Herod- Friend to Israel
Herod did more for Israel and the Jewish people then any other Gentile in history. I could only wish he was here instead of Arafat. Note this….Herod didn’t try to kill the baby Jesus. We'll look into that later!
There were many Herods but we're going to focus only on Herod the Great. Now I think you'll find that Herod was not the man you thought he was. He's usually depicted as the insane dictator! One who didn't care in the least about the Jewish people but one who was rather a power monger who only tried to advance his own interests in the political realm of the time. Well, what I'm going to show is a very different man from who I just described. I'm going to show the rational, highly intelligent, compassionate and often selfless Herod and who, thanks to him, the Jews of the second temple period had benefited greatly from. Doesn't sound like the Herod you’ve heard of I’m sure. Well what happens is that people remember him for only the last few years of his life when he was facing senility... and we will address that time of his life later in this teaching. But let's start from the beginning. First of all most people don't realize that The King of the Jews, Herod the Great, was not a Jew at all. He was an Arab... A Nabatean and Edomite from Idumea to be exact. Didn't have even a trace of Jewish blood in his lineage. He married into Jewish blood but he himself was never a son of Avraham, Itsak, and Yacove (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). Herod (son of Antipater) didn't start out at the top politically either. His dad did have some power, but Herod had to work his way up. He knew the value of proper connections and understood the importance of timing. He knew when to be charming (which he was a master of) and He knew when to put his foot down. Granted there were times when he was threatened that people saw his wrath, but those times were far and few between. Herod was extraordinarily forgiving. There were times when his own wife and children had conspired to assassinate him. Even though Herod had the right in Roman as well as with Jewish law to have them executed he had allowed them to live. That was unheard of back then. Other rulers of the day, the Caesars for example, would've killed them immediately without a second thought and what was thought and done in Rome was of great importance to Herod. Herod had always looked up to and respected the Roman ideals and way of life and every chance he got he'd try to make Israel, into a sense, he'd try to make it into a little Rome. He even built hippodromes and amphitheaters for Roman games. The Pharisees weren't happy with that of course because the games were played in the nude and they refused to allow anything of that sort within the city walls. But Herod found a clever way of getting around that. He built the theater outside of the city walls of Jerusalem down the valley a ways so it wouldn't be obtrusive or as offensive. Herod always had a gift for being able to find that line where the Jews wouldn't go into revolt and where he could yet find the approval of Rome. Not an easy thing to do. There were not 2 worlds father apart then that of Israel and Rome. The Romans were baffled concerning the Jews and how they could worship 1 God. It seemed primitive, rather ignorant to them. Herod never truly understood Judaism himself. He was a Jew by religion, his father had converted not by force, as most Idumeans had at that time. His father converted mostly in order to receive favor in the eyes of the Jewish authorities. It was Herod's father who was Edomite... the Edomites were Arabs and they were also the oldest surviving enemies of the Jews. So Herod hadn't started out with the best idea of the Jewish people. Herod's Father didn't think highly of the Jews, his dad's favor was towards the Nabateans. Antipater's wife was a Nabatean princess and Antipater always thought the Jewish nation would fade out. He thought the Nabateans were going to be the society to advance. But he didn't want the Jews to be against him either so he named all of his children with Jewish names. All except for Herod. Herod is a Greek name which means Heroic. It's an interesting fact almost prophetic that the one with the least Jewish name would turn out to be the least Jewish of the family and the most Hellenic.
To understand who Herod was and how he got to his place of power we have to back up in time to the story of Chanukah and the Hasmonean Family. The Hasmoneans were also known as the Maccabees. You probably have heard of them before if you are Jewish or have some Messianic background. It was a man named Mattathias who started a revolt against the ruling Seleucids. He and his son Judas (called the Hammer… or Maccabee) led Israel into victory. Years later Mattathias had a grandson whose name was Hyrcanus and it was Hyrcanus who conquered Idumea and forced the Edomites (Idumeans) to become Jews. If this had not happened, it wouldn’t have been possible for an Edomite like Herod to become King. Hyrcanus also had 2 sons, Aristobulus and Alexander. Aristobulus was the husband of good Queen Alexandra. She was the only Israelite Queen in Jewish history and the last Hasmonean to rule as a monarch. The reign of Aristobulus was strong and he subdued all of Galilee and forced all it’s inhabitants into Judaism. He decreed that any child born of Galilean parents would be a Jew… that included Yeshua of Nazareth. Though he ruled with an iron fist, it wouldn’t last long. He died a year later. Aristobulus’ younger brother then married the Queen, as was the Biblical custom. He too was fierce and went to an early grave in 76BC due to heavy drink. He was also the High Priest of the Temple of Israel. Before he died, he and Alexandra had two sons, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus (getting confusing yet?). Hyrcanus (the second) then became High Priest, as he was the older of the two when his father died. Hyrcanus wasn’t a strong ruler as his father was and he didn’t have a lot of backbone but he hired somebody who did. The man was a friend of his grandfathers who his grandfather had placed as governor over some of his provinces. The man was an Edomite from Idumea whose name was Antipater, the man who was to father Herod the Great. Antipater was a wealthy man. Josephus says of him, “An Idumean by race, his ancestry, wealth and other advantages put him in the front rank of his nation”. He also says of Antipater that he was “a man of action”. His mother was no less an impressive woman. She was a Nabatean of one of the leading families of Petra. The Nabateans were thought to be the race of the future as their power was growing rapidly. Her name was Kufra. In the Song of Solomon it is translated as camphire, a noble flower. So Herod came from an affluent family who knew politics, was well cultured and educated. Though both parents were Arabs, they had converted to Judaism. Not because of their faith but because that was the thing to do if you wanted to move up in politics in that region. As I mentioned they even named their children with Hebrew names… except for Herod that is. There were 4 boys, Phasael, Herod, Joseph, and Pheroras and one 1 girl whose name was Salome.
Part 3 soon to come.