09 – Home

When: April, 4 BC
Where: Nazareth, Galilee
Matthew, Luke,

Other, Thoughts,

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Herod the Great had ruled as king for over 40 years. Two aspects of his life must be noted. To consolidate and perpetuate his power, the traits that best described Herod were “paranoid”, “ruthless”, and “vicious”. He drowned his brother-in-law Aristobulus, and had his own brother killed. He had the high priest Hyrcanus killed. He had his sister Salome’s husband killed and then had her new husband killed.

He had 10 wives at different times. He killed Miriamme, the one he really liked, as well as his own mother. He eventually had the two sons of Miriamme killed. He was every bit as bad as the Roman rulers.

At the same time, he was very generous spending public money on building projects. He built “pagan” temples in neighboring countries, the theater and amphitheater in Jerusalem, eight fortresses (such as Herodium, Masada, and Machaerus) to which he could escape in case of a rebellion (he was not well-liked), the harbor, amphitheater and city of Caesarea, and the Temple complex [model] in Jerusalem.

Around 4 BC, Herod’s health was very poor. He was almost 70 years old. He was in constant pain and ate obsessively as a distraction. His belly was bloated. His feet were swollen. His breath had a stench, and he had considerable trouble breathing. He had convulsions. Moreover, as his end was near, his genitals were infested with “worms”. Many considered his health problems to be God’s punishment on Herod the Great.

During the night of March 12/13 of 4 BC, there was an eclipse of the moon. Passover Day fell on April 11 and the Festival of Unleavened Bread lasted until April 18. A letter came from Caesar allowing him to kill Antipater, the son of his first wife, and Herod had him killed immediately.

Then, knowing that he also was dying, and to avoid the celebration that the people would likely have following his death, Herod became determined that the whole nation would mourn something when he died. Herod had the leading citizens arrested and gathered into the hippodrome in Jericho. They were supposed to be slaughtered as soon as he died. He died in late March of 4 BC.

And so it was that after almost a year in Egyptian territory, Joseph received a message that Herod the Great had died. He could now, he decided, take his wife and son home to Bethlehem. Survival had not been easy, living among strangers as refugees. They packed up and headed home to Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem of Judea.

But when they arrived in Bethlehem, they learned that Archelaus now ruled in place of his father Herod, and was every bit as bad. Archelaus had 3000 people killed in the temple in Jerusalem during Passover because they embarrassed him. So Joseph chose to go north and live in Mary’s hometown. Mary’s family was there, it was a quiet village away from the intrigue of Jerusalem, and Joseph was known there and could find work in the area. Therefore, they settled in Nazareth of Galilee.


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