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The Apostle Paul’s run-in with the representative of the Nabatean King, Aretas IV

Ruins of the capital city of the Nabatean empire carved into rock near Petra, Jordan.
Credit: Susanahajer/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 3.0

Archaeologists have reported discovering a Nabatean temple dated to the time of Christ and the apostles at the bottom of the harbor of the Italian city of Pozzuoli. The discovery included two altars that were part of the worship of the Nabatean god, Dushara.

You may be familiar with some of the ruins of the ancient Nabatean kingdom, which was located in the desert area east of the Jordan River and extended to Petra, Jordan, where they carved out a city inside a mountain. These particular ruins were popularized in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

But what you may not be so familiar with is that during his missionary journeys, the Apostle Paul had a run-in with a representative of a Nabatean King by the name of Aretas IV:

32 In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33 and I was let down in a basket through a window [a]in the wall, and so escaped his hands. (2 Corinthians 11:32-33 NASV)

Luke refers to this incident in Acts 9:23-25, and adds that the Jews of the city were actually guarding the gates in hopes of capturing Paul and killing him.

What was an ethnarch?

According to the Jamieson-Fauset-Brown Commentary, the term ethnarch described a Jewish man, who had been given authority by gentile rulers over the Jewish population in a particular city. Ethnarchs were generally only used in cities that had a large Jewish population.

This explains why this individual, no doubt influenced by the Pharisees and Jewish leaders in Damascus, was trying to detain Paul because he was preaching in the synagogues and gaining a following (Acts 9: 19-22).

READ: Nabatean Temple Discovered by Marine Archaeologists AND Submerged Nabatean Temple Found

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