Herod Agrippa II – One Who Won’t Be Persuaded

May 8, 2012 at 10:18 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, Wisdom | 2 Comments

The last ruler of the Herodian dynasty was Herod Agrippa II.  He was too young to become a ruler at his father’s untimely death, but was appointed by Claudius to his uncle’s throne a few years later, at the age of 23.  He reigned in various parts of Palestine until his death at age 73 in the year 100AD.  He was an expert in Jewish law and religion and was used by Roman authorities as a resource on Jewish matters.  Among other privileges, he was given the authority to appoint the Jewish high priest.  He comes into the biblical narrative during Paul’s trial in Caesarea in Acts 25-26, where he is called simply Agrippa.

Paul had been tried before Governor Felix, who understood Jewish matters pretty well, and whose wife was a sister or half sister of Agrippa.  Felix kept Paul in prison hoping for a bribe from him (Acts 24:26).  When Felix was replaced as governor by Festus, who didn’t have much understanding of Jewish matters, the case of Paul was still undecided, so Festus brought it up again.  When Agrippa came to town, Festus asked his opinion of the case (Acts 25), and Paul made his defense before King Agrippa (Acts 26).

At the end of Paul’s defense, Festus called him crazy, but Paul said he was speaking freely because Agrippa understood these matters.  Then Paul asked the direct question to the King, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know that you believe.” (Acts 26:27 ESV)  Agrippa wouldn’t be persuaded, so instead of giving a simple answer, he turned the question back to Paul saying, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (28)  Agrippa’s question has been interpreted as jest, as gall (how dare you, a prisoner, attempt to persuade me, a king), as avoidance, and probably many other ideas as well.  What I want to consider for our thoughts today is some of the reasons Agrippa wouldn’t be persuaded.

Perhaps Agrippa was too proud.  He was known as a Jewish expert, and he would have to admit a misunderstanding if he told Paul he believed the prophets on these matters.  He might appear to Festus to be wishy-washy rather than knowledgeable and strong.  Yet he couldn’t bring himself to say he didn’t believe the prophets either, because the people thought he did.  He used this question as avoidance of a direct answer that might embarrass him.

Perhaps Agrippa was afraid for his position.  He couldn’t admit that he was a sinner.  The event which included Paul’s defense was accompanied by great pomp, and all sorts of officials were in attendance (25:23).  Yet Paul had just talked about repentance and forgiveness.  It is difficult for a public official to admit wrongdoing, especially in such a public setting.  Four generations of pampered living and protective leadership had taught Agrippa to hold on to his position.  I wonder if the story of his father’s death haunted him into a place of indecision on religions matters – afraid of losing his position by admission, afraid of losing it by denial too.

It is possible that Agrippa would not be persuaded because he knew he was a sinner but loved his sinful lifestyle.  This is the reason many people don’t want to hear the Gospel.  Agrippa arrived in Caesarea, Luke tells us, with Bernice (25:13), and Bernice was present at Paul’s defense (25:23).  A little history will help explain what Luke’s contemporary readers knew that today’s reader may not.  Bernice was King Agrippa’s sister, who lived with him as his wife.  It was a major scandal in Rome, where everyone knew about the relationship.  Like his great uncle, Antipas, and his aunt, Herodias, Agrippa loved his openly sinful life too much to repent.


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

  2. Don’t believe any rumor you hear, even if it’s an antique one. The story about the sexual relationship between Agrippa and Berenice was told by their haters, and has no evidence whatsoever. On the contrary. (Sexual accusations against powerful women were as common then as they are nowadays).

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