A royal character analysis | Herodias vs Esther

King Herod beheaded John the Baptist despite not wanting to; why?

He was influenced by a woman.

When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”

For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

Herodias’ chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. Then his daughter, also named Herodias, came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.” He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”

She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?” Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!” So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!” Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her.

So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison, brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother.

Mark 6:16-28

  1. Queen Herodias needed Herod’s approval — she was powerless without it
  2. Herod’s daughter danced in a way that pleased him… (other versions say she was Herodias’ daughter, so she could’ve been Herod’s niece/ step-daughter…) ew
  3. He vowed to give her anything even up to half his kingdom, and then
  4. Herodias took advantage of the king’s offer and chose to ask for John the Baptist’s head

When reading through this story, Herod’s vow stuck out to me.

Hadn’t I heard another story where a King offered to give up half his kingdom for a woman?

“Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”

Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request.

Esther 7:2-3

If you don’t know the story of Esther, she was a Jew living in Persia. The king (Xerxes) chose to marry her based on her beauty not knowing her nationality (Esther 2:17).

Years later, the chief minister to the King (Haman) convinced Xerxes to kill the Jews because of his pride (3:8-9).

Esther had two choices: let her family and friends die or possibly be killed for speaking up (since by law no one was allowed to enter the king’s presence without an invitation 4:11).

Esther decided that this was the reason God made her the queen–to save His people (4:14). She approached the throne, and the king welcomed her (5:1-2). He promised her whatever she desired (5:3), so she prepared a banquet for him (two actually) and told him of her troubles (7:1-3).

His promise to grant her anything was kept, and the Jewish people were saved (8:16-17).

If you think about it, the framework of these stories is very similar, but there are some major differences.

  1. Esther was powerless to save the Jewish people on her own — she needed the approval of the king
  2. In order to gain his approval, she stepped out in boldness and invited him to a banquet which pleased him.
  3. The king told her multiple times that he would give her anything up to half his kingdom, and then
  4. She used the king’s offer to save her people

Comparing (mostly contrasting) these queens reveals a lot.

These stories really illustrate the kind of influence a woman can have.

Despite the time period, these two women got exactly what they wanted although they were powerless to get them on their own.

They both went about it in entirely different ways, with different motives, and, ultimately, with different long lasting outcomes.

(1) Herodias used her (daughter’s) sexuality; Esther used her hospitality.

(2) Herodias wanted death; Esther wanted life.

(3) Herodias is mentioned briefly in the Gospels, known for seduction and murder. Esther has a whole book of the Bible written about how she single-handedly saved all the Jews in the Persian Empire.

Women can do a lot. Women can feel a lot. Women can be known for a lot.

Which queen will you be? How will you use your influence?

Will you be like Herodias, who was hateful and cunning, taking advantage of those inferior to her in order to seduce men and do evil?

Or will you be like Esther who was brave, selfless, humble, and prudent.

How do you use your body? Are you honoring God with it? Being a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1)?

How do you used your opportunities and privileges (Ephesians 5:16)? Do you do good or evil?

Do you take risks like Esther for the people/things you are passionate about?

Are you willing to lay down your life for your friends? (John 15:13)

Esther was willing to risk her life to save her people just like how Jesus laid down his life for us. Esther’s statement — “If I must die, I must die” (Esther 4:16) foreshadows Jesus in the garden (“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” – Luke 22:42).

We are children of the most high God; therefore, we are royalty (John 1:12). We have the Lord’s Spirit in us; we are powerful and influential (Acts 1:8). Our words can give or take life (Proverbs 18:21); we must live for the Lord and act as if acting for him (Ephesians 6:7, 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Approach the King’s throne; “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence” (Ephesians 3:12). Humble yourself before him (James 4:10). Ask and make your requests known to him (Matthew 7:7–8). Let the Lord’s discernment and wisdom guide you (Isaiah 30:21).

Be a good queen, princess, daughter, woman, person. Whatever position you find yourself in, use it well.

Walk with integrity, love mercy, do justice (Micah 6:8). Hold your head up, use self-control, and be gracious. Live worthy (Ephesians 4:1).

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

“Once you had no identity as a people;
    now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
    now you have received God’s mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9-10

The Lord will hold you in his hand for all to see—a splendid crown in the hand of God.

Isaiah 62:3

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.

Revelation 3:11

As always, I love you and would love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s