Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 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.
But the word of God increased and multiplied.
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
Understanding And Applying the Text
God hates pride. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:5b “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34 says, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.”
The Herod Luke mentions was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great). This Herod who killed James and arrested Peter. He was a persecutor of the church
Things went well for Herod after he started persecuting the Church. He dominated those around him to the point they came to him on their knees. They begged for his mercy. It was as if God rewarded him for his wickedness.
For the church, this was not a small thing. They could have thought God did not care about them. They were afraid of Herod’s abuse of power. And it appeared his cruelty was on the increase. But God had other plans. He set Herod up so his fall was great. God removed His restrain on Herod and Herod’s wickedness and pride increased. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18.)
Something happened to make Herod angry with Tyer and Sidon. Tyre was a seaport on the coast of Phoenicia. Sidon was an ancient Phoenician royal city. It was on the coast between Berytus (Beirut) and Tyre
They depended on grain from Herod. Herod knew Rome would not allow him to conduct an open war against them. So he developed another plan. He did not allow any corn or food supplies carried out of his domain to them. This was the same as putting Tyre and Sidon under siege. Little by little the people were staving.
Luke tells us they persuaded Blastus to petition Herod for them. Blatus was not a domestic servant or butler. He held a respected position with considerable responsibility. He was in charge of the king’s living quarters and personal affairs. “Chamberlain” corresponds well. But “Chamberlain” is an uncommon word today. The term “personal assistant,” convey the idea better.
Blastus was not their friend. He was not convinced to go to Herod for humanitarian concerns. They persuaded him with gifts or bribes to approach Herod.
Now Tyre and Sidon come to Herod humbled and on a bent knee. Herod won his war without raising a single sword. Herod felt very smart. He felt very powerful. He thought like he could do what he wanted when he wanted, where he wanted, and how he wanted. He was a god.
The day came to honor Claudius Cesar. Herod was in royal apparel. According to Josephus, it was covered with silver and gold. The rays of the rising sun struck it and light reflected from it. It dazzled the eyes of those watching.
The throne could also be the “judgment seat.”It was a raised platform mounted by steps and sometimes furnished with a seat. Officials used it in addressing an assembly or making pronouncements. Often these were on judicial matters. The judgment seat was a familiar item in Greco-Roman culture. It was often located in the agora. The agora was the public square or marketplace in the center of a city.
From the judgment seat, he started to speak to the crowd. The crowd shouted “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” it was flattery for Herod. Josephus also records this event in the Nineteenth Book of Antiquities. The main difference is Josephus calls him Agrippa and Luke calls him Herod. An angel struck Herod down and worms ate him and he died.
This is a hard teaching. We find it difficult to accept that God struck Herod down because “he did not give the glory to God.” How often do we not give glory to God? We sing a song, play an instrument, or do something else with talent. People will tell us how talented we are. Rather than giving glory to God, we take it all ourselves.
You may think, “That’s not that bad. They did not say I was a god.” But what about Neo or Demision. They insisted they were gods. They insisted on worship. God did not strike them down.
So we look for other reasons. It must have been because of his cruelty and persecution of the church. But Neo and Demision were even worse. So we conclude that we don’t have all the information. There had to be something else. But the scripture says the angel struck him down because he did not give the glory to God. We know the reason. He did not give the glory to God.
Here is the problem. First, we don’t think that it is a big deal. But God thinks it is a big deal. And His is the only vote that counts. Second, we live in a culture that believes if everyone is not treated the same, it is unjust. That is not true. It is not unjust to treat people differently.
Christ reached down and changed Saul’s heart. Christ sent the angel to strike Herod dead. Both bad men. Both evil. Yet one received mercy and the other justice.
Since it is not unjust to treat people differently. Can we treat people differently? Is it unjust to make black people sit in the back of the bus? Yes! God created man in His image. To assault the dignity of men is a sin against man and God.
Now relook at this passage in that light. God struck Herod dead for not giving Him the glory. We don’t think of that as a big deal. We do it all the time. But God considers it a big deal. Big enough to be worthy of death. But God gives us mercy. This is unmerited. We deserve death.
God could withdraw His mercy at any time and deliver justice instead. We ask God why when bad things happen. Why the tornado, hurricane, earthquakes or other disaster God is not unjust. We get what we deserve. Why do bad things happen to good people? They don’t. There are no good people. Romans 3:10-12. God is only giving us what we have earned.