The Herodian Dynasty
Those who would read the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles invariably must struggle with sorting through the various Jewish kings and Tetrarchs of the Christian Era's first century. In order to make that task simpler and easier, here is an overview of the Herodian Dynasty with a helpful chart at the end.
Antipater the Idumaean
Despite their status as the last ruling line of Jewish kings, the story of the Herodian ascension does not begin with a Jew, but rather with a man called Antipater (Antipas) the Idumaean. Antipas' father was governor of Idumaea and well contacted with Jewish religious leaders and rulers of the weakening Hasmonean line (the ruling family in Palestine, at this time under Roman rule) Antipater was appointed procurator (governor) over Judea in B.C. 47, largely usupring the power of the last Hasmonean king, and was able to further appoint his son Phasael as governor over Jerusalem and his son Herod over Galilee. In the year 43B.C., Antipater was assassinated, and his sons were appointed to the position of tetrarchs ("ruler of a fourth portion", or else, "ruler of four cities").
For more information on the Hasmonean line and the years preceding the Herodian dynasty
- Between Two Testaments: the background of first cent...
This article presents a concise history of the intertestamental period between the last prophets and chroniclers of Israel (5th cent B.C.) and the days of Jesus’ ministry (1st cent A.D.)
Herod I (The Great)
Herod I was appointed Tetarch in 42B.C., but was driven out of Judea when the region was invaded by Parthians in the year 40. The Invasion, partially orchestrated by the deposed Hasmoneans, resulted in the death of his fellow tetrarchs, but Herod, with the aid of the Roman Army drove the Parthians out and became sole king of Judea.
Herod was a cunning man and worked hard to secure the loyalty of his subjects, including restoring the Temple in Jerusalem, but toward the end of his reign he began to grow increasingly erratic and bloodthirsty. This was the Herod known to the Bible at Jesus' birth, the man who ordered the murder of every child in Bethlehem.
It is important to note Herod's reaction when he heard tell of this child (Jesus) being called the "King of the Jews". Herod, who had no true claim to the throne, his father being an Idumaean, was already worried about any possible plot to dethrone him. Add to this his deteriorating mental state, and his decision to act with merciless cruelty was inevitable.
Herod died in 4B.C. and his kingdom was divided among his three sons, Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Phillip.
Archelaus was the principle heir of his father (and is referenced in Matthew 2:22) He reigned from 4B.C.-6A.D. when he was deposed by the Roman Emperor and exiled to Vienne, Gaul.
Herod Antipas, (called by either name) reigned over the region of Galilee throughout the ministry of Jesus Christ from 4B.C.-37A.D.. It was this Herod who Jesus called "That Fox," the man who executed John the Baptist, and who Jesus stood before after Judas Iscariot had betrayed him. In 37A.D., he too was deposed by the Emperor and exiled to Gaul.
Philip was appointed tetrarch over the northeastern quarter of Judea and was succeeded by his nephew, Herod Agrippa I, in A.D.37.
Herod Agrippa I
Herod Agrippa was the son of Aristobulus IV who was killed by his own father, Herod the Great. Herod Agrippa was appointed to succeed his uncle Philip in 37 A.D., and became king of Judea from 41-44A.D.
Herod Agrippa I was a zealous defender of Jewish interests, and to this aim he persecuted Christians mercilessly. It was under his rule that the Apostle Peter was imprisoned and James the son of Zebedee was killed, (this is the Herod of Acts chapter 13). In A.D. 44, Herod Agrippa hosted spectacular games in Caesarea where, according to Acts and the Jewish historian Josephus, he suddenly was struck ill and died. As his son was too young to take the throne, most of the region returned to the control of a Roman Procurator.
When he came of age, Herod Agrippa II was appointed king over Chalsis (southern lebanon) in 50A.D. and was made Tetrarch over a part of Syria in A.D.53. During his reign, Herod Agrippa II aided in defeated the First Jewish Revolt. He ruled until 93A.D. when all of Palestine was returned to the authority of a Roman governor.