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King Herod

Water from Mount Carmel

Water from Mount Carmel

During the first century BC and AD, the coastal city of Caesarea served as the Roman Administrative Center of the province of Syria. Even today, Caesarea Maritima displays any number of the massive building projects overseen by King Herod. Form the theatre, the praetorium, the hippodrome, and harbor, all still have the identifiable thumbprints of King Herod all over them. 

From an engineering perspective, one of the most awe-inspiring projects is the aqueduct system which transported water into the city. Having a population of over 100,000 people, water was a necessity. King Herod built an aqueduct that stretched eight miles from a spring at the foot of the Carmel mountain range to the city of Caesarea. Much of this aqueduct can still be seen today.

The picture at the top of this post was taken from the top of the theatre in Caesarea looking northeast. The range of mountains you can see in the distance is the Carmel. This was the source of the fresh water which was brought into the city of Caesarea.

Often, we have the tendency to think about the people in ancient times as being uneducated or somehow intellectually less than we are. That is not true at all. It may have taken them a little longer to accomplish a task, but they got it done. And often, the task was completed in such a way that is far superior than what we are capable of today.

(Note: People who have visited Caesarea Maritima will notice the miniature model of the city under the covering in the bottom-right hand portion of the picture. Visitors often stop at this model to better understand the ruins that they are seeing.)

Walls of the Temple Mount

DSCN1275 King Herod was a terrible man. He did not even trust members of his own family and had them executed. But, he was a visionary and had very large construction projects. Even two thousand years later, his thumbprint is all over the country. This view of the southern wall of the Temple Mount still contains many Herodian stones. The Mount of Olives sits in the background.

Snake Trail Ascending Masada

snake_trail In the first century, King Herod built numerous palaces throughout Judea and Samaria. One of his most famous palaces was built on the top of a standalone plateau on the edge of the Dead Sea. It is commonly called Masada. Today, most visitors ascend to the top in three minutes via cable car. More adventurous visitors can ascend via the ancient Snake Trail.

Are you interested in traveling to Israel? Join me this October for a 12-day Bible Study tour of this beautiful land. See the Israel Tour Page for an itinerary and pricing details.

King Herod and the Herodium

King Herod and the Herodium


Back in September, I had the privilege of riding out and seeing the Herodium. (Unfortunately, time did not allow us to take a detailed tour of it. But, it's on my bucket list.) What is the Herodium? Around 40BC, Herod the Great was fleeing to his mountain resort palace of Masada. As he was traveling, he battled the Parthians at a location about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Jerusalem. Upon being victorious, King Herod decided to build a huge fortress and palace at the location and named it after himself. He had thousands of cubic meters of dirt moved and used that to form a large, conical shaped mountain. On the top, he built a large palace. The palace was later destroyed by the Romans in 71AD. The Herodium is never mentioned in the Bible. However, it is visible from many kilometers away in almost every direction. No doubt, it was seen by Jesus, his disciples and all of the people that lived in the area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem at that time.

Why would you want to spend time learning about the Herodium if it is not mentioned in the Bible? Well, because it teaches is about the time in which Jesus lived. Herod the Great lived just before and during the early years of Jesus' life. He had a powerful influence in the region. He constructed huge buildings and temples in Jerusalem, Samaria, Caesarea Maritima, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho and many other cities. He also built palaces at remote locations like Masada and the Herodium.

By looking and studying something like the Herodium, you understand more about King Herod. He was a self-absorbed ruler that would do whatever he wanted. He would spend a lot of money to build huge temples in an attempt to honor and appease his superiors in Rome. He would build huge palaces that were for his own pleasure. (And even name them after himself.) Once you understand a little more about the Herodium, is it surprising to read in Matthew 2:16 how he reacted to hearing that his throne may be threatened? Not really.

To visit the Herodium, travel about 8 miles south of Jerusalem on Highway 398.