Unearthing Herod the Great

By Tzippe Barrow CBN News - Jerusalem Bureau May 9, 2007

CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - There is no more exciting place in the world for archaeologists than the Land of the Bible. And the longawaited discovery of Herod the Great's burial site, announced yesterday, is significant for Jews and Christians. At Tuesday's press conference, Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology presented his team's findings from Herodion (or Herodium), the sprawling hilltop residence built by the Roman-appointed king of biblical Judea. For Netzer, his two assistants, Yaakov Kalman and Roi Porath, and many others who have helped excavate the site over the past 30 years, it was a momentous occasion. The discovery of Herod the Great's burial site and all its accompanying artifacts will no doubt spur more excavation at Herodian. The Excavation of Herodion The excavation of Herodion began on a small scale in 1972. But in 1980, with the government's decision to convert the area to a national park, the scope of the excavation grew. In 1987, the first intifada (armed uprising) brought the work to a halt. After a 10-year hiatus, archaeologists picked up where they'd left off and continued until 2000, when the second intifada again made it too dangerous to work there. In 2005, after a year of relative quiet from terrorist attacks, Netzer and his team were able to continue excavating the site. Located some nine miles southeast of Jerusalem near the present-day community of Tekoa in the Gush Etzion bloc, it is one of several monumental building projects of Herod the Great. Others include Masada, the mountaintop desert fortress, and the Mediterranean coastal city of Caesarea. Herod also refurbished the Second Temple and rebuilt other areas in and around Jerusalem. A Cruel and Ruthless King

The Gospel accounts of King Herod record his cunning ruthlessness, particularly in his encounter with the wise men en route to bring gifts to the newborn King of the Jews. Herod, who himself had been named king of the Jews, had no intention of abdicating his throne to anyone other than his descendants. Professing a desire to worship the newborn King, he instructed the wise men to inform him of the baby's whereabouts when they found Him. When they didn't return with the information, Herod ordered the murder of every male Jewish child aged two and under. The Herods were Idumeans, descended through Isaac and Esau, not Jacob. Although Herod the Great's father, Herod Antipater, adopted a number of Jewish traditions, both he and his descendants straddled the fence between Roman culture and Jewish practices. As such, Herod the Great was hated by many of the Jews of his day. Archaeologists believe that the smashed sarcophagus they discovered was deliberately destroyed during the first Jewish revolt against the Roman oppressors between 66 and 72 AD. "The very fact that the sarcophagus has been smashed indirectly supports the view that this is indeed Herod's tomb," said archaeologist Gabi Barkai of Bar-Ilan University. Source: The Jerusalem Post

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