Ultimate Payback

Matthew told the story about Herod the Great slaughtering every male infant in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill Jesus, which allegedly fulfills a prophecy by Jeremiah.  When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious.  He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood who were two years old and younger.  This was done in accordance with what he had learned from the visitors about the time when the star had appeared.  The prophet Jeremiah 31:15 wrote, ‘A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping.  Rachel is crying for her children; she refuses to be comforted, for they are dead.’  Was this vague prophecy the prediction of the slaughter of the innocents, or did Matthew just cherry-pick some verses to make it seem like a prophecy was fulfilled?

Herod the Great had tremendous wealth and influence in his day.  He controlled major trade routes and constructed buildings that included the renovation of the Second Temple and cities like that of Caesarea and palace-fortresses at Jericho and Herodium, which showcased his power.  Despite the glory he enjoyed in life, he is remembered as a hard-hearted and violent man.  The entire Herod family had many encounters with Jesus and his message, however no one in this family believed that there was another king above them.  From 37 to 4 BCE, Herod the Great ruled Judea with a bloody, iron fist.  King Herod I (the Great) murdered several of his wives, a mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, and three sons, along with untold numbers of enemies and rivals.  Herod’s kingdom comprised Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, Batanea, and Peraea, which was approximately the same size as the kingdom of David and Solomon. Although Herod had exceptional leadership skills, he was extremely disliked by the Jews.  He forced heavy taxes and brutally repressed any rebellions.  The Jews disliked his policy of supporting the Hellenistic culture which included the construction of a race-course, a theater, and an amphitheater in Jerusalem, his wide support of the emperor cult in the East, and the construction of pagan temples in foreign cities at his own expense could not be forgiven, even though he restored and reconstructed the Temple of Jerusalem and continually pleaded the cause of the Jews of the Diaspora (dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel) to the emperor for his own gains.

The family of Herod the Great was Jewish, by race, but they were actually Idumeans (Edomites).  Edom is the name of a country lying south of Judah which was bounded on the north by Moab, and it extended from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.  The people of Edom were descendants of Esau.  Nebuchadnezzar ceded portions of Judah to the Edomites after the fall of Jerusalem.  This fulfilled a prophecy by Jeremiah and explained why Jeremiah was exhorting the Jews to destroy the Edomites.  The Herod family was descended from Abraham, but they are not from the line of David and many people feel that it would be preferable to be one of Herod’s pigs rather than to be one of his sons.  The Herod family bowed to the Romans and they did not worship God properly.  When Herod the Great died, his son Herod Antipater, known by the nickname Antipas, ruled Galilee and Perea, bore the title of tetrarch and is referred to as both ‘Herod the Tetrarch’ and ‘King Herod’.  Herod Antipas ruled the area of Galilee and the East bank of the Jordan, as tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.  Another son of Herod the Great, Herod Philip became tetrarch of the Golan Heights in the North-East ruling Iturea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis.  Another son, Herod Archelaus became the leader of Samaria and Judaea, but he was a bad ruler and the Romans dumped him after ten years and replaced him with a Roman.

Herod the Great also had another son, named Aristobulus who had two children and one was named Herodias who married her uncle, Herod Philip I (Boethos), but she left him to marry her step-uncle, Herod Antipas.  Herodias had a daughter named Salome and she married her great uncle, the Herod Philip.  The Herodian dynasty with its corroding immorality became the most despicable dynasty history has known, and the name Herodias is but the female form of Herod, the royal name for the political rulers during the time of Christ and the apostles.  It was under the vile and cruel orders of the Herod’s that Jesus and His followers were often persecuted and punished.  Herod means ‘heroic’, which is not very applicable to the Herodian family, as the majority of whom, particularly Herodias, were evildoers and not one bit heroic.  The house of Herod had become an object of hate and suspicion from the Jewish people and Antipas did nothing to counteract the spreading of these sentiments.  He adorned his palace walls with the figures of animals, and he violated the Mosaic law by committing incest when marrying Herodias, as Herodias was his brother’s wife and also Antipas’ niece.

Leviticus 18:16 says, ‘You may not have sex relations with your brother’s wife, for she is your brother’s’ and Leviticus 20:21 states, ‘If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless.’  John the Baptist a man who knew no fear, preached against the sin that Herod Antipas made by being with Herodias, his brother’s wife and he sternly rebuked the king by saying of Herodias, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.”  John the Baptist was infuriated by this immoral marriage and he condemned them, because the law clearly stated that a man can not marry his brother’s wife while he is still living.  The High Priests in the Great Temple were afraid of king Herod, so they never said anything about him breaking the law.  John the Baptist told Herod that he was committing sin and Herod wanted to put him to death for saying this, but he feared the crowd, because John was an admired prophet, so John ended up in prison.

Herodias did not want to lose her position as queen, so she concocted a plan to silence the turmoil being caused by her accuser.  She did not want Herod to listen to John’s forceful preaching, thinking that he might repent and end up divorcing her.  Herodias knew that Herod could be easily succumbed to sensual excitement, and as his birthday drew near her foul design was hatched.  Herod had a birthday party and he invited all his lords, high captains and rulers of Galilee.  Herodias asked her daughter Salome to perform her exotic dancing at the party, because she knew how much Herod enjoyed watching her.  Salome danced before Herod and the sensuality of her dance pleased Herod and those that were watching with him while the drink freely flowed, and Herodias having no scruples used her own daughter to inflame Herod’s passions.

She was willing to sacrifice her child’s modesty in order to bend Herod to her will.  Herod was overcome by Salome’s form seen through the flowing flimsy garment she wore, and influenced by the act of the dancing girl took a rash and foolish oath to give her whatever she asked, even to half of his kingdom.  Approaching her mother, Salome said, “What shall I ask?”  Without hesitation Herodias replied, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist.”  Returning to Herod she presented her demand which was a revenge for the embarrassment that John had caused her mother, and Herod was extremely sorry at such a request.  Yet, because of his oath’s sake, he sacrificed the preacher whom he regarded as just and holy, and all because of his guilty love for a vile woman.  Salome did her dance and got her wish as the preacher’s head was handed to her on a platter.

The ultimate payback came 25 years later when Herod’s evil stepdaughter Salome, the one who was responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist met her fate.  One day, Salome was crossing a frozen river and suddenly the ice broke beneath her feet.  Salome fell through the ice and her body was trapped in water, while her head stayed above the ice.  Salome was flailing helplessly in the icy water, as the strong current of the river was trying to drag her under.  She was holding on struggling to keep her head above the frigid water and as she was trapped in the frozen river, shards of ice broke off upstream of her body and they pierced her neck and ended up decapitating her.  Her body was carried away under the ice, but her head remained on top of the ice, like it was sitting on a platter and even without her body attached, her screaming could still be heard.

U2 recorded a song named Salome which was not a huge hit and most people probably never heard it, unless you a big U2 fan.  It features a mix of guitar work that incorporates many styles and many sounds and it is often considered to be far too busy of a song and there are actually nine versions of this song. In December 1990, U2 had entered the recording studio in Berlin to begin writing songs for what would become Achtung Baby.  The Achtung Baby Sessions were released in four different formats.  The first three pressings were on vinyl and were called The New U2: Rehearsals and Full Versions.  February 1992 saw the definitive release of a three-CD set, called Salome: The Achtung Baby Sessions.  Salome refers to the initial song that U2 based most of its early riffing and improvising on.  The track was left off the official Achtung Baby release, but was included as a B-side on the ‘Even Better Than the Real Thing’ single, which is a required purchase for owners of this bootleg.

Baby please
Baby please don’t go
I got lies to feed
They want skin and seed
Now don’t make me crawl
Please Baby don’t bite your lip
Give you half what I got
If you untie the knot
It’s a promise Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Baby please
Baby what’s that tune
Well I heard it before
When I crawled from your door
And my blood turned blue
Please Baby please slow down
Baby I feel sick
Don’t make me stick to my promise Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Baby please
Baby don’t say no
Won’t you dance for me
Under the cherry tree
Won’t you swing down low
Please Baby please say yes
Baby don’t go away
You’re spilling me
And your precious love Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome
Salome Shake it shake it shake it Salome

Written for the Marquessa Matthews Challenge September 7th 2017, where today’s lyric prompt is, “Payback is a bad bitch…”

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Payback

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