Herod the Builder
The Works of a Master Builder
Herod the Great’s visionary building programs, ingenious development of trade with other countries, and advancement of his nation’s interests were remarkable. He used his magnificent building projects to strengthen his relationship with Rome and establish himself as the greatest king the Jews ever had.
Herod rebuilt the temple out of marble and gold. The building was taller than a fifteen-story building, and its foundation included limestone blocks weighing more than five hundred tons. On the western hill of the city, he built a spectacular complex that contained reception halls, apartments, fountains, gardens, baths, and a fortress for his personal guards. He also built a Greek theater and hippodrome, paved the streets, and installed sewers.
On top of a plateau in the Judea Wilderness, this fortress was one of the wonders of the ancient world. A spectacular palace suspended from one end of the plateau, luxurious hot and cold baths, mosaic floors, swimming pools, huge storehouses, and cisterns holding millions of gallons of water helped to make this dry, wilderness settlement bearable for its occupants.
This palace was built on both sides of a wadi (a dry, deep riverbed), connected by a bridge. One wing contained a huge, marble-floored hall where Herod received guests. Next to it were peristyle gardens, dining halls, and a complete Roman bath. Across the wadi, another large building housed baths, a swimming pool, and gardens.
Needing contact with the Roman world for its military support and trade opportunities, Herod build Caesarea into one of the most amazing seaports of the ancient world. Founded in 22 BC, the city housed a large theater, amphitheater, hippodrome, a massive temple to Augustus, and an elaborate palace by the sea.
The city’s real glory, however, lay in its forty-acre, man-made harbor. A lighthouse guided ships into the harbor that brought Roman legions, marble, granite, and the Hellenistic culture of the region. From that harbor, ships also carried spices, olive oil, grain, and eventually the gospel to the far reaches of the world.
The Buildings Today
Today, all that remains of Herod’s building projects are massive ruins. Herod lived only to honor himself, and his efforts have literally crumbled to the ground. But there was another builder in Herod’s day.
Jesus’ work continues to grow because he built for the glory of God. Like David, Elijah, and Hezekiah, Jesus lived so that the world may know that Yahweh is truly God. What Jesus built, and what his followers continue to build upon, will last forever.
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