When our group left Jerusalem and headed for Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, we took a wide swing away from the West Bank to visit some ruins on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Caesarea was built by Herod the Great in about 25-13 BC to serve as the administrative center of the Judaean Province of the Roman Empire. In a very savvy move, Herod dedicated the city to the emperor, Caesar Augustus. Herod is the ruler referenced in Matthew 2 to whom the Magi came to inquire about the location of the King of the Jews, whose star they had seen in the east. Of course, Herod, as the current King of the Jews, was not too keen on having a rival, so he ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem to be killed. An angel warned Joseph in a dream of Herod's plot, and he and Mary and the infant Jesus fled to Egypt, where they stayed until Herod's death. When they returned, the family moved to Nazareth so as not to be under Herod's son Archelaus.
Herod the Great was an all-around bad dude. He was ambitious and cruel, a dreadful combination. In three different fits of jealousy, he had his brother-in-law murdered, and then his sons, and then his wife. Augustus noted, "It is better to be Herod's dog than one of his children." No kidding.
On the other hand, Herod is probably called Herod "the Great" because of his massive building program, which included building Caesarea, building the fortress Masada, and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. He didn't skimp either.
Clearly, Herod was an important man with a lot of power.
|Sand dunes on the way to Caesarea|
These days Caesarea is a very wealthy area. In fact, it has the only golf course in Israel, and it has a stunning beach: