For previously Herod had arrested John and had him bound and put in prison, all on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to him, “It is not right for you to have this woman.” Herod wanted to kill him for this, but he was afraid of the people, since they all thought John was a prophet. But during Herod’s birthday celebrations Herodias’ daughter delighted him by dancing before his guests, so much so that he swore to give her anything she liked to ask. And she, prompted by her mother, said, “I want you to give me, here and now, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist!” Herod was aghast at this, but because he had sworn in front of his guests, he gave orders that she should be given what she had asked. So he sent men and had John beheaded in the prison. Then his head was carried in on a dish and presented to the young girl who handed it to her mother.
But at his birthday celebration, he got his chance. Herodias’s daughter provided the entertainment, dancing for the guests. She swept Herod away. In his drunken enthusiasm, he promised her on oath anything she wanted. Already coached by her mother, she was ready: “Give me, served up on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer.” That sobered the king up fast. Unwilling to lose face with his guests, he did it—ordered John’s head cut off and presented to the girl on a platter. She in turn gave it to her mother. Later, John’s disciples got the body, gave it a reverent burial, and reported to Jesus.
Herod still thought it unwise to kill John, but because he had made such a show of his promise—because he had actually sworn an oath and because the scene was playing out in front of the watchful eyes of so many guests—Herod felt bound to give his stepdaughter what she wanted.
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