SynopsisI always found this passage interesting because of the way Matthew tells the story; he does a flashback kind of thing, which isn’t usual for stories in the Bible. Without the flashback, though, the story is this:
- Herod, the ruler of the region, marries his brother’s ex-wife Herodias, and John the Baptist tells him that he shouldn’t have done this. (The ESV Study Bible notes indicate that Herod divorced his wife and Herodias divorced Herod’s brother so that Herod and Herodias could be together.)
- Herod has John imprisoned for it
- Herod wants to have John put to death, but is afraid to do so because the people think John is a prophet
- Herod has a birthday party and has Herodias’ daughter dance as entertainment. Because he is pleased with the performance Herod promises her whatever she wants.
- Herodias urges her daughter to ask for John’s head on a platter
- Herod doesn’t like it, but he made the promise so he goes ahead and has John beheaded and has the head brought to Herodias’ daughter
- Herod then hears about Jesus and thinks that Jesus is actually John the Baptist raised from the dead. (This is where the passage starts; the previous points are all in the flashback.)
ThoughtsThis passage makes Herod seem pretty gutless. I get the impression that he would have had John killed from the beginning, but he is afraid of the reaction of the people, so he doesn’t. Only when he’s forced to, by making a promise that he has to fulfill, can he bring himself to do it.
Other than that, there isn’t much to say about this passage. It’s pretty gruesome—and is obviously the source of us talking about having someone’s head on a platter—but I don’t have a lot of deep spiritual things to say about it.