These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Mark 6:14-29 Inductive Bible Study
I. Herod arrests John (14-20)
II. Herod has John killed (21-29)
Which Herod is this and what was his relationship to Herod the Great who had all the babies killed?
What was the reaction of the region at large to Jesus? What was Herod’s conclusion? Why might he have thought this?
How had John incurred Herod’s wrath?
Why did John say that to such a powerful leader? What does this show us about John’s character?
What lesson can you learn from this?
What did Herodias think of John? Herod?
This is Herod Antipas who was named to the throne of Herod the Great after his father died around 4 B.C. He ruled over Galilee and Perea. Two of his other brothers, Philip and Archelaus, ruled different areas as Herod the Great divided His dominion into three regions.
Jesus’ ministry evoked a wide number of responses. Some said it was John arisen. Some said it was Elijah. Others said it was a prophet. Herod sided with those who thought Jesus was John arisen again. This shows that he didn’t reject the supernatural and still had some amount of respect/fascination for John. It could also have been his guilt over executing John that led him to fear John’s resurrection.
Herod had divorced his first wife and then taken his brother’s wife Herodias. Herodias was actually Antipas’ niece as well, making this union all the more incestuous and messy. This caused a war with his first wife’s father.
Verse 18 – John publicly condemned Herod for this incestuous and sinful relationship. Obviously this relationship would have been repugnant to any God-fearing Jews. However, most seem too afraid to speak up. John does not fit into this category. The Bible always shows us that John’s character is that of a truth speaker. He speaks the truth boldly and without fear of the consequences. We can be sure that John would never have supported telling white lies. In this case speaking out against a powerful ruler like Herod would put a red bulls-eye on his own back. And yet John said it anyway. Why not just be quiet on this issue so that he could deal with other less dangerous issues and prolong his ministry?
Application: If you know God wants you to say something, say it. Do not cover up the truth or shy away from speaking it for the sake of your own comfort or to avoid some difficult consequences. We should follow Paul’s advice in Ephesians to “speak the truth in love.”
Verses 21-29 Discussion Questions
Why did Herod offer to give Herodias’ daughter whatever she asked? Why he make such a vow?
Would he have really given her half the kingdom?
What did the girl request? Why?
What was Herod’s reaction to this request? What can we learn from this about oaths? At this point what should he have done?
Is there any lesson here about peer pressure?
What lessons can we learn from the John the Baptist about suffering and persecution?
Matthew 14:1-13 (esp 13) –Matthew’s account including Jesus’ reaction
Many have speculated that Herodias performed a lewd dance. There is no concrete evidence of this. However, these types of banquets in those days likely had many such dances. Herod and Herodias and the whole family were certainly devoid of moral values so it wouldn’t be surprising. Where would Herodias’ daughter (thought to be Shalom) learn modesty and purity? Certainly not from her mother, who left her husband for his brother. This is a subtle reminder of the importance of proper parenting and the responsibility parents have to teach their children propriety and raise them up according to the Word. It is also a reminder to be a good example for our children since our children will often naturally follow our example.
Antipas made a public oath to give the girl whatever she asked for up to half of the kingdom. This was a common oath that rulers would make and reflects there willingness to do anything except give their own power away. However, as we will see, it was a very foolish oath. How could he promise to do whatever she asked without knowing what she would ask? She could certainly ask many things he wouldn’t want to do after hearing what they were as well as many things that would be sinful or unwise for him to do. Making this vow boxed himself into a corner with no good way out. Why did he do it then? What was he thinking? My guess is, he wasn’t. He didn’t stop and think through what might happen. He just blurted this promise out in the heat of the moment. It was rash and impulsive. It was completely based on emotion (and probably sinful emotion at that) rather than logic, common sense, or morals. What can we learn from this?
In a narrow sense we learn not to make promises, guarantees, or oaths to do things without knowing what those things are. Do not commit to helping or participating or joining something you don’t know what is. Often when people ask if I am free a certain time I first ask them why. I even will always ask my wife what favor she is asking from me before I agree to do it.
Beyond this, we should hesitate to make promises at all. Using the phrase “If the Lord wills” more is a good option. There could be times to do it such as when we married to show our commitment. It is not wrong to tell our kids “I will love you forever” because this is something we should do and a good goal for us. The problem is making commitments and then finding that we can’t fulfill them. We say we will go to join this event and then we can’t. We see that we will be a certain place at a certain time and then are late. On and on it goes.
The bigger principle here is to think before we speak. Do not speak or act impulsively without thinking something through.
This applies to many areas. For example:
- Do not go into business without prayer, research, council, etc. Maybe a good friend asks you to partner with them, but don’t just agree out of a desire to satisfy him. Make sure it is the right decision first.
- Do not get married without prayer and council. Do not rush into it. Instead think it through and make sure you know the person well and will not be surprised later.
- Do not accept a job rashly.
- Do not quit a job rashly.
- Do not buy expensive things impulsively, but think it through to make sure you can afford them and need them.
- What examples can you think of?
The main point is to follow the advice in these verses: Proverbs 21:5, Luke 14:28, Proverbs 16:3
Can we learn anything positive from Herodias’ daughter? Does she give us any good example to follow? Interestingly, the girl is a stark contrast with Herod. She doesn’t just give a quick answer to ask for a new dress or piece of jewelry. Instead she takes her time, goes to consult, and then makes up her mind. Her motivation seems to come out of a desire to manipulate in order to please her mother and enhance her own position and influence with her, but in the process she actually shows us an example of thinking something through instead of acting rashly. And yet by choosing the head of John the Baptist, she grossly failed even though she took time to think it through.
Why? The reason is because her motivations and heart were corrupted. She wasn’t seeking to make a decision that was most pleasing to God, but one that was most pleasing to herself and her mother. This is a reminder that the process of prayer, research, consulting, and thinking things through is very important, but our heart is important too. You can’t just do these things as a checklist and then go on with what you wanted to do the whole time. You have to be truly seeking the Lord and open to following Him no matter what He asks.
The fact that the mother and daughter agreed on this horrendous and unjust “wish” shows the depth of their depravity and corruption.
Herod didn’t want to do it because he had some kind of respect for and fascination with John. But he had promised in front of a large group of important people. To not follow through would open himself up to their ridicule and also cause some to doubt his word. What should he have done at this point? After he had already made the promise there was no good way out. Either he sins by killing John or he sins by lying.
This is the way of sin. Sin twists situations so much there is sometimes no good way out (like when the Israelites married many foreign women in the time of Ezra.) Even so, in my opinion John should have done the lesser of the two wrongs. He could have said something like, “I realize I made a promise. This was a mistake on my part as I made it in haste and didn’t think it through well. I hate to break a promise, but it would be worse to kill an innocent man. Please forgive me and you can make another request. This time I want to hear it first and if it is good, I will do it for you.” This time it was peer pressure which pushed Herod to kill John. He didn’t want to look bad in front of his friends and these powerful people.
Application: We should be careful that we don’t do wrong things in order to satisfy some powerful people around us or so that we won’t look bad to them. Be pleasers of God rather than pleasers of man. John is an example of that. He stood up to Herod even though it would cost him his life. It made Herod mad, but at the same time it seemed to earn Herod his respect in a time when no one would stand up to him or point out the elephant in the room.
6. What kind of banquet would a dead person’s head be presented on a platter? What kind of mother would ask her child to make this request? What kind of child would receive this “gift” and pass it on proudly to her mother? This was a sinful place and a sinful family. The world is a sinful place and in desperate need of Christ.