Did God Execute King Herod?

This is a barn burner!



I believe the angel of the Lord came to warn Herod to repent. Like a fireman abruptly and urgently warns those oblivious inhabitants of a burning house to “GET OUT NOW,” the angel of the Lord was warning Herod that his spiritual house was NOW on Satanic-fire and that it was about to collapse and crush him to death.

The Bible is full of angels delivering warnings of imminent Satanic wrath. Angels warned Paul, Peter, Joseph, Mary, Lot, Abraham, Jacob, Moses and many others of impending Satanic attack. Mankind, however, has always wrongly tended to shoot the messenger. An angel warning of Satanic wrath to come often gets blamed for bringing the wrath itself. That is as insane as blaming the heroic fireman, who is fervently warning us to escape the fire, for actually starting the fire itself. The Lord’s angelic warnings are always given so that the listening party may escape the impending danger, whether it be by quick repentance or simple avoidance.

In a somewhat similar situation, Paul was literally knocked off his high horse by the Lord’s light which revealed the gross sin of Paul in “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples” (Acts 9:1). Paul was abruptly warned, just as Herod was, of the gravity of his sin. The Lord revealed to Paul that he, in truth, had been persecuting and murdering the servants of God rather than the enemies of God. Paul was persecuting the Lord Himself!

But, though the severity of Herod’s and Paul’s sin was comparable, their respective willingness to repent was not. Whereas Herod despaired unto death for five days without finding a place of Godly repentance, Paul pivoted quickly and repented after a Godly sort (2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Hebrews 12:17). Herod, like Esau in Hebrews 12:17, could find no heartfelt place of true repentance, whereas Paul could and did. Herod in great despair “gave up the ghost,” whereas Paul in great joy “received the Holy Ghost.”

Now, let’s take some time to look at the Herod passage more closely.
Satan was about to lay claim and kill Herod based on the access given him by the multitude of serious sins Herod committed. From killing the apostles, to putting himself forth as a god to be worshipped, to failing to give the true God any glory, Herod was in Satanic free-fall.

Herod had so pushed/grieved/quenched away the Lord’s protective presence that Herod was now left totally raw and exposed to Satan’s missiles. Herod was about to be pushed off a high cliff of pride to crash on Satan’s rocks of sharp condemnation. He was about to literally “fall into the condemnation of the devil” (Timothy 3:6). The angel came to smite him with a warning SO THAT he might repent instead of being destroyed. Sadly, though Herod had five days to find repentance, he never did. And he died.

Based on Acts 12:1-25, many believe that this passage teaches that “the angel of the Lord smote” and killed Herod in cold blood. Herod, who was the then political king of the Jews, committed two major mistakes. First, he set himself against the early church, persecuting them through imprisonment and execution. Second, he allowed himself to be worshipped as a god without giving any glory to the Lord. Let’s consider this challenging passage:

“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he SMOTE Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands….

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord SMOTE him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” ~~~Acts 12:1-7, 21-23.

First, did you notice “the angel of the Lord” smote TWO men here, both Peter and Herod. The first “smote” merely woke Peter up so that he could escape his prison. This “smote” was clearly non-lethal and in fact was beneficial. It was an alarm, a warning to “wake up and smell the coffee” and to see what was happening.

However, the second “smote” of this same chapter at first glance appears to have killed Herod. Or did it? Does the verse literally say the angel killed Herod? No. The word “smote” in the original Greek is PATASSO (3960), which can mean to “knock gently.” It is believed to be derived from the Greek PAIO (3817), which refers to a sting or hit of a single blow and is considered less violent than the normal term used for hard-hitting blows, which is the Greek TYPTO (5180).

The point here is that “smote” can easily mean nothing more than a non-injurious warning poke. But, didn’t Herod die here? Yes, but NOT then and there. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Herod died long after the angel smote him. “He fell into the deepest sorrow; a severe pain also arose in his bowels, and he died after five days of illness.” (Josephus, book 19, ch. 8,2). This sure sounds like Esau-like “worldly sorrow” which has many tears and much despair, BUT lacks any true faith and repentance toward God, the kind of Godly repentance described in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.

Acts 12:23 says that after the angel smote Herod, he was “eaten of worms” and “gave up the ghost,” but the passage gives no time context. This Greek word for “worms” is only used one other place in the New Testament, Mark 9:44-48, where its used todescribe non-stop hellish torment.

So, whether Herod had literal worms or spiritual worms, he was suffering prolonged despair and deep anguish. This torment eventually resulted in Herod “giving up the ghost,” a term used outside the Gospels only in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, two other unfortunates who, after beholding the full gravity of their sin, succumbed to the condemnation of the Devil and surrendered their souls to death. They too could have repented, but did not. And to Peter’s great shame, it was never offered or ministered to them by nearby Christians. Satan’s condemnation kills!

This unique expression, “giving up the ghost,” describes the dead end of depression. For such unfortunate men, when they see the full gravity of their sin, amplified by Satan’s spirit of condemnation, they then essentially surrender their lives to despair and worm-infested torment. The only role of an angel in this process is to try to preempt the destruction by first “smiting” these sinners into self-awareness, a sort of final “last ditch” warning to repent.

By splashing the water of conviction in their horrified faces, the angel is giving a final hand of aid to the sinner IF they will but take it. Some, like Paul, will repent before oncoming Satanic condemnation crushes them to death. But, if these awakened sinners reject the road of repentance, then their self-destructive shame take them the rest of the suicidal way.

Remember, God doesn’t operate in death. Satan operates in death. (Jn. 10:10; Heb. 2:14). God only operates in life. Death and condemnation flood in to fill the vacuum created when we “quench” the Lord’s protective presence away with our neglect and unbelief. Some inter-linear Bible versions call this sin-dynamic “pressuring out the Christ.” Herod had continually “pressured out the Christ” by repeatedly sowing evil against His church.

Bad idea. Bad sowing. Even worse reaping to come. Besides killing Christians, Herod allowed himself to be worshiped as a God by pagans. (Acts 12:20-23). Herod was being promoted and worshipped as a god by the crowd at the very moment the angelic warning came.

Herod was a runaway sin-train giving Satan wide access to shoot deadly destructions at him both from the right and the left. The angel was there merely trying to tell him to “duck,” but Herod refused. But, because the angel was at the scene of the crime gamely trying to prevent Herod’s destruction, men now wrongly blame the angel for the killing. No, Satan’s fingerprints are the only ones on the murder weapon of condemnation used here.

Many others believe there is another explanation of this passage which differs from mine above, and they may well be right. If the angel which struck Herod DID directly cause his sickness and death, then it would have to be a fallen angel which was wrongly attributed to the Lord, as was often done in the Old Testament. See THE FORGOTTEN KEY TO THE OLD TESTAMENT chapter for numerous cites on this well established point. I tend to think however, that this angel was “of” the Lord and did not cause Herod’s death.

Again, I think the angel was a “last chance” messenger warning Herod of the gravity of his sin and the imminent Satanic wrath to come. As shown above, the word for “smote” was the same Greek word used when the angel “smote” awoke Peter from his sleep just a few verses earlier. That smite didn’t kill Peter, but it just warned him to wake up. Likewise, I think this angel woke up Herod to his sin, just like Paul got rudely awakened to his sin on the road to Damascus. Remember, Herod didn’t die right away according to the historian Josephus, but became sick and deeply oppressed for five days before giving up the ghost.

I think this process describes an inner human despair that surrenders to Satanic condemnation and literally gives up on life. Had Paul not repented, I believe the same thing might have happened to him. I saw my mom literally give up on life when she got a cancer diagnosis. She died within days, even though the prognosis gave her well over a year to live. She had no hope.

At any rate, I think the angel was a fireman warning Herod to get out of the house Satan had set on fire all around him, and which was just about to collapse and crush him. Herod, rather than repenting and renewing his mind, stayed hopeless in the house paralyzed with guilt and despair. The house soon fell on Herod and crushed him to death with Satanic condemnation until he finally “gave up the ghost.”