Most people dislike having their sins pointed out, especially in public. The shame of being exposed is often stronger than the guilt brought on by the wrongdoing.  Herod Antipas was a man experiencing both guilt and shame.

Herod’s ruthless ambition was public knowledge, as was his illegal marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. One man made Herod’s sin a public issue.  That man was John the Baptist.  John had been preaching in the desert, and thousands flocked to hear him.  Apparently it was no secret that John had rebuked Herod for his adulterous marriage.  Herodias was particularly anxious to have John silenced.  As a solution, Herod imprisoned John.

Herod liked John. John was probably one of the few people he met who spoke only the truth to him.  But the truth about his sin was a bitter pill to swallow, and Herod wavered at the point of conflict: he couldn’t afford to have John constantly reminding the people of their leader’s sinfulness, but he was afraid to have John killed.  He put off the choice.  Eventually Herodias forced his hand, and John was executed.  Of course, this only served to increase Herod’s guilt.

Upon hearing about Jesus, Herod immediately identified him with John. He couldn’t decide what to do about Jesus.  He didn’t want to repeat the mistake he had made with John, so he tried to threaten Jesus just before Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.  When the two met briefly during Jesus’ trial, Jesus would not speak to Herod.  Herod had proved himself a poor listener to John, and Jesus had nothing to add to John’s words.  Herod responded with spite and mocking.  Having rejected the messenger, he found it easy to reject the Messiah.

For each person, God chooses the best possible ways to reveal himself. He uses his word, various circumstances, our minds, or other people to get our attention.  He is persuasive and persistent, but never forces himself on us.  To miss or resist God’s message, as did Herod, is tragedy.  How aware are you of God’s attempts to enter your life?  Have you welcomed him?

Strengths and accomplishments:

  • Built the city of Tiberias and oversaw other architectural projects
  • Rules the region of Galilee for the Romans

Weaknesses and mistakes:

  • Consumed with his quest for power
  • Put off decisions or made wrong ones under pressure
  • Divorced his wife to marry the wife of his half brother, Philip
  • Imprisoned John the Baptist and later ordered his execution
  • Had a minor part in the execution of Jesus

Lessons from his life:

  • A life motivated by ambition is usually characterised by self-destruction
  • Opportunities to do good usually come to us in the form of choices to be made

Vital statistics:

  • Where: Jerusalem
  • Occupation: Roman tetrarch of the region of Galilee and Perea
  • Relatives: Father: Herod the Great. Mother: Malthace.  First wife: daughter of Aretas IV.  Second wife: Herodias
  • Contemporaries: John the Baptist, Jesus, Pilate

Key verse: “When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20).

Herod Antipas’ story is told in the Gospels. He is also mentioned in Acts 4:27; 13:1.


©KingsWay 1973.


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