Matthew 14:4
For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
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(4) For John said unto him.—The Jewish historian (Ant. xviii. 5, § 2) states more generally that Antipas was afraid lest some popular outbreak should be the result of the preaching of the Baptist, working on the excitable peasantry of Galilee.

14:1-12 The terror and reproach of conscience, which Herod, like other daring offenders, could not shake off, are proofs and warnings of a future judgment, and of future misery to them. But there may be the terror of convictions, where there is not the truth of conversion. When men pretend to favour the gospel, yet live in evil, we must not favour their self-delusion, but must deliver our consciences as John did. The world may call this rudeness and blind zeal. False professors, or timid Christians, may censure it as want of civility; but the most powerful enemies can go no further than the Lord sees good to permit. Herod feared that the putting of John to death might raise a rebellion among the people, which it did not; but he never feared it might stir up his own conscience against him, which it did. Men fear being hanged for what they do not fear being damned for. And times of carnal mirth and jollity are convenient times for carrying on bad designs against God's people. Herod would profusely reward a worthless dance, while imprisonment and death were the recompence of the man of God who sought the salvation of his soul. But there was real malice to John beneath his consent, or else Herod would have found ways to get clear of his promise. When the under shepherds are smitten, the sheep need not be scattered while they have the Great Shepherd to go to. And it is better to be drawn to Christ by want and loss, than not to come to him at all.For Herod had laid hold on John ... - See Mark 6:17-20; Luke 3:19-20. This Herodias was a granddaughter of Herod the Great. She was first married to Herod Philip, by whom she had a daughter, Salome, probably the one that danced and pleased Herod. Josephus says that this marriage of Herod Antipas with Herodias took place while he was on a journey to Rome. He stopped at his brother's; fell in love with his wife; agreed to put away his own wife, the daughter of Aretas, King of Petraea; and Herodias agreed to leave her own husband and live with him. They were living, therefore, in adultery; and John, in faithfulness, though at the risk of his life, had reproved them for their crimes. Herod was guilty of two crimes in this act:

1. Of "adultery," since she was the wife of another man.

2. Of "incest," since she was a near relation, and such marriages were expressly forbidden, Leviticus 18:16.

2. And said unto his servants—his counsellors or court-ministers.

This is John the Baptist: he is risen from the dead, &c.—The murdered prophet haunted his guilty breast like a specter and seemed to him alive again and clothed with unearthly powers in the person of Jesus.

Account of the Baptist's Imprisonment and Death (Mt 14:3-12). For the exposition of this portion, see on [1301]Mr 6:17-29.

Mark telleth us, Mark 6:20, that Herod feared, that is, reverenced and respected, 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. John was very popular, and all men counted him as a prophet; so that probably Herod sent for him to the court, and heard him there. John seeing Herod live in adultery and incest, was not able to suffer such a sin upon him, but tells him he did that which was not lawful for him to do, for God’s law had forbidden such marriages. Mark addeth, that Herodias also had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not, because of the respect which Herod had for him. But this wore off, for Matthew tells us... {see Matthew 14:5}

For John said unto him,.... John having heard of this incestuous marriage, went to Herod, and reproved him to his face for it; and, as Luke says, "for all the evils he had done", Luke 3:19 for he was a very wicked man, and guilty of many flagitious crimes: John, in so doing, showed his zeal for holiness, his hatred of sin, his courage and faithfulness in reproving thus freely so great a man; and made it manifest, that he came in the spirit of Elijah: what he said to him was,

it is not lawful for thee to have her, being forbidden, Leviticus 18:16 for though by another law it was right to marry a brother's wife, after his decease, when he left no issue, yet this was not the case here; Philip was now living, and, had he been dead, such a marriage would have been unlawful, because there was issue; she had a daughter, who afterwards is said to dance before Herod; and besides, he himself had another wife, whom he put away; so that his sin was a very aggravated and complicated one: lying with a brother's wife, was one of those sins which, according to the Jewish (h) canons, deserved cutting off, or death by the hand of God. Josephus (i) gives another reason of the imprisonment and death of John, that Herod feared that the people of the Jews, through his means, would be moved to sedition, and revolt from his government; which might be what Herodias suggested to him, or what he gave out himself, to cover the true cause of his proceedings: but the true reason is, what is here given, and is to be confirmed by the testimony of Jewish writers. One of their chronologers (k) delivers the account in these express words:

"Herod Antipater was a very wicked and pernicious man, many of the wise men of Israel he slew with the sword; and he took to wife, his brother Philip's wife, whilst he was living; and because John the high priest (for so through mistake they call him) "reproved him for this"; (see Luke 3:19) he slew him with the sword, with many of the wise men of Israel.''

And, says their historian (l),

"also he, Herod, slew John, because he said unto him, it is forbidden thee to take the wife of Philip, and he slew him; this is that John that practised baptism.''

(h) Misn. Ceritot, c. 1. sect. 1.((i) Antiqu. lsss. 18. c. 6. (k) Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2.((l) Joseph. Gorionides, 1. 5. c. 45.

For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
Matthew 14:4 f. Οὐκ ἔξεστι] Because Philip was still living, and had a daughter. Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21; Joseph. Antt. xviii. 5. 1, 2; Lightfoot on this passage. For ἔχειν γυναῖκα, as expressing matrimonial possession, see note on 1 Corinthians 5:1. It is probable that Herod only made John’s bold rebuke a pretext for putting him in prison; the real cause, according to Josephus, 18:5. 2 f., was fear lest he should be the means of creating an insurrection.

εἶχον] not: aestumabant (a common but ungrammatical rendering), but: they held him as a prophet, i.e. they stood to him as to a prophet. This is in conformity with classical usage, according to which ἔχω τινα, with a predicate, expresses the relation in which a person stands to some other person; for example, φίλους αὐτοὺς ἔχεις (Xen. Symp. iv. 49): thou standest related to them as to friends; Eur. Herc. fur. 1405: παῖδʼ ὅπως ἔχω σʼ ἐμόν, I stand to thee as to a child; Herodian, i. 13. 16; and see likewise the note on Luke 14:18; Philemon 1:17. The appended ὡς means: not otherwise than as. Krüger, § 57. 3. 1 and 2; Kühner, II. 2, p. 995. Similarly also in Matthew 21:26. Otherwise in Mark 11:32.

Matthew 14:4. ἔλεγε γὰρ ὁ Ι. The progressive imperfect, with force of a pluperfect. John had been saying just before he was apprehended (Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 29).—οὐκ ἔξεστιν: doubly unlawful; as adultery, and as marriage within prohibited degrees (Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21).

4. It is not lawful for thee to have her] St Luke adds, Mark 3:19, that Herod was also reproved “for all the evil which he had done.” “Boldly to rebuke vice” is fixed upon as the leading characteristic of the Baptist in the collect for St John the Baptist’s day.

to have her] i. e. “to marry her,” a force which the word in the original bears, cp. 1 Corinthians 5:1.

Matthew 14:4. Οὐκ ἔξεστι, it is not lawful) John did not break the force of bitter truth by arguments of a too conciliatory nature; neither his words were soft, nor his dress. John did not come into Galilee, but yet he was able to reprove Herod.—σοὶ, to thee) Sins even of kings should be rebuked in the second person.—ἔχειν, to have) Theologians must not give up questions concerning marriage (see ch. Matthew 19:3-4), since it is their duty to examine everything which is lawful or unlawful; cf. ch. Matthew 22:17.

Verse 4. - For John said unto him, It is not lawful (οὐκ ἔξεστιν, Matthew 12:2) for thee to have her. Herod Philip being still alive. Bengel remarks, "Causas matrimoniales non possunt plane abdicare theologi." Was he thinking of Luther's unfortunate advice to Philip of Hesse? Matthew 14:4
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