HEROD THE GREAT AND HIS SUCCESSORS (Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ)

Herod was the family name of Antipater. He was the military governor of Idumea (or Edom in Old Testament) in 63 B.C. Antipater was a skilled politician. When Julius Caesar was besieged by the Egyptians at Alexandria, Antipater sent Jewish troops helping the Roman Emperor to escape the siege. Antipater was rewarded with Roman citizenship and he became procurator of all Jewish territory in Syria. His sons became Governors - Phasael in Judea and Herod in Galilee.

As Ronald Brownrigg says in Whos Who the New Testament, One of these sons, Herod the Great, so successfully courted Roman favour that he was the first to be called King of Jews and his descendents became the puppet rulers of Rome in Greater Syria through out the 1st century of the Christian era (p.84).

The New Testament speaks of 6 characters with the name Herod: 1) Herod the Great, 2) Herod Archelaus, 3) Herod Antipas, 4) Herod Philip, 5) Herod Agrippa I and 6) Herod Agrippa II.

1) Herod the Great was the king of the Jews from 37 to 4 B.C. He was a clever and efficient ruler who was also unpredictable and scrupulous monarch. He executed one of his wives and his two sons. He was a great builder. He built many palaces and fortresses and other monuments. He was an unpopular ruler. Brownrigg says that, It was perhaps to mitigate his unpopularity that he built the Temple (of Jerusalem).

Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod the Great. The Gospel of Matthew says Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judaea, during the time when Herod was king. Soon afterwards, some men who studied the stars came from the east to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.

When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, Where will the Messiah be born?

In the town of Bethlehem in Judaea, they answered. For this is what the prophet wrote:

Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
you are by no means the least of leading cities of Judah;
For from you will come a leader
who will guide my people Israel.

So Herod called the visitors form the east to a secret meeting and found out form them the exact time the star had appeared. Then, he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: Go and make a careful search for the child, and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him. (Mt 2, 1-8)

After visiting child Jesus and his parents the wisemen were warned in a dream not to meet Herod and return home by a different way. Jesus foster father Joseph too was warned in a dream of Herods intention to destroy the child and to flea to Egypt immediately.

When Herod realized that the wisemen had tricked him, he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger this was done in accordance with what he had learned form the visitors about the time when the star had appeared. (Mt.2, 16)

Mathew records that on Herods death the holy family returned to Nazareth. His kingdom was divided among his three surviving sons: Herod Archelaus got Judaea, Samaria and Idumea; Herod Antipas got Galilee and Prea and Herod Philip got Iturea, Gaulanitis and Trachonitis.

2) Herod Archelaus: The eldest son, Herod Archelaus seemed to have inherited all that was worst in the character of his father (Brownrigg, p.85). He is mentioned only once in Mathews Gospel: On their way back to Israel when Joseph heard that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judaea, he was afraid to go there. He was given more instructions in a dream, so he went to the province of Galilee and made his home in a town named Nazareth. (Mt 2, 22-23)

3) Herod Antipas: Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. He had imprisoned John the Baptist. Then, at the request of Herodias, his brother Philips wife ordered the execution of John. Jesus called Antipas that fox. When some pharisees warned Jesus that Herod wants to kill you, Jesus answered them, Go and tell that fox: I am driving out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I shall finish my work. (Lk. 13, 32)

There are several references to Antipas in the Gospels according to Mathew, Mark, Luke and in the Acts. He was a cunning man. He married and divorced the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas and later married his half brother Philips wife, Herodias. Then, Jewish historian Josephus has recorded that King Aretas defeated him in 36 AD to avenge the divorce of his daughter. Antipas was called to Rome in 39 AD and banished in the same year.

4) Herod Philip was the youngest and the most efficient of the three sons of Herod the Great. He held his position as Tetrarch of Hurea, Gaulanitis and Trachonities till his death in 34 AD.

Herod Philips name is mentioned in Gospels of Mathew and Mark in connection with Herodias before her marriage with Herod Antipas.

5) Herod Agrippa I was the son of Aritobulus, brother of Herodias and grandson of Herod the Great. He inherited the territory of his uncle Philip. Then, he also ruled the territory of Herod Antipas on his exile. Later his rule was extended to Judaea, Samaria and Idumea. That is to say, he controlled the whole territory which his grandfather Herod the Great ruled.

King Herod Agrippa I started the persecution of Christians. Luke writes in Acts, About this time King Herod (Agrippa I) began to persecute some members of the Church. He had James, the brother of John, put to death by the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he went on to arrest Peter. (This happened during the time of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.) After his arrest Peter was put in jail, where he was handed over to be guarded by four groups of four soldiers each. Herod planned to put him on trial in public after Passover. (Acts 12, 21-23)

Luke has also described the hideous death of King Herod Agrippa I. On a chosen day Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to the people. It isnt a man speaking, but a god! they shouted. At once the angel of the Lord struck Herod down, because he did not give honour to God. He was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12, 21-23). Josephus has confirmed Lukes account of the kings death.

6) Herod Agrippa II: The second Agrippa is the son of the first and great grandson of Herod the Great. The Emperor Claudius gave him the Lebanese ethnarchy of Chalcis. Then, the territories of Galilee, Itupea, Gaulanities and Trachonitis were also added to his rule in AD 53.

St. Paul appeared before King Herod Agrippa II in AD 60 at the request of Festus, the Roman Procurator. Luke has given a detailed account of the meeting of Paul, King Herod Agrippa II and Procurator Festus. Festus sent Paul to Herod Agrippa II with this message, But I could not find that he had done anything for which he deserved the death sentence. And since he himself made an appeal to the Emperor, I have decided to send him. But I have noting definite about him to write to the Emperor. So I have brought him here before you - and especially before you, King Agrippa! so that, after investigating his case, I may have something to write. (Acts 25, 25-26)

Pauls defense before Agrippa shows their mutual respect and appreciation. Concluding his self defense Paul says, my prayer to God is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become what I am except, of course, for these chains! (Acts 26, 28-29).

Agrippa survived the Jewish revolt and destruction of the people and the Temple at Jerusalem. With Agrippas retirement to Rome and subsequent death in 92 AD, the Herodian dynasty, which played a significant role in the history of the first century Christians, came to an end. (Contact: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

 

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