Herod meaning | Herod etymology

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Ηρωδης
Herod in Biblical Greek
Herod
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The name Herod in the Bible

Herod is the family name of a dynasty of rulers that governed Judea during the time of Christ. There were quite a few of them, but in the Bible we only hear from the following:

  • Herod the Great, who received the eastern magicians looking for Jesus and who had the infants of Bethlehem killed (Matthew 2:1, Luke 3:1).
  • Archelaus, son and brief successor of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:22).
  • Aristobulus, unfortunate son of Herod the Great, who may or may not be the same as the Aristobulus mentioned in Romans 16:10 (probably not, but see our article on that name for some argumentation).
  • Herod Philip, son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra of Jerusalem (Luke 3:1). This Philip married Salome.
  • Another Herod Philip, also a son of Herod the Great, but this one was disinherited. This Philip is the father of Salome but her mother divorced him and moved in with Philip's brother Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:3).
  • Herodias, granddaughter of Herod the Great through his son Aristobulus, first married to her uncle Philip, then to his brother Herod Antipas. Her daughter's name is Salome (Matthew 14:3) and her grandchildren are Bernice (Acts 25:13), Drusilla (Acts 24:24) and Agrippa II (Acts 26:13).
  • Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. During one of his parties, his stepdaughter Salome enticed him to execute John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1).
  • Herod Agrippa I, Herod the Great's grandson through Aristobulus and full brother of Herodias. Agrippa I had James executed (Acts 12:2) and Peter arrested. Agrippa himself was slain by an angel of the Lord (12:23).
  • Herod Agrippa II, son of Agrippa I. He heared Paul in the company of Bernice and Festus (Acts 26:13).

Etymology of the name Herod

None of the reliable sources has anything to say about the etymology of the name Herod, so it's safe to say that no consensus about it exists in academic circles. But that also means that folklore can have an unrestrained go at it. Some propose that the name Herod is a contraction of the words ηρως (heros), meaning hero or warrior, and ωιδης (oides), meaning ode. That would render the name Herod the meaning of Hero's Ode, independently of whether the original designer of that name had that meaning in mind.

However, the Herod family originated in Idumea, which is the Greek and Latin transliteration of the original name Edom. That means that the Herodians weren't Jews or even Israelites, but descendants of Esau, the brother of Israel's patriarch Jacob.

The territory of Edom was to the south-east of Israel, close to the Negev dessert. A large town a bit to the west of Edom is named Arad. In Hebrew this name is spelled ערד and the Septuagint transliterates it as Αραδ. However, there's also a personal name ער (Er—Genesis 38:7), which in Hebrew is identical to the first two letters of the name ערד (Arad). This name is transliterated by the Septuagint as Ηρ and it occurs in Luke 3:28 in the same spelling. Note that this name in Greek is spelled identical to the first two letters of Herod, indicative of a possible kinship between the name Herod and the Semitic root ערד ('arad), meaning to flee:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

And if that wasn't enough, the Septuagint transliterates the quite different name Harod the same as Arad, namely as Αραδ . The name Harod comes from the verb חרד (harad), meaning to tremble or be afraid:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Herod meaning

As long as everybody is guessing, here at Abarim Publications, we guess that to a Hebrew audience the name Herod may have sounded like either Fleer or Scaredy-Cat.

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