Summary of passages: Matthew 14:1-12: Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead and that is why he can perform miracles. Herod had John arrested previously because John was telling the people his marriage wasn’t lawful since he had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herod wanted to kill John but was afraid of repercussions from the people.
On Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced for them and Herod was so pleased that he swore an oath she could have whatever she wished for at that moment. Her mother told her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod was trapped and had to do it since he swore in oath in front of his dinner guests.
Hence, John the Baptist was beheaded and his head brought in on a platter, which Herodias received from her daughter. John’s disciples came, buried him, and brought the news to Jesus.
Mark 6:14-29: When Herod heard about Jesus, some were saying Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead or Elijah or a prophet. Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected for he had him bound and thrown in prison for speaking out against his marriage to his brother Phillip’s wife, Herodias. She nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him but she couldn’t figure out how since Herod liked John and protected him.
On Herod’s birthday he had a big party where Herodias’ daughter danced so well that Herod promised to give her whatever she asked for up to half his kingdom. She asked her mother what to ask for and her mother said, “The head of John the Baptist.” Herod’s hands were tied so despite his distress he granted her wish. John was beheaded, given to Herodias’ daughter and his body buried.
3a) This is a hard question since all we have to go off of is this one example in the Bible. Obviously, not good. She made her daughter commit murder (against the Ten Commandments) and a blatant disregard for God’s chosen people. Of course, they were Roman so they did not believe in God so we shouldn’t expect much from them. She used her daughter and made her just as much of a sinner as herself. Thus, she had no regard for her daughter’s moral or spiritual upbringing. We could also postulate and she made her daughter dance provocatively for the men. We are not told why a princess who normally wouldn’t degrade herself in such a way did.
b) She nursed a grudge against John for his disapproval of her marriage and wanted to kill him. She committed murder in her heart before the actual deed. And she carried a grudge when she should have forgiven.
4a) Herod had an open mind and heart towards John. He liked to listen to what John was saying. He was a seeker, wanting to find out more about this King who was coming. He protected John because he could see he was a holy and righteous man. He also feared repercussions if he did kill John as well so it was political and spiritual.
b) Herod feared man more than he feared God (Matthew 14:9; Mark 6:26). He cared more about his reputation and what others would think of him than he did of doing what was right and what God would think of his actions. In the end, he followed man’s laws instead of God’s.
c) This is difficult to answer as we are not a Roman leader in first century AD. Obviously, as Christians, we say no. Herod shouldn’t have killed John the Baptist for several reasons. One, it was murder (against God’s laws). Two, it was the morally wrong thing to do with no valid reason except the whim of a girl for John was not guilty of any crime and had no trial. Three, there could have been riots from the people over John’s death. So there were many reasons not to kill John.
Yet on a personal level, Herod did have John killed. As a ruler, especially a Roman ruler, your word was your power. If you said you were going to do something, you kept your word. Otherwise, you were considered unworthy to rule. Here, Herod was trapped. He had sworn an oath and in those times he had to keep it or face losing his position. There were too many witnesses to go back on your word. Herod was tricked, trapped, and outwitted. He had no choice 2000 years ago.
Note: Some scholars say this shows Herod feared his wife as well to honor her wishes and that she held political power as well.
d) Jesus was performing all these miracles that the people had never before seen. They were looking for an earthly explanation for these miracles and the superstitious people were saying how Jesus was John the Baptist or Elijah or another prophet. Herod was confused and John the Baptist had been the most powerful man he had known in terms of miracles so the assumption made sense in those times.
Herod could also have been overwhelmed by guilt of killing John (I think this one unlikely). Some scholars say John the Baptist and Jesus did in fact resemble one another. This would make more sense since they were in fact related.
5a) As a fox (a Jewish expression at the time for a worthless or insignificant person).
b) Jesus gave no answer to Herod. He said not one word.
c) Personal Question. My answer: That Herod was not worth Jesus’ time. Jesus knew nothing he would say to Herod would make any difference in his life so Jesus just didn’t bother. He knew Herod for what he was: a worthless soul, heartless, one who would not change.
6) Personal Question. My answer: Truthfully, I don’t see a progress of sin. In my opinion, both Herod and Herodias were evil from the start. Their sins do not surprise me.
Note: We don’t see a progress of sin with Herodias since this is the only place in the Bible she is mentioned so this question should not apply to her.
As we learn in Matthew, Herod was a Roman tetrarch, a ruler. One did not become a Roman ruler by being kind to others. Roman rulers were ruthless, greedy, power-hungry men who did everything to obtain and keep their power. Their crimes were many and unspeakable. They killed hundreds and thousands of people just because they could. They were heartless and brutal. Their crimes nor their sins should not shock us.
Conclusions: Herod and Herodias’ sin does not affect me personally nor does it warn me for I am not comparing myself to them. They were pagans, unbelievers and as a Christian I am held to a higher standard than them so comparing our lives is a fruitless endeavor. I think the intent of question 6 was good but the specificity was not.
The message we should take away is to be wary of putting man’s laws above God’s. To be wary of pleasing man instead of God. To not give in to peer pressure. To do what is right in God’s eyes and not man’s always. God first, man a dismal last.
I liked Jesus’ example of not even deigning to address Herod. We should have the same reaction to others who criticize our beliefs or challenge our lives or methods if we are following Jesus. Sometimes, the effort is futile and if we can recognize that in our own lives, we will save ourselves a lot of grief–especially with family members.
End Notes: We must remember the times. In the first century AD, murder was rampant. The Roman Empire ruled the entire known world at the time. They were brutal and ruthless. No one challenged the Empire without risk to life as we see with John the Baptist. To the ordinary people of the time, murder and death were all around them. They would not have been shocked by a head on a platter as we would be today. Nor would the request have seemed odd at the time. These were pagan people who worshipped pagan gods. They did as they (or the devil) pleased. Jesus came at this time to be the light in such a dark world. And he continues to shine today.
Herod: This Herod is Herod the tetrarch, also known as Herod Agrippa (or even Herod Antipas). He was one of Herod the Great’s sons who wasn’t murdered by his crazy dad. When his dad died, he ruled Galilee. Hence, we see him in Luke because he was handed over to Herod by Pilate because Jesus was from Galilee so Pilate wanted him to deal with Jesus. Pilate did not want to kill Jesus and tried everything he could to get out of it including trying to have Herod deal with him (Luke 23:6-7). [This is explained beautifully in Killing Jesus by the way.]
Tetrarch is a Greek word meaning “ruler of a fourth part” but it came to be used more commonly for a ruler below the Roman Emperor. Herod actually asked the Roman Emperor Caligula (crazy himself) for the title of king and was refused.
Herod’s brother, Archaleus, ruled the south and his other brother Philip, ruled the north.
Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate when Jesus refused to perform a miracle.
Background on John: As you may remember, John did speak out against Herod’s marriage (Luke 3:19-20). Herod divorced his first wife, a princess of a neighboring kingdom, to take his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias. The father of Herod’s first wife would later take revenge and attack Herod and defeat him in battle. Later, Herod’s other brother, Agrippa, accused him of treason against Rome so he was banished to Gaul. In Gaul, he and his wife, Herodias, committed suicide–a fitting end.
Background on Herodias: She was Herod the Great’s grandaughter. Hence, she married her uncle when she married Philip and they had Salome together according to the historian Josephus.
Is Salome the “daughter of Herodias” in this passage? This is a popular belief but since no name is given to the girl in this passage, this belief is wrong despite modern labeling as such. It is believed Herodias had a daughter with Philip named Salome but there is no Biblical proof this Salome was the dancer. She could have been but we do not know.
We can assume the daughter of Herodias is dirty dancing here–enough to appeal to the men’s sexuality and obtain a promise for whatever she wishes for.
Herodias had this planned. She knew her husband and the situation. She used her daughter. She demanded it to be done immediately in front of all the guests so Herod couldn’t go back on his word privately. She was pure evil, plain and simple.
You cannot hold someone to an oath when the request is nefarious. The oath is then null and void. Yet, to save face, Herod caved. The question for us is then: will we?