(A·reʹtas) [virtuous, excellence].
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. Paul escaped in a wicker basket lowered from a window in the city wall.—Acts 9:23-25; 2 Cor. 11:32, 33.
Aretas had given his daughter in marriage to Herod Antipas (see HEROD), who divorced her to marry Herodias—the adulterous affair that John the Baptist condemned. (Matt. 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 in 37 C.E. Tiberius died and the campaign against Aretas was called off. Tiberius’ successor Caligula reversed this foreign policy, installed Agrippa in place of Antipas, and permitted Aretas to rule Damascus. A coin of Damascus bearing an inscription of Aretas is dated in this period.