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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Herodias

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(᾿Ηρωδίας, a female patronymic from ῾Ηρώδης : on patronymics and gentile names in ιας, see Matthise, Gk. Gramm. § 101 and 103), the name of a woman of notoriety in the N.T., daughter of Aristobulus, one of the sons of Mariamne and Herod the Great, and consequently sister of Agrippa I. She first married Herod, surnamed Philip, another of the sons of Mariamne and the first Herod (Ant. 18, 5, 4; comp. War, 1, 29, 4), and therefore her full uncle; then she eloped from him, during his lifetime (ibid,), to marry Herod Antipas, her step-uncle, who had long been married to, and was still living with, the daughter of Eneas or Aretas-his assumed name-king of Arabia (Ant. 17, 9, 4). Thus she left her husband, who was still alive, to connect herself with a man whose wife was still alive. Her paramour was, indeed, less of a blood relation than her original husband; but, being likewise the half brother of that husband, he was already connected with her by affinity so close that there was only one case contemplated in the law of Moses where it could be set aside, namely, when the married brother had died childless (Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 22:21, and for the exception Deuteronomy 25:5 sq.). Now Herodias had already had one child Salome (the daughter whose dancing is mentioned in the Gospels) by Philip (Ant. 18, 5, 4), and, as he was still alive, might have had more. Well therefore may she be charged by Josephus with the intention of confounding her country's institutions (Ant. 18, 5, 4); and well may John the Baptist have remonstrated against the enormity of such a connection with the tetrarch, whose conscience would certainly seem to have been a less hardened one (Matthew 14:9 says he "was sorry;" Mark 6:20 that he "feared" John, and "heard him gladly"). A.D. 28. The consequences both of the crime and of the reproof which it incurred are well known. Aretas made war upon Herod for the injury done to his daughter, and routed him with the loss of his whole army (Ant. 18, 5, 1).

The head of John the Baptist was granted at the suggestion of Herodias (Matthew 14:8-11; Mark 6:24-28). According to Josephus, the execution took place in a fortress called Machaerus, on the frontier between the dominions of Aretas and Herod; according to Pliny (5, 15), looking down upon the Dead Sea from the south (compare Robinson, 1, 570, note). It was to the iniquity of this act, rather than to the immorality of that illicit connection, that, the historian says, some of the Jews attributed the defeat of Herod. In the closing scene of her career, indeed, Herodias exhibited considerable magnanimity, as she preferred going with Antipas to Lugdunum, and there sharing his exile and reverses, till death ended them, to the remaining with her brother Agrippa I, and partaking of his elevation (Ant. 18, 7, 2). This town is probably Lugdunum Convenarum, a town of Gaul, situated on the right bank of the Garonne, at the foot of the Pyrenees, now St. Bertrand de Commines (Murray, Handbook of France, p. 314); Eusebius, H. E. 1, 11, says Vienne, confounding Antipas with Archelaus. Burton on Matthew 14:3, Alford, and moderns in general, Lyons. In Josephus (War, 2, 9, 6), Antipas is said to have died in Spain-apparently, from the context, the land of his exile. A town on the frontiers, therefore, like the above, would satisfy both passages. (See HEROD).

There are few episodes in the whole range of the New Testament more suggestive to the commentator than this one scene in the life of Herodias.

1. It exhibits one of the most remarkable of the undesigned coincidences between the N.T. and Josephus; that there are some discrepancies in the two accounts only enhances their value. More than this, it has led the historian into a brief digression upon the life, death, and character of the Baptist, which speaks volumes in favor of the genuineness of that still more celebrated passage in which he speaks of "Jesus," that "wise man, if man he may be called" (Ant. 18, 3, 3; comp. 20, 9, 1, unhesitatingly quoted as genuine by Eusebius, Hist, Ecclesiastes 1, 11). (See JOHN THE BAPTIST).

2. It has been warmly debated whether it was the adultery or the incestuous connection that drew down the reproof of the Baptist. It has already-been shown that, either way, the offence merited condemnation upon more grounds than one.

3. The birthday feast is another undesigned coincidence between Scripture and profane history. The Jews abhorred keeping birthdays as a pagan custom (Bland on Matthew 14:6). On the other hand, it was usual with the Egyptians (Genesis 40:20; comp. Josephus, Ant. 12, 4, 7), with the Persians (Herod. 1, 133), with the Greeks, even in the case of the dead, whence the Christian custom of keeping anniversaries of the martyrs (Bahr ad Herod. 4, 26), and with the Romans (Pers. Sat. 2, 1-3). Now the Herods may be said to have gone beyond Rome in the observance of all that was Roman. Herod the Great kept the day of his accession; Antipas-as we read here-and Agrippa I, as Josephus tells us (Ant. 19:7, 1), their birthday, with such magnificence that the "birthdays of Herod" (Herodis dies) had passed into a proverb when Persius wrote (Sat. 5, 180). (See BIRTHDAY).

4. Yet dancing, on these festive occasions, was common to both Jew and Gentile, and was practiced in the same way: youths and virgins, singly, or separated into two bands, but never intermingled, danced to do honor to their deity, their hero, or to the day of their solemnity, Miriam (Exodus 15:20), the daughter of Jephthah (Judges 11:34), and David (2 Samuel 6:14) are familiar instances in Holy Writ: the "Carmen Saeculare" of Horace, to quote no more, points to the same custom amongst Greeks and Romans. It is plainly owing to the elevation of woman in the social scale that dancing in pairs (still unknown to the East) has come into fashion. (See DANCE).

5. The rash oath of Herod, like that of Jephthah in the O.T., has afforded ample discussion to casuists. It is now ruled that all such oaths, where there is no reservation, expressed or implied, in favor of the laws of God or man, are illicit and without force. So Solomon had long since decided (1 Kings 2:20-24; see Sanderson, De Juram. Oblig. Praelect. 3, 16). (See OATH).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Herodias'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/h/herodias.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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