🔼The name Aretas: Summary
- (His) Excellency
- From the noun αρετη (arete), excellence.
🔼The name Aretas in the Bible
The name Aretas occurs only once in the Bible. As Paul recounts his many hardships to the Corinthians, he also recalls his escape in a basket from Damascus, the ruler of which served Aretas the king (2 Corinthians 11:32).
The historian Josephus tells us that this Aretas was in fact a man named Aeneas who assumed the name Aretas IV Philopatris when he became king of the Nabataean kingdom, an Arabic state immediately to Judea's southeast (it's capital was Petra in modern Jordan; read for more on Josephus our article on Dalmanutha).
The Nabataean kingdom wasn't annexed by Rome until 106 AD, and Aretas took a keen interest in the goings on with his Judaic neighbors: in 4 AD he supplied military force to general Varus in order to subdue the Messianic uprising of 4 AD (see our article on Illyricum for a look at the profundity of this).
Aretas was incumbent from approximately 9 BC to 40 AD. His daughter Phasaelis became the wife of Herod Antipas, but was ditched when Herod fixed to marry his brother's wife Salome (Mark 6:18). This inspired Aretas to invade Judea and loot Herod's holdings; events that may in the gospels be reflected in the beheading of John the Baptist.
🔼Etymology of the name Aretas
The name Aretas is a personified form of the noun αρετη (arete), meaning excellence:
The prefix αρι- (ari-) means "very," and works basically as an amplifier of what comes next. The noun αρετη (arete) means excellence and virtue. Verb αριστευω (aristeuo) means to be best or bravest and yields the noun αριστος (aristos), best or brave one.