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The Death of Herod in Acts 12


Herod’s Horrible History

ble Reading.   Acts 12:18-25

Sin always has consequences.  Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

God does not tolerate sin, and the Lord always vindicates his church and his people, and He does not tolerate Herod’s disgraceful behaviour against his flock. In Herod’s last act of sinful folly and pride we see:-

1 The Anger of a King. 

Herod had lost face!  And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there. 

  1. Angry with his sentries.  V18-19  It was the common punishment for failure of duty, that a man entrusted with the custody of a prisoner should suffer the fate that the prisoner would have suffered.  Herod had no qualms about putting to death the squad of soldiers who failed to keep Peter in the cell. 
  2. Angry with his subjects.  V20 It looks like Herod was engaged in a dispute with the people who lived in the coastal region of Phoenicia.   
  • For Herod, this was a source of much anger. Whatever this dispute was about, Herod was SERIOUSLY displeased and Herod, and the family from which he came were not noted for their anger control management.  Herod would have been full of violent hostility towards the people of these two towns.  
  • For the people of Phoenicia, this was a disaster.  V20  The people who lived in Phoenicia were sea-farers, traditionally, and their ships traded right across the known world.  A dispute with King Herod disrupted their onward/inland freight trade, and deprived them of their livelihood.  Famine would ensue. 

So the people of Tyre and Sidon did what most nations and many traders do in these circumstances.  They bribed an official, a man called Blastus, who arranged for a diplomatic gesture to be made. On a certain day, Herod would be welcomed to a civic reception in Phoenicia, he would address the people there, and with his ego now stroked, he would make a grand speech, declaring the friendship between their two great countries…  at least that was the plan! 

2 The Apparel of a Clown.  v21  

The Bible simply records that Herod was dressed in Royal apparel.  Josephus describes the scene as Herod made his way into the auditorium to make his speech, clad in a silver gown, which reflected the sun, creating a ‘halo’ effect all around him.  These were superstitious people, and they began to worship Herod as a ‘god.’  Herod accepted their worship and sinned, as he had done right throughout this whole chapter. 

The sin of opposing God.  Verse 1-4, where he persecuted the Lord’s church, and in doing so he persecuted the Lord himself.  Luke 10:16.    The sin of murder. In verse 2-4, the sin of murder. Herod had no compunctions with ruthlessly murdering an innocent man, James. The sin of worldliness. Verse 3.  He was a man pleaser, who loved the world, loved power, loved position and influence, and the lifestyle that came with his position.  The sin of hypocrisy.  He pretended to be a religious Jew, just because he wanted to keep the Jews content, and hold on to his position.    The sin of pride.  Verse 21.   The sin of self-exaltation. Caesar in Rome thought that he was a god, – so why not Herod!  Why not just accept a little bit of the glory?   

3 The Appointment of a Fool.  23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died. 

While Herod sat on his royal throne and basked in the adulation of his subjects, God smote him with an awful pain. Josephus confirms this and puts the time of his death as five days later.  Luke, in his brevity, here simply says that worms ate his body and he died.  No cure was available, and Herod died an agonising death.  That’s the history, here’s the biblical basis…  Romans 6:23,  Ezekiel 18:4,  Proverbs 11:19,  Now contrast all of this with the short and simple statement in verse 24: 

4 The Accomplishment of the Lord’s Word.  24 But the word of God grew and multiplied. 

  • The word of the Lord is UNSTOPPABLE. The word of the Lord GREW!    1 Peter 1:24-25   Despite his best efforts, Herod could not stop the word of God!  The Sanhedrin could not stop the spread of the Word of God!  Think of how many forces have been opposed to God’s Word,  but God has spoken through his word, and he will not be silenced.  
  • The word of the Lord is FLOURISHING. Word of God grew and MULTIPLIED! The Word of God is accomplishing the purpose of God, and it will not cease until all of Gods elect people are gathered in.  Isaiah 55:11.  
  • The word of the Lord is the CATALYST for the expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth. There is a general principle, that where the Word goes, the church grows.  In Acts, the people of God went everywhere, spreading the Word.  As the word grew, the church grew!  Psalm 126  


At the beginning of this chapter, we saw Herod running amok among the young Christian church at Jerusalem, arresting and murdering the leaders among the flock of God.  James is dead. Peter imprisoned, Herod riding high in the popularity polls both in Jerusalem and Rome.  By the end of the chapter the situation is reversed.  Peter is free and Herod is dead, and the word of God is triumphant again.    

While all this persecution at Jerusalem is going on, Paul was at Jerusalem with Barnabas.  They had brought relief from the people at Antioch for the church at Jerusalem, to alleviate the famine there, and now that their ministry there is over, they are to return to Antioch.  And a new name has appeared too, John Mark, a young man destines by God to become the writer of one of the four gospels.  The early church did not just make converts.- it made disciples!

(© Bob McEvoy August 2020 )

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