Category Archives: Bible Backgrounds

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod’s family at my side (here’s one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod’s family mentioned in the Gospels…

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea — all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that a baby king named Jesus had been born (Mt. 2:16). Herod died a short time later, splitting his kingdom between three sons.

Herod Philip – son of Herod the Great through his wife Cleopatra. Ruled over a vast area of NE Palestine until AD 34. The city of Caesarea Philippi up in the foothills gets its name from this man.

Herod Antipas – son of Herod the Great through his wife Malthace. Ruled over Galilee and Perea until AD 39. Antipas is the one who stole Herodias from another half-brother named Philip (Mt. 14:3) and was responsible for executing John the Baptist (Mt. 14:10). He’s also the Herod who appears during the Roman trial of Jesus (Lk. 23:7).

Archelaus – Another son of Herod the Great through his wife Malthace. A vicious and inept king who ruled for about a decade over Judea and Samaria, but was de-throned while Jesus was still a child (he is mentioned only in Mt. 2:22). By the time Jesus began His public ministry, this region had long been taken away from Herodian control and assigned to Roman procurators/governors.

There are even more descendants of Herod mentioned in the book of Acts, but I won’t take time to discuss them now. Here’s a map from the Holman Bible Atlas showing the political boundaries right after Herod the Great’s death. This is how Israel looked when Jesus’ family returned from Egypt and settled up in Nazareth.

A timeline of Christ’s passion

Today is Wednesday, and we are now at the mid-point of what has traditionally been called the “Passion week” or “Holy week” of Christ. Have you ever read the gospels and wondered how all the events of this critical week fit together? Below is a chronology of events that might be helpful:

“Palm” Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Monday – Jesus cleanses and controls the temple; fig tree is cursed

Tuesday – Jesus confronts His enemies, pronounces woes against the religious leaders, and delivers the Olivet Discourse regarding Jerusalem’s coming destruction and Jesus’ second coming; Judas bargains to betray Jesus

“Silent” Wednesday – no record in any of the four Gospels

“Maundy” Thursday – Jesus and His disciples prepare and then celebrate the traditional Passover meal as His “Last Supper” prior to His death; Upper Room discourse; Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane and is arrested; Jewish trials ensue. This is sometimes called “Maundy” Thursday because of Jesus’ new “mandate” (Latin mandatum > Middle English Maundy) to love one another, even as He loved us (John 13:34)

“Good” Friday – Jewish and Roman trials, crucifixion, darkness, death, and burial

Saturday – Jesus’ body lays in the tomb

“Easter” Sunday – Jesus rises from the dead early in the morning; Jesus makes five appearances: to Mary Magdalene, other women, two disciples on road to Emmaus, Simon Peter, and 10 disciples (Thomas absent)

It’s amazing how Jesus orchestrated every tiny detail in order to arrive on the cross by Friday afternoon. He would die for our sin at “twilight” – the very time the Jews slaughtered their Passover lambs (Exodus 12:4; Deuteronomy 16:6; Luke 23:44-46). Truly, He is “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7). And to think all this took place while we were still in rebellion against Him as His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). What wondrous love is this!

For a closer look at the passion week story recorded in the four gospels, I recommend A Harmony of the Gospels by Robert Thomas.

Update: Here’s a satellite image showing the relative location of these events in Google Maps. Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing out this link.