Mark 6:14-29 - Off with her head!
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
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King Herod heard of Jesus and his disciples, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”
For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.
This is the Gospel selection to be read aloud on the seventh Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 10], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will be preceded by one of two optional pairings of Old Testament and Psalm readings, with one focused on David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the City of David and one focused on Yahweh sending Amos to prophesy to the false prophet Amaziah and the new break-away king Jeroboam, head of the new Northern Kingdom. The song of praise support those themes. The Epistle reading that will precede this Gospel reading comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he wrote about the values of an apostle, writing: “In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will.”
I wrote about this reading in 2018 and posted it on this website. You can read it by clicking on this link. I encourage you to read it and offer your opinions and questions. The same reading now was the reading then, so everything I wrote then still applies today. However, now I want to take a different angle on this reading.
Because I have seen the story in Second Samuel, of David and the ark, as a marriage celebration symbolic of Yahweh being joined with the earth, at the place guarding the gate to Eden, this theme of marriage is all centered on the release of a soul at the time of death. Likewise, the track 2 option of Amos being chosen by Yahweh to take the message of pending doom, due to the divorce breaking in two what had married Israel and Judah under David, becomes focus placed on an end known to come. Therefore, the death of John the Baptist is echoing the promise begun by David’s early actions as king over the united lands of Israel, which is through spiritual marriage eternal life defeats physical death, when the soul is released from the body.
The first part of this reading explains that Jesus was making a name for himself, such that the name that used to be spreading was that of his cousin, John. Because the people are always mingled with ‘secret police,’ the rumors and scuttlebutt will always be made known to the powers that be. Back then, one power was Herod Antipas, one of the sons of Herod the Great, who reigned over Galilee and Perea.
The word passed on to Antipas by his informants is stated in the capitalized specific names “John” and “Elijah.” Those two names are then further expanded through the capitalized use of “Baptizer” and “Prophet.” Thus, the people was saying “Yah Is Gracious, Yah Has Been Gracious” [the meaning of “John”], “Yah is God” [the meaning of the name “Elijah”], “Submerger” [the meaning of “Baptizōn”], and “Interpreter Of Divine Truth” [the meaning of “Prophētēs”]. While all those individual elements were spoken, the conglomerate of them all is the truth that Jesus was the “Graciousness of Yahweh,” who was an extension of “God” on earth, whose presence was “Submerged” within his flesh, married with his soul, made empowered by Yahweh to be an “Interpreter” of the truth held in Scripture for all Jews to know.
After we read that Herod Antipas had heard the reports, but came to the conclusion “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised,” this speaks symbolically that the king believed in the immortality of Yahweh’s graciousness. That says he believed death was not an end on this plane of existence for a soul that had been married to Yahweh. By saying he knew John had been killed, but had been raised, he meant the Spirit of John never died. He believe the Spirit of Yahweh continued and was found in the man named Jesus. Therefore, the part of the reading that leads to this conclusion is a series of statements that the people – all the way up to the king – believed death was not an end, when a soul was married to Yahweh and given eternal life; and, that speaks of David celebrating the marriage of the Spirit and the soul by dancing and celebrating before the ark.
When the story then appears to be a leap back in time to retell the events of John and Antipas, we then find this focus takes one from the promise of belief [not true faith] and the external influences that keep one from living up to one’s beliefs. It becomes a reflection of the things people do that lead them to kill the opportunity to marry Yahweh, with all Christians today becoming reflected in Herod Antipas. Each soul in a body of flesh that professes to be a Christian, but then turns around and does the acts of Antipas, is showing how their souls have refused to marry Yahweh and make His Spirit [the birth of His Son anew with their souls] the King over the nation that is their flesh. They act in self-defeating ways.
First they imprison the graciousness of Yahweh [the meaning of “John”] and keep that from freely expressing the Word of God. John pissed off the wife of Antipas – Herodias – telling the truth about a sin having been committed. It was Antipas who sinned and Herodias was the instrument of sin; so, her opinions against the truth led Antipas to cover up his sins and lock them away in a prison. Placing the truth in a prison is how many Christians know they are sinners, but feel that as long as they hide their sins they can still rule over their lives and do as they please.
The name “Herod” means “Freeman, Wanderer, Fugitive, Trembler, or Coward,” depending on how the root Hebrew is read. The name “Herodias” means “Of The Realm Of Herod,” which says the sin of Antipas that caused him to imprison John was his cowardly response, wanting to remain a freeman who went against the laws of his Judaic claims of heritage and belief. While Herodias reflects one of the external influences of sin in the life of Herod Antipas, the acts he committed must be seen as his own responsibility. Thus, everything that subsequently happened because of a fight against the calls for repentance is the path of waywardness [Wandering] that condemns a soul after death. This then reflects the rejection of marriage to Yahweh and the call of Amos to prophesy before one, saying to repent.
When we read that Herod Antipas “gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee,” his doing that on his birthday made his own self-ego be placed on display for all to see. A marriage of one’s soul to Yahweh demands one’s self-ego be killed, sacrificed into submission to the higher Spirit’s domination. This is the symbolism of John having been killed so Jesus could rise. By throwing his own ‘birthday party’ Herod was presenting himself as a god for all to behold. A "self" equals a "soul," and a "self" is all about "ego" that wants to be known.
The symbolism of the daughter of Herodias dancing for the guests says she reflects a daughter of his realm. She was the daughter of his sinful wife, so she was a daughter of sin that was within his realm, thereby becoming another influence of sin. The symbolism of a “daughter” is as an immature thought coming from within one’s mind. All souls inhabiting bodies of flesh must be seen in the feminine sense, as the flesh is receptive of the Spirit [a masculine essence] that penetrates the flesh and unites with the soul – like sperm piercing an egg. All souls must then be seen as “daughters” to be given away in marriage to Yahweh. To have a “daughter” dance enticingly before Herod [forget about the guests at this point], she represented his own filthy thoughts of sin that became his lusts and desires. In reality, a mature “daughter” would be shown to prospective bridegrooms, in order to give her away in a merger of families that would benefit the father. Since the dance was for Herod’s pleasure, on his special day of recognition, she becomes a reflection of one’s own private lusts and wild imaginations that should be controlled.
In the Greek text of Mark, where he told Peter's story and Peter did not name children specifically [the daughter’s name was Salome, which means “Peace”], there is a mathematical symbol, called a left right arrow, which becomes a statement saying, "if true, then true."
That symbol is placed between a bracketed “this indeed the king” and “said thereupon girl”. The brackets indicate the inner being that was Herod Antipas, which was his true inner self being projected onto the “girl.” That is then the truth being stated as what the inner “king” said that was then a transference “thereupon girl.” That symbol then says Herod would use the daughter of sinful lusts to make him commit to another sin. Thus, what he said was what he wanted the girl to tell him to do, by him telling a “daughter,” “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”
Keep in mind how Americans use a birthday celebration as a day when wishes come true. When we tell our children, “Make a wish and blow out the candle so it will come true,” we are teaching our children to make the light go away, so a desire can be received. In the same way, Herod wanted to be told to do something that would push the envelope to a higher level. He did not know what it was, but he was making a wish that something taken to the edge would bring a new degree of excitement into his soul. He made that wish because his soul knew death and eternal damnation was his future and sin gave his soul the illusion of stimulation.
The promise of a reward, “up to half my kingdom,” says all Herod had to offer was his flesh. That half of his “kingdom” would be left when he died. The other “half” was his soul, which could not be given away. He could have given everything away to Yahweh in marriage, but he protected his soul as his to possess forever.
Because the “daughter” was not a fully mature thought, just a tantalizing idea that something more sinful could grow into full maturity, that inkling needed to merge with an already known sin, which was Herodias – the adulterous wife. That prior suggestion that John be killed for bad-mouthing her, when Herod had been turned aside by Antipas, he had feared Yahweh's punishment for an act of murder. When Herodias told Salome to tell Herod she wanted John killed, that evil influence became a line drawn in the sand that Herod would be forced to cross [as a suggestion, not a command].
The excuse for a mortal sin that would forever condemn the soul of Herod Antipas – the king of nothing after death – was said to be ego-protecting. Because he had made a public promise, he could not suffer the self-caused indignity of going back on his word. He wanted to kill John, but he was too afraid to do so without cause – and John had done nothing other than tell the truth of a law having been broken. This is why the left right arrow is placed where it is, because Herod would become the girl’s command as a wish publicly granted. Salome said what Herod wanted, so he would have an excuse to do greater sins.
The beheading of John is then a parallel to the dividing of Israel into two halves – Israel and Judah. What David had ordered was the truth John had uttered. Both said, “You cannot sin and gain eternal life for a soul. Marriage to Yahweh is the only way; and, that means sacrifice of self-ego.” Amaziah and Jeroboam were just like Herod Antipas. They wanted some daughters to dance before them and tell them what to do, because they wanted lives of sin, not submission to Yahweh. Thus, the head Herod ordered cut off was his own. Jesus being raised from that beheading says John lived on, while Herod’s soul became dead.
As a Gospel selection for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry for Yahweh should be well underway, the lesson of Herod has to be seen as one’s own soul decision having to be made. All of the side characters – the wife to a worldly existence, the daughter of sinful ideas, the dignitaries that all play roles in support of one’s sinful life – they are nothing more than excuses not to marry Yahweh. None of those sidekicks will die for you and save your soul from your sins. Each individual soul is responsible for saving itself [a “self” equals a “soul”]. The longer one goes in life denying that responsibility [which David began when he moved the ark into the Tabernacle in Jerusalem], the closer one comes to soul suicide. One is simply waiting for the idea to consult prior past failures and come up with the new idea that says, “Cut off the head of the beast!” The beast is self-ego; and, it can be cut off through self-sacrifice in marriage to Yahweh, or it can be your own head cut off from the cardinal sin of wanting self to be a king.