Around 40 BC the Roman Empire made Herod “the Great” King of Judea. In spite of his spectacular building projects, which included a new temple complex in Jerusalem, according to the New Testament record of Jesus’ life, written by his student Matthew, near the end of Herod’s reign an event occurred which caused an already paranoid and insane ruler to sink to perhaps his lowest level yet by ordering the murder of thousands of infants (Matthew 2:1-18). According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia (underlining added):
Then the high priests and scholars of the people said to [Herod], “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is how it has been written through the prophet [Micah]: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, you are not at all the least significant among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come forth the one who is ruling, who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
At the same time, there is a strong flavor of myth here, for ‘of old’ has the suggestion ‘primeval, from the beginning, as an order of creation.