This is a Bible study on Mark 6:7-29.

5 pages.

Mark 6:7-29 - How Not to Handle to Word of God

Read Mark 6:7-29.


An archaeological excavation team, digging in the ancient ruins of old Jerusalem, uncovered a small copper scroll; on it was an inscription from the Bible. Chief archaeologist Gabriel Barkay took the brittle little copper scroll to his laboratory. There he worked with unbelievable patience and care in an effort to unroll it without destroying its sacred content. The Bible is God’s holy Word, and we must handle its truths with the same care the archaeologist demonstrated when handling that little copper scroll.1

In the passage of Scripture before us, we find an example of how not to handle God’s Word. Consider the fact that King Herod was being confronted with the Word of God through the ministry of God’s prophet, John the Baptist. The way Herod responded to John the Baptist, the one who spoke to him the word of God, may be taken as an example of what not to do when confronted with the Word of God.

Do Not “Toy” with the Word of God🔗

We are told, “Herod feared John, knowing that [John] was a righteous and holy man;” and consequently, “he kept him safe” (6:20). Here was a reverence for John in his capacity as a prophet of God, a representative of God. Here, also, was a conviction of the truth, of the righteousness, and of the divine anointing upon this man and his message.

When Herod heard John, “he was very perplexed; but, [nevertheless], he heard him gladly.” The Word of God troubled Herod’s guilty conscience. The text literally reads, “when he heard John, he did many things;” here is the sign of a restless, troubled, burdened soul. At the same time, Herod found the conviction of the Word of God to be delightful, (he heard John gladly), because of its truth. There was something satisfying about the truth, even though it was convicting. Consider the same complex reaction evidenced in the life of the wicked king, Ahab. He hated the prophet Micaiah, because of his convicting message, as he himself testifies,

But Jehoshaphat asked, 'Is there not a prophet of the LORD here by whom we may inquire?' 8The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'There still is one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah. But I hate him; because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but calamity.' 1 Kg. 22:7-8

Yet Ahab insisted that Micaiah utter nothing but the truth of God:

When he came to the king, the king said to him, 'Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth­gilead, or shall we refrain?' And he answered him, 'Go up and be victorious; for the LORD will deliver it into the hand of the king.' 16Then the king said to him, 'How many times must I make you swear that you will speak nothing but the truth to me in the name of the LORD?' 1 Kg. 22:15-16

Herod recognized the divine character of John the Baptist and his message. He found that message to be both convicting and appealing. But he never submitted himself to the divine authority of the Word of God. He held himself back from accepting it and responding to it with faith and obedience. Herod “toyed” with the Word of God.

When we are confronted with the Word of God, let us not be like Herod; let us not “toy” with the Word of God. We must not view the Word as merely a source of spiritual entertainment, as was true of the people who heard the preaching of the prophet Ezekiel:

As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD. 31My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice. Ezek.33:30-32

Let us not consider the mere hearing of the Word of God as the fulfillment of our obligation to it; a danger against which the Apostle James warns:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Obey it. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not obey it is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does. Jas. 1:22-25

Consider Paul’s response when confronted by the Word of God in the very person of the Lord Jesus Christ: he responded by asking, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10) In the say way did the people respond to the preaching of Peter and the other apostles on the day of Pentecost: “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

Whenever we are confronted with the Word of God, in preaching, in teaching, in personal Bible reading, it is good to ask such questions as these: Is there a promise to believe? Is there a commandment to obey? Is there some counsel to follow?

Do Not Resist the Word of God🔗

As John the Baptist persisted in confronting Herod with his sin, the Word of God was continuously being brought to bear upon Herod’s guilty conscience: “John was telling Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife’” (vs. 18). The form of the Greek verb, λεγω, “to speak,” or, “to tell,” is in the imperfect tense, indicating a continuous action. The Word of God was specifically being brought to bear upon Herod’s disobedient conduct: “John was telling Herod, 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’” The Word was acutely and pointedly being brought to bear upon Herod’s personal life. John was confronting Herod with his immoral conduct with regard to marrying his brother’s wife.

The historical background to this episode is as follows: Herod (Antipas) and Philip were half-brothers, having the same father, but different mothers. Their father was Herod the Great, the king who reigned over Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth (Matt. 2:1). Herod (Antipas’) mother was Malthace; Philip’s mother was Cleopatra, (not the famous queen of Egypt). This Philip is to be distinguished from another Philip, who was also a son of Herod the Great by yet another wife, a woman named Mariamne II. That other Philip was the one spoken of in Luke 3:1 as being the tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis. He, too, was a half-brother of Herod (Antipas), who, according to Luke 3:1, was tetrarch of Galilee. The Philip referred to in Mark 6:17 as Herodias’ husband did not occupy any position as a ruler, although he was a wealthy man. Prompted partly by passion, partly by ambition, Herodias left Philip and became the wife of Herod (Antipas), who divorced his first wife in order to marry Herodias. This new union between Herod and Herodias was both adulterous as well as incestuous, since Herod and Philip were half-brothers by the same father.2

There came a point when Herod’s conviction intensified, outweighing his fascination with John’s preaching. Herod could no longer dismiss the troubling, convicting aspect of John’s message. The Word of God was directly, overwhelmingly, convicting Herod of his sin in specific terms. Action had to be taken: either Herod's behavior must be reformed by repentance, or John must be silenced. When we consider Matthew 14:5, “[Herod] would have put him to death,” we see the change that had begun to take place in Herod’s heart; a change from ambivalence to settled resistance.

So it was that Herod himself gave the order to have John seized and imprisoned. The one who had previously kept John safe from the murderous intent of Herodias (vs. 19), now determined to silence John and resist the Word of God.

When we are confronted with the Word of God, let us not be like Herod; let us not resist the sacred Word. Let us not resist the Word of God, even though it becomes personal and disrupting to our lifestyle:

...the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:12-13

Let us not resist the Word of God by putting it off until “a more convenient time.” Consider the tragic example of Felix:

Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified and said, 'That is enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.' 26However, he hoped that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him. Acts 24:24-26

When Felix resisted the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as he was confronted with the Word of God, his conviction gave way to a hardening of the heart. That hardened heart permitted him to commune with Paul and even seek a bribe from Paul, without any further conviction, but all to the destruction of his soul.

Do Not Reject the Word of God🔗

There finally came a point when Herod made the decision: He gave the order to execute John the Baptist.

While John was confined to prison the option was still open for a change of heart on the part of Herod. He could give the order for John’s release; he could heed the Word of God and reform his conduct accordingly. But now he made the ultimate decision: he gave the order to have John beheaded. His resistance now led him to a rejection of the Word of God by killing the messenger sent to him by God.

Actually, Herod did not intend to execute John; the ungodly influences around him and within him led him to that final decision. He indulged his fascination for indecency, lewdness, and immoral conduct: “when the daughter of Herodias danced, she pleased Herod” (vs. 22).

Furthermore, he allowed himself to give free expression to, and became entrapped by, his impulses. Thoughtlessly and on impulse, Herod made the promise to the young girl: “Whatever you shall ask I will give you, even as much as half of my kingdom” (vs. 23).

He was culpably victimized by cunning and evil people, including his own wife: “being urged by her mother, [the young girl] said, 'Give me...the head of John the Baptist’” (Matt. 14:8). It appears that Herodias manipulated the whole event in order to exploit Herod’s moral weaknesses so as to accomplish her own diabolical desire, the murder of John the Baptist.

Finally, Herod allowed his pride to prevent his retreat. Although he was deeply grieved, he would not refuse the girl’s request: “because of his oaths and because of those who were present at dinner, he would not deny her [request]” (vs. 26).

When we are confronted with the Word of God, let us not become like Herod; let us not reject the sacred Word. We may not start out with any premeditated intention of doing so. But if we allow ungodly inclinations and influences to dominate our life: indulging our fascination with the indecent, the lewd, the immoral; allowing ourselves to be manipulated by cunning and diabolical people; allowing pride to prevent our repentance, choosing the favor of men rather than the favor of God, then we should not be surprised to discover that it has happened to us: we come to the point where we reject the Word of God.


As we consider King Herod’s interaction with John the Baptist, may the Holy Spirit make it relevant to us. May we listen to Him as He says, "Here is an example of how not to handle the Word of God. Here is a negative and deadly interaction with the Word of God." Let us pay close and obedient attention to these words of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock... 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matt. 7:24,26-27

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. How does the Lord Jesus describe John the Baptist? See Matt. 11:9-11a As a prophet, whose word was John bringing to the people? Note Heb. 1:1 As the herald foretold by the prophet Malachi, what was John’s message? Note Jn. 1:29 As John spoke the Word of God in his day, how does God speak to us today? Note 2 Tim. 3:16-17,

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.10For this is he of whom it is written: Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. 11Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matt. 11:9-11

God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets... Heb. 1:1

The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Jn. 1:29

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17

  1. How did King Herod view John and what did he do? See Mk. 6:20a Do you hold the Scriptures in the same high regard, as Herod had for John as a prophet of God? Do you reverence the Scriptures and receive them for what they are, the very Word of God? Note 1 Thess. 2:13 Are you actively responding to the word with faith and obedience?

Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, so he kept him safe. Whenever [Herod] heard [John preach], he was very perplexed; but, [nevertheless], he heard him gladly. Mk. 6:20

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who are believing. 1 Thess. 2:13

  1. How did Herod react to John’s preaching? See Mk. 6:20b Do you find the message of the Scriptures to be convicting? Yet, do you find the truth of Scripture to be refreshing and compelling? Note Psl. 19:8, 10 Despite his reverence for John and his interest in hearing him, what did Herod do? Note Mk. 6:17-18 How must we respond to the Word of God? Note Jas. 1:22,

Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, so he kept him safe. Whenever [Herod] heard [John preach], he was very perplexed; but, [nevertheless], he heard him gladly.Mk. 6:20

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes... 10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Psl. 19:8, 10

Now Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested. He had him chained in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for he had married her. 18John was telling Herod, It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife. Mk. 6:17-18

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Jas. 1:22

  1. Who moved Herod to imprison John, to have this prophet of God removed from his presence? See Mk. 6:19 Is there anyone in your life that seeks to remove the Word of God from your life? If so, how are they doing this? What should you do? Is there any sin in your life that is causing you to distance yourself from the Word of God? Again, what must you do?

Herodias set herself against [John], and desired to kill him... Mk. 6:19

  1. What happened that finally resulted in Herod giving the order to have John executed? See Mk. 6:21-27 What are some of the things that may tempt you to abandon the Word of God? The enticement of lewd pleasures? Note Mk. 6:22 Thoughtless and unholy commitments? Note Mk. 6:23 Manipulative relationships that lead you to make evil decisions? Note Mk. 6:24-25 Pride and peer pressure? Note Mk. 6:26,

[Finally], an opportune time came, when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22[On this occasion], the daughter of Herodias came in and danced. She pleased Herod and those who sat at dinner with him; therefore, the king said to the young girl, Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you. 23He swore to her, Whatever you shall ask I will give you, even as much as half of my kingdom. 24So she went out, and asked her mother, What shall I request? And she said, [Ask for] the head of John the Baptizer. 25Then she immediately hurried back to the king and made the request, I ask that you give me without delay the head of John the Baptist on a platter. 26Now the king was greatly distressed; but, because of his oaths and because of those who were present at dinner, he would not deny her [request]. 27So, immediately the king sent out a soldier of his guard with the command to bring [John’s] head. He went and beheaded [John] in the prison... Mk. 6:21-27


  1. ^ Our Daily Bread, (Grand Rapids, MI: Our Daily Bread Ministries), 6/8/94.
  2. ^ Sources:
    William L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish. Co., 1974), 218.
    E.H. Plumptre, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, (London: Cassell and Co., Ltd. n.d.), 138-139.

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