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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Aretas

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A common name of many Arabian kings. 2 Corinthians 11:32; "in Damascus the governor ethnarch) under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me; and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands." The ethnarch did it to please the Jews, who (Acts 9:24) "watched the gates day and night to kill Paul." His office was to exercise authority under the king, over the many Jews in large cities: compare Acts 9:25. Damascus had been a city of the Roman province, Syria; and we have Damascene coins of Augustus and Tiberius, and afterward of Nero, etc., but we have none of Caligula. This implies that some change in the government of Damascus took place under Caligula, Tiberius's successor. Moreover, Aretas, king of Arabia Nabataea dud its capital Petra, made war on Antipas for divorcing Aretas' daughter, and defeated him.

But Tiberius, at Antipas' entreaty, commanded Vitellius, governor of Syria, to take Aretas dead or alive. Before the order was executed Tiberius himself was dead. Then all was reversed. Antipas was banished by Caligula to Lyons, and his kingdom given to Agrippa, his nephew and his foe. It seems therefore to harmonize with history, as well as with Scripture, to assume that in A.D. 38 or 39, when Caligula made several changes in the E., he also granted Damascus to Aretas. The incidental way in which Paul alludes to Aretas' kingship over Damascus at the time of his escape from the ethnarch under him, by being let down in a basket from a house on the city wall (compare Acts 9:23-25), is a strong presumption for the truth of the Acts and Second Epistle to Corinthians. This was three years after Paul's conversion; so that A. D. 36 will be the date of his conversion.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Aretas'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/a/aretas.html. 1949.

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