The Political and Social Background Of Palestinian Judaism (4)

The Political and Social Background Of Palestinian Judaism (4)

The Sanctuary was carefully covered so that nobody could look into it. In the Diaspora, Herod appeared as a protector of Judaism and encouraged the synagogue community’s development. Despite all these, Herod never gained the favor of the Jews. Because of the terror of his regime and the harshness he used in subduing all opposition. Herod remained an object of hatred by the majority of the people. But then, even the devout Jews did not like Herod, and some fell in love with him.

The Hellenist loved Herod and showed gratitude to Herod because he erected Samaria’s new city in honor of Augustus. He built a harbor on the coast that protected the city from sound. The city was adorned with beautiful edifices. The fortification was placed over the Country to suppress any uprising. In Jerusalem, he built a Citadel known as Anthonia, so Herod could watch over everything happening in the Sanctuary.

The strongest fortress Herod built was on the western shore known as Masada. In Jerico, Herod built himself a place where he sheltered in winter. It is said Herod’s building activities are yet to be equaled by anybody in the present dispensation, i.e., the Wailing Wall is still standing today, as well as the foundation of Anthonia Citadel. The excavation from Jerico to Samaria revealed the significant buildings till today. Herod enhanced his reputation by giving donations to foreign Countries and asking them to erect buildings in his name. The Romans respected him, and he promoted pagan cults. John the Baptist and Jesus were born during Herod the Great’s reign.

Ceasar Augustus (Octavian) gave peace to Roman Empire. Herod eliminated the opponents of his throne. And anyone that could have constituted a danger to himself or the throne. The relationship had no meaning to him. Through his marriage to Mariamne, a descendant of Hasmoneans, Herod got himself back into a relationship with the old Royal family. And since Herod came from Idumea, he was constantly anxious that the people would not regard him as an equal (2nd class citizen), and this was his driving force.

Herod now installed a man obedient to him as a high priest since he could not become the high priest himself. His mother–in–law and some others insisted the new high priest must be removed. So he gave the office of the high priest to his wife’s younger brother Aristobulus, yet Herod did not stop the anxiety that one day the Hasmoneans would not rise to supplant him from the throne. His jealousy of the Hasmoneans became so intense that Herod killed his wife and later killed her two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus. He loved his first son Antipater and wanted him to succeed him. Herod suspected his first son Antipater before his death and ordered Antipater to be killed. Herod also ordered that hundreds of Jewish leaders be killed on the day he died, knowing that people would not cry for him but would cry for the death of others. Suspiciously governed Herod’s actions: Mat 2:16 – the massacre of children to protect his throne.

Herod made a will dividing his kingdom among his three sons: (1) Archelaus, (2) Herod Antipas (3) Herod Phillip. Archelaus was in charge of Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Herod Antipas was in charge of Galilee and Perea. Herod Philip was appointed Tetrarch of Batanea, trachonitis, and Auranitis. After the death of Herod in 4BC, the three sons of Herod made a journey to Rome to confirm their offices. And to make as much profit as possible. Still, then the Jews in Jerusalem sent emissaries to Rome telling them to abolish Herodian Rule and to restore the independence of Jerusalem’s Cultic Community – Luke 19:12 & 14 points to this. But their prayer to Rome was not granted by Augustus but instead upheld the will of Herod the Great. Antipas and Philip were made Tetrarchs (minor Kings).

Archelaus was made ethnarch (lesser King), but the Jews were all kings. (Ref: Mark 6:14, 26; Mat 2: 22). While the three sons of Herod the great were in Rome, trouble started in Judea. Roman troops from Syria under Quintilasvarus went to Judea to restore peace. Nevertheless, the anti-Roman attitude of Jews did not abate. Instead, it increased in multitude after the withdrawal of the Roman troops from Jerusalem, and the three sons came back to assume their duties.

The Herodian Dynasty:


Archelaus reigned from 4 BC to 6AD. Archelaus’ mother was Nalthace, a Samaritan woman. He took over the kingdom after his father’s death. He was as ruthless and wicked as his father. It was reported that he killed 3000 people during a Passover shortly after resumption at his post. St. Matthew reported his ruthlessness in Mat 2: 22. Some Samaritans leaders and Jews leaders reported Archelaus to Rome and asked him to be dethroned; this Rome did and was exiled to Gaul (France) in 6AD. He was the most hated among the three princes. His territory was left under the Roman Governor’s jurisdiction, so this Governor ordered a census to be taken in Syria and Palestine.

This Governor was residing in Caesarea; he occasionally went to Jerusalem during the Jews’ Passover and any other feasts of Jews because so many people came for these feasts, so he went with his troops so that law and order were maintained. When this gov and his troops were in Jerusalem, they would not tamper with the Jewish Cultic Community, the priesthood, and the Sanhedrin. Because soldiers were on parole without their banners, no images of Caesar were set up in the temple. Supreme legal authority was placed in the hands of the Roman Governor. Because of that, the Sanhedrin could only deal with matters that concerned the Jewish cultic community and could not pronounce death sentences or inflict death. Outside Jerusalem in the Anthonia Citadel, there were always Roman troops, and from time to time, during the Jews Festival were augmented to take care of Jerusalem. Jews were not recruited into the army, only the gentiles – Acts 10:1; 23:28 & 33.

In the time of Jesus, Pontius Pilate held the position of Governor. Acts 26. Philo said of Pilate, “The conduct of his office was marked with corruption, violence, ill-treatment, offenses, numerous illegal executions, and incessant unbearable cruelty.” Pontius had no regard for the religious sensitivity of the Jews. One night, he caused a Roman banner with the emperor’s image to be brought into Jerusalem. The Jews protested and preferred to die than tolerate the violation of the law (Ten Commandments). Pilate then gave a command that the banner is removed.

Pilate went and took money from the temple, and as a result, unrest broke down in Jerusalem. Pilate claimed he wanted to use the money to build an acqueduct, but the Jews said he had the right to enter the temple and could subdue the protest. The Samaritan prophet prophesized from the time of Moses, they hid Utensils under the mountain Gerizim, and Pilate sent people there to kill them. Many were killed, many were imprisoned, and some escaped. The Samaritans were so annoyed that they turned to Vitellius to complain to Roman Governor Pilate, and he was invited to explain himself. The NT picture of Pilate was not a good one. Pilate incited the killings of Samaritans, as recorded in Luke 13:1, Mark 15:17 & 22, because Pilate’s wickedness was why he condemned Jesus. Psalm 2: 1 &2.


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