Them Which Sat with Him at Meat

St. John Baptist Preaching Before Herod” (detail), by Pieter de Grebber 

Do we really know how much our decisions are affected by the expectations of other people? Or worse yet, by our assumptions about their expectations? Probably more than we realize.

Even a king must consider the likely reactions of those around him when making decisions.

King Herod had imprisoned John the Baptist for criticizing his marriage to his brother’s wife. According to Matthew, Herod would have executed John, but “he feared the multitude, because they counted [John] as a prophet” (Matthew 14:5). But after his wife’s daughter danced for him at his birthday feast, he foolishly promised to give her anything she wanted. On behalf of her mother, the young lady requested the head of John the Baptist. Matthew tells us that Herod was not happy about this request, but “for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her” (Matthew 14:9). (See also Mark’s version of this event in Mark 6:17-28.)

Herod is not the only king to make a tragic mistake to appease the people around him. King Ahasuerus dismissed Queen Vashti because she embarrassed him in front of “all his princes and his servants” (Esther 1). And King Noah executed the prophet Abinadi against his better judgment, when his priests cried out, “He has reviled the king” (Mosiah 17:12).

Ezra Taft Benson explained that these events can serve as a warning for all of us:

King Noah was about to free the prophet Abinadi, but an appeal to his pride by his wicked priests sent Abinadi to the flames. (See Mosiah 17:11–12.) Herod sorrowed at the request of his wife to behead John the Baptist. But his prideful desire to look good to “them which sat with him at meat” caused him to kill John. (Matt. 14:9; see also Mark 6:26.)

Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.)

Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989

Every day, we account for the preferences of other people as we make decisions. The problem arises when those considerations become the dominant motivations, overpowering our sense of right and wrong and our sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Ghost. When that happens, we have outsourced our conscience to people who won’t have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

When we feel unsettled about a decision, we would be wise to slow down a little, think about how much we are being influenced by others, and perhaps spend time alone in prayer, figuring out what we really think we should do.

Today, I will be careful not to be unduly influenced by other people’s opinions. I will take into consideration the advice and requests that I receive, but first and foremost, I will strive to act in harmony with God’s will.

4 thoughts on “Them Which Sat with Him at Meat

Add yours

    1. Thank you for the comment.
      A leader may harm the people they serve if they are more focused on their own ego than on doing what’s right. King Benjamin provides a positive contrast to the three kings highlighted in this post: He earned his people’s love and trust by serving them humbly and conscientiously.


  1. Dear Paul:

    This post will be one of my favorites for a long time. For me, this
    sentence is fully worthy of conference weekend in drawing me (or any
    reader) up short. “When that happens, we have outsourced our conscience
    to people who won’t have to live with the consequences of our
    decisions.” The miserable results flash all the way from the White House
    to the local ward Primary. Thanks once again for your thoughtful and
    insightful commentary.




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