Herod's Dead - Horray
November 19, 0002
Dear Mary, Joseph and Jesus,
It was so nice to get your letter, to know that you are well, settled in and enjoying your stay in Egypt. I have wanted to write to you for such a long time, but we didn’t know where you were. I will be sure to tell Zachariah about Joseph’s good luck in having access to the Alexandrian Library.
You probably will have heard from the Angel who seems to visit you quite regularly of the latest news from here. King Herod has finally died. I cannot believe that anyone will mourn his passing. He was a
cruel heartless king, and killed his wife, his sons, as well as so many other innocent people. I don’t know whether you are aware, but you might be the direct cause of some of his slaughter. I am not
trying to make you feel guilty, but we have been told by friends in Bethlehem when we saw them in Jerusalem over the Passover holiday, that following your escape, Herod ordered the slaughter of all little boys under the age of two - in the attempt to kill the child who the Magi had said had been born in Bethlehem and would grow up to be King of the Jews.
I have heard various reports of how many children were killed - ranging from seven to thousands. But surely if God required Jesus’ safely, he would also have sent angels to the other families of little boys in Bethlehem to tell them to flee - or somehow keep their children safe. I can only think that those people disobeyed God’s warning, because to contemplate that God didn’t mind how many
little boys were killed just as long as his son was safe, doesn’t seem very fair. And I am hoping that the story is not true at all, although it would be fairly typical of Herod.
Herod was in Jericho when his sickness got worse, his body putrefied and worms bred in it. He was taken to warm baths several miles away for treatment and returned when it failed. He knew he was dying and planned his own funeral. He summoned key men from every village, up to 70-80 miles away. His son, Antipater, was executed and Herod died five days later. He died in the month of Shebat after the "blood red" full lunar eclipse at midnight on January 10th. No doubt that was an omen.
The body was ceremoniously carried 23 miles from Jericho to Herodium by soldiers walking one mile daily and it was buried there. I have heard that he has a limestone sarcophagus eight feet long with ornate rosette decorations on it. Seven days of mourning followed and then a funeral feast. A further public mourning was held for patriots who had been executed during the day preceding the eclipse.
I suppose the accomplishments he will be remembered for are for building projects including expanding the second Jewish Temple and walls around Jerusalem.
Herod’s son, Archelaus, was crowned before Passover. We have been told that he is a brutal man too, so things around here will not be much better.
But changing the subject, although it was the Magi who first told Herod about you and caused you to flee to Egypt, Joachim and Zachariah have been studying with other scholars about the star that
they say led them to this area.
The Magi wouldn’t have followed just any star and were specific in their quest. They were trained in an astronomical religion and knew exactly what they were looking for. In that year of Jesus’ birth,
and the one preceding it, there were numerous conjunctions involving Jupiter. Some astronomer at the time wrote this about it.
"As the sky darkened this brilliant 'double star' sank lower, the planets drawing nearer and nearer. At last, just above the horizon, they fused into one, gleaming like a great beacon over Judea to the west."
It’s now known that the previous year to Jesus’ birth, Venus and Jupiter, approached each other so close that they almost seemed to touch. Nearly ten months later, Venus and Jupiter approached each other again so close that to the naked eye they merged into one "star". To astrologers this would be very significant.
So the Star that the Magi saw appeared twice - before they set out and again when they arrived. The speculation is that the first star was the sign of Jesus’ conception, and the second of his birth.
John, Elizabeth and Zachariah’s son, is fine and doing well. Luckily he doesn’t live in Bethlehem or he might been one of the innocents, although, as I said, I cannot believe that God would have
allowed that. He is only three but Zachariah takes him with him each day to the Temple, and he has started already to learn to read. He seems a very bright little boy, but poor Elizabeth sees little of
When you do come back, I think it safer for you to live near us here in Nazareth. If you went back to Bethlehem, I cannot imagine how you would be treated - if the mothers and grandmothers of those poor slaughtered innocents some how got wind of the fact that it was your Jesus who was being sought by Herod, there is no telling what they would do to you.
Your father is keeping quite well for his age, and we both look forward to seeing you again soon.
Wish Jesus a very happy second birthday, and say that we will provide him with several presents when he returns to make up for having missed his earlier ones.