8. Preaching the gospel, 13:53-17:23

ii] Herod and Jesus


The preaching of Jesus has reached the ear of Herod Antipas and he wonders whether Jesus is John the Baptist come back to life. Matthew goes on to recount Herod's execution of the Baptist at the behest of his wife Herodias.


"Unbelief begets not only misunderstanding, but also violent opposition to Jesus and those on his side", D&A.


i] Context: See 13:53-58.


ii] Background: The historical accuracy of this event is open to some dispute given that the Jewish historian Josephus gives a somewhat different account, particularly noting that the reason Herod had John executed is that he was worried his popularity could prompt rebellion. Of course, Josephus comes at the issue from a political point of view, given that he is detailing the reasons for the war between Herod Antipas and the Nabatean king Aretas over the insult shown Herod's first wife, the daughter of king Aretas, when she was set aside for Herodias. There is also a problem with the reference "his brother Philip's wife." Herod's brother, Philip the tetrarch (cf., Lk.3:1), was actually married to Salome, the daughter of Herodias. The Philip that was married to Herodias was Antipas' half brother known as Herod Philip. The issue that fired up John was not that nieces were marrying uncles, nor the issue of divorce, but that Antipas married his brother's wife while his brother was still alive, Lev.18:16, 20:21.


iii] Structure: Herod and Jesus:

Herod's opinion of Jesus, v1-2;

The arrest and imprisonment of the Baptist, v3-5;

The execution of the Baptist, v6-12.


iv] Interpretation:

Herod Antipas, who governed Galilee and Peraea under Roman authority, has noted that Jesus has taken over the preaching ministry of John the Baptist. Not only is Jesus a powerful preacher like John, but with his preaching he performs miraculous signs. For this reason Herod thinks that Jesus may well be the Baptist risen from the dead. Herod had been responsible for the arrest of the Baptist at the cajoling of his wife Herodias, the former wife of his half brother Herod Philip, the uncle of Herodias. John had obviously had a few things to say about Herod's matrimonial situation. The people held John to be a prophet so Herod was loath to put him to death, but a foolish promise to Salome, the daughter of Herodias and Herod Philip, changed all that. The promise "to give her whatever she asked", followed a dance performed by Salome at a dinner in honor of Herod. Salome, following the instruction of Herodias, asked for the Baptist's head on a platter. The presence of dinner guests placed Herod in an awkward situation and so he honored the promise and Herodias had her way.

Within Matthew's context of the gospel at work, this story serves as a paradigm for the gospel's confrontation with the world today. The murder of John foreshadows the murder of Jesus and in years to come, the murder of many of his disciples, the thousands martyred in Jesus' name. "As Jesus was soon to follow in John's path, so are his disciples also to be prepared for death", Hagner. As Herod was stirred into action by the preaching of the Baptist, so today there will be those stirred toward murderous intent at the preaching of the gospel. We will want to grieve for those set upon by godless secularism or religious zealotry, but in truth, we should grieve for their persecutors, for it is they who are dead; as Luke reminds us Herod "was eaten by worms and died", Acts 12:23.


v] Synoptics:

Matthew's account agrees with Mark, but is abbreviated. Luke separates Herod's opinion of Jesus and the account of John's arrest and murder, giving only a summary of the Baptist's murder.

Text - 14:1

Jesus and the death of John the Baptist, v1-12: i] Herod's opinion of Jesus, v1-2.

en + dat. "at [that time]" - in [that time]. Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV.

oJ tetraarchV (ou) "[Herod] the tetrarch" - [herod] ruler of a quarter. Standing in apposition to "Herod". The ruler of one part of a territory which has been divided into four parts. The term virtually became synonymous with "king", a title not allowed by Rome.

Ihsou (oV) gen. "about Jesus" - [heard the report] of jesus. The genitive is adjectival, verbal, objective, as NIV.


toiV paisin (eiV odoV) dat. "to [his] attendants" - [and he said] to the slaves [of him]. Dative of indirect object.

oJ baptishhV (hV ou) "[John] the Baptist" - [this one is john] the baptist. Nominative noun standing in apposition to "John".

hgerqh (egeirw) aor. pas. "he has risen" - Passive, probably divine / theological; God does the raising. "He has been raised from the dead", ESV. Possibly figurative, ie., as Elisha has a "double share" of Elijah's spirit, so Jesus has a "double share" of John's spirit. For Herod, Jesus is John's altar ego, cf., D&A, + note: Origin held that "Jesus and John were similar in outward appearance."

apo + gen. "from [the dead]" - Expressing separation; "away from"

dia touto "that is why" - [and] because of this. Rather than causal, this construction is inferential, as NIV.

ai dunameiV (iV ewV) "miraculous powers" - the powers. Nominative subject of the verb "to work." The fact that these powers are working en, "in", him indicates that the word is not being used of miracles as such, but of the powers (spiritual, mysterious, powerful) possessed by Jesus. This power is usually taken to be "miraculous powers", as NIV, the power to do miracles. The presence of the article may specify "miracles of which Herod had been hearing", Morris. Yet, it seems more likely that the reference is to supernatural power as such, inspirational power as much as miraculous power. The inspirational power which was evident in John is now evident in Jesus. A similar sense is possible in 13:54 where again we have an articular "powers" linked to "wisdom" in a situation where Jesus does not do "many" dunameiV (anarthrous), "powers" = miracles. The power of the gospel is evident in inspirational words and miraculous signs, and it is these powers "in" Jesus which Herod has become aware of.

en + dat. "in [him]" - [are working] in him. Local, sphere. "This is why he possesses these wondrous powers."


ii] The arrest and imprisonment of John the Baptist, v3-5.

gar "now" - for. Here possibly causal, "Herod thought this because he had arrested John ...", Barclay, but also possibly just as a stitching device / connective, here logical, "Herod had earlier arrested John ....", CEV.

krathsaV (kratew) aor. part. "[Herod] had arrested [John]" - [herod] having taken hold of [john, bound him and put away in prison]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to bind"; "Herod had arrested John, bound him in chains and sent him in prison to placate Herodias", Peterson. There is no mention of chains, but it is likely that they were used.

dia acc. "because of [Herodias]" - Causal; "all on account of Herodias", Cassirer.

Filippou (oV) gen. "Philip's [wife]" - [the wife] of philip [the brother of him]. The genitive is adjectival, relational. The whole business is prompted by the urging of Herod Antipas' consort, Herodias, the granddaughter of Herod the Great, who was the former wife of his half brother Herod Philip - all somewhat incestuous.


gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Herod had arrested John.

elegen (legw) imperf. "had been saying" - [john] was saying. The imperfect here is usually taken as iterative, expressing repeated action, although speech is durative by nature.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - Dative of indirect object.

soi dat. pro. "for you" - [to have her is not right, permissible, possible = lawful] to you. Dative of interest, "for you", or reference / respect.

ecein (ecw) pres. inf. "to have" - "Have" in the sense of "marry". The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb "to be right"; "to have here is not right for you" = "John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias as 'adultery'", Peterson. Levitical law condemns the marriage of the wife of a brother who is still alive, Lev.18:16, 20:21 - the law "considered it to be a form of incest within the family", Nolland.


qelwn (qelw) "Herod wanted" - wanting, desiring. The participle is adverbial, best taken as concessive; "though he wanted to put him to death", ESV.

apokteinai (apokteinw) "to kill [John]" - to kill [him]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Herod wants.

oJti "because" - [he was afraid of the crowd] because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why he was afraid of the crowd. He was afraid of the political consequences, although note Mark's account where Herod is less malevolent - with Mark, Herod fears John; with Matthew, Herod fears the crowd.

eicon (ecw) imperf. "they considered" - they had [him]. The imperfect, being durative, expresses an ongoing action, with the sense here "to consider, view, look upon, regard."

wJV "-" - as [a prophet]. The sense of the particle here serves to express a characteristic quality of John, cf., BAGD III. John is not like a prophet, he is a prophet, as NIV.


iii] The execution of John the Baptist, v6-12. Unlike Mark, Matthew deals with the bare essentials of the story, moving quickly to the consequences, namely, Jesus' withdrawal into the countryside, and large crowds coming out to meet with him there, v13.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional; indicating a step in the narrative.

tou Hrw/dou (hV ou) gen. "[on] Herod's [birthday]" - [at/on birthday] of herod. The genitive is possessive; identifying possession of a derivative characteristic.

genomenoiV (ginomai) dat. pres. part. "-" - having come. The participle may be classified as a dative absolute of time. Although the genitive would be expected, the temporal dative of definite time dominates, so "on the occasion of Herod's birthday celebrations", Barclay, rather than "when Herod's birthday came", ESV. Olmstead notes that adverbial participles are usually nominative and so it is more likely that the participle here is adjectival, attributive, limiting while agreeing with the dative (dative of time) noun "birthday"; "at the birthday celebration that had come." "Birthday" = "birthday celebrations." Possibly a celebration for the date of Herod's accession, although birth date is the natural reading.

HJrwdiadoV (aV adoV) gen. "[the daughter] of Herodias" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

en + dat. "for them / for the guests" - [danced] in [the midst of them]. "Local, expressing space / sphere; "in the middle of the gathered guests", possibly with the sense "before the gathered guests", extending to "for the gathered guests." Setting aside the nuance of the phrase, the dance was public. Some have questioned whether a princess would dance in public, especially a provocative dance, but the Herodians were no wall flowers.

HJrwdh/ (hV ou) dat. "[pleased] Herod [so much]" - [and it pleased] herod. Dative of direct object after the verb "to please."


oJqen "that" - therefore. Here inferential, rather than local, drawing a logical conclusion; "whereupon he promised with an oath", Moffatt.

meq (meta) + gen. "with [an oath]" - Expressing association; "along with an oath". Possibly adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the oath's giving / attendant circumstance, but possibly even instrumental, expressing means, "by means of an oath."

dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "to give" - [he promised] to give. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Herod promised.

auth/ dat. pro. "her" - to her. Dative of direct object after the verb "to give."

oJ ean + subj. "whatever" - whatever [she may ask]. The construction may be classified as introducing an indefinite relative clause, although syntactically it is the protasis of a relative conditional clause 3rd. class; "whatever, as the case may be, she may ask, then he promised with an oath to give her." Mark specifies "up to half of my kingdom", but the promise is really a throwaway line which under normal circumstances would not be acted upon - not if you wanted to keep your head. Herod, though, has momentarily forgotten that mother is standing in the wings. It is interesting though, that when Antipas is banished by the Romans after his tiff with King Aretas, Herodias went voluntarily into exile with him - loyalty?


hJ de "-" - and/but she. Transitional, a construction common in narration; "and she, at the instigation of her mother, said ..", Moffatt.

probibasqeisa (probibazw) aor. pas. part. "prompted" - having been leaned forward on = urged, persuaded / instructed, commanded. Hapax legomenon, once only used in the NT, so the meaning is unclear; D&A suggest "now she, being instructed by her mother, said ..", assuming that Salome is not yet of age. The participle is adverbial, best taken as causal; "and she, because she was urged / instructed by her mother, said ..."

uJpo "by" - by [the mother of her]. Here expressing ultimate agency.

moi dat. pro. "[give] me [she said]" - [give here on a platter the head of john the baptist] to me [she said]. Dative of indirect object.

w|de adv. "here" - Adverb of place.

epi + dat. "on [a platter]" - Spacial; "on, upon, down upon."

Iwannou (hV ou) gen. "of John [the Baptist]" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive (obviously!!).


luphqeiV (lupew) aor. pas. part. "[the king] was distressed" - [and the king] having been grieved, pained, vexed. The participle is adverbial, best taken as concessive; "although the king was aghast, yet because of the oath and the guests, he ordered .."

dia + acc. "because" - because of [the oath]. Causal; "because of, on account of the oaths."

kai "and" - and [the ones reclined at table]. Probably adjunctive here; "bearing in mind the oath he had sworn, as well as the guests reclining with him at table", Cassirer. Herod is caught in a double whammy - a foolish promise and a loss of face before his guests.

doqhnai (didwmi) aor. pas. inf. "[he ordered] that her request be granted" - [he commanded it] to be given. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what he commanded, namely that "she be given what she had asked", Phillips.


pemyaV (pempw) aor. part. "-" - [and] having sent [he beheaded john in prison]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he beheaded"; "he sent and beheaded John in prison."

en + dat. "in [prison]" - Local, space.


tw/ korasiw/ (ov) dat. "to the girl" - [and the head of him was brought upon a plate and it was given] to the girl [and she gave it to the mother of her]. Dative of indirect object. The noun is used of a girl around the age of puberty.


proselqonteV (prosercomai) aor. part. "came [and took]" - [and the disciples of him] having come toward, [they took up the corpse and buried it]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verbs "to take up" and "to bury." The verb "to come to" is used here instead of ercomai, "to come" - nothing more than a stylistic flair, so as NIV.

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "then they came [and told]" - having come [they told, reported it]. Attendant circumstance participle, "they came and said", or adverbial, temporal, as NIV.

tw/ Ihsou (ouV ou) "Jesus" - to Jesus. Dative of indirect object.


akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "when Jesus heard what had happened" - [and] having heard [jesus withdrew from there in a boat into a desolate place by himself and the crowds having heard followed him by land from the cities]. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. The NIV has a stab at what Jesus has heard. Verses 3-12 is virtually a parenthesis which would mean that v13 takes up from v2, so Jesus hears that not only has Herod murdered John, but he is aware of the gospel ministry of Jesus and has aligned it with John. This being the case, Jesus anecwrhsen, "withdraws", ekeiqen, "from there", kat idian, "privately" - well away from the murderous reach of Herod.


Matthew Introduction


[Pumpkin Cottage]