Bible References: Mark 6:14-24, Luke 3:19-20
Heart of the Story: Herodias divorced her husband Herod Philip and married Herod Antipas. Because John the Baptist criticized her marriages, she hated him.
Back Story: The Herods were a convoluted and dysfunctional family. Herod the Great ruled Judea at the time of Christ’s birth. In an effort to kill Jesus, Herod the Great order the death of all baby boys two years of age and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great. After Herod the Great’s death, Herod Antipas ruled Judea, Galilee, and Perea. Early in his reign, Antipas married Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea, a kingdom south of Perea with whom Herod Antipas had border skirmishes. (Nabatea encompassed the area that we now know as Petra). Antipas and Phasaelis had a political marriage; nonetheless, they lived together for years. Then, Herod Antipas went to Rome to meet with the Roman Emperor. At some point Antipas stayed with his half-brother Philip (also a son of Herod the Great).
Story Line: In Philip’s home, Antipas saw and fell in love his half-brother’s wife, Herodias. To further confuse the situation, Herodias was Philip’s niece. Herodias and Philip had a daughter, Salome. Herodias (granddaughter of Herod the Great and Mariamne I) agreed to divorce Philip and marry Herod Antipas, but only after Antipas divorced Phasaelis. Phasaelis learned that Herod Antipas planned to divorce her and fled to her father in Nabatea. King Aretas IV declared war on Herod Antipas and decisively won a battle over Herod Antipas. From what I have been able to discern, some of Philip’s men assisted King Aretas in the battle against Herod Antipas. After the battle, Aretas made no attempt to occupy any of Herod Antipas’s land.
Antipas faced problems in his kingdom. John the Baptist began a ministry of preaching and baptism by the Jordan River, which marked the western edge of Antipas’ territory of Perea. John attacked the Herod Antipas’ marriage to Herodias as contrary to Jewish law (incestuous – Herodias was Antipas’ niece; Herodias was the wife of Philip who was Antipas’s brother). Josephus recorded that John’s public influence made Antipas fearful of internal rebellion. Antipas imprisoned John at Machaerus, a frontier fortress east of the Jordan River. Herodias want John murdered; but, Herod was reluctant to order John’s death for two reasons. First, Antipas liked to listen to John’s preaching despite not being able to understand all of what John said. Second, Antipas feared to kill John the Baptist because John was so popular with the people.
Pondering Relationships: Part of me wants to say, “what a convoluted mess” and that mess was the result of both Herod Antipas and Herodias being governed by their selfish wishes. Both were married to other people. Herod Antipas to Phasaelis and Herodias to Philip, Herod Antipas’s half-brother. Herodias even had a child with Philip. Yet, each lusted after the other so badly that they were willing to undergo divorcee and be the cause of thousands of soldier’s killed in battle.
Herod Antipas’ fall from power was due to Emperor Caligula and Agrippa, brother of Herodias. When Caligula became emperor in 37 AD, he granted Agrippa rule of Philip’s former territory and the title of king. Herodias, jealous at Agrippa’s success, persuaded Antipas to ask Caligula for the title of king. That did not happen and in 39 AD Antipas’ money and territory were turned over to Agrippa. Herod Antipas was exiled to an area in France now known as Lyon. Emperor Caligula allowed Herodias, as Agrippa’s sister, to retain her property; however, Herodias chose instead to join her husband in exile. Antipas died in exile.
Reflection: The other day, I saw a sign on Facebook: “The love of you life is never someone else’s spouse.”
Copyright: December 12, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth
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