(A·reʹtas) [Virtuous; Excellent].
The last of several Arabian kings of this name controlled Damascus when its governor joined a plot of the Jews to do away with Paul. The apostle Paul escaped in a wicker basket lowered from a window in the city wall.—Ac 9:23-25; 2Co 11:32, 33.
Aretas had given his daughter in marriage to Herod Antipas (see HEROD No. 2), who divorced her to marry Herodias—the adulterous affair that John the Baptizer condemned. (Mt 14:3, 4) Further aggravated by border disputes, Aretas attacked and totally defeated Antipas. Emperor Tiberius then ordered the governor of Syria, Vitellius, to take Aretas dead or alive. Vitellius, himself no friend of Antipas, mobilized his forces, but Tiberius died in 37 C.E., and the campaign against Aretas was called off. Tiberius’ successor Caligula reversed this foreign policy, installed Herod Agrippa I in place of Antipas, and permitted Aretas to rule Damascus. A coin of Damascus bearing an inscription of Aretas is dated in this period.