|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 9. - And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake; better, and though the king was grieved, yet for the sake of his oaths (καὶ λυπηθεὶς ὁ βασιλεὺς διὰ τὺος ὅρκους κ.τ.λ.). That he was grieved at John's death is a verbal contradiction to ver. 5, but after some weeks' or months' delay psychologically quite possible (cf. note there). Kubel attributes the change to his conscience recoiling when his wish had a sudden chance of being accomplished; or it may be that he still fearest the multitude (cf. ver. 5), and felt anxious lest he should bring about some political disturbance. Oaths; for in making the promise of ver. 7 he would certainly take more than one. And them which sat with him at meat. Had he uttered the promise and the oaths in private, it would have been different, but now there were so many witnesses. Observe that these said nothing to stop him. They were no friends of the enthusiast who was now a prisoner. He commanded it to be given her.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the king was sorry,.... As he might be upon many accounts; partly on account of John, whom, notwithstanding his freedom in reproving him, he had a respect; and partly on his own account, his conscience dictating to him that it was an evil action, and would leave a brand of perpetual infamy upon him; as also on account of the people, who were so much affected to John, lest they should make an insurrection, and rebel against him; and likewise, because it was reckoned an ill omen with the Romans, to take away life on that day they received their own; and therefore carefully abstained, on such days, from executions.
Nevertheless for his oath's sake; that he might not be guilty of perjury, chose rather to commit murder; though it would have been no iniquity in him, to have acted contrary to such a rash promise, and wicked oath; which would have been better to have been broke, than kept;
and them which sat with him at meat; lest he should be thought by them fickle and inconstant, and not a man of his word, and who had no regard to an oath: or it may be, they, either to curry favour with Herodias, or out of ill will they might bear to John; or in great respect to the damsel, who had so well pleased them with her dancing; instead of dissuading him from it, pressed him much to perform his promise: and therefore,
he commanded it to be given her; in the form and manner she requested it. Some have thought, that the whole of this affair was a concerted scheme; and that Herod himself was in it, though he pretended to be sorry and uneasy, having fixed on this season as a convenient time for it; and chose to have it done in this way, and in so public a manner, to lessen the odium of it; or otherwise, it is not easy to account for his extravagant promise, and his punctual performance of it.
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