“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15
Looming over the Judean desert just outside of Bethlehem rises the highest peak in the area, where once atop this man-made hill stood one of Herod the Great’s fortress-palaces. Herod chose the site for a palace because is was here that he defeated the Parthians in his battle to seize control of Israel in 40 BC. After being appointed king by Augustus in 37 BC, he built a monument to himself to commemorate the victory. From his perch, Herod could view the surrounding Judean hill country including the city of Bethlehem, and he could even keep an eye on Jerusalem and some of his other fortresses, including Masada to the southeast and Machaerus to the east across the Dead Sea. Little is known about the life of Herod from the Bible, with the exception of what is perhaps his most heinous act of slaughtering the children of Bethlehem, which could very well have been ordered and observed from the Herodion. Most of what we know about his life comes from the work of the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.