By January 6, 2009 Read More →

Tomb of King Herod the Great, 4 BCE


Tomb of King Herod the Great discovered by Ehud Netzer at Herodium in May 2007.

Spread among the ruins are pieces of a large, unique sarcophagus (close to 2.5 meters long), made of a Jerusalemite reddish limestone, which was decorated by rosettes. The sarcophagus had a triangular cover, which was decorated on its sides. This is assumed with certainty to be the sarcophagus of Herod. Only very few similar sarcophagi are known in the country and can be found only in elaborate tombs such as the famous one at the King’s Tomb on Selah a-Din Street in East Jerusalem. Although no inscriptions have been found yet at Herodium, neither on the sarcophagus nor in the building remains, these still might be found during the continuation of the dig.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem Press Release, May 8, 2007.

In 2008, archaeologists discovered another two tombs near Herod’s tomb, which may belong to his wife and daughter-in-law. Also found at Herodium was a theater with seating for 750. Both discoveries are further evidence of Herod’s lavish lifestyle.

Herod died at the age of seventy in 4 A.D., thirty-six years after Rome had made him king. It is said that immediately after his death there occurred an eclipse of the moon which modern astronomers reckoned to have happened on March 13th.

Flavius Josephus passes harsh judgement on him when he comes to write about Herod a few decades later- “He was no king but the most cruel tyrant who ever ascended the throne. He murdered a vast number of people and the lot of those he left alive was so miserable that the dead might count themselves fortunate. He not only tortured his subjects singly but ill treated whole communities. In order to beautify foreign cities he robbed his own, and made gifts to foreign nations which were paid for with Jewish blood. The result was that instead of their former prosperity and time honoured customs the people fell victim to utter poverty and demoralisation. Within a few years the Jews suffered more misery through Herod than their forefathers had done in the long period since they left Babylon and returned under Xerxes.”

In thirty-six years hardly a day passed without someone being sentenced to death. Herod spared no one, neither his own family nor his closest friends, neither the priests nor least of all the people. On his list of victims stand the names of the two husbands of his sister Salome, his wife Mariamne and his sons Alexander and Aristobulus. He had his brother-in-law drowned in the Jordan and his mother-in-law Alexandra put of the way. Two scholars who had torn down the golden Roman eagle from the gateway of the Temple were burned alive. Hyrcanus the last of the Hasmoneans was killed. Noble families were exterminated root and branch. Many of the Pharisees were done away with. Five days before his death the old man had his son Antipater assassinated. And that is only a fraction of the crimes of this man who “ruled like a wild beast.”

Werner Keller. The Bible as History. Bantam Books. New York. 1982. p.370-371.

See also-

News@HebrewU- New excavations strengthen identification of Herod’s grave at Herodium

Posted in: Roman Period I

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