With a new school year around the corner…pop quiz! Which one of these statements about King Herod is FALSE?
A) King Herod was known for being extremely friendly.
B) King Herod was King of Judea from 37-4 BCE.
C) King Herod attempted to kill Jesus as a baby.
D) King Herod had astonishing architectural achievements in the Holy Land.
E) King Herod died in Jericho.
If you thought A) was false, then you are correct!
King Herod was not known for his friendliness. He suffered from immense paranoia which led him to killing many he felt threatened by, including a wife and two sons. In the New Testament, it mentions King Herod killing the male babies in Jerusalem so there would not be anyone to heir the throne after him. Although his personal life and kingship were ugly, his architectural achievements were the complete opposite. Here are a few of his major accomplishments you will see on a Holy Land tour.
The Second Temple (Jerusalem): The Second Temple construction began in 20 BCE, and was destroyed in 70 CE. The remainings of this Temple are the outter walls, which includes the Western Wall–the holiest site for Jews today. It is holy because it is the closest remaining wall to where the Temple used to stand. The Dome of the Rock is situated where the Temple itself was located.
Fun fact: This is a place for prayer, and often people write their prayers on pieces of paper and stick them into the cracks of the wall. Everyone is welcome to participate!
Masada Fortress (Judaean Desert): Masada was built between 37 and 31 BCE and was the first fortress King Herod built while in power. Besides the magnificant view overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada is most known for the Siege of Masada from 73- 74 CE. Years after the death of King Herod and soon after the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews hid in the abandoned Masada Fortress. They fought and prevented the Romans from entering the Fortress for some time. Eventually, the Romans got up to fhe Fortress, however, everyone there was dead–the Jews committed mass suicide to prevent becoming prisoners of the Romans.
Fun fact: The Siege of Masada symbolizes Jewish heroism and is used for Nationalistic purposes. Therefore, this site is used for tourism as well as ceremonies for the Israeli army.
Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea): This port city was built between 25-13 BCE and its ruins include the city walls, castle, theatre, and aqueduct. The city was continuously used, and after King Herod, was ruled by Arabs and Crusaders. This city is a must-see sight for Christian tours to Israel. It is located where the Pilate Stone was found. This stone mentions the name “Pontius Pilatus,” who, according to the New Testament, was the one who ordered Jesus to be crucified. Historians think that Pilatus lived in this city. Additionally, this was where Peter baptized the first gentile convert.
Fun fact: This is a fun place for all groups, including for children. Since the theatre is still in tact, it is a fun opportunity to show off your acting skills 😉