Tomorrow’s Forbidden Bible Verses entry will be about Herod and the death of John the Baptist as related in Matthew 14.

I have written about Herod before when discussing Mark’s account of this event (here and here). Those provide full explanations about his family relationships — especially his ‘marriage’ — which John the Baptist warned him about.

It should be noted that more than one Herod is mentioned in the New Testament. John MacArthur’s sermon on the first reading in Matthew 14 has helpful explanations, excerpted below.

When Jesus was born, Herod the Great was ruling at the time:

we’ll see that there was a king then by the name of Herod. That was … Herod the Great. He was an Idumean, a descendant of Esau, and it was quite interesting that a descendant of Esau should rule over the sons of Jacob. He was an Arab, if you will. Herod the Great, to compound matters, was also married to a Samaritan, so you can imagine how a non-Jew, son of Esau, married to a Samaritan would be unpopular in the hearts of Jews. Yet he was their king, appointed by Rome, over the whole area. It was he who was so fearful when he heard the word that a King had been born, and as a result, slaughtered, in a massacre, all of the babies, in order that he might eliminate anyone who would pose a threat to his throne.

By the time we get to Matthew 14, Herod the Great had died long before, when Jesus was a baby. His legacy involved dividing the area he had ruled into territories for his sons:

When Herod the Great died, his dominion, which was all of Palestine (to the north, east, and even south), was divided among three of his many sons. It is hard to keep track of his sons, because he had them by different women, so some of them were half-brothers. Some of them even had the same name, as we shall see; they had different mothers, but the same father.

He had three sons: Archelaus, Philip, and Herod Antipas. Archelaus was assigned the area of Judea and Samaria, over which he ruled. Philip was given Ituraea and Trachonitis, which was the northernmost part of the land of Palestine. So Archelaus was in the south, Philip was in the north, and Herod got the middle, which was Galilee, and to the east of Galilee, the area known as Parea.

The Herod of Matthew 14, then, is Herod Antipas, who had been ruling for 32 years:

“Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus.” Now we meet this main character, the one who is the rejector in the passage, the one who is the stony ground.

He is called the tetrarch. Technically, that term is a mathematical word, it means ‘a ruler of a fourth part.’ Tetra has to do with a fourth of something. But it came to be a term used of any subordinate ruler in a section of a country, and there were many subordinate rulers in Israel at that time. He was one of them.

In verse 9, he is called ‘king,’ and it says, “The king was sorry.” That is a very generous use of the term; he was not a king. In fact, he sought to be a king. On one occasion, he went to Rome to ask Caligula to make him a king, primarily because his wife wanted to be called ‘queen,’ and that wish was not granted to him. So he wasn’t really a king, but a petty potentate, and it is a very generous use of the term ‘king,’ which was frequently used for people of lesser stature than we would imagine a king to have.

The New Testament has two other Herods from the same family:

There are two other Herods who appear later in the New Testament, and you need to understand that they come in the same line. The next Herod we meet is named Herod Agrippa, and if you want to know about that Herod, read Acts 12; he declared a ‘Herod Day,’ celebrated his power, and didn’t give God the glory, so God smote him and he was eaten by worms, and died. There is, following him, a second Herod Agrippa, or Herod Agrippa II, and we find him in Acts 26. Paul preached to him. So basically we have these four: Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I, and Herod Agrippa II.

As for Herod Antipas, Herodias and Salome, Matthew Henry tells us what happened to him according to the Jewish historian Josephus:

Josephus mentions this story of the death of John the Baptist (Antiq. 18. 116-119), and adds, that a fatal destruction of Herod’s army in his war with Aretas, king of Petrea (whose daughter was Herod’s wife, whom he put away to make room for Herodias), was generally considered by the Jews to be a just judgment upon him, for putting John the Baptist to death. Herod having, at the instigation of Herodias, disobliged the emperor, was deprived of his government, and they were both banished to Lyons in France which, says Josephus, was his just punishment for hearkening to her solicitations. And, lastly, it is storied of this daughter of Herodias, that going over the ice in winter, the ice broke, and she slipt in up to her neck, which was cut through by the sharpness of the ice. God requiring her head (says Dr. Whitby) for that of the Baptist which, if true, was a remarkable providence.

Indeed. Divine judgement had certainly been passed in this world — and no doubt the next.

 

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