God’s People, part 193: Antipas

Read Matthew 14:1-12

“John also publicly criticized Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, for marrying Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for many other wrongs he had done.”  (Luke 3:19, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

AntipasPart 192: Antipas. While we have already discussed John the Baptist in part 147, as well as his execution under the order of Herod Antipas, it is important for us to look at Herod Antipas. Who was he, aside from him being one of the sons of King Herod the Great? What made him tick? Why would he choose to execute John the Baptist and what made him arrest the Baptist to begin with?

Herod Antipas, unlike his father, was not a king despite people mistakenly referring to him that way. There can be little doubt that he aspired to become king like his father once was; however, that Roman emperor would never have entertained that. Instead of being a monarch, he was given by Rome the title of tetrarch, meaning ruler of a quarter because they had divided up Herod’s kingdom into 4 quarters and placed each of Herod’s sons as a ruler of those regions. Herod was ruler over Galilee and Perea.

The other tetrarchs were Antipas’ brothers Herod Archelaus, Philip the Tetrarch, and his sister Salome I. Eventually, Archelaus was deposed and Rome turned his provinces (which included Jerusalem) into the Roman Province of Judaea. Their father originally planned for Herod II to his successor; however, to make a long story short, following Herod’s death the Roman government did chose to divide the kingdom into a tetrarchy and did not choose Herod II. He actually became a private citizen in Rome along with his wife, who was his half-niece, Herodias.

It is here where we find out why Antipas was so opposed to the Baptist. As it turned out, Antipas ended up taking Herodias for his own wife, despite her marriage to Herod II. This, in the eyes of any devout Jew would have been considered adultery. It was immoral to take someone else’s wife as his own wife; therefore, according to the Gospel accounts, John the Baptist had been calling Antipas and Herodias our for their wickedness.

This, of course, led to John’s eventual arrest and execution. According to the Gospels, Antipas respected John and saw him as a great prophet; however, Herodias was deeply offended by John’s very public denouncement of their marriage. Let’s be honest, I am sure Antipas was none-to-pleased by it either. As such, he had John arrested and thrown into Machaerus Fortress in Perea, which is now modern day Jordan.

Eventually, at the urging of his wife and step-daughter Salome, Antipas had the Baptist executed and his head delivered to Salome on a silver platter. One can imagine the horror of that scene; however, it also goes to show the level of depravity in the Herodian family. These were a people who saw themselves as being above the law, including God’s Law, and thus they did as they pleased with little concern toward the loss of human life.

The challenge for us is to reflect on Herod Antipas and the Herodian family. How do we fit in with them. Are we like them in any way? Before you answer “no” to that question, let’s broaden the horizon a bit. Do you you see yourself as being right with God, all the while finding fault in others? Do you even consider what God thinks of how you live your life or whether or not you should behave or think the way you do? It is easy for any one of us to put ourselves above God’s Law, all the while holding the law above other’s heads. Let us be a people who seek to do what is right, who love mercy and humble ourselves before God.

“After whose birth Herodias took upon her to confound the laws of our country, and divorced herself from her husband, while he was alive, and was married to Herod [Antipas], her husband’s brother by the father’s side.” – Flavius Jospehus in Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 1.

Lord, I humble myself before you. Show me the ways in which I err and help guide me back onto the straight and narrow path you’ve set before me. Amen.

Leave a Reply