Herodias is the granddaughter of Herod the Great. Her first husband is her half uncle Phillip, the son of Herod the Great. This is the ruler who has thousands of babies murdered in an attempt to kill baby Jesus (Mt. 2:16-18). Joseph escapes into Egypt with Mary and their infant (v. 13). When Herod the Great dies, an angel informs Joseph it is now safe for his family to return to Judea (v. 20).
Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, is the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 to 39 AD. In the Gospels, Herodias is introduced to us as the wife of Herod Antipas (Mk. 6:17). Although Herod is already married to an Arabian princess, he leaves her to marry Herodias. She is in an incestuous relationship when she divorces Phillip to marry her uncle Herod Antipas. This ambitious woman believes this new marital relationship will give her more power.
The Pharisees seek to rid themselves of Jesus earlier in His ministry. They suggest He run far away from Herod (Lk. 13:31). Jesus replies, “Go tell that conniving fox that I cast out demons, heal the sick, and will be resurrected” (v. 32). Jesus testifies that John the Baptist is consistent, uncompromising, steadfast, and not intimidated by sin (Mt. 11:3-12 & Jn. 11:11). Mark records Herod is afraid of John, but listens to him gladly and is motivated to do many things (Mk. 6:20).
When John fearlessly confronts Herod regarding his illegal marriage to Herodias, she is furious and seeks his life (Mt. 14:3-4). To please his wife, Herod imprisons John in the castle dungeon (Mt. 14:3 & Lk. 3:19). Herod might have killed John immediately, but fears reprisals from his subjects who regard him as a prophet (v. 5). Harboring vindication, Herodias is not satisfied with John’s incarceration. She knows Herod has heard John’s preaching and her royal position may be threatened should he become converted.
The daughter of Herodias is born into the family of the Herodians on both her mother and her father’s side. Josephus the historian records her name as Salome. Children of divorce often have a dysfunctional worldview. It is therefore no surprise this teenage girl performs a sensual dance before Herod during his birthday celebration (Mt. 14:6).
After Salome dances, the drunken king swears he will give her anything she wants (Mk. 6:22-23). The girl seeks the counsel of Herodias who immediately seizes the opportunity. Acting on her mother’s advice, she returns to the king and asks for John’s head on a platter (vv. 24-25). Herod is sorry but must comply for he has made a vow (v. 26).
Herod may well have been haunted by John’s death. When he hears of Jesus’ ministry, he thinks John has risen from the dead (Mt. 14:2). Herod fervently desires to see Jesus (Lk. 9:9) and gets his chance after He is arrested. Pilate sends Him to Herod for sentencing. We are told Herod is thrilled to finally meet him, but for an ulterior motive. He wants Him to perform a miracle for his personal entertainment (Lk. 23:8). Herod has murdered Jesus’ first cousin, John the Baptist (Lk. 1:36). When the Lord Jesus stands before Herod, he does not say a word (Lk. 23: 9). In frustration, Herod sends Him back to Pilate for sentencing (v.11).
The evil aspirations of Herodias result in her downfall. History records that her brother is awarded the governorship of the area her ex-husband Phillip once ruled. In her jealousy, Herodias urges her new husband Herod Antipas to secure this position for himself. She and Herod are called to Rome by Caligula who questions them regarding this matter. Because their answers are unsatisfactory, they are both banished to Gaul. They live out their days and die in obscurity. Although there is no happy ending to their story, there are numerous lessons to be learned.
<> Select your spouse carefully. Baggage brought in from former marriages breeds complications. Who you marry can create for you a heaven on earth or a hell on earth.
<> Ambition can help destroy a couple’s future.
<> A wife knows a weak husband can be exploited.
<> Salome’s request for John’s head proves what happens when a daughter seeks advice from an ungodly mother.
<> A bad marriage can end in murder. In this case it is a preacher that is killed.
<> In the end, this couple is banished from their kingdom. Many couples ruined by power, wealth, and ambition, have been banished from God’s Kingdom to die in disgrace.
<> Herod should have listened to John instead of his wife. Even though a man may appreciate good preaching, he must respond in faith and repentance in order to be saved (Mk. 6:20).