God’s People, part 194: Herodias

Read Mark 6:14-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife, for this would violate your brother.”  (Leviticus 18:16, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

1024px-Herodias_with_the_Head_of_St._John_the_Baptist_-_Paul_Delaroche_-_Wallraf-Richartz_Museum_-_Cologne_-_Germany_2017Part 194: Herodias. Herodias was a princess. She was the daughter of King Herod’s son, Aristobulus IV who was the heir of King Herod’s kingdom. In fact, Aristobulus IV grew up in Rome and was educated in the household of Caesar Augustus. When he became an adult and returned to Jerusalem with his brother Alexander, the crowds greeted them exuberantly.

Unfortunately for them, their older half-brother, Antipater II, was jealous of them and started informing the king of rumors that the two brothers were plotting against him. After failed attempts of reconciliation with his sons, Aristobulus IV and Alexander, he had them strangled on charges of treason and promoted Antipater II as his co-regent and heir.

Still, Aristobulus’ daughter, Herodias, found favor in her grandfather’s eyes. Herodias was a princess; however, she was no Disney princess. She grew up in a home that only knew conflict. She grew up in a home where no one could trust anyone else. She grew up in a divisive, politically charged home where everyone was vying for control and power.

Following the deaths of her father and her Uncle Alexander, she was engaged and married to her half-uncle Herod II; however, this was opposed by Antipater II. As such, in order to maintain peace, Herod demoted Herod II to second in line. Herod II was eventually dropped out of King Herod’s will altogether because his mother never attempted to stop a plot to poison the king, even though she knew the plot was in action. Fun family, right? This would make for a great reality television show or daytime soap opera.

Herod II and Herodias’ marriage produced a child, named Salome. With that said, the marriage seemed to have produced little more than that. For some reason or another, Herodias eventually divorced Herod II and married his brother, Herod Antipas. One could imagine that Herod II was a dead end with no upward mobility in sight; whereas, Antipas was ruling as the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Given the power-grabbing nature of the Herodian family, it isn’t hard to imagine that is why Herodias divorced Herod II and married Herod Antipas. It was a political move.

Political or not, that move came with some consequences. It certainly would have rubbed devout Jewish people the wrong way. In fact, the Old Testament has some pretty sharp things to say against such marriages. In Leviticus 18:16, the law is written, “Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife, for this would violate your brother.” The fact that Herodias divorced her husband for no apparent reason would have been scandalous enough in the Jewish world; however, the fact that she subsequently married her ex-husband’s brother would have been seen as adultery and in complete defiance of Jewish religious and social law.

With that said, who is going to stand up to the Tetrarch and call him and his wife lecherous adulterers? John the Baptist, that’s who. And boy did he, so much so that Herodias was filled with hatred toward him. While most of the blame seems to be thrust on Herodias in the Gospel accounts, there can be little doubt that Herod Antipas was none the pleased by this prophet’s outbursts. Thus, Antipas had him arrested.

The rest is history. Antipas at some point held a party and hosted some distinguished guests. Herodias knew her husband lusted after his step-daughter, Salome, and she used that knowledge to her own advantage. She talked her daughter into dancing seductively for Antipas in front of all his guests at the party. Again, great family! When it came time for the tetrarch to fulfill his promise to her for dancing, Salome demanded exactly what her mom wanted, the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.

Herodias is a prime example of what happens when we solely view the world as political theater. In that mindset, everyone is a pawn to be used in order to achieve particular ends. Thus, Herodias used her first husband, second husband and even her own daughter to get what she wanted. In our world today, we see more and more of this. Not just at the highest levels, but throughout all social and economic classes.

The challenge for us is to not view the world solely through our political leanings and/or stances. We should not approach our neighbors as a Republican or a Democrat. We should not label ourselves or others as “conservative” or “liberal” or “progressives”. We should view each person as children of God, beloved of God, created in God’s image. No one should be a means to an end, but the end unto themselves. This is what truly honors God, that we treat all of God’s creation with dignity and respect. Let us not fall into the trap that Herodias did, otherwise we might find ourselves perpetuating similar types of evil.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
People should never be used as a means to an end, but should be seen as the end unto themselves.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see all people through your eyes and treat people the way I would like them to treat me. Amen.

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