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The Death of John the Baptist

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22When his daughter Herodias 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 give it.” 23And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


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Mr 6:14-29. Herod Thinks Jesus a Resurrection of the Murdered BaptistAccount of His Death. ( = Mt 14:1-12; Lu 9:7-9).

Herod's View of Christ (Mr 6:14-16).

14. And King Herod—that is, Herod Antipas, one of the three sons of Herod the Great, and own brother of Archelaus (Mt 2:22), who ruled as ethnarch over Galilee and Perea.

heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad); and he said—"unto his servants" (Mt 14:2), his councillors or court ministers.

That John the Baptist was risen from the dead—The murdered prophet haunted his guilty breast like a specter, and seemed to him alive again and clothed with unearthly powers, in the person of Jesus.

15. Others said, That it is Elias. And others, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets—(See on Mt 16:14).

16. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded; he is risen from the dead—"Himself has risen"; as if the innocence and sanctity of his faithful reprover had not suffered that he should lie long dead.

Account of the Baptist's Imprisonment and Death (Mr 6:17-29).

17. For Herod himself had sent forth, and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison—in the castle of Machærus, near the southern extremity of Herod's dominions, and adjoining the Dead Sea [Josephus, Antiquities, 18.5,2].

for Herodias' sake—She was the granddaughter of Herod the Great.

his brother Philip's wife—and therefore the niece of both brothers. This Philip, however, was not the tetrarch of that name mentioned in Lu 3:1 (see on Lu 3:1), but one whose distinctive name was "Herod Philip," another son of Herod the Great—who was disinherited by his father. Herod Antipas' own wife was the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia; but he prevailed on Herodias, his half-brother Philip's wife, to forsake her husband and live with him, on condition, says Josephus [Antiquities, 18.5,1], that he should put away his own wife. This involved him afterwards in war with Aretas, who totally defeated him and destroyed his army, from the effects of which he was never able to recover himself.

18. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife—Noble fidelity! It was not lawful because Herod's wife and Herodias' husband were both living; and further, because the parties were within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity (see Le 20:21); Herodias being the daughter of Aristobulus, the brother of both Herod and Philip [Josephus, Antiquities, 18.5,4].

19. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him—rather, as in the Margin, "had a grudge against him." Probably she was too proud to speak to him; still less would she quarrel with him.

and would have killed him; but she could not.

20. For Herod feared John—but, as Bengel notes, John feared not Herod.

knowing that he was a just man and an holy—Compare the case of Elijah with Ahab, after the murder of Naboth (1Ki 21:20).

and observed him—rather, as in the Margin, "kept" or "saved him"; that is, from the wicked designs of Herodias, who had been watching for some pretext to get Herod entangled and committed to despatch him.

and when he heard him, he did many things—many good things under the influence of the Baptist on his conscience.

and heard him gladly—a striking statement this, for which we are indebted to our graphic Evangelist alone, illustrating the working of contrary principles in the slaves of passion. But this only shows how far Herodias must have wrought upon him, as Jezebel upon Ahab, that he should at length agree to what his awakened conscience kept him long from executing.

21. And when a convenient day—for the purposes of Herodias.

was come, that Herod—rather, "A convenient day being come, when Herod."

on his birthday, made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee—This graphic minuteness of detail adds much to the interest of the tragic narrative.

22. And when the daughter of the said Herodias—that is, her daughter by her proper husband, Herod Philip: Her name was Salome [Josephus, Antiquities, 18.5,4].

came in and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel—"the girl" (See on Mr 5:42).

Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.

23. And he—the king, so called, but only by courtesy (see on Mr 6:14).

sware unto her Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, unto the half of my kingdom—Those in whom passion and luxury have destroyed self-command will in a capricious moment say and do what in their cool moments they bitterly regret.

24. And she said, The head of John the Baptist—Abandoned women are more shameless and heartless than men. The Baptist's fidelity marred the pleasures of Herodias, and this was too good an opportunity of getting rid of him to let slip.

25. I will that thou give me by and by—rather, "at once."

in a charger—large, flat trencher.

the head of John the Baptist.

26. And the king was exceeding sorry—With his feelings regarding John, and the truths which so told upon his conscience from that preacher's lips, and after so often and carefully saving him from his paramour's rage, it must have been very galling to find himself at length entrapped by his own rash folly.

yet for his oath's sake—See how men of no principle, but troublesome conscience, will stick at breaking a rash oath, while yielding to the commission of the worst crimes!

and for their sakes which sat with him—under the influence of that false shame, which could not brook being thought to be troubled with religious or moral scruples. To how many has this proved a fatal snare!

he would not reject her.

27. And immediately the king sent an executioner—one of the guards in attendance. The word is Roman, denoting one of the Imperial Guard.

and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison—after, it would seem, more than twelve months' imprisonment. Blessed martyr! Dark and cheerless was the end reserved for thee: but now thou hast thy Master's benediction, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me" (Mt 11:6), and hast found the life thou gavest away (Mt 10:39). But where are they in whose skirts is found thy blood?

28. And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother—Herodias did not shed the blood of the stern reprover; she only got it done, and then gloated over it, as it streamed from the trunkless head.

29. And when his disciples heard of it—that is, the Baptist's own disciples.

they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb—"and went and told Jesus" (Mt 14:12). If these disciples had, up to this time, stood apart from Him, as adherents of John (Mt 11:2), perhaps they now came to Jesus, not without some secret reflection on Him for His seeming neglect of their master; but perhaps, too, as orphans, to cast in their lot henceforth with the Lord's disciples. How Jesus felt, or what He said, on receiving this intelligence, is not recorded; but He of whom it was said, as He stood by the grave of His friend Lazarus, "Jesus wept," was not likely to receive such intelligence without deep emotion. And one reason why He might not be unwilling that a small body of John's disciples should cling to him to the last, might be to provide some attached friends who should do for his precious body, on a small scale, what was afterwards to be done for His own.