At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from
the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison
for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. For John
said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And
when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because
they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod's birthday
was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased
Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her
whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed
of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath's sake, and them
which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his
head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought
it to her mother. And his disciples came, and took up the
body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus. When Jesus
heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and
when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the
St. John Chrysostom in his Homily 48 on Matthew said:
"Do you see how savage he [Herod] was? How senseless? How foolish? In putting himself under the obligation of an oath, while to her he gives full power over her request. But when he saw the evil actually ensuing, 'he was sorry,' it is said; and yet in the first instance he had put him in bonds. Wherefore then is he sorry? Such is the nature of virtue, even among the wicked admiration and praises are its due. But alas for her madness! When she too ought to admire, yea, to bow down to him, for trying to redress her wrong, she on the contrary even helps to arrange the plot, and lays a snare, and asks a diabolical favor."
"…many are ignorant of the grievance itself, whence the murder had its origin, I must declare this too, that you may learn the wisdom of the lawgiver. What then was the ancient law, which Herod indeed trampled on, but John vindicated? The wife of him that died childless was to be give to his brother (Deut.25:5) For since death was an incurable ill, and all was contrived for life's sake; He makes a law that the living brother should marry her, and should call the child that is born by the name of the dead, so that his house should not utterly perish. For if the dead were not so much as to leave children, which is the greatest mitigation of death, the sorrow would be without remedy…the lawgiver devised this refreshment for those who were by nature deprived of children, and commanded the issue to be reckoned as belonging to the other."
"…Herod had married his brother's wife, when she had a child, therefore John blames him, and blames him with moderation, showing together with his boldness, his consideration also…mark thou,…how the whole theatre was devilish…made up of drunkennes and luxury, whence nothing healthful could come…the spectators in it were depraved…there was the irrational pleasure…the damsel, because of whom the marriage was illegal who ought to have hid herself…comes making a show…"
"…the time again contributes no little to the reproof of this enormity…when he ought to be thanking God, that on that day He had brought him to light, then he ventures upon these lawless acts. When one in chains ought to have been freed by him, then he adds slaughter to bonds."
"…let us weep for Herodias, and for them that imitate her…many such revels now also take place, and though John be not slain, yet the members of Christ are, and in a far more grievous way. For it is not a head in a charger that the dancers of our time ask, but the souls of them that sit at the feast. For in making them slaves, and leading them to unlawful loves, and besetting them with harlots, they do not take off the head, but slay the soul, making them adulterers…"
"…Cast out the parasites, and make Christ to sit down to meat with you. If he partake of your salt, and of your table, He will be mild in judging you: He knows how to respect a man's table…think…of that harlot, how at a table He justified her, and upbraids Simon, saying, 'You gave me no kiss.' (Lk.7:54) I say, if He feed you, not doing these things, much more will He reward you, doing them. Look not at the poor man, that he comes to you filthy and squalid, but consider that Christ by him is setting foot in your house, and cease from your fierceness, and your relentless words, with which you are even aspersing such as come to you…for where Christ is, there are angels too, and where Christ and the angels are, there is Heaven, there is a light more cheerful than this of the sun."