Matthew 14:6
But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Herod’s birthday.—Some critics have looked on the feast as one commemorating Herod’s accession—his birth-day as a ruler; but there seems no reason for not accepting the word in its simple natural sense. Such feasts were common enough in the imperial life at Rome, and that of Herod’s birthday had become proverbial even there (Persius, Sat. v., i. 180).

The daughter of Herodias danced before them.—Dances in filmy garments that but half concealed the form, commonly of an impure or voluptuous nature, were common enough both at Eastern and Roman banquets, the guests being simply spectators. But the dancers were for the most part women who made it their calling, like the nautch-girls of India; and it was a new thing, at which every decent Jew would shudder, for the daughter of a kingly house to come-thus into a shameless publicity and expose herself to the gaze of the banqueters, including as they did the chief captains and chiliarchs of the Roman legions, as well as Herod’s own courtiers and the chief men of the province (Mark 6:21). But Herodias, it would seem, knew the tetrarch’s weak point as well as Madame du Barry knew that of Louis XV. of France, and sought to bend him to her will, even though it were by the sacrifice of her daughter’s modesty. She danced before them—literally, in the midst of them—as they reclined on their couches indolently gazing. Her name is given by Josephus (Ant. xviii. 5, § 4) as Salome.

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.See also Mark 6:21-29. But when Herod's birthday was come Kings were accustomed to observe the day of their birth with much pomp, and commonly, also, by giving a feast to their principal nobility. See Genesis 40:20. Mark adds that this birthday was kept by making a supper to his "lords, high captains, and chief estates in Galilee;" that is to the chief men in office. "High captains" means, in the original, commanders of thousands, or of a division of 1,000 people.

The daughter of Herodias - That is, "Salome," her daughter by her former husband. This was a violation of all the rules of modesty and propriety. One great principle of all eastern nations is to keep their females from public view. For this purpose they are confined in a particular part of the house, called the harem. See the notes at Matthew 9:1-8. If they appear in public, it is always with a veil, so closely drawn that their faces cannot be seen. No modest woman would have appeared in this manner before the court, and it is probable, therefore, that she partook of the dissolute principles of her mother. It is also probable that the dance was one well known in Greece - the lascivious and wanton dance of the Ionics.

2. And said unto his servants—his counsellors or court-ministers.

This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead, &c.—The murdered prophet haunted his guilty breast like a specter and seemed to him alive again and clothed with unearthly powers in the person of Jesus.

Account of the Baptist's Imprisonment and Death (Mt 14:3-12). For the exposition of this portion, see on [1301]Mr 6:17-29.

See Poole on "Matthew 14:7". But when Herod's birthday was kept,.... The birthdays of princes, both of their coming into the world, and accession to the throne of government, were kept by the Gentiles; as by the Egyptians, Genesis 40:20 and by the (n) Persians, and Romans (o), and other nations, but not by the Jews; who reckon these among the feasts of idolaters.

"These (say they (p)) are the feasts of idolaters; the "Calends", and the "Saturnalia", the time kept in memory of subduing a kingdom (or when a king takes possession of it, the day of his accession), , "and the birthday of kings" (when they are made and crowned, the day of coronation), and the day of birth, and the day of death.''

And it is a question, whether this day, that was kept, was the day of Herod's natural birth, or of his civil government, being his accession, or coronation day: and it might also be a question, whether it was the then present Herod's birthday, or whether it was not his father Herod's, was it not that Mark says, Mark 6:21 it was his birthday; since it is the latter the poet (q) refers to, as kept by Jews, when he says, "At cum Herodis venere dies"; and the old Scholiast upon him observes, that

"Herod reigned over the Jews in Syria, in the times of Augustus; therefore the Herodians kept Herod's birthday, as also the sabbath, on which day they set up candles in the windows lighted, and encircled with violets.''

This they did, believing him to be the Messiah: and it is further to be observed, that the word here used, is said (r) to be proper to the dead, and not to the living; and that he that uses it of the living, speaks very inaccurately: but however, it was a festival, and a time of great mirth and jollity; and a proper opportunity offered to Herodias, to execute her malicious designs against John the Baptist; for at this time,

the daughter of Herodias danced before them: in the original text it is, "in the midst", in the middle of the hall; or in the midst of the company, the lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee, for whom Herod made a supper, Mark 6:21 and the Syriac renders it , "before the guests". Music and dancing were usual at such entertainments, they were the common appendages of a feast (s): the daughter of Herodias, who danced before the company for their diversion, whether alone, or with others, was very probably Salome (t), whom she had by her former husband; and therefore is called, not the daughter of Herod, but of Herodias:

and pleased Herod; and as Mark adds, "and them that sat with him"; so that the pleasure he had did not arise merely from the respect and honour shown to him and his birthday, by her appearing with so much cheerfulness on this occasion before him; who had taken her father's wife from him, and defiled her mother; but from the airs, gestures, and motions of the lady in dancing; which were so extremely fine and regular, that she gave wonderful satisfaction and delight to Herod, and the whole company.

(n) Herodot. l. 1. c. 133. & 9. c. 109. (o) Plin. Ephesians 1. 10. Ephesians 61. (p) Misn. Avoda Zara, c. 1. sect. 3.((q) Persius, Satyr. 5. prope finem. (r) Ammonius, &c. in lit. (s) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 25. (t) Joseph. Antiqu. l. 18. c. 6.

But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased {b} Herod.

(b) There were three Herods: the first of them was Antipater's son, who is also called Ascalonius, in whose reign Christ was born, and it was he that caused the children to be slain. The second was called Antipas, Magnus his son, whose mother's name was Malthaca or Martaca, and he was called Tetrarch, because he enlarged his dominion, when Archelaus was banished to Vienna in France. The third was Agrippa, Magnus his nephew by Aristobulus, and it was he that slew James.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 14:6 ff. Γενέσια, Birthday celebration. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 103 f.; Suicer, Thes. I. p. 746; Loesner, Obss. p. 40. Others (Heinsius, Grotius, Is. Vossius, Paulus) interpret: a festival by way of commemorating Herod’s accession, because the latter is often compared to a birth, Psalm 2:7; 1 Samuel 13:1. An unwarranted departure from ordinary usage. Wieseler likewise takes the word as referring to the accession, but improperly appeals, partly to the fact of its being used to denote a celebration in memory of the dead (Herod. iv. 26), comp. Lex. rhet. p. 231, a figurative sense which only tells in favour of our interpretation, and partly to the Rabbinical גנוסיא של מלכם (Avoda Sara i. 3), where, however, the royal birthdays are likewise meant. No instance is to be found in the Greek classics (for the Latin natalis, see Plin. Paneg. 82).

For the dative of time, see Winer, p. 205 [E. T. 276].

ἡ θυγάτηρ τῆς Ἡρωδ.] and of Philip. She was called Salome, and married her uncle, Philip the tetrarch. See Josephus, Antt. xviii. 5. 4. Her dancing was, doubtless, of a mimetic and wanton character. Hor. Od. iii. 6. 21. Wetstein on this passage. Moreover, this circumstance of the girl dancing is in keeping with the view that fixes the date of this scene as early as the year 29; while it is entirely at variance with Keim’s supposition, that it occurred in the year 34–35, by which time Salome had been long married, and, for aught we know, may already have been left a widow; for which reason Keim considers himself all the more justified in ascribing a legendary character to the narrative, though without interfering in any way with the historical nucleus of the story, which he believes has not been affected by the plastic influence of legend; while Volkmar again declares the whole to be a fabrication.

ἐν τῷ μέσῳ] In the centre of the banqueting hall. The subject of ἤρεσε is still ἡ θυγάτ.

ὅθεν] as in Acts 26:19, frequently in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and common in classical writers.

προβιβασθεῖσα] urged, induced, prevailed upon, not: instructed (neither is it to be so rendered in Exodus 35:34). See Plat. Prot. p. 328 B; Xen. Mem. i. 5. 1; Polyb. iii. 59. 2, xxiv. 3. 7; Bremi, ad Aeschin. Ctesiph. 28; Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. i. 2. 17.

ὧδε] therefore without any delay.

ἐπὶ πίνακι] upon a plate.Matthew 14:6. γενεσίοις γενομένοις: one expects the genitive absolute as in T.R., which just on that account is to be suspected. The dative of time. But cf. Mark 6:21, where we have γενομένης and γενεσίοις occurring together, and vide Weiss, Mk.-Evang., p. 221, on the literary connection between the two texts. Most commentators take γενεσίοις as referring to Herod’s birthday. Some, e.g., Grotius, think of the anniversary of the accession to the throne = birthday of his reign. In classic Greek it means a feast in honour of the dead on their birthday, γενέθλια being the word for a birthday feast, vide Lobeck, Phryn., 103. Loesner, Observ. ad N. T. e. Phil. Alex., cites instances from Philo of the use of both words in the sense of a birthday feast.—ἡ θυγάτηρ τ. Ἡρῳδ.: Salome by name.—ἐν τῷ μέσῳ, implies a festive assembly, as fully described in Mk.6. the daughter of Herodias] Salome; she was afterwards married to her uncle Herod-Philip, the tetrarch, and on his death to Aristobulus, grandson of Herod the Great.

danced before them] Some sort of pantomimic dance is meant. Horace notes as one of the signs of national decay that even highborn maidens learnt the voluptuous dances of the East. Herod would recall similar scenes at Rome. See note Matthew 14:1.Matthew 14:6. Γενεσίῳν) Either the day on which he was born, as the LXX. use the word in Genesis 40:20, or that on which he began to reign. Remarkable days of high festival are accompanied with great danger of falling into sin.[665]—ὠρχήσατο, she danced) A light matter; the handle of a most weighty matter.—θυγάτηρ, daughter) Salome by name.—ἐν τῶ μέσῳ, in the midst) in the sight of all during the banquet.

[665] Of this kind are, for instance, dedication-festivals, market-days, etc.; for, when these are celebrated according to custom, often weariness and lamentations succeed to vain rejoicings. And yet the world does not allow itself to be advised to better things.—V. g.Verse 6. - But when Herod's birthday was kept; came (Revised Version); γενεσίοις δὲ γενομένοις τοῦ Ἡρῴδου, dative of time (Winer, § 31:9), with the addition of a participle. Birthday. So "Pharaoh's birthday" (Genesis 40:20, ἡμέρα γενέσεως). Thayer's Grimm refers to "Alciphr. Epp. 3, 18, and 55; Dio Cass., 47, 18, etc.," for γενέσια being used in the same sense. The Talmudic גיניסיא (see Levy, s.v.) apparently represents the same word, and (preceded by יום) has the same meaning (cf. Schurer, I. 2:27). Possibly Jews found γενέσια an easier word to pronounce than the more classical γενέσλια. The daughter of Herodias; i.e. Salome, daughter of Herod Philip and Herodias; she afterwards married her half uncle, Philip the tetrarch (ver. 3, note). She could not now be less than seventeen or eighteen years old (cf. Gutschmid, in Schurer, I. 2:28), so, in the East, could only just be still called a κοράσιον (ver. 11). Mark's text (like the Greek of Codex Bezae here) speaks of her as though she herself was called Herodias, and was the daughter of Antipas and Herodias; but the issue of this union could not then have been more than two years old (Schurer, loc. cit.). Besides, the trait mentioned by Mark (Mark 6:25), that she came back with haste to the king, asking for the head of the Baptist, implies that she was more than a child. Rendel Harris ('Texts and Studies,' II. 1. p. 68) suggests that the confusion is due to an early Latinization of the Greek from an ambiguous ejus. Danced. Probably with the same kind of voluptuous dance as that of the Egyptian almd described by Warburton ('Crescent and Cross,' chap. 14.). But that a member of the royal family should so dance before a company must have been almost unheard cf. Before them; in the midst (Revised Version). Matthew only. Such a dance with men sitting round would be specially abhorrent to the Jewish mind. And pleased Herod. And of course, as St. Mark adds, "them that sat with him" (cf. ver. 9). Birthday (γενεσίοις)

Though some explain it as the anniversary of Herod's accession. The custom of celebrating birthdays by festivities was not approved by the strict Jews; but it is claimed that the Herodian princes adopted the custom. The Roman satirist, Persins, alludes to a festival known as "Herod's Day," and pictures a banquet on that occasion.

"But when

Comes Herod's day, and on the steaming panes

The ranged lamps, festooned with violets, pour

The unctuous cloud, while the broad tunny-tail

Sprawled o'er the red dish swims, and snowy jars

Swell with the wine."

Sat. v., 180-188.

Before (ἐν τῷ μέσῳ)

Rev., in the midst. Wyc., leaped in the middle.

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