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Here come the Royals: the house of Herod

Some of the most fascinating personalities in the Bible are members of a royal family or dynasty. The fact that there are 99 named kings and that the word “king” appears 2,256 times throughout its pages attests to the importance of such an imperial designation. References to queens are not so plentiful—that term is mentioned only 54 times, most of which have to do with Queen Esther or Queen Vashti.

The reason for this disparity is because kings governed Israel and Judah almost entirely. Only Athaliah is listed as a ruling queen in Israel, a position she murderously usurped, as we discovered last week when discussing Johosheba.

The genealogy of the kings of Israel and Judah...

The genealogy of the kings of Israel and Judah. Based on a literal interpretation of 1 and 2 Kings. Note: In the kings of Israel, a horizontal arrow can indicate a change of dynasty (lack of known genealogical connection). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keeping it all straight

Sometimes it is difficult to keep the line of kingly succession straight because of a duplication of names, or the use of alternate (aka) names. This presents a challenge when trying to follow the chronologies of the kings of Israel and Judah. For example, in 2 Kings 8:25, Jehoram (Joram), king of Judah, reigns at the same time as Joram (Jehoram) king of Israel. Careful reading and sometimes even charting and note taking are necessary to keep on track.

This also holds true in the New Testament. Seven Herods[1] reigned just before and during the first century. Herod the Great, the patriarch of the Herodian dynasty, is the infamous king responsible for the “slaughter of the innocents” (Matthew 2:16). He died in 4 B.C. Herod Agrippa 2 was the last of his line.

Terms of administration

  • Caesar: title given to a Roman emperor
  • Governor: chiefly refers to officers of the Roman imperial administration (Matthew 10:18; 2 Cor. 11:32)
  • King: one who governed a specific territory under the rule of the Roman Caesar
  • Procurator: In ancient Rome, this was an administrative official with legal or fiscal powers. Examples are Pilate, Felix and Festus.
  • Queen: In the context of the tribes of Israel, a term “queen” might refer to the queen mother—that is, the mother of the king. She potentially had a great deal of influence over the internal affairs of the palace, as in the case of Bathsheba, but not as the acting ruler of a nation. Often the designation is generic, signifying a woman married to a king. Two non-Israelite queens mentioned in the Bible apparently enjoyed administrative powers of position and wealth: the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10), and Candace, the title of the queens of Ethiopia (Acts 8:27-28).
  • Tetrarch: Gospel accounts sometimes reference the name of a specific Herod with the designation of tetrarch: “At the time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus…” (Matthew 14:1). A tetrarch signifies a prince who governs one-fourth of a domain or kingdom (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, topic “Tetrarch”).

Coming attractions

With all this as a backdrop, the next posts will examine the intrigue surrounding the lives of several notorious royals: Drusilla, Bernice, and the ever-intriguing and controversial Salome.

[1] The rest of his dynasty is as follows:

  • Herod Philip 1 (or simply, Philip), son of Herod the Great and his third wife, Mariamne 2, daughter of Simon the high priest (Matthew 14:3)
  • Herod Archelaus, son of Herod the Great and his fourth wife, Malthace, a Samaritan (Matthew 2:22)
  • Herod Antipas, brother of Archelaus. Married Herodias, wife of brother, Herod Philip 1.
  • Herod Philip 2 (also called Philip the Tetrarch), son of Herod the Great through his fifth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem. He married his niece Salome, daughter of his half-brother Herod Philip 1 and Herodias.
  • Herod Agrippa 1, son of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great by Mariamne 1
  • Herod Agrippa 2, son of Agrippa 1

About womenfromthebook

Mine is a life-long interest in the women of the Bible, and I enjoy exploring the world in which they lived, and discovering the challenges that they faced. I have enough curiosity about them to last the rest of my life.

2 responses

  1. Hello Ann.

    We are happy that you are enjoying our blog. Bible women are fascinating, and they always have a story to tell, don’t they? Thanks for stopping by.

  2. An entire week of exlcelent articles, my cup runneth over!Bible history never came together so well.Where do you get the inspiration to craft these stories?I love a web site that doesnt always beg for money.Ann

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