Taming the Unicorn
Chapter Fourteen – Herod's Infamy
One of the worst cases of lust that the Bible records is that of Herod. Herod was an Edomite whom the Romans set over a portion of Israel to rule it. He committed adultery with his sister–in–law and lived openly with her. His lover, Herodias was infuriated that a holy man named John publicly rebuked Herod for their sin of adultery. She wanted Herod to have John put to death.
The unicorn's demands on Herod put him in a dicey political situation by directing his lustful appetite to his brother's wife, and flouting convention by living openly with her. Such a flagrant contravention of their laws was an insult to the Jews. It didn't help make them tractable.
Though Herod arrested John at Herodias' instigation, he did not comply with her demands to have him beheaded. He knew there would be a rebellion to put down if he did that, for many of the Jews recognized that John was a holy man, a true prophet of God.
He had a certain personal respect for him, too. Herod admired John's courage, wisdom, and holiness. He sensed that he would be in big trouble with God if he went too far in what he did to John. Sometimes he summoned John to ask his advice about various things and followed up on his recommendations. And he gave some thought to John's arguments for holy living and admonitions to turn from his wicked ways, but he didn't give enough thought to it.
God gave Herod chance after chance to turn away from evil. He had John living right there in the palace, albeit in the dungeon, but he was close at hand for frequent conversations that furthered Herod's understanding of God's laws. Where great patience has been shown, great judgment falls when that patience is taken for granted and spurned.
Herod's birthday came up and Herodias was ready for it. She prepared a special present for him. Such was her prideful nature, and her venom against John for showing that her deeds were evil, that she did not scruple against sacrificing her own daughter to the unicorn in a gambit to get her own way.
Salome was young and lovely. Herodias must have noticed how Herod's eyes strayed to his niece, when he supposed that Herodias was not looking. Fear of Herodias' jealous rage withheld him from trying anything with her daughter, or daring to suggest it. But if Herodias gave him permission, then he would have nothing to fear from her. She would not give it without a heavy price.
Herodias had Salome schooled in a sensuous dance and told her she must dance it for her uncle and his guests on his birthday. Perhaps Salome thought it would be great fun to show off her beautiful body and demonstrate how graceful and sexy she could be. If any of the guests or servants or guards were inflamed by her sensuous movements, she was protected by her royal position from being molested. It seemed safe enough, though why her mother was encouraging her to dance like a harlot was puzzling. Perhaps a powerful prince was invited whom Herodias wanted to persuade to marry Salome. Who could he be? Her mother did not say.
The day of Herod's birthday arrived and the celebrations were in full swing. Herodias watched carefully, waiting for the perfect moment to present her "gift." To make sure that he forgot his sense of propriety so that he would make an offer to her daughter publicly, Herodias shrewdly waited until Herod was liquored up, but not so drunk that he would fall asleep during the dance or be incoherent when she needed a clear statement from him. Finally, she discerned the proper moment to announce that she had a special entertainment for him.
With a smile, Herod settled back on his throne to see what Herodias had prepared for his amusement. Salome sailed out in her veils and whirled about the hall. As the dance progressed, she flirtily showed glimpses of skin, wriggling sensuously. The veils started to come off and Herod's eyes widened. He understood what Herodias was saying to him through this dance. Panting with lust, he could hardly breathe by the time the dance ended. Salome had only partially disrobed, and if he wanted to see more, and take her into his bed, he was going to have to pay.
What did Herodias want? Perhaps Salome was surprised when Herod leaned over on his throne and hungrily told her to name her price; he would give her anything, even to the half of his kingdom. But I doubt that she was surprised. As her dance progressed and she could feel the atmosphere in the room rising to a heaving throb of lust, she probably figured out that her mother was up to something. Now she knew without a doubt that it was something that she wanted from her uncle, and that Herodias was willing to send her to his bed to get it.
Salome went to her mother to find out what she was after. Herodias told her to ask for the head of John, that religious fanatic who was shut up in the dungeon. The woman and the girl stared at each other, Herodias pinning her daughter with her eyes until Salome was almost in a trance as she considered the implications. Her mother would be her ally to get her whatever she wanted if she consented to this man's death, but if she refused, Herodias would make her regret it. A woman who would push her own daughter into an incestuous relationship to get what she wanted, was one who would stop at nothing to make life miserable for those who got in her way. Salome was afraid to defy her.
Herod was shocked when Salome returned and told him to give her the head of John the Baptist in a charger. There was no doubt about it now that Herodias had put the girl up to dancing like that for him, and had cornered him into making a public oath that he would give her a reward for her dance. He looked uneasily at his guests. They looked back expectantly. It was nothing to them if he killed a trouble–making, religious fanatic. They figured he had better do it or nobody would make any treaties with him, because he would not be considered to be a man of his word. Nor would his servants be willing to obey him, as they would think that he would not reward them for faithful service.
Herod was trapped. The unicorn stood waiting with a smirk, arm in arm with the spirit of murder that had conspired with him to set out this bait. Herod knew he was about to make a crucial choice that would decide once and for all with whom he was throwing in his lot. The choice was no longer whether he would bed this wench, or not. It was between God and satan. Would he let the fear of losing esteem in the eyes of men cause him to sell his soul to the devil? Or would he hearken to the words of the prophet who urged him to turn away from evil and put his trust in God?
Herod decided to cling to being the king, even at the cost of his soul. He sent the order for John to be beheaded, and for his head to be sent up to the banquet hall on a platter. The spirit of murder grinned with drool dripping from its lips, anticipating the offering. Herodias smiled in satisfaction behind the lattice where she was concealed to watch the progress of her plot.
The door to John's dungeon opened and grim–faced guards fetched him out. Soon it became apparent to John that his suffering was about to end. He was about to join his parents in Paradise. But he could not help but feel sad for the man whom he had spent so much time with, speaking to him of the things of God, and seeing signs of tenderness in his heart, in spite of his arrogant affair with his brother's wife and other evils he had done. Somehow the witch had managed to persuade him to carry out her vindictiveness against him.
It is not impossible for a man to give up a throne for righteousness' sake. Prince Jonathan did it. He knew it was coming when Samuel told his father that God had torn the kingdom from him because he didn't obey Him in the matter of the Amalekites. Jonathan had a legal claim to the throne, but he recognized David as God's choice when he saw him, a shepherd boy half his age. He took him under his wing and mentored him for the position, and saved David's life when he discovered his father was bent on killing him. He even sought David out when his father was chasing him down, and encouraged him in the Lord that he would prevail.
No, it is not impossible for a man to choose God over a throne, but the difference between Jonathan and Herod is that Jonathan groomed himself towards godliness, whereas Herod fed his fleshly appetites and found himself in a great state of weakness when his soul hung by a thread, and the decision he had to make possibly determined where he would spend eternity.
Herod was not only breaking the Law by committing adultery with his brother's wife, but also about to commit incest with his brother's daughter, which was also an abomination because she was the daughter of a woman he had bedded. Worse than that, he put to death a man who was not only innocent, but the Lord's anointed. And worst of all, he rejected the Messiah that John told him about, who would have washed away all his sins, if he had repented and received Him as his Saviour.
The head of John was brought to the banquet, its long, gory, Nazarite braids trailing over the edge of the charger, and presented to the damsel who waited on her knees before Herod's throne. Did her heart smite her as she looked on the remains of a good and noble man whose life she could have saved, even if it was at the expense of great grief to herself? Did she inwardly berate herself for being a fool, letting her vanity provoke her into conceding to her mother's wish that she perform a sensuous dance for her uncle and his guests? Now she was committed to going to bed with her uncle, and she was going there with blood on her hands. She took the charger and carried it to her mother, who received it with a satisfied smirk.
I think that it was a sad and sordid night that followed for Salome, and that it wasn't at all the delight that Herod expected it to be, before he found out what he would have to pay for it. He was furious at being tricked, and he doubtless took it out on his niece after paying her the price she demanded for her favours. Herodias sat in her own chamber staring at the head of John, gloating over it, and mocking it, uncaring of the Hell that her daughter was being subjected to in her uncle's bedroom.
Such is the true nature of the unicorn. It has no mercy. It does not pity children. It does not regard sacred boundaries. It has no reverence for life. If it is not reined in and hitched to Yeshua's purpose for it, it will trample one's health and family and sanity and their soul.
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Taming the Unicorn, Chapter 15