Herod’s Third Temple at Omrit?

I got to visit this site in 2004 when it was still closed off and had still not been reported on.

On a good day, you can see it from a distance. It stands proudly on a ridge below a higher peak at a site where you would least expect to see a fine Roman structure. Although it lies in ruins, the white structure stands out in a landscape of black basalt rocks, typical of the Golan. Before 1967, it was the site of a Syrian military bunker.

Khirbet Omrit (the Arabic name) rests on the border between the Galilee and the Golan, on what was the boundary between civilization and barbarity. At first, during the Roman occupation of Palestine, the Galilee was also a wild and unruly area where the young Herod was sent to restore order. He did this with his usual ruthless brutality, not allowing humanity to stand in the way of good order. As a result of his success, his masters inRome saw he was suited to become King of Judea. Later this cruelly successful mode of operation also gained him rule over the Golan, which was added to his kingdom in about 30 BCE.

Herod remembered this border territory, the site of his early triumph, and came back one day to build a temple to his patron, the Emperor Augustus. According to the first-century historian Josephus Flavius, after Caesar granted Herod the territory of the local governor who had died, “he [Herod] erected for him [Augustus] a beautiful temple in white stone in the territory of Zenodorus, near the place called Paneion [today, Banias]” (Antiquities 15: 363).

This white stone building at Omrit stands in the middle of nowhere today, but this was not so in antiquity. Recent excavations have shown that it stood alongside the Roman road from Tyre to Damascus, where it was joined by the route from Scythopolis (Beit-She’an) to Damascus. The temple stood high above the road and was joined to it by an avenue of columns that led to a bridge across the wadi Al-Hazin, which the road followed.

A colonnaded way means a road of shops, and that means commercial activity – here associated with travelers as well as locals. Omrit was a way-station on the road to Damascus, the seat of the senior Roman procurator who supervised Syria, which included Palestine.

Herod built three temples in honor of his patron Augustus. One stood at Sebastia (Samaria) and a second one at Caesarea. Where was the third? Some archeologists think it was at Banias itself, but that city was dedicated to the god Pan.

Walking to Omrit in 2004 (that's me in the Blue t-shirt)

Walking to Omrit in 2004 (that's me in the Blue t-shirt falling behind everybody in the hot sun)

Omrit in 2004

Omrit in 2004

See the rest here: JPost

Thanks to J. Lauer!

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