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Herod the Great

37- 4 BC


In 63 BC, Romans incorporated Judah (what is now Palestine) into their empire as the province of Judea and placed the Jewish lands under kings. The Herodian dynasty, a family of Jews who gained favor with the Romans, was appointed to these kingships. The Herodian family ruled over Palestine from 40 BC until around 100 AD. The most famous member of this family was Herod the Great, who ruled from 37 to 4 BC. He rebuilt Jerusalem , including the temple, and promoted Hellenistic culture. Herod was an ideal medium for the empire. His Jewish ancestry gave him identification with the Jewish culture and his close friendships with the Romans allowed him identification with them as well. His rise to power came through many intricately designed connections to the Romans and were spurred on by his desire to be the "king of the Jews."

Back to Ancient Israel Chronology

Julius Caesar defeated Pompey in 48 BC and made Hyrcanus II the high priest and Antipater II the administrator of Judea. Antipater II appointed his second son, Herod, as governor of Galilee. At 25 years of age Herod had already gained the admiration of both the Jews and the Romans for his leadership skills. Herod become involved with Roman affairs in Syria when in Damascus he joined Sextus Caesar, who appointed him governor of Syria. Herod proved to Rome that he was an able leader in collecting taxes and suppressing revolts. After Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, Cassius assumed leadership in Syria and reappointed Herod as governor to collect more revenue.

In 42 BC Antony defeated Cassius and appointed Herod and his bother Phasael as tetrarchs of Judea. In 40 BC, the Parthians invaded Palestine forcing Herod to flee to Masada, Petra, and finally to Rome where Antony, Octavius, and the Senate made him King of Judea. Herod returned to Palestine, recaptured Galilee and finally captured Jerusalem in the summer of 37 BC, thus ending the Hasmonean rule and ensuring his position as king of the Jews. In 31 BC, Herod persuaded Octavius that he was not only loyal to Rome, but the rightful ruler of Judea. Herod rebuilt many fortresses in the land and temples in Gentile territories. He rebuilt Stato's Tower, renamed Caesarea, and in 24 BC he built for himself a royal palace in Jerusalem. According to Josephus, a notable Jewish historian, the most notable achievement of Herod was the building of the temple in Jerusalem, which was begun in 20/19 BC and finished in 63 AD, long after his death in 4 BC. This was known as the Third Temple. Herod acquainted himself with Greek culture and was given more land by Augustus (Octavius). To show appreciation, Herod built a temple for Augustus at Zenodorus. He reduced more taxes for those displeased with his emphasis on Greco-Roman culture. Shortly before Herod's death, magi arrived in Judea looking for the newborn king of the Jews.


Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Ed. McKnight. InterVarsity Press. IL, 1992.

Israel: Past and Present. Macmillan Travel. NY, 1998.

Grant, Michael. Herod the Great. American Heritage Press. New York.

Matthews, Roy T. The Western Humanities. Mayfield Publishing Company. CA, 1998.

The Student Bible. Ed. Yancey. Zondervan Publishing House. MI, 1986.

The photograph is of a model of Herod's Temple at the Holyland Hotel in Jerusalem. The image is from, part of the website Palestine in the Time of Jesus copyright by K. C. Hanson. Used by permission.

Edited by Jennifer Maloney 
Researched by Kim Curry 
Written by Ingrid Olson 
May 8, 1999

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