Villains of the Bible

Building the Temple—Herod the Great

In his Temple, the King of the Jews, Herod the Great, used the Power of Religion and the Power of Money to increase the Power of the Kingdom of the World that he ruled. Nevertheless, these Powers could not create anything “Great”. Greatness only comes from worshipping the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Greatness only comes from doing for others what you would want them to do for you. (Matthew 7:12). Otherwise, your life and your civilization, your mighty fortress and your temple, will be built on a foundation of shifting sand. When the “rains” come, the “streams” rise, and the “winds” blow, then your life, your civilization, your mighty fortress, and your temple, will fall “with a great crash”. (Matthew 7:26-27). Such was the doom that befell the Mighty Fortress and the Temple of the erstwhile King of the Jews, Herod the Great.

Herod the Great is one of the most famous villains of the Bible—and indeed in all of history.

Herod murdered his wife and several sons. The Bible captures Herod’s wickedness in the story of the Massacre of the Innocents.

As you may recall from the Christmas Story, Wisemen from the East (Magi who were probably astrologers) saw a star in the sky that alerted them to the birth of the King of the Jews. Understandably, they traveled to the capital of the Jews (Jerusalem), looking for the King of the Jews.

Herod the Great called himself the King of the Jews, based on the authority of the Roman Senate. (He was a puppet ruler for the Roman Empire).

Naturally, paranoid Herod was outraged to hear that anyone thought that another King of the Jews had been born. He asked the chief priests and teachers of the Law of Moses where the King of the Jews—the Messiah—would be born.

Based on writings of the Prophet Micah, the Magi were told to look for the new King of the Jews in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2,4). As we all know, they found Jesus in Bethlehem, worshiped him, and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16).

So, why was this evil, evil, evil man called “Great”?

He was known as Herod the Great by people who foolishly worship the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World, instead of wisely worshiping Jesus.

In addition to his paranoid wickedness, evil Herod the Great is remembered for the magnificent buildings he constructed. The two most famous are Masada and the Temple in Jerusalem.

Masada was a mighty fortress built on top of a very high place that overlooks the Dead Sea. It was the site of the famous siege by the Romans that ended the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

Herod the Great fortified Masada and built a magnificent palace there. I’ve visited the ruins of Masada. So much for relying on the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World to create anything “Great”.

Modern Israel vows: “Masada shall never fall again!”.

I pray Israel will not defend itself by relying on the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, or the Power of the Kingdoms of the World.

Instead, I pray that Israel will defend itself by hoping in the LORD, as Isaiah taught them. (Isaiah 40:28-31).

I pray that Israel will defend itself by doing everything exactly as God commanded at Mount Sinai, including the Ten Commandments, as Moses taught them.

I pray that Israel will defend itself by being people of peace—people of shalomas David taught them.

In the Great Revolt, the Romans also destroyed another famous construction project by Herod the Great: the Temple in Jerusalem. He greatly expanded the existing Temple and made it one of the largest, most magnificent temples in the Roman Empire.

In his Temple, the King of the Jews, Herod the Great, used the Power of Religion and the Power of Money to increase the Power of the Kingdom of the World that he ruled.

Nevertheless, these Powers could not create anything “Great”.

Greatness only comes from worshipping the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Greatness only comes from doing for others what you would want them to do for you. (Matthew 7:12).

Otherwise, your life and your civilization, your mighty fortress and your temple, will be built on a foundation of shifting sand. When the “rains” come, the “streams” rise, and the “winds” blow, then your life, your civilization, your mighty fortress, and your temple, will fall “with a great crash”. (Matthew 7:26-27).

Such was the doom that befell the Mighty Fortress and the Temple of the erstwhile King of the Jews, Herod the Great.

Jesus was leaving the Temple a few days before his betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection. “[O]ne of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!’” (Mark 13:1).

But Jesus was not deceived by the false glitter of the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World. He overcame these three temptations at the very beginning of his public ministry. And he would overcome these temptations and Powers in just a few days through his crucifixion and resurrection. (See my blogs listed below).

Therefore, Jesus accurately foretold the total destruction of Herod’s Temple a mere 40 years later.

“‘Do you see all these great buildings’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’” (Mark 13:2).

Herod the Great and his Great Temple would be Great no more. Herod and his Temple would be gone with the wind, never to be great again.

In contrast to the mighty fortress that Herod the Great built at Masada and that fell to the Roman Empire, consider the Mighty Fortress that Martin Luther wrote about in his famous hymn:

“A Mighty Fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. . . . . “

“And though this World with devils filled should threaten to undo us; we will not fear, for God hath willed his Truth to triumph through us. . . . . “

“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill, God’s Truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever.”

As David taught Israel: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer” (2 Samuel 22:2).

As Isaiah taught Israel: “[The Israelites] will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).

As Moses taught Israel: the LORD is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and patience, maintaining love to thousands.” (Exodus 34:6-7) by “showing love to a thousand generations of those who love [him] and keep [his] commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

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For a similar blog about the futility of seeking Greatness through the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World, please read my blog “How Do We Build a Civilization That Is Good—That Is Very Good?” where I describe how “Nimrod and Babel did not understand what makes people, nations, and civilizations ‘great’”.

To learn more about how Jesus overcame the Power of Money, the Power of Religion, and the Power of the Kingdoms of the World, please read my blogs “Do Not Live on ‘Bread’ Alone”, “Do Not Jump Off the Temple”, “Do Not Seek the Kingdoms of the World and Their Authority”, “Beware the Power of Money”, “Beware the Power of Religion”, “Beware the Power of the Kingdoms of the World”, “Judas Iscariot Betrays Jesus: The Love of Money”, “Jezebel and Ahab: Greed, Lies and Violence”, “Pilate: The Love of Power”, and “Jesus Climbs the Temple Mount”.

To learn more about building the Temple, please read my blogs, “Building the Temple—Moses”, ”Building the Temple—David”, and “Building the Temple: Isaiah”.