Viewed from the north from more than five miles away, the volcano-shaped mountaintop created by Herod dominates the skyline. The powerful appearance of this fortress is even more amazing when you consider that there was a circular palace coming out of the inside of the "cone" and rising more than 45 feet above it. Furthermore, the eastern defensive tower rose an additional 50 feet.

Nearby, the modern-day city of Bethlehem sprawls on the Judean hills. It is clearly shadowed by Herod's magnificent creation. It is ironic that the king represented by the awesome fortress was insignificant in comparison with the King in the manger of Bethlehem barely three miles away.

The hills in the foreground give way to the barren wilderness mountains where the Herodion stood. This helps to explain the fact that both the shepherd (such as David and the shepherds of Jesus' birth) and the farmer (such as Boaz and Ruth) were found in Bethlehem. The shepherd normally pastured sheep along the edges of the wilderness, coming to the fertile farmland after the crops were harvested.

Exactly where the shepherds were on Christmas is unknown, but it is certain that they could see the Herodion. Did they find it strange to pass such a palace to find a king in a manger? If so, it was God's way of asking them to trust his word rather than how the situation appeared to them. That is always the call of God to the believer: "Accept my truth and serve me as I ask, even if it doesn't seem the better way.