One of the most significant verses written by the Apostle Paul is found in Galatians 4:4. On the surface, it’s not a glamorous verse filled with deep theological content in comparison to other Pauline passages. In comparison, it’s a simple straight-forward verse that gives us a clear indication of the perfect timing of God’s redemptive plan. It centered around Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. The verse simply reads, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” In other words, Jesus was born “just at the right time.” What makes Christ’s birth in the City of David even more timely is that Jesus was literally born under the shadow of Herodium.
Herodium one of King Herod’s fortress/palaces. He had a number of these built, primarily to provide places of political refuge on one hand and alternative residence on the other. He had these built in locations east of Jerusalem such as Masada, Jericho, and Machaerus. The fortress of Herodium is located about 8 miles to the south of Jerusalem, but only 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem. Herodium, a project that began in 24 BC, can be seen from the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem as well as from anywhere in Bethlehem today because of its dominating “volcano-like” appearance. According to Josephus, Herodium was built an a small hill where Herod defeated his Parthian enemies in 40 BC. Herodium’s commanding view from its summit makes the little town of Bethlehem look like just that, a little town. To put it this way, the City of David was a small village at the time of Christ’s birth in comparison to the Goliath appearance of the Herodium fortress.
Isn’t it amazing that Mary gave birth to Jesus, a child of humble beginnings, in the shadows of evil King Herod who built one of his fortresses so close to Bethlehem? Angels would announce the birth of this child, born as the King of kings. Shepherds would come and rejoice in His birth. Eventually, the Magi from the east would follow the star, bearing gifts for the newborn king. Even the so-called greatness of mighty King Herod could not compare to the majesty of the Messiah born in prophetic fulfillment of Micah 5!
Of course sometime after the time of Christ’s birth (Jesus was probably born in either 6 or 5 BC, for Herod died in the fall of 4 BC), this puppet-king of the Romans would put to death the innocent children born to parents living in Bethlehem. However, through God’s intervention and the obedience of Joseph, the life of Jesus would be spared by escaping to Egypt.
Jesus came to be the light of the world. Although born in the shadows of Herodium, His light still shines forth to a darkened world. May His light illumine the hearts and minds of those who seek His peace and salvation.