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Biblical Account of the Story Behind Third Elijah’s Death: John the Baptist

Updated on January 12, 2020
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Studying the bible is always good. For years, I have been studying the bible and I found it wonderful

Introduction

Several religious books not excluding Jewish antiquities books have their versions of the story behind the death of the person Jesus Christ professed to be the third Elijah.

When some people hear about second or third Elijah they usually think about re-incarnation, but that is not what Jesus means neither what the Prophets and other apostles who wrote something about those people mean.

What those people mean by saying someone was the Elijah prophesied or talked about that would first come was that those people would come in the spirit similar to the spirit of the person, they would operate in a way that is verily likened to the way the person has operated before leaving the world.

And I am sure that many if not all the bible scholars and students would agree with me that those people professed to have come in the spirit of Elijah operated like the man when they were on the planet called earth.

Some of the key things that would reveal this to us is that they promoted monotheism, directed all the people to Yahweh the only God, frowns at unrighteousness and preached against injustice to crème-de-la-crème of the society at the detriment of their lives.

Some who support the re-incarnation theorem have opined that John the Baptist was beheaded by the king because that was the death Prophet Elijah supposed to die while on earth but which he failed to die by fleeing for his life, but John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded meaning that Elijah reincarnated and was eventually killed by the powerful person in the land.

The bible does not support this, neither should we subscribe to it in any form. What happened to john was unfortunate but it shows something it shows the position of men, it shows how wicked the hearts of men are in the world how we sternly withstood everything that is right and mostly those things that talked about our weaknesses, injustices we meted out to one another and our sins.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer 17:9)

This reveals that anyone could go to the extremes in ensuring that no one withstood his decision no one stands on his way of achieving something and even if the thing is not right neither good.

By Jesus telling his disciples that John was the Elijah the prophets of old Prophesied about does not mean he supported re-incarnation neither believes in it nor preaches it, but showing the believers that he believed the written words of the prophets and want his followers to believe too and know whom the prophets were talking about which many if not all of them did not know because John himself says he wasn’t Elias being spoken about.

Does it then mean that John himself does not know who he was nor what the holy books say about him? No, this does not mean that he does not know who he was, neither what the Holy Books say about him, but what he was trying to do when he was alive was that he does not want to draw people to himself, he does not want people to leave substances and be following shadows, because when he agrees and let them know that, as humans behaviors are, they would leave the original and be following the photocopy and the photocopy is wanting to become free from the romans whereas the original that God points at or which was in the mind of God for sending him to the heart was to let the people know the original who is Jesus Christ and what he has come to the world to do, which is the work of redemption which has eluded the planet for billions of years according to the archeologists carbon dating.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (Joh 1:29)

You shall agree that assuming he agreed and revealed his status, the people’s focus would be changed, and they would start pursuing with everything they have gotten the shadows which their fathers have pursued, and they died without hopes and a future.

Jesus Christ has come to give us hope and a future, however, he needs someone who will let the people know what he was in the world for and this was what John did without changing focus.

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We need to let the world know the gospel, we need to let the world know what Jesus came to the world for. Many misconstrue what he came to the world for, why he died, and what he would be returning to the world for. This we should try as best as we could to tell the world in all ways, we could without raising dusts, because there are some who would want to raise dusts want to argue, such people the bible enjoins that we should leave lest it leads to the unexpected developments.

But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God. (1 Co 11:16)

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;

He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (1 Ti 6:3-5)

Let me share a story related to this as it happened over two hundred years ago, I read it in Pastor Henry Ford’s book a Baptist minister of blessed memory. He said there was once a young believer who knew nothing about the bible, and you would recall that bible was not as this common during their days. This man after becoming saved started telling the people about Jesus Christ that they need to be saved. However, one day this man got to a man who has read bible a lot and who has questions about a character in the bible. After this naïve gospeler have told the man that he needs to be saved to secure heaven, the man replied him that he was aware of what he said, but for him to be saved, he needs to answer a question. This preacher told him to ask him the question, thinking it has something to do with what he has said, the man then asked him that who was Cain’s wife and how did Cain get his wife?

This naïve preacher obviously did not know anything about this, and he replied him with the only bible verse he knew which was Hebrews 9:27 thatit is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”. Pastor Ford said the man was furious and told the naïve preacher to get out of his sight, because he does not know the bible neither knows what he is saying.

This man left him but some minutes after they had parted, the man was pricked in his heart by the Holy Spirit, and he started seeking for this naïve preacher, on finding him, he asked him to please pray with him that he was ready to give his life to Jesus Christ. That was how the man became saved.

Assuming the man in this story of Pastor Ford continues to argue with the speaker, would he be saved? No, I do not so think. What I think would happen is the argument would degenerate to another thing and would negate the effect that the Holy Ghost would have heard on the man’s heart.

So, when we are telling people about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we should show them Jesus, show them what the bible says, and leave argument as best as we could for it only leads to discord and fight most of the time when it is not left early.

The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with. (Pro 17:14)

A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes (Pro 18:6)

To explain this topic, I will be using the book of the Gospels according to Saint Matthew 14: 1-12; Mark 6:14-29 and Luke 3: 1-20 to show us some biblical accounts of the story behind the death of the third Elijah in this article.

Grammatically speaking we shall see that the word “behind” in this topic is used as a preposition, which means what leads to something, what brought about an event. This therefore means that it was what led to the death of the third Elijah that I shall briefly be focusing in this write up.

However, I believe it would be of benefit to us as well as add meaning to this article and topic if we can know about the characters involved in this history.

Salome dancing
Salome dancing

Salome, Daughter of Salome (Herodias)

The name of the Herodias daughter, Salome, wasn’t mentioned in the bible but it was believed that her name was Salome from the Jewish antiquities records and what Josephus wrote.

It was also believed by the modern European after studying the write-ups of Latin on this that mother and daughter have the same name, Salome.

The Jewish antiquities have it that Salome was the daughter of Herodias who danced for Herod Antipas the third King in the order of Herod the Great in their family. Salome though not mentioned in the bible became popular through her dance for the king and the subsequent effect of that dancing which was the beheading of John the Baptist.

Online Wikipedia says Salome was born in AD 1 and she was the daughter of Herod II and Herodias and she was the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas. This Salome was not the disciple who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus in Mark 15:40.

There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Mar 15:40)

However, apocryphal book of the resurrection of Christ which is pseudonomically attributed to Bartholomew named “Salome the temptress” as among the women who went to the empty tomb. This may therefore suggest that Salome, the daughter of Herodias was at the tomb too according to the report of Mark.

Salome was married to Philip son of Herod, tetrarch of Trachonitis but he died childless. Aristobulus the son of Herod the brother of Agrippa married her, they had three sons; Herod, Agrippa and Aristobulus.

Herodias
Herodias

Salome Senior (Herodias)

Herodias who died in AD 39 was married to Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great but given birth to by Mariamne who was the tetrarch appointed by Rome to rule Galilee from 4 BC to AD 39 after she had a daughter Salome and divorced his half-brother Herod Philip who was not the tetrarch this was viewed as transgression of mosaic law by John the Baptist and he spoke against the marriage and other evils he has done in the land.

But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,

Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison. (Luk 3:19-20)

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says Herod Philip whom Herodias divorced herself from was believed not to be the Philip who was the tetrarch of Trachonitis whom Salome junior got married to afterwards.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, (Luk 3:1)

Herod Antipas and Herodias
Herod Antipas and Herodias

Herod Antipas

In Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, the author says, Herod Antipas was the third King of the lineage of Herod, he was the brother of Archelaus, and was very wicked a person and very destructive a man. He slew many wise men in Israel including John the Baptist.

Josephus while talking about this King, says, he was the son of Herod the Great but given birth to by Mariamne the third wife and the daughter of Simon the High priest.

e-sword says, he produced revenue of 200 talents a year. His first wife was the daughter of Aretas, the King of Arabia, but he divorced her to marry Herodias.

Herodias married this man after given birth to Salome and divorcing her husband who was yet alive. John the Baptist could not contain this worrying development by the woman, he saw it as upturning and polluting Mosaic law which if allowed would be norm and order of the day by the people and he spoke vehemently against the King and the woman for transgressing the Mosaic law. To keep the mouth of the man shut, he was arrested by the king and imprisoned.

What is it that you are doing that is wrong, though we may not be following Mosaic law now, because Jesus has brought grace for us, but despite that, whatever it is that you are doing that is un-scriptural, those things which are contrary to the moral standards and you are hiding under grace, you should stop doing them because if the people cannot discipline you, there is a God who will discipline you and the discipline and punishment of God is terrible, that is why the author says, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31)

John the Baptist in Prison
John the Baptist in Prison

The Third Elijah, John the Baptist

John the Baptist was given birth to in the late first century BC and lived till AD 28 or 36. His parents were Zechariah the priest of the order of Abia and Elizabeth his mother.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. (Luke 1:5)

He was a Jewish itinerant preacher. His name, John is from Hebrew name Johanan which means Jehovah favored. He was honored as a saint and revered in major religions of the world. He was the forerunner of Jesus Christ and Jesus referred to him as the “Elijah who is to come”. He and Jesus were relatives.

And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.(Mat 11:14)

He spent major part of his early life in the wilderness where he received education by the Jewish sect he belonged to and many of his disciples eventually switched base when he announced Jesus to them as they started following Jesus Christ. He baptized Jesus Christ.

He was sentenced to death and beheaded by Herod Antipas between 28 and 36 AD at the palace-fortress of Machaerus located near the dead sea in modern Jordan.

John the Baptist talking to King and Herodias
John the Baptist talking to King and Herodias

His Offense

John as a preacher of righteousness whom the people respected, he has been showing the people the way of righteousness since, however, something happened which became an open knowledge because it happened among the King’s family.

Herodias who has been married to a member of the royal family decided to divorce the person she was married to without the person’s death and married the King Herod Antipas.

The jurists of the land couldn’t pass a contrary judgment on the filed divorce because it involves the King.

John on seeing this saw it as a big slap on the Mosaic law which needs to be addressed. All the evils that the king has been perpetuating in the land apart, but this needs to be addressed. He thence spoke against what the King did asking for his repentance and given the woman back to her husband.

But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,

Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.” (Luk 3:19-20)

The King has been overlooking his speeches against all the atrocities he has been committing, but when he makes mention of his marriage to Herodias as illegal, he thought he wouldn’t allow him to continue to stay among the people and he got him arrested and imprisoned.

Herod and Herodias
Herod and Herodias

King’s Initial Disposition

King Herod Antipas considered John to be a man of God whom the people respected, and he does not want to kill John because he was thinking that his disciples may cause trouble in the town, which would destabilize his rulership and may force the Roman leadership to remove him from power, he thus puts him in prison to silence him.

And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.(Mat 14:5)

However, during the time when he was in the prison, he listens to Prophet John speaks to him, but despite listening to him, he never changed his heart.

For Herod feared 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.(Mar 6:20)

It is not enough to gladly hear the Gospel messages, but what is expected of the listener is to change his ways and turn to the living God.

Herodias Kept Grudges Against Him

When Herodias heard the message of John, she was furious and became embittered towards John such that she started looking for means to kill the man. But she couldn’t do this without the approval of the King, her new husband.

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: (Mar 6:19)

The word quarrel here is Greek word which is “ἐνέχω”, Romanized form is enechō (pronounced as en-ekh'-o) which means keep a grudge, entangle.

Herodias holds grudges against John and had looked for means of killing him through snare, but she couldn’t. She would have on several occasion pushed her husband, Herod Antipas to kill the man (as Jezebel pushed King Ahab) if he really loves her, but the man has refused because of multitude because he does not want to do what would destabilize the nation and he be removed from power.

When she discovered that her efforts have failed on the wise, she resorted to another method looking for convenient time to carry out what was in her mind.

Her Devised Strategy

When the woman couldn’t find occasion to silence the prophet because her husband, King Herod Antipas did not give her the nod, the authority, to carry out what was in her heart, she devised another strategy of taking vengeance on the prophet and the devised strategy involves her bringing her daughter into the loop. The baby she gave birth to when she filed for divorce with her husband and father of the baby, Herod Philip, and went and marry his brother Herod Antipas has grown up.

She would have noticed that the King loved the Salome and thus impressed it upon her heart of the need to deal with the prophet and kill him when she has the slightest opportunity to do so.

That is why it is not surprising when she danced and made the heart of the king merry that she could ask from the King that what she needed was the head of John the Baptist on the plate.

And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. (Mat 14:8)

The word instructed here is Greek word “προβιβάζω”, Romanized form is probibazō (pronounced as prob-ib-ad'-zo) which means to instigate, instruct. The Greek word, probibazō has its origin from these words: “πρό”, Romanized form is pro (phonetic spelling is pro) which means prior, ever, before, and “βιάζω” Romanized form of which is biazō (pronounced as bee-ad'-zo) which means to press.

This means the word instruct here means that ever before the incident of Salome’s dancing before the King happened, Herodias (or Salome the senior) has impressed it upon the heart of her daughter that John the Baptist is a dangerous being and that she must do everything within her means to ensure that he is killed.

No Discrepancy Between Matthew 14:8 and Mark 6:24-25

When we read the documentations in the two Gospels and verses, we may want to be confused that there is no correlation between the two accounts, but when we look at it closely, we shall discover that there is no iota of discrepancies between the two.

And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. (Mat 14:8)

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, what shall I ask? And she said, the head of John the Baptist.

And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.(Mar 6:24-25)

The first account in Matthew says Salome did not resort back to her mother before asking for the prophet’s head in a plate because a word like that has been impressed upon her heart by her mother well before the time that she impressed her stepfather by her dancing steps and skills.

However, on the part of Saint Mark he said, the lady went to her mother to make consultations before asking for what she should ask from her stepfather.

Why did the writer write that she goes to her mother?

Someone may want to ask. On the first note, Salome went to her mother to show the affiliation level between herself and her mother and on another note, it shows her level, her age at that time, that she was still naïve and wouldn’t do anything without her mother.

And when her mother told her that she should ask for the head of John the Baptist she never waited for a second before returning to her stepfather to tell him what she wants him to do for her.

These could be deduced from the word, straightway as stated by Saint Mark in his account:

- Re-affirmation:

It shows that the lady knew what she wants to ask before going to her mother again, what she went to her mother for was confirmatory, she wants to know if she still stands by her decision to have John the Baptist killed or she has repented,

- Previous Discussion:

It shows that there have been some words related to that between mother and daughter for as a proverb in my land, previous discussion is what makes parents say my child understands (knows) my slangs,

- She Did Not Question Her Mother:

Assuming she was just being told that for the first time, she would have questioned her mother that why? Why not ask for something important other than that, but she did not question her mother which shows all questions related to that have been resolved at earlier time,

- Probably to Honor Her Mother:

The word is written in Greek as “εὐθέως”, Romanized form is eutheōs, pronounced as yoo-theh'-oce, which means at once, immediately. It shows that she did not wait, it is as if going to her mother was just a form of honoring her as she has had in her what she wanted to ask from the king before she even approached her mother. No one can go and ask for something from someone and would not wait for seconds before returning, but the bible says she turns back almost immediately, which perhaps may show that their discussion may have happened through facial contacts which would not be obvious to all except those who pay close attention to minutest details.

Events After Her Request

What Salome asked for generated a stir among the people sited with the King in the pavilion where the birthday party was being held. These could be seen as the following events of her request.

(a) King Was Sorry, But the Request Couldn’t be Canceled:

When King Herod Antipas heard of his stepdaughter’s request, he felt sorry, but he couldn’t cancel the order, he sent the executioner to go and bring the head of John the Baptist to where they were before leaving the place.

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.(Mar 6:26)

Salome with the head of John the Baptist
Salome with the head of John the Baptist

(b) John’s Head Was Brought to Her:

Before they leave where they were, the executioner returned with the head of John the Baptist in a plate for the girl, and the girl gave what was given her unto her mother, to show her that she has fulfilled what she told her to do, to tell her that their enemy has been eliminated and they could now heave a sigh of relieve.

And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,

And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.(Mar 6:27-28)

Disciples with the corpse of John the Baptist
Disciples with the corpse of John the Baptist

(c) John the Baptist Disciples Arrived, Claimed His Corpse, Buried Him:

We shall recall that the bible says his parents were very old by the time they got pregnant and given birth to their son.

And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.(Luk 1:7)

Thus, it is likely that his parents were dead by the time he was killed, and if they were not dead then, from the account of their age, it would be stressful for them going about the processes of claiming the corpse of their son, thus, leaving his disciples to come and claim the corpse of their master and leader after the news of his death hits the country like a wildfire.

And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.(Mat 6:14-29)

John Baptizing people in the river
John Baptizing people in the river

(d) His Movement Stopped

John does baptize people who have been purified beforehand by their righteous lifestyle for the purification of their bodies but not for the repentance neither remission of sins.

John Dominic Crossan says, “John had a monopoly, but Jesus had a franchise”.

To be baptized you go to John and if the movement he has instituted would be stopped, John has to be stopped and that was what happened when he was killed his movement was stopped unlike that of Jesus that continued because he involved others and above all because of the Holy Spirit’s assistance.

(e) Herod Antipas Fall and Death

What happened to King Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist was not documented in the bible. However, this is what the Jewish antiquities had of the man.

The person who killed him wouldn’t last long and the Jews viewed what happened to Herod Antipas as a sign of judgment from God for killing a righteous man. On another note Josephus adds that the beginning of Herod’s troubles and eventual fall and death was due to the end of his marriage with Aretas’ daughter which escalated into battle.

e-sword says in its commentary that, King Herod Antipas woes started when King Aretas declared war against him for what he has done to his daughter, divorcing her. The Arabian army defeated his army. Jews considered this defeat God’s way of avenging the death of John the Baptist on the man, because he has gone to Rome to seek for Kingship.

Agrippa would later accuse him of communication with Artabanus King of Parthia against the Romans and he was banished by emperor Caius to Lyons, and thence to Spain where he and Herodias died in exile. (Mat 6:14-16; Mar 8:15; Luk 9:7-9; 13:31-32; 23:8-12 & 15 and Act 4:27)

Conclusively,

John the Baptist was a man of honor in Israel who fulfilled the prophecies of the prophets about him, he lived a life worthy of righteousness, stood for the truth always until the day of his death. God seeing this would not allow those who perform dastardly act to go without punish as he allowed enemies to overcome them and they became slaves under their enemies as he has said, He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.(Rev 13:10) You should be encouraged by this, because none of those who do evil against the children of God would go without receiving their own punishment on this earth before they die.

© 2020 OLUSEGUN

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