I found this verse odd

Luke 23:12 (ESV) 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

Why would the impending death of Jesus make these two friends?


4 Answers 4


Ok, I'll answer my own question. I really appreciate Perry Webb for compiling the relevant verses that have helped me think through this, though I think something deeper is going on than Pilate and Herod recognizing each other's authority.

It's entirely possible that they both already recognized each other's authority (coming from the emperor of Rome) but still hated each other up until this episode. No, instead there must be recognition and respect for each other as persons for friendship to blossom.

To me, it seems that, with the Jewish demand for Jesus to be executed without cause, Pilate had moral disdain for the character of the Jewish leaders. He hoped he could escape the situation by sending Jesus to Herod (a Jew) to kill Jesus for him since the depraved Jews wanted Jesus dead. When Herod didn't take care of the problem for him, but sent Jesus back, instead of being angry and annoyed, Pilate developed a respect for Herod - that he was morally sensible, unlike the rest of the bloodthirsty Jewish leaders in Pilate's region. Finally a Jew he could relate to and would act rationally.

Herod for his part probably felt solidarity with Pilate for he himself was pressured into murdering a prophet of God he didn't really want to, feeling compelled by the circumstances. I'm not sure if Herod dressing Jesus up when sending him back to Pilate was meant to be humorous or a sign of respect for Pilate but I'm sure the spectacle didn't hurt the goodwill Pilate had towards what he probably felt to be the one rational Jew in this whole debacle.

  • 1
    I voted yours up, thats some good solid thinking imo and about the best we can do with the info. Thanks for both question and answer
    – Al Brown
    Jul 25, 2021 at 6:55
  • 1
    Thanks, @AlBrown, and you're welcome. The Bible makes great meditation literature.
    – Austin
    Jul 25, 2021 at 8:01
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    Yeah it really is. I always heard it was silly trite superstitious. Major lies about it. Lol someone voted down my comment. Ime christianity has been the most judgmental and least forgiving stack im on. But is a small sample so far.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 26, 2021 at 3:16

Previously they saw each other as a threat to their ruling authority. By sending Jesus back and forth they essentially recognized each others authority.

Pilate, having Roman religious beliefs, was afraid to condemn Jesus to death. The Romans believed the gods had children with women. To Pilate that would explain Jesus' miracles. While Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist come back to life. Neither wanted to condemn Jesus to death. So, they sent him back and forth hoping the other would take care of it.

Appendix: Scriptural Support

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” 12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” (John 19:7–12, ESV)

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. 9 Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him. (Luke 9:7–9, ESV)

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. 13 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him. 16 I will therefore punish and release him.” (Luke 23:6–16, ESV)

For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” (Matt. 27:18–19, ESV)

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” (Matt. 27:24, ESV)

  • Hey just letting you know I +1 your answer. Gave me a lot of food for thought. Enough to write my own answer. Thank you.
    – Austin
    Jul 25, 2021 at 7:11

Luke 23

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.

Jerusalem - where the alleged crime of treason against Rome occurred - was in Pilate's jurisdiction, but Jesus was a Galilean and thus Herod Antipas' subject. Rather than Pilate trying to pawn Jesus off on Antipas, what I think what Luke describes here is an act of mutual deference. Pilate honored the visiting Antipas by offering him the case since Jesus was his subject, and Herod returned the honor to Pilate by deferring the case to Pilate's authority. Whatever their feelings toward each other prior to this, they directly cooperated and showed each other respect in this case. This scenario is straightforward and uncomplicated; and it fits well with the idea that the incident moved them to friendship.


It's possible that the answer might be much simpler. Herod humiliated Jesus then dressed him in a shining robe (possibly gold/silver) and sent him back to Pilate ("περιβαλὼν ἐσθῆτα λαμπρὰν"). At a time when clothes were a measure of a person's worth, rank and status, that robe was an expensive gift. Basically Herod bought Pilate's friendship.

  • While in Pilate's custody, was when Jesus was clothed with the robe, not Herod.
    – agarza
    Apr 16, 2023 at 13:24
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