41 – Death of The Baptist

When: Spring, 29 AD
Where: Machaerus, Perea
Mark, Matthew, Luke,

Other, Thoughts,

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Back in May of 28 AD, Antipas had the Baptist arrested because he was too popular with the people, and because his new wife Herodias, recently separated from Herod’s brother Philip, strenuously objected to the way the Baptist railed against their “marriage”. He had been sent to the fortress of Machaerus on the east side of the Dead Sea where he had been a prisoner for almost a year. Herodias wanted him dead, but Antipas feared the people, thought that the Baptist might be a holy man, and was hungry for information about the coming Kingdom.

Herodias had one daughter, Salome, who had been born around the year 20 AD to Herodias and Philip. But Herodias had “divorced” Philip around 25 AD and moved in with Antipas. In 27 AD they “married”. Antipas was in his late 40’s while Herodias was in her early 40’s. This relationship was totally wrong by Jewish standards (Herodias was not legally “divorced” from Philip) and the Baptist had been constantly condemning it.

As winter approached Antipas moved himself and his friends down to his winter retreat in the fortress Machaerus. In March, before Antipas moved again up to Tiberias, Herodias decided to throw a birthday party for him. And she invited a number of “friends”.

All the folks were eating, drinking, and being entertained, when Antipas’ cute eight-year old stepdaughter came into the room. While she was waiting to deliver her message, Antipas noticed that Salome was swaying to the sound of the music. He asked her if she could dance.

‘Sure,’ she said, ‘I’ve been practicing.’

Then he had an idea. Antipas quickly asked Salome, ‘will you dance for us?’

‘I don’t know. Maybe I should ask my mother,’ she responded shyly.

To sweeten the offer, and to not have to deal with Herodias, Antipas said, ‘I’ll give you what ever you want if you will dance now. Even half my kingdom like the king offered to Esther.’

‘Well, I guess it would be OK,’ she said.

For the next few minutes she did some pretty fancy steps for an 8 year old, and when she was done everyone was smiling, clapping and laughing. What an enchanting child. Then he called her over and took her hand. ‘What would you like for your reward?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said.

‘How about a shopping trip to Jerusalem?’ he offered.

‘I’ll have to ask my mother,’ she said.

‘You go ask her for a shopping trip,’ he said. And off she went.

When she returned she had a strange, serious, look on her face. ‘Salome. Have you decided what you would like?’ Antipas asked.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I want the head of the Baptist on a platter,’ she recited.

Antipas knew how much Herodias hated the Baptist but this was quite unexpected. He was trapped. An oath is an oath.

So the Baptist was beheaded, and later Antipas would spread the story that he had the Baptist put to death for raising a rebellion (he sounded more decisive that way).

But John’s disciples were given the body to bury. They laid it in a tomb, and then some of them went north to find Jesus.

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