Good question. The name Herod does not refer to a specific individual ruler but rather to a dynasty. Herod the Great was the founder of the dynasty. He is called “the great” for several reasons. He was a great builder, and funded the reconstruction and expansion of the temple in Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by the Babylonians. He was also an insecure madman, and insisted on the title “the Great” as a way to boost the perception of his authority.
His family life was tragic. He ordered the deaths of anyone he perceived as a threat, even his own wife and other family members. Politically savvy, evil, and ruthless, he intended to kill the baby Jesus (Matt. 2:1–12). He ordered the slaughter of the innocents to make sure that he eliminated Jesus (Matt. 2:16–18). Not even Herod the Great could thwart God’s plan, however.
After his death, one of his sons, Herod Archelaus reigned over Judea and Samaria (Matt. 2:22). Caesar Augustus banished Archelaus because of his inept and oppressive rule. Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee; he was involved in Jesus’ trial (Luke 23:6–15). In Acts, Herod Agrippa I, Herod the Great’s grandson, was responsible for James’s death and Peter’s imprisonment (Acts 12:1–19). Agrippa died an agonizing death, which was God’s judgment for his blasphemy (Acts 12:20–23). Herod Agrippa II, Herod Agrippa’s son (and Herod the Great’s great-grandson), heard God’s word through Paul (Acts 25:13 through 26:31). Agrippa responded, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).