By Dr. Sandra Hamer Smith, Crosswalk.com
Who Was Herod Agrippa?
Herod Agrippa was king of Judea for about four years.
Herod Agrippa’s grandfather executed his father, Aristobulus IV. His mother was named Bernice. Agrippa was then sent to Rome for safety and education. Agrippa grew up around the emperor Tiberius’ son Drusus. After his mother’s death, he spent his family’s wealth and went into debt. When Drusus died in 23 CE, he left Rome and settled in Palestine near Beersheba (Brittanica.com, 2022). His uncle Antipas gave him a minor official post, but he did not keep it long. He is best known for embracing Jews and oppressing Jewish Christians (Acts 12:1). He ruled Judea from a headquarters in Jerusalem from AD 41-44 and died in AD 44.
Why Did Herod Agrippa Kill the Apostle James?
During those days, certain kings oppressed the church. Herod Agrippa had some examples to follow in this area. His grandfather, Herod the Great, slaughtered the children in Bethlehem when he heard the Messiah had been born there. He was also the nephew of Herod Antipas, who killed John the Baptist. Acts 12 describes how Herod Agrippa attacked the church, starting by killing James, one of the two sons of Zebedee, with a sword.
In an interesting irony, Matthew Henry points out that while James was following Jesus, Jesus told James and John that they would drink the same cup he drank (Matthew 20:23). Jesus died for his mission, and James also died for his mission, “Now the words of Christ were made good in him; and if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him.”
Since this death pleased the Jews, Herod Agrippa went after another well-known disciple.
What Happened When Herod Agrippa Imprisoned Peter?
He found Peter and put him in prison, with four quaternions (sets of four) of soldiers to keep him. He planned to present him after Easter to the people.
The people of God prayed for Peter. Herod would have brought Peter forth that night, but there was a divine intervention. Peter was sleeping between two soldiers and bound with two chains. The keepers before the door kept the prison. In slips an angel of the Lord. A light shone in the prison. He smote Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
The angel told Peter to “Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals.” (Acts 12:8). Peter did as he was told. “Cast thy garment about thee and follow me,” said the angel. Peter was still trying to determine if this was a dream or reality. Next, they passed the first and second ward and came out the iron gate that led to the city. They continued and passed onto a street, and then the angel departed from him. When Peter came to himself, he realized that the Lord had delivered him. He was free from Herod and the expectation of the Jews.
Why Did the Angel Strike Herod Agrippa?
King Herod was still upset that Peter had gotten out of prison. He had people searching for Peter, but they could not find him. He put the men to death who were in charge of keeping Peter.
On a particular day, King Herod was in Caesarea and put on royal apparel to give a speech in the theater. The people of Tyre and Sidon had been feuding with him and wanted peace (Acts 12:19-20), so he gave a speech on that topic. People liked this speech because as he spoke, some shouted, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (Acts 12:22). Herod did not seek to correct them. Immediately, the angel of the Lord smote him because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost.
What Happened to the Church After Herod Agrippa Died?
After Herod died, the word of God grew and multiplied. According to Acts 12:25, Barnabas and Saul (who had just finished a ministry journey) went from Jerusalem to Antioch with John Mark. In Antioch, they meet with prophets and teachers to discuss their next steps. Some of these prophets and teachers knew Herod Agrippa’s family: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen grew up with his uncle Herod the tetrarch (Acts 13:1).
After these men waited, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The teachers and prophets fasted, prayed, laid hands on Barnabas and Saul, and sent them off to their new work. Acts 13:4-5 says Saul, Barnabas, and John Mark went to Cyprus. Scholars call this trip Paul’s first missionary journey, and he wrote his epistle to the Galatians during this period.
What Lessons Can We Learn from Herod Agrippa?
While we don’t learn much about Herod Agrippa’s private life from the Bible, we do see some pretty clear lessons about how we can avoid his mistakes.
Even if people are not Christians, God still holds them to a standard. It is important for us not to let people blow our heads up. We cannot believe our own press release. We are covered from so much judgment and receive much mercy because we are Christians. The blood of Jesus shields us from so much.
It is best to be humble no matter what you have accomplished in life. When we leave this planet, we leave titles, positions, status, money, and standing all behind. It is so easy to get puffed up in your own self-worth, but it is not smart. God has a way of humbling people. With Herod Agrippa I, he took him out. Do not be silent if someone is temporarily insane and refers to you as a god. Sometimes people are being friendly and think that they are helping to boost your confidence, but you shut down that statement at once.
People in leadership positions are held to even higher standards. Those in the church who have been released in ministries, such as preachers, teachers, evangelists, pastors, apostles, etc., are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). God knows just where to humble us. He knows what to do and when to do it. Save your criticism of those in position and authority because God sits high and looks low, and He has already sent correction by the time we start criticizing or judging.
Give all the glory to God. When people tell you that you pulled yourself up from your bootstraps, do like the NBA players after a game. Point to the heavens giving God glory. You can tell them, “I just thank God for how He is keeping me.” Or you can say, “I just give God all the glory.” How about, “if it had not been for the Lord who was on my side, I do not know what I would have done.” That is pleasing in God’s sight, and it shows that you have humility. Remember that as Christians, most of what we have received comes with a struggle. God carries us through this way so that we do not get so puffed up and that we always remain humble.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/FTiare
Dr. Sandra Hamer Smith is a Christian and wife to Sylvester Smith. She has one stepson, Greg. Smith lives and resides in Memphis, Tennessee. The University of Memphis alumnae has been in education for about 20 years after receiving the call to teach. Dr. Smith primarily teaches language arts. Prior to education, she worked in local and national television news for 13 years including positions as an overnight news anchor, reporter, and assignments editor at two local network affiliate stations. Smith was also a freelance correspondent for BET news. Dr. Smith has freelanced for the Tri-State Defender newspaper and Contempora magazine. She is the author of the self-published novel GLORY…THE HAIR. Smith is also a playwright and poet. The Tennessee native is a member of Temple of Deliverance COGIC, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, Omicron Delta Kappa, The Golden Key International Honour Society, and Kappa Delta Pi.