|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 5. - And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude (cf. Luke 20:6). Mark has, "And Herodias set herself against him, and would have put him to death; and she could not; for Herod feared John." The more detailed account in Mark is doubtless the more exact. Perhaps the facts of the case were that, in the first heat of his resentment, Herod wished to kill John, but feared the anger of the people, and that afterwards, when he him in his power and Herodias still urged his death, Herod had himself learned to respect him. Observe
(1) that it is quite impossible to suppose that either evangelist had the words of the other in front of him. The difference does not consist merely of addition or explanation;
(2) that these are exactly the kind of verbal coincidences which might be expected to be found in two oral traditions starting from a common basis. For they counted him as a prophet (ὡς προφήτην αὐτὸν εϊχον); so Matthew 21:26 (cf. Matthew 21:46; Mark 11:32; Philippians 2:29).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And when he would have put him to death,.... As soon as he apprehended him, and put him into prison; being provoked by his reproving him, and being stirred up by Herodias, who was greatly incensed and enraged, and would have killed him herself, but could not, being hindered by Herod: who, though he had a good will and strong inclination to take away his life, yet what with fearing the terror of his own conscience, and the reverence and respect he had for John, as a good man; and especially for the reason here given, he did not do it, for
he feared the multitude: not God, but the multitude; and these, not only the large number of people that attended on John's ministry, and were baptized by him, and became his disciples, but the generality of the people, the whole body of the Jewish nation. So God is pleased oftentimes to restrain the wickedness of princes, by the fear of their subjects:
because they counted him as a prophet; a holy good man, and who was sent of God; they respected him as such, believing him to be a true and real prophet, and treated him with honour and reverence, suitable to his character; wherefore Herod was afraid, should he take away his life, that the people would mutiny, rise up against him, and revolt from him. In what esteem John was with the people of the Jews in general, may be learned from the character Josephus gives of him, as a good man; who stirred up the Jews to the practice of virtue, especially piety and justice; which made the common people fond of him and his doctrine; and who were of opinion, that the defeat of Herod's army, which followed the death of John, was a just judgment of God upon him for it (m).
(m) Antiqu. 1. 18. c. 6.
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