Greetings, truth seeker. Welcome to today’s New Testament historical article. Upon reading the first 3 chapters of the book of Matthew. I couldn’t help but notice that there is a king mentioned that supposedly wanted to meet the baby christ. King Herod, also known as the tetrarch, who ruled over Judea during Christ and John’s conception and birth. The scriptures don’t say too much about him, it only mentions how he affected the Isrealites at the time. If you were curious about who this king Herod was and how he fits in history, then this article is for you. First we will explore what the scripture says about Herod. Second we will analyze other historical sources about him. Lastly we will put the two together to create a mental image of Joseph and Marry’s situation under Herod’s reign.
Herod In Matthew
Very briefly King Herod was mentioned in Matthew 2:1-22. These verses explain that when Christ was born an angel was sent to a group of wise men that announced his birth. These wise men traveled to Judea in search of baby christ and asked king Herod of his location. Herod apparently wanted to meet baby christ as well but in reality he was devising a plan to destroy christ. Now The Highest God forewarned Joseph of King Herod’s malicious plan to destroy Christ and therefore had him flee into Egypt until Herod’s death. Unfortunately, Joseph ever returned with his family back to Judea and instead lived in Nazareth.
Scripture doesn’t give us much details about who king Herod was, where he came from, and etc. These texts were plainly understood from the generation at the time that they were written. During the 89 B.C to 1st century A.D. most people reading these documented accounts never had to ask these questions simply because this information wasn’t far from history like it is for us today. Therefore we must try to retrieve these answers elsewhere aside from the bible in order to understand Josephs situation.
Josephus and Herod
Josephus is one of those super awesome old school historians that documented Isrealite history for us in a convenient and coherent way. From The Works of Josephus, Complete and Unabridged, he reviews King Herod’s early years and ascension to the throne. First and foremost, King Herod never deserved to be king, let alone, king over the Jews. He was one of the sons of a respected war general named Antipater. Now Antipater was under the rule of the Roman empire and friends with Hrycanus a high priest of Judea. Due to severe conflict and execution of Sextus Caesar, Antipater went to war against his killer and brought his sons along with him, Herod and Phasaelus.
In the midst of their vengeful war against Cecilius Bassus, Herod and Phasaelus acquired armies by Cassius at Celesyria. In so doing they caused the cities in Judea great turmoil. They were taken as soldiers, imposed taxes upon and reduced to slavery. Unfortunately, after their vengeance quest was over, Antipater was also killed by one of their malicious partners, Malichus. The cycle of revenge played out once again by Herod alone this time. Needless to say he got his revenge.
Brutality of The Jews
Along with these vicious cycles of terror, the Isrealites were unfavorably victims to the Romans. Since their enslavement to war and taxes, they tried to get back their family by offering a crown of gold to Marcus Antonius (a Roman politician). The harsh taxes were never alleviated except that Marcus returned their enslaved family members. He also promised to punish the men responsible for enslaving their families.
The Jews brought this issue to the console of Rome that Herod was one of the men responsible for their enslavement. While he was being represented by Antony and Cleopatra as an important figure. Since Herod did terrible but important favors for people in high places he was excluded from any punishments. Afterwards the Jews revolted against him. Herod slain man, and imprisoned others. Nonetheless the Roman senate made Herod Tetrarch over the Jews.
Herod’s Ascension To The Throne
Herod created friendships with high ranking Roman officials and used his fathers social ties to the Jews as a passageway to become king. Hrycanus is a high priest and ethnarch of the Jews who also knew Antipater, and arranged a marriage between Herod and his daughter Mariamne. Although he had a few wives at the time, he accepted this arrangement to gain priestly authority in the Jew community.
A war erupted at Judea between Rome and the Parthians. The temple was ravaged and many slain through the streets. His and his family were threatened for their lives. In the midst of this terror he found courage to fight on and build the most famous Herodian, a second temple to replace the former one that was destroyed. Now during the 85 Olympiad Herod was announced king of the Jews by the Roman senate due to this victory over the Parthians.
Herod never gained acceptance from the Jews because he was an Idumean not a Jew. Therefore his ascension to the throne He caused serious destruction to IIsrael. Antiquities of The Jews p.383-397.
Christ and Herod.
With this background information about king Herod, we can understand why Joseph was so afraid of living in Judea during Christ birth. We now see that Christ definitely needed the power of The Highest God on their side. Christ was born during the Roman and Parthians war witch King Herod fought.
Herod took some time ascending to the throne, through war and gaining the trust from high ranking Roman individuals. He was fortunate enough to have had a war general father to pave his way into the Roman senate who delegated powers to people over their conquered countries. Through his marriage of a high priest daughter he gained control of Judean government. Even though he did all this he was never truly accepted as a king to the Jews.