So Jay Raskin reconstructs the original passage:
n the meantime, a quarrel, whose origin I shall relate, arose between Aretas, King of Petra, and Herod. The tetrarch Hreod had taken the daughter of Aretas as his wife and had now been married to her for a long time. When starting out for Rome, he lodged with his half-brother Herod, who was born of a different mother, namely, the daughter of Simon the high priest. Falling in love with Herodias, the wife of this half-brother—she was a daughter of their brother Aristobulus and sister to Agrippa the Great--, he brazenly broached to her the subject of marriage. She accepted and pledged herself to make the transfer to him as soon as he returned from Rome. It was stipulated that he must oust the daughter of Aretas. The agreement made, he set sail for Rome. http://bcharchive.org/2/thearchives/sho ... 579&page=2
On his return after transacting his business in Rome, he found his wife had gotten wind of the transaction and had discovered everything. She said, "It is not lawful to marry your brother's wife."
She asked him to send her away to Machaerus (a fortress), which was on the boundary between the territory of Aretas and that of Herod. Some time earlier she herself had dispatched messengers to Machaerus, which was at that time subject to her father, so that when she arrived all preparations for her journey had been made by the governor. She was would thus be able to start for Arabia as soon as she arrived, being passed from one governor to the next as they provided transport. So she speedily reached her father and told would speedily reach her father and tell him what Herod planned to do.
She was a good woman and had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God. Herod feared Aretas' daughter, knowing that she was a righteous and holy woman, and kept her safe. When he heard her, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard her gladly. Aretas daughter said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Herod became alarmed.
Eloquence that had so great an effect on mankind might lead to some form of sedition, Herod decided therefore that it would be much better to strike first and get rid of her before her work led to an uprising, than to wait for an upheaval, get involved in a difficult situation and see his mistake.
He had Aretas daughter arrested at Machaerus and put in chains.
And Herodias had a grudge against her and wanted to kill her. But she could not. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias' daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it."And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom."And she went out, and said to her mother, "What shall I ask?" And she said, "The head of Aretas' daughter." And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying, "I want you to give me at once the head of Aretas' daughter on a platter." And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring her head. He went and beheaded her in the prison, and brought her head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother...
Aretas made this the start of a quarrel. There was also a dispute about boundaries in the district of Gabalis. Troops were mustered on each side and they were now at war, but they dispatched others as commanders instead of going themselves. In the ensuing battle, the whole army of Herod was destroyed when some refugees, who had come from the tetrarchy of Philip and had joined Herod’s army, played him false.
yet the verdict of the Jews was that the destruction visited upon Herod’s army was a vindication of Aretas' daughter, since God saw fit to inflict such a blow on Herod.
if this reconstruction is correct, it was the killing of Aretas' daughter that led Jews to believe that Herod's defeat was divine justice. John the Baptist was simply substituted for Aretas' daughter. The substitution was made in Josephus' text and part of the substitution was cut and placed in the Gospel of Mark and later copied into Matthew.
A very very good question:
Why does Herod send someone to Machaerus which is under the governance of Aretas and the Nabateans? How is it that he has the power to have somebody put to death there? Isn't it a strange coincidence that Aretas' daughter wants to be sent there?
Apart from the specific case of Jay Raskin, there is too good divine providence here, that John was killed in the same Machaerus of which the only name works easily in.the mind of any reader as a pointer
to the adultery of Herod.
Hence I see in this pointer the evidence that the Baptist Passage is a Christian interpolation
, because it moves the attention from the apparent
cause of the death of John (= his threat of anti-Herodian propaganda) to the real
cause of the death of John (= the infidelity of Herod to his wife the Aretas's daughter).
A possible objection is that the infidelity of Herod to his wife the Aretas's daughter does not involve exactly the same actors of the Gospel drama but even so it is an instance of the same pattern: moral corruption of Antipas in matter of women.