Post by Mike Richter Post by Evi
Herodias said that she left her (presumably infant) daughter behind
to marry Herod. The Bible tells us that she was Herod's brother's
wife before that and I'm guessing that she wasn't his widow either!
In Jewish law, the widow is married de facto to a surviving brother on
her husband's death. Among the orthodox, a formal divorce is required to
dissolve that bond.
No she was not a widow; she divorced one of her half-uncles to marry another
This is the event that John the B is protesting, to her annoyance.
No one has made the Biblical account the basis of an opera because it's a
very bare-bones account with nothing remotely lurid about it. (And the girl
is not named.)
From Mark and Matthew, who both tell the same story (and probably got it
from the same source):
Herodias was angry with John for denouncing her remarriage, so Herod Antipas
imprisoned him, but did not want to kill him.
H.A. gave a party for a lot of dignitaries from foreign lands, and "the
daughter of Herodias danced" (the word used implies a young girl, probably a
small child -- adult women of good family did not dance in front of strange
Herod was delighted with the dance and promised her any reward she asked.
She was too young to have any serious desires, so she asked her mother what
to ask for.
Her mother suggested John's head.
Herod didn't want to lose face in front of his guests, so he granted it.
End of story.
It is typical of Matthew and Mark in that all the motivations are perfectly
clear. Sex does not come into it.
There is no suggestion that Herodias, much less her daughter, plotted any of
this in advance, or that Herod's lusts were involved.
From other sources we know Herodias had a daughter named Salome, who married
one of her uncles and then one of her cousins, had three sons, and died of
old age. No other child of Herodias is named anywhere.
It should be STRONGLY EMPHASIZED (in case you are feeling shocked) that this
sort of semi-incestuous (or actually incestuous) marriage and remarriage was
perfectly normal behavior in every royal family of the Hellenistic Middle
East, including the Jewish Maccabees, and that John's behavior in protesting
it was way out of line.
The Jews hated the Herodian dynasty because they were not Jews -- they were
Edomites (Idumaeans), that is, descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob --
Semitic neighbors but not strict monotheists. Of course Herod the Great and
all his family converted to Judaism when he was made King of the Jews by the
Romans in 37 BCE -- but that did not appease the Jews. He was the only
non-Jew ever to assume the title, and they were outraged. He also murdered
all the surviving Maccabees, including his wife, Mariamme, and their two
sons. (One of whom was the father of Herodias.)
Herod married into half a dozen leading Jewish families -- at once --
polygamy was okay for kings (e.g., David and Solomon), but this did appease
his subjects either. Nor did they regard his sons (nearly all by Jewish
mothers) as being proper Jews -- except for the ones who were half-Maccabee.
Is there an opera in this?