Matthew 14:4

4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

Matthew 14:4 in Other Translations

4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
4 because John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her."
4 John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.”
4 John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias "adultery."
4 since John had been telling him, "It's not lawful for you to have her!"

Matthew 14:4 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 14:4

For John said unto him
John having heard of this incestuous marriage, went to Herod, and reproved him to his face for it; and, as Luke says, "for all the evils he had done", ( Luke 3:19 ) for he was a very wicked man, and guilty of many flagitious crimes: John, in so doing, showed his zeal for holiness, his hatred of sin, his courage and faithfulness in reproving thus freely so great a man; and made it manifest, that he came in the spirit of Elijah: what he said to him was,

it is not lawful for thee to have her,
being forbidden, ( Leviticus 18:16 ) for though by another law it was right to marry a brother's wife, after his decease, when he left no issue, yet this was not the case here; Philip was now living, and, had he been dead, such a marriage would have been unlawful, because there was issue; she had a daughter, who afterwards is said to dance before Herod; and besides, he himself had another wife, whom he put away; so that his sin was a very aggravated and complicated one: lying with a brother's wife, was one of those sins which, according to the Jewish F8 canons, deserved cutting off, or death by the hand of God. Josephus F9 gives another reason of the imprisonment and death of John, that Herod feared that the people of the Jews, through his means, would be moved to sedition, and revolt from his government; which might be what Herodias suggested to him, or what he gave out himself, to cover the true cause of his proceedings: but the true reason is, what is here given, and is to be confirmed by the testimony of Jewish writers. One of their chronologers F11 delivers the account in these express words:

``Herod Antipater was a very wicked and pernicious man, many of the wise men of Israel he slew with the sword; and he took to wife, his brother Philip's wife, whilst he was living; and because John the high priest (for so through mistake they call him) (hz le wxykwh) "reproved him for this"; (see ( Luke 3:19 ) ) he slew him with the sword, with many of the wise men of Israel.''

And, says their historian F12,

``also he, Herod, slew John, because he said unto him, it is forbidden thee to take the wife of Philip, and he slew him; this is that John that practised baptism.''


F8 Misn. Ceritot, c. 1. sect. 1.
F9 Antiqu. lsss. 18. c. 6.
F11 Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 2.
F12 Joseph. Gorionides, 1. 5. c. 45.

Matthew 14:4 In-Context

2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,
4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.
6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much

Cross References 1

  • 1. Leviticus 18:16; Leviticus 20:21
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