Herod Archelaus, Jerusalem Mint, Solar Eclipses of 6 BC
This small prutah of Herod Archelaus may help date the death of Herod the Great and the birth of Jesus Christ. Herod Archelaus lived from 23 BC-18 AD and officially reigned from 4 BC to 6AD. He was the son of Herod the Great and was given some authority to rule two years prior to Herod the Great's death in Jericho. It was a difficult situation at the time. Rulers of Judea had to be given authority from Augustus and Herod the Great could not appoint a successor without the authority of Rome. Archelaus appealed to Augustus and was given the title of Ethnarch which was not a king. Around the time of Herod the Great's death, a group of students and teachers tore down the eagle over the temple gate in Jerusalem. Herod the Great likely died during the fast of Purim and a lunar eclipse on March 12-13 4BC. Herod the Great had the group killed and a small rebellion occured during Passover in 4 BC. Archelaus was in charge during this rebellion in Jerusalem and sent an army into the temple and killed 3000 Jews. This incident was used against him before Augustus as his family members argued against his rule. Nevertheless he was given the title Ethnarch.
The above coin may be in commemoration of the solar eclipses seen in Israel in 6 BC. The circle and dot on the reverse is representative of the solar eclipses and may help date the reign of Herod Archelaus. If Archelaus started assuming responsibilities of government before the death of Herod the Great, the solar eclipse symbol on the coins may help date them to being the first coins produced by Archelaus. The Book of Matthew also states Joseph returned to Galilee and not Judea because he was afraid of Archelaus. Archelaus was ruler of Judea when Jesus and His family returned to Nazareth. Was it that Archelaus was involved in the "Slaughter of the Innocents" in 6 BC? The obverse of the coin displays the anchor, a symbol of Seleucid power in Antioch. The ram coin series of Antioch clearly displays symbols of solar eclipses which join the terror of this event in nature with the terror of Roman warfare. Could the solar eclipses of 6 BC have influenced the Roman decision to not allow a singular King of Israel and to break Herod's Kingdom up among his sons? It is interesting to ponder that the "King of Kings" was born at the time when Rome would not allow any more Judean Kings. Photo from Amphora