Religion & Beliefs

Herod the Jew

According to the HuffPo, an Israeli archaeologist has found the tomb of King Herod.    King Herod?    King Herod: the Jewish proxy ruler of the Holy Land under imperial Roman occupation from 37 B.C. His most famous construction project was … Read More

By / May 9, 2007

According to the HuffPo, an Israeli archaeologist has found the tomb of King Herod.   

King Herod?   

King Herod:

the Jewish proxy ruler of the Holy Land under imperial Roman occupation from 37 B.C. His most famous construction project was expanding the Jewish Second Temple in Jerusalem.

 I was a little surprised, reading the story,  to find out: 

…among key clues were that the sarcophagus was placed on a raised platform rather than in the underground tombs used for those of lesser rank, and that in accordance with Jewish religious law, it was not decorated with any human image.

Hmmmm.   See, my understanding of Herod (based on Josh Mostel’s portrayal of him as an obese  bagel-hurling  sunbather in Jesus Christ Superstar, and supplemented only with cliffsnotes to Josephus) is that he was a twisted mess of a man.  Credited with the Slaughter of the Innocents, and a complete puppet of Rome.  So it surprised me to think that he might have actually BEEN a Jew.

And this made me wonder why I  know nothing about him as a Jew.  Is his involvement with the story of Jesus the reason?  Did his importance for Christianity obliterate any interest we might have in the fact that he explanded the second temple?

Well, according to this site, the Talmud says: 

Herod was a slave of the house of the Hasmoneans. He had set his eyes on a certain young girl [from that family]. One day he heard a Heavenly voice that said: ‘Any slave that revolts now will succeed’. He rose and killed all of his masters but left that girl alive. When she saw that he wanted to marry her, she ascended to the roof and raised her voice saying: ’Whoever comes and says: I am descended from the house of the Hasmoneans is a slave, for no one was left from them except this maiden (herself) and this girl is hurling herself from the roof to the ground’ (then she killed herself)”.

 Pretty interesting, right?  I mean, he sounds like an awful guy, but he’s in the Talmud, yo!  That seems worth knowing. And this site goes into great detail about how the Jews of the time felt about him:  |

All the worldly pomp and splendor which made Herod popular among the pagans, however, rendered him abhorrent to the Jews, who could not forgive him for insulting their religious feelings by forcing upon them heathen games and combats with wild animals. The annexation to Judea of the districts of Trachonitis, Batanea, Auranitis, Zenodorus, Ulatha, and Panias, which Herod through his adulations had obtained from Augustus, could not atone for his crimes. In the eyes of the pious Jew Herod's government was not better than that of Antiochus Epiphanes. Like him, but by other means, Herod endeavored to Hellenize Judea.

 So there we go… we actually know a lot about Herod, and he was a Jewish leader (albeit a bad one).  We just don’t talk about him, despite the fact that everyone else does…