Welcome to Week 5 of Wicked Women of the Bible! What did you learn while reading about the evil queen Jezebel last week? She is the ultimate cautionary tale that you don’t want to fight God.
This week we’re finally studying a woman from the New Testament! But, we’re also studying the story that likely brought the most grief to Jesus and His followers during His lifetime on earth — the heinous murder of His cousin John the Baptist.
It’s important to remember how famous and beloved John the Baptist was. According to Luke, his following continued even 60+ years after his death. When speaking with the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders in Luke 20:1-8, Jesus challenged them asking whether or not John’s baptism was from Heaven and they dared not answer it was “of human origin” lest they be stoned by the crowds! Now, that’s popularity!
Among the female characters in God’s Word there are many wicked women, as we are discovering, but Herodias stands out among them as one of the most vile and vicious for her plot to have John the Baptist killed
Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, daughter of Hyrcanus. Her first husband was Philip I, son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, so she married her own uncle, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, whom her mother used to destroy John the Baptist.
Herodias – no matter how much she hated John for condemning her incestuous marriage to her uncle – couldn’t find a way to get rid of him until Herod’s birthday. Then, she pounced.
Here’s a brief summary of her plot:
Herodias knew Herod only too well. He easily succumbed to sensual excitement, and as his birthday drew near her foul design was hatched. On the day when drink freely flowed, Herodias used her own daughter to inflame Herod’s passions. She was willing to sacrifice her child’s modesty in order to bend Herod to her will. Herod was overcome by Salome’s form seen through the flowing flimsy garment she wore, and influenced by the act of the dancing girl took a rash and foolish oath to give her whatever she asked, even to half of his kingdom. Approaching her mother, Salome said, “What shall I ask?” Without hesitation Herodias, the female hyena, replied, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist.” (All the Women of the Bible, Zondervan)
Can you imagine the grief of Jesus, and all of those who were disciples of John the Baptist, and those who followed Jesus? Their dear friend dead at the hands of foolish Herod Antipas who offered half his kingdom for a sexy dance from his step-daughter, Salome! What a tragedy!
What is beautiful and redeeming about this story is that even though John’s life ended in such a sneaky, frivolous, and ugly way, we can have no doubt that he entered Glory hearing, “Well done!” And, so can we when we choose lives of faith and audacious boldness in the face of wickedness for the sake of the Gospel.
This week for your personal or group study:
- Read Chapter 18 of Wicked Women of the Bible on Herodias and Salome (pages 171-178)
- Read their story in Matthew 14:3-12, Mark 6:14-29, Luke 3:19-20, Luke 9:7-9.
- Enjoy watching the video for Week 5 — provided above.
- Both Herod and Herodias would have had some exposure to John’s preaching with its emphasis on repentance. He may even have spoke to them about Jesus. What has been your own experience of the connection between repentance and new life?
- What might have prevented Herodias from turning toward God and away from her sins? What prevents you from doing the same?
- Why is power so often such a corrupting force even among good people? How have you handled power, whether on a large or small scale, in your own life?
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Has God ever called you to speak uncomfortable truths to people of influence? How did you respond? How did they respond? How do you respond when someone criticizes you? We invite you to join the conversation this week on our blog, and stay tuned for next week’s lesson and our final session six.