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(Scroll down for "175 B.C. - Angels Publically Whip A King's Minister" account) 

15 A.D. (approx):  King Herod Decides To Rob David's and Solomon's Tombs:  Bad Idea!!  

             

A depiction of Herod the Great,  who was in power when Jesus was born.

             

              King Herod the Great was a probable Idumean (descendent of Esau, who was Jacob/Israel's brother) emplaced by Rome as King over the Jews.  He was a very accomplished king, though often hated by his Jewish subjects.  Perhaps his extensive building projects are his greatest legacy.  He performed a beautiful renovation on the Holy Temple during his reign, for instance, such that the temple became very famous for the sake of its architecture as well as its God.

              But having spent so much on the nation of the Jews, he couldn't help but be intrigued by a story that he heard.  Only a few decades previously a Jewish leader named Hyrcanus, a high priest of the Jews, when desparate and beseiged by Antiochus, removed about 3000 talents of gold from King David's tomb.  Each talent of gold would be about $654,000.00 US assuming a 75 pound talent and about a $600.00 gold price per troy ounce, so that was about 1.9 billion US dollars.  (This figure shouldn't be taken as exagerrated.  During Solomon's reign the gold tribute alone was given as 666 talents / year, and Solomon had about a 40 year reign (1 Kings 10:14).) 

           Solomon's father David had warred with and conquered several entire nations during his reign, plundering them as well, but was never plundered himself.  These two kings, father and son, had been monumentally wealthy on a scale seldom approached in the annals of history.  And Hyrcanus had not taken it all, but only what was in one single room.  That's some serious money, and Herod thought, as a benefactor of the Jews and their King whether they liked it or not, that he should be entitled to have some of that treasure too. 

              Knowing that robbing King David's tomb would not sit well with the Jews, he thought a night entry with just a few of his closest friends might be a good approach.  He planned it, and on a certain night he and his cronies gained entry to the tomb, and came upon the chamber that his predecessor Hyrcanus had taken the money from.  There were many gold items and certain furniture made of gold still there, some of which he took.  Curious, and wanting more, he moved deeper into the chambers of the tomb, wanting to view the actual bodies of David and Solomon.  When they came upon that chamber, however, an odd thing occurred: two of his gaurds burst into flames, and died.  The survivors prudently raced out, terrified.             

           A worried King Herod commissioned a sort of a trespass monument, made of beautiful white stone, and had it placed at the tombs entrance - it was supposedly very expensive.  Just his way of saying "Ooops!  My bad!", I suppose.  Herod's eventual death, after a life filled with many such bad deeds, was a notably nasty one.  He died in great pain, stinking badly, his nether parts crawling with worms, according to Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian.  But that came much later in his life. 

 

175 BC.  A Seleucid King's Minister Has A Brush With GOD - ouch!! :

             

  A painting of Heliodorus being taught a lesson, by angels, about robbing God's temple.  (Wings were not mentioned in the scriptural recounting of the event.)

 

              In 2 Maccabees Chap 3 (Found in Catholic Bibles, but removed from the Protestant) is a recounting of what happens when a King of the Seleucid Empire decides it would be good to possess some gold and treasure that exists in a temple in a certain notable city in his realm - a city called Jerusalem. 

              A man named Onias was the High Priest of the Temple of God at this time, and he was diligent in God's service, hated evil, and feared God greatly.  But a subordinate priest named Simon, a superintendent of the temple, had a quarrel with Onias that left Simon angry.  When you're mad at your boss, you can try your bosses boss, right?   So Simon approached Apollonius, who was then governor of Phoenicia and Coelesyria (which included Jerusalem's area) in order to cause trouble for Onias.  Simon told Apollonius that the temple was overflowing with riches, far more than they had any need for, and that the King should know this as it might better be kept under his control than the temple's.  The governor told the king, Sileucus IV Philopater, who was quite interested.  He sent his trusted minister Heliodorus,with a small group of soldiers to Jerusalem to take the gold and silver from God's temple. 

          The High Priest received Heliodorus, this important dignitary, graciously.  He asked the High Priest if there really was so much treasure.  Onias informed him that there was 200 talents of gold (around  $130,000,000.00 US at $600/ Troy ounce) and 400 talents of silver, but that it was for widows and orphans, and part was being stored for a certain rich man named Hyrcanus.  Onias explained that taking it was unthinkable, as it was God's Holy Temple, and the poor people would be defrauded.  Heliodorus answered that regrettably the money must be confiscated for the Kings treasury, and he set about preparing to enter the treasury of the temple to inventory it. 

             Onias and the people of Jerusalem were very upset.  Onias looked ashen and visibly trembled and men gathered to implore God to prevent this sacrilege.  Women wore sackcloth below their bosoms and implored heaven with upraised hands.  The people in Jerusalem were brought to a state of great anguish over the planned violation of God's Holy Temple.

              But as Heliodorus and his men approached the temple to carry out his plan, angels of God appeared.  A richly dressed horse mounted by an awe inspiring rider wearing golden armor charged Heliodorus, and his horse reared and attacked Heliodorus with its front hoofs.  Heliodorus was knocked to the ground by this heavenly rider and his men fled.   

              Then two handsome, splendidly attired and remarkably strong looking young men stood to each side of Heliodorus and began flogging him without mercy, using some whip-like objects which they held, with a great many forceful blows.  Heliodorus finally collapsed to the ground, beaten senseless.  His crumpled form appeared to those watching to be enveloped in a strange darkness as the figures disappeared.  The Jewish people cheered, as happy now as they had been sad only moments ago.  They watched Heliodorus be placed on a sort of stretcher by his men.  Heliodorus's retinue began to beg Onias to pray to his God that Heliodorus might not die. 

              Because he feared the King might believe that it was the Jews themselves who had given Heliodorus this beating, Onias agreed to try to intercede with God for this man's life.  He offered sacrifices and prayed that God would spare Heliodorus.  As he did this, those same young men, dressed as before, appeared again.

              They addressed Heliodorus.  They told him to be grateful to Onias that he was to be spared, as it was for Onias's sake and not his own that he would live.  And they further told him to glorify the power and might of the God of Israel to all men when he retold this story.  Then they again disappeared.

              Heliodorus did live.  After recovering enough to travel he gave sacrifices and made vows to the Lord, bid Onias goodbye, and returned with his soldiers and retinue to the king.  Upon returning, he told everyone what he had experienced at the great temple of the true God Yahweh in Jerusalem.  An apparently dense King Sileucus asked who Heliodorus thought he should send next.  To this, Heliodorus answered that it should be someone the King hated very, very much, as the man would likely be scourged and beaten brutally by fearsome heavenly beings.  He said that there was a great power that watched over that temple, punishing or even killing those who would dare to harm it.   

              In the end, no further reattempts were made at that time in history - and small wonder!  Can you imagine getting an 'angel beating'?  Praise the Lord, and I'll pass if I can.  Let's be smart and remember that God's not a shade less powerful today, nor are His angels.

                  

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