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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Herodian Family


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Josephus introduces as to the knowledge of the Herodian family in the fourteenth book of his Antiquities. He there tells us (c. i. § 3) that among the chief friends of Hyrcanus, the high-priest, was an Idumean, named Antipater, distinguished for his riches, and no less for his turbulent and seditious temper. He also quotes an author who represented him as descended from one of the best of the Jewish families which returned from Babylon after the captivity, but adds that this statement was founded on no better grounds than a desire to flatter the pride and support the pretensions of Herod the Great. The times were favorable to men of Antipater's character; and, while he obtained sovereign authority over his native province of Idumea, he contrived to subject Hyrcanus completely to his will, and to induce him to form an alliance with Aretas, from which he trusted to secure the best means for his own aggrandizement. Having so far accomplished his designs as to make himself the favorite ally of Rome, he obtained for his son Phasaelus the governorship of Jerusalem, and for Herod, then only fifteen years old, the chief command in Galilee.

Herod soon distinguished himself by his talents and bravery. The country was at that time infested with numerous bands of robbers. These he assailed and vanquished, and his success was proclaimed, not only throughout Galilee, but in Judea and the neighboring countries. This increasing popularity of a member of the family of Antipater alarmed the ruling men at Jerusalem, and they willingly hearkened to the complaints made against Herod by some of the relatives of those whom he had slain. He was accordingly summoned to take his trial before the Sanhedrim: nor did he disobey the summons; but on the day of trial he appeared at the tribunal gorgeously clad in purple, and surrounded by a numerous band of armed attendants. His acquittal was speedily pronounced. One only of the judges ventured to speak of his guilt, and the venerable old man prophesied that, sooner or later, this same Herod would punish both them and Hyrcanus for their pusillanimity.

In the events which followed the death of Caesar, Herod found fresh opportunities of accomplishing his ambitious designs. By collecting a considerable tribute for Cassius in Galilee, he obtained the friendship of that general, and was appointed to the command of the army in Syria. No less successful with Marc Antony, he overcame the powerful enemies who represented the dangerous nature of his ambitious views, and was exalted, with his brother Phasaelus, to the dignity of tetrarch of Judea. They had not, however, long enjoyed their office when the approach of Antigonus against Jerusalem compelled them to meditate immediate flight. Phasaelus and Hyrcanus fell into the hands of the enemy; but Herod, making good his escape, hastened to Rome, where he pleaded his cause and his former merits with so much skill, that he was solemnly proclaimed king of the Jews, and endowed with the proper ensigns and rights of royalty. Augustus, three years afterwards, confirmed this act of the senate; and Herod himself scrupled not to perpetrate the most horrible crimes to give further stability to his throne. The murder of his wife Mariamne, a daughter of Hyrcanus, and of his two sons Alexander and Aristobulus, place him in the foremost rank of those tyrants whose names blacken the page of history. Of the massacre at Bethlehem the Jewish historian says nothing; but it has been well observed that such an event, in a reign marked by so many horrible deeds, and occurring as it did in a small, obscure town, was not likely to obtain a place in the national annals. The reign of Herod, prolonged through thirty-seven years, was in many respects prosperous; and the splendor of his designs restored to Jerusalem, as a city, much of its earlier magnificence.

According to the custom of the times, Herod made his sons the heirs to his kingdom by a formal testament, leaving its ratification to the will of the emperor. Augustus assenting to its main provisions, Archelaus became tetrarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea; Philip of Trachonitis and Ituræa; and

Herod Antipas

Herod Antipas, of Galilee and Peræa. This Herod was first married to a daughter of King Aretas of Arabia; but forming an unholy attachment for Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip he soon became involved in a course of guilt which ended in his utter ruin. Aretas, to avenge his daughter, sent a considerable army against Herod, whose generals in vain attempted to oppose its progress. The forces which they led were totally destroyed, and instant ruin seemed to threaten both Herod and his dominions. An appeal to the Romans afforded the only hope of safety. Aretas was haughtily ordered by the emperor to desist from the prosecution of the war; and Herod accordingly escaped the expected overthrow. But he was not allowed to enjoy his prosperity long. His nephew Agrippa having obtained the title of King, Herodias urged him to make a journey to Italy and demand the same honor. He weakly assented to his wife's ambitious representations; but the project proved fatal to them both. Agrippa anticipated their designs; and when they appeared before Caligula they were met by accusations of hostility to Rome, the truth of which they in vain attempted to disprove. Sentence of deposition was accordingly passed upon Herod, and both he and his wife were sent into banishment, and died at Lyons in Gaul.

Herod Agrippa, 1

Herod Agrippa, alluded to above, was the son of Aristobulus, so cruelly put to death by his father Herod the Great. The earlier part of his life was spent at Rome, where the magnificence and luxury in which he indulged reduced him to poverty. After a variety of adventures and sufferings he was thrown into bonds by Tiberius; but on the succession of Caligula was not only restored to liberty, but invested with royal dignity, and made tetrarch of Abilene, and of the districts formerly pertaining to the tetrarchy of Philip. His influence at the Roman court increasing, he subsequently obtained Galilee and Peræa, and at length Judea and Samaria, his dominion being thus extended over the whole country of Palestine.

To secure the good-will of his subjects, he yielded to their worst passions and caprices. Memorable instances are afforded of this in the apostolic history, where we are told that 'He stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church, and he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword; and because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also' (). His awful death, described in the same chapter, and by Josephus almost in the same words, occurred in the fifty-fourth year of his age.

Herod Agrippa, 2

Herod Agrippa, the son of the above-named, was in his seventeenth year when his father died. The emperor Claudius, at whose court the young Agrippa was then residing, purposed conferring upon him the dominions enjoyed by his father. From this he was deterred, says Josephus, by the advice of his ministers, who represented the danger of trusting an important province of the empire to so youthful a ruler. Herod was, therefore, for the time, obliged to content himself with the small principality of Chalcis, but was not long after created sovereign of the tetrarchies formerly belonging to Philip and Lysanias; a dominion increased at a subsequent period by the grant of a considerable portion of Peræa. The habits which he had formed at Rome, and his strong attachment to the people to whose rulers he was indebted for his prosperity, brought him into frequent disputes with his own nation. He died, at the age of seventy, in the early part of the reign of Trajan.

 

 

 

 


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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Herodian Family'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/h/herodian-family.html.

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