Herod Antipater

There are a lot of Herodians in the Gospels and Acts. It gets pretty confusing if you’re not keeping a score card.

Herod the Great and His Kids

They all descend from Herod the Great, who the gospel of Matthew says was ruling as King of the Jews when Jesus was born. He died in 4-3 BCE, and he left behind a real mess for the Romans to sort out. He had originally been married to a Jewish princess, then he married a different one – both of whom where named Mariamne. He traded her for a Samaritan woman named Malthace and moved from her to another lady named Cleopatra. He also had a number of girlfriends on the side.

He had children with all of them, but to ensure the ascendancy of his children by Malthace, he had his sons by the first Mariamne killed. He married his son from the second Mariamne to his granddaughter from the first Mariamne. Then she (her name was Herodias), divorced that son and married Herod’s son by Malthace.

It is all very confusing. Have I said that yet?

Anyway, when Herod died, the Romans divided his kingdom between two of his sons by Malthace: Herod Archelaus received the title of ethnarch and ruled Judea and Herod Antipater received the title of tetrarch and ruled Galilee. Of course, the Romans had to make that decision because Herod the Great had left two wills, both naming a different son as tetrarch.

Archelaus ruled Judea until 6 CE when the Romans, unsatisfied with his conduct, deposed him and declared the region to be a province. They banished him to Gaul, and he was never heard from again.

Rule and Marriage(s)

Antipater on the other hand, catered to the Romans and built the resort town of Tiberias for them. He loved the Romans, and they allowed him to pretend he had power. Galilee was a populous place under Antipater, and it flourished. He spent time in Rome, where he met Herodias and persuaded her to leave his half-brother and marry him. This marriage was what enraged John the Baptist and led to his imprisonment and ultimate beheading.

(Antipater was a fascinatingly depraved guy. He beheaded John because of a request from Herodias’ daughter Salome after she “danced before him.” Salome was not only Antipater’s stepdaughter. She is also his niece, since her father was Antipater’s half-brother. AND since Herodias was also Antipater’s niece, there’s an additional level of incestuous lust involved. I’m still not convinced he wasn’t from the deep, dark recesses of Appalachia.)

Of course, when Antipater met Herodias, he was already married to the daughter of the king of Idumea, who was also a distant relative. It took so long for Herodias to get to Galilee that Antipater’s first wife had time to run home to her father, who promptly declared war on Antipater and Galilee. Had it not been for timely interference by the Romans in 26 CE, Antipater would have lost his kingdom over the affair. But the Romans did interfere, because Antipater’s former father-in-law, Aretas IV Philopatris, was a pain in their side and they needed an excuse to put him in his place.

Are you keeping track of all this, because to be honest, I’m not sure that I am!

His Downfall and Exile

Antipater’s downfall also came about because of Herodias. Her brother, Agrippa, ran into money trouble and she persuaded Antipater to cover for him. The two men quarreled, and Agrippa left in a huff. He went to Rome where he joined his friend Gaius, whom he had met when Gaius was in Antioch as a child. Gaius is a common enough Roman name, so you might know him better by his nickname Caligula.

When Caligula became emperor, he was in a position to help his childhood friend Agrippa. At first, Caligula made Agrippa the king of Lysanias (basically southern Lebanon), but in 39 CE Agrippa went to Caligula with complaints of treason against Antipater. The emperor deposed and exiled Antipater and made Agrippa king of Galilee and eventually Judaea as well.

Antipater died in exile in Gaul, ironically near the place where his brother Archelaus had died thirty years before.

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2 thoughts on “Herod Antipater

  1. I value your thoughts and writings. Thank you. In this entry, the comment regarding Appalachia is unneccesary, and unkind at best.

    • It was a reference to the movie Deliverance and a joke. There is profoundly unbiblical sex everywhere, but the deep dark recesses of Appalachia had quite the reputation in the early 20th century.

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