King Herod plays a significant role in Christianity, appearing in the Gospel of Matthew as the bloodthirsty tyrant behind the Massacre of the Innocents. According to that account, Herod, fearing for his throne, ordered the execution of all young male children near Bethlehem after receiving word from the “wise men of the East” who were inquiring as to the whereabouts of the newly born “King of the Jews” or Jesus.
The exhibit, one of the Israel Museum's largest, will feature artifacts recovered from what is believed to be Herod’s Tomb, discovered by Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer in the Judean Desert near Bethlehem in 2007.
“It’s a monumental tomb out in the middle of nowhere in a place he built for himself,” archaeologist Joe Zias said. “It’s as authentic as one could ask for.”
King Herod, who was reviled by many of his Jewish subjects for his cooperation with the Roman Empire, was known for his lavish building projects, including the desert fortress Masada and the expansion of the Second Temple complex in Jerusalem.
Today, a remnant of the Second Temple expansion, the Western Wall, is the holiest site in Jerusalem where Jews are permitted to pray, and Masada is revered by Jews as the location of Jewish fighters’ last stand against the Roman Empire following the destruction of the Temple.