King of the Hill, Herod. Not Hank!
Henry the 8th had Hampton Court; Louis VIX & Marie Antoinette had Versailles, Ludwig II built Neuschwantstein, for 1000 years the Brits have had Windsor. From each of these famed places monarchs have shaped history, ruled kingdoms and influenced culture. We don’t necessarily think about these people, but their continued presence in our lives, no matter how trivial, remains. Henry VIII, for example, is truly as responsible for the creation of the Protestant movement as Martin Luther. Ladies, if you wore a white wedding gown, you can thank Queen Victoria for beginning the tradition when she married Prince Albert (no cigar jokes —-and he’s not in a can). And who among us has not quipped crediting Marie Antoinette with “Let them eat cake!” During the French Revolution? Historians now believe she never said those words.
Many years ago riding with the daughters of our friends, Pam & Ron Robinson, we left SeaTac airport on the road headed toward Seattle. With Anna and Mary Kathryn in the rental car Thaedra and I took off to take these girls to spend their Spring break with their parents. Ron was at the Fred Hutchinson Center receiving extended treatment after having received a bone marrow transplant. If not for being there with this family we would not have seen it. While passing by the Boeing plant … which stretches miles along the highway … we sawMount Rainer. It is so incredibly large that it doesn’t look as if it could be real. It arose in the distance, a mass of earth protruding into the sky capped with snow all around. We all couldn’t believe this massive natural wonder in front of our eyes.
Driving through the desert just about 10 miles south of Jerusalem in anticipation of seeing Herod the Great’s final resting place I was reminded of Mt. Ranier’s grandeur. Curious to know if the Herodium mount might compare. To set the record straight, it did not…although it was big. Only God can make a Mt Rainier, but Herod, known as the master builder, created quite the impressive fortress. His intent was to built high enough that it could be seen from the Holy City, Jerusalem. From the top you can see the Mount of Olives just beyond the Kidron Valley.
Herod served as Judea’s Jewish ruler from approximately 50 B.C. – 4 A.D. I’m sticking with the Before Christ and Anno Domini. This before common era & common era political correctness thing is a bunch of hooey. Shocking I know, but iNotes doesn’t recognize Domini as a word, but knows what hooey is. Not sure why I’m surprised from a technology out of the Silicon Valley.
Think about this guy for a moment. He is the Herod who rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem (2nd time). He built more than 15 palaces, 7 massive fortresses and multitude of public buildings. He lived an opulent lifestyle, ruled powerfully, maintained the power of the world in his hands.
At the news of Christ’s birth Herod is the guy who sent the Magi, he’s the guy who ordered the murder of every Jewish baby – subsequently what made Joseph and Mary to escape with Jesus to Egypt by night (for reference, Bethlehem is only about 5 kilometers from this spot; the Sinai peninsula to where they escaped is approximately 270 kilometers south).
There were many truths about Herod. Two resonate with me today:
First, a little baby born a few miles away in a cave among livestock manure to a teenager intimidated him. Second, as powerful as he was, Herod was an extension of the Roman Empire and ruled (basically served) at the pleasure of the Roman government. It was good work if you could get it.
As Herod approached the end of his life he ordered even more dirt and rock be placed upon the top of this mountain palace. By continuing to increase it’s height, Herod helped insure himself a prolific eternal tomb. He is buried within a tunnel system deep inside the mountain. This high vantage point also affords views of the Judean wilderness where Satan tempted Christ for 40 days. Like many places in the Holy Land, years of digging and excavating have revealed what visitors can see today atop this huge hill.
But Herod, just like everyone died. I’d dare to say that if he had not been so prolific in Jesus’ story he would have faded away with the mists of time except for some placeholders in Israel & Middle Eastern history. He was, in the end simply a man, who ended up as my daddy’s favorite comedian, Jerry Clower, would say “Grave yard dead.” Earthly kings come and go, dynasties and monarchies rise and fall. This is a good place to be reminded that nothing lasts forever except God’s providence. Let me just leave it at that and share some images of what’s left of Herod’s man made mountain fortress.