Bible Study - Matthew Chapter 1 : Lesson 2
- V 2: "Where is the newborn king of the Jews "
"saying: Where is the king of the Jews that is born ? For we have
seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him"
The Jews believed that a King from David's tribe would rise and
liberate them from the slavery. They were looking forward to it.
(Malachi 3:1 1 , Haggai 2:6-9; Daniel 9:24-25) . prophesy "The
scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from
between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience
of the nations is his" ( Gen 49:10)
But the King's rule ended. The Isralites had rulers, but they
to give ransom to the Roman emperor. They did not have the right to
execute someone or allow some one to let go free. (Luke 2:1-6,Mathew
22:20,21;John 18:31). Even the laws regarding the high priest were in
disarray. Herod changed high priest at his will. Even the gentiles
were also expecting the Messiah. The 72 Jewish scholars had
translated the Holy Books from Hebrew to Greek (Septuagint) . And so
it was accessible to the gentiles too. Historians like Tasitus have
written about the hope of the gentiles.
Family History of Herod 37-25 B.C.
The last of the Maccabees dynasty were Hyrcanus, and Aristobulus.
There arose a bloody civil war between the two Jewish princes. The
Pharisees sided with Hyrcanus, the Sadducees with Aristobulus. The
Roman politician Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106-48 BC ), better known as
Pompey, was one of the greatest generals of this time. The war
between the princess presented Pompi a great opportunity to annex
Jerusalem. He entered into this scenario as invited by Aristobulus.
But later he sided with Hyrcanus and Aristobulus was arrested taken
to Rome. Thus fell to Pompi Jerusalem in BC 63. Pompi. When the
Romans controlled the Temple, Pompey and his officers entered the
Holy of Holies - according to the Jews a blasphemous act, because
only the high priest was allowed to enter this room Next day, he
ordered the cleansing of the Temple, and he appointed Hyrcanus as
high priest, received the title ethnarch ('national leader') with
very minimal powers. A civil war broke out in the Roman Empire.
Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar, Both Hyrcanus and Antipater (a
governor of Idumea under Hyrcanus) sided with the Caesar, for which
especially the courtier was rewarded: in 47, he was appointed
epitropos ('regent') and received the Roman citizenship. Later he
became the governor for entire Judea. He managed to secure the
appointment of his young son Herod to the important task of governor
of Galilee and Samaria (37 B.C) The boy, who was only sixteen years
old, launched a small crusade against bandits, which made him very
popular with the populace and unpopular with the Sanhedrin. But Jews
resented his appointment first because he was not a Jew and. The
Jews had always looked down upon the Idumeans ( where he was from )
as racially impure. To make matters worse his mother was an Arab.
Because it was commonly held that one could only be a Jew when one
was born from a Jewish mother. When war broke out between the Romans
and the Parthians (in modern Iran and Iraq), the Jewish populace
joined the latter. Herod was defeated. Herod managed to escape and
went to Rome, where he persuaded Octavian and the Senate to order
Mark Anthony to restore him. And so it happened. Now Herod could
start his reign as sole ruler of Judea. He requested Persians to
sent Hyrcanus back from Babylon, which they did. Mainly because he
was very old and 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
Herod's position was still insecure. He killed very one who stood
against him. Also He continued his building policy to win the hearts
of his subjects. 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. Herod concluded ten marriages, all for political
purposes. They were probably all unhappy. He appointed one Simon,
Ben Bothus as the high priest in B.C.23. Herod married his daughter
Mariamme I and later divorced her.
After his death, the three sons became the High Priests. They are
the high priests, which Herod assembled.
Herod had many sons in his 10 wives. Of these, the son of Mariamme I
( a Macabian ) killed another son. So Herod killed his father-in-
law, Mariamme I and her mother too. Herod also hung his sons
Alexander, Aristobulus. And killed another son Antipater.
Herod new that there will be no one to shed tear if he dies. Just
before his death, Herod, realizing that when he died there would be
no great mourning, sent letters to the principle heads of every
family in Judaism demanding their presence on pain of death. Having
got them to Jerusalem, Herod ordered them to be locked up in the
horseracing ground. He then gave the orders to his sister that upon
his death they were all to be executed. Thus making sure that the
whole nation would mourn when he died, albeit not for him.
Fortunately, when Herod died, his sister released the imprisoned Jews
and allowed them to return home. He died in the Jeriho palace.
Herod was buried in one of the fortresses he had built, Herodion.
He had decided to make his son Archelaus born to his wife Malthace
to succeed him in most of his kingdom. Her son Antipas (he was the
one who beheaded John the Baptist) and a son Philip. Born to
Cleopatra became rules in other regions.
During the time Archelaus there was a civil unrest among the Jews
that killed 3000 people. Two popular teachers, Judas and Matthias,
had incited their pupils to remove the golden eagle from the entrance
of the Temple. After all, according to the Ten Commandments, it was a
sin to make idols. The teachers and their pupils had been burned
alive. This is what caused the unrest. This protest continued on. A
big roman army from Syrian came to intervene. Two thousand people
were crucified. And a peace was established. But the Jerusalem
temple was robbed. Matthew implies that Jesus' parents Joseph and
Mary were afraid to go to the territories ruled by Archelaus, and
therefore settled in Galilee (Matthew 2.22). Herod Archelaus ruled
so badly that the Jews and Samaritans together appealed to Rome to
request that he should be deposed. In 6 CE, Archelaus was banished to
Vienne. This caused Judea to be added to the Roman Empire. Ceasor
appointed roman generals to rule Judea. One such perfect was Pontius
The news of birth of a Jewish king troubled Herod and Jews. We
discussed why Herod was feared. The people feared because their cruel
king would do some gruesome act. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus
has recorded that Herod killed all the Pharisees because of
similar fear two year before.