Earlier imprisonment and beheading of John the Baptist
|3For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. 4For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
|17For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. 18For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. 19Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;
|6But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
|22And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.
|8And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. 9And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
|25And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 26And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. 27And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. 29And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
Joshua 19:35 lists Hammat, Rakkat and Chinneret as fortified cities in the tribal area of Naphtali. It is thought that Tiberias, built in approximately 20 A.D. by Herod Antipas, stands on the ruins of ancient Rakkat. Antipas, son of Herod the Great, is the Herod who executed John the Baptist and was described as “that fox” by Jesus. He apparently continued the family custom of currying favor with the Romans since he named his new city in honor of Emperor Tiberius. It was a Hellenistic city, avoided by observant Jews in the time of Jesus and his followers. Peter lived just a few miles away but probably never visited the place in view of his comment in Acts 10:28. Ironically, Tiberias became the center of Jewish learning after the destruction of Jerusalem. Sometime before the year 220 A.D. the Jewish scholars of Tiberias wrote the Mishna, the collection of civil and ritual laws, under the direction of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi. The Jerusalem or Palestinian Talmud was completed here around the year 400 A.D. (A century later the Babylonian Talmud was completed in the academies of Mesopotamia and it overshadowed the shorter Palestinian Talmud.) The use of vowel points and punctuated Hebrew script also originated here.
The modern city is a bit north of the hot springs which have made the city a health spa in ancient and recent times. The hot springs, mentioned by historians such as Pliny and Josephus, are probably at the site of biblical Hammat. Recent archaeology has discovered a beautiful mosaic floor depicting the Ark of the Covenant between two menorahs. It is thought to be from a synagogue of the 4th century A.D.