Summary: Herod


This sermon was hardly needed a decade or two ago, but divorce and remarriage are common nowadays.

I know what it is like to come from a broken home because I have stepparents. I have a stepmother, two kids from my stepmother's side, a stepfather, four kids from his previous marriage, and a half-brother on my mother's remarriage.

Stepfamilies are here to stay. 42% of adults have a steprelationship--either a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. This translates to 95.5 million adults.

The most deadly and poisonous unhealthy stepfamily relationship in the Bible is that of Herod and Herodias. The story began in Mark 6, where Jesus said, "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house" (Mark 6:4, KJV). Within the same chapter an interlude introduced the beheading of the last prophet of the Old Testament John the Baptist was beheaded. The apostles had took up the message of repentance (Mark 6:12), previously identified with John alone (Mark 1:15). The two main characters of Mark 6 are contrasted: a good man versus a wicked family, the faithfulness of John and the feebleness of Herod. They are powerfully opposed to each other, their names occurring seven times each in the chapter. The narrative is not intended as a manual on parenting, but the dynamics of parenting are worthwhile.

How are we to remain faithful in the midst of fierce opposition to our values? What does God require of parents? What kind of children are we raising?

Protect Your Children; Don't Pass Your Problems to Them¡]Mark 6:17-2¡^

17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him. (Mark 6:17-20)

I was less than 5 years old when my parents went through a bitter and sad breakup. She left for overseas with the oldest of the three kids less than seven years old. My father remarried but the new couple lived by themselves, not with us, so we three kids lived with an unhappy grandmother who had to take care of us. We saw our father two or three times a week when he visited and he usually stayed for less than an hour.

My grandmother died when I was 11. With no one to look after us, we were forced to move in with our stepmother, which nobody wanted since she had two kids of her own. The first year went by uneventfully but the reunion was short-lived µ²§ôbut our lives changed, and so did our address, when my older brother uttered these infamous fighting words that made another move necessary. When my stepmother scolded him, he replied defiantly: "You are not my mother!" We literally lived by ourselves for the rest of our teenage years. Many years later, I asked my brother why he said such a stupid thing, he answered, "I was a kid."

On average, couples in stepfamilies have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years (see Hetherington, For Better for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, 2002, p. 165).

Herod and Herodias did not have a good or healthy marriage, which affected the behavior of her daughter. The marriage increased their problems, not decrease them. Socially the arrangement was not acceptable. According to historians, PPT Herod's first wife was the daughter of an Arabian king. Herodias was not only married to Herod's half-brother Philip, she was also the daughter of another half-brother, Aristobulus. (Bible Knowledge Commentary, Mark 6:17-18) Imagine the trouble and headache at family reunion dinners and public ceremonies.

It was a messy situation, a mercurial relationship and a murderous marriage from the start. Their remarriage was complicated by the fact that Herodias already had a daughter Salome, from her first marriage. Salome's name is from historical records, not the biblical text. There was a second and third complication religious and politically. His wife hated the person he liked. Herod imprisoned John because the latter dared to criticize his marriage to his brother's wife (v 17) or sister-in-law as unlawful. Actually John did more than criticize their marriage. He condemned what they did, deeming it as "unlawful," not an accusation a person or even prophet could toss to a supreme leader. John did the unthinkable, crossing cultural barriers in the process. He lambasted Herod the Edomite with the Jewish law that says, "If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother1." (Lev 18:16; Lev 20:21)

Next they had marital problems unsolved. The chapter is charged with atmosphere, because John's rebuke caused Herodias the wife "nursing a grudge" or an entanglement or enecho (v 19), which occurs for the first time in the Bible, which is rare three books into the New Testament. The husband, on the other hand, was a man of emotions in the chapter. Herod had a "love and hate" relationship, more like a "like (v 20) and fear" relationship, with John the Baptist. Verse 20 says he "feared" John, "liked/gladly" or hedeos to listen to him, and was greatly distressed (v 26), another highly charged-emotion. With a busy schedule and an upset wife, can you imagine a person who loved nothing more than to listen to John, the same person who rebuked him, Jew or not? This caused a lot of disharmony, distress and distrust to the family.

Praise Your Children; Don't Put Them on A Pedestal

21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask me for anything you want, and I'll give it to you." 23 And he promised her with an oath, "Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom." (Mark 6:21-23)

One of the most famous and unfortunate case of high-octane modern parenting led to a highly-publicized but unsolved child murder. JonBenet followed her mother's footsteps into beauty pageants. Child contestants such as Jon Benet paraded the catwalk in makeup and elaborate hairstyles, sometimes when they are barely out of diapers. She learned how to walk, gesture and perform as a child beauty queen, who won her first pageant title at the age of four but was found strangled and beaten on Dec. 26, 1996 basement of her Boulder, Colo. home on the morning December 26, 1996.

In his new book The Other Side of Suffering, JonBenet Ramsey's father, John Ramsey, said he regrets putting his daughter in child beauty pageants. From the ABC interview:

"We were so naive. I now believe with all my heart that it's not a good idea to put your child on public display."

Exposure of your child to strangers is never a good thing, especially in a technologically vulnerable world. My wife would never allow me to put a photo of her or her relatives on the internet. How can you treat millions of strangers as your friend?

Salome's dance was unusual, the promise was unwise and the amount is unforgivable. "The opportune time" (eukairos) 21 is translated as "a convenient day" in KJV and "a strategic day" in NASB. Verse 21's "opportune time" (eukairos) is translated as "convenient day" in KJV and "strategic day" in NASB. Eukairos is derived from good (eu) and opportunity (kairos), "kairos" or "opportunity" rather than "chromos" or "time," and not just any opportunity but good (eu) opportunity (kairos). So you can say it was planned, premediated, predetermined, and plotted. Note that Herod did not order Salome's presence; she did it by herself on her own initiative probably with his permission.

Here the narrative goes weird. Did Herod ask his stepchild to dance (orcheomai) for him or did she dance on her own initiative (v 22)? The answer is unimportant, but what was important was that Herod should not allow her stepdaughter to dance for her in front of dinner guests. Who are these guests? They are the high and mighty of society - high officials, military commanders and the leading men of Galilee (v 21). "High officials " (megistanes = megas) and "military commanders" make their debut in the Bible. It was not a fitting occasion. The "military commanders" (chiliarchos ) literally means the commander of a thousand soldiers. High officials are the politicians, military commanders are the army, and the leading men are the prominent citizens. (from Bible Knowledge Commentary) This is not the right platform for children, just as I do not think children should be groomed to appreciate their external beauty and not inner beauty.

We do not know what dance Salome did and how long she performed but the outcome, pleasing even the guests, imply that it was not for fun or out of innocence. The word "please" (aresko) has the idea of exciting emotion (Strong's) and it occurs only in this episode (Matt 14:6) in the Gospels. More indicting on Herod is that the dance routine was designed to please him as well as the dinner guests. Why does a stepdaughter have to dance for a stepfather to please him? Herod violated a basic principle of child raising, which is, what is good for the kid? Adults do what is good for the kid, not the adult. Teaching children to socialize, curry favor is wrong.

The mistake Herod made, besides the promise, was the imperative "ask" (v 22). The clause "I will give" is repeated (vv 22, 23) marks the intent and intensity of the pledge. "Promise" is "swear" in KJV. Swearing is the prerogative of God (Luke 1:73; Acts 2:30; Heb 3:11), not men. Jesus says, "Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.'" (Matt 5:34-37).

What do you do to motivate your child? There is no sure answer but the worst answer is money, the best is merit. The best motivation is toward the positive. A psychologist once told me how a child had difficulty coping as an adult because her father failed to deliver on a promise to give her a pony when she was young. The worst way to motivate a child is making a promise. What is worse than a promise? Worse than making a promise you can't keep.

Other unhealthy habits include giving them the taste of the good life and the high life or the finer things in life.

Prompt Your Children; Don't Provoke Bitter Feelings in Them

24 She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" "The head of John the Baptist," she answered. 25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: "I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John's disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:24-29

A study revealed that i both parents smoked, there was almost a three−fold increase in likelihood their teen would start smoking. Interestingly, if the parent used to smoke, but quit, the adolescent's risk of starting smoking was no higher than if the parent didn't smoke at all.

Ironically, the only other birthday in the Bible, according to form, ended with the death of Pharaoh's baker (Gen 40:20-22). The perversion of love is to kill on one's birthday (Matt 14:6). Matt 14:11 says the girl carried it to her mother.

Herodias taught her child the very thing parents are not supposed to do: hate, violence, and revenge. There is no guessing what kind of adult Salome will imitate. Bizarre as it is, she asked for the head on a platter. It seems to suggest she followed in her mother's cold and calculated ways.

Children being children, they are always eager and desperate to please their parents. Just look at Salome's response -- "At once" (v 25), "hurry," and "right now" tell us how eager she was to fulfill her mother's expectations. The last -- "right now" occurs for the first time in the Bible. The first refers to time, the second to speed.

It is best not to give children everything they want, but to give them what they need. Experts say that giving your child everything they want sets that child up for high levels of frustration, rage, and sadness in later life when life inevitably says "No!"

One of the key words is "give, that occurs five times in the passage" (Mark 6:22, 23, 25, 28, 28) but ten times in the chapter. This is what happens when people give without much thought or standard.

Herodias had made her daughter a monster, with no feelings or thinking. There is no normal childhood for Salome, which includes having family, friend, and fun. There is still an unresolved matter. Why did Herod not say no? Because he had no moral authority to say no. Luke 3:19-20 tells us why Herod could not and did not stop the beheading. Because John rebuked Herod for all the other evil things he had done. Herod was an evil-doer himself, from the worst of all.

Conclusion: Parents, do you give your children a good home, a hope and a healthy environment. Have you take care of the children God gave you? Are they brought up fearing God, respecting people and be loving? How do you motivate them? Do you pray for them? Encourage them to persevere? To achieve the right way?