Herod’s Building Projects

Many people are aware that Herod the Great, who ruled over Palestine in the decades leading up to Jesus’ birth, was a very wicked ruler. Over time he grew extremely paranoid that people were seeking to overthrow him (which was probably often true), and eventually he killed his wife and three of his sons. He also tried to kill the newborn Jesus after hearing that a rival king had been born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2). At the same time, however, Herod was arguably the most prolific builder of anyone who has ever ruled over the region. It is likely that the primary reason for Herod’s ambitious agenda was twofold: 1) to ingratiate himself to the Romans, to whom he dedicated many of his projects, and 2) to promote stability in the region and protect himself against rebellion. Herod built numerous structures in Jerusalem, in many towns throughout his kingdom, and even in cities far beyond Palestine, such as Antioch of Syria. In Jerusalem he completely renovated and expanded the Temple of the Lord, built a lavish palace for himself, and built various pools, public buildings, and citadels (including the Antonia Fortress). Elsewhere he built Roman administrative buildings, aqueducts, and pagan temples, and he fortified several desert refuges for himself, including the fortress of Masada.

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