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The name Herod (Herodes) is a familiar one in the history of the Jews and of the early Christian church. The name itself signifies “heroic,” a name not wholly applicable to the family, which was characterized by craft and knavery rather than by heroism. The fortunes of the Herodian family are inseparably connected with the last flickerings of the flame of Judaism, as a national power, before it was forever extinguished in the great Jewish war of rebellion, 70 AD. The history of the Herodian family is not lacking in elements of greatness, but whatever these elements were and in whomsoever found, they were in every ease dimmed by the insufferable egotism which disfigured the family, root and branch. Some of the Herodian princes were undeniably talented; but these talents, wrongly used, left no marks for the good of the people of Israel. Of nearly all the kings of the house of Herod it may truly be said that at their death “they went without being desired,” unmissed, unmourned. The entire family history is one of incessant brawls, suspicion, intrigue arid shocking immorality. In the baleful and waning light of the rule of the Herodians, Christ lived and died, and under it the foundations of the Christian church were laid. 1Co 11:19 m; Ga 5:20 margin, where it is shown to interfere with that unity of faith and community of interests that belong to Christians. There being but one standard of truth, and one goal for all Christian life, any arbitrary choice varying from what was common to all believers, becomes an inconsistency and a sin to be warned against. Ellicott, on Ga 5:20, correctly defines “heresies” (King James Version, the English Revised Version) as “a more aggravated form of dichostasia” (the American Standard Revised Version “parties”) “when the divisions have developed into distinct and organized parties”; so also 1Co 11:19, translated by the Revised Version (British and American) “factions.” In 2 Pet 2:1, the transition toward the subsequent ecclesiastical sense can be traced. The “destructive heresies” (Revised Version margin, the English Revised Version margin “sects of perdition”) are those guilty of errors both of doctrine and of life very fully described throughout the entire chapter, and who, in such course, separated themselves from the fellowship of the church.
The Family Descent
The Herodians were not of Jewish stock. Herod the Great encouraged the circulation of the legend of the family descent from an illustrious Babylonian Jew (Ant., XIV, i, 3), but it has no historic basis. It is true the Idumeans were at that time nominal Jews, since they were subdued by John Hyrcanus in 125 BC, and embodied in the Asmonean kingdom through an enforced circumcision, but the old national antagonism remained (Ge 27:41). The Herodian family sprang from Antipas (died 78 BC), who was appointed governor of Idumaea by Alexander Janneus. His son Antipater, who succeeded him, possessed al the cunning, resourcefulness and unbridled ambition of his son Herod the Great. He had an open eye for two things–the unconquerable strength of the Roman power and the pitiable weakness of the decadent Asmonean house, and on these two factors he built the house of his hopes. He craftily chose the side of Hyrcanus II in his internecine war with Aristobulus his brother (69 BC) and induced him to seek the aid of the Romans. Together they supported the claims of Pompey and, after the latter’s defeat, they availed themselves of the magnanimity of Caesar to submit to him, after the crushing defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus (48 BC). As a reward, Antipater received the procuratorship of Judea (47 BC), while his innocent dupe Hyrcanus had to satisfy himself with the high priesthood. Antipater died by the hand of an assassin (43 BC) and left four sons, Phasael, Herod the Great, Joseph, Pheroras, and a daughter Salome. The second of these sons raised the family to its highest pinnacle of power and glory. Pheroras was nominally his co-regent ann, possessed of his father’s cunning, maintained himself to the end, surviving his cruel brother, but he cuts a small figure in the family history. He, as well as his sister Salome, proved an endless source of trouble to Herod by the endless family brawls which they occasioned.
Herod the Great
With a different environment and with a different character, Herod the Great might have been worthy of the surname which he now bears only as a tribute of inane flattery. What we know of him, we owe, in the main, to the exhaustive treatment of the subject by Josephus in his Antiquities and Jewish War, and from Strabo and Dio Cassius among the classics. We may subsume our little sketch of Herod’s life under the heads of (1) political activity, (2) evidence of talent, and (3) character and domestic life.
Antipater had great ambitions for his son. Herod was only a young man when he began his career as governor of Galilee. Josephus’ statement, however, that he was only “fifteen years old” (Ant., XIV, ix, 2) is evidently the mistake of some transcriber because we are told (XVII, viii, 1) that “he continued his life till a very old age.” That was 42 years later, so that Herod at this time must have been at least 25 years old. His activity and success in ridding his dominion of dangerous bands of freebooters, and his still greater success in raising the always welcome tribute-money for the Roman government, gained for him additional power at court. His advance became rapid. Antony appointed him “tetrarch” of Judea in 41 BC, and although he was forced by circumstances temporarily to leave his domain in the hands of the Parthians and of Antigonus, this, in the end, proved a blessing in disguise. In this final spasm of the dying Asmonean house, Antigonus took Jerusalem by storm, and Phasael, Herod’s oldest brother, fell into his hands. The latter was governor of the city, and foreseeing his fate, he committed suicide by dashing out his brains against the walls of his prison. Antigonus incapacitated his brother Hyrcanus, who was captured at the same time, from ever holding the holy office again by cropping off his ears (Ant., XIV, xiii, 10). Meanwhile, Herod was at Rome, and through the favor of Antony and Augustus he obtained the crown of Judea in 37 BC. The fond ambition of his heart was now attained, although he had literally to carve out his own empire with the sword. He made quick work of the task, cut his way back into Judea and took Jerusalem by storm in 37 BC.
The first act of his reign was the extermination of the Asmonean house, to which Herod himself was related through his marriage with Mariamne, the grandchild of Hyrcanus. Antigonus was slain and with him 45 of his chief adherents. Hyrcanus was recalled from Babylon, to which he had been banished by Antigonus, but the high-priesthood was bestowed on Aristobulus, Herod’s brother-in-law, who, however, soon fell a victim to the suspicion and fear of the king (Ant., XV, iii, 3). These outrages against the purest blood in Judea turned the love of Mariamne, once cherished for Herod, into a bitter hatred. The Jews, loyal to the dynasty of the Maccabees, accused Herod before the Roman court, but he was summarily acquitted by Antony. Hyrcanus, mutilated and helpless as he was, soon followed Aristobulus in the way of death, 31 BC (Ant., XV, vi, 1). When Antony, who had ever befriended Herod, was conquered by Augustus at Actium (31 BC), Herod quickly turned to the powers that were, and, by subtle flattery and timely support, won the imperial favor. The boundaries of his kingdom were now extended by Rome. And Herod proved equal to the greater task. By a decisive victory over the Arabians, he showed, as he had done in his earlier Galilean government, what manner of man he was, when aroused to action. The Arabians were wholly crushed, and submitted themselves unconditionally under the power of Herod (Ant., XV, v, 5). Afraid to leave a remnant of the Asmonean power alive, he sacrificed Mariamne his wife, the only human being he ever seems to have loved (28 BC), his mother-in-law Alexandra (Ant., XV, vii, 8), and ultimately, shortly before his death, even his own sons by Mariamne, Alexander and Aristobulus 7 BC (Ant., XVI, xi, 7). In his emulation of the habits and views of life of the Romans, he continually offended and defied his Jewish subjects, by the introduction of Roman sports and heathen temples in his dominion. His influence on the younger Jews in this regard was baneful, and slowly a distinct partly arose, partly political, partly religious, which called itself the Herodian party, Jews in outward religious forms but Gentiles in their dress and in their whole view of life. They were a bitter offense to the rest of the nation, but were associated with the Pharisees and Sadducees in their opposition to Christ (Mt 22:16; Mr 3:6; 12:13). In vain Herod tried to win over the Jews, by royal charity in time of famine, and by yielding, wherever possible, to their bitter prejudices. They saw in him only a usurper of the throne of David, maintained by the strong arm of the hated Roman oppressor. Innumerable plots were made against his life, but, with almost superhuman cunning, Herod defeated them all (Ant., XV, viii). He robbed his own people that he might give munificent gifts to the Romans; he did not even spare the grave of King David, which was held in almost idolatrous reverence by the people, but robbed it of its treasures (Ant., XVI, vii, 1). The last days of Herod were embittered by endless court intrigues and conspiracies, by an almost insane suspicion on the part of the aged king, and by increasing indications of the restlessness of the nation. Like Augustus himself, Herod was the victim of an incurable and loathsome disease. His temper became more irritable, as the malady made progress, and he made both himself and his court unutterably miserable. The picture drawn by Josephus (Ant., XVII) is lifelike and tragic in its vividness. In his last will and testament, he remained true to his life-long fawning upon the Roman power (Ant., XVII, vi, 1). So great became his suffering toward the last that he made a fruitless attempt at suicide. But, true to his character, one of the last acts of his life was an order to execute his son Antipater, who had instigated the murder of his half-brothers, Alexander and Aristobulus, and another order to slay, after his death, a number of nobles, who were guilty of a small outbreak at Jerusalem and who were confined in the hippodrome (Ant., XVI, vi, 5). He died in the 37th year of his reign, 34 years after he had captured Jerusalem and slain Antigonus. Josephus writes this epitaph: “A man he was of great barbarity toward all men equally, and a slave to his passions, but above the consideration of what was right. Yet was he favored by fortune as much as any man ever was, for from a private man he became a king, and though he were encompassed by ten thousand dangers, he got clear of them all and continued his life to a very old age” (Ant., XVII, viii, 1).
Evidence of Talent.
The life of Herod the Great was not a fortuitous chain of favorable accidents. He was unquestionably a man of talent. In a family like that of Antipus and Antipater, talent must necessarily be hereditary, and Herod inherited it more largely than any of his brothers. His whole life exhibits in no small degree statecraft, power of organization, shrewdness. He knew men and he knew how to use them. He won the warmest friendship of Roman emperors and had a faculty of convincing the Romans of the righteousness of his cause, in every contingency. In his own dominions he was like Ishmael, his hand against all, and the hands of all against him, and yet he maintained himself in the government for a whole generation. His Galilean governorship showed what manner of man he was, a man with iron determination and great generalship. His Judean conquest proved the same thing, as did his Arabian war. Herod was a born leader of men. Under a different environment, he might have developed into a truly great man, and had his character been coordinate with his gifts, he might have done great things for the Jewish people. But by far the greatest talent of Herod was his singular architectural taste and ability. Here he reminds one of the old Egyptian Pharaohs. Against the laws of Judaism, which he pretended to obey, he built at Jerusalem a magnificent theater and an amphitheater, of which the ruins remain. The one was within the city, the other outside the walls. Thus he introduced into the ascetic sphere of the Jewish life the frivolous spirit of the Greeks and the Romans. To offset this cruel infraction of all the maxims of orthodox Judaism, he tried to placate the nation by rebuilding the temple of Zerubbabel and making it more magnificent than even Solomon’s temple had been. This work was accomplished somewhere between 19 BC and 11 or 9 BC, although the entire work was not finished till the procuratorship of Albinus, 62-64 AD (Ant., XV, xi, 5, 6; XX, ix, 7; Joh 2:20). It was so transcendently beautiful that it ranked among the world’s wonders, and Josephus does not tire of describing its glories (BJ, V, v). Even Titus sought to spare the building in the final attack on the city (BJ, VI, iv, 3). Besides this, Herod rebuilt and beautified Struto’s Tower, which he called after the emperor, Caesarea. He spent 12 years in this gigantic work, building a theater and amphitheater, and above all in achieving the apparently impossible by creating a harbor where there was none before. This was accomplished by constructing a gigantic mole far out into the sea, and so enduring was the work that the remains of it are seen today. The Romans were so appreciative of the work done by Herod that they made Caesarea the capital of the new regime, after the passing away of the Herodian power. Besides this, Herod rebuilt Samaria, to the utter disgust of the Jews, calling it Sebaste. In Jerusalem itself he built the three great towers, Antonia, Phasaelus and Mariamne, which survived even the catastrophe of the year 70 AD. All over Herod’s dominion were found the evidence of this constructive passion. Antipatris was built by him, on the site of the ancient Kapharsaba, as well as the stronghold Phasaelus near Jericho, where he was destined to see so much suffering and ultimately to die. He even reached beyond his own domain to satisfy this building mania at Ascalon, Damascus, Tyre and Sidon, Tripoli, Ptolemais, nay even at Athens and Lacedaemon. But the universal character of these operations itself occasioned the bitterest hatred against him on the part of the narrowminded Jews.
Characteristics and Domestic Life.
The personality of Herod was impressive, and he was possessed of great physical strength. His intellectual powers were far beyond the ordinary; his will was indomitable; he was possessed of great tact, when he saw fit to employ it; in the great crises of his life he was never at a loss what to do; and no one has ever accused Herod the Great of cowardice. There were in him two distinct individualities, as was the case with Nero. Two powers struggled in him for the mastery, and the lower one at last gained complete control. During the first part of his reign there were evidences of large-heartedness, of great possibilities in the man. But the bitter experiences of his life, the endless whisperings and warnings of his court, the irreconcilable spirit of the Jews, as well as the consciousness of his own wrongdoing, changed him into a Jewish Nero: a tyrant, who bathed his own house and his own people in blood. The demons of Herod’s life were jealousy of power, and suspicion, its necessary companion.
He was the incarnation of brute lust, which in turn became the burden of the lives of his children. History tells of few more immoral families than the house of Herod, which by intermarriage of its members so entangled the genealogical tree as to make it a veritable puzzle. As these marriages were nearly all within the line of forbidden consanguinity, under the Jewish law, they still further embittered the people of Israel against the Herodian family. When Herod came to the throne of Judea, Phasael was dead. Joseph his younger brother had fallen in battle (Ant., XIV, xv, 10), and only Pheroras and Salome survived. The first, as we have seen, nominally shared the government with Herod, but was of little consequence and only proved a thorn in the king’s flesh by his endless interference and plotting. To him were allotted the revenues of the East Jordanic territory. Salome, his sister, was ever neck-deep in the intrigues of the Herodian family but had the cunning of a fox and succeeded in making Herod believe in her unchangeable loyalty, although the king had killed her own son-in-law and her nephew, Aristobulus, his own son. The will of Herod, made shortly before his death, is a convincing proof of his regard for his sister (Ant., XVII, viii, 1).
His domestic relations were very unhappy. Of his marriage with Doris and of her son, Antipater, he reaped only misery, the son, as stated above, ultimately falling a victim to his father’s wrath, when the crown, for which he plotted, was practically within his grasp. Herod appears to have been deeply in love with Mariamne, the grandchild of Hyrcanus, in so far as he was capable of such a feeling, but his attitude toward the entire Asmonean family and his fixed determination to make an end of it changed whatever love Mariamne had for him into hatred. Ultimately, she, as well as her two sons, fell victims to Herod’s insane jealousy of power. Like Nero, however, in a similar situation, Herod felt the keenest remorse after her death. As his sons grew up, the family tragedy thickened, and the court of Herod became a veritable hotbed of mutual recriminations, intrigues and catastrophes. The trials and executions of his own conspiring sons were conducted with the acquiescence of the Roman power, for Herod was shrewd enough not to make a move without it. Yet so thoroughly was the condition of the Jewish court understood at Rome, that Augustus, after the death of Mariamne’s sons (7 BC), is said to have exclaimed: “I would rather be Herod’s hog hus than his son huios.” At the time of his death, the remaining sons were these: Herod, son of Mariamne, Simon’s daughter; Archelaus and Antipas, sons of Malthace, and Herod Philip, son of Cleopatra of Jerusalem. Alexander and Aristobulus were killed, through the persistent intrigues of Antipater, the oldest son and heir presumptive to the crown, and he himself fell into the grave he had dug for his brothers.
By the final testament of Herod, as ratified by Rome, the kingdom was divided as follows: Archelaus received one-half of the kingdom, with the title of king, really “ethnarch,” governing Judea, Samaria and Idumaea; Antipas was appointed “tetrarch” of Galilee and Peraea; Philip, “tetrarch” of Trachonitis, Gaulonitis and Paneas. To Salome, his intriguing sister, he bequeathed Jamnia, Ashdod and Phasaelus, together with 500,000 drachmas of coined silver. All his kindred were liberally provided for in his will, “so as to leave them all in a wealthy condition” (Ant., XVII, viii, 1). In his death he had been better to his family than in his life. He died unmourned and unbeloved by his own people, to pass into history as a name soiled by violence and blood. As the waters of Callirhoe were unable to cleanse his corrupting body, those of time were unable to wash away the stains of a tyrant’s name. The only time he is mentioned in the New Testament is in Mt 2:1-23 and Lu 1:1-80. In Matthew he is associated with the wise men of the East, who came to investigate the birth of the “king of the Jews.” Learning their secret, Herod found out from the “priests and scribes of the people” where the Christ was to be born and ordered the “massacre of the innocents,” with which his name is perhaps more generally associated than with any other act of his life. As Herod died in 4 BC and some time elapsed between the massacre and his death (Mt 2:19), we have here a clue to the approximate fixing of the true date of Christ’s birth. Another, in this same connection, is an eclipse of the moon, the only one mentioned by Josephus (Ant., XVII, vi, 4; text and note), which was seen shortly before Herod’s death. This eclipse occurred on March 13, in the year of the Julian Period, 4710, therefore 4 BC.
Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, a Samaritan woman. Half Idumean, half Samaritan, he had therefore not a drop of Jewish blood in his veins, and “Galilee of the Gentiles” seemed a fit dominion for such a prince. He ruled as “tetrarch” of Galilee and Peraea (Lu 3:1) from 4 BC till 39 AD. The gospel picture we have of him is far from prepossessing. He is superstitious (Mt 14:1 f), foxlike in his cunning (Lu 13:31 f) and wholly immoral. John the Baptist was brought into his life through an open rebuke of his gross immorality and defiance of the laws of Moses (Le 18:16), and paid for his courage with his life (Mt 14:10; Ant, XVIII, v, Mt 2:1-23).
On the death of his father, although he was younger than his brother Archelaus (Ant., XVII, ix, 4 f; BJ, II, ii, 3), he contested the will of Herod, who had given to the other the major part of the dominion. Rome, however, sustained the will and assigned to him the “tetrarchy” of Galilee and Peraea, as it had been set apart for him by Herod (Ant., XVII, xi, 4). Educated at Rome with Archelaus and Philip, his half-brother, son of Mariamne, daughter of Simon, he imbibed many of the tastes and graces and far more of the vices of the Romans. His first wife was a daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia. But he sent her back to her father at Petra, for the sake of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had met and seduced at Rome. Since the latter was the daughter of Aristobulus, his half-brother, and therefore his niece, and at the same time the wife of another half-brother, the union between her and Antipas was doubly sinful. Aretas repaid this insult to his daughter by a destructive war (Ant., XVIII, v, 1). Herodias had a baneful influence over him and wholly dominated his life (Mt 14:3-10). He emulated the example of his father in a mania for erecting buildings and beautifying cities. Thus, he built the wall of Sepphoris and made the place his capital. He elevated Bethsaida to the rank of a city and gave it the name “Julia,” after the daughter of Tiberius. Another example of this inherited or cultivated building-mania was the work he did at Betharamphtha, which he called “Julias” (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1). His influence on his subjects was morally bad (Mr 8:15). If his life was less marked by enormities than his father’s, it was only so by reason of its inevitable restrictions. The last glimpse the Gospels afford of him shows him to us in the final tragedy of the life of Christ. He is then at Jerusalem. Pilate in his perplexity had sent the Saviour bound to Herod, and the utter inefficiency and flippancy of the man is revealed in the account the Gospels give us of the incident (Lu 23:7-12; Ac 4:27). It served, however, to bridge the chasm of the enmity between Herod and Pilate (Lu 23:12), both of whom were to be stripped of their power and to die in shameful exile. When Caius Caligula had become emperor and when his scheming favorite Herod Agrippa I, the bitter enemy of Antipas, had been made king in 37 AD, Herodias prevailed on Herod Antipas to accompany her to Rome to demand a similar favor. The machinations of Agrippa and the accusation of high treason preferred against him, however, proved his undoing, and he was banished to Lyons in Gaul, where he died in great misery (Ant., XVIII, vii, 2; BJ, II, ix, 6).
Herod Philip was the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem. At the death of his father he inherited Gaulonitis, Traehonitis and Paneas (Ant., XVII, viii, 1). He was Philip apparently utterly unlike the rest of the Herodian family, retiring, dignified, moderate and just. He was also wholly free from the intriguing spirit of his brothers, and it is but fair to suppose that he inherited this totally un-Herodian character and disposition from his mother. He died in the year 34 AD, and his territory was given three years later to Agrippa I, his nephew and the son of Aristobulus, together with the tetrarchy of Lysanias (Ant., XVIII, iv, 6; XIX, v, 1).
Herod Archelaus was the oldest son of Herod the Great by Malthace, the Samaritan. He was a man of violent temper, reminding one a great deal of his father. Educated like all Archelaus the Herodian princes at Rome, he was fully familiar with the life and arbitrariness of the Roman court. In the last days of his father’s life, Antipater, who evidently aimed at the extermination of all the heirs to the throne, accused him and Philip, his half-brother, of treason. Both were acquitted (Ant., XVI, iv, 4; XVII, vii, 1). By the will of his father, the greater part of the Herodian kingdom fell to his share, with the title of “ethnarch.” The will was contested by his brother Antipas before the Roman court. While the matter was in abeyance, Archelaus incurred the hatred of the Jews by the forcible repression of a rebellion, in which some 3,000 people were slain. They therefore opposed his claims at Rome, but Arche1aus, in the face of all this opposition, received the Roman support (Ant., XVII, xi, 4). It is very ingeniously suggested that this episode may be the foundation of the parable of Christ, found in Lu 19:12-27. Archelaus, once invested with the government of Judea, ruled with a hard hand, so that Judea and Samaria were both soon in a chronic state of unrest. The two nations, bitterly as they hated each other, became friends in this common crisis, and sent an embassy to Rome to complain of the conduct of Archelaus, and this time they were successful. Archelaus was warned by a dream of the coming disaster, whereupon he went at once to Rome to defend himself, but wholly in vain. His government was taken from him, his possessions were all confiscated by the Roman power and he himself was banished to Vienna in Gaul (Ant., XVII, xiii, 2, 3). He, too, displayed some of his father’s taste for architecture, in the building of a royal palace at Jericho and of a village, named after himself, Archelais. He was married first to Mariamne, and after his divorce from her to Glaphyra, who had been the wife of his half-brother Alexander (Ant., XVII, xiii). The only mention made of him in the Gospels is found in Mt 2:22.
Of Herod, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, Simon’s daughter, we know nothing except that he married Herodias, the daughter of his dead halfbrother Aristobulus. He is called Philip in the New Testament (Mt 14:3), and it was from him that Antipas lured Herodias away. His later history is wholly unknown, as well as that of Herod, the brother of Philip the tetrarch, and the oldest son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem.
Herod Agrippa I
Two members of the Herodian family are named Agrippa. They are of the line of Aristobulus, who through Mariamne, grand-daughter of Hyrcanus, carried down the line of the Asmonean blood. And it is worthy of note that in this line, nearly extinguished by Herod through his mad jealousy and fear of the Maccabean power, the kingdom of Herod came to its greatest glory again.
Herod Agrippa I, called Agrippa by Josephus, was the son of Aristobulus and Bernice and the grandson of Herod the Great and Mariamne. Educated at Rome with Claudius (Ant., XVIII, vi, 1, 4), he was possessed of great shrewdness and tact. Returning to Judea for a little while, he came back to Rome in 37 AD. He hated his uncle Antipas and left no stone unturned to hurt his cause. His mind was far-seeing, and he cultivated, as his grandfather had done, every means that might lead to his own promotion. He, therefore, made fast friends with Caius Caligula, heir presumptive to the Roman throne, and his rather outspoken advocacy of the latter’s claims led to his imprisonment by Tiberius. This proved the making of his fortune, for Caligula did not forget him, but immediately on his accession to the throne, liberated Agrippa and bestowed on him, who up to that time had been merely a private citizen, the “tetrarchies” of Philip, his uncle, and of Lysanias, with the title of king, although he did not come into the possession of the latter till two more years had gone by (Ant., XVIII, vi, 10). The foolish ambition of Herod Antipas led to his undoing, and the emperor, who had heeded the accusation of Agrippa against his uncle, bestowed on him the additional territory of Galilee and Peraea in 39 AD. Agrippa kept in close touch with the imperial government, and when, on the assassination of Caligula, the imperial crown was offered to the indifferent Claudius, it fell to the lot of Agrippa to lead the latter to accept the proffered honor. This led to further imperial favors and further extension of his territory, Judea and Samaria being added to his domain, 40 AD. The fondest dreams of Agrippa had now been realized, his father’s fate was avenged, and the old Herodian power had been restored to its original extent. He ruled with great munificence and was very tactful in his contact with the Jews. With this end in view, several years before, he had moved Caligula to recall the command of erecting an imperial statue in the city of Jerusalem; and when he was forced to take sides in the struggle between Judaism and the nascent Christian sect, he did not hesitate a moment, but assumed the role of its bitter persecutor, slaying James the apostle with the sword and harrying the church whenever possible (Ac 12:1-25.). He died, in the full flush of his power, of a death, which, in its harrowing details reminds us of the fate of his grandfather (Ac 12:20-23; Ant, XIX, viii, Ac 2:1-47). Of the four children he left (BJ, II, xi, 6), three are known to history–Herod Agrippa II, king of Calchis, Bernice of immoral celebrity, who consorted with her own brother in defiance of human and Divine law and became a byword even among the heathen (Juv. Sat. vi. 156-60), and Drusilla, the wife of the Roman governor Felix (Ac 24:24). According to tradition the latter perished in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, together with her son Agrippa. With Herod Agrippa I, the Herodian power had virtually run its course.
Herod Agrippa II
Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I and Cypros. When his father died in 44 AD, he was a youth of only 17 years and considered too young to assume the government of Judea. Claudius therefore placed the country under the care of a procurator. Agrippa had received a royal education in the palace of the emperor himself (Ant., XIX, ix, 2). But he had not wholly forgotten his people, as is proven by his intercession in behalf of the Jews, when they asked to be permitted to have the custody of the official high priestly robes, till then in the hands of the Romans and to be used only on stated occasions (Ant., XX, i, 1). On the death of his uncle, Herod of Calchis, Claudius made Agrippa II “tetrarch” of the territory, 48 AD (BJ, II, xii, 1; XIV, iv; Ant, XX, v, 2). As Josephus tells us, he espoused the cause of the Jews whenever he could (Ant., XX, vi, 3). Four years later (52 AD), Claudius extended the dominion of Agrippa by giving him the old “tetrarchies” of Philip and Lysanias. Even at Calchis they had called him king; now it became his official title (Ant., XX, vii, 1). Still later (55 AD), Nero added some Galilean and Perean cities to his domain. His whole career indicates the predominating influence of the Asmonean blood, which had shown itself in his father’s career also. If the Herodian taste for architecture reveals itself here and there (Ant., XX, viii, 11; IX, iv), there is a total absence of the cold disdain wherewith the Herods in general treated their subjects. The Agrippas are Jews.
Herod Agrippa II figures in the New Testament in Ac 25:13; 26:32. Paul there calls him “king” and appeals to him as to one knowing the Scriptures. As the brother-in-law of Felix he was a favored guest on this occasion. His relation to Bernice his sister was a scandal among Jews and Gentiles alike (Ant., XX, vii, 3). In the fall of the Jewish nation, Herod Agrippa’s kingdom went down. Knowing the futility of resistance, Agrippa warned the Jews not to rebel against Rome, but in vain (BJ, II, xvi, 2-5; XVII, iv; XVIII, ix; XIX, iii). When the war began, he boldly sided with Rome and fought under its banners, getting wounded by a sling-stone in the siege of Gamala (BJ, IV, i, 3). The oration by which he sought to persuade the Jews against the rebellion is a masterpiece of its kind and became historical (BJ, II, xvi). When the inevitable came and when with the Jewish nation also the kingdom of Herod Agrippa II had been destroyed, the Romans remembered his loyalty. With Bernice his sister he removed to Rome, where he became a praetor and died in the year 100 AD, at the age of 70 years, in the beginning of Trajan’s reign.
By Henry E. Dosker
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