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Herod the Great was the son of Antipater. He was the client king of Judah, under Julius Caesar, and king, under Augustus.

He reigned as an appointed king for 33 years (37-4 BC). He was of both Jewish and Edomite ancestry. He made outstanding contributions to the architecture of his day. At Samaria and Caesarea he founded entire cities and built many others. He built temples, theaters and fortresses. His most magnificent achievement was the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, which was started in 19 BC.

He was appointed client king of Judea by Mark Antony. Herod's mother-in-law Alexandra was close friends with Cleopatra of Egypt who was Mark Antony's beloved lover. Herod therefore, in his early reign feared Alexandra. In 36BC, Alexandra demanded that her son Aristobulus (who was only 17 years old) be placed as high priest. For fear of displeasing her and bringing down Cleopatra's wrath, he followed Alexandra's request. But it was not to last. Six months later, while having Alexandra and Aristobulus over for dinner at his summer palace in Jericho, Herod payed Aristobulus' "friends" who were with him in the swimming pool to drown him. That is just what happened. In 31 BC, Augustus won the battle of Actium which basically spelled the end for Anthony and Cleopatra. Herod went to meet Augustus on the isle of Rhodes and there defected to Augustus. By 30 BC, Cleopatra had committed suicide and Herod was free to deal with Alexandra who he had assassinated. He eventually divorced and executed his first wife Mariamne. He married a second woman: Doris. She gave him one son which he named Antipater. He also had had two sons by Mariamne: Alexander and Aristobulus .

Herod undertook many construction projects during his reign. He built many palaces for himself and he also rebuilt a larger Temple in Jerusalem.

Shortly after Jesus was born, Herod was visited by men from the east. The men told Herod that they had seen a sign in the sky signifying that the King of the Jews had been born and that they wanted to visit with him. This concerned Herod, perhaps because he feared that the birth of a new king would mean the end of his own reign.

Herod called for priests and teachers to explain to him where specifically he might look for this newly born king. The priests and teachers explained that the Jewish Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. So, Herod sent men to kill all of the babies in Bethlehem. But Jesus and his family fled to Egypt before the killing had started. Shortly after this, Josephus tells us that Herod was struck down with a terrible disease with pain in his bowels, burning in his organs and worms. The last order he ever gave was to have his son Antipater executed for attempting to poison him.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord again appeared to Joseph, and told him to take the Baby and His mother back to Israel.[1]

After his reign, Herod's sons became rulers, including Herod Archelaus and Herod Antipas.


  1. Matthew 2 (Link)