Herod the Success?

Source: H. Graetz, History of the Jews, volume II (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1893) 89.

“Herod, or, as the people called him, the Idumaean slave, had thus reached the goals of his lofty desires. His throne, it is true, rested upon ruins and upon the dead bodies of his subjects; but he felt that he had the power to maintain its dignity, even if it were necessary to carry a broad river of blood around its base. The bitter hatred of the Judaean people, whose ruler he had become without the slightest lawful title, was nothing to him as compared with the friendship of Rome and the smile of Antony.”

This reminds me of movies, shows, and books that I’ve encountered: a poor outsider advances in life, and he ends up in a tragic state. I think of Wang-Lung in Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. Here was a poor farmer who bought more and more land, until he became rich and powerful. I rejoiced in his success, since I got to see him in some pretty low times. But his wealth went to his head, and he ended up hurting his family.

I think of Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is a poor kid who grows up in a rich man’s house. He’s continually mistreated by one of the gentlemen. But he leaves, becomes rich, and comes back. If I’m not mistaken, he even takes possession of the rich man’s house, and he allows the malicious gentleman to live with him. But he’s consumed by bitterness, which hurts him and everyone around him.

Herod thought he was a success. He crawled his way out of slavery. An Idumean convert to Judaism, he took over the nation whose religion he embraced, yet which looked down on him as an outsider. He managed to suck up to the right people, and he became successful as a result. But he had a tragic end. I’ve not come to his death yet, but he executed his own wife after she tried to poison him. And she was a woman he loved! What kind of life is that? Was Herod a success? On some level, yes. On some level, no.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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