18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
20 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. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 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.
Peter was public enemy number one. He was chained to not one, but two Roman guards while he was in jail. That was the equivalent of a maximum-security prison. When he was miraculously released by an angel, the guards that were responsible for him suffered the natural consequences.
If a prisoner escaped while they were on your watch, you would suffer the sentence that was awaiting that prisoner.
Herod was a bad guy. Having those guards executed wasn’t borne out of his evil, it was just him following the protocol for prisoners.
Buuuuuut this whole ‘voice of a god’ bit is messed up.
Josephus, a historian from shortly after this time period, reported that Herod dressed up in a silver robe for this event. As in, there was silver sewn into the robe that he wore so that when he stepped out into the sunlight, he was all shiny.
Presuming diety wasn’t new for these guys. When an eclipse or shooting star happened, the Caesars would say things like “That was my father showing that he is a god,” which would leave everyone to presume that the current ruler, therefore, was a son of the gods.
I think Luke includes this event and these gory details to contrast life in the Kingdom of God and life in the kingdoms of this world.
In the Kingdom of God, we walk in freedom. We are powerless and God has all the power and sometimes He saves and rescues us. This is a chance to give Him all glory and praise and attention!
In the kingdom of this world, sometimes circumstances work out in our favor, through no work of our own (like this fight and then treaty between these regions). That is a chance for us to thank God and give Him glory, or to try to take His credit and sit in His chair. Whatever credit we take for ourselves will rot and go away. It won’t last. The work of this world, no matter how shiny, is going to decay and be eaten by worms.
(It’s also funny that in a book full of over 22 speeches, Herod’s great oration is quoted zero. What’d he say?! Who knows!)
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