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Herod Antipas – Co-Conspirator in Jesus’ Death

Profile of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee

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Herodias, Herod Antipas and Salome

Herodias presents the head of John the Baptist to Herod Antipas.

Photo: Getty Images

Herod Antipas was one of the co-conspirators who carried out the condemnation and execution of Jesus Christ. More than 30 years earlier, his father, Herod the Great, had tried but failed to murder the young Jesus by slaughtering all the boys under two years old in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16), but Joseph, Mary and Jesus had already fled to Egypt.

Herod came from a family of political schemers. He used Jesus to gain favor with the Romans and the powerful Jewish council, the Sanhedrin

Herod Antipas' Accomplishments:

Herod was appointed tetrarch of Galilee and Perea by the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Tetrarch was a title given to a ruler of one-fourth of a kingdom. Herod is sometimes called King Herod in the New Testament.

He restored the city of Sepphoris, only three miles from Nazareth. Some scholars speculate that Joseph, Jesus' foster father, may have worked on the project as a carpenter.

Herod built a new capital for Galilee on the west side of the Sea of Galilee and named it Tiberias, in honor of his patron, the Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar. It had a stadium, hot baths, and an ornate palace. But because it was supposedly built over a Jewish cemetery, many devout Jews refused to enter Tiberias.

Herod Antipas' Strengths:

Roman Empire records say Herod was a capable administrator of the provinces of Galilee and Perea.

Herod Antipas' Weaknesses:

Herod was morally weak. He married Herodias, the ex-wife of his half-brother Philip. When John the Baptist criticized Herod for this, Herod threw John in prison. Then, Herod gave in to the plot of Herodias and her daughter and had John beheaded (Matthew 14:6-11). However, the Jewish people loved John the Baptist and considered him a prophet. John's murder further alienated Herod from his subjects.

When Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to Herod for trial because Jesus was from Galilee, Herod was afraid of the chief priests and Sanhedrin. Rather than seeking the truth from Jesus, Herod wanted him to perform a miracle for his entertainment. Jesus would not comply. Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus. Then, instead of freeing this innocent man, Herod sent him back to Pilate, who had the authority to have Jesus crucified.

Herod's treachery improved his relationship with the chief priests and Sanhedrin and started a friendship with Pilate from that day forward.

After the emperor Tiberius died and was replaced by Caligula, Herod fell out of favor. He and Herodias were exiled to Gaul (France).

Life Lessons:

Doing evil to improve our status can have eternal consequences. We will often be faced with the choice of doing the right thing, or doing the wrong thing to gain the favor of someone powerful. Herod chose the latter, leading to the death of the Son of God.

Hometown:

Herod's hometown in Israel is not recorded, but we do know that his father had him educated in Rome.

Referenced in the Bible

Matthew 14:1-6; Mark 6:14-22, 8:14; Luke 3:1-20, 9:7-9, 13:31, 23:7-15; Acts 4:27, 12:1-11.

Occupation:

Tetrarch, or ruler, of the provinces of Galilee and Perea in Roman-occupied Israel.

Family Tree:

Father - Herod the Great
Mother - Malthace
Brothers - Archaelaus, Philip
Wife - Herodias

Key Verses:

Matthew 14:8-12
On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (NIV)

Luke 23:11-12
Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him (Jesus). Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies. (NIV)

(Sources: livius.org, virtualreligion.net, followtherabbi.com, and newadvent.org.)

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