March 6, 2014

Herod Antipas And John The Baptist

As our pastor has been in the Book of Matthew for over a month now, I was doing some research on the circumstances regarding the imprisonment and execution of John the Baptist. John was related to Jesus; Mary being a "kinsman" of John's mother Elizabeth as seen in Luke, chapter 1:
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
In Matt. 11, John is in prison for speaking against Herod Antipas, King of Galilee - well, parts of Galilee and Perea. Things got kind of rowdy in the royal line and you can blame some of it on Alexander the Great who made the terribly inconsiderate mistake of dying at an early age. His generals got greedy...

And Herod Antipas (Herod is a title that means hero or heroic) was not really a king, he was a tetrarch - ruler of a quarter - due to his father, Herod the Great, changing his mind about his succession just before he died in 4 BC. Also terribly inconsiderate.

But first, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade...

Look familiar? This is where the Holy Grail was hiding out for all those centuries until Indie and his father found it.

Actually this was the tomb of King Aretas IV Philopatris of Nabataea, a former Edomite kingdom which abutted Herod Antipas' kingdom on the south. Aretas had a daughter, Phasaelis, who as a teenager married Herod Antipas . The marriage lasted for thirty years.

And they were joyfully married right up until Antipas got a look at his brother Philip's wife, Herodias, who was actually their niece. Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus IV, son of Herod the great, and his wife (also his cousin) Berenice.

Aristobulus IV and his brother, Alexandros, were both strangled as punishment for unspecified treachery (rumors of which were initiated by their half-brother Antipas). Just days before his death Herod also has his oldest son, Antipater, executed. His mother was Herod's first wife, Doris.

Herod the Great had five wives: we already met Doris, who Herod divorced in order to marry Mariamne, a Hasmonean princess possibly related to the Maccabees. As mentioned previously, her sons Aristobulus and Alexandros, were strangled; Herod also had her executed.

Herod Antipas' mother was Malthace who also had another son, Herod Archelaus. Philip's mom was Cleopatra (no, not that one! Cleopatra of Jerusalem).

Herod the Great also had a sister,  Salome, whose granddaughter was Herodias, who married Philip, then his brother, Antipas. Oh well.

When Herod the Great died, Antipas wanted the whole kingdom as his father's previous will (written after he killed his two sons by Mariamne) had stated. The Roman Emperor Augustus decided against that and insisted that the later will and testament stay in effect.

So the kingdom was divided among the three surviving sons - therefore Herod Archelaus became ethnarch (ruler of a kingdom but not a king, he was subject to Rome) of Judea, Herod Antipas became tetrarch (literally ruler of a quarter of a province)  of Galilee and Perea (this was land west of the Dead Sea and extended south to Nabataea), and Herod Philip became tetrarch of a good chunk of land east of the Jordan River which included parts of Syria but north of Nabataea.

But before we go back to Herod Antipas, who still has a real bad case of happy pants for Herodias, let's visit with Alexander the Great.

Alexander the Great died suddenly in  323 BC at the age of 33. He did not name a successor to his vast Macedonian kingdom; instead, murder, intrigue and war was to be his legacy for many years. Two generals were murdered outright. Another commander, Antigonus, became ruler of what is now Turkey and Syria; Antipater had control of  Thrace (Bulgaria) but he was getting on in years and died in 319 BC. Antigonus was killed by two other generals, Ptolemy (he got Egypt) and Seleucus (controlled much of Asia). Seleucus got most of Antigonus' land holdings and established what we now call the Seleucid Empire. It lasted until about 64 BC. These are the people who really pissed off the Jews (not a hard thing to do, they were a contentious lot to begin with)and helped set the stage for John the Baptist's beheading and even the crowd greeting Christ's entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The Seleucid rulers were Hellenistic to the bone. They were everything Greek and loved it. They also sought to impose Greek culture on their subjects which did not endear them  to the Jews. But the Jews kept a wrap on it ... until Antiochus IV, or Antiochus Epiphanes as he liked to be called.

Gaining the throne in 175 BC, Mr. Call Me Epiphanes was a solid gold jerk.  Antiochus forbade the observance of Jewish religious rituals and instituted animal sacrifices to Greek gods in public places.. Circumcision became punishable by death.  Then on December 25, 168 BC, he rededicated the Jewish Temple to the Greek god Zeus  Quite a few Jews had become Hellenistic by now; the Seleucid rulers encouraged and rewarded those who did. But there were still many, many Jews who were infuriated by this. Enter the Macabees.

Starting in 167 BC, the five sons of a Jewish priest named Mattathias followed their father's example and raised a bit of hell for the Seleucids. So much in fact that their followers routed various armies sent by The Seleucid and Ptolemaic Emperors to defeat them. The sons of Mattathias were given the title "Maccabee" which means Hammer or Extinguisher. The name stuck.

The Jewish festival, Hanukkah, commemorates the cleansing of the Temple in 164 BC. When the Maccabean soldiers entered Jerusalem, the crowds cheered their saviors "with a chorus of praise and the waving of palm branches" (1 Macc 13.51). Even the praise "Hosanna!" means literally "Save us now!" and it is the same praise that was used to welcome Jesus.

But when the Maccabee brothers died, their successors were not as enthralled of their Jewish traditions as their fathers. The rebellion's strength was in their conservative Jewish following which slowly turned against them. The Maccabees turned into the Hasmonean dynasty which ruled Judea. The Hasmonean rulers did not adhere to the strict Jewish doctrine of the ultra conservative Jews who originally supported them. These conservative Jews became an opposition party to the Hasmoneans. Ultimately this opposition became the core of the conservative Pharisee sect who hated Jesus and plotted His death.

The Seleucid Empire collapsed in 129 BC and Israel was an independent nation under the Hasmoneans. Israel became a vassal state again in 63 BC when the Romans became dominant in the region and things got even worse when Herod the Great began his kingship in 37 BC.

Herod was an incredibly cruel man who would not hesitate to destroy anyone he perceived as a threat. Modern psychologists have examined his public actions as recorded by Josephus and other contemporary historians and concluded that he was a psycho. He was also enamored of Greek culture which was reflected in his architecture and dealings with the Jews.

The Jews welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem expected the same kind of deliverance that the Maccabees had delivered. They completely ignored His teachings and the Old Testament prophesies. This is just my opinion, but when they saw Jesus standing before Pilate, bound, beaten and bloodied, they were completely disappointed and perhaps even angry, reasoning that He had deceived them into believing that He would be their king. The pathetic mess before them was not worthy of consideration. So the cry "Give us Barabbas" echoed through the courtyards. Barabbas was a notorious criminal, a fierce rebel who fought against the Romans. He was the type of man the crowd was looking for, not some meek, forgiving carpenter from Galilee.

Herod the Great became ruler over Judea because of his father, Antipater, a powerful government official from Idumaea (Edom) who assisted Julius Caesar in the civil war against Pompey, 49 to 45 BC. Antipater was given Roman citizenship and appointed regent in 47 BC. Eventually he appointed his sons as governors in the region; Herod becoming Governor of Judea. Herod was elected "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate seven years later in 40 BC. It was as King of the Jews that Herod ordered the slaughter of Jewish children (more of that here) shortly before his death.

Returning to the execution of John the Baptist. Herod Antipas marries Herodias and John loudly proclaims that it is evil for a Jew (Herod considered himself a Jew, most likely of the Sadducee persuasion) to divorce and remarry and that it was an incestuous relationship as Herodias was his niece. It is reported in the Gospels that Antipas did not want to execute John, but reluctantly did so after he promised his step daughter, Salome, that she could have anything she wanted after dancing for him at his birthday celebration (Mark 6:14-29). Herodias wanted John dead for obvious reasons and seizes this opportunity. She prompts her daughter to ask for John's head. This occurs circa 28 AD.

So who was this murderous woman?

Remember Aristobulus IV? The one strangled by Herod the Great? Herodias was his daughter; her mother was Berenice, daughter of Salome, Herod's sister.
Yes, Herodias' parents were first cousins.
Her grandfather was Costabarus, governor of Idumea - also executed by Herod the Great in 28 BC.
She was also the sister of Herod V (king of Chalkis), Herod Agrippa (king of Judea), Aristobulus V, and Mariamne III (who was engaged to her uncle Crown Prince Antipater who was killed by Herod the Great, she later married another of her uncles, Herod Archelaus).
What a family.

Herod Antipas' first wife, Phasaelis, moved back to Nabataea before the divorce. Antipas' brother, Philip, dies in 34 AD and his tetrarchy is no longer under his control.

Jump ahead to 36 AD; Phasaelis' father, Aretas IV, is angry over the mistreatment of his daughter and there are some other issues with Herod Antipas, territorial disputes. War ensues. Herod gets his ass kicked by Nabataea and implores the Roman Emperor Tiberius for military assistance. Emperor Tiberius authorizes his Syrian legate to provide an army, but then dies in March of 37 AD. The Roman legate, Vitellius, hates Antipas, is slow to provide assistance and then completely withdraws his troops upon hearing of the death of Tiberius.

The next Emperor, Caligula, is persuaded by Antipas' nephew, Agrippa, that Antipas is plotting against him. In 39 AD Caligula removes Antipas as tetrarch of Galilee. All his possessions and his tetrarchy are given to Agrippa. Now it gets cloudy as to Herod Antipas' fate. A few sources state he dies in 39 AD at the hands of the Emperor, but most reliable texts indicate that he is exiled to Gaul (France) with his wife Herodias. Born sometime prior to 20 BC, at his exile he is at least 60 years old.

I know have omitted Herod Antipas' role in the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior. That is deliberate.


Anam Cara said...

Wow! Thanks for sorting all that out.

I had never hear of Mariamne until a couple weeks ago (I read an advance copy of The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy Higley - release date 18 March and quite good). I was having a hard time sorting out relationships in the book and this clears a lot up. I still may have to draw out a family tree to see the whole picture, but this will make it a lot easier for me.

A couple comments though.

You said, "Herodias wanted John dead for obvious reasons and seizes this opportunity. She prompts her daughter to ask for John's head. This occurs circa 28 BC." This must be a typo because John wasn't born yet in 28 BC. Did you mean A.D.?

Did you realize that in John 10 Jesus celebrates Hanukkah? As you pointed out, that is what the Feast of Dedication is. John 10:22 "Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter." NKJV

I point that out because I have heard a lot of talk about how all the OT feasts are fulfilled in the NT, but most Protestants ignore this feast because it originated in the Septuagint (Apocrypha) and do not realize that Jesus celebrated it.

sig94 said...

Anam - thanks for catching that boo-boo! Can't have John dying before he was even born.

As you pointed out, Jesus came to fulfill the Law and observed all the proper festivals, feasts, etc.

And yes, one of the reasons for Protestants not observing or even knowing about this feast is because the books of Maccabees are regarded as historical, not inspired texts.

Longbow said...

Quote: "...reasoning that He had deceived them into believing that He would be their king... Barabbas was... a fierce rebel who fought against the Romans. He was the type of man the crowd was looking for..."

You are quite correct, Sir. Also the temple was rededicated by the Maccabees in the dead of winter, on the 25th day of the month. No, it can't be... December 25th was just an arbitrary date picked by the Church to coincide with a pagan Roman holiday...

TS/WS said...

Sig, thanks for the "work"
My Bible has alot of the different sects history in between the Old and New.
Edomite is a Name of a tribe started by whom? Esau. Jacobs brother.
Not an Israelite. But a cousin.
With the jealousy of the family history that Esau sold his birthright could be why Herod tried to call himself a Jew. Also the reason Caesar installed eyes and ears to control the Jews.
Epiphanes was the Prototype for the Anti-Christ---The Little Horn.
If you know about a rock star named Marilyn Manson, whose groupies call him the "Little Horn".
These liberal dark side persuaders know the Bible more than the average Believer!
That's how the masses are so easily swayed to the Politicians persuasions.
Re-Distributing the wealth, making the Rich pay etc... Violates one of the Commandments, Thou Shall Not Covet Thou Neighbors Goods.
How the people are so guided away from Yahuah and the Son that came in His Name Yahushua. The same as those that wanted Barabbas freed.
There is so much more I like to discuss about this with like minded but have to let others put in their inputs---
Lets hear you

sig94 said...

Longbow - Yes, Hanukkah and the Menorah are perhaps more deeply reflected in Christian culture than people might suspect.

sig94 said...

TS/WS - actually you can blame the Maccabees and the Hasmoneans for Herod's Jewish roots. Once ensconced as rulers, the Hasmoneans annexed much of the land that was formerly part of Israel under King David. This included the Idumaean territory south and east of the Dead Sea which also included part of Nabataea. The Hasmoneans forced every Idumaean to convert to Judaism or lose all rights and privileges and possibly be forcibly removed.

Herod the Great's father, Antipater, was a high ranking Idumaean government official who, during the civil war between Pompey and Casar, rescued Julius Caesar in Alexandria. He was richly rewarded by Caesar when he was given control over Judea.

The Hasmoneans conquered Idumaea after 140 BC. Antipater was born around 100 BC and would have been very aware that his father was forcibly converted to Judaism - including circumcision less than forty years prior to his birth. Prior to the Maccabees, the Idumaeans were under the rule of the Seleucid Empire and as such most likely would have been Hellenists who worshipped Greek gods.

Herod Antipas was a Hellenistic Jew who, though he ruled Galilee and Perea for about 40 years, was probably as Jewish as Obama. The Jews hated him but the fear of the Romans kept them in check. Sorta like the USA today, eh?

LL said...

Politics in the turn of BC/AD was no different than the politics of 2014. The setting was different, but there are no core differences.

Many people (not you or your readers) forget this.

The Romans in Judea (and their auxiliary/mercenary troops) were not the problem in the world that Jesus Christ ministered in. It was the Jewish establishment and their fear of a loss of authority, that they had rooted in the cannon of scripture and practice.

The Christ followed that cannon completely and preached "inconvenient truth" -- therefore he had to be silenced.

And the man who didn't own property or write a book, or "rule a nation" that the Romans executed at the request of the Sanhedrin had his face/image on every Roman shield and banner 400 years later. How ironic?

sig94 said...

LL - then as now, a lot of it was about taxes. Caesar demanded a certain sum from a province and the governors were responsible for obtaining that amount. Anything above that was kept for themselves and the tax collectors. That arrangement got so bad that entire districts were bankrupted by corrupt officials who couldn't satisfy their greed.

Some of the Roman policies regarding welfare are duplicated today in America. Price supports for corn and then free grain drove many poor rural residents to the cities. When the Roman Republic was first established, the tax rate was only about 0.01%. The Roman Empire's economy under Augustus thrived since he was pretty much an advocate of free markets. But by the time of Nero, some forty years later, the demand for revenues began to deteriorate the value of Roman currency by reducing the amount of precious metals in their coinage. Sound familiar?

LL said...

The march of history is replete with examples of what works and what doesn't. Agustus was a strict but benevolent ruler and established that Pax Romana that held up. Sadly, none of the rulers that followed in his wake had his strength of character. The decline was inevitable with "bread and circus" being the common theme for placating the masses in the cities.

sig94 said...

Amen, LL, amen.

TS/WS said...

The problems of mankind can be summed up in the verses of Jeremiah,
44; 15 - 30.
And there is verse 26: my name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man.
Not declared a sin. But outlawed by the Self Righteous.
It was a Crime to speak it in the Roman Days.
But for John The Baptist- A Levit, was allowed to speak it. Although outraging the Self Righteous; and the number 1 reason of many why he lost his head.
Yahushua, speaking on the Mount, got through to many and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and started shouting-Yahuah,Yahuah,Yahuah.
The Self Righteous told Him to make the people stop saying Yahuah.
And He said if they stopped the ROCKS would Start Saying The Name.
Yahushua asked the disciples who they thought He was. They said, The Yahushua. He told them to keep it to themselves.
Stephen was telling a new sect how the cow ate the cabbage, and said the name Yahuah, they cried -you said blasphemy and they stoned him dead right then and there.