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Matthew 14:1-12 A Birthday Execution

Birthdays are rarely celebrated in Scripture. There are two birthday celebrations recorded in Scripture. In this study, we will look at the events surrounding the only birthday celebration recorded in the New Testament. 

John the Baptist had been recognized by Yeshua as being the greatest prophet born of a woman. 

John had been sent by YeHoVaH as the voice crying in the wilderness declaring “prepare ye the way of the Lord…” John had declared to the king, the king’s violation of YeHoVaH’s Law that resulted in a desire for the death of the prophet.

This portion of Matthew is a tale of dance, debauchery, and death.

From Matthew 1, to the end of Acts, there are seven Herods mentioned in the Bible. 


1. Herod the Great (King)

Mt 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Herod had 10 wives, 9 sons and 5 daughters.

Herod the great destroyed the entire royal family of Hasmonaeans (Maccabee’s family lineage), put to death many of the Jews that opposed his government, and proceeded to kill even his dearly beloved wife Mariamne of the Hasmonaean line and his two sons she had borne him, his mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle and many others--not to mention the babies in Bethlehem.

2. Herod Archelaus (Tetrarch = Governor)

Mt 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

3. Herod Antipas (Tetrarch = Governor)

4. Herod Phillip ll (Tetrarch = Governor)

Lk 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod (Antipas) being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,

5. Herod Agrippa l (King)

Ac 12:21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 

Ac 12:22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 

Ac 12:23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

6. Herod Agrippa ll (King)

Ac 25:24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.

Herod Phillip 1 

 Herodias 1st husband

Neither tetrarch nor king

Mt 14:1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, 


Tetrarch –5076 τετράρχης tetrarches {tet-rar'-khace} 

Meaning:  1) a tetrarch 1a) a governor of the fourth part of a region. 

Usage:  AV - tetrarch 4; 4

Herod surnamed "Antipas", was the son of Herod the Great and Malthace, a Samaritan woman. After the death of his father, he was appointed by the Romans tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea. His first wife was the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia; but he subsequently repudiated her and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip; and in consequence Aretas, his father-in-law, made war against him and conquered him. 

Mt 14:2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. 

Chapter 14 opens with the narrative that John has already been beheaded, but the events surrounding his beheading is about to be told later in this Chapter, proving again that the narrative is not in chronological order.

According to Luke 9, John was beheaded between the time Yeshua called the 12 disciples and sent them out, and before they returned. 

Lk 9:6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where. 

Lk 9:7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; 

Lk 9:8 And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. 

Lk 9:9 And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him. 

Lk 9:10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 

This chronology would place John’s beheading around Matthew Chapter 11, and it appears Yeshua eulogized John.

In the teaching, Matthew 11:1-19-The Prophets and the Law,  on slide 32, I alluded to John's eulogy, but I did not elaborate because I was waiting for this teaching.

Mt 14:3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 

John’s imprisonment, mentioned in Matthew 14:3, occurred in Matthew Chapter 4:12.

Mt 4:12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; 

Mt 4:13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 

Mt 14:4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 

Mt 14:5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. 

People sometimes do and say foolish things on their birthday. In this case, Herod committed himself to something that forced him to overcome his fear of the multitude who counted John as a prophet. 

Mt 14:6 But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 

The argument of most  anti-abortionists is that life begins at conception. 

Does life begin the day you are born or does life begin at conception?

Since life begins at conception, if carried full term, the day the child actually enters into this world they are already 9 months old. Therefore, on their first birthday, as the parents celebrate them being 1 year old, technically it is inaccurate, they are actually 3 months shy of being 2 years old. Something to ponder…

The born-again process is an ongoing process in our lives.

The daughter of Herodias was Herod’s niece, the daughter of his brother Phillip. According to Josephus, her name was Salome. She later married her granduncle, the other Philip (son of Herod the Great), who ruled the northern territories.

At this time, Salome was a young woman of marriageable age. Her dance was unquestionably lascivious, and the performance pleased both Herod and his guests. Herod was inspired to give her up to half his kingdom, not knowing her request would cause him to execute a righteous, holy man!

Mk 6:20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 

Mk 6:21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 

Mk 6:22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 

Mk 6:23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 

Mk 6:24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. 

Mk 6:25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 

Mk 6:26 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. Mk 6:27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, Mk 6:28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.

Mt 14:7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 

Mt 14:8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. 

Mt 14:9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 

Matthew refers to Herod as king in this verse.

Sorry – 3076 λυπέω lupeo {loo-peh'-o} 

Meaning:  1) to make sorrowful 2) to affect with sadness, cause grief, to throw into sorrow 3) to grieve, offend 4) to make one uneasy, cause him a scruple 

Usage:  AV - be sorrowful 6, grieve 6, make sorry 6, be sorry 3, sorrow 3, cause grief 1, be in heaviness 1; 26

On a day of celebration, Herod is sorrowful. A birthday celebration turns into an execution of a righteous and holy man, the great prophet, John the Baptist! 

Mt 14:10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 

Mt 14:11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 

Mt 14:12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. 

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