Herod the Great, Biblically famous for rebuilding the temple and the slaughter of infants trying to kill Jesus soon after birth, had ten wives.  From these wives, he had several sons and daughters.  One son was Herod Philip I (aka “Herod II”), who was briefly the heir of Herod the Great.  However, Herod Antipas successfully challenged the will and became ruler in his stead (supposedly because Herod Philip was considered “too weak”).

Herod the Great had executed three of his sons on suspicion they were trying to overthrow him.  One of these was Aristobulus IV, son of Hasmonean princess Mariamne I.  Prior to his execution, he would have been a shoe-in as successor because of his Hasmonean connection.  He married Berenice, a first cousin and daughter of Herod the Great’s sister Salome I.  Together, they had Herodias, who was orphaned as a minor due to her father’s execution.  Herod the Great, ever being the politician, engaged Herodias to Herod Philip, her half-uncle, in order to help assure his son’s ascension to power.

Herodias and Herod II had a daughter Salome.  She is not named in the Gospels, however.  We get the name from Josephus, who provides most of the historical details available today about the Herodian dynasty.  According to Josephus, Salome married her uncle Philip.  Thus, Herodias and Salome were mother-daughter and sisters-in-law simultaneously.  Philip died without any children, and Salome went on to marry her cousin Aristobulus and had three sons.

After Herod Philip was removed and Herod Antipas took his place, Herodias divorced Herod Philip and married Herod Antipas.  The reasons are unclear, but considering the political ambitions of the family, it was likely as much a political move as anything else.

In any event, even in the culture of that day, it would have been scandalous to marry one’s ex-sister-in-law.  John the Baptist soundly rebuked Herod Antipas for this, and the Gospels record that this was a thorn in the side of Herodias.

 18For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.

 19Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: (Mark 6:18-19, King James Version)

It was Herodias who schemed and took advantage of a very foolish situation that Herod had gotten himself into.  This by no means excuses Herod’s behavior, but it was a deliberate plot by Herodias that got John killed.

If Herod and Herodias had any children of their own, it is not recorded.

Comments are closed.