Luke 1:5. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea This is he who is commonly known by the name of Herod the Great, a cruel, ambitious man, who, without any title, obtained the crown of Judea from the Roman senate, to whom he was recommended by Mark Antony. Under his government the Jews were very uneasy, because he was a foreigner. Nevertheless, the Roman generals in those parts having given him possession of the throne, by his own prudence and address he maintained himself in it for the space of forty years. His reign, though celebrated on many accounts, was remarkable for nothing so much as that, toward the conclusion of it, the Messiah and his forerunner were born. Besides Herod the king, there are two others of this name mentioned in Scripture, namely, Herod surnamed Antipas, his son, who was inferior to his father both in dignity and dominion, being only a tetrarch, and having no dominions but Galilee and Perea: it was this Herod that beheaded the Baptist, and with his men of war mocked our Lord. The other was Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the king by Aristobulus, and brother to Herodias, Philip’s wife. He killed James the apostle with the sword, and imprisoned Peter to please the Jews; and was himself eaten up of worms for his affecting divine honours. Agrippa, before whom Paul pleaded his cause, was the son of this Herod, for which reason he is commonly called Agrippa. Of the course of Abia The priests were become so numerous in David’s time, that they could not all minister at the tabernacle at once. He therefore divided them into twenty-four courses, or companies, who were to serve in rotation, each company by itself for a week. The time of their ministration, as well as the course itself, was called εφημερια , a name which originally belonged to the Athenian magistrates, who being fifty men chosen by lot out of each tribe, and each man governing the city a single day, the days which any tribe governed, as well as its fifty governors succeeding one another, were called εφημεριαι . Now there being a considerable resemblance between this division and succession of the Athenian magistrates, and that of the Jewish priests, the Greek interpreters of the Old Testament applied the same name to the courses of the priests, though somewhat improperly, as their ministry lasted not for a day but a week. The course of Abia, (that is, that of which Abia, or Abijah, was the head in David’s time,) was the eighth. See the notes on 1 Chronicles 24:3-10.
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