Structure of Matthew 14:1-13a

A. v.1, Herod heard (about events of ch. 12 and 13)

 B. v. 2, John the Baptizer is raised from the dead.

  C. vv. 3-4, John the Baptizer is seized. He accused Herod about his wife. 

   D. v. 5, Herod wants him to be dead, but is afraid

    E. v.6, Herod's step-daughter dances and pleases him

     F. v. 7, He makes a promise 

    E'. v. 8, Herod's step-daughter, prompted by her mother, makes a request 

   D'. v. 9, King is sorry - he does NOT want John the Baptizer to be killed, but is "ashamed" and does it anyhow

  C'. vv. 10-11 John the Baptizer is beheaded. Head goes to the wife

 B'. v. 12, Disciples bury John the Baptizer

A'. v. 13a, Jesus heard (that Herod heard).      

Two observations: 

1. Connecting A and A' helps us to see that Jesus withdrawal was a result of the fact that Herod heard about an opposition to Jesus's ministry, it is not directly related to the death of John the Baptizer.    

2. The structural analysis helps us to understand that the pivotal point is in the v. 7 - when Herod makes an oath. As the background of this statement we need to remember that there is a possibility to revoke this oath (basically - any oath) according to Lev. 27. The fact that Herod doesn't use it might signify that he either doesn't know or he doesn't want to use it. But the reaction we are given in v. 9 might indicate that he actually was looking for an escape but was not aware of the route. This leads us to an important conclusion. Any king in Israel should be taught the Law (Torah) - Deut. 17:18-20. So, apparently, he was poorly taught. Along with this we know (from Mark's account of the same event in ch. 6) that he invited only civil and military "nobility" to his birthday party, which - most likely - would exclude the priestly class. As a result - lack of spiritual guidance led to John the Baptizer's death.