalem.
Being detected by a spy they were put to death, but the spy was torn to pieces afterward by the mob. Thereupon he erected the castle of Antonia, near the temple, to overawe the disaffected. However, he turned the tide of feeling in his favor by two acts. In the 13th year of his reign during a severe famine he spent all his resources and sold even valuable works of art to import grain from Egypt for the relief of the people. Still more did he win popularity by rebuilding the temple on a magnificent scale, to vie with that of Solomon; yet with such scrupulous care that it seemed a restoration rather than a new building. He inaugurated the work with a set speech. The building of the temple itself began in 20 B.C., and was finished in a year and a half. The surrounding buildings occupied eight years more. But still fresh additions continued to be made, so that at the beginning of Jesus' ministry the Jews said, "Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?"
At that time He was 30 years old, which added to 16 years (for 20 B.C., when Herod began building, means only 16 before His real date of birth) makes 46. It has been thought that he used the opportunity of building the temple to destroy the authentic genealogies of the priesthood, and that the monument which he raised over the tombs of the kings was owing to superstitious fear after his sacrilegious attempt to rob them of treasures. His title "Herod the Great" was given him in admiration of splendid and successful, though often awfully impious and cruel, tyranny. How vastly different it is to be "great in the sight of the Lord" (Luk_1:15).
2. HEROD THE TETRARCH (Mat_14:1, etc.; Mar_7:17, etc.; Luk_3:1; Luk_3:19; Luk_9:7; Act_13:1). Called "King Herod" by courtesy, not right (Mar_6:14). ANTIPAS contracted for Antipater; son of Herod the Great by a Samaritan, Malthake. Originally Herod the Great destined him to succeed to the throne, but in his last will made him tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, which yielded him a yearly revenue of 200 talents. He married the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia Petraea; but afterwards, meeting at Rome, he became enamoured of and took, his half-brother Herod Philip's wife, and his own niece, daughter of Aristobulus, Herodias. This sin against God became the retributive source of evil to him. Aretas in consequence invaded his land and defeated him severely. Herod stood to John Baptist in the same relation that Ahab did to Elijah.
Herod "feared" John at first (compare Ahab's fear of Elisha,1Ki_21:20), "knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him (preserved him from Herodias, or else respected, regarded him); and when he heard him he did many things and heard him gladly." But Herod when reproved for his sin by John preferred keeping his sin to gaining God's favor and the approval of God's minister. A slight breath of temptation, regard for the world's opinion, and dislike of reproof, were enough to dry up his shallow religion. His first downward step was, he cast John his faithful reprover into prison (compare Asa, 2Ch_16:10). Herodias having gained this first step, like her prototype Jezebel, found the next step an easy one; at the first "convenient day" (his birthday, which he observed with the Herodian characteristic aping of Roman ways, in defiance of Jewish abhorrence of the pagan custom) when Herod made a supper to his lords, and Herodias' daughter by dancing so pleased him that he promised to give whatever she might ask, Herodias prompted her to ask for John's head.
(Josephus, Ant. 19:7, section 1, notices the Herods' magnificent celebration of their" birthdays," which became proverbial and were celebrated by the Herodians even at Rome, as noticed by the pagan Persius, 5:180). So "she came in straightway with haste" to give him no time to repent, and though "exceeding sorry, yet for his oath's sake and for their sakes which sat with him he would not reject her." So John was beheaded in fort Machaerus, facing the Dead Sea from the S. on the borders between Herod's and Aretas' dominions. How scrupulous men are as to the law of opinion among men, how reckless of the law of God! True conscientiousness would see his oath, which involved the sacrifice of an innocent life in violation of God's law, would be more honoured in its breach than in its observance. Not to let conscience have time to restrain him, he ordered the execution as "immediately" as she had demanded it.
When Christ appeared conscience reasserted her supremacy; he said unto his servants, "This is John the Baptist, therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him." In comparingMar_8:15 with Mat_16:6 we find "the leaven of Herod" is "the leaven of the Sadducees," i.e. disbelief of angel or spirit or resurrection. Luke (Luk_9:7) says, "Herod was perplexed because it was said of some that John was risen from the dead." A Pharisee would have regarded John's reappearance in Jesus as an instance of the transmigration of the souls of good men, and would have felt no perplexity; Herod's "perplexity" is just what we might expect from a Sadducee, accused by a guilty conscience and trembling lest the world of spirits and the judgment should prove after all to be realities.
And that he was so comes out in the most incidental and undesigned way, a clear mark of the truth of the narrative: On his lending himself, fox-like, to the Pharisees' design to get Christ out of Galilee into Judea (see Fox) his superstitious fears were too great to admit of his repeating in Christ's case the execution which, to his own torment of conscience, he had perpetrated in John's case; but he was glad of any, means to relieve himself of Christ's presence which "perplexed" him (Luk_13:32). Yet "he desired to see Him" (Luk_9:9), for he had "heard of the fame of Jesus" (Mat_14:1); and so in Christ's last hours "when he saw Him he was exceeding glad, for he was desirous to see Him of a long season, because he had heard many things of Him (doubtless through Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and through Manaen his foster brother: Luk_8:1-3; Act_13:1), and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him."
So "he questioned with Him in many words, but He answered him nothing." Christ would not gratify Herod's idle curiosity, but He did answer Pilate when the honour of His Messianic kingship was at stake, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" (Luk_23:3-12). Baffled in his idle wish, Herod in proud scorn "with his men of war set Him at nought, and mocked Him, and arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him again to Pilate." The Roman governor in the first instance had sent Him to Herod as soon as he knew that He as a Galilean belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction. So "the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together," doubtless owing to Pilate's courtesy and recognition of Herod's jurisdiction, even as their estrangement was owing to the contrary conduct on Pilate's part toward Galileans (Luk_13:1). At variance at other times and on other points, the world potentates agree in this, to insult and persecute Christ.
So Herod and Pilate are coupled together in their divinely foretold anti-Christianity (Act_4:25-27; Psa_2:1-2, etc.). Another incidental and therefore unstudied coincidence with truth is the implication that neither Pilate nor Herod resided at Jerusalem: "Herod who himself ALSO was at Jerusalem at that time." Josephus states that the Herod who slew James (Acts 12) was "not at all like that Herod who reigned before him, he took pleasure in constantly living in Jerusalem" (Ant. 19:7, section 3); this proves that Herod Antipas did not reside much at Jerusalem. So Pilate's usual residence was at Caesarea, the abode of the Roman governors of Judea (Ant. 18:4, section 1; 20:4, section 4; Bell. Judaeorum 2:9, section 2). The danger of popular outbreaks at the Passover was what brought Pilate to Jerusalem for a brief time.
Finally, Herodias, the source of Herod's sin, became his source of shame, for at her instigation he went to Rome, A.D. 38, to sue the emperor Caligula for the title of" king," just conferred on his nephew Herod Agrippa. Instead of this, through Agrippa's influence, H. lost his kingdom and was banished to Lyons, thence to Spain, where he died. The one faithful (humanly speaking) act of her life was her preferring to share Herod's exile rather than stay at home in her own country; surely sinners "eat of the fruit of their own ways, and are filled with their own devices" (Pro_1:31; Jer_2:19).
Herod was wicked in other respects besides adultery, and was accordingly "reproved by John for all the evils which he had done" (Luk_3:19). Cruel yet cunning, like his father (Luk_13:32), he was the very type of an oriental despot, sensual, capricious, yet with a sense of honour and having a respect for piety in others; but like Ahab too weak to resist a bad woman's influence, under which false scrupulosity outweighed right conscientiousness, to be succeeded by superstitious terrors. Tiberias, which he founded and named after the emperor, was one of his greatest works.
3. HEROD PHILIP I. Son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, the high priest. Simon's daughter. Distinct from the tetrarch Herod Philip II. He married Herodias, sister of Agrippa I, by whom he had Salome, the daughter who by dancing pleased Herod ANTIPAS (see above), the paramour of her own mother and dishonourer of her father! Owing to his own mother Mariamne's treachery, Herod Philip I was excluded from all share in his father's dominions, and lived privately. His being without a kingdom was doubtless a cause of the ambitious Herodias deserting him for his brother the tetrarch. But "vaulting ambition o'erleaps itself and falls on the other side"; and seeking the name of "king" besides the reality which her paramour had, she and he ended their days in shame and exile.
4. HEROD PHILIP II. Son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra. Advocated Archelaus' claims before Augustus, on the death of his father. His own kingdom was Batanaea, Trachonitis, Auranitis, and some parts about Jamnia, with the title "tetrarch." He ruled justly, without taking part in the intrigues which rent his family asunder. He built Caesarea Philippi at the site of Paneas, near the sources of the Jordan (Mat_16:13). His wife was Salome, daughter of Herod Philip I and Herodias. He died at Julius, the city which he raised Bethsaida into, A.D. 34. As he died childless his dominions were added to the Roman province, Syria.
5. HEROD AGRIPPA I. Son of Aristobulus Herod the Great's son) and Berenice. Imprisoned by Tiberius for an unguarded speech. Caius Caligula, A.D. 37, on his accession set him free, and gave him the governments formerly held by the tetrarchs Philip and Lysanias, Abilene, etc., with the title of "king" (Act_12:1). Galilee and Peraea were added to his dominions on the exile of Herod ANTIPAS (see above), whom, notwithstanding the kindnesses he formerly when in difficulties received from him, Agrippa supplanted by intrigues at Rome. By services to Claudius, Caligula's successor, he secured in return the addition of Judaea and Samaria, so that now his kingdom equaled that of Herod the Great.
Unlike his predecessors he strictly kept the law. A legend states that once he burst into tears on reading in a public serviceDeu_17:15, on which the Jews exclaimed, "Be not distressed, thou art our brother," namely, by half-descent from the Hasmonaeans. It was on his entreaty at the risk of his interest and life that Caligula desisted from his attempt to set up his statue in the temple, which so engrossed the Jews that for a time they let the Christians alone (Act_9:31). To "please the Jews" he slew James the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter with the intention of bringing him forth to the people for execution after the Passover ("Easter".) Love of popularity was his ruling principle, to which his ordinary humanity was made to give way. Self seeking vanity led him to design Peter's death, but the issue was his own death.
The church's "prayer without ceasing" (Isa_62:6-7; Luk_18:7) saved Peter, whereas the church's Lord avenged His own and her cause on the church's persecutor. In the fourth year of his reign over the whole kingdom (A.D. 44) he attended games at Caesarea "in behalf of the emperor's safety" (possibly on his return from Britain), according to Josephus (Ant. 19:8). When he appeared in the theater in a robe all of silver stuff which shone in the morning light, his flatterers saluted him as a god, and suddenly he was afflicted with a terrible pain in the bowels, of which he died in five days, in the 54th year of his age. The sacred writer unveils the unseen world in his account, which Josephus so remarkably confirms. The authorities of Tyre and Sidon offended him, "but came with one accord and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace because their country" was dependent on the king's country for grain, etc. (1Ki_5:9; 1Ki_5:11; Eze_27:17).
Then upon a set day" Herod arrayed in royal apparel sat upon his throne and made an oration. And the people gave a shout, saying It is the voice of a god and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory; and he was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost. But the word of God (which he bad thought to stifle) grew and multiplied." So Belshazzar (Daniel 5); "pride teeth before destruction" (Pro_16:18). Josephus states that Herod said in his pain, "I whom you call a god am ordered to depart this life immediately.
Providence thus instantly reproves the lying words you just now addressed to me, and I who was by you called immortal am immediately to be hurried away by death." Thus fell he whom the world called Agrippa the Great! a monument to warn proud men, "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth" (Isa_45:9).
6. HEROD AGRIPPA II. Son of Herod Agrippa I and Cypros, grandniece of Herod the Great. Being but 17 at his father's death (A.D. 44), he was thought too young to succeed his father in the kingdom, but six years later (A.D. 50) the emperor Claudius conferred on him Chalcis which had been under his uncle, shortly before deceased (A.D. 48). Then (A.D. 52) he was transferred to the tetrarchies formerly held by Philip and Lysanias with the title "king." Accurately he is called so inAct_25:13; Act_26:2; Act_26:7. Nero added several cities of Galilee and Persea to his kingdom (A.D. 55). Five years later Paul pleaded before him, who naturally consulted him on a question of Jewish law). (See FESTUS.)
The great pomp with which he and his sister Berenice (whose connection with him caused grave suspicion) "entered into the place of hearing with the chief captains and principal men of the city" accorded with his character, fond of show. In the last Roman war he took part with the Romans in the destruction of his nation in the same spirit of cold cynicism with which he met the impassioned appeal of the apostle. After the fall of Jerusalem he retired with Berenice to Rome, where he died in the third year of Trajan (A.D. 100).
He was the last of the race of Herod commemorated in history.Act_25:13 represents his losing no time in going to Caesarea to salute the new Roman governor. In exact consonance with this Josephus (Bell. Judg., 2:15, section 1; Life, section 11) records his anxiety to stand well with the Roman governors, Alexander in Egypt, and Gessius Florus in Judaea, in the latter case Berenice accompanying him.
Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)