The historian, Josephus, describes the death of Herod at great length. When Herod's health began to fail him rapidly, he was moved to his winter capital in Jericho. From there he was carried by stretcher to the hot springs on the shores of the Dead Sea. The springs did no good; Herod returned home. Racked by hopelessness, Herod attempted suicide. Rumors of the attempt caused loud wailing throughout the palace. Herod's son, imprisoned by his paranoid father, mistook the cries to mean his father was dead. Immediately, he tried to bribe his jailers, who reported the bribery attempt to Herod. The sick king ordered his son executed on the spot. Now Herod plunged deeper into depression. He was only days away from his own death- and he knew it. What pained him most was the knowledge that his death would be met with joy in Judea. To forestall this, he devised an incredible plan.
Having assembled the most distinguished men from every village from one end of Judea to the other, he ordered them to be locked in the hippodrome at Jericho. Josephus- Jewish Wars
Herod then gave the order to execute them at the very moment he, himself, died. His sick mind reasoned that their death would dispel any joy in Judea over his own death. The order was never carried out.
After Herod's death, his body was carried in procession from Jericho to the Herodium outside Bethlehem for burial. Herod's body was adorned in purple, a crown of gold rested on his head, and a scepter of gold was placed in his hand. The bier bearing his body was made of gold and studded with jewels that sparkled as it was carried along under the desert sun. Following the bier was Herod's household and hundreds of slaves, swinging censers. Slowly, the procession inched its way up the mountainside to the Herodium, where it was laid to rest.
Today, the excavated ruins of the Herodium stand out grandly against the clear blue sky- reminding Bethlehem-bound tourists of the king who sought to kill the child whom they have come so far to honor.
When Herod died, the pagans among them mourned while the Jews rejoiced.
The HerodiumLooking like a volcano, the Herodium is one of several fortress-palaces built by Herod the Great. It was artificially shaped, with everything placed inside its protected craterlike top.
Josephus wrote of the Herodium:
"Two hundred steps of purest white marble led up to it. Its top was crowned with circular towers; its courtyard contained splendid structures."
In the 1960s archaeologists unearthed the courtyard, fortification towers, and palace. No trace of Herod's remains were found.
Table of Contents
"in the days of Herod the king" - Matthew 2:1
Herod the Great - A Brief OverviewClick on the Picture
Herod I (the Great) was son of Antipater and made king by the Romans in 40
B.C. He managed to keep hold of his throne in the face of the many changes in
the government at Rome.