Published on May 4, 2021
Chasing the Creator
I looked at Herod’s palace, saw longing, unsatisfaction
By Shirley Prihoda
There’s a flat-topped mountain overlooking the Dead Sea in southern Israel called Masada. A magnificent palace once stood there, and even in its ruins, it’s breathtakingly majestic. We stood there looking across the plains to the Dead Sea. The very air seemed charged with mystery and longing.
Longing is an interesting emotion, visualized like a stick, one end giving, the other taking.
The giving end can inspire a person to see beyond what is, to what could be and set out to change the world. The other end, the taker, is a bottomless pit with longing that’s never satisfied and what they have is never enough, so they take what belongs to others.
It was this type of longing that led Herod the Great to seize Masada and build himself a magnificent summer palace to be above everyone else, high, and lifted up.
Apparently, he didn’t remember Isaiah 14:12-21 and how well this worked for the first one who tried it. Nevertheless, he set out to establish his throne as an imposingly fortified palace unequaled in grandeur and amenities.
Skilled artisans were conscripted to create intricate mosaic designs on the walls and floors, some of which are still visible even after all these years. Engineering was at its pinnacle, and modern-day health spas have nothing on Herod’s summer digs at Masada. His hot tub and sauna rooms were amazing! Vertical tubes were placed between the floors, and the heated steam would rise into the spa! And let’s just say, the toilets were unusual and leave it at that!
Since Herod had an unlimited budget, no expense was spared. It seemed he was destined to finally reach the height of his desires. All was going well and according to plan. That is, until some humpbacked camels with a few wise men showed up and started asking questions.
Word traveled fast, even without internet, and Herod soon heard they were asking where to find the new king that is called, “King of the Jews.” He called an emergency meeting and invited the wise men.
Now, the wise men weren’t called “wise” for nothing and decided to move their humpbacks a little farther down the road. Herod, like all boasting egomaniacs, thought the world revolved around him. He got riled up since they had stepped into his cheerios.
In an unbridled fit of rage, he ordered every male child two years old and under to be slaughtered. What a night that must have been; a whole city of empty-armed mothers were crying over their children.
Herod’s longing wasn’t the only longing that took place at Masada. When the Roman soldiers overtook Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in 70 AD, a group of Hebrews high-tailed it there and drew the proverbial “line in the sand.” However, it was “a little late and a dollar short” to quote my mama. To grasp the enormity of their stand, it was sort of like the stoic stand taken by Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and William B. Travis at the Alamo. They knew they were outnumbered, and that death was inevitable, but they were willing to take the stand for a chance to be free.
The number of Hebrews at Masada for this final showdown is up for discussion; however, whether large or small, that’s not the point. What we do know is they held the Roman soldiers off and forced them to build a road up the side of the mountain. How long it took them to do this is unknown, but one thing is certain: Building roads doesn’t happen overnight!
Ask anyone who has traveled on Highway 290 between Houston and Brenham! We can all agree that it took a while since dump trucks and road graders were a little bit farther down the invention road.
Nevertheless, when you’re dealing with an egomaniac with unlimited funds and plenty of slave labor, anything is possible. However long it took to haul dirt and build a road up the side of that mountain, when they finally broke through the walls, every Hebrew was dead. Essentially, Herod the Great and the mighty Roman army that ruled most of the world had been hauling dirt to fight corpses.
Masada was the graveyard of ancient Israel, the last stronghold before they were lost and scattered to the wind. The years lost were not forgotten by God. He had left a mystery there to be found.
Due to the remoteness of Masada and its arid environment, it remained largely untouched by humans or nature for almost 2,000 years, waiting for the unfolding to begin just as God said it would. Between 1963 and 1965, an extensive excavation, led by an Israeli archeologist and former military Chief-of-Staff Yigael Yadin, uncovered a portion of scripture from the book of Ezekiel God had hidden 2000 years earlier. Hold onto your hats and read Ezekiel 37:12-14!
The story may interest history buffs, but others may conclude it’s just that: history. If I leave this earth having accomplished anything, it would be to encourage readers to look beyond the surface for the who and the why. If you do this, you may just find something to believe in, and faith will arise.
Faith is not blindly following God’s word because it’s the only ballgame in town. It’s arriving at the knowledge that He can be trusted to do what He said He would do. Faith is trusting and waiting for it to appear. It may come today, or it may come tomorrow, but it’s coming!
The attack ramp still stands on the western side of Masada and can be climbed up on foot. However, I don’t recommend this added thrill to your Holy Land itinerary. The road is straight up and no guardrails. Apparently, they didn’t have safety inspectors in 70 AD!
Diet Banana Smoothie
1 Sliced Frozen Banana
Combine and pulse in a food processor. Great treat!
(To contact Shirley, please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)