What’s the Background of John the Baptist’s Murder?

Can you explain the details of John the Baptist’s murder? Who wanted his head on a platter? Is there a parallel between Herod and Pontius Pilate?

John the Baptist was the forerunner for Jesus. He was prophesied to come before Jesus and prepare the way for his coming. When Jesus arrived, both of them were ministering simultaneously throughout Judea.

But from the beginning, John preached what the Spirit led him to preach. He got under Herod the Tetrarch’s skin. Herod Antipas was one of King Herod the Great’s sons who ruled Judea. But he took Herodias for his wife.

This caused a lot of problems with the Jews because she was married to his half-brother Herod II (Herod Philip I). Herod II was still alive when he and Herodias divorced, breaking Jewish law for remarriage. They had a child, Salome, who was Herod Antipas’ (Tetrarch of Galilee) half-niece.

All of the Herodians converted to Judaism to be able to control the Jews within the borders of their kingdoms. Because they converted to Judaism, they were responsible to obey all of the laws in the Old Testament.

There are laws against divorcing your wife purely to take another wife. Herod the Tetrarch deliberately divorced his wife so that he could take Herodias as his wife when his half-brother divorced her. She came on the market and he took the bait.

John was one of the most vocal of his opponents on the matter of Herodias. He openly preached against Herod taking her for his wife. John’s meddling in these political affairs put him in prison and his life in danger.

Because John the Baptist continued to address the issue of marriage to Herodias, Herod the great Tetrarch locked him up in prison (Luke 3:19-20). But it was actually because Herodias was upset with what he was preaching and declaring.

Herodias had something against John the Baptist. She didn’t like him getting in her business. It was at her request through her daughter who danced for Herod the Tetrarch that she got her wish. She told her daughter to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

Herod the Tetrarch had to do what he promised. Herodias used her daughter to get rid of John the Baptist. The New Testament records this event and the reasons for John the Baptist’s death (Matthew 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29; Luke 3:19-20).

Of course, this decision to behead John the Baptist comes back to haunt Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee. When he hears about the miracles of Jesus and what Jesus is doing, he believes that John the Baptist has been raised from the dead (Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9).

He gets Jesus mixed up with John the Baptist but I guess that’s what happens when you feel guilty. Aside from that, it was not a good political move to kill John the Baptist. Many of the people were big fans of John.

But when you promise something to a pretty girl dancing in front of you in front of hundreds of your subjects, not doing what you promised could have even more dangerous results. John the Baptist was between a rock and a hard place. Herod put him in prison because he didn’t like him. But John the Baptist became the biggest problem Herod had to face.

An interesting parallel between Herod the Tetrarch and Pontius Pilate may be their wives. Herodias demanded the head of John the Baptist and got what she wanted. In Matthew 27:19, Pontius Pilate’s wife sent word to him before he made the final decision to crucify Jesus that he should have nothing to do with this righteous man because of a dream she had.

Herod the Tetrarch listened to Herodias and suffered much politically with the Jews for killing John the Baptist. Pontius Pilate didn’t listen to his wife and killed the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

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