Matthew 14 – Death of John the Baptist & The Roman Calendar

Finger Pointing UpMost people don’t know much about the Roman Empire, I would say the majority of people would think of Julius Caesar and the Gladiators.  But there is much more about it, they were an extremely powerful empire.

1 Herod Antipater
Herod Antipater, born before 20 B.C. – died after 39 A.D.), known by the nickname Antipas, was a 1st century ruler of Galilee and Perea, who bore the title of tetrarch (“ruler of a quarter”). He is best known today for accounts in the New Testament of his role in events that led to the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.

After being named to the throne by Caesar Augustus upon the death of his father, Herod the Great, in 4 BC, and subsequent Ethnarch rule by his brother, Herod Archaleus, Antipas ruled them as a client state of the Roman Empire.

We reviewed Pompeii, one of the Last Cities, but now we’re going to look at the…

Matthew 14
Death of John the Baptist

1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,

“Tetrarch” – the ruler of a fourth part of a region.  Herod the tetrarch (Herod Antipas) was one of several sons of Herod the Great.  When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided among three of his sons.

Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea (4 B.C.-39 A.D.).  Matthew correctly refers to him as tetrarch here, as Luke regularly does.  But in v. 9 Matthew calls him “king” – as Mark also does (Mk 6:14) – because that was his popular title among the Galileans, as well as in Rome.

2 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.

2 King Herod Antipas
King Herod Antipas unwittingly built Tiberias directly over a Jewish cemetery.
After the death of Herod the Great in 4 B.C., the Romans who ruled the Land of Israel granted the Galilee to his son Antipas. In the middle of his reign, around 20 CE, Herod Antipas decided to erect a Roman-style capital city to rival the spectacular but hostile Jewish center at Tzippori.

He built it on the western shores of Lake Kinneret and named it Tiberias after the ruling Roman emperor. Besides the glistening lake, which was to provide a handsome living for the city’s fishermen, the locale featured fertile farmland and hot springs that were famous for their miraculous healing properties.

“John…risen from the dead” – I would like to say that Herod’s conscious was disturbed but people like him that have such power don’t have a conscience.  Yet, he was superstitious and feared that John had come back to haunt him.

3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife.

“Herodias” – a granddaughter of Herod the Great.  First she married her uncle, Herod Philip (Herod the Great also had another son named Philip) who lived in Rome.  While a guest in their home, Herod Antipas persuaded Herodias to leave her husband for him.

Marriage to one’s brother’s wife, while the brother was still living, was forbidden by the Mosaic Law (Lev 18:16).

“Philip” – the son of Herod the Great and Mariamne, the daughter of Simon the high priest, and thus a half-brother of Herod Antipas, born of Malthace.

4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.

5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

“The daughter of Herodias” – Salome, according to Josephus.  She later married her granduncle, the other Philip (son of Herod the Great), who ruled the northern territories.  At this time Salome was a young woman of marriageable age.  Her dance was undoubtedly lascivious, and the performance pleased both Herod and his guests.

7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.

“Charger” – a flat wooden dish on which meat was served.

9 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.

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.

3 Mariamne I
Mariamne I, also called Mariamne the Hasmonean was the second wife of Herod the Great. She was known for her great beauty, as was her brother Aristobulus. Ultimately this was the main reason for the downfall of the Hasmonean dynasty of Judea.

12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

13 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 cities.

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.

16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat.

17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

18 He said, Bring them hither to me.

9 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.

4 Herodias
Herodias was a Jewish princess of the Herodian Dynasty. Asteroid 546 Herodias is named after her. Wikipedia
Born: 15 B.C.
Died: 39 AD

23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.

“To pray” – Jesus thank the Father for the provision for both the 5,000 (14:19) and the 4,000 (15:36).

24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

“Fourth watch” – 3:00-6:00 A.D.  According to Roman reckoning the night was divided into four watches: (1) 6:00-9:00 P.M., (2) 9:00-midnight, (3) Midnight-3:00 A.M., (4) 3:00-6:00 A.M?

The Jews had three watches during the night: (1) Sunset-10:00 P.M., (2) 10:0) P.M.-2:00 A.M. and (3) 2:00 A.M.-Sunrise.

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

5 Salome
Salome with the Head of John the Baptist (London), c. 1607/1610, is a painting by the Italian master Caravaggio (1571–1610) in the National Gallery, London.
The painting was discovered in a private collection in 1959. The early Caravaggio biographer Giovanni Bellori, writing in 1672, mentions a Salome with the Head of John the Baptist sent by the artist to the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta in the hope of regaining favour after having been expelled from the Order in 1608.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.

“Gennesaret” – Either the narrow plain, about four miles long and less than two miles wide, on the west side of the sea of Galilee near the north end (north of Magdala), or a town in the plain.  The plain was considered a garden spot of the Holy Land, fertile and well watered.

 35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;

36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

The Roman Calendar

The traditional Roman calendar had 12 months based on the lunar cycle and was shorter than the solar year. Extra days were sometimes added between one year and the next to bring the months in line with the seasons, but this was not done systematically,

6 Roman
Roman calendars were carved in stone, but that did not stop mighty rulers such as Julius Caesar from altering them.

By the time Julius Caesar became dictator, the Roman calendar was three months ahead of the solar cycle. On the date of the harvest festival, for instance, the crops were still green.  Caesar set things right by adding nearly 90 days to the year 46 B.C.

He then introduced his Julian Calendar, with a year of 365 days and an extra day every fourth year.  This is how we have the calendar we have today.

After his death, Caesar was deified. Like the gods Janus (January) and Mars (March), he had a month dedicated to him – Julius (July), the month in which he was born. The following month (August) was later renamed to honor his nephew, Augustus Caesar.

…Villas of Pompeii.

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