The mood in the courtyard was subdued during the meal. There had been fresh outbreaks of violence overnight, with some of Simon bar Giora’s troops attacking temple-goers who they accused of being zealots. Complaints by the victims’ families to the Council had been met with disdain: the ruling elite apparently dismissed the incidents as merely “security concerns.” I wonder what Benyamin has to say about all this, thought Mark as he got to his feet to address the gathering.
“Last night Ya’el asked a question about the threat of violence that hung over the disciples after they were sent out by Jesus. The power of G_d was at work in them as it was in Jesus, and they were casting out demons and healing people. Now ‘king’ Herod heard of this, for Jesus’ name had become well known; and people were saying, ‘John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.’ But others were saying, ‘He is Elijah.’ Still others were saying, ‘He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he clearly feared that John had indeed returned to haunt him, for he kept saying, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has risen!’”
Yiftach spoke up. “King Herod? That’s old fox was never king!” “No,” agreed Mark, “but it wasn’t for lack of trying.” Seeing some confused looks among those gathered, Mark explained. “Herod Antipas was tetrach of Galilee and Perea for four decades, but his sights were always aimed higher than that. Caesar Augustus refused to give him the royal title he craved, but he kept using it anyway, apparently goaded into doing so by his second wife. His own people would never own him as their king: the Herodian dynasty was half-Jewish, but they showed little interest in keeping the Law unless it was expedient to do so. Antipas was a prime example of his family’s disregard for our people. When he built his capital city, he named it Tiberias, no doubt hoping to curry favor with the new Emperor, but the site he chose was an ancient cemetery, which meant any who chose to settle there would be perpetually unclean. But it was his marriage more than his aspirations to monarchy that drew the ire of John.
“Herod had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her after repudiating his first marriage to the daughter of Aretas IV of Nabatea. Now, John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ So Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death but could not do so; for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.”
“But,” Yiftach interjected, “not enough to do what John said apparently.” “Indeed not,” responded Mark. “He was right to be afraid of John. The flouting of G_d’s Law always drew the attention of G_d’s prophets. The people listened when John spoke out against Herod’s re-marriage, and I imagine some heard a call to insurrection in John’s critique. And with the ongoing threat of the insulted and incensed Nabateans to the East, attempting to silence John by imprisoning him was only natural. But Herod stopped short of killing him, despite the urging of Herodias. So she formed a plan to remove the threat John posed to her marriage and to her husband’s honor, waiting patiently until just the right moment to put it into action…”