Herodias Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
January 6, 2003
Today, we are going to look at one of the most evil women in the Bible.
Her name is the feminine form of Herod—it’s Herodias.
That was the title worn by the political rulers during the life and times of Jesus and the apostles.
Herod means heroic…but they were far more hellish than heroic.
She is the embodiment of the most despicable traits of this tyrannical ruling family.
Her story is found in Mark 6:14-28.
14 Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because people everywhere were talking about him. Some were saying, "This must be John the Baptist come back to life again. That is why he can do such miracles."
15 Others thought Jesus was the ancient prophet, Elijah. Still, others thought he was a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.
16 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, "John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead."
17 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her.
18 John kept telling Herod, "It is illegal for you to marry your brother’s wife."
19 Herodias was enraged and wanted John killed in revenge, but without Herod’s approval, she was powerless.
20 And Herod respected John, knowing that he was a good and holy man, so he kept him under his protection. Herod was disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.
21 Herodias’ chance finally came. It was Herod’s birthday, and he gave a party for his palace aides, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee.
22 Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased them all. "Ask me for anything you like," the king said to the girl, "and I will give it to you."
23 Then he promised, "I will give you whatever you ask, up to half of my kingdom!"
24 She went out and asked her mother, "What should I ask for?" Her mother told her, "Ask for John the Baptist’s head!"
25 So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, "I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!"
26 Then the king was very sorry, but he was embarrassed to break his oath in front of his guests.
27 So he sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison,
28 brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother.
THE FIRST THING I WANT YOU TO SEE IS THAT IT WAS A DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY
Herod the Great was king at the time of Jesus’ birth and he was responsible for the massacre of all the children, up to the age of 2, in Bethlehem and the surrounding towns Matthew 2.
He married numerous times, but toward the end of his life, he became insanely suspicious, and he murdered member after member of his own family.
It was safer to be Herod’s dog than it was to be his son.
Herodias’ father Aristobulus, was one of Herod’s victims.
Herodias married her uncle Herod Philip, who was a half brother to her father.
He was not a political figure but lived as a wealthy, private citizen in Rome and they had a daughter, named Salome.
When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Peraea (Peraea is what the east bank of the Jordan River was called)—visited Rome, he was entertained by his half-brother Philip and his wife, Herodias.
But when it came time for Antipas to leave, he takes Herodias and her daughter with him.
He divorces his Arabian wife and makes Herodias the new queen.
It was a scandal that was discussed secretly among the people of Galilee.
But John the Baptist, God’s man, spoke out publicly, and called it a sin.
In order to rid herself of John’s critical voice, Herodias used her own daughter to influence Antipas against John.
Her sexually provocative dance, before the drunken crowd at Herod’s birthday party, did the job.
Herod drank too much, lusted too much, and promised too much and Herodias silences her critic—she has John beheaded!
Now, here is how we can apply Herodias’ story to our situation.
Our background and circumstances may influence who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.
She came from one of history’s worst families.
I would liken them to the Mafia of recent times.
I called the whole family "dysfunctional."
But dysfunctional practices can be stopped.
Women provide the stability for home and society.
If not, both our homes and society will implode, like the twin towers of 9-11, but with greater casualties and destruction.
Do you know who Mae West was?
She said, when women go wrong, men go right after them.
The two of them, Herod Antipas and Herodias, are equally guilty of this marital mess.
Her ambition was to gain a place of political prominence, but Philip couldn’t give that to her.
But Herod Antipas could, so she was perfectly happy with the arrangement.
But she had a price to pay—the loss of her self-respect.
What price are you willing to pay for your WANTS, even if they are wrong?
There is an amazing fact about SIN—it is that many will forfeit a lifetime of accomplishment and honor, for a moment of delusional gratification, and then live the rest of their life in misery.
Tradition holds Herodias accountable for Antipas’ ruin.
By the way, he was the presiding ruler at the trial of Jesus.
Herodias is jealous of her brother Agrippa’s appointment as King and so she urged Antipas to ask Caligula, who was the emperor at the time, to give him the title instead.
Later, Herod Antipas would be charged with treason, and banished to France, where he died in exile and shame!
THE NEXT THING TO SEE IS THAT HERODIAS DIDN’T LIKE WHAT SHE HEARD. John the Baptist was recognized as God’s prophet and his word was critical—but not lawful—legally, socially, or morally.
The things that John spoke of were not authorized, permitted, or proper by human terms, but they were God’s words.
John was called to the king’s palace, which overlooked the east side of the Dead Sea, but when he arrived he was arrested and imprisoned.
I believe it is an interesting fact that Herod was puzzled and yet drawn to John’s message.
John did have a glimmer of hope because Antipas feared and respected John, but the influence of Herodias was too much.
She hated John and all he stood for, because it was in direct opposition to her wants and desires, and she knew how to handle Herod in order to get what she wanted!
At Antipas’ birthday party, when everyone was well intoxicated, she capitalized upon Herod’s impulsiveness.
She knew he couldn’t back down from a public vow.
So, she asked her daughter Salome to do a very provocative dance for her stepfather.
She danced for him, and you may have seen that famous dance portrayed in the movies.
It accomplished just what her mother wanted.
Antipas offered Salome anything she wanted, up to half his kingdom.
She asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, and that is what she got.
I think there may be a lesson to be learned from this.
Why do some believe they are above the law—especially those in high political positions?
I believe you will agree that there is a lot of corruption among politicians, at all levels of government.
What’s that saying?—"power corrupts and absolute power absolutely corrupts."
This family was as corrupt as it gets, and they believed they were above the Law.
That’s apparent since John didn’t get a trial.
Justice wasn’t served, only the vengeance of a wicked woman.
When Herod sobered-up, he began to have second thoughts about what he had done, but there was something else that bothered him.
The response of Herod, when the news of Jesus’ miracles and public ministry spread, dredged up those feelings of guilt and fear, because of his senseless act of killing John
As much as he might have feared the ridicule or laughter of his cronies for not keeping the hasty vow, he now faced an even greater fear, because he thinks that Jesus is actually John returned from the dead!
The Bible doesn’t have an asterisk beside certain commandments, laws, or principles with your name written in the margin, saying these apply to everyone else but YOU!
When anyone acts against what God says in the Bible, they have broken the law—God’s Law.
So, we should always declare the truth of God’s Word
However, to speak the truth, even in love, does not always result in the anticipated or hoped for response.