Tag Archives: Matthew 2

Matthew 2: 13-23 Hearing Hope in Tragedy

Jean-Marie Pirot (aka Arcabas) The angel of the Lord speaks to Joseph in a Dream

Matthew 2: 13-23

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

This is a scripture shaped story. In ten short verses Matthew will reference two of the major events in the story of Israel and Judah: the Exodus narrative where God takes Israel out of its slavery in Egypt and the Babylonian exile, already highlighted by one of the major breaks in the genealogy in Matthew 1: 1-17. Matthew will adopt a practice used frequently throughout the bible using the language and imagery from one event and recasting it to bring additional light on the meaning of a current event. Matthew is not looking for prooftexts to prove a point but instead is using this recasting to shed additional light on a densely packaged story which is full of meaning.

Joseph, as in Matthew 1: 21-22, is once again approached in a dream by the angel of the Lord and twice in these ten verses the angel’s message in a dream will set Joseph, Mary and Jesus in motion on a path that will model the story of Israel in Genesis through Joshua. Joseph, like his namesake, will go down to Egypt but unlike the Joseph in the book of Genesis he is not going as one going into slavery but instead as a refugee fleeing the murderous policies of a paranoid king. Jesus has been linked to God, David, and here again he is linked to Israel and their story.

Scripture is again given a voice to interpret what is happening in this narrative when Hosea 11:1 is quoted: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11 taps into the central defining event for the Jewish people, the Exodus, and uses that event to engage the struggle of the people of Israel in the time before they are conquered by Assyria (722 BCE). In Hosea, God refuses to give up on this people even though they have abandoned God’s ways. Within this chapter in Hosea God proclaims that he will call them back from Assyria and Egypt and they will return to their homes. More than simply the remnant of Judah, in this story somehow all of Israel now has an opportunity to return. Egypt is also one of the major sites for diaspora Judaism and as Jesus, embodying Israel, goes to Egypt we also tap into Hosea’s hope that, “They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.” (Hosea 11: 11)

In addition to tapping into the larger context of Hosea, the quotation of Hosea brings us into the larger narrative of the Exodus and this story will recast the Exodus narrative in some powerful ways. Within this echo of Exodus we see the king of Judea, Herod the Great, acting in the role of Pharaoh by ordering the death of infants who he fears will challenge his power. With Herod now being cast as Pharoah, Jesus now occupies the role of Moses who is saved from the murderous policies of a tyrant, and yet ironically this new Moses is saved by going to Egypt. The rhetorical effect of this is similar to the way the Civil Rights movement was able to use the way the United States adopted the Exodus narrative as their own in being the new Israel and instead prophetically cast the leaders who opposed the Civil Rights movement as embodying Egypt instead.

Francois-Joseph Naves, The Massacre of the Innocents (1824)

Knowing some of Herod the Great’s story may make the actions attributed to Herod in Matthew’s gospel understandable in his worldview and yet this story seems shocking to our modern ears. While the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem is not recorded in any sources external to Matthew, I do believe it is consistent with not only Herod but also the violent nature of the ancient world. Bethlehem was a small town and the number of children killed would have been smaller than an event like Columbine or Sandy Hook in our times, yet for the people of Bethlehem (and Columbine and Sandy Hook and others) these children would become one more example of the terror that violence can bring into families and communities without notice. As humans we attempt to make sense of these stories of violence and Matthew attempts to do this by linking this prophetically to the reign of terror in Egypt. Herod in this story is not a ‘King of the Jews’ but is instead a new Pharaoh whose policies bring death to those he is to shepherd.

I think we also need to remember that the world at the time of Jesus was a violent place and that there were no news reporters to carry the violence to the broader world. In recent times we saw ISIS beheading people as a terrorist act and are rightly horrified, but I think it is worth remembering that in Jesus’ time beheading was a noble way to die, especially in light of crucifixion and other practices. The ancient world was a violent world and the death of innocents rarely makes it into recorded history. Yet, within the gospels we do see a willingness to embrace the prophetic voice that was willing to challenge those in power and in many ways by his very being Jesus becomes a challenge to the Herods of the world.

Scripture speaks for a second time in this section by quoting Jeremiah 31: 15, and with this quotation the additional frame of the Babylonian exile is introduced into the narrative. Rachel crying for her children would be particularly poignant for Bethlehem because it is the site where Rachel is buried according to Genesis 35: 19-20:

So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb which is there to this day.

Now this matriarch of the Jewish people which cried out at the at the loss of her children during the deportation to Babylon mourns with the mothers who have lost their children as a result of the actions of Herod. Now Herod who attempts to build his credentials as the King of Judea by building the temple is also framed as Nebuchadnezzar who is the destroyer of Jerusalem and the temple. Yet, within this particular choice in Jeremiah is the broader context of hope coming out of the destruction, Rachel’s weeping proceeds a prophesy of the end of the exile. As the next two verses of Jeremiah can state:

Thus says the LORD: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for there is a reward for your work, says the LORD: they shall come back from the land of the enemy;  there is hope for your future, says the LORD: your children shall come back to their own country. Jeremiah 31: 16-17

The allusions and quotations of scripture in this chapter point to something larger that Matthew wants to communicate about who Jesus is and how he embodies Israel’s story. Matthew’s carefully constructed gospel wants us to understand through tapping into key portions of Israel’s story a bigger picture of who Jesus is and what he will mean for Israel and by extension for the rest of the world. As Richard B. Hays can describe Matthew as an interpreter of scripture:

Matthew is not merely looking for random Old Testament prooftexts that Jesus might somehow fulfill (as is sometimes suggested); rather, he is thinking about the specific shape of Israel’s story and linking Jesus’ life with key passages that promise God’s unbreakable redemptive love for his people. That is why Matthew’s comments on Herod’s slaughter of the children by selecting a citation from the same chapter in Jeremiah that also promises “a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (Jer 31:31) (Hays, 2016, p. 116)

O. Wesley Allen highlighted that Matthew modifies his normal word pattern when introducing a direct quotation from scripture. Normally Matthew will say that something happens ‘so that’ (Greek hina) but instead Matthew simply says “then (Greek tote) was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah.” For those who are familiar with the recurring pattern in scriptures it shouldn’t be surprising that God’s action to set people free is met by violence by those invested in the current order. Yet, even though this violence may be a response to God’s initiative that does not make it God’s will. The slaughter of the innocents may be in Matthew’s view a fulfillment of scripture but unlike the other places where scripture is quoted it doesn’t link this to divine causality. (Allen, 2013, p. 32)

Herod the Great’s death makes the return of Jesus and his family to Israel possible. Herod’s death doesn’t remove his family from the scene and Herod Archelaus (simply called Archelaus here) is reigning in Judea. We aren’t given any clues why Herod Archelaus would be perceived as a threat and his brother Herod Antipas (ruling in Galilee) was not, perhaps it was merely a return to Bethlehem that would have caused questions by those in power. Joseph continues to be guided by the angel of the Lord appearing to him in dreams and this places the family in Nazareth for the beginning of the Jesus’ adult story. Perhaps to answer the perception we see in the gospel of John voiced by Nathanael, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1: 46) Matthew includes this what final attribution to the prophets that Jesus will be called a Nazorean. Matthew is referencing the tradition of Nazorites who were set aside for the Lord as holy (see Numbers 6, both Samson and Samuel were Nazorites).

Even though Matthew will reference multiple pieces of scripture and allude to two major stories of the Jewish people to frame this passage he is also communicating that in Jesus, God is doing a new thing. The original texts will have their meaning broadened and expanded upon. As Anna Case-Winters can state,

For Matthew, new meaning break forth from these texts as God is doing a new thing. Matthew reimagines these texts, if you will, to make a theological claim that God is at work in all these happenings and is bringing to fulfilment what was promised of old. (Case-Winters, 2015, p. 32)

Even though the Herods of the world may seem to be the ones who wield power in these texts, Matthew wants us to understand that God is at work in ways that may seem hidden, but which to a person familiar with the rhythms of scripture are familiar. God is speaking both through scripture, the angel of the Lord, through dreams and the stars in the heavens for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The king of the Judeans may be acting as Pharaoh, but God has heard the cries of God’s people and even in this time to use Martin Luther’s words in a Mighty Fortress “this tyrant’s doomed to fail: God’s judgment must prevail! One little word shall triumph” (A Might Fortress is our God, verse 3 Fredrick H. Hedge translation)

Matthew 2: 1-12 Magi, the Creation and Scriptures Point to Jesus

James Tissot, The Magi Journeying (Between 1886 and 1894)

Matthew 2:1-12

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

I am a person who loves to read fantasy novels and to play games set within worlds filled with magic and yet I know that for most of the history of both Christianity and Judaism people who were looked upon as magic users were viewed as dangers to the faithful, at a minimum, and sometimes enemies of the faith aligned with demonic powers. It may be tempting to mock conservative Christians who forbid their children to read the Harry Potter novels, for example, but to understand the scandal of the story of the wise men we need to begin with the beliefs of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus about those who used things like astrology as a tool to understand their world. The advisors to Pharaoh who attempted to replicate the signs and wonders God did through Moses, Balaam who was called upon to curse Israel in Numbers 22-24 and the medium that Saul employs to talk to Samuel are all viewed as cautionary tales that warn against putting one’s trust in those who employ the magical arts. Numerous places in the law prohibit various types of magical practices, for example:

9 When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. 10 No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You must remain completely loyal to the LORD your God. 14 Although these nations that you are about to dispossess do give heed to soothsayers and diviners, as for you, the LORD your God does not permit you to do so. (Deuteronomy 18: 9-14, see also Exodus 22: 18 and Leviticus 20:27)

Contrary to our world where we assume magic belongs to the realm of fantasy, a part of the disenchanted worldview that we live in; in the ancient world magic was viewed as a real and dangerous thing. For the Jewish people it was viewed as a temptation which often lured people away from their faith in the God of Israel (and given the number of kings of Israel which would embrace the very practices that Deuteronomy prohibited they must have been a persuasive alternative). Even within the New Testament we hear the story of Simon the Magician in Acts 8 who views the gift of the Holy Spirit in terms of magical power and is condemned by Peter and John and responds by asking for their prayers. Simon, we learn, believed and was baptized and seems to have given up his former magical practices seeing the evidence of the Spirit’s power in the apostles. Likewise, in Acts 19 several former practitioners of magic burn their magical texts as a part of their acceptance of the faith of Christ. Yet, these wise men would not have been looked upon by most Jewish people as simply foreigners, but they would be both foreigners and people whose practices would be viewed, in Deuteronomy’s language, as abhorrent.

The magi were likely Zoroastrians from the Parthian Empire (also known as Persia, modern day Iran) who were known for their practices of discerning events from the stars. The description of the wise men as being from the East also lends support to the idea that these magi were coming from Parthia. Parthia also represented, for the people of the Roman empire, the external threat—they were people from beyond the boundaries of the empire and that in the century before Christ’s birth had harassed and humiliated the Romans and even briefly driven Herod the Great into hiding at Masada (until Rome would regain control of the region).  The star was seen beyond the beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire and those who came searching to pay tribute to the King of the Jews may have also been potential collaborators with a foreign empire. The magi were not kings themselves, but they were practitioners of a strange religion from a hostile empire. Yet, in line with the scriptures, the God of Israel frequently uses foreigners and even the movement of empires to be a part of God’s working in the world.

Another theme that will occur in Matthew is the way that creation itself reacts to the presence of Jesus. Even though the Jewish people may not have been looking to the heavens for a sign in the stars to let them know that the long-awaited Messiah has come, the creation shows signs that those who know how to see can observe. Many solutions for the start that the magi follow have been proposed, an interesting one is a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn three times in 7 BCE. Jupiter was known as the “royal” planet and Saturn was thought to represent the Jews, (Case-Winters, 2015, p. 27) but ultimately we will likely never prove exactly what the magi observed. Yet, for those able to see, the creation provides multiple witnesses to who Jesus is and this will be highlighted in the crucifixion scene where Matthew includes not only darkness but also an earthquake which opens the tombs and the resurrection of many who are dead. For Matthew the presence of Jesus, the Emmanuel (God with us), provokes a reaction from the earth and stars as they respond to the presence of their creator.

When I was growing up, I imagined this scene as literally following a star that was in motion like a comet, but likely the magi observed the signs in the heavens and moved to where they anticipated the observed phenomenon occurring. This may be the reason they end up in Jerusalem, in looking for the one born King of the Jews it is only natural to look at the center of power, both religious and spiritual, of the Jewish people. Bethlehem, while it was the birthplace of David, was a seemingly inconsequential place compared to Jerusalem with the temple and with King Herod’s palace. The magi come to the center of power looking for a king who is to be born and probably assume that the king is affiliated with he current king reigning in Jerusalem.

Herod the Great, the ruler of Judea was a shrewd political leader who could be merciless even on his own family. Herod was now Jewish, he was born in Idumea which is south of Judea, but he was raised religiously as Jewish by his father. Herod would reign as the King of Judea for roughly thirty-six years, dying in 4 BCE (shortly after the events narrated in these chapters) and his domain would be divided between his remaining sons. Even though Herod was granted the title ‘King of Judea’ by the Roman Senate his reign was dependent upon the favor of those in power in Rome, his ability to maintain the flow of tax revenue from his region and his ability to navigate the numerous internal threats to his reign. From a modern perspective we may view Herod as paranoid and power hungry, but the world he lived in was much more ruthless than our own and those who held power. Herod’s reaction is foreshadowed by the words that ‘Herod was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;”

The chief priests and scribes of the people are called upon to unravel the mystery of this child whose birth is written in the heavens and who these magi come seeking. In Matthew’s gospel the ability to read what is going on in the heavens only takes the magi so far, to complete their journey they need the gift of what is written in scripture. The chief priests and the scribes, who along with the ruling authorities like the Herods and the Romans will find themselves frequently at odds with Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, are now called upon to interpret the voice of scriptures. The chief priests and the scribes can, from the scriptures, pull the correct answer. The words in Matthew are closest to Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

As Stanley Hauerwas can remark Herod, the chief priest and the scribes may ultimately oppose Jesus, but they have a role play in the narrative of the life of Jesus. As he states, “without Herod the wise men might not have found the one they sought. The enemies of the kingdom often serve the movement begun in Jesus.” (Hauerwas, 2006, p. 40)

Throughout the gospel Matthew will use scripture to begin to illuminate who Jesus is and what he means. Just as in the genealogy we are linked back to the line of David and the promise of a new David that would lead the people. In the two explicit references to scripture at this point we have heard that Jesus is ‘’God with us” and “the ruler who is to shepherd Israel” (a role that in both Jeremiah and Ezekiel is claimed by God in opposition to the current shepherds). The scriptural claim about a new ruler from an ancient line who is to shepherd the people of Israel also undercuts Herod’s tenuous claim as king of the Judeans due to his political alliance with Rome and his political maneuverings in Judea.

Herod meets with the magi in secret, again this points out the scandal of the magi in a Jewish worldview. King Herod, ever attentive to threats to his power, passes on the information the magi need to complete their search by giving them the location where the scriptures reveal the child is to be born, Bethlehem. With this final piece of information, the search is completed, the heavens align, and these Gentiles can find the new king of the Jews that the chief priests, the scribes, and even King Herod had not. God uses foreigners who are not in possession of the law to be a part of the revelation of God’s story. Just like the genealogy with Gentiles are singled out as a critical part of the story of God’s chosen people and Matthew foreshadows that this gospel, although a Jewish gospel, will be open in the most expansive prophetic hope to the Gentiles who will come to be a part of what God is doing in Israel.

The magi bring their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. There are three gifts, but there are not necessarily three magi. Later tradition would attribute the names Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar with the magi of this story, but in Matthew they are unnumbered and unnamed. Unlike the song “We Three Kings of Orient Are” they were probably not kings and probably not three. Yet, these Gentile magi come from outside the empire and outside the Jewish faith based on how they see the stars move to pay tribute to this one born as a king.

Within the gospel there is an openness to the faith of the outsider and some of the greatest witnesses of faith will be non-Jewish in Matthew’s gospel. These magi are outsiders and yet they too show great faithfulness in coming in search of Jesus, bringing their gifts and paying him homage. They also, like Joseph, will be attentive to the way God will speak to them in dreams and in obedience to the vision they have in the night they leave the country without returning to Herod to report on Jesus and his family.

A Brief Introduction to Herod the Great

Herod the Great

The World Around Judea in the Time Before Herod

After the Maccabean Revolt in 167-160 BCE the Judean people had a time of independence and were ruled by Hasmonean kings who were descendants of the Maccabees who are credited with, in tradition, of leading the revolt that would grant them independence from the collapsing Seleucid Empire (the northern half of the former Greek empire).

The Macedonian Empire and the Kingodm of the Diadochi in 301 BC and 200 BC Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1911 courtesy of the University of Texas at Austin, Seleucid Empire shown in yellow on map

The Hasmoneans ruled Judea autonomously from 140-63 BCE when Pompey conquered Judea. The Hasmoneans retained their titles once Rome established Judea as a client state, but they no longer had the autonomy they once did. The Hasmoneans continued to vie for power, and it was during the power struggle between two brothers (Hyrcanus and Aristobolos) that Antipater (Herod the Great’s father) was able to attain the position of Chief minister of Judea with the responsibility of collecting taxes for Rome.

The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE brought instability throughout the Roman empire and while Marc Anthony and Octavian battled for dominance and the Parthian empire pushed against the divided Roman forces. Antipater would be assassinated by a rival, Malchus, in 43 BCE but Herod and his brothers, Antipater’s son would avenge their father’s death.

Herod the King of Judea

In either 40 or 39 BCE Herod is appointed King of Judea by the Imperial Senate at Anthony’s request. Because of the ongoing civil war between Anthony and Octavian and the continued Parthian incursions Herod was left with autonomy to deal with both civil unrest, particularly in Galilee, as well as internal threats from his own family.

There are times where Herod’s reign sounds like something out of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, where the intrigue between family members is often lethal. The Hasmoneans still had influence in both the political and religious spheres when Herod assumed power and Herod has married Mariamne I, the daughter of the Hasmoneans Alexander and Alexandra. To attempt to regain some of their lost power Herod’s mother-in-law, Alexandra, appealed to Cleopatra, now married to Marc Anthony, to help place her son, Aristobolus III, as high priest for Jerusalem.  While Herod did grant Aristobolus III the office of high priest he ensured that both Alexandra and Aristobolus III were kept under tight surveillance. In 36 BCE Herod would have Aristobolus III killed. In 29 BCE he would have his wife Mariamne I executed for adultery, and his mother-in-law Alexandra is executed after she declares Herod unfit to rule and attempts to assume the crown for herself. In 28 BCE he executes his brother-in-law Kostobar for conspiracy. In 27 BCE an assassination attempt on Herod’s life was foiled. Towards the end of his reign his sons became the threats to his power with his two sons from Mariamne I executed in 7 BCE, and his first born son, Antipater, who had been his heir was executed in 4 BCE while Herod was dying a painful death to an unknown illness.

In addition to navigating the internal threats Herod also had to navigate the tricky relationship with Rome during an unsettled time. In the civil war between Anthony and Octavian Herod had sided with Marc Anthony. When Octavian (who later assumed the title Augustus) defeated Marc Anthony’s forces in 31 BCE Herod had to demonstrate that he could be a loyal client king of the new Roman emperor. Herod was able to make the argument that his continued reign in Judea would help retain Rome’s access to the resources of both Egypt and Syria. Herod’s efficient administration of Judea, in Roman eyes, and his ability to keep local revolutionaries contained meant that Rome granted Herod a large amount of authority in relation to the people of Judea.

Herod rule would be viewed as despotic in modern terms and it is impossible to judge the reaction of the average person in Judea to his reign. Herod did use secret police to monitor and report on the population and that he had a large personal guard which was composed of both Jewish and mercenary forces. Herod’s building projects, including the rebuilding of the temple, harbors, fortresses and several cities for non-Jewish portions of the population in Judea placed a great tax burden on the people in addition to the taxes that Herod would send to Rome and to other dominions.

Herod, because of his Idumean background and in contrast to the Hasmoneans who came before him, had to maintain his identity as a monarch of the Jewish people. Yet, he also continually had to play the role of a client king of the Roman empire. Herod, even though he was brought up Jewish, sometimes displayed a poor judgment of Jewish sensitivities (or perhaps at times didn’t care). Herod’s most famous blunder was erecting a golden eagle at the gate of the temple which many Jewish religious leaders felt was idolatrous. Herod managed to stay in power for roughly thirty-six years facing both internal and external threats and was probably both efficient and ruthless. Herod did not tolerate threats to his continued reign and as the Roman writer Macrobius (c. 400 CE) would report that Emperor Augustus, on hearing that Herod has ordered the death of his own sons, said, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son” Herod, attempting to maintain a Jewish identity, would never slaughter a pig to eat, but Herod did put to death several of his sons and other relations.

Josephus in his two major works the Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities gives several details of Herod the Great’s reign roughly seventy years after his death. There is a lot of scholarly work on Herod the Great and his role in both Jewish and Christian narratives. His life can be confusing to attempt to follow because it occurs at the intersection of many large historical events. After Herod the Great’s death in 4 BCE his reign is divided among four of his remaining sons, the map below shows the reach of Herod the Great’s reign.

The Herodian Tetrarchy as establish by Augustus in 4 BCE until 6 CE when Herod Archelaus is ousted and Judea is annexed by Rome shared under creative commons attribution-share alike 4.0