Aretas in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
A common name of many Arabian kings. 2 Corinthians 11:32;
"in Damascus the governor ethnarch) under Aretas the king
kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to
apprehend me; and through a window in a basket was I let
down by the wall, and escaped his hands." The ethnarch did
it to please the Jews, who (Acts 9:24) "watched the gates
day and night to kill Paul." His office was to exercise
authority under the king, over the many Jews in large
cities: compare Acts 9:25. Damascus had been a city of the
Roman province, Syria; and we have Damascene coins of
Augustus and Tiberius, and afterward of Nero, etc., but we
have none of Caligula. This implies that some change in the
government of Damascus took place under Caligula, Tiberius's
successor. Moreover, Aretas, king of Arabia Nabataea dud its
capital Petra, made war on Antipas for divorcing Aretas'
daughter, and defeated him.
But Tiberius, at Antipas' entreaty, commanded
Vitellius, governor of Syria, to take Aretas dead or alive.
Before the order was executed Tiberius himself was dead.
Then all was reversed. Antipas was banished by Caligula to
Lyons, and his kingdom given to Agrippa, his nephew and his
foe. It seems therefore to harmonize with history, as well
as with Scripture, to assume that in A.D. 38 or 39, when
Caligula made several changes in the E., he also granted
Damascus to Aretas. The incidental way in which Paul alludes
to Aretas' kingship over Damascus at the time of his escape
from the ethnarch under him, by being let down in a basket
from a house on the city wall (compare Acts 9:23-25), is a
strong presumption for the truth of the Acts and Second
Epistle to Corinthians. This was three years after Paul's
conversion; so that A. D. 36 will be the date of his
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