Last week my blog concluded with a battle between Herod and Rome against the Parthians and Jews. This week it will continue with the terror of Herod the Great’s reign and the extent of his oppression. From the same source as last week:
By the time Herod “the Great” came to the throne (37 B.C.E.) not only…Jerusalem, but the entire Land of Israel, was a wilderness. During the 30 years…til Herod became all-powerful (67-37) far more than 100,000 Jews were killed…the healthiest, mainly the young men…who had refused to suffer the foreign yoke…. the nation was enfeebled to the last degree.
Into this oppressed environment, Herod introduced
the effect of…political terror…. Josephus tells how “Herod watched…that they should have no opportunity of voicing their dissatisfaction….” Citizens were forbidden to assemble…walk together or hold public meetings. Offenders were heavily punished. Many were brought openly or secretly to the citadel of Hyrcania and there put to death. Numerous spies patrolled the city and the roads…. Herod…often disguised himself in simple clothes and mixed with the crowds at night to know what they thought about his government. “Those…entirely opposed…persecuted by various methods. A great number obeyed…because they feared him….”
To carry out his tyranny Herod depended on an army of mercenaries: Thracians, Germans and Gauls, as if, says Josephus, “he needed such protection against his subjects.” His principal officers were Greeks…3 foreign eunuchs…exercised a powerful influence over affairs of state…. The people gnashed their teeth in secret at the “Edomite slave” who had risen over them….
The more it becomes necessary to conceal dislike of any political government, the deeper it penetrates…. Since the people saw in Herod nothing but a Roman emissary, this same hatred attached itself both to the “kingdom of Edom” and to the “wicked kingdom of Rome.”
The fortresses in the above map speak of the insecurity and fear Herod had towards his subjects. He felt he had to be ready despite all his precautions with his spies, in case there was a revolt. These fortresses were all built so he could flee to one, and then the other, if necessary. Supplies were stocked in each fortress so he could survive comfortably with luxurious living conditions at each one for a long time, in case of a siege. He was also scared for a while that Cleopatra might try to take control from Egypt. But his guilty conscience toward his people made his fears worse.
Add to this all his family members he killed due to his paranoia. From the Britannica.com,
His mental instability…was fed by the intrigue and deception that went on within his own family. Despite his affection for Mariamne, he was prone to violent attacks of jealousy; his sister Salome…made good use of his natural suspicions and poisoned his mind against his wife in order to wreck the union. In the end Herod murdered Mariamne, her two sons, her brother, her grandfather, and her mother….
In his last years Herod…finally disinherited and killed his firstborn, Antipater. The slaying…of the infants of Bethlehem was wholly consistent with…which he had fallen….
Yet despite all this, he still wanted the Jewish people to like him. He actually built their temple so they would. The irony of this reminds me of how so many try to please God on their own terms. They also think God will be pleased with them because of their efforts. Yet considering how holy God is, why should he be pleased? If we don’t take seriously his word and what he says about repentance and faith in Christ alone, aren’t we acting in the same way that Herod did? Reconciliation on our own terms is a joke!
I took the above pictures of models in Israel, 2002, and made the map of fortresses myself.