Herod and Herodias

Matthew 14:3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.

We continually speculate as to why it was unlawful for Herod to be married to his brother Philip's wife. Some say the Law of Moses forbade a man from marrying the wife of his brother and Herod's marriage was therefore incestuous. This belief has plausibility as we know the Law of Moses condemned marriages between brothers and sisters and even first cousins. Others think John's condemnation of Herod was based on a new law of Christ. They think John and Jesus both came preaching something other than the Law of Moses regarding marriage.

If John had begun teaching a doctrine contrary to the Law, then he would have become a breaker of the Law. He could not promote a teaching that contradicted the Law and still be obedient to God. The word of the Lord was to go forth from Jerusalem, which it did beginning with Peter's first sermon on the Day of Pentecost after Christ's ascension. Any new doctrine would have to wait until then.

Even if Christ (and John) could have stated new law, it could not have gone into effect until after the cross, and it especially could not be put into effect by John. John told Herod it was not lawful (at that time, not after the cross) for him to have Herodias. Whatever law Herod was breaking, it was most definitely not Christ's new law on marriage.

I have another suggestion as to why John condemned Herod. Is it possible that Herod could not have Herodias because Herodias had procured her own divorce? As stated above, John lived and died under the Law of Moses, so it would have been impossible for him to try to enforce any law other than that. And under the Law, women were never granted the right to divorce their husbands. Herodias, according to secular history, had done just that.

I am further convinced that this was John's accusation against Herod when I read I Cor. 7, where wives are commanded not to depart from their husbands. If they do depart they are told to remain unmarried or be reconciled to their husbands.

Nowhere in scripture are women given the right to divorce their husbands. This makes sense when we realize that a husband is the head of his wife and is to rule over her. The apostle Peter tells slaves that they are be be in subjection to their masters.

In I Peter 2:18 Peter states: "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward." Then in I Peter 3:1 he says, "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.... "

When Onesimus fled from Philemon, Paul instructed that he should return. Slaves cannot "divorce" themselves from their masters. If slaves may not leave their masters, then how may women, who are to "likewise...be in subjection," leave theirs?

Please understand that when I call a man a woman's master I am not saying men are to be tyrants or dictators. God is our Master and He does not treat us that way. We are to obey Him and love Him and reverence Him. But He does not force His will upon us.

If women may not initiate divorce (and we never read that they may), then I think that would explain why a woman would have to remain "unmarried" when she departs (chorizo) from her husband.

See Vine's: &lt13,5563,chorizo>
"to put apart, separate," means, in the Middle Voice, "to separate oneself, to depart from," Acts 1:4; 18:1,2; in marital affairs, 1 Cor. 7:10,11,15; "departed" (RV corrects to "was parted"), Philem. 1:15. The verb is also used in Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:9; Rom. 8:35,39; Heb. 7:26. See PUT, No. 14, SEPARATE.

This departure would not be equal to a divorce. And because the same was true of men and their wives under the Law, I believe that Herodias was not free to be Herod's wife because she was still the wife of Philip, never having been divorced by Philip.

The Bible says the husband is not to divorce (aphieme) his wife.

See Vine's: &ltA-1,Verb,863,aphiemi>
primarily, "to send forth, send away" (apo, "from," hiemi, "to send"), denotes, besides its other meanings, "to remit or forgive" (a) debts, Matt. 6:12; 18:27,32, these being completely cancelled; (b) sins, e.g., Matt. 9:2, 5,6; 12:31,32; Acts 8:22 ("the thought of thine heart"); Rom. 4:7; Jas. 5:15; 1 John 1:9; 2:12. In this latter respect the verb, like its corresponding noun (below), firstly signifies the remission of the punishment due to sinful conduct, the deliverance of the sinner from the penalty Divinely, and therefore righteously, imposed; secondly, it involves the complete removal of the cause of offense; such remission is based upon the vicarious and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ. In the OT atoning sacrifice and "forgiveness" are often associated, e.g., Lev. 4:20,26. The verb is used in the NT with reference to trespasses (paraptoma), e.g., Matt. 6:14,15; sins (hamartia), e.g., Luke 5:20; debts (see above) (opheilema), Matt. 6:12; (opheile), Matt. 18:32; (daneion), Matt. 18:27; the thought (dianoia) of the heart, Acts 8:22. Cp. kalupto, "to cover," 1 Pet. 4:8; Jas. 5:20; and epikalupto, "to cover over," Rom. 4:7, representing the Hebrew words for "atonement."

Paul used a different word when speaking about what the husband was not to do. This word shows completeness, as in forgiveness or canceling or remitting a debt. The husband would have the power to end the marriage but is commanded not to do so. However, we might note that if he does he is not told he must remain unmarried or be reconciled.

I know that people use Mark 10:12 to prove that a woman has the same right as a man to divorce her husband, but the fact is that this scripture is condemning putting away on the part of either husband or wife. And we are still stuck with both Paul and Peter's admonition against departure by a wife.

The doctrine I am stating here may not be popular, for many reasons, but I believe it has merit based on the scriptures and the reasoning I have provided. We cannot assume that a woman may put away her husband based on a scripture that tells her not to do so. As a friend of mine used to say, "That's stinkin' thinkin'."

Tina Rae Collins