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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


Rash Promises

Rash Promises

Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” (Mark 6:21-23, NIV)

Sometimes what we anticipate to be a great time becomes a disaster instead. This is the case with Herod.

Lots of planning had gone into his birthday party. The grounds of the palace had been freshened and festooned. The servants and catering crews had worked for days. The secretarial and office staff had sent out party invitations all across Galilee. And from miles around, the guests had traveled to Herod. If the party was held at Machaerus — down by the Dead Sea — then the guests from Galilee had come quite a distance, many of them traveling for days.

Herod had a great celebration in mind for himself. But underneath the veneer of celebration, an injustice was boiling. He had wrongly arrested and imprisoned John the Baptist. He had not dealt rightly with that injustice — and now that unrighteousness would come back to bite him at the very moment he had hoped all the attention would be on himself.

Imaginations typically run wild as to what kind of dance the daughter of Herodias performed. If it were an all-male audience, as Mark seems to indicate, it could have been a lewd and provocative one. On the other hand, if the “leading men of Galilee” included religious figures, Herod may not have wanted to offend them. And, there is no mention in the Gospels of anyone being inebriated.

It may just have been a graceful and elegant dance. The girl was his wife’s daughter, therefore Herod’s stepdaughter and most likely the daughter of his brother Philip.

We’re not told the age of the daughter. If she was a minor, Herod may have thought his promise was safe — the little girl would never be able to administer a political empire. Besides, a child would be satisfied with a new doll, new clothes, or a trip to an amusement center. If she was a teen or a young woman, why would she want the burden of political power? She would surely choose affluence, leisure or travel.

Nothing will touch a woman more deeply than loving her daughter, and the likelihood is that Herod’s offer served as an attempt to cement his relationship to the girl whom he had torn away from her own father, thus deeply pleasing his wife, Herodias.

So, Herod promises her half his kingdom and affirms it with an oath. Thus, it would not be possible for him to back down and thereby lose face. He completely miscalculated what the girl would do.

While we are not told the reason for Herod’s offer or the kind of dance the daughter of Herodias did, we do know this event set into motion unintended consequences. He had given the stepdaughter a blank check, and her mother would cash it.

What’s the lesson? Be careful what you say. Be careful what you promise. Words do have consequences.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, help me to use good judgment when my emotions sweep me off my feet and impel me to do something really stupid. May I watch carefully what I say so that later I have no regrets. Keep me from foolish promises and unwise speech.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

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