King Herod Was Troubled

University of Washington physician finally has his diagnosis.
2002This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

There was a gentle fever upon him, and an intolerable itching over all the surface of his body, and continual pains in his colon, and dropsical turnouts about his feet, and an inflammation of the abdomen, and a putrefaction of his privy member, that produced worms," wrote the Jewish historian Josephus about Herod the Great (cf. Matt. 2).

"Besides which he … could not breathe but when he sat upright, and had a convulsion of all his members, insomuch that the diviners said those diseases were a punishment upon him."

After 2,000 years, University of Washington physician Jan Hirschmann finally has a diagnosis: "His chronic kidney disease was complicated by an unusual infection of the male genitalia called Fournier's gangrene."

Hirschmann notes that Herod also suffered mental disorders, and failed at a suicide attempt. "These may be part of the disease, or they may be extensions of what he was like before," he says.

Related Elsewhere

Earlier this year, Samson and Ezekiel were diagnosed as well.

Other news coverage includes:

What Disease Killed King Herod? - National Geographic Today (Jan. 28, 2002)
Herod's grisly death probed by doctors - BBC (Jan. 26, 2002)
Scientists Blame Kidney Disease on 2,000-Year-Old Mystery - WebMD (Jan. 25, 2002)
King Herod Death Mystery Solved? - Discovery News (Jan. 25, 2002)
Expert: Kidney disease, gangrene killed Herod - CNN (Jan. 25, 2002)
He was a ruthless man who died a miserable death - ABC News (Jan. 25, 2002)
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