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Herod Archelaus (23 BC – c. 18 AD) was the ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea (biblical Edom) from 4 BC to 6 AD. He was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace the Samaritan, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I.
Archelaus comes to power at the death of his father, Herod the Great, and the main development from the death of Herod through the important early reign of Archelaus is described by the Roman Historian Josephus in two passages, in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 17, Chapter 8, Section 4 and on into Chapter 9, and also in Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 1. A momentous event took place at the end of the mourning for Herod that ended with the cancellation of Passover and the death of perhaps thousands, the figure of 3000 being given by Josephus.
Josephus is both direct in his descriptions and at at times extremely opaque as to the participants in this event. Herod is in Jericho at his death. Just prior to his final trip to Jericho, he was deeply involved in a religious conflagration. Herod had placed a golden eagle over the Temple entrance which was perceived as most blasphemous. The eagle is chopped down with axes. Two teachers and approximately 40 other youths are arrested for this act and immolated. Herod defends his works and offers an attack on his predecessors, the dynastic Hasmoneans. Herod has killed all Male Lineal Successors of the Hasmoneans. It should be noted also that the Pharisees have long attacked the Hasmoneans as well, as having parentage from Greeks while under bondage. This racial slur is repeated by the Pharisees through the rule of Alexander Jannaeus and Queen Salome.
With this explicit background given, Josephus begins an exposition of the days of Archelaus' reign before Passover of 4 BC. Archelaus dresses in white and ascends a golden throne and appears to be most kind to the populace in Jerusalem in order to appease their desires for lower taxes and an end to the (political) imprisonment of Herod's enemies. The demeanor of the questioning appears to turn at some point and the crowd begins to agitate for the punishment of those of Herod's people who ordered the death of the 2 teachers and the 40 youths. They also demand the replacement of the High Priest, from the appointed High Priest of Herod's to a High Priest, "...of greater piety and purity". Josephus does not tell who would be "...of greater piety and purity". To this request, however, Archelaus accedes, although he is becoming angry at the presumptions of the crowds. Archelaus asks for moderation and tells the crowds that all will be well if they would put aside their animosities and wait until he confirmed as King by Caesar Augustus.
Archelaus then leaves to feast with his friends. It is evening and as the darkness settles, a mourning and wailing begin over the city. Archelaus begins to worry as people begin streaming into the Temple area and those who wail for loss of the teachers continue their very loud mourning. The people are escalating in their threatening behavior. The Thackeray translation of Josephus here states it thus: "The promoters of the mourning for the doctors stood in the body of the temple, procuring recruits for their faction". Josephus does not tell us who these "promoters of the mourning", who recruit from within a body inside the Temple, could be.
Archelaus sends a general, some other people and finally a "Tribune in Command of a Cohort" to reason with these "Seditionists", to stop their "innovations" and wait until Archelaus can return from Rome and Caesar. These who came from Archelaus are stoned, with many killed. After the stoning, those who stoned the soldiers return to their sacrifices, as if nothing had happened. Josephus does not tell who performs sacrifices in the Temple. It is after midnight and Archelaus suddenly orders the entire army into the city to the Temple. Josephus records the death toll at 3000. Archelaus sends heralds around the city announcing the cancellation of Passover.
Archelaus quickly sails to Caesar and faces a group of enemies - his own family. Antipater, the brother of Archelaus who was deposed from Herod's will days earlier, argues that Archelaus merely feigned grief for his father, crying during the day and involved with great "merriment" during the nights. The threats carried out by Archelaus ending in the death of 3000 in the Temple were not just threats to the worshippers in Jerusalem at Passover, they were amounted to a threat to Caesar himself, since Archelaus acted in every manner a King, before such title had been given by Caesar.
At this point, Nicholaus of Damascus  argues to Caesar that Archelaus acted appropriately and that Herod's will, supposedly written a few weeks prior (yielding the Kingship to Archelaus and against Antipater), should be seen as valid. The change of this will in favor of Archelaus is given as Herod's true choice and, it is argued, occurred with Herod being in his right mind since he left the final decision to Caesar. The change of the will appears as one of Herod's last acts and it is attested from Jericho by one "Ptolemy", keeper of Herod's Seal. Nicholaus of Damascus has been Herod's confidant for years. He is loyal to Rome. Ptolemy is Nicholaus of Damascus' brother.
Archelaus, at the conclusion of the arguments, falls at Caesar's feet. Caesar raises him up and states that Archelaus, "..was worthy to succeed his father". Caesar gives Archelaus the title of "Ethnarch" and divides the Kingdom. Rome will consolidate the power later.
Thus, Archelaus received the Tetrarchy of Judea by the last will of his father, though a previous will had bequeathed it to his brother Antipas. He was proclaimed king by the army, but declined to assume the title until he had submitted his claims to Caesar Augustus in Rome. In Rome he was opposed by Antipas and by many of the Jews, who feared his cruelty, based on the murder of 3000; but in 4 BC Augustus allotted to him the greater part of the kingdom (Samaria, Judea, and Idumea) with the title of ethnarch (not king) until 6 AD when Judaea province was formed, under direct Roman rule, at the time of the Census of Quirinius.
The first wife of Archelaus is given by Josephus simply as Mariamne, perhaps Mariamne III (Mariamne bint Aristobulus), whom he divorced to marry Glaphyra. She was the widow of Archelaus' brother Alexander, though her second husband, Juba, king of Mauretania, was alive. This violation of the Mosaic law along with Archelaus' continued cruelty roused the ire of the Jews, who complained to Augustus. Archelaus was deposed in 6 AD and banished to Vienne in Gaul. Samaria, Judea proper, and Idumea became the Roman province of Iudaea.
In the Bible, Archelaus is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. According to Matthew 2:13-23, Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt to avoid the Massacre of the Innocents. When Herod the Great died, Joseph was told by an angel in a dream to return to Israel (presumably to Bethlehem). However, upon hearing that Archelaus had succeeded his father as ruler of Judaea he "was afraid to go thither" (Matthew 2:22), and was again notified in a dream to go to Galilee. This is Matthew's explanation of why Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea but grew up in Nazareth.
The beginning and conclusion of Christ's Parable of the minas in the Gospel of Luke may refer to Archelaus's journey to Rome. Some interpreters conclude from this that Jesus' parables and preaching made use of events familiar to the people as examples for bringing his spiritual lessons to life. Others read the allusion as arising from later adaptation of Jesus' parable in the oral tradition, before the parables were recorded in the gospels.
"A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return…But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.'… 'But as for these enemies of mine,' [said the nobleman] 'who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'" (Luke 19:12, 19:14, 19:27)
- Antiquities, 17, 6, 5
- Antiquities, 17, 6, 2
- See "Hasmonean Dynasty", Wikipedia entry.
- Antiquities, 13, 10, 5: A Pharisee named "Eleazar" accosts John Hyrcanus 1 with the following: ""We have heard it from old men, that thy mother had been a captive under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes." This story was false, and Hyrcanus was provoked against him; and all the Pharisees had a very great indignation against him."
- Wars, 2, 1, 2
- Josephus, The Jewish War, Books I - II, Translated by H. S. J. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-99568-6
- Nicholaus of Damascus, Wikipedia entry.
- Wars, 2, 2, 7
- Josephus (1998) [c. 75]. "The History Of The Spurious Alexander. Archelaus Is Banished And Glaphyra Dies, After What Was To Happen To Both Of Them Had Been Showed Them In Dreams". The Wars of the Jews. Matt Curtin. Retrieved 2009-10-16.
- H.H. Ben-Sasson, A History of the Jewish People, Harvard University Press, 1976, ISBN 0-674-39731-2, page 246: "When Archelaus was deposed from the ethnarchy in 6 AD, Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea were converted into a Roman province under the name Iudaea."
- Resources > Second Temple and Talmudic Era > Herod and the Herodian Dynasty: The Jewish History Resource Center - Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
- King Herod Archelaus
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Archelaus
Herod ArchelausDied: 18 AD
King Herod the Great
|Ethnarch of Judaea
4 BC–6 AD
governed by Roman prefect
Title next held byKing Agrippa I