Who was Herod Agrippa I in the Bible?

Historical background

Herod Agrippa I was one of the Roman rulers over Israel from the Herod dynasty and he ruled Judea from AD 41 to 44. He was the son of Aristobulus and Berenice, grandson of Herod the Great and the Hasmonaean princess Mariamne. And he was the brother of the Herodias who appears in the story of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29). The king was named after the statesman who was the chief minister of Augustus. After his father had fallen a victim in 7 B.C. to the suspicions of his grandfather, Herod the Great, he was sent to Rome, as a hostage. There, he became a close friend to Caligula and Claudius, who both later became emperors.

When Herod Antipas married Herod Agrippa’s sister Herodias, Agrippa was made the market administrator of Tiberias. But he soon disagreed with Antipas and left to Rome. There, he didn’t gain the approval of Tiberius, because he voiced a wish that his friend Caligula should become emperor. As a result, he was jailed by Tiberius and remained there until the death of the emperor. When Caligula succeeded Tiberius on the throne, he honored his friend Agrippa and gave him the tetrarchies, first of Philip and then of Lysanias (Luke 3:1). He also granted him the title king. And when Antipas was overthrown, Agrippa took his territories as well.

Persecuting the church

Herod Agrippa I tried to appease the Jews by persecuting the Christian church. Luke in Acts 12:1–3 recorded, “King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.” But the Lord sent His angel and rescued Peter miraculously from prison and set him free (Acts 12:5–17). When King Agrippa found that Peter had escaped, he was angry and: “had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed” (v. 18, 19).

God’s punishment

Finally, Herod Agrippa I brought God’s judgement upon himself for Luke records in chapter 12 of Acts that: “[Agrippa] had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply. On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:20–23).

King Agrippa failed to give to God the glory that was due to Him only. Therefore, God punished him. Josephus account confirms that Agrippa accepted flattery and didn’t rebuke it. For this reason, he was stricken immediately by the disease and was carried to his palace. Josephus adds that Agrippa acknowledged that the stroke was divine as a punishment for accepting such blasphemous flattery. Being eaten by worms was always regarded by the ancients as a divine judgement (1 Sam. 25:38; 2 Kings 19:35; Acts 23:3).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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