Herod the Great

Concise Bible Dictionary:

He was the son of Antipater an Idumaean, who was a proselyte to Judaism. His father having aided Caesar in his war with Egypt was rewarded by being made procurator of all Judaea, and he made his son Herod, then only fifteen years of age, governor of Galilee. On the death of Julius Caesar the country was in anarchy; but eventually Herod contrived to ingratiate himself with Antony and Octavian, and was appointed KING OF JUDAEA. He began his reign (B.C. 37) with blood: there were a few left of the Asmonaean house, descendants of the Maccabees; these were put to death and their adherents, and the whole of the Sanhedrim except two.
Herod had married Mariamne, daughter of Alexandra, who had a son named Aristobulus, a descendant of the Maccabees. Herod, being afraid of Rome to which Alexandra had appealed, made Aristobulus high priest; but when he witnessed the joy of the people his jealousy was aroused, and he caused the young man to be drowned, while bathing with his comrades, through their pretended rough play. Herod honored his funeral, but none were deceived, and on Alexandra appealing to Cleopatra and Antony, he was summoned to appear. He left orders with his uncle Joseph that if he were put to death, Mariamne was to be killed. Herod succeeded in satisfying Antony; and indeed he had Coele-syria added to his dominions. On his return, his sister Salome poisoned his mind with suspicions of his wife’s infidelity with Joseph, who had unwisely betrayed the orders of Herod. He was however reconciled with his wife, but Joseph was put to death and Alexandra imprisoned.
On Octavian becoming emperor, Herod contrived to secure his favor. Herod’s domestic life was however greatly embittered by his renewed suspicions against his wife (who had again discovered that during his absence orders had been given to put her to death if he lost his life). He seemed to think her guilty and she was sacrificed to his jealousy; but as soon as his beautiful wife was slain he was filled with the deepest remorse. Her mother also was put to death. [For Herod’s other wives, see HEROD, FAMILY OF.]
Though Herod was nominally attached to Judaism he tried to introduce into Jerusalem Grecian and Roman games. These things were great eye-sores to the strict Jews, but a great many were won over to these follies.
The year B.C. 25 was one of famine in Judaea, and Herod sacrificed his gold and silver plate to purchase corn from Egypt to feed the people, and he gave them seed for the next year, by which he gained popularity.
Herod also ingratiated himself with the Jews by his costly enterprise of rebuilding the temple. To allay their suspicions, he procured the material before he demolished any part. The new edifice was a stately one of white marble.
New fears destroyed the peace of Herod. On the return of his two sons by Mariamne, now grown to manhood, they were hailed with enthusiasm by the people. He feared they would avenge their mother’s death, therefore after trivial charges they were both strangled. This was followed by Antipater, another son, being put to death, who was proved to be guilty of plotting to have his father poisoned.
Herod’s body was greatly diseased: the increasing torments had even caused him to attempt suicide. He ordered that the heads of the chief families in Judaea should be shut up in the Hippodrome at Jericho, to be put to death as soon as he expired, that there might be mourning at his death! This cruel order was not carried out.
His anxieties were heightened by the visit of the Magi to Jerusalem, inquiring for the child who had been born KING OF THE JEWS. Herod cunningly sought to find out what child was to have this honor, that he might at once cut him off. Being thwarted by the Magi he ordered the massacre of all the infants in the district; but God had sent away His Son from his power (Matt. 2:1-22). Herod died B.C. 4. This was the first earthly “power” that had anything to do with the Lord Jesus. We know from Revelation 12:1-5 that Satan was really the actor through Herod; but he was defeated then and will be again and again until his final doom.