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Herodians, #3

Herod as “Jacob” and “Shiloh”

In architecting his own royal persona Herod could draw upon sages from Egypt to Babylon, from Greece to Arabia, and even beyond. He was thereby able to gain an understanding of Messianic kingship that would have utterly confounded the parochial priests of Jerusalem. Those priests and scribes recruited by Herod, and especially his father-in-law the High Priest, would have informed him that the role of Solomon embodied not only Shiloh of the Torah history but also Jacob. Herod, if he desired precision and strict prophetical fulfillment, could not properly assume the composite identity of Solomon without accepting its constituent parts. Herod therefore not only styled himself after Shiloh but also Jacob the Grabber. He further designated the various princes of his family as “sons of Jacob.”

The eldest son of Herod, who was called Antipater after Herod’s father, took identity of Reuben the eldest son of Jacob. Like Reuben, Antipater was excluded from succession early on and sent away from the royal court with his mother.

The favored wife of Herod was the first Mariamne of the old Hasmonian line. She was the mother of Herod’s next three sons. As potential heirs these three princes were brought up and educated in Rome. The first two were called Alexander and Aristobulus. The third son died young while still in Rome and unfortunately his name was not provided in the writings of Josephus. Alexander was placed in the role of Simeon, second son of Jacob. Aristobulus was to be Levi. The unnamed prince was in the prestigious but precarious role of Judah.

The second Mariamne, daughter of the High Priest Simon, became mother of Herod’s fifth son named Herod (a.k.a. Phillip). He was given the role of Issachar fifth son of Jacob. (In the Egyptian New Kingdom, the prince designated as Issachar also shared the same name as Jacob, that being, Amenhotep.) Herod also married a woman of Samaritan pedigree named Malthace. She became the mother of Archelaus, who assumed the role of Zebulun sixth son of Jacob.

A beloved younger brother of Herod was named Joseph, but he was killed in the war against the last Hasmonean dynasts. The son of this brother, also called Joseph, was placed in the critical role of Joseph son of Jacob.

Towards the end of his reign Herod became sexually impotent due to a debilitative condition, perhaps gout, that affected his bowels and genitals. Therefore, he directed his sons to produce additional children for him through his wives. This was also considered necessary in order to pattern his family after that of Jacob. For example, it has been shown that the prince designated as Judah son of Jacob in the Egyptian New Kingdom, that is, Thutmose IV son of Amenhotep II, died young after being poisoned. Yet, prior to his death he did father a son to continue his kingly line. Similarly, although the unnamed fourth son of Herod likely died in his teens, it can be deduced that he had also already produced an heir, the future Herod Antipas through Queen Malthace. As will be discussed below, Herod Antipas took on the same roles played by the Egyptian New Kingdom pharaoh Aye who was the biological son of Thutmose IV.