Following the death of Herod the Great in about March of 4 BC, the kingdom of Herod was divided among three of his sons and his sister. During the reign of King Herod, the Herodian Kingdom of Judea was a united client kingdom under the oversight of the Roman Republic and then the Roman Empire. However, after the death of King Herod, his kingdom was split into numerous regions, including Judea proper, the Galilee area, and lands east of Galilee and the Jordan River. Herod had changed his will many times due to his paranoia and the execution of some of his sons, so the final form of his will had not been approved by Caesar Augustus prior to his death. This predictably led to a dispute between two of his sons, Antipas and Archelaus, who both thought that they each should become the next king. These two sons traveled to Rome, and while most supported Antipas because of the cruel character and acts of Archelaus, Augustus followed the final form of Herod’s will and split the kingdom among four family members. The end result was that none of Herod’s heirs received the title “king.” Instead, three of his sons and his sister were allotted territories to rule with lesser titles. Archelaus received Judea, which also included the areas of Idumea to the south and Samaria to the north. Archelaus was called ethnarch, or ruler of a people, and fittingly his portion was largest. Antipas received Galilee and Peraea and was called tetrarch, or ruler over a fourth. Philip was also called tetrarch and ruled the regions of Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Batanaea, and Panias in the northeast. Salome I, the sister of Herod, was referred to as toparch, or ruler of a place, as she was given cities and their surrounding areas in the Gaza region and just north of Jericho, including Jabneh, Ashdod, Phasaelis. This “Herodian Tetrarchy” as it is often called due to the splitting into fourths, only lasted until 6 AD when Rome took direct rule over the Judea region and made it a province of the Empire.
In Judea, Archelaus ruled only from 4 BC to 6 AD due to his cruel, violent, and self-serving nature. Archelaus replaced several high priests in Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.339); diverted water from Neara to his new palace at Jericho (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.340); he married his brother’s wife, Glaphyra (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.341); Archelaus also retaliated against an angry crowd of the Pharisees during Passover, attempting to thwart a possible rebellion by executing about 3,000 of them (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.213-218). He is mentioned by name only once in the Gospels (Matthew 2:22), but in light of other historical sources, the choice of Joseph to avoid living under the rule of Archelaus is obvious. After experiencing the tyranny of Archelaus, a delegation of Judeans and Samaritans traveled to Rome in order to complain and hopefully convince Rome to depose him (Josephus, Antiquities, 17.342–344). Even Philip and Antipas apparently brought accusations against Archelaus to Caesar Augustus (Dio, Historia, LV 27.6). Finally, in 6 AD he was banished to Gaul and his territory became the “Province of Judaea” directly under the control of the Romans. Thus the Herodian Tetrarchy ended. The first prefect of this new province was a Roman named Coponius, who ruled primarily from Caesarea Maritima. Meanwhile, the adjacent areas, ruled by Antipas, Salome I, and Philip, and the Decapolis cities, were not part of the province and only under indirect Roman rule. The Roman prefects continued to govern Judaea Province until 41 AD, when Agrippa I was temporarily given authority there until 44 AD, after which Roman procurators governed the province.
In Galilee, Antipas ruled from ca. 4 BC to 39 AD. While typically referred to as Antipas in order to distinguish him from others bearing the name “Herod,” the Gospels refer to him as Herod or Herod the tetrarch—a name he adopted in ca. 6 AD (Matthew 14:1; Mark 6:14; Luke 3:1). Philo, although not mentioning him by name, alludes to Herod Antipas in passing as one of the tetrarch sons of King Herod who were in power over various regions of Judaea Province during the time of Pontius Pilate (Philo, Legatio ad Gaium, 300). Early in his reign as tetrarch, John the Baptizer rebuked Antipas for marrying Herodias, although she had been married to a brother of Antipas (Mark 6:14-17). This eventually resulted in the execution of John after the birthday party of Antipas. As a result, his popularity with certain segments of the population was abysmal, and even Josephus states that public opinion generally regarded his defeat in the war with Nabatea as punishment from God for the unjust execution of John (Josephus, Antiquities, 18). However, historical sources suggest that Antipas otherwise lived marginally in line with Judaism and never attempted to do anything drastically offensive, such as building Roman temples, put his face or the Emperor’s face on a coin, or erecting statues and other images in the area of the Temple—all things done by other Herodian rulers. As tetrarch of Galilee from 4 BC to 39 AD, Antipas was in power during both of the ministries of John and Jesus, and he was even involved in the trial of Jesus. After an initial encounter with Pilate, Jesus was taken to Herod Antipas, the local ruler of Galilee where Jesus had lived most of His life (Luke 23:8-12). Although extremely curious about Jesus, once they met, Antipas apparently had no interest in Jesus being executed. In the Gospels, Jesus makes reference to Antipas at least twice in less than flattering terms. Once Jesus compares him to a reed shaking in the wind and one who wears soft clothing and lives in a luxurious royal palace, which appears to be a reference to one of the coins of Antipas featuring a reed, as if he is swayed to whatever direction the political wind is blowing (Luke 7:24-25). Another time, Jesus refers to Antipas as a fox in reference of his continual “hunting” of Jesus and his cowardly character (Luke 13:31-35). Later, Jesus may even reference the epic military failure of Antipas against Nabatea (Luke 14:31; Josephus, Antiquities, 18.111–113). Antipas fortified and established his capital first at Sepphoris, and then decided to build his new capital city of Tiberias on the west side of the Sea of Galilee in about 19 AD (Kokkinos, The Herodian Dynasty; John 6:23). Overall, Antipas was a stable and relatively fair ruler who lasted much longer than his brothers, although he was eventually banished to Gaul in 39 AD when Agrippa accused him of treason during the tumultuous reign of Emperor Caligula.
Salome I, sister of Herod the Great, was given a section in the region of Gaza and another small territory north of Jericho when the kingdom was divided amongst the heirs. As these were all cities or small places, she was a toparch, or ruler of a place. While Salome was nominally the queen of this region and lived in a palace at Ashkelon, she likely exercised little authority and merely followed the instructions of Rome. When Salome died in 10 AD, according to her will her lands were designated to pass to Julia, wife of Augustus, and essentially became part of the Roman province of Judaea.
Philip, or Philip the tetrarch, ruled the region to the east of the Sea of Galilee, including Caesarea Philippi from 4 BC to 34 AD. He was a son of Herod the Great and the half-brother of the leaders Antipas and Archelaus. Some scholars do not consider Philip the Tetrarch part of the Herodian Dynasty, because there is currently no evidence that he used the name “Herod.” However, he was an heir of Herod the Great and received a piece of the kingdom (Luke 3:1). Jesus performed several miracles in this region, but never appears to have any problems with the local authorities. Perhaps because this was a Hellenistic area, and very few religious Judeans who practiced the Law would have lived there, the majority of the people had no issue with Jesus as God teaching new ideas and performing miracles—or in the Hellenistic mindset, a god. Philip had a peaceful reign of approximately 37 years during which he erected temples, named places after the Emperor and his family, and remained on good terms with the Romans. Of the immediate heirs of Herod the Great, Philip appears to have had the most tranquil time in power, and unlike his brothers Archelaus and then Antipas, was never deposed or exiled.
Herod Agrippa I was a grandson of Herod the Great who governed from approximately 34-44 AD. When Philip the Tetrarch died in 34 AD, Agrippa I received his territories in the northeastern area of what had been the Herodian kingdom. The lands under his control then expanded after Antipas had been banished to Gaul, as those areas were also put under the leadership of Agrippa I. For a time, this “King” Agrippa I ruled over most of the extensive territory that Herod the Great had ruled. In fact, from 41-44 AD, there was no Roman prefect or procurator of Judea, but instead Herod Agrippa I had been granted temporary authority over the entire region. Of all the Herodians, Agrippa I seems to have been the one most concerned with pleasing the religious leadership of Judea, persecuting the early Christians and even risking exile or execution when he requested that Emperor Caligula not place a statue of himself in the Jerusalem temple (Josephus, Wars; Acts 12:3-4). While Agrippa I is never mentioned in the Gospels due to his later appearance on the scene in 34 AD, about a year after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, he is mentioned in the book of Acts as “Herod the King” (Acts 12:1). Near the end of his life, Agrippa made a speech at Caesarea in which he was glorified as a god and accepted this praise. Soon after, he died from abdominal complications involving worms (Acts 12:20-23). The account in Acts states that an angel of the Lord inflicted the punishment upon him and as a result he was eaten by worms and died, while Josephus recorded that he was immediately smitten with violent pains in his abdomen, and died after a five days (Josephus, Antiquities, 19.43-351; Acts 12:20-23). After the death of Agrippa I, control of Judaea Province returned to Roman governors, and the first procurator was Cuspius Fadus.
Herod Agrippa II was the son of Agrippa I and great grandson of Herod the Great, and he was the last of the Herodians. Agrippa II grew up in Rome with the future Emperor Claudius, who eventually placed him in power beginning in about 48 AD to as late as 100 AD, although many scholars prefer 92 AD as the date of his death (Josephus, Antiquities, 19.360-362). The discrepancy exists because one ancient source says that he died in the 3rd year of Trajan, which was 100 AD, while the writings of Josephus and coins from his reign suggest that he died in 92 AD (Photius, Myrobiblon; Josephus, Antiquities). Understandably, because of his personal connections to the Empire, Agrippa II was very loyal to Rome. Over the years, his territory continued to expand as Rome granted him more power, and by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, he ruled over Chalcis, Galilee, and Peraea. During the first Judean revolt against Rome, Agrippa II continued to support the Romans, providing them with military support and even leading a siege of Gamla against the rebels (Josephus, Wars; Tacitus, Histories). Around 60 AD, when Festus was procurator of Judaea Province, Agrippa II listened to Paul during his trial in Caesarea (Acts 25:13-23). Ruling for at least 44 years, his reign was longer than any other Herodian, although his impact and the extent of his power was much less than others such as Herod the Great. When Agrippa II died, his territories were absorbed into the province of Syria and the entire region was then administered directly by the Romans without any local rulers through the rest of the Roman period. The areas that used to be Judea and Galilee were now simply sections of Syria Province, and local leaders ceased to have any true power.