A New Testament king’s final resting place is uncovered at last.
The remains of a tomb from the first century B.C.E. has been uncovered at Herodium, 12 miles south of Jerusalem. Unlike other tombs that have been in the news of recent date, this tomb can be linked unequivocally to a specific individual: King Herod, also known as Herod the Great, who ruled the Jewish nation from 37 to about 4 B.C.E. and who died shortly after the birth of Jesus Christ.
Herodium was one of the monumental public works commissioned by Herod. His reign witnessed one of the most prolific building campaigns in Judaea. Herod not only refashioned Jerusalem but started to restore and enlarge the temple—a project that lasted for some 46 years—making the sacred structure a focus and magnet for Jews throughout the Diaspora. He also built a number of fortified palaces for himself at Jericho, Machaerus, Masada and Herodium, the latter becoming his burial place.
Details of his funeral procession, circa 4 B.C.E., are given by Flavius Josephus. But the exact
Ultimately, Netzer found the tomb on the northeast shoulder of the mound at the top of a processional stairway that led to the burial site. Sadly for the professor, the mausoleum that contained the sarcophagus had been vandalized and destroyed, most likely after the 70 C.E. fall of Jerusalem. Herodium, like Masada, became an outpost for the Zealots and, also like Masada, was finally destroyed by Roman forces. The Zealots had no love for Herod, regarding him as a puppet of the Roman Empire that had given him his role and legitimacy. The magnificent sarcophagus in which Herod was buried, estimated to be eight feet long (almost 2.5 meters), had been smashed. Despite the failure to recover anything more than fragments and decorations, the site is accepted as having been the final resting place of Herod and is being noted as one of the most significant of archaeological discoveries.
Whether loved or hated by the people of his day, Herod made a major contribution to the region in a critical period of time. His life ended shortly after the birth of Jesus Christ, with the consequent spread of Jesus’ followers throughout the Roman world and beyond. Herod’s reign as a puppet of the Roman Empire also contributed to the ultimate fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of its people.
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