When his daughter – that is, the daughter of Herodias – came in and danced, she delighted Herod and those who were dining with him. “Ask me for whatever you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you”;
thinking the time ripe for release
finding our deep pleasure a risky spot
commanding what we have no right to
thinking life more generous than it is
finding life’s limits set aside in wonder
a perceptual trick
commanding manipulation become high art
thrilled by joy
thinking my feast my friends
exhausted by joy
finding political traps cunningly laid
betrayed by joy
commanding our own downfall.
It is easy to chalk this up to besotted male leaders and a fetching dancing girl. The text makes it difficult with the best reading probably being that the dancer was the daughter of Herodias. History and/or tradition also sneaks its nose in here with references to Herod’s step-daughter, Salome, and, later, an addition of seven veils.
However, presuming the cultural mores of this time and place, it is unlikely that a female relative would be allowed to reveal the sexual rawness needed to elicit the reported response from Herod.
It is not necessary to go the lascivious route as explanation of Herod’s offer to ask extravagantly. His willingness to be intrigued with John can also suggest an appreciation for nuance and suggestion. A-thing-forever-beauty can appear in a moment in the strangest and least expected places, just like leadership partnered with G*D coming from the youngest rather than oldest.
As we listen in there are enough connections with Judith, Esther, and Jezebel to hear this story revealing realities beyond a transition from John to Jesus, right in the middle of a practicum of the Twelve. No matter the good healing they do, one on one or several at a time, structural and institutional power continues mistaking short-term personal desire and gain for long-term community growth that essentially guarantees there will be increasing numbers of people in need of the anointing and exorcism skills of Jesus and those joined with him.