Matt 14:1-12 The Death of John the Baptist CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In this lesson we learn about the death of John the Baptist. We see by whom, why and how John the Baptist was martyred. We will also see that his death foreshadows the death of the two witnesses in Rev 11, thus giving us a clue what nation is going to be involved in their killing.
The man who ordered the death of John the Baptist was Herod, v. 1. According to Lk 3:1 Herod was the tetrarch of Galilee. A tetrarch was a Roman governor of the fourth part of a province. The four governors over this province were Pontius Pilate, governor of Judaea; Herod, who was also a king [Mk 6:14], tetrarch of Galilee; Philip, tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitus; and Lysanias, tetrarch of Abilene.
In v. 2, Herod thought that because Jesus was doing such mighty works he was John the Baptist raised from the dead. Others thought he was Elijah or a prophet [Mk 6:14-16] and still others thought that he was one of the old prophets raised again [Lk 9:8]. It seems strange that Herod should believe that John could have risen from the dead when Jesus’ own disciples had such a hard time believing this doctrine [Mk 9:10; Jn 20:9]. Of course, Jesus expected the Jews to believe in the resurrection from the dead [Mk 12:25-27] and demonstrated the doctrine when he raised Lazarus [Jn 12:1].
In vs. 3-4, Herod imprisoned John for his wife’s sake. John had told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have her. There are several laws that covered this sin. The main one is Lev 18:16 which forbad Herod to marry her because she was the wife of his brother, Philip. However, this was not the only thing John preached against [Lk 3:19].
In v. 5, Herod would have killed John earlier but he was afraid of the multitude, because they regarded John as a prophet [Matt 11:9]. It’s this same fear that caused the Pharisees to refuse to answer Jesus in Matt 21:26. Evidently, the idea to kill him wasn’t Herod’s, though, because he feared him and heard him gladly [Mk 6:20]. The pressure to kill him came from Herodias [Mk 6:19]. In this she was just like Jezebel [1 Ki 21:7-14; 19:2].
In vs. 6-8, Herodias’ daughter danced a sensual dance at Herod’s birthday party and he rewarded her with the promise to grant any request that she had. So, she asked her mother for what she should ask and she instructed her to ask for John the Baptist’s head in a charger (a large dish that is like a bowl) [Mk 6:22-25].
In vs. 9-12, Herod was exceedingly sorry [Mk 6:26] for her request, but because he promised her in front of his guests, he went ahead and commanded John to be killed. He sent an executioner into the prison who beheaded John, brought his head in a charger and gave it to the girl who gave it to Herodias. Following John’s death, his disciples came and buried his body in a tomb [Mk 6:27-29].
Now there are some prophetic things to note from this lesson. The two witnesses in Rev 11 are going to be beheaded [Rev 11:7-9; 20:4]. There’s going to be a party celebration at the time of their death [Rev 11:10]. They are going to rise, like Herod had suspected John had risen [Rev 11:11-12]. A woman is going to be involved [Rev 17:3-6]. And, no doubt, Rome is going to be involved in this murder, too [Rev 17:18; Dan 2:36-45]. Oddly, Pharaoh, the Egyptian king, executed a man at the only other birthday party in the Bible [Gen 40:20-23].