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Herod’s Descendants Who Ruled Israel

Second Generation: Herod Antipas, Herod Archaelus, and Phillip

 Herod died in 4 B.C. Thereafter, Caesar Augustus divided his kingdom among three of his sons and his sister, Salome. According to the final version of Herod’s will, Archelaus became ethnarch of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria.[1] Herod Antipas was granted authority over the regions of Galilee and Perea with the lesser title of tetrarch. Philip received territories east of the Jordan River: Gaulanitis (the Golan Heights), Batanaea (southern Syria), Trachonitis and Auranitis.  Salome was gifted with a small region including the cities of Jabneh, Ashdod, and Phasaelis.[2]



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Archelaus was ethnarch (ruler of two portions of Herod’s original kingdom) of Samaria, Judea and Idumea (Biblical Edom) from 4 BC to 6 AD. He was the older brother of Herod Antipas. Archelaus was Herod’s son by his fourth wife Malthace, a Samaritan.

Herod the Great was half Edomite and half Nabatean and hated by his subjects, the Jews.  His son, Archelaus had the Edomite background of his father but also the Samaritan lineage of his mother.  The Jews despised the Samaritans and often would not even enter their territory.  Archelaus was a tyrant like his father but lacked his father’s abilities.  Early in his reign, he had 3000 demonstrators killed on the Temple grounds during the Passover celebration.  They were demonstrating those previously killed by Herod the Great just prior to his death. Augustus deposed him after only two years on the throne because his subjects rebelled against him and he could never effectively establish order over his territories.  Augustus Caesar exiled Archelaus to Gaul, and placed a Roman procurator over his kingdom. Pontius Pilate became that Roman governor in the last years of Jesus Christ.  Samaria, Judea proper, and Idumea became the Roman provice of Iudaea.[3]

The Gospel of Matthew records that Jesus parents feared to enter the territories ruled by Archelaus when they returned from Egypt after Herod the Great died.  Therefore, they settled in Nazareth and Jesus grew up there.[4]


Philip ruled between 4 B.C. and 34 A.D. in the southwest of what is now Syria. Philip I became Tetrarch of the northern part of Herod’s kingdom. Josephus records his territories  as Batanea, Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Auranitis, Paneas. and the House of Zenodorus.[5] Most of these names refer to modern day Syria, Lebanon and the Golan Heights.  He was the son of Herod the Great by his fifth wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem. He was a half-brother of Herod Antipas and Herod Archelaus (they had different mothers, but the same father). He is not Herod II, whom some writers call Herod Philip.  This was also his half-brother from another wife of Herod the Great (Miramne II).  Philip did not use the name Herod to connect him to the Herod dynasty.

Philip married his niece Salome in 30 A.D. She was the daughter of Herodias and Herod Philip.[6] Salome’s father was Philip’s half brother and her mother was Philip’s niece. Salome appears in the Bible in connection with the execution of John the Baptist.[7]  Her mother, Herodias, initially married Herod Philip, but later divorced him and remarried Herod Antipas (to be explained more in the last section).

Philip was a humane ruler. His capital was Caesarea Philippi (named after Caesar and himself).  He rebuilt this city. The Jews were a minority in his tetrarchy. Most of his subjects were of Syrian or Arabian descent. The latter were nomadic. Philip became a sheik to his nomadic subjects. He traveled constantly through their country with a small entourage. When someone asked his assistance, he immediately ordered his throne to be set down, heard the complaints and gave his judgment. His subjects in the cities considered this behavior rather odd, but Philip won the hearts of the nomadic Arabs. He died in 34 A.D., having ruled his territory successfully for thirty-seven years.

Josephus recorded Philip was a person of moderation and quietness in the conduct of his life and government.[8] Since he left no sons, the emperor Tiberius ordered his realms to be added to the province of Syria. When Tiberius Caesar died in 37, his successor Caligula appointed Philip’s nephew, Herod Agrippa I, as its king.

Herod Antipas

Another son of Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea (4 B.C.- 39 A.D.).  He ruled a quarter of his father’s kingdom.  His mother, Malthace, was a Samaritan.[9] Herod Antipas is the most prominent ‘Herod’ in the New Testament, because he was the tetrarch over Galilee and Perea, the areas where John the Baptist and Jesus Christ ministered.

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Antipas governed Galilee and Perea for forty-two years. These territories were separated by the region of the Decapolis (ten cities), with Galilee to the north and Perea to the south (see map). Both regions were unstable when Antipas assumed rule. When Antipas returned from Rome to commence his reign in the territories allotted him by Augustus Caesar, he found Galilee in ruin because of a rebellion at the feast of Pentecost in 4 B.C.  Dissidents led by Judas, son of Hezekiah, attacked the palace of Sepphoris in Galilee, seizing money and weapons with which they terrorized the area.[10] Quinctillius Varus, Roman governor of Syria, ordered a counterattack, in which Sepphoris was destroyed by fire and its inhabitants sold as slaves.[11]

Antipas’ father Herod the Great was considered one of the greatest builders of the ancient world. Antipas’ resolved to follow his father’s footsteps as a great builder. He began rebuilding Sepphoris, which was the capital and largest city in Galilee at that time. He rebuilt and fortified that city, which was only three miles from Nazareth. Perhaps Joseph and his son, Jesus, worked on this project as carpenters. (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3). Herod likely completed the project around 10 A.D.

Perea, bordered the kingdom of Nabatea, which had uneasy relations with the Romans and Jews.[12] Herod Antipas added a wall to the city of Betharamphtha in Perea.[13]   He named that city Livias after Augustus’ wife, Livia, and his daughter, Julias. Herod completed that project in 13 A.D.

Herod then ordered the construction of the capital city of Tiberias on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  That ‘Sea’ was later named the Sea of Tiberias.  It is actually not a sea, but a small lake.  Antipas named the city to honor the Roman emperor, Tiberias Caesar, who began his reign in 14 A.D.[14] Tiberias is considered among the most important of twelve cities built by the Herods. The builders unfortunately demolished an ancient cemetery and built the city over it.  Antipas subsequently had difficulty enticing Jews to settle there. He offered free houses and exemption from taxes for several years if anyone moved into the new city. Herod Antipas completed Tiberias in 23 A.D., and it became the new capital of Galilee.

Residents bathed in nearby warm springs of Emmaus, and enjoyed sports events in the city’s stadium.[15] Tiberias later became a center of rabbinic learning.[16]

Early in his reign, Antipas married Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea. Around 15 years later (29 A.D.) Antipas made a journey to Rome. On his way he paid a visit to his half brother Herod II Philip who lived in a coastal city of Palestine. Antipas fell in love with his Philip’s wife Herodias who was also Philip’s niece.  Herod Phillip is not the same ‘Phillip’ who inherited the northern part of Herod the Great’s kingdom.  Herod Phillip is the son of Herod’s wife Miriamne II. Herodias was the granddaughter of Herod the Great and Miriamne I. Their son, Aristobulus, was Herodias’ father. Therefore, Herodias was also Antipas’ niece.  They agreed to marry, after Herod Antipas divorced his wife, Phasaelis.[17]   Phasaelis asked permission to travel to the frontier fortress of Machaerus, from which Nabatean forces escorted her to her father. With his daughter now safe in his custody, Aretas later declared war on Herod.[18]   Herod Antipas married Herodias after renouncing his first wife. Antipas brought Herodias and her daughter Salome into his court. Herod Antipas’ divorce from his Nabatean wife, Phasaelis, added another grievance to previous disputes with her father, Aretas, over Perean territories bordering Nabatea. The resulting war with the Nabateans proved disastrous for Antipas.  He lost territory and the war in 36, a year before the death of the emperor Tiberius.

The timing of Herod’s marriage to Herodias is a point of contention. Some have speculated the marriage of Antipas and Herodias occurred shortly before the war in the year 34, after the death of Philip.[19]  Others have pointed to Josephus’ comment[20] that Herodias “divorced herself from her husband while he was alive” to argue the marriage took place before Herod Philip’s death—approximately 27 A.D. Josephus’ record argues for Jesus’ birth during the later reign of Herod the Great,[21] and his death in his early 30’s.[22]

 Herod Antipas and Rome

Herod Antipas’ army suffered a humiliating defeat in 36 A.D. after subjects from Philip’s former tetrarchy sided with the Nabateans. The Jews saw this defeat as a divine retribution upon Antipas for his execution of John the Baptist.[23] Antipas was forced to appeal to Tiberius Caesar for help. The emperor ordered Lucius Vitellius, governor of Syria, to march against Aretas and ensure that he was captured or killed.[24] Vitellius sent two Roman legions on a detour around Judea while he joined Antipas at a festival at Jerusalem (probably Pentecost). While there he learned of the death of Tiberius (16 March 37 A.D.) and recalled his troops, concluding he lacked the authority to go to war.[25] Josephus implied Vitellius was unwilling to cooperate with Herod because of a grudge he bore from an earlier incident.[26]

Antipas’ fall from power was due to Emperor Caligula and to his own nephew Herod Agrippa I, brother of Herodias. When Agrippa fell into debt during the reign of Tiberius, Herodias persuaded Antipas to provide for him, but the two men argued and Agrippa departed. Agrippa was later overheard speaking with his friend Caligula in Rome.  He expressed his desire that Tiberius die and allow Caligula to succeed him.  This was reported to Tiberius, who promptly imprisoned Agrippa.  But Tiberias died shortly thereafter.  When Caligula assumed the throne in 37 AD, he released his friend, Agrippa, and granted him rule of Philip’s former tetrarchy, the tetrarchy of Lysanius along with the title of king. [27]

Josephus relates Herodias, jealous at Agrippa’s success, persuaded Antipas to ask Caligula for the title of king for himself.[28] Finally in A.D. 39 Antipas and Herodias travelled to Rome. However, Agrippa simultaneously presented the emperor with a list of charges against Antipas. Agrippa alleged Antipas had conspired against Tiberius and was continuing to plot against Caligula with Artabanus. As evidence, Agrippa noted that Antipas had stockpiled weaponry sufficient for 70,000 men. Hearing Antipas’ admission to this last charge, Caligula credited the allegations of conspiracy. In the summer of 39 AD, Antipas’ money and territory were given to Agrippa, and Antipas was exiled.[29]  Caligula banished Antipas to “Lugdunum” in Gaul (France).[30] Caligula offered to allow Herodias, as Agrippa’s sister, to retain her property. However, she chose instead to join her husband in exile.[31]  Antipas died shortly after his exile.[32]  Caligula gave Antipas’ territories to Agrippa.[33] So Herod Agrippa’s kingdom was larger than the territories ruled by any of Herod’s sons.

 Biblical Connections: 

Antipas and John the Baptist

 John the Baptist began a ministry of preaching and baptism by the Jordan River,[34] which marked the western edge of Antipas’ territory of Perea. Herod Antipas’ enduring legacy is the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist.[35]

John the Baptist denounced Antipas for marrying his brother Herod Philip’s wife, Herodias. The Mosaic law forbade the marriage of a living brother’s wife (Lev. 18:16; 20:21), except for raising children of a deceased brother by levirate marriage (Deut 25:5; Mark 12 :19). Antipas’ brother Philip was still alive!

Herod Antipas knew John the Baptist was very popular with the Jews of that area.  Josephus recorded that John’s public influence made Antipas fearful of rebellion.[36]  Antipas imprisoned John at his palace in Machaerus and later executed him.[37]  Herodias detested John the Baptist and was not satisfied to leave him in prison.  At the suitable time she arranged a large banquet for Antipas’ birthday, at his palace in Machaerus in Perea. Herodias daughter, Salome, danced before Antipas’ dignitaries and he promised her anything up to half his kingdom. Her mother advised her to request the head of John the Baptist on a platter.[38]

Antipas was sorry he had made the promise, but due to the witness of his guests he honored the request. John the Baptist was beheaded that very night.

 Herod Antipas and Jesus

Antipas’ relationship to Jesus is portrayed in three Biblical events:

The first event is when Herod Antipas first began to hear about Jesus and concluded he was “John the Baptist resurrected from the dead”[39] Herod was likely under great conviction from his dastardly deed. What should he do?  Jesus was now acquiring even more popularity than John.

The second event relates to Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.  Pharisees approached Jesus, stating He had better remove Himself from Herod Antipas’ territories because he sought to kill Jesus.[40] Jesus denounced the tetrarch as a ‘fox’ and declared that He (Jesus) would not fall victim to such a plot because “it cannot be that the prophet should perish away from Jerusalem”.[41]  Likely, Antipas realized the danger of Jesus’ influence on the people and wanted Him to leave the territory by threatening to kill Him. Jesus continued His ministry there for a short time because Antipas did not control His fate.

The third event occurred just prior to Jesus crucifixion, when Antipas tried Jesus in 29 A.D.[42] The Jewish leaders flustered Pontius Pilate, after he found Jesus not guilty.  Not having a better course of action, Pilate sent Jesus to Antipas, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover. Pilate had heard Jesus was from Galilee and primarily ministered there.  Herod Antipas ruled the region of Galilee, so perhaps he could render justice in this case.

Pilate also yearned to improve his relationship with Antipas which had been damaged by the Galilean massacre in the Temple,[43] and by the incident where Pilate brought votive shields into Jerusalem.[44] Antipas reported this incident to Tiberius Caesar, who ordered Pilate to remove the shields at once.

Antipas received Jesus from Pontius Pilate, but seemed more interested in seeing Jesus perform a miracle.  There is no evidence Antipas interrogated Jesus to determine the truth of the accusations. Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus. Then, instead of freeing this innocent man, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate.  Herod’s treachery improved his standing with the chief priests and the Sanhedrin. Luke records these events improved relations between Pilate and Herod, easing their earlier antagonism.[45]

When Herod sent Jesus back, Pilate could still have represented Antipas’ failure to convict as support for his own ‘not guilty’ ruling. This would have allowed him to avoid responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion.[46] But Pilate chose to submit to the wishes of the High Priest and the Sanhedrin.  He ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.


Joanna, the wife of Herod Antipas’ steward, and Manaen, a “foster-brother” and “companion” of Antipas were among the followers of Jesus.  They are listed in the Book of Acts as members of the first Christian church at Antioch.  It has been conjectured these individuals were sources for early Christian knowledge of Antipas and his court.[47]

Timeline Review

  • 20 BC – Herod Antipas is born to Herod the Great (an Idumaean) and Malthace ( a Samaritan)
  • 4 BC – Jesus of Nazareth born in Roman Palestine
  • 4 BC – Herod the Great dies.
  • 4 BC – Herod Antipas becomes Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea
  • 14 – 37 AD – Tiberius I reigns as emperor of Rome
  • 18 AD – Caiaphas appointed high priest in Jerusalem (until 36).
  • 26 AD – John the Baptist preaches and baptizes.
  • Jesus baptized. [Luke 3:1-2] (15th year of Tiberius).
  • 26 AD – Jesus begins his public ministry.
  • 26 AD – Pontius Pilate installed Roman procurator of Judea
  • 27 AD – Herod orders John the Baptist beheaded
  • AD – Pilate sends Jesus to Antipas in Jerusalem. (Lk. 23:6-16).
  • Herod Antipas sends Jesus back to Pontius Pilate for trial
  • Jesus of Nazareth is crucified in Jerusalem.
  • 39 AD – Caligula orders Herod Antipas banished to Lyons in Gaul.

Bibliography and Works Cited


[1] Josephus, Antiquities 17.224–249, 299–323.

[2] Josephus, Antiquities, 17.12.317–319.

Josephus, Antiquities 17.188–189, War 1.664.

[3] H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN O-674-39731-2, page 246

[4] Matthew 2.22

[5] Josephus, Antiquities 17, 8: 1.

Ibid. 17.11: 4

[6] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 18.5:4 (137)

[7] Mark 6:17

[8] Jewish Antiquities, 18.106.

[9] Josephus, Antiquities17.20, War 1.562.

[10] Josephus, Antiquities 17.271-272, War 2.56.

[11] Ibid. 17.288-289, War 2.68.

[12] Nabatean history, see Schürer 574–586.

[13] Josephus, Antiquities 18.27,War 2.168.

[14] Josephus, Antiquities 18. 37-38

[15] Bruce 9; Schürer 342-343.

[16] Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius 299-305

[17] Josephus, Antiquities 18.109-110

Mark 6: 17

[18] Ibid. 18.111-113.

[19] Kokkinos, The Herodian Dynasty, pp. 268, 277.

[20] Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Book 18, chapter 5, paragraph 4

[21] Matt. 2:1-12

[22] Stewart Perowne, The Later Herods p. 49

Bruce 10 n. 16; Schürer 344 and n. 19

[23] Josephus Antiquities. 5.1.2; 116, 119

[24] Josephus, Antiquities 18.113-115.

Schürer 350.

[25] Ibid. 18.120-126.

[26] ibid.18.101-105.

[27] ibid.18. 10; 225, 239

[28] Josephus, Antiquities 18.143-239, War 2.178-181; Bruce 19-20.

[29] Ibid.18.240-252, War 2. 181-183. For the date, see Schürer 352–353 n. 42.

[30] Ibid. 18.252.

[31] ibid. 18.253-255.

[32] Josephus, War 2.183.

[33] Jos. Antiq. 7. 1-2; 240-255; War ii. 9. 6; 181-183.

[34] The Gospel of Luke 3:1

[35] Luke 3:19, 20; Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 2; 116-119

[36] Matt. 14:3-4; Mark 6:17-18; Luke 3:19; Josephus, Antiquities 18.118.

[37] Josephus, Antiquities 18.119.

[38] Matt. 14:6-11; Mark 6:19-28.

[39] Matt 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9

[40] Luke 13:31-33.

[41] Luke 13:31-33.

[42] Luke 23:6-12.

[43] Luke 13 :1

[44] Philo Legatio ad Gaium 299-300.

[45] Luke 23:5-12

[46] Luke 23: 13-16; Bruce 17; Hoehner 89–90.

[47] Luke 8:3; Acts 13:1; Bruce 13-14

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