King of the Jews A blessing or a Curse Herod (73BC - 4AD) was the pro-Roman king of the small

Jewish state in the last decades before the Common Era. He started his career as a general, but the Roman statesman Mark Antony recognized him as the Jewish national leader. During a war against the Parthians, Herod was removed from the scene, but the Roman Senate made him king and gave him soldiers to seize the the throne. As 'friend and ally of the Romans' he was not a truly independent king; however, Rome allowed him a domestic policy of his own. Although Herod tried to respect the pious feeling of his subjects, many of them were not content with his rule, which ended in terror. He was succeeded by his sons. Herod concluded ten marriages, all for political purposes. They were probably all unhappy. His wives were: Doris, from an unknown family in Jerusalem: married c.47, sent away 37; recalled 14, sent away 7/6. She was the mother of Antipater, who was executed in 4. The Hasmonaean princess Mariamme I: married 37, executed in 29/28. According to Flavius Josephus, Herod was passionately devoted to this woman, but she hated him just as passionately. Nonetheless, she bore him five children: Alexander, Aristobulus, a nameless son, Salampsio and Cyprus. An unknown niece: married 37. No children. An unknown cousin: married c.34/33. No children. The daughter of a Jerusalem priest named Simon, Mariamme II: married 29/28, divorced 7/6. They had a son named Herod. A Samarian woman named Malthace: married 28, died 54. Their children were Antipas, Archelaus and Olympias. A Jerusalem woman named Cleopatra: married 28. They had two sons named, Herod and Philip. Pallas: married 16. They had a son named Phasael. Phaedra: married 16. They had a daughter named Roxane. Elpis: married 16. They had a daughter named Salome On moments like that, it was clear to anyone that Herod was not a Jewish but a Roman king. He had become the ruler of the Jews with Roman help and he boasted to be philokaisar ('the emperor's friend'). On top of the gate of the new Temple, a golden eagle was erected, a symbol of Roman power in the heart of the holy city resented by all pious believers. Worse, Augustus ordered and paid the priests of the Temple to sacrifice twice a day on behalf of himself, the Roman senate and people. The Jewish populace started to believe rumors that their pagan ruler had violated Jewish tombs, stealing golden objects from the tomb of David and Salomo. Herod's position was still insecure. He continued his building policy to win the hearts of his subjects. (A severe earthquake in 31 BCE had destroyed many houses, killing thousands of people.) In Jerusalem, the king built a new market, an amphitheater, a theater, a new building where the Sanhedrin could convene, a new royal palace, and last but not least, in 20 BCE he started to rebuild the Temple. And there were other cities where he ordered new buildings to be

placed: Jericho and Samaria are examples. New fortresses served the security of both the Jews and their king: Herodion, Machaereus and Masada are among them. But Herod's crowning achievement was a splendid new port, called Caesarea in honor of the emperor (the harbor was called Sebastos, the Greek translation of 'Augustus'). This magnificent and rich city, which was dedicated in 9 BCE, was build to rival Alexandria in the land trade to Arabia, from where spices, perfume and incense were imported. It was not an oriental town like Jerusalem; it was laid out on a Greek grid plan, with a market, an aqueduct, government offices, baths, villas, a circus, and pagan temples. The port was a masterpiece of engineering: its piers were made from hydraulic concrete (which hardens underwater) and protected by unique wave-breaking structures. Although Herod was a dependent client-king, he had a foreign policy of his own. He had already defeated the Arabs from Petra in 31, and repeated this in 9 BCE. The Romans did not like this independent behavior, but on the whole, they seem to have been very content with their king of Judaea. After all, he sent auxiliaries when they decided to send an army to the mysterious incense country (modern Yemen; 25 BCE). In 23, Iturea and the Golan heights were added to Herod's realms, and in 20 several other districts. With building projects, the expansion of his territories, the establishment of a sound bureaucracy, and the development of economic resources, he did much for his country, at least on a material level. The standing of his country -foreign and at home- was certainly enhanced. However, many of his projects won him the bitter hatred of the orthodox Jews, who disliked Herod's Greek taste a taste he showed not only in his building projects, but also in several transgressions of the Mosaic Law. The orthodox were not to only ones who came to hate the new king. The Sadducees hated him because he had terminated the rule of the old royal house to which many of them were related; their own influence in the Sanhedrin was curtailed. The Pharisees despised any ruler who despised the Law. And probably all his subjects resented his excessive taxation. According to Flavius Josephus, there were two taxes in kind at annual rates equivalent to 10.7% and 8.6%, which is extremely high in any preindustrial society (Jewish Antiquities 14.202-206). It comes as no surprise that Herod sometimes had to revert to violence, employing mercenaries and a secret police to enforce order. Herod's monarchy was based on foreign weapons; the start of his reign had been marked by bloodshed. His first aim was to establish his rule on a more solid base. Almost immediately, he sent envoys to the Parthian king to get Hyrcanus back from Babylon. The Parthian king was happy to let the old man go, because he was becoming dangerously popular among the Jews living in Babylonia. Although Hyrcanus was unfit to become high priest again, Herod kept his father-in-law in high esteem. The support of the old monarch gave an appearance of legality to his own rule. 10 times married; pal of Marc Anthony's and other celebs; vindictive father who offend three of his children; paranoid king who ordered 14,000 baby Jewish boys killed in a failed attempt to destroy the infant Jesus.

. Herod, who died over 2,000 years ago, suffered from a bizarre and particularly repugnant array of afflictions that included a decaying stomach, putrid breath, chronic diarrhea and gangrene of the genitals. Hirschmann pored over dozens of historical accounts that described Herod's illness, as well as dozens of medical journals, before coming up with his diagnosis. Herod's death was attributed to some combination of arteriosclerosis, gonorrhea, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension and/or diabetes. He was 69 years old at the time of his death.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.