This is Paul Billington with another edition of the Bible in the News--a weekly look at a selected news item from a Bible perspective.
Occasionally, the news headlines make direct contact with someone in the Bible--usually through some new discovery unearthed by archaeologists. This has been the case this week with the announcement that the grave of King Herod (that is Herod the Great) has been found about 15 kilometers south of Bethlehem. We read about this King Herod in Matthew chapter 2.
Herod's tomb has been found by archaeologists following some 30 years of searching for it. The site of the discovery, the hill known as Herodium, was known from the survived writings of Josephus, but the actual burial location evaded identification until now.
Below: Map of Herodium, south of Bethlehem. Site of Herod’s grave.
The news stories about this discovery focus most of their attention on the enormous building projects that Herod undertook, including the temple site in Jerusalem which he extended--the remains of which are still visible today. He also built the famous fortress at Masada in the Judean wilderness as well as the Herodium complex and projects in Caesarea and Jericho. He actually died in Jericho but had left instructions to be laid to rest at Herodium.
One thing is clear: He was a very powerful, as well as industrious ruler. But he was very jealous of his power and position, and as Josephus records, he put to death any that he saw as being a threat to his authority and rule, including a wife and three sons.
This fits the character of Herod as we read of it in Matthew chapter 2. Herod was made "King of the Jews" by the Roman senate in about B.C. 40 so he would have been somewhat alarmed by the question of the wise men as recorded in Matthew 2:2, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" The text in Matthew 2:3-8 reads:
"When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."
"A governor, that shall rule my people Israel;" Oh yeah! Looking up the reference in the prophecy of Micah chapter 5:2 would not put his anxiety to rest either--sure enough, it speaks of one, who would be "Ruler in Israel." Herod took this as a serious threat to his power.
Isn't it amazing how men in power do everything possible in order to cling on to their position! Look at Israel's Prime Minister today--Olmert is being investigated for criminal activity, has been held responsible for the failures in the Lebanon war last year, and has no support in any of the polls--yet he insists on staying in power. Modern politicians use every imaginable tactic against their opponents--including what is sometimes called "character assassination." President Putin of Russia even takes it a step further than that as has been witnessed by the murder of at least two of his opponents.
Well, Herod didn't stop even when it came to young children. We read in Matthew 2:16:-
"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men."
This murderous action had been anticipated by the prophet Jeremiah some 600 years earlier says Matthew--and we can read the prophecy of it in Jeremiah 31:15.
What a monster of a man this Herod was. But however powerful and ruthless man may be they cannot thwart the purposes of God. Herod did not wipe out the newly-born Jesus. He was removed to a place of safety until after Herod's death--and even then, Herod's successor--another man of power (Archelaus)--would have similarly tried to liquidate the young child in order to preserve his own power, but as Matthew says:
"But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
So it was that Herod passed off the scene, as did those who followed him--whereas Jesus survived. He was born King of the Jews and was crucified as King of the Jews. He was raised from the dead and will return as the King of Israel.
Today they have found the grave of Herod. They have found inscriptions of Pontius Pilate-- and even the coffin of Caiaphus. The powers that be--the Rulers of the world at that time--are all dead and gone.
There will soon be another confrontation between the rulers of this world and the Son of God. As the King of Israel he will conquer them all and establish righteousness, goodness and truth in the earth. The call of the Gospel invites us to join the Messiah of Israel in the great work of restoring the Kingdom of Israel, and renovating the whole of the world.
Herod the great murderer has returned to the dust from whence he came. He will not kill any more children--and neither will he build any more temples or fortresses. The time will soon come however when Jesus, whom Herod and the powerful men of Judea sought to destroy will come and build the temple of the Lord. The glory of that future temple is outlined for us in Ezekiel's prophecy, chapters 40 to 48.
May that vision be fulfilled in the very near future.
May God be with you, until we talk again next week God willing on www.biblemagazine.com