Herod Agrippa, Persecutor of Christians
IN THE record of King Herod Agrippa I we find emphasized the fact that Jehovah is a God “exacting exclusive devotion” and so is displeased not only with those who worship creatures but with creatures who accept worship from others.—Ex. 20:5, NW.
This Agrippa’s father was one of the sons of Herod the Great, whom he slew on suspicion of sedition in the closing years of his life. Brought up in Rome, Agrippa’s lot fluctuated radically between prosperity and adversity for years. Thinking himself alone, he once openly expressed the wish that his friend Caligula were emperor. Emperor Tiberius, hearing of this, had Agrippa put in prison, where for months his life was in constant jeopardy. With the death of Tiberius, Caligula came to the throne, and not only released Agrippa but also made him a king over certain minor territories in Palestine.
When Caligula banished Herod Antipas on suspicion of sedition, he gave Agrippa that one’s territories of Galilee and Perea. Later, when Claudius succeeded Caligula, Claudius rewarded Agrippa for certain valuable services Agrippa had rendered to him by adding Judea and Samaria to his dominion so that now Herod Agrippa I became king of all Palestine, even as his grandfather Herod the Great had been.
Like his grandfather and most of his uncles, Agrippa I indulged his fondness for building, but different from them he professed great devotion to Judaism, religiously taking part in the ceremonies and festivals and did what he could to lighten the Roman yoke that rested upon the Jews. His sincerity in this might be questioned, since we are told that he “made many considerable concessions to heathen customs and manners”; and especially as he pressed his persecution of Christians simply because he noted that it pleased the Jews, as Luke tells us.—Acts 12:1-19, NW.
Some time after he had slain James the brother of John, and after the angel had delivered Peter from his clutches, A.D. 44, Agrippa I appeared at a feast in honor of Claudius Caesar. According to Josephus he was clothed in silver garments, which, shining in splendor in the morning sun, caused the people to shout upon hearing his voice the words recorded in the Bible: “A god’s voice, and not a man’s.” In that instant “the angel of Jehovah struck him, because he did not give the glory to God; and he became eaten up with worms and expired.” (Acts 12:20-23, NW) Early in his reign, while yet in his prime, King Herod Agrippa I was ‘soon taken away by his Maker for having become a party to giving flattering titles.’—Job 32:21, 22.