Herodian #2

Herod as “Solomon”

By the end of his second decade of rule Herod was ready to undertake something even more ambitious. He would build a grand temple and palace in Jerusalem and in doing so combine the role of Solomon with that of David. Precedent set by the kings who ruled after Solomon made this a perfectly acceptable enterprise (at least for those Jews who still recognized the institution of kingship). It has been shown that Jotham (Piye/Sargon II) king of Judah was first typecast as the Joseph of his generation, but later combined the roles of Jacob and Isaac-David. The more divine roles that a king accumulated in his lifetime the greater he was considered to be.

Herod was vilified as an oppressor. Yet the heavy yoke placed on his subjects only served to associate him more closely with Solomon. Solomon, it was said (1 Kings 12:4), reduced Israel to “grievous servitude” with his monumental building programs. Herod likewise was the most renowned builder anywhere in the Near East, upstaging even Rome during this time period.

Herod also applied his genius for architecture to the ordering of his own family. Shortly after inaugurating construction of the new Solomonic temple Herod appointed a new High Priest. He was the son of a renowned priest of the Jews in Alexandria of Egypt. After making him priest in Jerusalem Herod promptly married the priest’s daughter, also called Mariamne, who had captivated the city with her great beauty. She was most attractive to Herod for her unassailable pedigree within an important Jewish priestly family. Intermarriage with such a family was again primarily political and an attempt to produce an heir that would be acceptable to the Jews not only as a Crown Prince but also as a High Priest.

Herod had censured his brother Pheroras for his poor choice in marriage, and to the point of alienating him. However, as Solomon (“The Great Hor,” Amenhotep III), Herod bound himself not only to leading Jewish brides but also to many “strange women.” He championed Jehovah (“Amen”) in Jerusalem and Israel, but was accommodating to his so-called foreign wives and their gods elsewhere. The historian Josephus explained in some detail the care that Herod put into matchmaking among his children and grandchildren. This included intermarriage with the families of his sister (Salome) and brothers (Joseph, Phasael and Pheroras), and with other royal houses in the Near East. Herod was equally concerned with the traditional roles that his immediate descendants would play. These roles had always been reserved for members of the royal family, and once his throne was firmly established it became the prerogative of Herod to fulfill them as he saw fit.

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