Herod the Great
King of Judea
The Bible records history. It has proven itself an accurate and reliable record of people, events, and places. Independent historical accounts verify the Bible’s descriptions and details of many famous lives. One of these was the father of the Herodian family, Herod the Great.
Herod is remembered as a builder of cities and the lavish rebuilder of the temple in Jerusalem. But he also destroyed people. He showed little greatness in either his personal actions or his character. He was ruthless in ruling his territory. His suspicions and jealousy led to the murder of several of his children and the death of his wife Mariamne.
Herod’s title, King of the Jews, was granted by Rome but never accepted by the Jewish people. He was not part of the Davidic family line, and he was only partly Jewish. Although Israel benefited from Herod’s lavish efforts to repair the temple in Jerusalem, he won little admiration because he also rebuilt various pagan temples. Herod’s costly attempt to gain the loyalty of the people failed because it was superficial. His only loyalty was to himself.
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Because his royal title was not genuine, Herod was constantly worried about losing his position. His actions when hearing from the Magi about their search for the new king are consistent with all we know about Herod. He planned to locate and kill the child before he could become a threat. The murder of innocent children that followed is a tragic lesson in what can happen when actions are motivated by selfishness. Herod’s suspicions did not spare even his own family. His life was also self-destructive.
Strengths and Accomplishments
- Was given the title king of the Jews by the Romans
- Held on to his power for more than 30 years
- Was effective, though a ruthless, ruler
- Sponsored a great variety of large building projects
Weaknesses and Mistakes
- Tended to treat those around him with fear, suspicion, and jealousy
- Had several of his own children and at least one wife killed
- Ordered the killing of the infants in Bethlehem
- Although claiming to be a God-worshiper, he was still involved in many forms of pagan religion.
Lessons From His Life
- Great power brings neither peace nor security
- No one can prevent God’s plans from being carried out
- Superficial loyalty does not impress people or God
Vital Statistics for Herod the Great
- Occupation: King of Judea from 37 to 4 B.C.
- Relatives: Father: Antipater, Sons: Archelaus, Antipater, Antipas, Philip, and others
- Wives: Doris, Mariamne, and others
- Contemporaries: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Mark Antony, Augustus
More information about Herod the Great can be found in Matthew 2:1-22 and Luke 1:5.
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