Wed | Sep 30, 2020

Bad girls in the Bible – Herodias and ‘Salome’

Published:Sunday | January 26, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru - Senior Gleaner Writer

Very early in the New Testament, we run into two women who seem to have badness running through their veins. This wily mother-daughter duo has craftiness down to a science. The mother, Herodias, who was the granddaughter of King Herod the Great, married her uncle, Herod Philip I, and then simply decided to ‘tek a next’ brother and doan response’. After all, she was unhappy with Philip, and then she fell madly in love with the other brother, and she set out to conquer. This was no biggie for this baddie. It is said that Herodias and Herod Antipas tore up both the regular and the royal rule books so that they could marry each other, and they faced social condemnation.

Enter John, the prophet, also called the Baptist. Intense and fearless, he called rich, poor, religious leaders, and even Herod to repent. Mark 6:17-19, “For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favour to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, ‘It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.’ So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him, but without Herod’s approval, she was powerless.”

Herodias arranged an elaborate birthday party in Herod’s honour and asked her daughter, Salome, to perform before Herod and his guests. (Salome is not actually named in the New Testament. She is referred to as “the daughter of Herodias”.) Quite delighted by the young girl’s dance, he gleefully promised to give her anything her little heart desired, up to half his kingdom. Prompted by her mother, Salome made a most abhorrent and incredible request: “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist!”

Ruthless Salome

One Bible commentator notes that “Salome stood by her mother and showed that she was as ruthless in disposing of an enemy as her grandfather Herod the Great had. She was the lion’s cub”.

Shocked and distressed, because he actually respected John, but bound by his oath, Herod ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. (Matthew 14:6-10).

Herodias, Fr Sean, servant priest at Christ Church in Vineyard Town, points out, used a family member in a horrible crime against a fellow human being. He then denounces Herod as a wimp and the idiot in the story. “If only he had not been so stupid in making such an oath, Herodias might not have seized the opportunity to make her gruesome request. This is not to excuse Herodias’ macabre way of thinking. She ought to have left her daughter out of this ugly plot.”

He notes that the selfish Herodias had no interest in her daughter’s well being. Of what use would the head of John the Baptist be to her daughter? Herod actually revered John the Baptist, but he had to save face.

Fr Sean caution political and church leaders to be aware of the choices they make, and the demands that they place on those who love and revere them.

The Herodiases of today are many. They sit and watch the exploitation of their children; and further encourage this in various acts of human trafficking. They whisper in the ears of their daughters about illicit choices and lifestyles which are contrary to community and nation building.

“May we be seized with holy fear that inspires truth, righteousness, and a quest for that humility which teaches honesty, patience, respect, and the building up of family and community,” Fr Sean states.