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Palestine Under the Herods
New Testament Era

Dennis Bratcher

Geographical Areas and Administrative Districts of Palestine Ruled by the Herods
Samaria, Judea, and Idumea
Galilee and Perea
Iturea, Trachonitis, Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Batanea
Herod the Great
37 - 4 BC
4 BC - AD 6
4 BC - AD 39
4 BC - AD 34
Roman Governors
AD 6 - 41
Roman Governors
34 - 37
Agrippa I
39 - 44
Agrippa I
37 - 44
Agrippa I
41 - 44
Roman Governors
44 - 66
Roman Governors
44 - 53
Roman Governors
44 - 56
Agrippa II
53 - 66
Agrippa II
53 - 66
56 - 66
Jewish Rebellion Against Rome
66 - 70
Colonia Aelia Capitolinia

70 - 135
Province of Syria Palaestina
(included the Roman Province of Syria)

after 135

The territory we know as Palestine was divided into different administrative districts at different times under Roman rule and governed by various levels of the Roman political bureaucracy.  Political leadership was granted as a reward for being in favor with Caesar and could be withdrawn just as quickly.  As a result, various parts of Palestine passed back and forth between supervised monarchial rule and total control directly from Rome under Roman procurators or governors. 

Herod the Great died about 4 BC by our calendar, even though Matthew 2:19 tells us that Herod died after the birth of Jesus. Our modern calendar was not developed until the Middle Ages.  Most historians agree that because of different calendars in use before that time that they simply miscalculated the date of Jesus' birth.  After Herod's death Caesar divided the territory he ruled, which included almost all of Palestine, among his three sons Archelaus, Philip, and Antipas.

Archelaus quickly gained a reputation for harsh treatment of the people.  It was Archaeleus that precipitated the Holy Family's return to Galilee (Matt. 2:22).  Because of continuing complaints, he was soon removed by Caesar and banished.  His territory was administered by governors. 

Philip ruled the far northern area of Palestine and did not play much role in the New Testament events. 

Antipas was self-indulgent and ambitious, and eventually fell out of favor with Rome and was also banished.  His territory was briefly under the control of governors until Herod Agrippa I was allowed to rule as king over those areas.  In the New Testament, all of these rulers are generally referred to as Herod, although the one most mentioned in the Gospels was Herod Antipas since he controlled Galilee and Perea during most of the lifetime of Jesus.

Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great who assumed control of the territory of Philip in 37.  After Antipas was banished, he was given control of his territory as well.  In 41 he was given the rest of Palestine and governed almost as much territory as Herod the Great had ruled.  It was Agrippa I who was responsible for the persecution of early Christians (Acts 12:1-3). 

At his death in 44, Agrippa son was considered too young to rule.  However, after a few years, in 53 Agrippa II was allowed to rule parts of the former territory of Philip, and in 56 was also given most of the territory of Galilee and Perea. This is the Herod before whom Paul presented his defense (Acts 25:13-26:32)

The area of Palestine was unified only during the reign of Herod the Great, 37-4 BC, and for a brief time in AD 41-44 under Herod Agrippa I.  After the First Jewish Revolt in 66-70, the Roman emperor Hadrian built the Roman colony Aelia Capitolinia on the ruins of Jerusalem.  The decision by Hadrian to convert the city into a Roman colony helped precipitate the Second Jewish Revolt led by Bar Cochba (or Kokhba, 132-135). After that revolt was crushed by Rome, Hadrian expelled Jews from the city and region.  The Roman provinces of Syria and Judea were merged under the name Syria Palaestina.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2018, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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