With the deaths of Alexandra and Mariamne and a whole generation of Hasmonean males their dominance in the royal record recedes and we learn of other royal and noble women, some will be Hasmonean and some will not. Some we will know the names of and some we will not. But from now on—with Mariamne’s heirs half-Herodian—the royal bloodline is no longer pure…the very thing the priests tried so hard not to let happen. The House of Herod now rules…even though its women are often Hasmonean princesses now safely married off to members of Herod’s family. That is the way of the world. It was the Hasmonean women’s due as royalty to be part of the new government though they could not do much but maintain spy rings, plot and bide their time, as we will see.
A Man Possessed
As mentioned in the last post, Herod appears to have had a nervous breakdown after the execution of his “beloved” Queen:
His love to Mariamne seemed to seize him in such a peculiar manner, as it looked like divine vengeance upon him for taking away her life…that he would order his servants to call for Mariamne, as if she were still alive, and could still hear them; and when he was in this way, there arose a pestilential disease, and carried off the greatest part of the multitude…and made all men suspect that this was brought upon them by the anger of God, for the injustice that had been done to Mariamne. Antiquities of the Jews XV.VII.7
Herod ran around the Middle East drinking heavily and joining in whatever war was available, perhaps giving God a chance to take revenge on him. But his real fear was that beyond killing a wife, he had lost the tie that had made him a legitimate King of the Jews.
Herod the Great
When he came out of his breakdown, he was like a man re-born. Providence wanted him to be king, after all, even without Mariamne and her Hasmonean blood. Herod began to see the fact that he still had the kingdom as a sign that he was blessed. Hadn’t God kept David on as king after he had committed sins? There is a tradition that Herod had a genealogy drawn up by the scribes showing that he, himself, was a descendant of David. [i] He built himself a magnificent palace in the upper city and also began to rebuilt the Temple bigger and better than Solomon’s Temple. He also entered David’s tomb looking for gold. He didn’t find any as John Hyrcanus had already taken out three thousand talents. (Antiquities of the Jews XIII.IX.4)
Herod, however, did get more than he bargained for: He…
…found furniture of gold and those precious good that were hid up there; all which he took away. However, he had a great desire to make a more diligent search, and to go further in, even as far as the very bodies of David and Solomon; where two of his guards were slain, by a flame that burst out upon those that went in, as the report was. So he was terribly affrighted, and went out, and built a propitiatory monument of white stone, at the mouth of the sepulcher, and that at a great expense also. Antiquities of the Jews XVI.VII.1
I believe we will see as we go along that Herod developed more and more a sense that he was the longed-for return of David or his equal. Josephus went on to say…
…As to his own court, therefore, if any one was not very obsequious to him in his language, and would not confess himself to be his slave, or but seeming to think of any innovation in his government, he was able to contain himself, but prosecuted his very kindred and friends, and punished them as if they were enemies” if they were not “very obsequious” to him, “and this wickedness he undertook out of a desire that he might be himself alone honoured. Antiquities of the Jews XVI.V.4
He launched into his master-builder phase building amphitheaters and Greek gymnasiums and pagan Roman temples dedicated to Augustus. (Antiquities of the Jews XVI.VII.1)
But his paranoia about losing the kingdom never truly abated.
The Other Mariamne
Then Fortune so favored Herod as to send him another Mariamne. Researchers call her Mariamne II or Mariamne the High Priest’s daughter. She is often referred to by Josephus, naturally, as the “other Mariamne.”[ii]
The occasion of this his marriage was as follows.—There was one Simon, a citizen of Jerusalem, the son of one Boethus, a citizen of Alexandria, and a priest of great note there: this man had a daughter, who was esteemed the most beautiful woman of this time…and when (Herod) saw the damsel, he was smitten with her beauty, yet did he entirely reject the thoughts of using his authority to abuse her…so he thought it best to take the damsel to wife. And while Simon was of a dignity too inferior to be allied to him, but still too considerable to be despised, he governed his inclinations after the most prudent manner, by augmenting the dignity of the family, and making them more honourable; so he immediately deprived Jesus the son of Phabet of the high-priesthood, and conferred that dignity on Simon, and so joined in affinity with him [by marrying his daughter]. Antiquities of the Jews XV.IX.3.
Beautiful as the other Mariamne may have been, the above passage is pure propaganda. Herod married the “damsel” to ally himself with the other path to power in Israel—the High Priesthood. Just as he tried to bring in a Babylonia priest earlier so he could have the High Priest under his thumb, this time he brings in one descended from the priests in Egypt. He could not be the High Priest, he knew that (even David hadn’t been a High Priest), but he could make a marriage alliance with a priest who wanted to be the High Priest bad enough to marry his daughter to Herod the Idumaean.
Mariamne the Queen was executed in 28-29 B.C. Herod probably married the other Mariamne two or three years later, say in 26-27 B.C. when she was a “damsel”, about 12 years of age. Soon after she bore him an heir also named Herod, he began marrying many wives in Idumaean/Arabian (and Davidic but not Hasmonean) fashion who also bore him sons and heirs, ending up with as many as ten wives in the harem. From now on the record is dominated by who will inherit the kingdom, if and when Herod ever dies. From now on we are in New Testament territory.
[i] Eusebius (I vii 13) is said to have quoted Africanus in the later 100’s A.D., speculating that Herod had a genealogy drawn up for himself with a Davidic lineage and then destroyed all the public records so no one could prove him wrong. It is probably a legend but it does seem from Josephus that Herod did think he was God’s Blessed King.
[ii] See Matthew 28:1, for his “other Mary.”