John the Baptist Beheaded

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus 2 and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. 4 Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

6 But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. 7 Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

8 So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

9 And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. — Matthew 14:1-12.

According to verses 1 and 2, enough time had elapsed following the death of John the Baptizer for reports of Jesus’ miracles to come back to Herod. It led Herod to think that John had risen from the dead.

We have the backstory of John’s imprisonment and beheading. John had told Herod Antipas that he was living in adultery with his brother Herod Philip’s wife. Herod had John arrested and imprisoned. He would have killed John immediately but for fear of the multitude who counted John as a prophet.

Herod celebrates his birthday. Herodias’ daughter dances before Herod Antipas and his guests and please them. Herod promises on oath to give her whatever she might ask perhaps thinking that she would ask for jewelry or a slave. [This is Herodias’ daughter by an earlier marriage to Herod Philip. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the daughter’s name was Salome and she later married another son of Herod the Great, Philip the tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis (Luke 3:1).]

When Salome was prompted by her mother to get John’s “head on a platter”, Herod was sorry. He did not think it was such a good idea. However, because of his promise made on oath before the guests, he commanded that her wish be granted. He had John beheaded and his head delivered “on a platter” to Salome who gave it to Herodias. His disciples took away the body and buried it and went and told Jesus about it. So ended the life of Jesus’ herald. The “voice crying in the wilderness” was silenced. The herald’s task was over. The King had arrived.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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