Herod Antipas


“Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been wanting for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracle worked by him.  So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply” (Jerusalem Bible, Luke 23:8)

Our Lord’s trial before Herod on Good Friday seemed almost accidental.  It was when Pilate, faced with the dilemma of inflaming the Jewish leaders against him or of having an innocent man tortured to death, was seeking desperately for a way out, that he discovered that Our Lord was a Galilean.  At once he leapt at the opportunity to shift his responsibility on to King Herod Antipas in whose territory Galilee lay and who happened to be staying in Jerusalem at the time.

Herod Antipas was a very unsavoury character.  He was notorious for his low cunning – Our Lord once referred to him as “that fox” – and like his father Herod the Great before him would not stop at murder if it served his ends.  Yet, in spite of his position of power, he was a man of weak character as may be seen from the ascendancy which Herodias gained over him.

Herod was already a married man when, while on a visit to Rome, he was captivated by Herodias, the wife of one of his half brothers with whom he was staying.  He persuaded Herodias to leave her husband and marry him on the understanding that he threw over his own wife.  In due course Herod and Herodias returned together to Palestine where John the Baptist personally rebuked him.  “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife” was what he said (Jerusalem Bible, Mark 6:18).

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