Acts 12:23

Panorama from Vermont State Capitol Steps

Friday, 9 December 2022

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. Acts 12:23

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous verse had those in the audience of Herod call out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” With that, we now read, “Then immediately.”

These words do not mean “instantaneously” as in it happening right before the eyes of the people, but what occurred came about without delay. For example, Matthew 21:19 uses the same word, saying –

“And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away.”

However, that is explained in Mark, saying –

“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’” Mark 11:12-14

“Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.’” Mark 11:20-21

The same is true here, as will be seen. For now, what happened was that “an angel of the Lord struck him.” The rendering is correct. The KJV says, “the angel of the Lord,” but there is no article before “angel” in the Greek. Hence, it is a messenger of death sent to dispatch Herod off to the pit “because he did not give glory to God.”

This is also attested to by Josephus, and he also explains the word “immediately” used in the previous clause, saying of Herod, “he did neither rebuke them the people nor reject their impious flattery. A severe pain arose in his belly and began in a most violent manner. And when he was quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, in the 54th year of his age, and the 7th year of his reign.”

This is not an uncommon occurrence in Scripture, meaning where death or disease is ascribed to the hand of the Lord or is directed (or allowed) by the Lord, either by His messenger or even by the hand of Satan, as was the case with Job. In this case, and because of his failure to give God the glory He alone is due, Herod was struck in a most terrible manner. As it says, “And he was eaten by worms and died.”

Again, the word “immediately” is seen to mean “right away” but not necessarily “instantly.” It was not a scene like a gory horror movie where he was consumed by worms in front of the people praising him. Rather, he was struck with pains in his belly caused by worms and his death came about according to Josephus five days later. The account is not unlike that of the wicked king Jehoram in 2 Chronicles 21 –

“And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying,
‘Thus says the Lord God of your father David:
Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father’s household, who were better than yourself, 14 behold, the Lord will strike your people with a serious affliction—your children, your wives, and all your possessions; 15 and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day.’
16 Moreover the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabians who were near the Ethiopians. 17 And they came up into Judah and invaded it, and carried away all the possessions that were found in the king’s house, and also his sons and his wives, so that there was not a son left to him except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.
18 After all this the Lord struck him in his intestines with an incurable disease. 19 Then it happened in the course of time, after the end of two years, that his intestines came out because of his sickness; so he died in severe pain. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning for his fathers.” 2 Chronicles 21:12-19

Herod’s grisly death may have been speedier than that of Jehoram, but both men died in severe pain. In this, one can see that the Lord was demonstrating to His people, Israel, that their leaders were accountable for their conduct before Him. Thus, all of the people were likewise accountable to Him.

Life application: At times, the Lord allowed wicked kings to reign seemingly without any repercussions at all. At times, He removed them speedily and violently for their conduct. What may appear as random and without consistency was to teach the people lessons about their need for something better than a temporary, earthly rule.

Some good kings reigned for long periods, while others died more quickly. Likewise, some bad kings reigned for long periods and died in peace, while others like Herod died in great pain. The many different circumstances each taught Israel a lesson if they would just pay heed. Whether good or bad, whether a short rule or long, all the kings eventually died, demonstrating that they bore sin because death is the consequence of sin.

And more, the conduct of the kings during their times of rule led to the conduct of the people. When good kings reigned, the people would generally turn to the Lord, but as soon as a crummy king came in, the people would fall away from the Lord. This was to teach Israel that they were like sheep following their leader either to fair pastures or to a place of destruction.

In both lessons, and so many more, the history of the kings of Israel was recorded to teach them (and thus us) that we need a perfect king – one without sin and one who judges in perfect righteousness. Nothing else will do. And more, we need a Savior who can both forgive our sins and keep us from transgressing God’s commands. On our own, this is impossible. But because of the work of Jesus, it is not only possible, but it will also come to pass for those who are His.

Let us consider these lessons and look to Jesus for our hope, our direction, and for our conduct before God.

Glorious God, thank You for the lessons found in Your word. If we just apply them to our lives, we will live properly in Your presence because we will have Jesus in our lives to direct us. Thank You for Jesus Christ who alone will lead us in the manner that You require. Yes, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.