So, I asked myself, “What does David’s dancing have to do with Salome’s dancing?”
David, Herod the Great, and Jesus were all born in Bethlehem. Salome was Herod the Great’s granddaughter and so was her mother, Herodias who was also Herod the Great’s daughter in law twice. But, more about that later.
This story about David dancing in front of the ark of the covenant fills me with joy. I can see his ruddy face, short of stature, dancing like no one is watching. Dancing in the spirit. He was so happy that the Ark had been returned to his people that he could set it up again amongst the people in the City of David. In the minds of the people, God had not been present with them while the Ark was gone. Now, God would be with the Israelites once again. It was an ecstatic experience to bring God home!
But Michal, David’s wife who was a daughter of Saul, looked out the window and saw her husband scantily dressed and acting like a fool--because EVERYONE was watching him dance. You see, it is okay for royalty to have an opinion about the lower classes but the lower classes cannot poke fun at royal foibles. It is interesting that Michal, who was second generation royalty since Saul was the first king of Israel, felt she was above the masses enough to judge how a king should comport himself. How should a king who is representing God act?
Brandon Wrencher asks this question in Sojourners magazine, and his response is: “Will it be Saul’s old rule of strength, positioning, and domination or David’s example of the lowly being exalted? David wins--which means we can all win. … God identifies with and includes the lowly, the nobodies, and the outsiders…we can all be God’s people. …Dancing and singing in God’s new community demonstrate a different way to belong, a new way of doing politics.”
So, centuries later, we have this family of nobility; a family of privilege and wealth whose patriarch was also, like David, born in Bethlehem. Herod the Great came up with fantastic building projects and married five different wives. He was known for building up the Temple Mount as no one ever had before--right next to David’s royal city, which was dwarfed by the new mount and its huge blocks of limestone. Herod didn’t obliterate David’s city, he just made it seem insignificant.
So, Herod Antipas, Herod the Great’s son, had a problem with John the Baptist because John pointed out a big problem with his marriage. John was a nobody and had no right to point out issues within the noble class.
And, here is the issue. See if you can follow this. Herod the Great married his first wife Doris and killed the son they had together. Then he married the Harmonean, Mariamne, who had two sons with him whom he subsequently murdered. Herod’s third son, Aristobulus, left a daughter named, Herodias. Then, Herod married a Boethusian named Mariamne who gave birth to Herod Phillip. Now Herod Phillip did not inherit any dominions from his father and lived in Rome as a wealthy, private citizen. He married his half brother’s daughter, his niece, Herodias and they had Salome. So, Salome was his daughter and his grandniece.
Herod the Great married wife number four, Malthake, and they had Herod Antipas and Archelaus. At some point, Antipas went to visit his half brother, Phillip, in Rome. Antipas had an affair with his niece-sister in law, Herodias, and took off with her and Salome back to Galilee where he married her. No wonder John the Baptist felt the need to call them out!
Oh, Herod the Great married Cleopatra of Jerusalem last and had a son, Phillip the Tetrarch, with her--anyone want to guess whom THIS Phillip married? He married his niece, grandniece Salome. And I’m my own grandma!
And, Salome was a dancer and a pawn in some crazy political game. I doubt she danced for Herod Antipas as if no one was watching as David had centuries before her. I suspect she knew EVERYONE was watching. One can have opinions about a mother who would have her daughter do something that society saw as indecent, as something that was beneath Salome’s place as part of a noble family; yet Herodias had married not one but, two of her half uncles concurrently. I think Herodias’ moral scale was fairly low but she didn’t like having it pointed out by a nobody. A nobody she couldn’t get rid of because husband #2 was enthralled with him.
David danced from the heart because he was a simple guy, really. He certainly had his flaws and pitfalls. He had trouble measuring up 100% of the time but when he was in tune with the Holy Spirit, he could dance! When he was in tune with the Holy Spirit, he could walk with God and do the right thing. Michal didn’t necessarily want it pointed out that her father, who was good at politics and military strategy, never quite made the mark. Saul was picked for his height and his good looks-by the people-who had no idea what they needed for a leader. David was chosen by God for his open and pure heart. When David’s heart was open he could dance in the spirit and he could focus on loving and following God.
John the Baptist had an open heart and from the stories about him, he had a single focus-declaring that things weren’t as they should be and EVERYONE needed to get their lives in order for the coming of the Lord! John wasn’t worried about the class of the person he was calling out!
David danced in the Holy Spirit and Salome danced in a spirit of manipulation, of political intrigue. When Samuel came to Jesse, David’s father, Jesse willingly brought his sons to him so he could choose one because Jesse wanted to follow God’s commands. Herod the Great was born in Bethlehem and he wanted to be the Messiah--he wanted to follow in David’s sandals. But, he was a narcissist, he committed infanticide in the hope of destroying a usurper to his dream, and he killed his own children out of paranoia and madness. Whenever David strayed from God, he always returned. Herod the Great never really found his way to God in the first place and propagated a family one can barely believe existed.
Jesus and John the Baptist were interested in justice. Justice for everyone. Pointing out places where leaders fell short was part of the work they came to do. Michal saw David’s dance as a shortcoming. But she was wrong. David was a common man put in an uncommon position. He had the right to dance in joy! John the Baptist had the right to say, “This is wrong and you need to fix it.”
Both of these stories are about class. Who is better--those in political power, or the common person? Who is better--the rich, or the poor? In God’s eyes-and we need to see with God’s eyes-in God’s eyes we are all equal. What injustice are we called to point out and repair? What dance is the spirit calling us to?