Acts 12:25 – 13:3
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angle of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
After Barnabas brought Saul to the Christians in Jerusalem, he began to teach around the city. Eventually, he offended the Grecian Jews enough that they plotted to kill him (Act 9:29). This brings a point of history within Judaism. Those Jews who were from the regions of Judea (which we associate with present day Israel) often squabbled with Jews who had settled into Greek territories. Saul was from Tarsus in Cilicia (present day Turkey), and was a Grecian Jew. Thus, he had now pissed off the Jerusalem Jews, scarred the Christians, and now offended his own ethnic group of Jews. Time to head out of town, which is what did, sending him to Caesarea (north of Jerusalem and near the coast) and then further north to Tarsus. We pick up Saul and Barnabas again in Antioch (present day Syria/Lebenon). The next few chapters in Acts recount Peter’s activities.
I have included the concluding verses of Act 12, as these demonstrate a shift in the Roman king’s attitude toward the Christians, as well as some interpretive differences between secular history and religious history. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and Stephen’s martyrdom, the Jews were the instigators of the arrests, religious trials, and calls for death. The Roman rulers usually stayed out of the mess, as long as the Jews were squelching potential rebellions. However, king Herod (not the same who called for the death of all first born Jews after the Magi tipped him off that a king was born, nor who had presided over John the Baptist’s beheading… there were a whole string of Herods) had begun imprisoning and threatening Christians because of concerns of their activities looking subversive.
The secular history records that he went to a series of gladiator games in Caesarea. After making various speaches and proclamations, as the kings usually did at these games, he toppled over and died. Modern medicine probably would have come up with some cardio-vascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. However, interpreting this as an act of an angel for the consequence of not praising God, fits a religious interpretation of events. Whatever the cause of his death, the Christians were fortunate. Had Herod continued along his path of persecuting Christians, they might have either scattered or been killed off. But verse 12:24 proclaims that the word of God continued to increase and spread.