Matthew 14:1-6

Mat 14:1 (KJB)
At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,

The Herod mentioned here is Herod Antipas who was a son of Herod the Great’s fourth marriage. His mother Malthace was a Samaritan and he was educated in Rome. Upon the death of Herod the Great, the kingdom was divided into four sections. The name “tetrarch” means “ruler of a fourth part.” He ruled the area of Galilee and Peraea from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D. The verse begins with “At that time” which is probably the time when the reports of the miracles of Jesus came to Herod and was probably several months after the martyrdom of John the Baptist.

Mat 14:2 (KJB)
And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him.

Hearing of these mighty miracles which Jesus did caused Herod Antipas much consternation because he had thought that John the Baptist was risen from the dead and was now doing mighty miracles. He no doubt believed the way of the Pharisees because they believed in the resurrection while the Sadducees did not. While John was alive, he did not work any miracles because his ministry was to introduce the Messiah to the nation of Israel as prophesied in Malachi.

Mat 14:3 (KJB)
For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife.

The reason that Herod had feared that John the Baptist was risen because of his marital status. He had divorced his wife, the daughter of Arabian King Aretas IV of Nabataea. (2 Cor 11:32 KJV) In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: His rule was in the southeast portion of the Dead Sea. He had John the Baptist imprisoned because he told Herod that he should not marry his brother’s wife.

Mat 14:4 (KJB)
For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.

John knew the law and told Herod that it was unlawful for him to have his brother’s wife. Herod then proceeded to marry Herodias who was the wife of his half-brother Philip and then sent his divorced wife back to Aretas. According to Leviticus 18:6-18, Herod was forbidden from marrying Herodias because they were family through Philip. They also violated two other laws by doing what they did. (Lev 18:16 KJV) Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness. This was basically a marriage of incest. (Lev 20:21 KJV) And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless.

Mat 14:5 (KJB)
And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

Herodias no doubt wanted to have John the Baptist killed because John was becoming the conscience of Herod concerning his illegal marriage to Herodias. However, Herod did not want to put John to death because he knew that the crowds would castigate him since all those who went out to the river Jordan and heard John speak, had regarded him as a prophet and since he was regarded as a prophet, then Herod would be accused of killing a prophet of God and he did not want that on his record.

Mat 14:6 (KJB)
But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

The celebration of Birthdays was actually a heathen practice. (Gen 40:20 KJV) And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. Birthdays were also celebrated in the time of Joseph and his Pharaoh. The Jews actually had condemned such festivities. There were very few special occasions when the men of Israel danced with the women and only in processional or circular manner, not close dancing. The type of dancing that Salome did was no doubt lewd and suggestive, just like the dancing of today. Herod no doubt was pleased immensely by the dance since it was the type of dance he would give approval to, knowing that he did not care about God’s law. The Herods were descendants of Edom and not Israel, so their pagan roots ran deep.