Monday, July 30, 2012

Herod and Herodias

The story of Herod and Herodias is quit scandalous.  Philip and Herod were brothers who were also both uncles to Herodias.  Apparently Philip married Herodias and they had a child together, Salome.  Herod also had a wife during this time.  At some point Herod and Herodias decided to divorce their spouses in order to 'marry' each other.  This union caused John the baptizer enormous distress:

Mark 6:18- For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife."

The union between Herod and Herodias was expressly forbidden in Leviticus 18:16-

"'Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonor your brother."

As well as Leviticus 20:21-

"'If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. "

The story of Herod and Herodias doesn't stop there.  Apparently the daughter of Philip and Herodias, Salome, performed a seductive dance for her uncle and step-father Herod (gross).  Herod enjoyed the dancing so much that he promised Salome anything she wanted.  Salome asked her mother what she should request and Herodias said that she wanted the head of John the baptizer.  Herod followed through with his promise and John the baptizer was beheaded.

Josephus (a Jewish historian) recorded that the reason John the baptizer was so upset about the marriage of Herod to Herodias was for the following reason:

    Herodias was married to Herod, the son of Herod the Great by Mariamme the daughter of Simon the high priest. They had a daughter Salome, after whose birth Herodias, taking it into her head to flout the way of our fathers, married Herod the Tetrarch, her husband's brother by the same father, who was tetrarch of Galilee; to do this she parted from a living husband.

 "This arranged marriage apparently wasn't satisfactory, as she left her "living husband" to marry her husband's step-brother, Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee. Whether she simply left her first husband unofficially, thus committing polyandry, or whether she "divorced" him on her own initiative, the action was contrary to Jewish law, as a woman was, and still is not in Orthodox Judaism, allowed to divorce her husband without his written consent -- i.e., he must divorce her."

The 'divorce-to-repent' use this story as 'evidence' that marrying another with a former spouse still living cost John the Baptist his life.

I don't even know where to begin with this.  For starters I'm not even positive that Herodias marriage to her uncle Philip was allowed under Jewish law.  Then we couple this original fact with the fact that Jewish women were NEVER allowed to divorce their husbands, as well as the fact that she was forbidden from marrying her former husbands living brother, and the picture seems to be about more than 'leaving a living husband.'  Truly this story is strange.

I do not agree with the 'divorce-to-repent' rational at all on this one.  If John the baptist were upset about Herodias 'leaving a living husband' to marry Herod then why wouldn't John the baptist have picked smaller fish to fry?  In other words:

Divorce and remarriage were rampant during John the Baptist's ministry.  We know this because of historical evidence as well as the numerous times Jesus had to speak out against divorce.  This should indicate that divorce and remarriage were a real issue during this time period, so WHY wouldn't John the baptist be speaking out against ALL remarriages?  Why would John the baptist chose to go after Herod and Herodias?  Why not clean up the mess in your own back yard first?

The truth is the Herod and Herodias situation angered John the Baptist for these two reasons:

1) Herod and Herodias were engaging in incest.
2) Herodias 'divorced' Philip which was not allowed under Jewish law.

Before closing I want to ask why the 'divorce-to-repent' don't bring up the situation in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2?  This passage states:

"It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. 2 [a]You have become [b]arrogant and [c]have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst."

Do we see a comparison between this passage and the situation of Herod and Herodias?  "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's (a blood relatives) wife," and "someone has his father's (a blood relatives) wife."  These two passages are both speaking of incestuous unions; not 'remarriages.'

This story really has no relevance in the 'divorce-to-repent' argument.  John the Baptist was upset that the person (Herod) who was supposed to be upholding the Jewish law was absolutely flaunting his incestuous marriage to his brother's former wife.  Bizarre and sick?  Yes.  Relevant to the 'remarriage' debate?  No.

When people claim that John the Baptizer died for 'this teaching,'  this is easily disputed by the fact that Jesus had not given 'this teaching' yet!

* I want to add a little foot note here as well.  According to Deuteronomy 25:5 (KJV):

"If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her."

Because Philip and Herodias had a child together (Salome) Herod would not have been able to marry Herodias even if his brother Philip had died!  Conversely if Philip and Herodias had not had children it would have been Herod's duty to marry Herodias and to try to have children with her.  I can only imagine that part of the reason this law was laid down, is because if a man marries his sister in-law, after the death of his brother, and the deceased brother and his wife had already had children, then the children would now be a niece/nephew as well as a son/daughter with an aunt/uncle that is also a mom/dad.  The result would be confusion.

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