Monday, March 18, 2013

Israel Museum presents exhibit on Herod the Great

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matthew 2:1-18

The prophecies cited in the above passage are found in Micah 5:2, Hosea 11:1, and Jeremiah 31:15.

Since February 13, 2013, the Israel Museum has been presenting an exhibit titled Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey:

The first exhibition entirely dedicated to Herod the Great, Israel’s greatest builder and one of the most controversial figures in Jewish history. Large reconstructions and new finds from Herod’s palaces in Herodium, Jericho, and other sites are on display. Exhibited to the public for the very first time, these artifacts shed new light on the political, architectural, and aesthetic influence of Herod’s rule (37–4 BCE). Herod’s tomb – discovered at Herodium after a 40-year search by the late Prof. Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University – holds pride of place. The exhibition is held in memory of Prof. Netzer, who fell to his death in 2010 on the site of his discovery.
Go here to see photos of the exhibit.

As reported by Shmuel Browns and Bonna Devora Haberman in The Jerusalem Post, February 10, 2013:

World history has anointed few with the epithet “the Great.” He masterminded and engineered the Jerusalem Temple – among the most magnificent temples in the ancient world; the fortress-complex at Masada – the most-visited site in Israel; Caesarea – in its day, the largest all-weather harbor built in the open sea; imposing cities, aqueducts and, finally, Herodium – the most spacious palace known to us in the Greco-Roman world before the common era.

A giant who moved mountains, Herod was respected, feared and despised. Reckoning with Herod is indispensable to interpreting the historical and material landscape of Israel.

Herod’s passion lives on. Herod proved to be archaeology professor Ehud Netzer’s nemesis.

The Israel Museum staff have been toiling for three years to present Netzer’s discoveries in the first exhibition in the world dedicated to Herod.

Commensurate with his life and work, “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” is unprecedented in grandeur and expense. Displayed in 900 square meters, approximately 250 artifacts related to Herod are exhibited, many for the first time. To show even this tiny sampling of his massive production, Herod fittingly required the museum to reinforce its very foundations and raise its ceilings.

Jewish Roman historian Josephus Flavius records extensive narrative about Herod, nearly a century after the events. Though he describes in detail Herod’s majestic funeral procession to Herodium – performed according to Herod’s own orders – Josephus mysteriously neglects to mention the location of Herod’s tomb.

While working on the excavations at Masada in the 1960s, Yigal Yadin introduced a young architect, Ehud Netzer, to Herod by reading from Josephus Flavius...

...His interest in Herod piqued, Netzer began his own excavations at Lower Herodium in 1972.

Intent on uncovering Herod’s tomb, he continued to dig for the next 35 years. Herod overcame topographic opposition to his designs with engineering wit and sheer force. He leveled bedrock, buttressed a sloping mountain and channeled water from Solomon’s Pools via aqueduct. Herod built a Roman bathhouse equipped with Jewish ritual baths, a large swimming pool and reservoir, transforming a barren site into a luxurious oasis of high Roman culture with Jewish annotations.

Netzer followed his intuition about Herod and began excavating halfway up the mountain.

Beside the staircase that rises to the summit, with a clear view to Jerusalem, Netzer unearthed five pink limestone pieces of an ornate sarcophagus, marred by hammer blows. Based on the excavation layer, the sarcophagus had been smashed in antiquity by Jewish zealots who regarded Herod as a Roman puppet-king, Netzer reasoned. He also revealed the dissembled base of Herod’s mausoleum. In May 2007, Netzer triumphantly announced that he had found King Herod’s tomb and two sarcophagi belonging to members of Herod’s family.

Based on fragments, Netzer drew on his familiarity with Herod’s oeuvre and his expertise as an architect and archaeologist to imagine the mausoleum.

Netzer conceived a colossal three-story monument – 25 meters high. The first level is cube-shaped. The second, a cylinder, is crowned with a conical roof. The carefully ornamented architecture combines Jewish, Roman and Nabatean elements representing Herod’s biography.

A Nabatean funerary urn, for example, honors Herod’s Nabatean mother, Cypros. A model of the mausoleum based on Netzer’s reconstructive drawing is installed at the entrance to the Herodium park.

Continuing to excavate on the other side of the staircase, Netzer uncovered an intimate Roman theater with a loggia where Herod had presided over performances and entertained his royal guests.

From the precarious ledge where Netzer fulfilled his life-long ambition to unshroud the tomb of Herod the Great, Netzer fell. Overlooking the course of Herod’s own funeral procession, Netzer’s broken body was borne from Herodium on a stretcher. He died on October 28, 2010.

Fulfilling Netzer’s request to display his Herodium tomb-area discoveries, on February 12, 2013, the Israel Museum exhibition in Jerusalem opens. Based on Netzer’s drawings, museum staff constructed a life-size replica of the top level of Herod’s mausoleum – from 30 tons of architectural stone pieces, including half-ton columns. Inside the structure, the three sarcophagi will be on view.

In addition to items from Herodium, artifacts from Herod’s palaces at Cypros, Masada and Jericho, as well as exquisite glass period pieces borrowed from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art give a taste of Herod’s refined habits. From the pantry at Herod’s palace-fortress at Masada, large clay amphorae attest to the luxury and sophistication of Herod’s palate: apples, honey, fine wine and a savory Roman fish sauce. One amphora bears an inscription of Herod’s name in Latin and Greek, “King of the Jews”.

For an in-depth day with Herod – at Herodium and the Israel Museum and/or tours of Herod's other sites, please contact Shmuel Browns at http://israeltours.
Go here for another article about the exhibit, and here for an article from 2007 about Dr. Netzer's discovery of Herod's tomb.

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