He was a monster in human form, a rapacious wild beast wearing the rich robes of a king. No man or woman was safe during his reign. One by one he murdered every rival claimant to the throne. He stamped out the Hasmoneans. He murdered his wife's brother. He murdered his favorite wife and both her sons. Only five days before his own death, he murdered his son and heir.
Herod rebuilt the temple for the Jews to conciliate his subjects and to indulge his passion for building. Yet he placed a wooden image of a Roman eagle over the main gate of the temple and killed all who openly opposed its presence. Herod left his mark everywhere. He built temples to the gods and to the Caesar. He built and rebuilt towns. He paved the streets of Antioch with marble blocks—two and a half miles of them, adorned along their length with colonnades—and paid for them with taxes wrung from the detested Jews.
His name was Herod. History has called him Herod "the Great." During his reign Jesus of Nazareth—the Son of God, the Saviour of the world—was born.
—Adapted from Introducing People of the Bible, Volume One by John Phillips.