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Caption: Bronze Coin of Aretas IV, with Inscription "Aretas King of Nabathæa . . . Year . . ."

Aretas IV Philopatris was the King of the Nabataeans from roughly 9 BC to AD 40.

His full title, as given in the inscriptions, was "Aretas, King of the Nabataeans, Friend of his People." Being the most powerful neighbour of Judea, he frequently took part in the state affairs of that country, and was influential in shaping the destiny of its rulers. While on not particularly good terms with Rome - as intimated by his surname, "Friend of his People", which is in direct opposition to the prevalent φιλορώμαις ("Friend of the Romans") and φιλόκαισαρ ("Friend of the Emperor") - and though it was only after great hesitation that Augustus recognized him as king, nevertheless he took part in the expedition of Varus against the Jews in the year 4 BC, and placed a considerable army at the disposal of the Roman general.

His daughter Phasaelis married Herod Antipas (4 BC – AD 39), otherwise known as Herod the Tetrarch. When Herod divorced Phasaelis to take his brother's wife Herodias, mother of Salome, in 36, Phasaelis fled to her father. Relations between Herod and Aretas IV were already strained over border disputes, and with his family honour shamed, Aretas IV invaded Herod's holdings, defeating his army[1] and capturing territories along the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the areas around Qumran.

The classical author Josephus connects this battle, which occurred during the winter of AD 36/37, with the beheading of John the Baptist, which occurred about the same time.

Herod Antipas then appealed to Emperor Tiberius, who dispatched the governor of Syria to attack Aretas. But because of the emperor's death in AD 37 this action was never carried out.[1]

The Christian Apostle, Paul, mentions that he had to sneak out of Damascus in a basket through a window in the wall to escape the Governor (ethnarch) of King Aretas. (2 Corinthians 11:32, 33, cf Acts 9:23, 24).

  1. ^ Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 18.109-118

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.

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