At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod so much that he promised an oath to grant her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.
Being a prophet is extremely dangerous. Jesus (and most of His disciples) were killed as a result of their beliefs. And John the Baptist was killed largely for the same thing. Herod was having an affair with his sister-in-law, (and was attracted to his niece, her daughter, as well, gross) and neither he nor she liked being told that it was immoral. Herodias was upset enough to have John killed. Which just goes to show the power sin can have over our lives. She would literally rather kill someone than admit what she was doing was sinful. We love to point the finger at someone else!
But John also lost his life because Herod did something extremely stupid: he promised to do something before he knew what it would be. Common sense would tell you that’s clearly a bad idea, yet we do it frequently! “Will you do me a favor?” “Sure!” But what if they ask you to do something you aren’t comfortable with? You’ve put yourself in the awkward position of having to say, “Oh, I can’t do that!”, or doing it anyway. On the other hand, we should stop asking people to make promises without knowing too. Both parties involved in this conversation were in the wrong.
Finally, I think it’s funny how little this particular Herod seemed to understand about the Messiah. He seems to think Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead. He couldn’t conceive of any other way for a man to be so powerful. The Herod from chapter two would have known better, I think, but would also have been more afraid.