All the Women of the Bible - Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The Woman Guilty of Incestuous Conduct
Scripture References—Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30
Name Meaning—Bernice (Greek—Bernicke), or Berenice, is a Macedonian corruption of Pherenice, and means, “victorious,” or “carrying off victory.” Wilkinson informs us that the name occurs in previous history, being given “to the wife of Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals, who became King of Egypt, and founder of an illustrious dynasty.” Another compound with nike, implying “victory,” is found in Eunice (Greek—Eunicke) the name of Timothy’s mother. “... The word is expressive of a good or happy victory, and in its origin doubtless commemorated some such event. It is noticeable that nike was a favorite termination of females in the Macedonian age, as for example, Thessalonice, the daughter of Philip, King of Macedon, and Stratonice, the name of the wife of Antigonus, one of Alexander’s generals and successors.”
Family Connections—Bernice was the eldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I who ruled, a.d. 38-45, and is described as the one “who vexed the church” (Acts 12:1). Josephus says that she was first married to Marcus. After a while she married her Uncle Herod, king of Chalcis. When he died, she was suspected of evil relations with her own brother Agrippa, with whom she always appeared as his consort. In company with Agrippa, Bernice visited Festus when he became procurator of Judea. Leaving Agrippa, she married Polemon, or Ptolemy, king of Cilicia who for her sake embraced Judaism by the rite of circumcision. She soon left Ptolemy, however, for a future period of intimacy with her brother. Subsequently she became the mistress of Vespasian, then of Titus, son of Vespasian, but when Titus became emperor, he cast her aside.
“If heredity stands for anything, its lessons are forcibly taught in the history of the Herodian family.” For instance, Bernice and her sister Drusilla (Acts 24:24, see Drusilla), were two of the most corrupt and shameless women of their time in Roman history. As Bernice, a wicked woman who lived an incestuous life, listened to Paul’s impassioned appeal as he repeated what God had done for his soul, one wonders what impression it made upon her evil heart. As her brother listened, he said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” What a different record would have been written if Agrippa and Bernice had repented of their sordid sin, and yielded their lives to Him whose blood can make the foulest clean!
Devotional content drawn from All the Women of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.