HERODIAN DYNASTY: THE FIRST VILLAINS OF THE GOSPEL
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With the exception of Judas of Iscariot, no figure in the Christian Gospels is as antithetical to the teachings of Jesus as King Herod. “Herod” is not just one person; the Bible uses the name interchangeably to indicate any of the kings who ruled the Holy Land from 40 BC to 92 AD. The Herods were all Roman client kings—Herod I was installed in Judaea by his friend Mark Antony—and their supporters, known in the Bible as the Herodians, were loyal to Rome above all. The first mention of them in the Gospels is Mark 3:6: “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”
A collection of three genuine two-thousand-year-old coins issued in the Holy Land by the infamous dynasty that sought to destroy the Son of God.
All coins in each set are protected in an archival capsule and beautifully displayed in a mahogany-like box. The box set is accompanied with a story card, certificate of authenticity, and a black gift box.
Box measures: 4 3/8” x 5 3/8” x 1.25”
Herod I the Great 37-4th BCE
Year of issue: 37-4 BCE
Ruler: Herod I the Great
Weight: 1.2-1.9 g
Diameter: 12-13.5 mm
Thickness: 1.5-1.8 mm
Reverse: Double cornucopia
Herod I is one of the Bible’s most complex figures. A brilliant politician and the greatest builder in Jewish history, he was also a paranoid madman who ruthlessly executed anyone he deemed a threat to his absolute power, whether legitimate rivals, family members, or innocent babies. Crowned King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, Herod ruled from 40 BC until his disease-ridden death 36 years later. A prodigious builder, Herod expanded the Second Temple in Jerusalem, of which only the famed Western Wall remains. He constructed fortresses at Masada, Antonia, and Herodium; the port city of Caesarea; the huge edifice atop the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron; and massive fortifications around Jerusalem, as well as three towers at the city’s entrance.
When Herod was in his 70s, he was visited by “wise men from the East” who came in search of the Messiah—the King of the Jews. Fearful of a coup, Herod divined from his priests that this Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, as prophesied in Micah 5:2. As a precautionary measure, he ordered the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents,” in which all male children in the Bethlehem area under the age of two were put to death. This was both brutal and unsuccessful, as Mary and Joseph secreted the infant Jesus to Egypt for safety, only returning after Herod’s death.
Modern historians are divided on what illness claimed Herod’s life. Some suggest chronic kidney disease and Fournier’s gangrene, others scabies. What we do know is that the king suffered horribly. Colloquially, the malady that killed him is known as Herod’s Evil.
Herod Archelaus 23 BCE-18 CE
Year of issue: 23 BCE-18 CE
Ruler: Herod Archelaus
Weight: 0.8-1.8 g
Diameter: 12-14.5 mm
Thickness: 1.4-2 mm
Obverse: 1. Helmet/ 2. Bow of ship
Reverse: 1. Grapes/ 2. Laurel wreath
Herod Archelaus was next in line, ruling Judaea until 6 AD. Matthew 2:13-23 reports that Joseph of Arimethea, who had fled with his wife Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt to escape the Massacre of the Innocents, was told by an angel to return to Israel after the death of Herod I. Upon hearing that Archelaus was the new king—he had a well-deserved reputation for cruelty and bloodlust—Joseph “was afraid to go thither” and was subsequently instructed to go to Galilee. This explains why Jesus was born in Bethlehem but grew up in Nazareth. Herod Archelaus was deposed by order of Roman Emperor Caligula in 6 AD and banished to Gaul.
Herod Agrippa I 41-44 CE
Year of issue: 41-44 CE
Ruler: Herod Agrippa I
Weight: 1.5-2.7 g
Diameter: 16.5-18.5 mm
Thickness: 1.5-2.2 mm
Obverse: Umbrella and inscription
Reverse: 3 barley ears with date
The third King Herod, Herod Agrippa, was Herod the Great’s grandson. He was friends with the dreaded Roman Emperor Caligula, and it was Agrippa who ordered the death of James, son of Zebedee—the first Apostle to be martyred. At Caesarea in 44 AD, while presiding over public games, an owl appeared over Agrippa’s head. He immediately keeled over; suffering from severe abdominal pains, and was dead five days later. Acts 12 explains that he was struck down by God for accepting the hollow praise of sycophants, and eaten by worms.