|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
14:1-12 The terror and reproach of conscience, which Herod, like other daring offenders, could not shake off, are proofs and warnings of a future judgment, and of future misery to them. But there may be the terror of convictions, where there is not the truth of conversion. When men pretend to favour the gospel, yet live in evil, we must not favour their self-delusion, but must deliver our consciences as John did. The world may call this rudeness and blind zeal. False professors, or timid Christians, may censure it as want of civility; but the most powerful enemies can go no further than the Lord sees good to permit. Herod feared that the putting of John to death might raise a rebellion among the people, which it did not; but he never feared it might stir up his own conscience against him, which it did. Men fear being hanged for what they do not fear being damned for. And times of carnal mirth and jollity are convenient times for carrying on bad designs against God's people. Herod would profusely reward a worthless dance, while imprisonment and death were the recompence of the man of God who sought the salvation of his soul. But there was real malice to John beneath his consent, or else Herod would have found ways to get clear of his promise. When the under shepherds are smitten, the sheep need not be scattered while they have the Great Shepherd to go to. And it is better to be drawn to Christ by want and loss, than not to come to him at all.
Verse 4. - For John said unto him, It is not lawful (οὐκ ἔξεστιν, Matthew 12:2) for thee to have her. Herod Philip being still alive. Bengel remarks, "Causas matrimoniales non possunt plane abdicare theologi." Was he thinking of Luther's unfortunate advice to Philip of Hesse?
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For John said unto him,.... John having heard of this incestuous marriage, went to Herod, and reproved him to his face for it; and, as Luke says, "for all the evils he had done", Luke 3:19 for he was a very wicked man, and guilty of many flagitious crimes: John, in so doing, showed his zeal for holiness, his hatred of sin, his courage and faithfulness in reproving thus freely so great a man; and made it manifest, that he came in the spirit of Elijah: what he said to him was,
it is not lawful for thee to have her, being forbidden, Leviticus 18:16 for though by another law it was right to marry a brother's wife, after his decease, when he left no issue, yet this was not the case here; Philip was now living, and, had he been dead, such a marriage would have been unlawful, because there was issue; she had a daughter, who afterwards is said to dance before Herod; and besides, he himself had another wife, whom he put away; so that his sin was a very aggravated and complicated one: lying with a brother's wife, was one of those sins which, according to the Jewish (h) canons, deserved cutting off, or death by the hand of God. Josephus (i) gives another reason of the imprisonment and death of John, that Herod feared that the people of the Jews, through his means, would be moved to sedition, and revolt from his government; which might be what Herodias suggested to him, or what he gave out himself, to cover the true cause of his proceedings: but the true reason is, what is here given, and is to be confirmed by the testimony of Jewish writers. One of their chronologers (k) delivers the account in these express words:
"Herod Antipater was a very wicked and pernicious man, many of the wise men of Israel he slew with the sword; and he took to wife, his brother Philip's wife, whilst he was living; and because John the high priest (for so through mistake they call him) "reproved him for this"; (see Luke 3:19) he slew him with the sword, with many of the wise men of Israel.''
And, says their historian (l),
"also he, Herod, slew John, because he said unto him, it is forbidden thee to take the wife of Philip, and he slew him; this is that John that practised baptism.''
(h) Misn. Ceritot, c. 1. sect. 1.((i) Antiqu. lsss. 18. c. 6. (k) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2.((l) Joseph. Gorionides, 1. 5. c. 45.
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