In this passage of Acts the death of King Herod Agrippa 1 is covered. Herod had laid hands on some who belonged to the church to mistreat them, having killed James the brother of John, and put Peter in prison. He also was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon for taxation reasons. Being a seaport, they in turn needed the King for food and therefore wanted negotiations with Him, and having bribed or somehow won over the king’s chamberlain, felt they were ready to meet Herod. When they got together on the appointed day, the people were ready to win Herod over and called out, ‘he speaks with the voice of a god, and not a man.’ Herod of course agreed with them, took their worship as meaningful, and refusing to acknowledge Jehovah as the only One who deserves worship, was struck dead by the Angel of the LORD .
So why was Herod singled out for having an exalted ego, and so dramatically put to death by the Angel of the LORD? There had been many bad actors preceding him, like Antiochus Epiphanies, and since that time many more world leaders have exalted themselves as gods, with much less dramatic deaths. The answer may seem a bit less than fulfilling, but it is contained in scripture.
John 3.16 is a somewhat concluding statement of Jesus, to Nicodemus, that night when he sought out Jesus. “For God so loved the world that ‘He gave’ His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Note then as Jesus continues, “For God sent not His Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jesus mission is not judgement, but Grace. John 3:18 ” He that believes on Him is not condemned; but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
It’s obvious that King Herod was not a believer on Jesus, though he had heard the Good News from all the doings and talk for these past eleven or so years since the resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the very men whom he was persecuting. Herod chose not to believe, to see the beauty of Jesus, the compassion, the grace that was brought down from heaven to mankind. He chose to exalt himself, he chose to continue in doing wrong, to judge and meet out punishment unjustly, to rule as a god and to accept such false worship. Herod’s world view in no way diminishes the work or character of Jesus, the love that He offers, or the grace He bestows, rather it merely reveals his banal, unrepentant approach to life, and it is God the Father’s role to judge at the time of His choosing.
“But we all, with unveiled face, behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18