Jews 1st Century Political Situation


All through the first century Herodian dynasty ruled the Jewish territory. The name Herod was mentioned in bible multiple times and all the kings in Herodian dynasty are referred as Herod in Bible. To have detailed understanding of the 1st century, lets go through each of the Herodian ruler and associate them to bibilical context.

Herod the Great (74 BC – 4BC):

Herod came to power by conquering Hasmonians and declared as the king of Judea by the Roman senate. For the first time Pompey captured Jerusalem in BC 63, Judea got its first king. Herod ruled during the birth of Jesus and it was Herod the great, who met the wise men while searching for Jesus, which resulted in mass killing of children under the age of two in Bethlehem.

Can a king do such a thing? Herod the great removed anything that threatened his kingdom's authority. That includes three of his own sons and wives. He had very good support from Augustus Caesar ( BC 63 - AD 14). In order to get support from Jews and increase the splendor of his kingdom, Herod built the temple in a grand manner. The temple of Herod was destroyed in AD 70 in the war against Romans.

He died of Fournier gangrene and died a painful death. He also attempted to commit suicide to escape from pain.

Herod the Antipas (20 BC – 39 AD):

Herod the great split his kingdom between his three sons, Herod Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. Augustus took the final decision and aligned his decision according to Herod the Great's will.

Herod the Antipas was also known as Herod the tetrarch. He did not get the position of King, since he fell out of trust with Augustus. During his visit to Rome he met Herodias (Wife of Herod II) and married her. Herodias was daughter of Aristobulus (son of Herod the Great), who was killed by Herod. After the death of Aristobulus, Herod the great gave Herodias to Herod II.

John the Baptist opposed this act and Herodias plotted and killed John the Baptist (Mat 14:6-11). When Jesus Christ was arrested, Pilate handed Him over to Antipas, since the complaints against Jesus Christ was more related to religious matter and he could not find any fault in Jesus. But Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:7-15), when he did not answer any questions.

Antipas governed Galilee and Perea for 42 years. His friction with Agrippa 1 (Son of Aristobulus and brother of Herodias) caused his downfall and resulted in exile, where he died.

Herod Agrippa (11 BC – 44 AD):

Agrippa was brought up in Rome and educated along with Drusus, son of Tiberius (King of Roman empire after Augustus). He was a close friend of Caligula. Agrippa

After Caligula’s death Agrippa supported Claudius and when Claudius became the king of Rome, he helped Agrippa to became the king of Judea and Samaria.  Agrippa had the power to give capital punishment unlike Antipas. Agrippa passionately followed Judaism and persecuted early Christian church. He was involved in the killing of James and the when he found it made Jews happy, Peter was also arrested (Acts 12:1-6). Agrippa died in AD 44 after being king for only three 3 years. His death brought peach back to 1st century Christians .

Herod Agrippa II ( 27 AD to 92 AD)

Herod Agrippa II was only 17 years when his father Agrippa - I died. He was educated in Rome under emperor Claudius. He enjoyed support of both Claudius and Nero. During the conflict between Jews and Romans ( AD 66 onwards), Agrippa II supported Romans to show his devotion to Rome. Agrippa appeared along with his sister Berenice to hear the case of Paul in Caesaria. With the death of Agrippa II around AD 93 the Herodian dynasty came to an end as he did not have any heir.


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