Queen Glaphyra’s Dream

Glaphyra daughter of the King of Cappadocia, married to Alexander son of Herod and Mariamne the Hasmonean Queen, sent back home when Alexander was executed and who later married Archelaus…

Archelaus returned from Rome where he was ratified as “Ethnarch” not king. He began to rebuild his royal palace at Jericho that had been looted and burned and get the nation back on track. And then he divorced his wife—I will go into who she was in the next blog post—but now I want to continue on with who Archelaus immediately remarried and what the repercussions were…

Moreover, he transgressed the law of our fathers, and married Glaphyra…who had been the wife of his brother Alexander (eldest son of Queen Mariamne), which Alexander had three children by her, while it was a thing detestable among the Jews to marry the brother’s wife [i] (if she had children by him before he died)…so great was his affection for her.  Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.1-4

His “affection” for Glaphyra, notwithstanding, (she was 20-30 years older than Archelaus) this was a marriage alliance. And, by divorcing his wife, he was breaking his alliance with whomever she represented and was deliberately allying himself with the King of Cappadocia, Glaphyra’s father. Rome would see this as treason because it represented an alliance between two countries not sanctioned by Rome. Josephus next recounts a dream warning that Archelaus had in 6 A.D:

  …he saw ears of corn, in number ten, full of wheat, perfectly ripe, which ears, as it seemed to him, were devoured by oxen.  Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.3

Archelaus sent for “diviners.” One “Simon of the sect of the Essens” took his life in his hands and said that each ear of corn represented a year, and since there were ten ears and this was the tenth year of Archelaus’ reign, it was over. Within five days a messenger came to take him to Rome, and he was banished to Vienna in Gaul.

Glaphyra, the “Queen” of Judea, oddly, will also have a dream recorded by Josephus. In fact, he gave us two versions; a straightforward recounting of the supposed details in Wars II.VII.4 and this revised one in Antiquities.

The like accident befell Glaphyra his wife…who was married, while she was a virgin, to Alexander, the (executed) son of Herod (and Mariamne I)…and she lived in widowhood in Cappadocia with her father, (until) Archelaus divorced his former wife…and married her…who, during her marriage saw the following dream:–She thought she saw Alexander standing by her, and said,–“O Glaphyra; thou provest that saying to be true, which assures us that women are not to be trusted. Didst thou not pledge thy faith to me? Wast thou not married to me when thou wast a virgin? and had we not children between us? Yet hast thou forgotten the affection I bare to thee, out of desire of a second husband…to lie by thee, and in an indecent and imprudent manner hast entered into my house, and has been married to Archelaus, thy husband and my brother. However, I will not forget thy former kind affection for me; but will set thee free from every such reproachful action, and cause thee to be mine again, as thou once wast.”  When she had related this to her female companions, in a few days’ time she departed this life. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.XIII.4[ii]

So, Josephus has given us a belief system that included a return of a son of Mariamne the Queen, remembering how it was her two executed sons who ratted out Mariamne II as knowing about the plot to kill Herod. Now, Josephus has added in a whole Jihad/Priestly Warrior’s/Essen/Hasmonean belief system regarding the actions of women spoken by a dead Hasmonean prince highlighting: 1) the specialness of marrying a “wife of their virginity;” 2) the necessity for such wives, if widowed, to remain widows and not remarry so their husbands can have them back “again as thou once wast”; 3) an Essen belief in the untrustworthiness of women to carry out these rules; 4) the “forgiving” of royal, yet sinning women; 5) a quick death was preferable to continuing to live in a state of sin; (more later) 6) because there is an afterlife; and 7) dead heroes are still expected to “meddle in the affairs of the living.” AND the ones who profess these beliefs were willing to kill an offending royal woman “for her own good.”

Not bad for one dream. Josephus also took care to give us the Essen view on women, especially royal women, as we will see.

These Essensdo not absolutely deny the fitness of marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby continued; but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man. Wars of the Jews II.VIII.2

The Return of a Son of Mariamne

At about this time…after the deposing of Archelaus in 6 A.D. and before the death of Augustus in 14 A.D., a young man who claimed to actually be Alexander son of Mariamne the Queen appeared in Rome with strong backers and began raising money for a return to power in Jerusalem…

…men were glad of his pretenses, which were seconded by the likeness of his countenance, which made those that had been acquainted with Alexander strongly to believe that he was no other but the very same person… insomuch that…the whole multitude of Jews that were there went out to meet him, ascribing it to Divine Providence that he had so unexpectedly escaped, and being very joyful on account of his mother’s family. And when he was come, he was carried in a royal litter through the streets; and all the ornaments about him were such as kings are adorned withal; and this was at the expense of those that entertained him. The multitude also flocked about him, and nothing was omitted which could be thought suitable to such as had been so unexpectedly preserved.  Antiquities XVII.XII.1

Augustus, however, had known Alexander, who had been raised until the age of 17 in his household, as a young prince of an occupied country (and hostage) should have been. Augustus took one look at the young man’s calloused hands and knew he was not now nor ever had been a prince. The incident does show, though, how much a Hasmonean son of Mariamne the Queen was longed for, even one with Herodian blood.

Mary/Mariamne wherever she was in hiding/exile would certainly have known about the incident. Her “son of Mariamne” was about 10-12 years old at the time…

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19.


[i] Josephus is referring to the Levirite Law, the same law that John the Baptist will accuse Herodias of breaking, as we will see.

 If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing…Leviticus 20:21 and Deuteronomy 25:5-7

[ii] As we will see in chronological order, this episode is very similar with similar words to one in Luke’s Book of Acts.

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