Antipas and John the Baptist

The situation for which Herod Antipas was remembered most was with the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist (Matt 14:3-12; Mark 6:1729; Luke 3:19, 20; Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 2 ; 116-119) .

Antipas had married the daughter (name unknown) of Aretas IV, the Nabatean king, which probably was instigated by Augustus who was known to favor intermarriages among the various rulers for the sake of peace in the Roman empire. This marriage would have not only made for peace between the Jews and the Arabs, but also Aretas' territory served as a buffer between Rome and Parthia. Hence they were married around 14 A.D.

Around 15 years later (29 A.D.) Antipas made a journey to Rome. On his way he paid a visit to his half brother Herod (Philip) who had apparently lived in one of the coastal cities of Palestine. Antipas fell in love with his Philip's wife Herodias who was also Philip’s own niece. She seemed was a very ambitious woman and this was her opportunity to become the wife of a tetrarch. She agreed to marry Antipas on his return from Rome upon the condition that Aretas' daughter must be cast out (Jos. Antiq. xviii. 5. 1 ; 109, 110) . Aretas' daughter got wind of the arrangement and quickly fled to her father. This divorce was not only a personal insult to Aretas but also a breach of a political alliance which later led to a retaliation by Aretas.

Not long after Aretas' daughter had departed, Antipas and Herodias were married. John the Baptist spoke boldly against this marriage and therefore Antipas imprisoned him. John's denouncement was that Antipas had married his brother Philip's Wife. The Mosaic law forbad the marriage of a brother's wife (Lev 18:16; 20:21) with the exception of raising children to a deceased childless brother by levirate marriage (Deut 25:5; Mark 12 :19) . Antipas’ brother Philip also had offspring (Salome), and Philip was still alive!

Also see The Question About Philip

Herodias was not satisfied to leave John in prison and so at a suitable time she arranged for a banquet, probably for Antipas' birthday, at Machaerus in Perea in order to get rid of John.

Her daughter Salome danced before Antipas' dignitaries and he promised her with an oath that he would give her anything up to half of his kingdom. Being advised by her mother, she requested John the Baptist's head on a platter.

Antipas was sorry that he had made the promise under oath but due to the presence of his guests he had to follow through with the request. Consequently John the Baptist's ministry had come to an end in around 31-32 A.D.