The Fall of Jerusalem and exile in Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and captured city after city, then came to Jerusalem. He
seige against it for 18 months with the Jews strongly defending it. In July 587 BC, the
broke through the walls. Nebuchadnezzar made huge mounds of earth as high as the city
which he placed war machines. The Jews, in turn, invented machines to fight back. When at
breech was made, Zedekiah tried to escape, but some deserters informed Nebuchadnezzar
his sons and gouged his eyes out, then put him in chains and took him to Babylon with many
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
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 Jews ran a temple state around Jerusalem, ruled by the High Priest and regulated by
Torah. The High Priest was always from the family of Zadok, the High Priest under Solomon.
leaders of the return from exile were Zerubbabel, a descendent of David and Joshua the High
a descendent of Zadok.
In 198 BC, Antiochus IV 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, 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
Priest, his brother Jason who wanted to be High Priest, tried to bribe Antiochus IV, to help
the indemnity to the Romans, promising that he would help the Hellenisation of the temple
Antiochus IV, who wanted to expand his empire and his income, took the name
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
The Jews took this opportunity to restore the High Priesthood to the family of Zadok, by
Menelaus by Jason.
Antiochus was furious. In December 167, he restored Menelaus and banned the practice
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
a temple to Zeus, called "Baal Shamen" (the Lord of Heaven), which is "Abomination of
in Hebrew, or appalling sacrilege. He set up an altar to Zeus in the temple, where he
swine, and sought to make Jews worship it. This fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy lasted 3
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
led a revolt and had some brilliant victories over the larger and better Greek armies. In 165
Judas Maccabeus cleaned the "abomination of desolation" (as Daniel put it), the altar to Zeus,
the temple and they eventually regained the religious freedom they had lost. The Maccabean
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
Judas in 160 BC, becoming High Priest in 152 BC. He was not a legitimate Zadok priest, but
political and military leader. Simon, the son of Jonathan, won complete independence from
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
Aristobulus, for one year, before Alexander, the brother of Aristobulus declared himself
Alexander extended the empire into the Transjordan, making the empire bigger than
kingdom. He was both king and high priest, a completely unprincipled vandal. He died in 76
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
empire collapsed. They made the first son of Alexander, Hyrcanus II the high priest and the
Aristobulus II the general of the armies. When Salome died, there was civil war between the
brothers and their followers. Each sought support of the Romans to establish power and to
civil war, inviting the Romans to come. Approximately 63 BC, Hyrcanus, was displaced by
Roman rule of Judea
The leading Roman general of the area was Pompey, based in Damascus. When he
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
this place that he held out for three months. Pompey captured the temple by filling in the
killing about 12,000 Jews, taking many off to slavery, and levelled the walls of the city.
out of curiosity, walked into the Holy of Holies, and was surprised to find nothing there. The
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
called Antipater, hired as a wise counsellor of Pompey. Antipater was made a tax-free Roman
and procurator in 47 BC. He was assassinated in 44 BC. Antipater had two sons, Phasael,
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
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
to Babylon. They chopped off his ears, so he could no longer be High Priest. Phasael was
Herod fled to Rome. The Hasmonean Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus was made priest/king
Rome then appointed Antipater's son Herod as a client king over Israel and in 37 BC,
using Roman troops, brought Jerusalem under siege again and with greater slaughter set
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
Ezekias with many of his followers. Some people in Hyrcanus' court persuaded him that
should be tried before the Sanhedrin. However, Herod came to the trial, not as an accused
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
because of the insult of Hyrcanus in bringing him to trial but was restrained by his brother
father. Among other things, Herod was a successful tax collector. This found him favour with
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
acceptance in Judean circles. He also became the natural regent when Hyrcanus passed
It was at this point that the attack came from the Parthians. Herod escaped and Hyrcanus
put in chains and removed to Arabia. Herod went to Egypt, then to Rome to talk to Antony
Octavius Caesar to let them know that he should be king of Jerusalem. After hearing his
Roman senate confirmed him as king of Judea.
In 40-39 BC, he marched through Galilee capturing cities hostile to him. He went to
saving his relatives whom he had placed there for safety and were under attack. With the help
Roman armies, he then came against Jerusalem which had come into the hands of Antigonus.
BC, Jerusalem fell and Herod became king. In capturing Jerusalem Herod had one major
to stop the Roman army from plundering the city. He gave rewards to the general Sossuls and
reward to each soldier from his own purse. He also made sure Antigonus was eventually
Antigonus out of the way and because of his marriage to Mariamne, he became king of
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
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
he punished those who opposed him and those who he won to his side he rewarded with
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
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
high priest. This brought peace between Alexandra and Herod - for a short time. At the
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
so Herod planned his downfall.
Acting very friendly to Aristobulus, Herod invited him to go for a swim in
Herod had hired some men to drown him. Herod was, of course, grief-stricken and gave
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
one called Joseph. Herod had asked Joseph to watch his wife while he was away and
(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
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.
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
Cleopatra, in fact had a swift end. There was civil war between Octavius Caesar and
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
During this time Herod built theatres, amphitheatres and race courses for men and
events held in honour of Caesar. This displeased the Jews. He built a palace for himself and
many of the fortresses and Gentile temples. He built the Port of Caesarea, the fortress and
and Machaerus. He also built the temple in Jerusalem starting in 19 BC, which was not
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
from the largest copper mine in the Middle East. This was in Cyprus, it was operated until the
war in 1974 by an American company. The mine was then given to a bishop of the Greek
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
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
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
mixed up and the story is complicated and difficult to unravel. It is a story of jealousy,
scheming and execution. At one point, the two eldest sons of Herod's second wife, Mariamne,
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
of his father but he was not satisfied with this as his father might live a long time (he was 70
old). So he went for talks with Herod's brother. Herod heard of this and suspected a plot to
so the relationship between them was strained! Herod's will at this time was that Antipater
follow him and if Antipater should die, Philip should be king. Herod Philip was son of
It became known that Antipater wanted his father dead so that he could assume his
place, so Herod had him put in chains and a report went to Caesar concerning this in 5
Another plot of Antipater's was unveiled and Herod desired to kill him. At this point
became very ill of a disease from which he could not recover. He drew up a new will in which
by-passed his eldest sons, Archelaus and Philip (Antipater had poisoned his mind against
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
Israel being born (Matthew 2:1-12). The thought of a legitimate rival king was too much so
the "normal" thing for those days and tried to remove him. Not being able to find the exact
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
Two rabbis stirred up people to tear down an offensive eagle from the temple gate. For this
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,
he did. He then altered his will stating that Archelaus should be king of Judea and Samaria
brothers, Antipas tetrarch of Galilee and Philip tetrarch of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Balanea
Five days after the execution of Antipater, in the spring of 4 BC, Herod died in
Herod's reign was characterised by violence, but this was not uncommon for rulers of that
fawning and flattery he managed to remain in the good graces of Rome through every change
imperial government. In his domestic life, he was so ruthless and cruel that even Augustus
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
from Persia after Jesus was born, inquiring about the King of the Jews, whose star they had
"We have seen his start 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
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
in Bethlehem, who were two years old and under, according to the time the star appeared in
(v16). This would indicate that Jesus was born between 6 BC and 4 BC.
When Herod died his kingdom was broken up into smaller portions (See Luke 3:1-2).
Herod had written six wills. The last was five days before his death so it needed to be ratified
emperor. When Herod died the sons of Herod needed Rome's approval in what they became
After the passover, Archelaus and Antipas went to Rome to sort out who rules over
Philip looked after the "home front".
In the fifth will, Herod had made Antipas king, in the sixth Archelaus, and this created
dispute between them. Archelaus said it was simple, Herod's last wish was that he should be
Antipas said that the will was null and void as Herod was a sick man, therefore, the fifth will
the right one.
During the dispute Philip also went to Rome. After a long while Augustus decided the
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
killed for cutting down the eagle from the temple gate. Archelaus, wanting to stop an
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
as a result, part of the temple was burned down and the treasury pillaged by the Romans. The
spread to east of the Jordan and into Galilee. When the three sons returned they had an
problem on their hands. Archelaus used the utmost brutality and violence to restore order.
a mark of his rule and in AD 6, a group of Jews and Samaritans went to complain of his
them. Archelaus was over Philip and Antipas as he was representative to Rome for Palestine.
banished to France and prefects and procurators were appointed, including Pontius
Herod Archelaus' reign of terror is alluded to in Mt 2:22. When Joseph heard
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
Antipas returned from Rome and restored order from the revolt and built a few cities. He
Sepphoris and built Tiberias. This was probably completed 8-10 AD. Joseph could well have
as a carpenter there as Nazareth is four miles S.S.W of Sepphoris and Nazareth was a very
village. Tiberias was built on a cemetery, therefore, the place was considered unclean, so
not live there. To overcome this, Antipas offered houses and lands without tax for the first
Tiberias became Herod's capital.
In AD 29, Antipas went to visit Rome, visiting his brother, Philip on the way. There he
Philip's wife, Herodias, and they "fell in love". She agreed to marry Antipas if he divorced his
which he did. John the Baptist spoke out against this and was beheaded (Matthew 14:1-2),
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
Their daughter Salome, married her uncle Philip, who was a lot older than her. There was
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
and tell that fox..." Jesus likened Herod to a fox, cunning and deceitful in achieving its own
Antipas dared not use force on Jesus after killing John the Baptist for fear of a revolt. We
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
was banished to Saint-Bertrand de Comminges in France by Caligula and was never heard of
Herod Philip: Tetrarch of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Balanea & Paneas (4 BC - AD
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,
the Christ" (Mark 8:29).
Philip was not a scheming man. He had a peaceful rule and was well-liked by his
He died a natural death.
Herod Agrippa I
Herod Agrippa I was grandson of Herod the Great and brother of Herodias (wife of
then Antipas). He went to school in Rome and lived a wild life, ending up in debt. He then
quiet life in the south of Judea and out of humiliation wanted to commit suicide. His wife
with Herodias and Antipas to give him work so he was given a small civil servant's job in
as inspector of markets for which he received a small income. At one of Herod Antipas'
Antipas publicly reproached him for his poverty. Agrippa then left Tiberias and returned to
paying off his debts by making new ones!
During his time in Rome. Agrippa made friends with Caligula, but spoke too loudly of
view that Tiberias should give the throne to Caligula. He thus ended up in prison. When
died and Caligula came to the throne, he released Agrippa and gave him a chair of gold equal
weight to the chain he had in prison. He then gave him the region of Herod Philip and called
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
get the title of king. In order to do this, Agrippa, while at Rome, sent someone to accuse
Caligula, the result of which Antipas was banished to France and Agrippa I ruled over the
area of his grandfather, Herod the Great.
This Agrippa is known in the Bible for his persecution of the Christians, which he did
favour with the Jews. He executed James, the son of Zebedee, and arrested Peter who was led
of prison by an angel (Acts 12:1-2). Herod Agrippa's horrible death is recorded in Acts
Herod Agrippa II
When his father, Agrippa I, died, Agrippa II's land was reduced to a province as he
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)
him, in an incestuous relationship. He was in control of the temple treasury and was in charge
appointing the high priest. He was an authority on Jewish religious matters and Rome would
him on such. Paul was aware of his knowledge (Acts 26:2-3). This was why Festus asked him
hear Paul in Caesarea (Acts 25:26).
In May AD 66, when Israel revolted against the Romans, Agrippa was on the side of
Romans, so he would have been at the victory parade of the conquest of his own people.
time, Bernice became the mistress of Titus, the Roman General. Agrippa heard the Gospel in
testimony (Acts 26:24-30). Agrippa II was the last of the Herodian dynasty.
After Archelaus was removed from governing Judea, Samaria and Idumaea, Rome
procurators to rule this area. Pontius Pilate was the fourth to be sent and clearly did not
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
winter quarters there, with the intention of abolishing the Jewish law. Jewish law forbids the
of any graven image, and up until this point, previous procurators would use ensigns without
effigies on them. Pilate brought Caesar's effigies on the ensigns into Jerusalem by night so
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
to remove them. Pilate refused as he thought this might damage the image of Caesar. The
would not go away and, after six days, he had the army surround them, saying that if they did
go away he would cut their throats. With this, the Jews laid bare their necks saying they
rather die than let their law be transgressed. This was too much for Pilate. He gave in and had
Pilate had another idea and that was to build a water aqueduct to bring water
into Jerusalem, but he used sacred money to pay for it. This, of course, upset the Jews and
gathered together and went to him, insisting that he stop. The crowd became somewhat
using reproach and abuse. Pilate responded by sending the army in. They went further than
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
there from Galilee. This may have been the incident mentioned in Luke 13:1-3, also reason
of friendship between Herod and Pilate (Luke 23:6-12, Herod's subjects put to death by Pilate
have angered Herod). It is interesting to note that when Pilate found out that Jesus was a
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
other sacred vessels were, by God's command, laid up or hidden in Mt. Gerizim, the holy
of the Samaritans. Pilate was considered a trouble-maker in Samaria. Historian Josephus said
Pilate that he "thought lying of little consequence and a contriver". He gathered people
saying he would show them where the holy items were hidden. A crowd gathered together
thought it was an uprising so he sent in the army resulting in many being slain. Later the
senate sent a delegation to Vitellius, president of Syria, and accused Pilate of murder, saying
no revolt was in the minds of the people, but rather to escape the violence of Pilate. Pilate
ordered back to Rome to answer the accusations made.