Sects During Biblical Times — Herodians (Ib)

Sects During Biblical Times — Herodians

Draft Ib

Image result for herod picsWho were the Herodians?

The Herodians were a priestly party under the reign of King Herod and his successors; closely allied to other elites, the Sadducees and the Boethusians. In religion and ideology they followed the Sadducees in their opposition to the Pharisees, and were therefore often identified with the former. According to the Gospels, their plot against the life of Jesus was supported by the Pharisees; wherefore Jesus warned his disciples, saying “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15; Matt.16:6 has “Pharisees” and “Sadducees”). This shows that the Herodians represented a religious sect. In Luke 20:19 the scribes and chief priests are mentioned in place of the Pharisees and the Herodians (Mark 12:13; Matt. 22:15-16).

So who were the Herodians, how had they became such a powerful force and what were their beliefs?

The Herodians began during the time of the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus (134–104 BC) when John conquered Edom (Idumea) in the south of Judea and forced the Edomites to convert to Judaism. These proselytes quickly integrated themselves into the Judean society, some of them reached high-ranking positions, and in a reverse power struggle with Roman support, ruled over their conqueror Judea, bringing down the century long Hasmonean Kingdom of the Maccabees to an end. Thus began the Herodian dynasty with Herod the Great assuming the throne of Judea as King of Judea under Rome.

When Herod inaugurated his reign, it was with acts of vengeance and cruelty. Forty-five of the most wealthy and most prominent of (Hellenised Hasmonean) Antigonus’ partizans were executed, and their estates confiscated in order to fill the empty treasury. Herod’s agents showed themselves so greedy as to shake the dead bodies in order that any gold hidden in their shrouds might be disclosed. All the members of the Sanhedrin, with the exception of Pollio (Abṭalion) and Shemaiah, were slain. Of the members of the Hasmonean family with whom Herod had to contend, his bitterest enemy was his mother-in-law, Alexandra. (Earlier Herod had married Mariamne, Alexandra’s daughter for some political alliance)

A primary requirement of the High Priesthood in Jerusalem is to have a proven bloodline from Aaron and his sons, but a corrupt Herod the Great (74/73 BC – 4 AD) had manipulated it for his own political gains. During his reign, he displaced existing high priest and replaced them at his frenzy.

Says the Jewish Encyclopedia:

As the aged Hyrcanus (the Hasmonean leader and high priest), who had now returned from his Parthian exile, he could not reenter the high-priesthood, owing to the physical mutilation which had been inflicted upon him by Antigonus, Herod chose another high priest an unknown and insignificant Babylonian Jew of the sacerdotal family, named Hananeel. This selection offended Alexandra, who considered her young son Aristobulus, brother of Mariamne (Herod’s second wife), was entitled to this office. She complained to Cleopatra; and Herod, fearing that the latter might exert her influence upon Antony, deposed Hananeel and gave the office to Aristobulus, his brother-in-law, who was then sixteen years old (35 BC). When the young high priest appeared before the public at the Feast of Tabernacles, arrayed in the gorgeous robes of his office, great enthusiasm prevailed, and a demonstration was made in his favor. Herod, who saw in him a possible rival, took umbrage, and determined to get rid of him. At the close of the feast he went with the priest to Jericho, where Alexandra had invited them to an entertainment. After the meal, while Aristobulus was refreshing himself with others in the bath, he was pushed under water, as if in sport, by some of the bathers who had been bribed by Herod, and held down until he was drowned. Herod feigned the most profound grief; but no one was deceived by his tears, and least of all Alexandra. She again invoked the help of Cleopatra, and Herod was summoned to Laodicea (34 BC) to justify himself before Antony. He did not, however, go empty-handed, and as a result was dismissed with honors.(Herod the Great).

See the source imageThe quote above said much of Herod’s life. He was ruthless, deceitful and cunning. Herod died in Jericho, after an excruciatingly painful, putrefying illness of uncertain cause, known to posterity as “Herod’s Evil”. Josephus states that the pain of his illness led Herod to attempt suicide by stabbing, but the attempt was thwarted by his cousin. In some later narratives and depictions, the attempt succeeds. Scholars agree Herod suffered throughout his lifetime from depression and paranoia. Josephus stated that Herod was so concerned that no one would mourn his death, that he commanded a large group of distinguished men to come to Jericho, and he gave an order that they should be killed at the time of his death so that the displays of grief that he craved would take place; but his son Archelaus (from his fourth wife, a Samaritan) and his sister Salome did not carry out his wish.

Herod’s kingdom lasted until his death in 4 BC, when it was divided between his sons as a Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years. Most of those tetrarchs, including Judea proper, were incorporated into Judaea Province from 6 AD, though limited Herodian de facto kingship continued until Agrippa I’s death in 44 AD and nominal title of kingship continued until 92 AD, when the last Herodian monarch, Agrippa II, died and Rome assumed full direct control.

In the days of Alexander Jannaeus (son of John Hyrcanus, the second Hasmonean King from 103 to 76 BC), Edomite Antipas, was appointed governor of Edom. His son Antipater, father of Herod the Great, was the chief adviser to Hasmonean Hyrcanus II and managed to establish a good relationship with Rome, who at that time (63 BC) extended their influence over the region, following the conquest of Syria and Judea.

Julius Caesar appointed Antipater to be procurator of Judea in 47 BC and he appointed his sons Phasael and Herod to be governors of Jerusalem and Galilee respectively. When Antipater was murdered in 43 BC, and Phasael forced to commit suicide by the Parthians, Herod managed to escape to Rome. Says the Jewish Encyclopedia about a Edom proselyte who would one day be called Herod the Great:

It is said that when he was a boy of twelve an Essene named Menahem predicted that he would reign over Judea. Indeed, nature had endowed him with the qualities of ascendency. He was of commanding presence; he excelled in physical exercises; he was a skilful diplomat; and, above all, he was prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition.

After convincing the Roman Senate of his sincere intentions Herod was eventually announced as king of the Jews over the whole of Judea by the Roman Senate, crushing any opposition while also initiating huge splendid building projects were commenced and new cities were built, including the harbor at Caesarea Maritima, Masada and the Herodium, among other fortresses and public works. The young king was raised as a proselyte and in trying to win the hearts and minds of the Jewsih community, the Temple in Jerusalem was expanded and was “totally overhauled into the large and magnificent edifices and facades” and became known as Herod’s Temple that took him forty-six years (John 2:20). Its beauty was proverbial. “He who has not seen Herod’s building has never seen anything beautiful.”

What were their beliefs?

The Herodians were a sect of Hellenistic proselytes mentioned in the New Testament on three occasions — being hostile to Jesus (Mark 3:6, 12:13; Matthew 22:16; cf. also Mark 8:15, Luke 13:31-32, Acts 4:27). In each of these cases their names were coupled with that of the Pharisees.

See the source imageMatthew 22:16 And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Master, we know that thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth; neither carest thou for any man, for thou regardest not the person of men.

Mark 3:6 And the Pharisees went forth and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Mark 12:13 And they sent unto Him certain of the Pharisees and the Herodians to catch Him in His words.

After Herod the Great died in 4 BC, his kingdom was divided among his three sons, thus establishing the Herodian Dynasty. As regards to their beliefs, they were allied with the elites. Here says Wikipedia:

“As some believe Herod’s family were converts to Judaism, his religious commitment was questioned by some elements of Jewish society. When John Hyrcanus conquered the region of Idumaea (Edom) in 140–130 BC, he required all Idumaeans to obey Jewish law or to leave; most Idumaeans thus converted to Judaism, which meant that they had to be circumcised, and many had intermarried with the Jews and adopted their customs.

While Herod publicly identified himself as a Jew and was considered as such by some, this religious identification was undermined by the decadent lifestyle of the Herodians, which would have earned them the antipathy of observant Jews” (Herod the Great).

At first the Herodian dynasty was ruled as a tetrarchy — a government of four people — “each is the equivalent of a kingdom, and also part of one”. This means the Judaean tetrarchy was divided into four independent and distinct states, where each tetrarch ruled a quarter of a kingdom as they saw fit:

See the source image(1) Herod Archelaus, son of Herod and Malthace the Samaritan, was given the main part of the kingdom: Judea proper, Edom and Samaria. He ruled for ten years until 6 AD, when he was “banished to Vienne in Gaul, where he lived for the remainder of his days.”

(2) Philip the Tetrarch, son of Herod and his fifth wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem, was given jurisdiction over the northeast part of his father’s kingdom; he ruled there until his death in 34 AD.

(3) Herod Antipas, another son of Herod and Malthace, was made ruler of Galilee and Perea; he was referenced in the Gospels, playing a role in the death of John the Baptist and the trial of Jesus. Luke states that Jesus was first brought before Pontius Pilate for trial, since Pilate was the governor of Judea, which encompassed Jerusalem where Jesus was arrested. Pilate initially handed him over to Antipas, in whose territory Jesus had been most active, but Antipas sent him back to Pilate.

(4a) Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod; thanks to his friendship with Emperor Caligula, the emperor appointed him ruler with the title of king over the territories of Herod Philip I in 37 AD, which were after Herod Philip’s death in 34 AD shortly part of the Roman province of Syria, and in 39 AD he was given the territories of Herod Antipas. In 41 AD, Emperor Claudius added to his territory the parts of Iudaea province, that previously belonged to Herod Archelaus. Thus Agrippa I practically re-united his grandfather’s kingdom under his rule. Agrippa died in 44 AD.

(4b) Agrippa I’s son Agrippa II was appointed King and ruler of the northern parts of his father’s kingdom. He actively participated in the quelling of the Great Revolt of Judea on the Roman side. Agrippa II was the last of the Herodians, and with his death in 92 AD the dynasty became extinct, and the kingdom became fully incorporated into the Roman province of Judaea.

The Herodians were a reign preceded by the Hasmoneans (142 – 40 BC)

Who were the Hasmoneans?

See the source imageThe family name of the Hasmonean dynasty originates with the ancestor of the house, Simon Thassi “the Wise” who was said to have been the grandfather of Mattathias. The high-priestly and princely dignity of the Hasmoneans was founded by a resolution, adopted in 141 BC, at a large assembly “of the priests and the people and of the elders of the land, to the effect that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet” (I Macc. xiv. 41).

Recognition of the new dynasty by the Romans was accorded two years later by the Senate in 139 BC, when the delegation of Simon went to Rome, paying homage. Therefore, one can speak of a Hasmonean dynasty only as beginning with Simon. He became the first prince of the Hasmonean Dynasty, reigning from 142 to 135 BC.

When Jonathan the Maccabee fell into the power of Tryphon, Simon, his brother, assumed the leadership (142), and after the murder of Jonathan took the latter’s place, Simon, who had made the Jewish people entirely independent of the Syrians. In 135, he was assassinated at the instigation of his son-in-law Ptolemy, son of Abubus.

Simon was succeeded by his third son, John Hyrcanus, whose two elder brothers, Mattathias and Judah, had been murdered. John Hyrcanus ruled from 135 to 104. According to his directions, the government of the country after his death was to be placed in the hands of his wife (name not given); and Aristobulus, the eldest of his five sons, was to receive only the high-priesthood. Aristobulus, who was not satisfied with this, cast his mother into prison and allowed her to starve there. By this means he came into the possession of the throne, which, however, he did not long enjoy, as after a year’s reign he died of a painful illness (103).

Image result for Hyrcanus IIAristobulus’ successor was his eldest brother, Alexander Jannæus, who, together with his two brothers, was freed from prison by the widow of Aristobulus (Alexandra). Alexander married his deceased brother’s wife, (renamed Alexandra) and reigned from 103 to 76, and died during the siege of the fortress Ragaba.

Alexander’s reign was followed by his wife Alexandra, who reigned from 76 to 67.

Against Alexandra’s wishes, during her illness her son Aristobulus II rebelled and succeeded against her (67-63). He rose in order to prevent the succession of her elder son, Hyrcanus.

During the reign of Alexandra, Hyrcanus had held the office of high priest, and the rivalry between him and Aristobulus II brought about a civil war, which ended with the forfeiture of the freedom of the Jewish people. Palestine had to pay tribute to Rome and was placed under the supervision of the Roman governor of Syria. From 63 to 40 the government was in the hands of Hyrcanus II.

After the capture of Hyrcanus II by the Parthians, Antigonus, a son of Aristobulus II, became king (40-37). His Hebrew name was Mattathias, and he bore the double title of king and high priest.

After the victory of Herod over Antigonus and the execution in Antioch of the latter by order of Antony, Herod the Great (37-4) became king of the Jews, and the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty was ended.

Salome Alexandra, wife of Aristobulus I, then Alexander Janneous; mother of Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II.

Of importance during the Hasmonian dynasty was a short reign by Salome Alexandra, known as Alexandra of Jerusalem (141–67 BC). She was the wife of Aristobulus I, and afterward of Alexander Jannaeus. She was the last queen of Judea, and the last ruler of ancient Judea to die as the ruler of an independent kingdom from 76 to 67 BC.

See the source imageAccording to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Salome Alexandra was instrumental in arranging the assassination of her brother-in-law, Antigonus, by convincing her husband that his brother was plotting against him. Upon the death of Aristobulus in 103 BC, Alexandra freed his half-brother, Alexander Jannaeus, who had been held in prison.

During the reign of Alexander, he married her shortly after his accession,and Alexandra seemed to wield political influence, as evidenced by the hostile attitude of the king toward the Pharisees.

The frequent visits to the palace of the chief of the Pharisaic party, Simeon ben Shetach, who was said to be the queen’s brother, must have occurred in the early years of Alexander’s reign, before Alexander had openly broken with the Pharisees. Alexandra does not seem to have been able to prevent the persecution of that sect by her husband.

According to archaeologist Kenneth Atkinson, “There are also some passages in the Talmud that say, during her husband’s reign, that she protected Pharisees and hid Pharisees from his wrath.” Nevertheless, the married life of the royal pair seems to have ended cordially; on his deathbed Alexander entrusted the government, not to his sons, but to his wife, with the advice to make peace with the Pharisees.

See the source imageSalome Alexandra’s next concern was to open negotiations with the leaders of the Pharisees, whose places of concealment she knew. In doing so, she received the reins of government around 76 BC at Jannaeus’ camp before Ragaba, and concealed the king’s death until the fortress had fallen, in order that the rigour of the siege might be maintained. She succeeded for a time in quieting the vexatious internal dissensions of the kingdom that existed at the time of Alexander’s death; and she did this peacefully and without detriment to the political relations of the Jewish state to the outside world. Alexandra managed to secure assent to a Hasmonean monarchy from the Pharisees, who had suffered under Alexander.

The Pharisees now became not only a tolerated section of the community, but actually regained their ruling status. Salome Alexandra installed her eldest son, Hyrcanus II as high priest, a man who was wholly supportive of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin was reorganized according to their wishes and became a supreme court for the administration of justice and religious matters, the guidance of which was placed in the hands of the Pharisees.


~ by Joel Huan on September 4, 2019.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: