What does Mark 6:28 mean?Herod Antipas met Herodias in Rome. Antipas was married to the daughter of the king of Nabatea, a nation that bordered the southeast of one of his territories. Herodias was married to Antipas' half-brother. Apparently, she wanted more than the life of a privileged citizen of Rome, so she agreed to marry the self-styled king of an obscure territory. However, this required that he divorce his wife. Secular historical accounts say that later on, Antipas' ex-father-in-law invaded his territory, and Antipas' army suffered serious losses. Later, in Herodias' attempt to earn the title of queen, she created such animosity between Antipas and the emperor that she had to follow her husband into exile in Gaul.
In modern use, to speak of presenting something "on a silver platter" implies to receive something as a gift, without one's own effort, something given in an exceptionally easy or effortless way. Although the Bible does not specify that the platter presented to Herodias' daughter was silver, this passage is where the phrase likely comes from. The original meaning is more nuanced than a simplistic reference to ease, however. Herodias certainly had to work hard to orchestrate John's execution.
Antipas was hosting a formal dinner for "nobles and military commanders and and the leading men of Galilee" (Mark 6:21). Herodias' daughter earned the favor of the men, through an especially alluring dance, and Antipas offers the girl whatever she wishes for. At Herodias' bidding, the girl asks for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
Herodias' request sharply cuts through Antipas' supposed display of power and refinement. In the midst of the luxurious celebration of Antipas' life, a man's severed head is introduced. It sits on similar serving ware as the victuals Antipas has offered his guests. The head belongs to someone Antipas liked and feared and who was under his protection. It is presented to a girl, the least powerful person in the room, who has seduced and out-maneuvered the influential men around her.
Although the nobles may not understand the undercurrents, Antipas surely does. Herodias has made a mockery of his authority and position. She has forced the leader of the land to submit to her wishes and deliver her desires as a gift. He does so because if he refuses, his integrity will be under question. This could lead to the nobles and military leaders withdrawing their support, resulting in Antipas losing his authority and possibly his right to rule. But by submitting to Herodias' demand, he knows his authority is hollow, ultimately meaning nothing.
Antipas' first mistake was to fall for a woman who wanted to use his position for her own gain, even if it meant breaking two marriages and risking war. Antipas chose lust and a stroked ego instead of the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18) and peace with his neighbors.