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Herod the Great and Family

Unknown Author

Four Generations of the Herod Family

The New Testament frequently refers to a king named 'Herod'. This name can refer to a number of different members of the Herod family who ruled Judea during the first part of the first century AD.

First generation (at time of birth of Jesus

Herod the Great

Second generation (during ministry of Jesus)

Archelaus (Judah)
Antipas (Galilee)
Philip (north-eastern areas)

Third generation (First part of Book of Acts)

Agrippa I

Fourth generation (Second part of Book of Acts)

Agrippa II

Historical introduction

The Fall of Jerusalem and exile in Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and captured city after city, then came to Jerusalem. He laid seige against it for 18 months with the Jews strongly defending it. In July 587 BC, the Babylonians broke through the walls. Nebuchadnezzar made huge mounds of earth as high as the city walls on which he placed war machines. The Jews, in turn, invented machines to fight back. When at last a breech was made, Zedekiah tried to escape, but some deserters informed Nebuchadnezzar who killed his sons and gouged his eyes out, then put him in chains and took him to Babylon with many of the Jewish people.

Jeremiah wrote to the Jews in exile and told them to build houses, plant vineyards and gardens, and live normal lives. The Jews were allowed to maintain some community organisation headed by their own elders. Some Jews went into business and prospered. Jeremiah and Ezekiel encouraged the Jews to wait because they were going back into their land.

In 539 BC, Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered the Babylonian empire. Two years later, a Jewish prince, Sheshbazzar, led a group back to start building the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah followed and the temple and walls were rebuilt.

Alexander the Great

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great, on his way to Egypt, assumed control over Jerusalem from the Persians, thus inaugurating its Greek period. The defeat of the Persian empire, formed the Macedonian / Hellenistic empire, the largest empire in history, consisting of the whole Persian empires, plus Afghanistan and western Pakistan. Nine years later, in 323 BC, Alexander died in mysterious circumstances. Antigonus, one of his generals, gained control. The empire did not survive politically, but Greek culture lasted for over 1000 years until the rise of Islam in the 7th cent AD.

The Seleucids

The Jews ran a temple state around Jerusalem, ruled by the High Priest and regulated by the Torah. The High Priest was always from the family of Zadok, the High Priest under Solomon. The leaders of the return from exile were Zerubbabel, a descendent of David and Joshua the High Priest, a descendent of Zadok.

In 198 BC, Antiochus III (the Great) conquered Judea from the Ptolemys and was welcomed into Jerusalem because the Jews thought he would give them greater freedom to practice their religion. This was not to be so. Antiochus IV, desiring greater ease in controlling his kingdom, tried to impose Greek culture and worship on them.

The Seleucids clashed with Rome in 190 BC and were beaten at the Battle of Magnesia in Asia Minor. They lost territory and had to pay indemnity for 12 years. While Onias IV was High Priest, his brother Jason who wanted to be High Priest, tried to bribe Antiochus IV, to help him pay the indemnity to the Romans, promising that he would help the Hellenisation of the temple state.

Antiochus IV, who wanted to expand his empire and his income, took the name 'Epiphanes', meaning 'glorious one', saying he was an incarnation of Zeus.

Menelaus, not from the family of Zadok, offered a higher bribe and promised to do more to help the process of Hellenisation. Antiochus removed Jason and replaced him with Menelaus in 171 BC.

Antiochus marched to Egypt to fight the Ptolemys, but discovered the Romans there, who had been invited in to help defend Egypt. Antiochus was defeated and embarrassed by the Romans. The Jews took this opportunity to restore the High Priesthood to the family of Zadok, by replacing Menelaus by Jason.

Antiochus was furious. In December 167, he restored Menelaus and banned the practice of Judaism, introducing a new constitution in Jerusalem of a Hellenistic state. Circumcision was banned with the punishment of execution. He burned the Jewish Torah. He converted the temple to a temple to Zeus, called 'Baal Shamen' (the Lord of Heaven), which is 'Abomination of Desolation' in Hebrew, or appalling sacrilege. He set up an altar to Zeus in the temple, where he sacrificed swine, and sought to make Jews worship it. This fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy lasted three years, an period of intense persecution and martyrdom.

The Maccabean revolt

The Hasmonean family started armed resistance, led by Mattathias, an old man. His son, Judas Maccabeus, was a military genius. With only a few people in a guerilla army, in 167 BC, he led a revolt and had some brilliant victories over the larger and better Greek armies. In 165 BC, Judas Maccabeus cleaned the 'abomination of desolation' (as Daniel put it), the altar to Zeus, out the temple and they eventually regained the religious freedom they had lost. The Maccabean line became priest-kings. In December 164 BC, Antiochus retracted the ban on Judaism.

The Hasmonean rulers

The Maccabees continued to fight for political independence, Jonathan succeeded his father Judas in 160 BC, becoming High Priest in 152 BC. He was not a legitimate Zadok priest, but a political and military leader. Simon, the son of Jonathan, won complete independence from the Seleucids in 142 BC. This period is described in the book of 1 Maccabees.

John Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, expanded the small city state into Samaria, Galilee and Idumea, to almost the area of David's kingdom. He died in 104 BC, and was succeeded by his son Aristobulus, for one year, before Alexander, the brother of Aristobulus declared himself king.

Alexander extended the empire into the Transjordan, making the empire bigger than David's kingdom. He was both king and high priest, a completely unprincipled vandal. He died in 76 BC, and was succeeded by his wife, Salome as queen until 67 BC.

The Roman empire grew and consolidated their power over the Mediterranean as the Greek empire collapsed. They made the first son of Alexander, Hyrcanus II the high priest and the second son, Aristobulus II the general of the armies. When Salome died, there was civil war between the two brothers and their followers. Each sought support of the Romans to establish power and to settle the civil war, inviting the Romans to come. Approximately 63 BC, Hyrcanus, was displaced by his brother, Aristobulus.

Roman rule of Judea

The leading Roman general of the area was Pompey, based in Damascus. When he arrived at Jerusalem, Aristobulus resisted and Hyrcanus surrendered. Aristobulus made the temple his fortress and destroyed the bridge between the city and temple. This was over a valley and it was at this place that he held out for three months. Pompey captured the temple by filling in the valley, killing about 12,000 Jews, taking many off to slavery, and levelled the walls of the city. Pompey, out of curiosity, walked into the Holy of Holies, and was surprised to find nothing there. The Glory of the Lord never returned after 586 BC, until Jesus walked in the temple.

Because of Hyrcanus' surrender, he was allowed to continue to be high priest by Pompey, but more and more power went into the hands of the Edomite (Idumaean) administrator (chieftain) called Antipater, hired as a wise counsellor of Pompey. Antipater was made a tax-free Roman citizen and procurator in 47 BC. He was assassinated in 44 BC. Antipater had two sons, Phasael, who was made Tetrarch of Judea, and Herod, who was governor of Galilee, both until 40 BC.

In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated, Anthony took over the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, and Augustus, a nephew of Julius Caesar, the Western part.

In 40 BC, the Parthians from Persia attacked and plundered the city and carried off Hyrcanus to Babylon. They chopped off his ears, so he could no longer be High Priest. Phasael was killed, and Herod fled to Rome. The Hasmonean Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus was made priest/king by the Parthians.

Rome then appointed Antipater's son Herod as a client king over Israel and in 37 BC, Herod, using Roman troops, brought Jerusalem under siege again and with greater slaughter set himself up as king, conquering Judea from the Parthians.

Herod the Great: King of the Jews

Herod the Great started his career as a governor of Galilee. He impressed the Jews and Roman officials in Syria because of his promptness in capturing and executing the bandit leader Ezekias with many of his followers. Some people in Hyrcanus' court persuaded him that Herod should be tried before the Sanhedrin. However, Herod came to the trial, not as an accused person, but as a king, in purple and with a body guard. At this point, the Roman overlord for that area stepped in and made Hyrcanus let Herod go.

After this, Herod had an increase in responsibility to include Coele-Syria. Herod soon became involved in the affairs of Rome and Syria. He then decided to march against Jerusalem because of the insult of Hyrcanus in bringing him to trial but was restrained by his brother and father. Among other things, Herod was a successful tax collector. This found him favour with the powers above him, so his father gave him his job. He later married Mariamne who was granddaughter of Hyrcanus. This tended to strengthen his position amongst the Jews and won him acceptance in Judean circles. He also became the natural regent when Hyrcanus passed away.

It was at this point that the attack came from the Parthians. Herod escaped and Hyrcanus was put in chains and removed to Arabia. Herod went to Egypt, then to Rome to talk to Antony and Octavius Caesar to let them know that he should be king of Jerusalem. After hearing his story, the Roman senate confirmed him as king of Judea.

In 40-39 BC, he marched through Galilee capturing cities hostile to him. He went to Masada, saving his relatives whom he had placed there for safety and were under attack. With the help of Roman armies, he then came against Jerusalem which had come into the hands of Antigonus. In 37 BC, Jerusalem fell and Herod became king. In capturing Jerusalem Herod had one major problem, to stop the Roman army from plundering the city. He gave rewards to the general Sossuls and a reward to each soldier from his own purse. He also made sure Antigonus was eventually killed. With Antigonus out of the way and because of his marriage to Mariamne, he became king of Jerusalem and Judea-Samaria.

Herod's reign can be divided into three parts:
A. Consolidation of his kingdom (37 - 25 BC)
B. Prosperity (25 - 14 BC)
C. Period of great domestic trouble (14 - 4 BC)

1. Consolidation (37 - 25 BC)

During this time of establishing his kingdom Herod had many powerful adversaries:
1. The people
2. The pharisees
3. The ruling class
4. The remainder of the Hasmonean family
5. Cleopatra

1,2. The people and the Pharisees
The pharisees controlled the people and they did not like Herod because he was an Idumaean - half Jew and a friend of the Romans. To secure the obedience of the population, he punished those who opposed him and those who he won to his side he rewarded with favours.

3. The Ruling Class
Herod executed 45 of the most wealthy people who were with Antigonus and took their goods to replenish that which was paid out to the Roman soldiers.

4. Hasmonean Family
Alexandra, Herod's mother-in-law, caused him much trouble. The Hasmonean family were priest-kings. Herod did not become priest himself as he was an Idumaean, so he searched for an insignificant person from the Zadokite family (family of priests before the Hasmonean family) and found a man called Ananel. This seemed a legitimate change. The conflict came because Alexandra thought that her son, Aristobulus should be high priest so she used every possible means to get her way. Aristobulus was 17 years old. One of the things she did was to write to Cleopatra and urge her to put pressure on Antony who would in turn force Herod to do it. Herod finally gave way to the pressure, to set aside Ananel unlawful according to Jewish law - high priests should serve for life) and made Aristobulus high priest. This brought peace between Alexandra and Herod - for a short time. At the next Feast of Tabernacles Aristobulus officiated and quickly became the 'blue-eyed boy' of the people. His sudden growth in popularity was a major threat to the very insecure King Herod so Herod planned his downfall.

Acting very friendly to Aristobulus, Herod invited him to go for a swim in Jericho. Herod had hired some men to drown him. Herod was, of course, grief-stricken and gave him a magnificent funeral. No one questioned the official version of the death - except Alexandra. She was not deceived and set her life to seek revenge. She asked Cleopatra to persuade Antony to summon Herod for questioning. Herod went to Antony (he had no choice) but through eloquence and bribery Antony freed him of any charge.

On returning to Judea there was a rumour that Mariamne was having an affair with one called Joseph. Herod had asked Joseph to watch his wife while he was away and Salome Joseph's wife) accused her husband of having intercourse with Mariamne. As this was in part a family affair, Herod used the situation to blame Alexandra - he put her in chains and had Joseph beheaded.

Mariamne was again accused of being unfaithful to Herod by those who hated her and was tried and executed. After her death, Herod suffered great depression - he never sanely accepted her death! Thinking Herod would die of this illness, Alexandra seemed to take power. For this, Herod had her killed.

5. Cleopatra
Cleopatra was a constant problem to Herod. It was out of fear of her that he built and armed Masada as a final retreat. She wanted to rule Judea herself and persuaded Antony to give her some of Herod's land (Jericho). This was not enough, so she schemed to take it all. Cleopatra, in fact had a swift end. There was civil war between Octavius Caesar and Antony. Octavius won and in 30 BC, Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide.

2. Prosperity (25 - 14 BC)

Politically, Herod was a very successful king, who consistently upheld the interests of the Roman empire.

During this time Herod built theatres, amphitheatres and race courses for men and horses for events held in honour of Caesar. This displeased the Jews. He built a palace for himself and rebuilt many of the fortresses and Gentile temples. He built the Port of Caesarea, the fortress and Massada and Machaerus. He also built the temple in Jerusalem starting in 19 BC, which was not completed until AD 64, only to be destroyed in AD 70. It was magnificent, compared to the one built by Zerubbabel, being one of the wonders of the world.

The money for these ambitious building projects came from taxes, with half from the revenue from the largest copper mine in the Middle East. This was in Cyprus, it was operated until the civil war in 1974 by an American company. The mine was then given to a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, who rented it to YWAM Cyprus for a time.

During this time, Herod was very important to Rome as he kept this part of the Roman empire under control. Herod's territory increased and he found such favour with Caesar that the procurators of Syria had to get his consent for all they did.

During this period, one-third of taxes was given back to the people because of a crop failure. This pleased the people and twice the taxes were lowered.

3. Domestic troubles (14 - 4 BC)

In all Herod had ten wives. Therefore, there were many children. Herod's family was very mixed up and the story is complicated and difficult to unravel. It is a story of jealousy, slander, scheming and execution. At one point, the two eldest sons of Herod's second wife, Mariamne, were put into prison for treason. They were then tried in Beirut and executed.

Antipater, Herod's first son by his wife Doris, was sole heir. He enjoyed the full confidence of his father but he was not satisfied with this as his father might live a long time (he was 70 years old). So he went for talks with Herod's brother. Herod heard of this and suspected a plot to kill him, so the relationship between them was strained! Herod's will at this time was that Antipater should follow him and if Antipater should die, Philip should be king. Herod Philip was son of Mariamne II.

It became known that Antipater wanted his father dead so that he could assume his father's place, so Herod had him put in chains and a report went to Caesar concerning this in 5 BC.

Another plot of Antipater's was unveiled and Herod desired to kill him. At this point Herod became very ill of a disease from which he could not recover. He drew up a new will in which he by-passed his eldest sons, Archelaus and Philip (Antipater had poisoned his mind against them). Instead, he chose the youngest son, Antipas, as his sole successor.

It was at this point, shortly before his death, that the Magi came to inquire about a king of Israel being born (Matthew 2:1-12). The thought of a legitimate rival king was too much so he did the 'normal' thing for those days and tried to remove him. Not being able to find the exact one (the Magi did not tell him) he had all the children of that age killed (Matthew 2:16-18).

Herod was now about 70 years old. His sickness was getting worse and news of this spread. Two rabbis stirred up people to tear down an offensive eagle from the temple gate. For this Herod had the leaders put to death and the principal leaders burned alive.

Herod then received letters from Rome allowing him to execute his son, Antipater, which he did. He then altered his will stating that Archelaus should be king of Judea and Samaria and his brothers, Antipas tetrarch of Galilee and Philip tetrarch of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Balanea and Paneas.

Five days after the execution of Antipater, in the spring of 4 BC, Herod died in Jericho. Herod's reign was characterised by violence, but this was not uncommon for rulers of that day. By fawning and flattery he managed to remain in the good graces of Rome through every change of imperial government. In his domestic life, he was so ruthless and cruel that even Augustus said, "I would rather be Herod's dog than his son".

Date of Jesus' birth

Jesus was born when Herod the Great was king (Mt 2:1), ie before 4 BC. The wise men came from Persia after Jesus was born, inquiring about the King of the Jews, whose star they had seen. "We have seen his star in the east" (v2), so the Messiah has been born. Herod thought he was King of the Jews, so he was troubled (v3), he asked what time the star appeared (v7). The star re-appeared to indicate where the chile was (v9), Jesus was no longer a baby. They went into the house were Mary was, they were no longer in the manger. Herod made orders for all male children in Bethlehem, who were two years old and under, according to the time the star appeared in the east (v16). This would indicate that Jesus was born between 6 BC and 4 BC.

Herod's Successors

When Herod died his kingdom was broken up into smaller portions (See Luke 3:1-2). In all Herod had written six wills. The last was five days before his death so it needed to be ratified by the emperor. When Herod died the sons of Herod needed Rome's approval in what they became rulers over.

After the passover, Archelaus and Antipas went to Rome to sort out who rules over what and Philip looked after the 'home front'.

In the fifth will, Herod had made Antipas king, in the sixth Archelaus, and this created a dispute between them. Archelaus said it was simple, Herod's last wish was that he should be king. Antipas said that the will was null and void as Herod was a sick man, therefore, the fifth will was the right one.

During the dispute Philip also went to Rome. After a long while Augustus decided the following:
Archelaus: Ethnarch of Idumaea, Judea & Samaria
Antipas: Tetrarch over Galilee & Peraea
Philip: Tetrarch over Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Balanea and Paneas

Herod Archelaus: Ethnarch of Idumaea, Judea and Samaria (4 BC - AD 6)

As Archelaus began his rule, people made demands on him and to gain their favour he complied. Revolutionaries in the crowd were out to avenge the blood of those Herod the Great had killed for cutting down the eagle from the temple gate. Archelaus, wanting to stop an uprising, sent out the army and 3,000 people were killed - not a good start.

The dispute over the will lasted two months. While they were away there was a revolt and, as a result, part of the temple was burned down and the treasury pillaged by the Romans. The revolt spread to east of the Jordan and into Galilee. When the three sons returned they had an immediate problem on their hands. Archelaus used the utmost brutality and violence to restore order. This was a mark of his rule and in AD 6, a group of Jews and Samaritans went to complain of his dealing with them. Archelaus was over Philip and Antipas as he was representative to Rome for Palestine. He was banished to France and prefects and procurators were appointed, including Pontius Pilate.

Herod Archelaus' reign of terror is alluded to in Mt 2:22. When Joseph heard Archelaus was ruling over Judea he did not return there but went to Galilee.

Herod Antipas: Tetrarch of Galilee (4 BC - AD 39)

Both John the Baptist and Jesus spent most of their ministry in Antipas' area of Galilee. Antipas returned from Rome and restored order from the revolt and built a few cities. He founded Sepphoris and built Tiberias. This was probably completed 8-10 AD. Joseph could well have worked as a carpenter there as Nazareth is four miles S.S.W of Sepphoris and Nazareth was a very small village. Tiberias was built on a cemetery, therefore, the place was considered unclean, so Jews would not live there. To overcome this, Antipas offered houses and lands without tax for the first few years. Tiberias became Herod's capital.

In AD 29, Antipas went to visit Rome, visiting his brother, Philip on the way. There he met Philip's wife, Herodias, and they 'fell in love'. She agreed to marry Antipas if he divorced his wife, which he did. John the Baptist spoke out against this and was beheaded (Matthew 14:1-2), this happened around AD 27.

Antipas was already married to the daughter of the king of the Nabataeans, she fled while Antipas was in Rome. The king of the Nabataeans planned an attack in retaliation for this insult. Their daughter Salome, married her uncle Philip, who was a lot older than her. There was much intermarriage to hold onto political power.

Herod and Jesus

Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected (Mt 14:1-2). In Luke 13:31-33, the Pharisees told Jesus that Herod was threatening to kill him. Jesus' answer is interesting. He said "Go and tell that fox...". Jesus likened Herod to a fox, cunning and deceitful in achieving its own aims. Antipas dared not use force on Jesus after killing John the Baptist for fear of a revolt. We read that Pilate sent Jesus to Antipas for trial (Lk 23:7). The probable reason for this is dealt with in the section on Pilate.

An accusation was brought against Herod Antipas by Agrippa I (see this section) and Antipas was banished to Saint-Bertrand de Comminges in France by Caligula and was never heard of again.

Herod Philip: Tetrarch of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Balanea & Paneas (4 BC - AD 6)

Philip was made tetrarch of Herod the Great's northern domain. His subjects were mostly non-Jewish. He built Caesarea Philippi, the place where Peter made the great confession, "You are the Christ" (Mark 8:29).

Philip was not a scheming man. He had a peaceful rule and was well-liked by his subjects. He died a natural death.

Herod Agrippa I

Herod Agrippa I was grandson of Herod the Great and brother of Herodias (wife of Philip, then Antipas). He went to school in Rome and lived a wild life, ending up in debt. He then lived a quiet life in the south of Judea and out of humiliation wanted to commit suicide. His wife pleaded with Herodias and Antipas to give him work so he was given a small civil servant's job in Tiberias as inspector of markets for which he received a small income. At one of Herod Antipas' feasts, Antipas publicly reproached him for his poverty. Agrippa then left Tiberias and returned to Rome, paying off his debts by making new ones!

During his time in Rome. Agrippa made friends with Caligula, but spoke too loudly of his view that Tiberias should give the throne to Caligula. He thus ended up in prison. When Tiberias died and Caligula came to the throne, he released Agrippa and gave him a chair of gold equal in weight to the chain he had in prison. He then gave him the region of Herod Philip and called him king.

In AD 38, Agrippa went to see his land. the fact that he was called king made Antipas jealous. Antipas' wife Herodias was even more angry and induced her husband to go to Rome to also get the title of king. In order to do this, Agrippa, while at Rome, sent someone to accuse Antipas to Caligula, the result of which Antipas was banished to France and Agrippa I ruled over the whole area of his grandfather, Herod the Great.

This Agrippa is known in the Bible for his persecution of the Christians, which he did to gain favour with the Jews. He executed James, the son of Zebedee, and arrested Peter who was led out of prison by an angel (Acts 12:1-2). Herod Agrippa's horrible death is recorded in Acts 12:20-23 and described by Josephus.

Herod Agrippa II

When his father, Agrippa I, died, Agrippa II's land was reduced to a province as he was only a minor (17 years old). (Cuspius Fadus was appointed procurator of Palestine).

Following the death of her second husband, Agrippa's sister, Bernice (Acts 25:23) lived with him, in an incestuous relationship. He was in control of the temple treasury and was in charge of appointing the high priest. He was an authority on Jewish religious matters and Rome would consult him on such. Paul was aware of his knowledge (Acts 26:2-3). This was why Festus asked him to hear Paul in Caesarea (Acts 25:26).

In May AD 66, when Israel revolted against the Romans, Agrippa was on the side of the Romans, so he would have been at the victory parade of the conquest of his own people. During this time, Bernice became the mistress of Titus, the Roman General. Agrippa heard the Gospel in Paul's testimony (Acts 26:24-30). Agrippa II was the last of the Herodian dynasty.

Pontius Pilate

After Archelaus was removed from governing Judea, Samaria and Idumaea, Rome sent procurators to rule this area. Pontius Pilate was the fourth to be sent and clearly did not understand the people. The first thing he did was to try and destroy the Jewish culture.

Pilate began his rule by removing the army barracks from Caesarea to Jerusalem to make the winter quarters there, with the intention of abolishing the Jewish law. Jewish law forbids the making of any graven image, and up until this point, previous procurators would use ensigns without the effigies on them. Pilate brought Caesar's effigies on the ensigns into Jerusalem by night so that, when the Jews awoke the next morning, they were horrified to find the city full of idols.

A delegation of Jews went to Caesarea (Rome's capital city in Palestine) to plead with Pilate to remove them. Pilate refused as he thought this might damage the image of Caesar. The Jews would not go away and, after six days, he had the army surround them, saying that if they did not go away he would cut their throats. With this, the Jews laid bare their necks saying they would rather die than let their law be transgressed. This was too much for Pilate. He gave in and had the images removed.

Pilate had another idea and that was to build a water aqueduct to bring water presumably into Jerusalem, but he used sacred money to pay for it. This, of course, upset the Jews and they gathered together and went to him, insisting that he stop. The crowd became somewhat unruly, using reproach and abuse. Pilate responded by sending the army in. They went further than ordered and lashed out at the people, those armed and unarmed, whether in protest or not. Many were wounded and killed.

The incident occurred about the time of a festival so there would have been many people there from Galilee. This may have been the incident mentioned in Luke 13:1-3, also reason for lack of friendship between Herod and Pilate (Luke 23:6-12, Herod's subjects put to death by Pilate would have angered Herod). It is interesting to note that when Pilate found out that Jesus was a Galilean, he made sure Herod had a chance to see Jesus (Luke 23:5-12).

Pontius Pilate's end came about in this way. The Samaritans had a tradition that the ark and other sacred vessels were, by God's command, laid up or hidden in Mt. Gerizim, the holy mountain of the Samaritans. Pilate was considered a trouble-maker in Samaria. Historian Josephus said of Pilate that he 'thought lying of little consequence and a contriver'. He gathered people together saying he would show them where the holy items were hidden. A crowd gathered together and Pilate thought it was an uprising so he sent in the army resulting in many being slain. Later the Samaritan senate sent a delegation to Vitellius, president of Syria, and accused Pilate of murder, saying that no revolt was in the minds of the people, but rather to escape the violence of Pilate. Pilate was ordered back to Rome to answer the accusations made.

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS