God’s People, part 126: Herodians

Read Mark 3:1-6

“Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said.”  (Mark 12:13, NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

www-St-Takla-org--008-The-priests-take-counsel-with-the-HerodiansPart 126: Herodians. One thing that I hope has been conveyed over the last several devotions is just how divided Israel was between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE. We have, so far, been introduced to the Seleucid Empire and the Jews who supported the Hellenization of Israel, the Hasmonean Dynasty, the conquest of Rome, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. In this devotion we will be looking at yet another sect in a very fragmented and divided land.

The Herodians were a political group (made up of various subgroups of people) who supported the rule of Herod and wanted to see the monarchy restored back to his descendents. In order for us to have this make sense to you, we are going to need to jump ahead to Jesus’ time and look backward. The Herodians rose to prominence following King Herod’s death and were one of the many factions that existed during that time.

Following the death of King Herod, Rome divided up his kingdom between his three sons and his sister. Archelaus became ethnarch (or ruler of a specific ethnic group…e.g. the Jews) of the Tetrarchy of Judaea, Herod Antipater (nicknamed Antipas) became tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, Philip became tetrarch of territories north and east of the Jordan River, and Herod’s sister Salome I (not to be confused with Antipas’ stepdaughter) was made the toparch (or regional governor) of the cities of Jabneh, Ashdod, Phasaelis.

A tetrarchy was a demotion for Herod’s sons. While Herod the Great was appointed King by the Romans and was sole ruler of Israel (answering only to Caesar), the Romans decided they wanted more control over that strategic region. Thus, when Herod died, they divided Israel up into four regions and appointed Herod’s sons as tetrarchs (or governors) of those regions. They were governors, but they were NOT kings. The tetrarchs fell under the command and leadership of the appointed governor of the newly formed province of Judaea (which was made up of the four regions that the tetrarchs governed).

The Herodians were a group who were supporters of the Herodian dynasty and advocated for the restoration of the Herodian monarchy. Like the Pharisees the Herodians wanted to see their people achieve political independence; however, unlike the Pharisees, they believed that the Hellenized Herodian dynasty was the way to go. They wanted to see one of Herod’s sons, such as Herod Antipas, take the throne as king.

Jesus of Nazareth, of course, was challenging the authority of the political elites and performing many miracles. Many saw him as possible being the anticipated king of the Jews who would liberate Judaea from foreign rulers. We also know that Jesus did, in fact, claim that title for himself. This would have set him odds with the Herodians who supported the Herodian Dynasty.

This should challenge us because, with the Herodians, we can see how political ideologies can over take where we ought to be spiritually. People often let their political worldviews and agendas block them from truly following the One who is Lord of all and Savior of the world. Let us reflect on how we have let our politics grow into idols that they get the very best of us, separating us from God.

If we place all of our hope and faith in human rulers, we will get human results; however, if we place all our hope and faith in God, the results will be divine.

Lord, steer me from making an idol of my political worldview. You, Christ, are all that matters. Amen.

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