Herod the Great’s Building Program

Herod the Great, although remembered principally in Christian circles for his slaughter of the infants as stated in Matthew’s gospel, also left his mark on the world’s memory as an ambitious builder. Herod finally consolidated power in 37 B.C. and immediately began an extensive building program—one perhaps unequaled in the history of ancient Israel. Ehud Netzer declares that “Herod the Great’s building projects in W Palestine constitute the most prominent in the country, for any single specific period or personality.” Herod’s construction sites were located mainly in Western Palestine but also included places such as Antioch, Beirut, Damascus, and Rhodes. The scope of his projects varied from simple monuments to public works, fortresses, palaces, and the magnificent temple in Jerusalem.

Our knowledge of Herod’s building activities comes principally from archaeological remains, the writings of Flavius Josephus, and, in the instance of the temple in Jerusalem, the Mishnah. Several structures built by Herod are closely related to significant New Testament events, beginning with Zacharias’s vision in the temple in Jerusalem and perhaps ending with Paul’s departure to Rome from Herod’s city of Caesarea.

Purchase this Issue