Herod, dynasty reigning in Palestine at the time of Jesus. As a dynasty the Herods depended largely on the power of Rome. They are usually blamed for the state of virtual anarchy in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era.
Antipater (fl. c.65 BC) was founder of the family fortune. He was an Idumaean and gave refuge to Hyrcanus II (see Maccabees), thus gaining a stronghold in Palestine. His son Antipater (d. 43 BC) was favored by Julius Caesar, who made him (c.55 BC) virtual ruler of all of Palestine.
The son of the second Antipater was Herod the Great (d. 4 BC), who gave the family its name. He was friendly with Antony, who secured him (37–4 BC) the title of king of Judaea; after the battle of Actium he made peace with Octavian (later Augustus), who thereafter showed him great favor. He made great efforts to mollify the Jews by publicly observing the Law, by building a temple, and by reestablishing the Sanhedrin. He promoted Hellenization and adorned most of his cities, especially Jerusalem.
Herod married ten times, and the various families in the palace intrigued against each other continually. In his last years Herod was subject to some sort of insanity, and he became bloodthirsty. He executed (6 BC) Aristobulus and Alexander, his sons by Mariamne, granddaughter of Hyrcanus II. He executed (4 BC) Antipater, son of his first wife, when he found out that Antipater had instigated the intrigues that led to the execution of Aristobulus and Alexander. This was the Herod who was ruling at the time of Jesus' birth and who ordered the massacre of the Innocents (Mat. 2; see Holy Innocents).
Herod the Great divided his kingdom among his sons Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip. Archelaus (d. after AD 6) ruled Palestine south of the Vale of Jezreel from 4 BC to AD 6; he was removed by Augustus after complaints by the Jews. Herod Antipas (d. after AD 39), tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, was the Herod who executed John the Baptist and who was ruling at the time of Jesus' death.
Herod Antipas repudiated his wife, daughter of Aretas, to marry his niece Herodias, wife of his half-brother Herod Philip, whom she divorced to marry Herod Antipas. This affair gained Herod Antipas many enemies, and the vaulting ambitions of Herodias eventually ruined him. She drove him to seek a royal title, and he was banished by Caligula in AD 39. Philip (d. AD 34) was tetrarch of the region east of Galilee; his kingdom was non-Jewish, and he pursued a successful Romanizing and Hellenizing policy. He was probably the best of his family; his wife was Salome1. He built Caesarea Philippi.
The eldest son of the executed Aristobulus, Herod Agrippa I (d. AD 44), was a man of some ability. Out of friendship Caligula made him king (AD 39) of Philip's tetrarchy; later he was made (AD 41) ruler of S Syria and of Palestine east and west of the Jordan. Herod Agrippa I was strongly pro-Jewish, and he built extensively at Berytus (modern Beirut). His son, Herod Agrippa II (d. c.100), received only the northern part of his father's kingdom, and that not until c.52. He was a poor ruler and alienated his subjects. His sister was Berenice (d. c.AD 28). After the fall of Jerusalem he went to Rome. He was the last important member of his family.
The prime source of information about the dynasty is the historical writing of Josephus. See also modern studies by A. H. Jones (1938, repr. 1967), S. Sandmel (1967), M. Grant (1971), and H. W. Hoehner (1972).