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How an Ancient Drunk King Teaches Us to Keep What We Value

Oct 11, 2011 // By Marcus Brotherton


Note to self: avoid similar situations.


Once in a while on this blog I’m going to go big or go home. I’m going to draw leadership lessons from a place some of you avoid whenever possible: that highly controversial spiritual cookbook known as the Bible.

I mention this up front, because I realize some of you are blatant liberal atheists, and anytime someone mentions “Bible,” you immediately picture hollowed-eyed skinny dudes holding sheep in their arms.
Stay with me. There’ll be none of that here.
The illustrations I’ll draw from will be historical lessons in masculinity. The kind of leadership that hates evil and fights for what’s good. Or warnings from the opposite. In today’s story, blood, guts, and sex abounds. I promise it won’t be boring.
King Herod was his name, and he did plenty of things wrong. That’s why I like this story. Herod acted just like any other guy is prone to act, including me.


On his birthday, maybe about 30 A.D., King Herod threw a big bash for his high officials and military commanders, all the leading men of his region. Picture a huge stone hall filled with the smell of steaks and beer. The music was loud. The jokes were thick. The one about the farmer’s daughter from Nantucket kept getting told. You get the drift.


In the middle of the party, Herod called for dancing girls. It was the ancient Mediterranean equivalent of a girl popping out of a cake. Salome was Herod’s niece, and she had all the stuff drunken men like to see. Salome danced for the guys, and this was the type of steamy Eastern dancing that held nothing back.


“You can have anything!” Herod bawled to the girl. “I’ll give it to you! Whatever you want, up to half my kingdom!”
Salome hesitated. Wow. Anything.


She went out and asked her mother for advice, and here’s where the story takes a twist. Salome’s mother, Herodias, nursed a grudge against a wilderness preacher named John. Outback John had been saying some things Herodias didn’t like, so Herodias saw this as her big chance to get even. “Tell the king to bring you the head of John on a serving dish,” she said.


Herod was in a real jam. He, by contrast, liked John and wanted to protect him. But because of the oaths Herod had made, and his need to look good for the drunken boys’ club, he granted the request.


Out went the executioner, and in came John’s head on a plate, oozing blood, attracting flies, and starting to stink. Party over.


Here’s what a man needs to know:


1.      Herod’s downfall that night began harmlessly enough. He simply made a few compromises. Not big ones. He just threw a party with his buddies and got plastered. Hey, it happens.


2.      Drinking too much and looking at nude girls made Herod stop thinking logically. In the heat of the moment, with his brain turned off, he was willing to toss away what he valued. Ever known a man to do that?


3.      When the high was over and Herod came to his senses, he experienced profound regret. Not to mention that his actions irreparably harmed others.


The bottom line?


Safeguard your life against moments when logic turns off.


Okay, that’s it.


What efforts have you made to keep what you value? Say anything you want in the comments below.
Enjoy Marcus’ new novel, FEAST FOR THIEVES
  • Marcus

    I’ll begin the comments this time.

    In the context of today’s posting, one thing I highly value is self-respect. Like, when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I want to look at the guy in the mirror and not think he’s an idiot.

    So much in life fights to steal our self-respect.

    I remind myself of that, almost daily. Self-respect is of utmost importance. I want to fight to keep that.

  • Hey Uncle Marc, love the Herod story! After seeing three of his desert palaces in the last month and a half, I’m starting to get quite a feel for how he was as a person. And if nothing else is clear, it’s that Herod could throw a good party but liked to appear kosher to his Jewish subjects. Quite the duality, if you ask me. Anyways, all that to say, I enjoyed this post!

  • Marcus

    Ah, a great comment from one who’s on the ground there, right now.

    I toured the Herodian back in ’93 when I was there. It was cool to see a bunch of kids playing today on the ruins, which were all rocky and broken and grassed over.

    Thanks R.E.N., for the excellent thoughts. –MB

  • This was a great post! I love using the Word of God as a guideline for our lives today. This story definitely shows how a choice in a fleeting moment can change the lives of many. Sometimes we don’t give enough careful thought into our decisions. We get hung up in the moment and let a temptation alter our decisions.
    Thanks again for a great post and I’m really enjoying your blog.

  • Marcus

    Thanks for the good word, Nathan.
    best to you.

  • Integrity has played an integral role for me. My parents instilled it in me from the start. Do the right thing regardless of peer pressure or temptation. If in doubt when I was growing up, I’d think about what they would say was the right choice and go with that almost every time. It’s become an internal radar that has served me well.

  • Anonymous

    You boiled that down pretty nicely.

    Brent Lee

  • Marcus

    GREAT comment, Kaylee. Thanks.

  • MB

    Brent, you’re the Man. Thanks.

  • And, fromm the odd ball section, here goes, first of all, Great writing Marcus. What I get though, grace for Herod. If this story doesn’t occur, prophecy isn’t fulfilled, at least not this way, and it’s got to be fulfilled through both brokenness and beauty. I so much want to be pure and clean right but I’m not and I think I’ll be judged more on how i deal with failure than my perceived success. my 2cents though.

  • MB

    Roger, I always appreciate your comments. Thanks man.

    Yeah, what you’re saying is true. Like, Herod had every opportunity to receive grace after he messed up. Absolutely.

    The secret is not perfection, as you’ve mentioned. Because perfection is not practically possible.

    Rather, the key to living well is transparency, and having the courage to admit mistakes, and continuing onward in light of restoration and forgiveness.

    I get that. And plenty of men, including me, have messed up before.

    Still, we’re still invited to bypass mess, if ever we can. And I think that’s what Herod’s story also shows.

    We do have a choice in many matters.

    We can safeguard our lives.

  • Umm, not sure I agree completeley about safegaurding in conjunction with bypassing mess. As Mr Beaver describes Aslyn to Lucy, “Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” If we are reflecting the King, life might not look/feel/be as safe as we might want it to. Love you bro.

  • MB

    I like divergent viewpoints.

    In the words of Rod Tidwell to Jerry Maguire …”You think we’re arguing, but I think we’ve finally started talking.”

    Something like that, anyway. 😉

    Thanks Roger.

  • Tobias (GER)

    After I thought for a minute I found nothing valuable what was taken from me since the last years. Except death of family members, but there is really nothing to do when god made his choice.
    Anything that came to my mind after thinking for a minute is nothing really valuable.

    But don’t get me wrong I have many things in life which are valuable for me. For example my freedom or my family. Ao far there was no one who wants to take it away.

    Or maybe one thing that got taken since a few months: living without physical pain. You forget the value of good health, when you have it. But when you lost it, you start to realize…


  • Thanks

    It is so good to know you are not alone……LOL


  • MB

    Tobias, I appreciate your comments. Thanks.

    Gareth, good stuff.

  • Marcus, Amen, I love the beginning of a good conversation. maybe we’ll finish it over a good ale…..or maybe not as you never know where that might lead us. smiling as i type. love you bro.

  • Thank you for the reminder that in our plans and actions if there is a point where we fail, we ask for forgiveness and put our head down.

    Great writing that provokes and teaches, thank you.

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the bestselling author or coauthor of more than 25 books. Welcome to my blog. Thoreau pointed out how too many people lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help people lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well.