In this episode of Tidbits from Church History we look the Biblical account of the death of King Herod I. This is found in Acts 12, the same chapter in which James is martyred and Peter is imprisoned and then freed by the angel.
Acts 12:20-24 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied.
I wanted to bring in addition material from the historian, Josephus, that so closely parallels Luke’s account in Acts. This is a big moment in the history of the early church and there are many lessons we can learn from it.
King Herod’s Death
“On the second day of the shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a texture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner…and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,) that he was a god; and they added, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.” Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.”
From the account of Josephus, we learn that Herod’s death wasn’t instant but that he lived a very painful 5 days before dying at the age of 54.
“But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, “I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death.” When he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad everywhere, that he would certainly die in a little time…And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign.”
~ The Works of Josephus