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Having been warned

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in a dream to not return to HEROD, they returned to their own country by another route.

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Having been warned by God in a dream to not return to THE SELF-PROCLAIMED HERO, they

returned to their own country by another route.



The word “God” is not actually mentioned in the text but the word “warned” implies that the warning in question comes from God, not some another source.


There were two major trade routes running through the land of Israel and connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia; one, called the “Via Maris,” “the way of the sea,” was on the West side of Israel and still runs along the coastal plain near the Mediterranean Sea; the other one ran North and South to the East of the Jordan river and was called “the King’s Highway.” Traveling North and then East these two major routes joined into one route at or near Damascus. If one were headed from the “East” to Egypt, the Way of the Sea was shorter; if one were headed from the East to Jerusalem, the King’s Highway was shorter. Since the people travelled on foot or on beasts of burden, the shorter distance was usually preferred, unless it was considered less safe, or too hilly. In this case both routes were so heavily travelled that there was not much difference in safety. If distance was the greatest concern then they would have come on the King’s Highway, and returned home on the Via Maris. The important thing for them in that moment was to avoid going through Jerusalem and getting quickly to the major trade route which was not the one they had come on. The fact that Scriptures specifically tell us that they returned by another route causes me to assume that Herod asked, or found out, which way they had come, i.e. which major trade route they had chosen. Most travelers preferred one or the other and would return by the same way they had come.

According to a map of the roads of Israel in the first century AD, avoiding Jerusalem was possible when traveling from Bethlehem to either one of the major trade routes, but may have required going out of their way, or taking footpaths down wadis (dry streambeds). From Bethlehem to the Via Maris would have been the simplest of the two; using this route they would have had to go close to, but not through Jerusalem, since the roads connected on the West side of that city; or they could have gone down a valley created by a wadi that leads West from Bethlehem. Getting from Bethlehem to the “king’s Highway” was possible, but more tricky. There were two obvious routes open to them, one would take them through Jerusalem, the other past the Herodian, a fortress King Herod had built a short distance Southeast of Bethlehem. They could have avoided both those danger zones by going West and then North of Jerusalem and then turning back East to go through Jericho. By my estimations this would have added at least 10 miles to their journey. They wanted to get out of the area quickly so 10 extra miles would slow them down considerably. Therefore, it may be more reasonable to assume that, if the King’s Highway was their route home, they left Bethlehem following a wadi or foot path straight East and then a bit North in order to connect with the road going through Jericho. I personally think they came by the King’s Highway and returned on the Via Maris.