You remember John the Baptist who preached repentance and baptized, preparing the people for the Lord. He was strong and brave, and said what he knew to be right and true whether it pleased people or not. In this way he had displeased Herod, and especially Herodias, Herod's wife; for they had done evil and John told them so. This Herod was the son of Herod the Great who was the king at Jerusalem when the Lord was born. After his father's death this Herod ruled over Galilee and a district east of Jordan. Herod was afraid of John, for so many of the people believed in him and followed him. So he took him and shut him up in prison at Machaerus.
Machaerus was a great fortress on a very steep hill east of the Dead Sea. The hill was so steep that no one could climb it except on one side, and there only by a bridle path, so it was a fine place for a fort. From the top was a grand view of the country on both sides of the Jordan River. It is believed that there was not only the fort on top with its many dungeons, but at the western end of the ridge a magnificent palace where Herod spent much of his time.
Herod had protected John from the hatred of his wife Herodias who would have had him killed long ago if she could. But one day King Herod made a great feast in his palace, and the daughter of Herodias (her name was Salome) came in while they were sitting at the table, and danced before them, and Herod and his friends were greatly pleased; and Herod made her a grand promise before them all, that he would give her anything she would ask, even if it were half his kingdom. Salome well knew that Herod could not give away even the smallest village; all his "kingdom" belonged to the great Roman Emperor. So she went to her mother Herodias to ask what she should say, and she told her to ask that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a charger or large dish. Herod was very sorry when he heard this; for there were many reasons why he did not want to kill John. But he was a coward, and because he had made the promise before all the people he was ashamed to refuse, so he sent an executioner and had the head of John brought to Salome and she took it to her mother.
The disciples of John came and buried his body in a tomb, and very sorrowful they must have been at this sad ending of the life on earth of their great master. Herod knew that it was a wicked thing to do, and besides that he was afraid of John whom he knew to be a great and
brave man; so when after a time he heard of all the wonderful things that the Lord was doing and had sent out His disciples to do, Herod was greatly afraid, and thought it was John who had risen and had this great power.
The Lord had been going round about the villages, teaching; and the apostles had been sent two and two through the towns of Galilee.
"And king Herod heard of Him." This was not the Herod who was king of Jerusalem when the Lord was born, for you know he died soon afterwards. This was a son of the old Herod, called Herod Antipas. He was ruler of Galilee, which was the northern part of the land of Canaan, and of the Peraea, which was the country east of the Jordan and south of the Sea of Galilee. (Luke 3:1) Herod was building the city of Tiberias (can you think why he called it Tiberias?) in a pleasant place by the shore of the Sea of Galilee, near to the hot springs. It was not far from the plain of Gennesaret and Capernaum.
News of the Lord and of what He was doing and teaching would be sure to reach Tiberias. Would Herod be ready to believe in the Lord, and repent? How was it with the old Herod in Jerusalem? And how was it with this Herod when he heard John the Baptist's teaching? At first, we are told, he was glad to hear John, but when John plainly pointed out Herod's sins, he shut him up in prison; and by and by on his birthday, to please his wicked wife, he caused John to be killed. We do not think of this at Tiberias, but at Machaerus, a fortress city of Herod's on the mountains east of the northern part of the Dead Sea, where the ruins of an old palace and prison cells can still be seen. Herod had done this to John the Baptist. Would he believe in the Lord and obey Him, if he should see Him? When by and by he did see Him, the Lord did not speak, nor show Him any sign of power. (Luke 23:6-12)
1. Who was king in Jerusalem when the Lord was born? Who was ruler in Galilee when the Lord's home was there?
2. What did John the Baptist teach? What did Herod do to John?
3. Did Herod ever hear of the Lord? Did he ever see Him?
4. What did the Lord call Herod?
What did the Lord once call Herod? And what does it tell us of his character? (Luke 13:32) A good king is a type of truth ruling in the life. Herod is a type of falsity and deceit seeking to justify an evil life. What is the relation of such falsity to the Divine truth of right and wrong for which John the Baptist stands? If it cares for it at all, it is only for appearance' sake. It was Herod's wicked wife who urged him to do violence to John. She stands for the evil which the falsity seeks to justify. The daughter of Herodias who charmed the king by her dancing represents the abandonment to evil pleasure which leads to disregard for even the appearance of regard for truth. Evil pleasure and its excuses reject the Lord's truth. John is killed on Herod's birthday. This false deceit which rejects the Lord's law can have no understanding of the Lord Himself. Herod was perplexed at hearing of the Lord. (P. 114)