Chapter 7: God’s glory and the Word of God
20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.
21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 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.
24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
Fury, fear, food and ‘friendship’
Herod is not only violent and self-seeking. He is a ‘self-made man’ who like most ‘self-made men’ worships the one he sees as his creator—namely himself! His ruthless scheming to achieve his own desires strikes fear into those who cross him. His fury is now directed at the nearby well-known trading ports of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia. Those towns are on the coastline and rely on regions beyond them for supplies of essentials. Major supplies come from Judea and Galilee, which are under Herod’s control. The trading continues the established trading relationship with the ports that Solomon enjoyed and that Judah and Israel continued.1 We are not told why Herod is angry. There may or may not be a valid reason. We are not sure. If, in his anger, Herod prevents the export of corn to them, they may suffer greatly through famine. If they object too strongly, Herod may focus his prejudice against them and declare war. The undoubted wealth and commercial openings of Tyre and Sidon make the popular ports prizes worth having. So the rulers of Tyre and Sidon know they have to sweeten the angry king if they are to survive or flourish.
In passing, how reassuring it is to know that the King of kings, whom we have all offended and from whom we all deserve retribution and punishment, is gracious and loving towards us. He offers His mercy and grace to all who will turn their backs on their wrongdoing and put their trust in Him. Christ bled and died for us on the cross to pardon us.
The ambassadors of Tyre and Sidon persuade Blastus to influence Herod to have a peaceful relationship with their towns. They want to avoid confrontation leading to a costly war, damage, and almost certain defeat. But who is Blastus? As Herod’s chamberlain he is in charge of the king’s bed chamber and so has the king’s ear. Thus, like other chamberlains, he effectively became the king’s ‘personal aide’.2 Nehemiah, as the king’s ‘cupbearer’, was similarly placed to be the king’s personal aide, but he acted for good and for God.3 Whether or not Blastus has been bribed to side with Tyre and Sidon, their ambassadors’ united approach seems to work. They plan to appear before Herod, it seems, in order to ‘make a public submission, beg his majesty’s pardon, throw themselves upon his clemency, and promise never again to offend’ and hope that this will ‘feed his pride and serve to cool his passion.’4
From royal robes to food for worms
Full of pomp and pride, Herod appears on the ‘set day’. That day may be set as a Jewish feast day, or set by Herod to receive and hear the petitions from Tyre and Sidon’s ambassadors. Josephus, the famous Roman historian, reports that the day is to honour Caesar and includes sports and plays. Josephus describes Herod as clothed completely in silver and that ‘the silver shone so with the rays of the rising sun, that it struck the spectators with terror and admiration.’5
Herod now makes his pompous speech from his throne. No doubt in an attempt to please, pacify and puff up the proud king into being favourable towards Tyre and Sidon, the people blasphemously shout ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ Sinful men and women need to be careful to idolise nothing and worship no-one as a god.6 There is only one ‘King eternal, immortal, invisible, who alone is wise, and to whom will be honour and glory forever and ever’. Only our Three-in-One and One-in-Three Sovereign Lord fits that description.7 Judgment will fall eternally on those who refuse to repent, bow down, and trust in that living God, through faith in the once crucified and now living Saviour.8
The people will now please Herod, inflate his evil pride, and parade their empty enthusiasm for him. But God abhors such evil praise to the wicked king. In the Bible, angels are often agents of judgment.9 Here we see the ‘angel of the Lord’ strike down Herod ‘immediately’ because he does ‘not give God the glory’ due to Him. When God acts as judge there is no discussion, no consideration of evidence by prosecution and defence nor of any mitigating circumstances. God’s judgment, when it falls, falls ‘immediately’. That is why anyone convicted of sin needs to repent and trust Christ immediately. The Bible says ‘Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation’. So the time of the day to turn and receive Christ is always ‘Now’.10 Do not delay if you do not know Jesus yet.
Herod later dies. Josephus reports that this took five agonising days after the wicked king was struck down. During this time worms have eaten him internally. Worms do not discriminate between kings and paupers. Nor does death. We all move along death’s grim and foreboding queue. We all need Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.
The growth of God’s word
What a contrast we see between Herod and God’s word. Proud and pushy Herod has gone. But God’s word grows and multiplies. More and more people understand their need to listen to what God has said in His word. Those who listen with humble and open hearts will act on God’s word, and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. They will follow Him and share the good news of His saving grace and power with others. They, in turn, will also trust Jesus and share His good news with yet others. It will continue on and on. The words ‘grew’ and ‘multiplied’ are exactly right. As one other listens to or reads the word of God, there is a growth in its godly and blessed influence. As one new Christian helps another to trust Jesus, and that one helps someone else to receive Jesus, the word is being multiplied in newly changed lives.
Business as usual
The work of Christ, in all its aspects, continues. Paul and Barnabas return from completing the commission they had been given of taking the Antioch church’s famine relief gift to the Jerusalem church. They bring back with them John Mark. We will see more of him as God continues his amazing acts of grace through those who will trust and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Questions on Chapter 7
Acts 12:20–25 God’s Glory and the Word of God
A. What did Herod do wrong? What did the people do wrong? What can we learn from these wrongdoings?
Acts 12:20–23, Romans 6:23
What does this passage emphasise about the first two of the Ten Commandments?
Acts 12:22–23, Exodus 20:3, Exodus 20:4–6, 1 Timothy 1:17, Hebrews 1:1–14
What makes the word of God grow and multiply?
Acts 12:24, Matthew 28:19–20, Mark 16:20, Luke 24:47, 1 Corinthians 2:1–5
- Solomon gave King Hiram of Tyre, large quantities of wheat and oil each year.(1 Kings 5:9,11); Much later Judah and Israel traded in wheat with Tyre, (Ezekiel 27:17). ↩
- The NKJV translates the word for ‘chamberlain’ as ‘personal aide’, as that is what ‘chamberlain’ came to mean. ↩
- Nehemiah 1:11 ↩
- This is an abbreviated quote from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible. ↩
- This information is from The John Gill Expositor, quoting Josephus’s Antiquities. l. 19, c. 8. sect 2 ↩
- Exodus 20:3, Exodus 20:4–6 ↩
- 1 Timothy 1:17 ↩
- Hebrews 9:27, Romans 1:18 ↩
- Genesis 19:13, Exodus:12:13, 12:23, 2 Kings 19:35, Matthew 13:39–43, Acts 12:23, 2 Thessalonians 1:7–8, Revelation 7:1, 8:1–13, 9:1–21, 12:7–9, 14:8–11, 15:1, 18:1–2, 19:17–18, 20:1–2 ↩
- 2 Corinthians 6:2 ↩