Agrippa vs. Herodias

Agrippa the Great, grandson of Mariamne the Queen and Herod the Great. He beat out Herodias, his sister, and Herod Antipas to restore the kingdom.

In the last post we saw how Agrippa…dressed as a prince while waiting to be put into prison for hoping out loud that Tiberius Caesar would just go ahead and die so that his friend Caius could be emperor…a strange thing happened.

Now Agrippa stood in his bonds before the royal palace, and leaned on a certain tree for grief…and as a certain bird sat upon the tree on which Agrippa leaned (the Romans called this bird bubo,) [an owl,] one of (the others) that were bound, a German by nation saw him and asked a soldier who that man in purple was; and when he was informed that (he was a principal man of the nation of Jews the man asked to be able to speak to Agrippa and) said thus to him…

This sudden change of thy condition, O young man! Is grievous to thee…now wilt thou believe me, when I foretell how thou wilt get clear of this misery…and how Divine Providence will provide for thee. Know therefore…that…I think it fit to declare to thee the prediction of the gods. It cannot be that though (wilt) long continue in these bonds…and wilt be promoted to the highest dignity and power…But, do thou remember, when thou seest this bird again, that thou wilt then live but five days longer. This event will be brought to pass by that God who hath sent this bird hither to be a sign unto thee…Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.VI.7

Well, Tiberius did die within 6 months of Agrippa being put in prison. And when everyone was sure he was dead, Caius now Caesar…sent for (Agrippa) to his house, and had him shaved, and he put a diadem upon his head, and appointed him to be king of the tetrarchy of Philip…and changed his iron chain for a golden one of equal weight. It took Agrippa nearly two years to break away from Caius in Rome and set sail for

…his own country and appeared to them all unexpectedly as a king, and thereby demonstrated to the men that saw him, the power of fortune, when they compared his former poverty with his present happy affluence…Antiquities XVIII.VI.10-11

Agrippa vs. Herodias

Agrippa and Josephus, who later recorded it, saw his good fortune as Providence at work. No one had really taken Agrippa seriously as a contender for the kingdom when he was in Galilee living off his sister, but upon his return…

When [Herodias] saw him marching among the multitude with the usual ensigns of royal authority, she was not able to conceal how miserable she was, by reason of the envy she had towards him; but she excited her husband, and desired him that he would sail to Rome...”But let us go to Rome, and let us spare no pains nor expenses, either of silver or gold, since they cannot be kept for any better use than for the obtaining of a kingdom.”  Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.VII.1

The Vain Discourses of a Woman….

They set sail for Rome, but Agrippa must have had his spies in their household as he sent a spokesman right behind them to accuse Antipas of treason. Of course, they didn’t have much of a chance against Agrippa’s friend Caius Caesar (Caligula). And, somewhere in there, King Aretas avenged his daughter whom Antipas had divorced to marry Herodias by going to war against Antipas. Rome had to send in a legion to help him. Antipas and Herodias are both banished to Gaul, the very place that Archelaus was exiled, in about 39 A.D. [1] Their tetrarchy and treasury were given to Agrippa. When Caius heard that Herodias was Agrippa’s sister, he offered to restore her money to her and not exile her, but she chose to follow her husband, saying:

“O emperor…the kindness which I have for my husband hinders me from partaking of the favour of thy gift; for it is not just that I, who have been made a partner in his prosperity, should forsake him in his misfortunes.” …And thus did God punish Herodias for her envy at her brother, and Herod also for giving ear to the vain discourses of a woman.  Antiquities of the Jews XVIII.VII.2 

It seems to me that Herodias handled the situation rather well…the goal was to restore the kingdom, i.e., bring Judea and Jerusalem back under a Jewish king…but notice that it wasn’t Antipas whom Josephus blamed but Herodias for their loss of their tetrarchy…she had the Hasmonean blood of the pair (as does Josephus…more later.). But Providence was so on Agrippa’s side that when Caius soon died and Agrippa supported the selection of Claudius as the next Emperor, Claudius gave him back Judea and the power to name the High Priest. He had been the one to finally consolidate the kingdom; he was the grandson of Mariamne I who succeeded…he was God’s beloved prodigal son…and he knew it.  As Josephus says,

…he loved to live continually at Jerusalem and was exactly careful in the observance of the laws of his country. He therefore kept himself entirely pure…

So, the dream of Mariamne III and her son Jesus was not so far off the mark…the definition of sin is “missing the mark”…her brother did what she hoped her son could do…and what her sister tried to do. Her sister, being a woman, had to marry a Roman sanctioned prince to try to accomplish the consolidation of the kingdom…and Mariamne III, apparently not married to a prince, played the role of queen mother, the role that Providence had handed her…If it hadn’t been for the vicious opposition of the House of Annas High Priest’s spearheaded by Caiaphas, AND the interference of Agrippa…sending his nephew back to Pilate to crucify him with the sign over his head “King of the Jews”, (my theory) they just might have made it.  It was as Jesus had said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25, Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17)


[1] It is tempting to go off on a tangent here. The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine written in 1275 has several stories where together or separately Mary Magdalene perhaps along with Martha and Mary and Lazarus of Bethany flee to France or are pushed out of Jerusalem in a boat without oars and land very near where both Herodias and Archelaus are exiled. Josephus noted that Antipas died there but no word of Herodias since her exile…though there are lots of stories of Mary Magdalene and the Black Madonna in France.

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