What does Matthew 14:6 mean?
ESV: But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod,
NIV: On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much
NASB: But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod,
CSB: When Herod's birthday celebration came, Herodias's daughter danced before them and pleased Herod.
NLT: But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him,
KJV: But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
NKJV: But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod.
Verse Commentary:
Ancient Jewish people, so far as we know, invested little importance in annual birthdays. Celebrating the date of one's birth, as is done in most modern cultures, was not common among Israelites of the New Testament era. The historian Josephus wrote—possibly exaggerating—that the practice was forbidden. The Jewish family of the Herods, however, was greatly influenced by Greek culture in many ways, including this one. Herod threw himself a lavish birthday party, likely at his fortress called Machaerus, found on the east side of the Dead Sea.

The Herod mentioned here is Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the tetrarch. His current wife, Herodias, had a daughter by her previous marriage—to Herod's own brother Philip, known as Herod II. We know from history that the daughter's name was Salome. Salome was likely a teenager at this time. She performed a dance for Herod and those gathered to celebrate his birthday. Some commentators suggest that this dance may have been very sensual, given the time and the setting, as well as the reaction (Matthew 14:7; Mark 6:22–23). However, Matthew's gospel does not say this directly.
Verse Context:
Matthew 14:1–12 describes how Herod the tetrarch, ruler over Galilee, has heard of Jesus' fame and power. He believes Jesus is a resurrected John the Baptist. Matthew then explains that Herod had arrested John the Baptist. His "crime" was publicly condemning Herod's marriage to his own brother's wife. Later, Herod was manipulated into a promise by his wife's daughter, after she danced for him and his guests. On behalf of her mother, she asked for John the Baptist's head on a platter (Mark 6:14–29). Herod agreed and had John executed immediately. John's disciples came and buried him, then went and told Jesus the news of his death.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 14 begins with a backstory about the arrest and execution of John the Baptist by Herod the tetrarch, the Jewish ruler of the region. Jesus and the disciples take a boat to a desolate place only to find crowds waiting. Jesus heals many and then feeds as many as twenty thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Later, the disciples row against a strong wind until Jesus walks on the water to meet them and calm the wind. Peter walks on water briefly and then doubts and begins to sink. The disciples worship Jesus. On the other side of the lake, Jesus continues to heal the sick.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 13 included more of Jesus' parables and an unfortunate incident where His own hometown rejected His ministry. Chapter 14 begins with news that Herod the tetrarch—the man who killed John the Baptist—is aware of Jesus' fame and power. Jesus and the disciples intend to withdraw to somewhere desolate, but a crowd is waiting for them. Jesus heals people, miraculously feeds thousands, and walks on water. When they reach the other side, Jesus heals more people. Chapter 15 sees Jesus once again debating with His critics and performing more healings.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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