King Herod, also known as Herod I or Herod the Great, was a Judean king who ruled the Jews of Palestine in the years immediately before Jesus' birth. As a ruler he reported to Rome, the center of the empire, and was responsible for keeping the peace and collecting taxes.

Born in 73 BCE, Herod grew up in a wealthy, influential family that converted to Judaism. Many Jews of the age did not consider him a legitimate Jew, but rather a puppet of the empire.

From 37 to 4 BCE, Herod ruled Judea for Rome with the title of "King of the Jews." He created the port city of Caesarea and built and expanded the second temple of Jerusalem.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod the Great ordered the Massacre of the Innocents--the slaughter of baby boys during the time of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

Herod had numerous wives and children, but was often suspicious of his sons' plots to conquer and overthrow him. As a result, he executed at least two of them. Of his various sons, Herod Antipas is the other well-known Herod in the New Testament. Under Herod Antipas, John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14, Mark 6) and Jesus had a second trial after being sent away by Pontius Pilate (Luke 13).

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