Study Guide

Herod and His Court in Gospel of Mark

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Herod and His Court

Warning from Jesus: don't get tempted by power (10:42) and wealth (4:19). Sorry, followers of Jesus, you'll have to trade this all in for a life of service.

Guess who's not down with that? Herod and his court, who dramatize a world in which the values of power and wealth reign supreme. In fact, Herod's court is kind of like the families in our favorite soap operas. Check out this preview, which would be enough to sell any juicy daytime television series.

Vendettas. Herodias wants John dead because he's critical of her marriage to Herod (6:17-19). But she's thwarted by the fact that Herod enjoys listening to John—he considered him a just and holy man, even if he doesn't quite understand him entirely (6:20).
Wealth and excess. The most powerful of Herod's courtiers show up to his birthday banquet (6:21). These dinners were known in this period for their exquisite foods and elegance. Caviar, anyone?
Seduction. Herodias's daughter dances. And we mean dances. Although Mark withholds the details, erotic undercurrents of other ancient literary accounts of dinners make us think we're in for something sexy (6:22).
Trickery. Herodias forces Herod's hand, and he's unwilling to revoke the oaths to his daughter in front of his guests. He grieves as he gives the order to kill John (6:27).

In reality, Herod's court is one where compromised rulers and manipulative, vindictive women hold sway. Many of Mark's earliest readers may have accepted this as a critique of their current Herodian overlords or even the Roman imperial court, from which the power of the later Roman-appointed kings was derived. Bottom line: Herod & Co. were not the people's faves.

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