29 August 2013Matthew 14:1-12
“The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it (the head of John, the Baptist) to be given;(so) he sent and had John beheaded in the prison.” (vv. 9-10)
Power, sex and violence feature heavily in the media as sources of both news and entertainment. This is nothing new. The story of Herod and John the Baptist, contains all three and shows how dangerous it can be when powerful people put themselves above the law and then justify their actions by eliminating their enemies.
Herod, the local ruler of Galilee, had seduced his sister-in-law Herodias and divorced his own wife in order to marry her. This had broken two Jewish laws - no divorce without good reason and marriages between in-laws being strictly forbidden.
John, an outspoken and truthful prophet, had challenged the situation and Herod had thrown him in jail to silence him. But Herodias wanted real revenge and set her daughter to the task of achieving her aim. What happened next may prove a little too seductive for those of a gentle disposition.
A swish of silken skirt and swaying
bright unbound hair and darkened dazzling eyes;
bejewelled dress revealing, then concealing;
devices all designed to mesmerise.
The music slowed, the dance grew yet
the guests were captivated by the sight.
Her body twisted, turned, invited, beckoned;
intended moves to set desire alight.
The daughter danced, Herodias stood,
while Herod sat, entranced by what he saw.
As wine was drunk, his guests roared their approval
and Herod raised his cup and asked for more.
The dance and music grew to a
and for a moment all the room was still,
but as the guests applauded the performance
Herod prepared to taste a bitter pill.
Inflamed, excited, he poured out his
Whatever this girl wanted, he would give.
Herodias had triumphed with her evil
and John the Baptist would no longer live.
The dish, now brought with severed
head, was shocking,
a sacrificial ending to the night
Her daring dance had woven death within it.
Revenge disguised behind that sensuous sight.
© Marjorie Dobson
Remember the quotation, "Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely"? John was martyred for speaking the truth. Today, execution is an extreme option, but the truth can still be silenced - and is.
- What parallels to this story can you identify today?
- Is revenge ever justifiable? Why? Or why not?