Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee. And when Herodias’ daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.” He also swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” So she went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist!” Immediately she came in with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry; yet, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took away his corpse and laid it in a tomb. (Mark 6:21-29)
Because Of An Oath
Herod Antipas was an immoral, superstitious and cruel man who had no value for life allowing himself to be seduced by his step-daughter. He was the same character as Ahab of old and served the strong-willed temptress of his illegitimate wife Herodias. While in Rome he had seduced his half-brother Phillip’s wife (who was also his niece) and John the Baptist had condemned him because of it. Angered by the accusations of John, Herodias connived to have Herod arrest John and keep him in prison. During a feast for his birthday, Salome came and danced in a lascivious and wanton manner that pleased all the nobles, high officers and chief men of Galilee. Herod declared he would give half his kingdom to his great-niece if she would but ask. Rushing to her mother’s side, she asked what gift she would seek. Herodias knew at once Herod would not resist her request and asked for the head of John the Baptist. In league with the wickedness of her mother, Salome returns to Herod demanding the head of John.
Herod is hesitant to grant the wish of Salome and regrets the promise he made. As king he could make any decision and there would be no argument. He carries a high hand of authority over Galilee and has used that power to carry out his will upon the people often in cruel ways. But now cornered with the flirtations of a beautiful young woman and the pressure of those gathered for his birthday, he orders the execution of John the Baptist. He made an oath but the consequence was the murder of a righteous man. The peer pressure of those gathered that day forced his hand to make a decision that would define his legacy. How could he refuse and keep face with his noble friends and fellow rulers? The chief men of Galilee would see him as a weak king and he could lose his position. His father Herod the Great had ruled with a cruel hand killing all the young children in Bethlehem, seeking the young child Jesus. Beheading John the Baptist would show him to be a strong king. Orders were given and the head of John was brought to Herod who gave the gruesome trophy to Salome. She then carried the still warm and bleeding head to her mother who bask in the final victory over her accuser. Herodias would suffer the same fate as Herod when Caligula banished them to exile where they died in misery.
Because of an oath, John the Baptist was beheaded. It is not surprising Herod would fall prey to the allurements of an evil woman and bring about the death of a righteous man. His relationship with Phillip’s wife was immoral and he had no pangs to further his deeds of evil in killing John. The great tragedy of John’s death is it came because of a decadent promise. Pride would not allow Herod to change his mind. Many a failed decision has been made because a man or woman refused to stand for truth and bowed to the pressure of others. What Herod did is repeated on a daily basis. Refusing to lose face in front of friends has led to many decisions with life-long consequences. Being like the crowd, going with the crowd, bowing to the pressures of the crowd – can lead to fornication, theft, lying and sometimes more tragic consequences. The first lesson is never making a promise that is not a righteous one. Second, when a promise is made that was made in error, stand for truth suffering the ridicule of friends rather than the condemnation of God. Friends will come and go but the Lord God will never acquit the actions of sin when bowing to peer pressure. Never allow the allurements of someone else cause you to do something that you will regret for the rest of your life – and impact your eternal destiny. Stand for righteousness and you will never fear the ground you stand upon.