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Herod (Agrippa I – Herod the Great’s grandson) (1) killed James (brother of John) and (2) imprisoned Peter. But God miraculously intervened, responding to the prayers of the church, and Peter escaped from the jail.
Tyre and Sidon were two cities on the west coast. They were under Herod’s rule and both cities were economically dependent upon Herod and his ruling. “Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon” (v. 20). But we don’t know what happened. So, the people of Tyre and Sidon had to come to appease King Herod because, if Herod continued to be angry with them, then they would be in big trouble. So, they came to Herod to reconcile with him.
So, King Herod had them come to hear his speech “on an appointed day” (v. 21). It was probably on a festival day in Caesarea. He had been known as a skilled orator. When he would give an oration to audiences, he would usually wear his “royal robes” and act as if he were a divine being (a god-figure). That’s what Herod did. He gave an oration to a large audience. And his speech was impeccable and beautiful, and the people cried out, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” (v. 22). And shockingly, Herod was struck down by “an angel of the Lord” (v. 23). The text says he “was eaten by worms” (v. 23). But we do not know what it exactly means. What’s certain in today’s passage is that Herod was struck by God himself, and he died immediately.
What was Herod’s problem? His problem was two-fold:
First, he was a gospel-enemy. Acts 12:1 clearly says, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.” So, he began killing its leaders. Herod succeeded in getting rid of the apostle James. And he also attempted to kill the apostle Peter. Second, he was an extremely arrogant man. Yes, he was an accomplished speaker and orator. But when he was addressing audiences, he wanted them to think that he was almost like a god. That’s what we see in vv. 21–22, and Jewish historian Josephus, too, records that.
So, God removed Herod the gospel-enemy, and “the word of God increased and multiplied” (v. 24). The progress of the church didn’t stop; the work of God went on powerfully.
Verse 25 is more like the beginning of the next section. It says Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem—because they had been sent to Jerusalem to help the believers who were suffering from the great famine (Acts 11). They completed their service and came back to Antioch; this time Barnabas brought John Mark, who was his own cousin.
Now, from Acts 13, the book of Acts is entering a whole new stage: Saul (the apostle Paul) would preach the good news of Christ and establish many churches. The powerful work of God was about to begin through the ministry of Barnabas and Saul—especially through the apostle Paul’s ministry.
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