Herod Agrippa I – A Life of Self-Glory

May 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God | 1 Comment

The third generation Herod to rule in the biblical narrative was Herod Agrippa I.  Though he was the grandson of Herod the Great, he was not the son of Herod the Tetrarch.  This Herod appears in Acts 12 where he put the Apostle James to death and later arrested Peter.  This chapter contains the fun story of the angel who releases Peter in the middle of the night and Rhoda who wouldn’t open the door when she heard Peter’s voice.  It’s dramatic and comical; go read it if you aren’t familiar with it.  However, the chapter ends with the sad story of Herod Agrippa’s death, and that is what concerns us today.

Luke, in the New Testament, and Josephus, the Jewish historian, both tell us of his death.  Luke tells the story quite simply, “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.  And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’  Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:21-23 ESV).  However, Josephus adds some sparkling details:

“On the second day of the spectacle he put on a garment made wholly of silver, of a truly wonderful texture, and came into the theater early in the morning.  There the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays, shone out in a wonderful manner, and was so resplendent as to spread awe over those that looked intently upon him.  Presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good) that he was a god.  . . .  Upon this the king neither rebuked them nor rejected their impious flattery.  But he shortly afterward looked up and saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings.  . . .  A severe pain arose in his belly, striking with a most violent intensity.  He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, “I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death.  . . .  And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age and in the seventh year of his reign.  (Antiquities 19.8.2)

Josephus isn’t inspired, and he has a reputation for exaggeration, but I still find it interesting that even his secular history credits Herod’s death to his arrogance against God.  Of course, the inspired writer hits it on the head when he says “because he did not give God the glory.”  So many people in places of power suffer from the malady of self-glory.  They take credit for everything good thing that happens while they are in power.  The actions of our presidents and congressional leaders during times of prosperity and depression are a perfect example.  But in this case, God ended the self-glory abruptly.  I sometimes wish God would treat self-glorifying politicians that way today, but then I am reminded that I too rob God of his glory in various ways, and am grateful for his grace.  Herod Agrippa reminds us that God should get all glory and praise for anything that happens in our lives.

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  1. To see a simplified family tree of Herod’s family click here:

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