Sent a soldier
Of the guard.
He gave orders
To bring John’s head.
He beheaded him
In the prison.
On a platter.
He gave it
To the girl.
Then the girl
To her mother.”
καὶ εὐθὺς ἀποστείλας ὁ βασιλεὺς σπεκουλάτορα ἐπέταξεν ἐνέγκαι τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἀπεκεφάλισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ,
καὶ ἤνεγκεν τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῷ κορασίῳ, καὶ τὸ κοράσιον ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς.
This is similar to Matthew, chapter 14:10-11. Mark said that King Herod immediately sent out one of his guard to be an executioner (καὶ εὐθὺς ἀποστείλας ὁ βασιλεὺς σπεκουλάτορα). He commanded him to bring back the head of John the Baptist (ἐπέταξεν ἐνέγκαι τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ). He sent his executioner guard to behead John in the prison at Machaerus, about 5 miles east of the Dead Sea. This guard beheaded John in the prison (καὶ ἀπελθὼν ἀπεκεφάλισεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ). It is not clear whether they waited around for the head of John to come back. Beheading was one of the ways to make sure a person was dead. Then John’s head was brought on a platter or dish to Herod (καὶ ἤνεγκεν τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ πίνακι). He then gave it to the girl (καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῷ κορασίῳ), who then gave it to her mother (καὶ τὸ κοράσιον ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν τῇ μητρὶ αὐτῆς), Herodias. This was her revenge against John the Baptist, because he had criticized her marriage to Herod. Off with his head!
“The king was angry.
He sent his troops.
ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς ὠργίσθη, καὶ πέμψας τὰ στρατεύματα αὐτοῦ ἀπώλεσεν τοὺς φονεῖς ἐκείνους καὶ τὴν πόλιν αὐτῶν ἐνέπρησεν.
Well, yeah, the king was enraged and angry. First, he invited them to his son’s wedding feast. Then they would not come after two specific invitations. Finally, they mistreated and killed his own slaves. In the equivalent Luke parable, nobody died. But Matthew has a different story. Jesus said that he wanted revenge for the death of this king’s slaves. This king was very angry, provoked, and irritated (ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς ὠργίσθη). He sent his army of troops (καὶ πέμψας τὰ στρατεύματα αὐτοῦ) to destroy those murderers (ἀπώλεσεν τοὺς φονεῖς ἐκείνους). Then he burned down their city (καὶ τὴν πόλιν αὐτῶν ἐνέπρησεν). This destruction of the city may have been a veiled reference to the fall of Jerusalem. Don’t mess with the king and his slaves!
“Thus says Yahweh God!
‘With unending hostilities,
Acted in vengeance
With malice of heart.
They took revenge
The Philistines were often mentioned in the biblical literature, especially as the enemies of King David. They were perhaps originally from the island of Crete. They were the five main Philistine coastal cities mentioned from the time of Joshua, chapter 13, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Gath, and Ashdod, all on the Mediterranean coast line of present day Israel. Thus the mention of unending hostilities with the Philistines did not seem out of place. Jeremiah, chapter 47, had also spoken against them. These Philistines acted with vengeance and malice, as they brought revenge on the Israelites with their destruction.
“I hear many whispering.
‘Terror is all around!
Let us denounce him!’
All my close friends
Are watching for me
‘Perhaps he can be enticed.
Then we can prevail against him.
We can take our revenge on him.’
But Yahweh is with me
Like a dreaded warrior.
Therefore my persecutors
They will not prevail.
They will be greatly shamed.
They will not succeed.
Their eternal dishonor
Will never be forgotten.”
Jeremiah has heard the whispers about terror all around. They want to denounce him. Even his close friends are watching to see if he stumbles. They think that they might be able to prevail over him. They want to take out revenge on him. However, Yahweh is near, like a dreaded warrior, to protect him. Instead, his persecutors will stumble, fall, not prevail, and be greatly shamed. They will not succeed. In fact, their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.
“‘The day of vengeance was in my heart.
The year of my redeeming work had come.
But there was no helper.
But there was no one to sustain me.
So my own arm brought me victory.
My wrath sustained me.
I trampled down people in my anger.
I crushed them in my wrath.
I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’”
This had been the day of vengeance and the year of redemption of Yahweh. No one was there to help. No one was there to sustain him. Only his own arm brought victory. His wrath and anger sustained him as he trampled down people. He crushed them, as he poured out their blood on the earth. This was the day of revenge when the angry God alone crushed people.
Yahweh of hosts,
The Mighty One of Israel
I will pour out my wrath
On my enemies!
I will avenge myself
On my foes!
I will turn my hand
I will smelt away your dross
As with lye!
I will remove your entire alloy!’”
Now we have another oracle of Yahweh, the sovereign, Mighty One of Israel, via Isaiah. Yahweh, in the first person singular, was going to pour out his wrath on his enemies and bring revenge on his foes. He also was going to turn his hand against his own people by melting them down with lye so that they would be noting but worthless scum dross. He was going to take away all their alloys. This is an interesting description of God taking the Israelites apart.
“A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province, and published to all peoples. The Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift royal horses hurried out, urged by the king’s command. The decree was issued in the citadel of Susa.”
Now we are back at the Hebrew text, which summarizes the letter. A copy of this decree was sent to every one of the 127 provinces so that all the people knew about this. The Jews were to be ready on the 13th of Adar to take revenge against their enemies. This word went out by the royal couriers with their swift royal horses. The king had urged them on, since this decree came from the Persian capital of Susa.
“Uzziah and the rulers said to her.
‘Go in peace!
May the Lord God go before you!
May he take revenge upon our enemies!’
So they returned from the tent and went to their posts.”
Uzziah simply told her to go in peace. He hoped that the Lord would be with her. He also added that he wanted God to take revenge against his enemies. With that simple farewell, they all returned to their tents and watch posts.
“In the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month, there was talk in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar of the Assyrians about carrying out his revenge on the whole region, just as he said. He summoned all his ministers and all his nobles. He set before them his secret plan. He recounted fully, with his own lips, all the wickedness of that region. They decided that everyone who had not obeyed his command should be destroyed.”
Now we are at 587 BCE, the 18th year of his reign. King Nebuchadnezzar planned his revenge against the western region. He summoned all his advisors and gave them the secret plan. They all agreed to kill everyone who had not followed his command in this wicked western region.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar became very angry with this whole region. He swore by his throne and kingdom that he would take revenge on the whole territory of Cilicia, Damascus, and Syria. He would kill them with his sword. He would kill all the inhabitants of the land of Moab and the people of Ammon. He would kill all Judea and every one in Egypt, as far as the coasts of the two seas.”
When the king found out about his messengers, he was angry. He swore by the throne and his kingdom that he was going to take revenge on these western people. He would kill the people of Damascus, Syria, Moab, Ammon, Judea, and Egypt. That was quite a lot of people to wipe out.