The Eighth Herod over Daniel’s People – Part 3

In my last blog post, we saw how Daniel had prophesied Herod The Great’s death in Jericho. Then we saw how his ruthless grandson Agrippa I suffered the very same death when he allowed the people to call him a god. Now we come to the final Herod of the Idumean dynasty, Herod The Great’s great-grandson, Agrippa II.

8. Herod Agrippa II (ruled AD 50 – AD 70 and died around AD 93): He was the eighth and last governor from the Herodian dynasty. In Jewish eyes, he was the worst Herod as Jerusalem was destroyed when he was in power. He governed parts of Galilee and some Syrian territories as a Tetrarch, but he gained more territory over the years thanks to Emperor Nero’s favoritism towards him.

He was never King of Judea, however, he was given the title ‘King’ and became another  ‘Client King’ for Rome. The only authority Rome had given him in Jerusalem was that of being the Superintendent of the Temple and he could appoint the Chief Priest. He sent Paul to Rome in chains, but not before telling him that he had almost been persuaded to become a Christian.

Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.” And Paul said, “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”  ~ Acts 26: 28-29

  • But what else was happening in that society while Herod Agrippa II was governing parts of Israel?

I’m not going to go into lots of detail but Israel was on the brink of civil war and these were the main ‘people groups’ in the region at that time:

  • Governors/ Tetrarchs ruled on behalf of Emperor Nero across different regions in Israel. They regarded Jews as an inferior race and kept law and order across their regions so that the Jews would pay taxes to Rome.
  • The Herod Dynasty ruled parts of Israel on behalf of Rome, and they had their supporters – the Herodians. 
  • The Ananus Dynasty was a High Priest Family and there were 8 High Priests from this family in charge of the Temple Priesthood and the Sanhedrin prior to 70 AD. They all submitted to Rome.
  • Ananias ben NebedeusHanania ben Nedebai was a different High priest to the Ananus family dynasty and was spoken of in Acts. He was a Sadducee, didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead and was pro-Roman. His son Eleazar ben AnaniasEleazar ben Hanania was Captain of the Temple (deputy High Priest).

Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” ~ Acts 23

Both he and his son were Mosaic covenant lawbreakers.

  • The Great Sanhedrin was made up of 71 sages including the High Priest. Its members were the ‘Princes of the Priests’ – the heads of the 24 courses of priests along with the most reputable scribes and other community leaders. It also had its own police force. But each village also had its own smaller Sanhedrin that was supervised by the Great Sanhedrin.
  • The Pharisees were the guardians of the oral law and the traditions of Israel. They despised Rome but submitted to its authority resentfully, but refused to enter any Roman building. They hoped that if they submitted to the Emperor and his procurators, then they could at least keep their city and temple.
  • The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead and believed that there was no heaven or hell. The majority of the priesthood were from this sect and many were influenced by the surrounding Greek culture. They opposed the Pharisees and their oral law. While the Pharisees regarded the Sadducee’s like men who did not hold to the true faith and were traitors as they welcomed the Roman authorities.
  • The Hellenists were influenced by Greek culture, spoke Greek and many ceased following the Torah so that they could be a better fit in with the world around them. There was strife between Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews which bled into the church when many from both groups converted to Christianity. (see Acts 6:1)
  • The Essenes believed that the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem were corrupt and impure. They lived in the wilderness regions, kept distant from the rest of Jewish society and were very strict followers of the Mosaic Law. They viewed themselves as being the true remnant of Israel. The Essenes were very pious and refused to marry and also refused to have slaves. They were Jewish Monks. Today we’d know them as being the sect that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. They knew that an apocalypse was approaching and they were waiting for judgment to fall down at any moment and consume all of Israel.
  • The Zealots were the ‘political wing’ of the Essenes and were revolutionaries. They had various leaders and there was an internal power struggle going on between them. They hated Rome and resented any Jew that supported Rome.
  • The Sicarii were a splinter group from the Zealots and were like an assassination cloak and dagger hit squad. They hated Rome and anyone who supported Rome. Today we’d call them terrorists.
  • The People of the Land (Ammei Ha’aretz) were from rural communities and were not highly educated. The Pharisees looked on them as being ignorant of the Torah and careless in its observance.
  • Samaritans hated Jews and vice versa. They lived in neighbouring Samaria and the Jews looked on them as being unclean as they were a mixed-race who had blended their form of Judaism with pagan religions.
  • Pagan Gentiles living in Israel from across the Roman empire.
  • The Christians were persecuted by many of the ‘people groups’ above but the early church was also made up of former members of many of these people groups.

False Prophets and Signs And Wonders

Israel was a powder keg just waiting to explode and Josephus wrote valuable pieces of writing about events during Agrippa’s rule. He recorded how false prophets, on behalf of the Zealots tried to persuade the people to revolt against Rome by using signs and wonders. They were messiah type figures who claimed that they would be able to defeat Rome if the people would just rise up with a ‘spirit of Jewish nationalism’ and follow them.

These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God… And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them. [1]

And now did the madness of the Sicarii, like a disease, reach as far as the cities of Cyrene; for one Jonathan, a vile person, and by trade a weaver, came thither and prevailed with no small number of the poorer sort to give ear to him; he also led them into the desert, upon promising them that he would show them signs and apparitions. And as for the other Jews of Cyrene, he concealed his knavery from them, and put tricks upon them. [2]

Jesus had warned of them too …

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. ~ Mark 13:21–23

Agrippa Allows the Levites to wear Priestly garments

A Change in the Law

In 63AD Agrippa allowed the Levites to wear the consecrated garments that the priests in the temple wore. Josephus warned that they all would be punished for this act.

Now as many of the Levites, which is a tribe of ours, as were singers of hymns, persuaded the King to assemble a Sanhedrin, and to give them leave to wear linen garments,  as well as the priests. For they said that this would be a work worthy the times of his government; that he might have a memorial of such a novelty, as being his doing. Nor did they fail of obtaining their desire. For the King, with the suffrages of those that came into the sanhedrim, granted the singers of hymns this privilege, that they might lay aside their former garments, and wear such a linen one as they desired. And as a part of this tribe ministered in the temple, he also permitted them to learn those hymns as they had besought him for. Now all this was contrary to the laws of our country: which, whenever they have been transgressed we have never been able to avoid the punishment of such transgressions.

Gessius Florus The Madman

In AD 66 things had deteriorated so badly. Judea had a new procurator, Gessius Florus and he was a wicked and evil man with an insane temper. He hated all of Daniel’s people when he was governing in Asia Minor and it was no different now that he was in Judea. They were treated like criminals and many were tortured, though he was very good at protecting the Sicarii robbers and used them for his own purposes. He plundered the towns across Judea. He wanted the Jewish people to revolt against Rome and did all he could to ‘stir the pot’.

Josephus also noted that lots of people fled Judea at this time.

Josephus wrote:

he was most barbarous, and in things of the greatest turpitude, he was most impudent. Nor could any one outdo him in disguising the truth; nor could any one contrive more subtle ways of deceit than he did. He indeed thought it but a petty offense to get money out of single persons; so he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once, and did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils they got. Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country and fled into foreign provinces.

At one point 3 million Jews around the Feast of Unleavened Bread complained about him to Cestius Gallus when he arrived in Jerusalem. But Florus duped Cestius and continued on with his plans to encourage the Jews to revolt against Rome.

And truly, while Cestius Gallus was president of the province of Syria, nobody durst do so much as send an embassage to him against Florus; but when he was come to Jerusalem, upon the approach of the feast of unleavened bread, the people came about him not fewer in number than three millions these besought him to commiserate the calamities of their nation and cried out upon Florus as the bane of their country. But as he was present, and stood by Cestius, he laughed at their words.

He demanded that the Temple Treasury give him 17 talents of gold. The Jews refused as their temple money was used to purchase sacrifices and their coins had no graven image of the emperor, unlike normal everyday currency in the Roman Empire.

Rome a few years earlier had prohibited the Jews from minting any more of their own coins, so this temple money was in short supply through the money changers at the temple. So if there was no temple currency available, then sacrifices would have to cease at the temple.

Some Jews made fun of Florus and decided to do a whip-round for him outside the temple since ‘he must be so poor’. But when Florus heard that the Jews had mocked him he was full of rage and took soldiers with him to Jerusalem. Florus demanded that the Jews that mocked him were brought before him, but the High Priests and others in authority refused to hand them over and apologized instead for their behaviour by claiming that they were young youths who knew no better. Florus was enraged at this and he told his soldiers to plunder the city.

When the people blocked his route inside the city, he told his soldiers to go through the streets of Jerusalem on a killing spree. They killed around 3.600 in one day including women, babies and children. He even had leading Jewish roman citizens whipped in public and then crucified on crosses. That wouldn’t be the last incident with Florus as not long after he tricked the Jews again and Josephus writes:

The soldiers therefore encompassed them presently, and struck them with their clubs; and as they fled away, the horsemen trampled them down, so that a great many fell down dead by the strokes of the Romans, and more by their own violence in crushing one another. Now there was a terrible crowding about the gates, and while every body was making haste to get before another, the flight of them all was retarded, and a terrible destruction there was among those that fell down, for they were suffocated, an broken to pieces by the multitude of those that were uppermost; nor could any of them be distinguished by his relations in order to the care of his funeral; the soldiers also who beat them, fell upon those whom they overtook, without showing them any mercy, and thrust the multitude through the place called Bezetha, as they forced their way, in order to get in and seize upon the temple, and the tower Antonia. Florus also being desirous to get those places into his possession, brought such as were with him out of the king’s palace, and would have compelled them to get as far as the citadel [Antonia;] but his attempt failed, for the people immediately turned back upon him, and stopped the violence of his attempt; and as they stood upon the tops of their houses, they threw their darts at the Romans

All of the above information sets the scene for what happened next.

King Herod Agrippa managed to calm the Jews down and they went to work repairing the city again. (You can read about that here). But the people were still traumatized by what Florus had done. King Herod Agrippa and his sister Queen Bernice, who he was rumored to be having an incestuous relationship with, begged the people of Jerusalem not to rebel against Rome again. But Agrippa made a big mistake as he told the Jews that they would have to obey Gessius Florus until Nero appointed a new procurator. The crowd was terrified at this thought and a defiant mob fired stones at them. However, Agrippa and Bernice managed to escape from Jerusalem and safely based themselves in Agrippa’s border Kingdom.

The Gentile Sacrifices Cease at The Temple

A Change in the Law

What was once just a revolt had now turned into a War of Independence. The first thing to cease in July AD 66 were the sacrifices to Caesar by the priests each day in the temple.

It was at this point that Josephus says that the war really began. Eleazar ben Ananias, the son of Ananias ben Nebedeus (High Priest between 47-59 AD), who was the deputy High Priest persuaded the lower ranks of the priesthood to cease Gentile sacrificing. This decree broke the Mosaic covenant and the High Priest and other leaders were in an uproar about it.

And at this time it was that some of those that principally excited the people to go to war made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada. They took it by treachery, and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it. At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple.

The Ananus dynasty and elites in Jewish society were horrified and begged the priests to start the sacrifices again, but the lower ranks of the priesthood refused. So the chief priests and other leaders sent delegations to Agrippa and Florus stating that they had no part to play in this and they were not being disloyal to Caesar.

An Uprising in the City on The Day of Wood Bearing

King Agrippa sent an army to Jerusalem and with a multitude of people they tried to take over the Upper City so that they could attack Eleazer and his zealots in the lower city and temple grounds. They wanted to drive Eleazar and his men out so that they could reinstate the sacrifice to Ceasar again.

Josephus wrote:

Thus were there perpetual slaughters on both sides for seven days’ time; but neither side would yield up the parts they had seized on.

But note the ironic thing that happens on the Festival of the Day of Wood bearing, in Greek, it is called Xylophory and was one of the days of the feast of Tabernacles.

And we cast lots for the office of wood-bearing, [we] the priests, and the Levites, and the people, to bring [wood] into the house of our God, according to the house of our families, at certain set times, year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law: ~ Neh 10:35

The Zealots used the altar wood that kept the eternal flame burning to burn down parts of Jerusalem!

They set the House of the High Priest on fire and the palaces of Agrippa and Bernice. Then they carried the burning embers to the buildings where the registers of debts were kept. They destroyed all the records belonging to creditors and now there would be no proof of who owed what to whom. The Jews were now debt-free!
They then stormed Fort Antonia and killed an entire garrison of Roman troops.


Elsewhere the Zealots ceased Herod’s Masada and killed everyone in the Roman garrison. They would hold this fortress for the next 7 years. Their leader was Manahem ben Judah, a Jewish messiah figure and he came back to Jerusalem amid lots of pomp and ceremony.

Josephus wrote: where he broke open king Herod’s armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also. These he made use of for a guard, and returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem; he became the leader of the sedition, and gave orders for continuing the siege;

Due to his conquering of Agrippa’s Masada,  he set up an army to patrol the outside of the city walls to protect Jerusalem from the Romans. The Romans inside the city tried to flee Jerusalem when Manahem arrived but his soldiers killed them all as they tried to escape.

This was the very first time that the Jews had complete control over the city of Jerusalem since the Maccabees.

Then on 15th Sept AD 66, his zealot supporters found the former High Priest hiding in an aqueduct and killed him. Paul had warned him years earlier “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall”.

Could this former High Priest have been Paul’s restrainer? 

But Eleazar ben Ananias was determined to kill Menahem to avenge his father’s death.

The overthrow of the places of strength, and the death of the high priest Ananias, so puffed up Menahem, that he became barbarously cruel; and as he thought he had no antagonist to dispute the management of affairs with him, he was no better than an insupportable tyrant. But Eleasar and his party […] made an assault upon him in the temple, for he went up thither to worship in a pompous manner, and adorned with royal garments, and had his followers with him in their armor. Eleasar and his party fell violently upon him, as did also the rest of the people; taking up stones to attack him withal, they threw them at the scholar, and thought, that if he were once ruined, the entire sedition would fall to the ground. Menahem and his party made resistance for a while, but when they perceived that the whole multitude were falling upon them, they fled which way every one was able; those that were caught were slain, and those that hid themselves were searched for. A few of them escaped privately to Masada […]. As for Menahem himself, he ran away to the place called Ophla, and there lay skulking in private; but they took him alive, and drew him out before them all; they then tortured him with many sorts of torments, and after all slew him, as they did by those that were captains under him also.

  • Or was Ananias, or Menahem the Lawless one?

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. ~ 2 Thess

There is no mention of Eleazer being killed in 66AD, unlike his father and Menahem.

The Zealots were sure that Yahweh was on their side, they believed that He had given them the victory just like back in the Maccabees time and it gave them a false sense of security. New coins were minted to celebrate their victory and they were jubilant that they had recovered a huge amount of armory left by the retreating Romans.

They decided that there was no point appointing Agrippa as ‘King’ as he was in league with Rome so a group of 10 leading men took over running Judea. Ananus ben Ananus a former Chief Priest who was responsible for the murder of  Jesus’ brother James became the junta ‘king’. While Eleazar ben Ananias was given a position in Idumea and Josephus never mentions him again in his writings. A different Eleazar now appears as the leader of one of the Zealot factions in Jerusalem, with his headquarters in the temple– Eleazar ben Simon, nephew of Simon Bar Giora.

But this Roman defeat and the lull in the fighting opened up the final opportunity for anyone living in Judea to escape into the wilderness. There was no point escaping to cities in Syria and Egypt as Roman sympathizers there had turned on the Jews and were killing them. There had also been a series of poor harvests and people were already starving in the countryside. Rome was taxing the people severely so more and more came begging to Jerusalem. Inevitably they were recruited by the zealots.

Finally, the lull ended when Vespasian was given the authority by Nero to go back to Judea and crush the Jewish rebellion. His son Titus joined him and Agrippa II fought alongside him in Judea.

The slaughter across all of Judea began long before the siege in Jerusalem in AD 70.

By September AD 66 the fighting had even ended up affecting Daniel’s people across Syria and Egypt. In just one incident 50,000 bodies lay in heaps across Alexandria. Josephus recorded that “it was usual to see cities full of unburied bodies, with those of old men and babies strewn all over the place, the women’s corpses lying naked”

Agrippa and Bernice took sides with the Romans. They used Caesarea in the Golan Heights as their base as they negotiated with other regions of the Roman Empire.

Agrippa became a guide for the Roman soldiers as they torched down village after village across Judea, slaughtering all the inhabitants. Soon Bernice would begin her long love affair with Titus. [10]

On my next blog post I’ll share how the Idumeans still had a big part to play in the lives of Daniel’s people and the fulfilment of Daniel chapter nine.

You can read the whole Herod Dynasty series here.

Related notes:
How the Pharisees lost their inheritance
Why did the Old Covenant end?

List of High Priests

• Joazar ben Boethus ? – 6 AD (Sadducee)
• Ananus ben Seth 6-15 *
• Ishmael ben Fabus 15-16
• Eleazar ben Ananus 16-17 *
• Simon ben Camithus 17-18
• Joseph Caiaphas 18-36 Son-in-law of the high priest Ananas *
• Jonathan ben Ananus 36-37 *
• Theophilus ben Ananus 37-41 *
• Simon Cantatheras ben Boethus 41-43 (Sadducee)
• Matthias ben Ananus 43 *
• Elioneus ben Simon Cantatheras 43-44 (Sadducee)
• Jonathan ben Ananus 44 (restored)
• Josephus ben Camydus 44-46
• Ananias ben Nebedeus 46-52
• Jonathan 52-56
• Ishmael ben Fabus 56-62 (restored?)
• Joseph Cabi ben Simon 62-63
• Ananus ben Ananus 63 * deposed after 3 months
• Joshua ben Damneus 63
• Joshua ben Gamaliel 63-64-his wife Martha belonged to family of Boethus (Sadducee)
• Mattathias ben Theophilus 65-66 *

* 8 from the Ananus Dynasty
Phanasus (=Phanni) son of Samuel (67-70 CE) – unqualified to hold office and elected by the Zealots

[1] Josephus, Antiquities 20.8.6

[2] Josephus, Wars 7.11.1

[6] Josephus, War,VI.5.3

[9] Inside Jerusalem, Chp 18 Jerusalem’s Traitor

[10] Titus and the Queen
Image Credit: Herod Agrippa II flanked by his sister Berenice and Roman procurator Porcius Festus

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