Herod: That is, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great.—See Glossary.
district ruler: Lit., “tetrarch” (meaning “ruler over one fourth” of a province), a term applied to a minor district ruler or territorial prince ruling only with the approval of the Roman authorities. The tetrarchy of Herod Antipas consisted of Galilee and Perea.—Compare study note on Mr 6:14.
John the Baptist: See study note on Mt 3:1.
Herod: That is, Herod Antipas.—See Glossary.
arrested John . . . and imprisoned him: The Bible does not mention where this took place. Josephus says that John was imprisoned and killed at Machaerus fortress, which was located on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. (Jewish Antiquities, Book 18, chap. 5, par. 2 [Loeb 18.119]) It is possible that John spent some time in that prison. (Mt 4:12) However, it is likely that at the time of his death, John was held in Tiberias, a city located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The reasons for this conclusion are as follows: (1) John seems to have been imprisoned near where Jesus was carrying out his ministry in Galilee. John heard of Jesus’ works, and from jail he sent his disciples to speak with Jesus. (Mt 11:1-3) (2) Mark states that “the most prominent men of Galilee” were in attendance at Herod’s birthday party, indicating that it was held at Herod’s residence in Tiberias. John was evidently in captivity close to where the party took place.—Mr 6:21-29; Mt 14:6-11.
Herodias, the wife of Philip his brother: Herod Antipas became infatuated with Herodias, the wife of his half brother Herod Philip. Herodias divorced Philip, Antipas divorced his wife, and Herodias and Antipas were married. John the Baptist was arrested for criticizing this immoral union, one that was contrary to Jewish law.
birthday . . . celebrated: This event likely occurred at Herod Antipas’ residence in Tiberias. (See study notes on Mt 14:3; Mr 6:21.) The Bible mentions just two birthday celebrations—the one referred to here, at which John was beheaded; the other, that of a Pharaoh, at which the Egyptian monarch’s chief baker was executed. (Ge 40:18-22) These two accounts are similar in that both occasions were marked with great feasting and the granting of favors and both are remembered for executions.
the king: Herod Antipas’ official Roman title was “tetrarch,” as seen from study note on Mt 14:1. However, he was popularly referred to as “king.”
his oaths: The use of the plural “oaths” (in contrast with the singular at Mt 14:7) may indicate that Herod emphasized or confirmed his promise with repeated oaths.
felt pity: Or “felt compassion.”—See study note on Mt 9:36.
fish: In Bible times, fish were commonly prepared by broiling or by salting and drying and were often eaten along with bread. The fish Jesus used were likely salted and dried.
said a blessing: This expression apparently refers to a prayer offering praise and thanks to God.
baskets: These may have been small wicker baskets with a cord handle that a traveler could use for carrying them. It is thought that they had a volume of approximately 7.5 L (2 gal).—See study notes on Mt 16:9, 10.
as well as women and young children: Only Matthew mentions the women and the young children when reporting this miracle. It is possible that the total number of those miraculously fed was well over 15,000.
many hundreds of yards: Lit., “many stadia.” A stadium (Greek, staʹdi·on) equaled 185 m (606.95 ft), that is, one eighth of a Roman mile.
fourth watch: That is, from about 3:00 a.m. until sunrise at about 6:00 a.m. This division is according to the Greek and Roman system of four night watches. The Hebrews formerly divided the night into three watches of about four hours each (Ex 14:24; Jg 7:19), but by this time, they had adopted the Roman system.
did obeisance to him: Or “bowed down to him; paid him homage.” These people recognized Jesus as God’s representative. They rendered obeisance to him, not as to a god or a deity, but as to “God’s Son.”—See study notes on Mt 2:2; 8:2; 18:26.
Gennesaret: A small plain measuring about 5 by 2.5 km (3 by 1.5 mi) bordering the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee. At Lu 5:1, the Sea of Galilee is called “the lake of Gennesaret.”