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…
It is curious and instructive to observe that Herod is set before us here in the good points of his character — at least, in the best points that he had. It is in the Holy Gospels that one of the vilest wretches in human history is set before us in a somewhat amiable and interesting aspect. He feels a sincere respect for religion. He is not so far gone but that he knows honesty and faith and self-devotion when he sees them in another man. And he does not respect these the less, but a great deal the more, when the just and holy man does not spare his own sins, but denounces them to his face. Not only this, but he takes the preacher under his protection; and declares, doubtless with much hard swearing, when one and another of the courtiers propose to stop the prophet's insolence by taking his life, that no man shall hurt a hair of his head. And I have no doubt that he took enormous pride in it, too, as many a swearing, drinking, cheating reprobate nowadays will pride himself on hiring a pew in a most puritan church, where righteousness and temperance and judgment are faithfully preached to him, and will insist, with profuse expletives, that no man shall say a word against his minister. The case is common enough. But we should do Herod injustice if we should suppose this to be all. Herod listened to the preacher of righteousness and repentance with a genuine personal and practical interest. He applies John's teaching to his own case — to his own sins and his own duties — so far as anything was left to his ingenuity in the matter of application, for John's teaching was sufficiently direct and pointed in itself. Herod did lay the word of the Lord to heart with reference to his own amendment, and did obviously begin to make such a difference in his course of life as to give Herodias reason to fear that he would not make an end of reforming until he had reformed her and her devil's imp of a daughter out of the palace altogether. "He did many things" in consequence of John's preaching — many just and upright things such as were strange enough to hear of in the vice-regal court of Palestine; beneficent and public-spirited things, making his reign, for the time, a less unmitigated curse to that afflicted country; merciful things, using his princely wealth and power for the relic of the distressed. What a thing to give thanks for was even this partial repentance of Herod, for the good it did, for the pain and outrage that it saved! Let no one think that the preaching of God's kingdom is a total waste, even when no man yields to it his unreserved submission. The whole work of Christ's gospel in any community is not to be summed up in the net number of converts or communicants. How many a soul is saved from being just such an abandoned wretch as Herod was; how many a decent home from being such a sty of uncleanness as Herod's palace was; how many a State from being defiled with blood and turbulent with wrong, just through some men's standing in awe before the holiness of Christ, and hearing Him gladly, and being willing to "do many things"!
(Leonard W. Bacon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.