head on a platter; head on a plate

severe punishment
—When the neighbor’s son put a dent in Tracy’s new car, she was in no mood for forgiveness. Instead, she called for his head on a platter.

In Old Testament times, the prophets spoke God’s words to the people, regardless of whether the messages were popular or not. This often angered those in authority who felt threatened by the judgments from God. This was true for John the Baptist and Jesus, as well. They were opposed by religious leaders, such as the Pharisees, and by political leaders, such as Herod, the Roman-approved ruler of Galilee, where Jesus grew up.

Herod had married his brother’s ex-wife, Herodias, and John the Baptist announced that this was against God’s laws. This made Herodias angry, and Herod had John arrested. Herod was afraid of John and protected him, because he knew John was righteous and holy, but Herodias hated him and wanted to kill him. On Herod’s birthday, Herodias’ daughter danced at a celebration for the king. Herod was pleased, and he said,

“Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” He swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” So she went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” Her mother said, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she hurried back to the king and made her request: “I want the head of John the Baptist on a platter immediately.” Although it grieved the king deeply, he did not want to reject her request because of his oath and his guests. So the king sent an executioner at once to bring John’s head, and he went and beheaded John in prison. He brought his head on a platter [head in a charger] and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. (Mark 6:22-28)

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