The 38-Year Illness of Herod


I'm sure there were those who considered Herod's entire 38-year reign as a terrible disease, but in terms of royal history we are finding it rather typical. If Herod was a pedigreed member of the royal family, and all indications are that he was, then certainly there was no fundamental barrier to his takeover of the Jerusalem priesthood. Even so, the process of grafting onto a former priestly line normally took a generation or two to complete.

The fabrication of a genealogy for Herod was more likely needed in order to downplay his actual royal lineage. The same can be said for his grandson Aristobulus/Jesus. The current model was to give the appearance of a commoner/plebian who had made good (by the will of God and not an unfair royal/aristocratic advantage), the standard for which was set by Marius (a.k.a. the Seleucid king Demetrius III).

The real barrier to Herod or one of his natural sons becoming High Priest was Caesar Augustus. During most of Herod's reign, Caesar deliberately allowed the old Zadokite line (Ananelus/Honi) to return as High Priests, and as a check and balance on Herod. The main line of the Hasmonean dynasty was in control of Rome, at least according to the latest insight, and in the person of Augustus himself! But he does not seem to have had a natural son, or at least one qualified to take the throne (or the priesthood in Jerusalem). Who might the people have been expecting?

I still agree that Archelaus is a very intriguing figure. What was the real reason that Caesar agreed to remove him as King in Israel/Judea? Was it in preparation for an even greater kingship in Rome? Every indication from Josephus is that Archelaus tried very hard not to provoke a rebellion in the manner of his archetype Rehoboam. Yet the people rebelled anyway and he was blamed for it! Definitely more going on in that story than meets the eye.