Herodians, #6

Mariamne IV - Daughter of “Joseph” and mother of Aristobulus III as “Elisha”

Six months after taking leave of a flabbergasted High Priest Simon and his daughter Mariamne II, Antipater as Gabriel impregnates another royal lady by the same name, Mariamne IV. This Mariamne was the daughter of Herod the Great’s nephew Joseph and Herod the Great’s own daughter Olympias by Queen Malthace. And her holy offspring, we are told in the Gospel of Luke, is to be called Jesus, the Greek form of Joshua and a variant of Elisha. In the Egyptian New Kingdom, Tutankhamun (Elisha/Joshua II) had been the son of Tiye the daughter of Yuya (Joseph). It was decided to mimic the same pattern in the birth of the Herodian Elisha.

In the Egyptian New Kingdom, Queen Tiye had been no virgin prior to the birth of Tutankhamun, but was already a woman near 40 years of age and a mother many times over. However, there was no time for the very young princess Mariamne IV to reach such a level of maturity. Instead, Herod the Great and his son Antipater found inspiration from the Book of Isaiah 7:14 (KJV): “Behold a virgin (almah) shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The Herodian Joshua/Elisha could then legitimately be the child of a very young woman. (This was also more consistent with general tradition. In more ancient times, the mother of a Horus-figure was expected to become the consort of her own son.) Having Olympias as grandmother of Jesus was an added bonus. A former Olympias had been the mother of Alexander the Great, one of the most renowned youthful conquerors and Joshua figures of all time.

The son of Mariamne IV was named Aristobulus, “good/wise/best counselor,” which would have also been perceived as a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6 (KJV), “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor ...” The name also designates him as a replacement for the executed Aristobulus son of the first Mariamne. Aristobulus was a very noble name, but one badly tarnished by its previous bearers. The first two Hasmonean kings by this name had behaved badly, as did Herod the Great’s son by Hasmonean Mariamne.

Mariamne IV is the only known child of Olympias and Joseph nephew of Herod the Great. Joseph and Olympias may not have had a son to inherit the name and title of Joseph within the family of Herod. If they did, the history of Josephus omitted him. Regardless, Herod the Great decided to transfer the title of Joseph to one of his own descendants, his grandson named Herod, the future Herod of Chalcis. Herod of Chalcis was the eldest son of Aristobulus son of Hasmonean Mariamne. Josephus puts him on record as the legal husband of Mariamne IV and father of Aristobulus III. The adoption of Aristobulus III by Herod of Chalcis effectively grafted him onto the Hasmonean line of Aristobulus II and made him a potential heir to that leading line.

In the two genealogies given for Jesus, his immediate father is called Joseph. The grandfather of Jesus is called Jacob in one genealogy and Heli in the other. Jacob and Heli are fitting Hebrew named for Herod the Great, who assumed the identities of Jacob and Solomon. Beyond this, it is difficult if not impossible to reconcile the two genealogies given for Jesus. Both however attempt to trace the ancestry of Jesus back to the glory days of the Egyptian New Kingdom.