Who Were The Herodian’s?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Have you heard about the Herodian’s? Who were they, and why is it important to know about them?

What was the Herodium?

According to Josephus, the Jewish historian hired by the Romans to record the history of the Jews, the “Herodium was built on the spot where Herod won a great victory over Hasmonean and Parthian who were their enemies in 40 BC” (Antiquities XIV, 352-360). To commemorate this great victory, King Herod built a fortress and a palace there, which he named after himself. It was Herodium, together with Machaerus and Masada near the Dead Sea, that were the last three fortresses held by Jewish fighters after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, however Herodium was eventually conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 71 AD (War VII, 6, 1). The Herodium is sometimes called Herodeion and Israel know’s it best as “Herodion”. The Herodian’s were believed to be a public political party who distinguished themselves from the two great historical parties of post-exilic Judaism (the Pharisees and Sadducees) by the fact that they were friendly to Herod the Great, the King of the Jews, and to his dynasty, and unlike the Pharisees who sought to restore the kingdom of David, the Herodian’s wished to restore a member of the Herodian dynasty to the throne in Judea. Of course, this never happened as the Roman’s crushed all resistance, including the last Jewish holdouts — the Herodian’s.

Who Were the Herodian’s?

The Herodian’s were a group of Hellenistic Jews who were not very friendly to Jesus Christ. We hear about the Herodian’s in the New Testament when “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodian’s against him, how to destroy him” (Mark 3:6). Normally the Pharisees and Herodian’s were opposed to one another, but when the Herodian’s perceived they had a common enemy in Jesus Christ, they conspired, along with the Pharisees, on how they could destroy Jesus Christ. Later, “they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodian’s, to trap him in his talk” (Mark 3:13) about who to give tribute to; either God or Caesar, however Jesus, “knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it’” (Mark 13:15), and when they had brought a coin to Him, “Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him” (Mark 13:17). Once again, the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by a trick question designed to trip Him up, but Jesus’ wisdom was too much for them, and so they simply “marveled at him.” This may be why Jesus “cautioned [the disciples], saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod’” (Mark 8:15) or literally, “the Herodian’s,” so Jesus saw them as a Jewish radical splinter group that wanted to overthrow the Roman government by means of violence and have one of their own rulers sit on the throne.

Positioning for Power

Make no mistake about it; the Jews wanted the Roman yoke cast off of them by any means necessary, and so this caused groups to gather together and join efforts to go against Jesus, and later hoped to thwart Rome’s iron fist that had ruled over them for more than a century. The Pharisees, the Herodian’s, and the Sadducees already had a disproportionate amount of power among the Jews, but they were no match for the Roman armies, so along with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodian’s, the Sanhedrin (like a Jewish supreme court), the scribes, and the lawyers each joined together in their efforts to overthrow the Romans but also to bring Jesus down by killing Him. Each of these groups held power in either religious or political matters, but when they combined forces, they were a formidable force to reckon with among the Jews. In reality, only the Herodian’s held political power, and most Bible scholars believe that they were a political party that supported King Herod Antipas, the Roman Empire’s ruler over much of the land of the Jews from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39, however it would take more than King Herod and the Jewish leaders to strip the Roman yoke of bondage off. These groups were typically opposed to one another but the one thing they had in common was their consternation of Jesus and desire that He be killed, so “from that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:53), and eventually of course, they succeeded. Apparently they had no clue that Jesus would be resurrected and could not be killed since He is God. His physical body might be killed, but as God, God cannot die, so “Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples” (John 11:54).

Modern Day Herodian’s

Today, there are vast numbers of people and particularly, cults, which teach Jesus was not God, so they are still opposed to Jesus and are not even thinking about their eternal fate but about a political state that can change the world. If the Herodian’s teach us anything it is that we cannot thwart the sovereign plan of God. What God has appointed to come to pass, will come to pass, no matter what mankind does to try and stop it. The Herodian’s also teach us that we cannot take the world by force or political power. The Kingdom of God doesn’t come by the sword but by the Spirit of God. Only God can change the human heart (Prov 21:1), and He is not restricted by human activities. The Herodian’s wanted to have a king to reign over the Herodian Dynasty, however, by doing so, they rejected the true King of kings and Lord of lords and sought to live in freedom, by force if necessary.

Conclusion

If we have learned anything from the Herodian’s, perhaps it is that we cannot take the kingdom by force. We cannot try to establish a worldly kingdom when all the kingdoms of this world will fall under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It’s futile trying to make this world a kingdom of men when the kingdom of God is coming and will subjugate all other kingdoms of this world. There is no chance the Herodian’s, or any other sect or group, can do what God has already planned to do and that is to rule the nations and rule the kingdoms of this world by a rod of iron. Someday (soon?) the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our God and our Lord Jesus Christ and it will be so for all time.

Take a look at some more history from the Bible: The Herods in the Bible

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason March 21, 2017 at 8:33 am

Very interesting, Pastor Jack. I never knew who the Herodians were. This reminds me of a feeling I had while serving in the Army. There were many Soldiers who conflated the idea of the United States with “God’s country.” There was always something about that that made me uneasy. It was like God and America were the same thing. Sorry, but I don’t see it that way. I seem to remember something to the effect of, “My kingdom is not of this world…” I also remember reading about our citizenship in another nation, an eternal nation. We are foreigners here, and the more I read the bible, the more I see how alien we are to the world because the world hates the Lord and is the opposite of all that he is. Thank you for this article.

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Jack Wellman March 21, 2017 at 11:55 am

Amen Jason. Good analogy with soldiers being “God’s Country.” I am glad I’m not destined for this world but the next.

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