Who was Herod the Great?:
Herod the Great was the most famous and important ruler in the Herodian dynasty. He was made king of the Jews by the Roman senate, but that title only became a reality when he successfully eliminated Antiognus II, a Hasmonean rival supported by Romes enemy the Parthian empire.
When did Herod the Great live?:
Herod the Great was probably born around 65 BCE, became governor of Galilee in 47 BCE, was appointed king of the Jews in 40 BCE, captured Jerusalem in 37 BCE, and died in 4 BCE.
Where did Herod the Great live?:
Herod the Great built a number of cities where he lived at various times, but his principle base of operations was Jerusalem, long the Jewish capital. In fact, Herods crowning architectural achievement was the Temple in Jerusalem. It was worked on through most of his reign and he managed to rebuild it without ritual sacrifices ever stopping.
What did Herod the Great do?:
Herod fortified and stabilized Palestine while keeping the Romans as far away as possible. Because the Jews were ruled by him instead of directly by Romans, they had greater freedom of action than they would have otherwise. Despite this, the Pharisees didnt like him because he was Idumean and the Sadducees didnt like him because they supported his rival, Antigonus. Herod was ruthless in killing his enemies, but very generous to those who supported him.
Why was Herod the Great important?:
Herod may have been ruler when Jesus could have been born, but even if he wasnt, Herods rule established the social, political, and cultural setting in which Jesus would have worked. Herod built amphitheaters, hippodromes, theaters, palaces, and other monumental structures throughout Palestine. It was Herod who set the stage for the various religious and political conflicts at the heart of Palestinian life during the time when Jesus would have lived.