THEME: John’s Trust
In this week’s study we see a contrast in character.
Matthew 14:1-2
At that time wHerod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.

Herod ruled for more than thirty years, most of the time from Tiberias on the southwest shore of Galilee, not far from Capernaum or Nazareth. But at this point he seems to have been at the fortress of Machaerus, about seven miles northeast of the Dead Sea, since that is where John was imprisoned.
Herod’s first wife was the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian king of the Nabateans whose land bordered Perea. Herod divorced this woman to marry Herodias, who is the wife appearing in this story. Herodias had been married to Herod Antipas’ half-brother, and when Herod divorced his first wife to marry her he created an explosive political situation. In fact, some years later it led to a war between Herod and Aretas in which Herod was defeated and was only saved from total disaster by the Romans. Any criticism of Herod’s second marriage would have been like throwing sparks on dry tinder. It explains why Herod was so sensitive to John’s unbending words.
When John denounced Herod for his immoral behavior it probably had very little to do with his divorcing his first wife. That was allowable under both Jewish and Roman law. The problem was rather Herod’s incestuous second marriage to Herodias who was his half-brother’s wife. A marriage of this nature is explicitly condemned in Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21. Moreover, John did not merely speak out against the marriage of Herodias and Herod once. The text says that John was continually speaking out against it, using the imperfect tense of the verb “to say” (elegen) in verse 4. We can suppose that Herod brought John to the fortress of Machaerus to hear him, was stunned by John’s forthright denunciation of his marriage and then simply kept him there in prison, wanting to kill him but afraid to do so because of the people who thought John the Baptist was a prophet.
We can also understand why Herodias hated John intensely, as most women whose marriage was criticized in this way would hate the critic. Herodias most likely would have been urging the king to kill John. Herod would have been resisting. But one day Herodias’ opportunity came. Herod threw a party for his birthday, and Herodias sent her daughter by Herod Philip, her first husband, to dance before Herod and his guests. Josephus, the celebrated Jewish historian of that time, tells us that the daughter’s name was Salome (Antiquities, XViii, v. 4). She would have been very young, not older than in her early teens. But what is worse, it would have been highly improper for any high-born girl to dance in such a setting. There were women who danced in such settings, but they were slave girls who would have been subject to the desires of the men who attended such banquets. Matthew does not say that Salome’s dance was sensual in nature, but the low moral standards of Herod’s court would lead us to think it was.
John A. Broadus says, “It was therefore a bold step which Herodias took in sending her daughter to dance before Herod and his grandees.”‘ Herod could have been offended. But Herodias understood men and reasoned that Herod and his drunken friends would be aroused by the young girl’s dancing, which is what happened. The dance pleased Herod to such an extent that he rose to pompous extravagance before his guests and promised Salome anything she wanted. Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist. Herod had made a foolish vow. He should never have made it, and having made it he should never have kept it. But he wanted to save face and therefore granted Salome’s request and had John beheaded in the prison. 
So died the last of the Old Testament prophets. The old age ends in violence, and the stage is set for the unfolding of the new covenant of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.


Why did John denounce Herod? 
Explain Herodias’ hatred for John. How did she get revenge?


So died the last of the Old Testament prophets. The old age ends in violence, and the stage is set for the unfolding of the new covenant of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

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