It opened nine months ago to great fanfare and some controversy, and now the first exhibition devoted entirely to Herod the Great – the notorious ruler of Judea in biblical times who has been called "the greatest builder in Jewish history" – is about to close.

If you want to see the show, you'll have to make it there by this Saturday, January 4 – and be prepared to elbow your way through the crowds. The museum reports that thousands of visitors have flocked there in recent days (yes, procrastinators, we're looking at you), prompting it to extend the show's opening hours this week (Monday-Thursday) from 10 A.M. to 9 P.M. Friday and Saturday hours remain unchanged.

This past Saturday, some 3,500 people checked out the exhibition and almost 440,000 visitors have passed through since it opened in February – a record for a single show at the Israel Museum, which expects the overall number of guests to reach 450,000 by closing day.

So what's all the fuss about? Well, this is the largest archaeological exhibition ever organized by the Israel Museum, and it features artifacts – some previously unseen – that shed light on Herod’s political, architectural and aesthetic influence (he ruled from 37–4 BCE). Herod not only rebuilt the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem but was also renowned for grandiose construction projects elsewhere in the region.

The show includes massive reconstructions and new finds from Herod’s palaces in Herodium, Jericho, and other sites – some of which are still being excavated today. (The museum brought in stones weighing 30 tons for the exhibit and reportedly strengthened its foundations for the occasion as well.)

Be sure you set aside a few hours for the exhibit, which is spread out over 900 square meters. And don’t miss the crown jewel: a reconstruction of Herod’s tomb – which was discovered at Herodium after a 40-year search by late Hebrew University Prof. Ehud Netzer, who fell to his death at the site of the discovery in 2010.

"Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey," through January 4, at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

See http://www.english.imjnet.org.il/ for details about opening hours, admission costs and more. Tel.: (02) 670-8811)