Herod the Great

Posted by Censor Librorum on May 12, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist from Hebrew University, announced earlier this week that after a 35 year search, he had found the burial site of Herod the Great at Herodium, a hilltop fortress seven miles south of Jerusalem.

Herod the Great was a man, that if living today, would light up talk shows, gossip magazines, web sites and salons around the world. Married ten times, including once to a niece. His favorite wife was Mariamne, a woman from a dynastic family. She hated him, but he lusted for her. She bore him several children. He killed two of their sons and strangled her. He ordered his eldest son beheaded just a few days before his own death, a disease described as worms in his scrotum.

Herod the Great had the political skills and acumen we need in the Middle East right now. Recognized as “King of the Jews” by the Romans, he was not a Jew himself. His father was a man from Edom and Cyprus, and his mother was the daughter of an Arabian sheik. He managed to be friends with Cleopatra, Mark Antony, AND Augustus Caesar–no small feat.

While Herod relied on Rome’s legions to back up as claims, he was an astute politician. He kept a lid on the boiling cauldron of Judea via manipulation and assassination; satisfied the Sanhedrin (mostly) by showing respect for them and reverence to their God; implemented large-scale building programs, and most importantly, kept Roman troops quiet by keeping the peace.

He died at age 70. Both Jesus and John the Baptist had been born during his reign.
Matthew identifies Herod as the instigator behind the famous “Massacre of the Innocents.” This claim isn’t found anywhere else, includng any of the other Gospels. I think it’s dubious at best.

Next up, and just as notorious, was his son, Antipas. He divorced his first wife in order to marry his niece, Herodias, who was his half-brother Philip’s wife. John the Baptist denounced this marriage as unlawful. Because of John’s large following, Antipas was careful not to overreact, but at the pressuring of Herodias, had John imprisoned. Then, on the occasion of Antipas’ birthday, Herodias’ daughter, Salome, danced before the king and his court. Antipas was so pleased he offered Salome any gift she desired. As instructed by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist.

Antipas is the Herod that Pilate sent Jesus to. Antipas simply asked his idle questions before sending him back to Pontius Pilate to be crucified.

Judea and Samaria have not changed much since the days of the Herods. What do we have now–the threat of war spilling over borders; agitating religious leaders pushing their own agenda; feuding families; a not-so-shadowy imperial military power; and a low rumble of anticipation for a Messiah which could turn into a bloody mess.

Herod the Great–where are you now? It’s time for you to step forward to keep the peace, and keep us all entertained at the same time.

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