Spreading The Word - Online

This is another sample of Spreading The Word - Online's Verse of the Day Plus.

Matthew 14:6-7   But when Herod's birthday celebration came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and plased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. (TLV)

Jonathan Allen Comment:
What is Herod doing? The issues of dancing, lust, incest and many other excesses of the Herodian court are present within this story, but our focus is on Herod's rash behaviour: he promised with an oath. The Torah is very clear about oaths: "If a man makes a vow to the L–RD or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips" (Numbers 30:3, NJPS). Whether a vow to the L–rd or an oath in another matter, a person must keep their word and do what they have said. This was of such significant value in an oral culture, that the early rabbis forbade anyone who had been discovered in a false oath from ever being a witness in court or taking part in judicial procedings. In a moment of passion, having allowed himself to lose control of his critical faculties, Herod bound himself in a publicly witnessed oath from which he subsequently felt unable to extricate himself, at the collateral and unthinking cost of an innocent life.

CraigKeener Scholar:
Craig S. Keener:   The Greeks and Romans had stories about mortals or deities who regretfully granted deadly requests on account of their oaths. Jewish scholas had devised ways to release people from oaths that would lead to more evil, so most religious teachers would not have faulted Herod for breaking his oath: life took precedence over oaths. But Antipas was concerned about more than the oath itself. Once Herod has given his oath in front of the dinner guests, his "honour" is at stake; here short-range political considerations take precedence over long-term ones, but Antipas remained captive to considerations of what others thought.

Futher Study Suggestions:
Matthew 5:33-37
— How does Yeshua's teaching reflect on this story? Would it actually have made any difference to Herod's position?
James 5:12
— James follows up on the same lines as Yeshua, but what does he add to the thought process?

How many times have you found yourself in the same position as Herod? Not perhaps so compromisingly (of course) nor at such a horrific cost - but nevertheless at some personal inconvenience, expense or difficulty. It is all too easy to speak out rashly on the spur of the moment and make a commitment to do something, be somewhere, buy something; and almost before the words are out of your mouth, you realise that was a big mistake. Perhaps it is the peer pressure of the group we are with, not wanting to be different from the rest or to stand out. It might be fear of looking foolish or old-fashioned, or something else of which you know the group will disapprove.

How can we stand against being caught in this way? One option is by taking a decision never to take an oath or make a spur-of-the-moment commitment. Then when a situation crops up, there is no decision to take; you already know that you don't do that. Another is to cultivate the habit of always taking a deep breath and asking the Holy Spirit for a five or ten second break before you say anything, to allow you to hear His take on the matter.

Professor Craig S. Keener is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Text by Craig S. Keener is taken from Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 0-8028-6498-8 , page 401