Herod Killed By an Angel: Part 2 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Because he gave not God the glory
“Because he gave not God the glory”—probably means something more than that he did not ascribe to God the praise which was due to Him, and Him only. To “give God the glory” was a phrase always connected with the confession of sin and weakness. Compare:
• Joshua 7:19: “And Joshua said to Achan, My son, give, I pray you, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to him; and tell me now what you have done; hide it not from me.” Because you have highly dishonored Him, now take the blame to thyself, and ascribe unto God the glory of his omniscience in knowing your sin; of his justice in punishing you for it; of his omnipotence, which was obstructed by you; and of his kindness and faithfulness to his people, which was eclipsed by your wickedness; all which will now be evident by your confession of sin and your punishment for it..
• John 9:24: “Then again called they the man that was blind, and said to him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.” “Give God the praise”—this phrase addressed to an offender implies that by some previous act or word he has done dishonor to God, and appeals to him to repair the dishonor by speaking the truth. In this case, it is also an appeal to the restored man to ascribe his cure directly to God, and not to Jesus, whom the Pharisees considered an imposter.
Herod was willing to receive the worship due to God. It was the more sinful for him since he was a Jew, and was acquainted with the true God, and with the evils of idolatry. He was proud, and willing to be flattered, and even adored. He had sought their applause; he had arrayed himself in this splendid manner to excite admiration; and when they carried it even so far as to offer divine homage, he did not reject the sinful flattery, but listened to their praises. Hence, he was judged; and God vindicated his own insulted honor by inflicting Herod with severe pains, and an awful death.
And he was eaten of worms
“And he was eaten of worms” while alive and still above ground, and then he gave up the ghost. Now, this was his punishment for troubling the church of Christ, killing James, imprisoning Peter, and all the other damage he had done.
It was a measly worm that was the instrument of Herod’s destruction: He was eaten of worms, he became worm-eaten; he was rotten, and he became like a piece of rotten wood. The body in the grave is destroyed by worms, but Herod’s body decomposed while he was yet alive, and bred the worms which began to feed upon it in a short time. Observe:
(1.) What vile bodies we carry about with us; they carry within them the seeds of their own destruction, by which they will be destroyed whenever God speaks the word. Discoveries have been made recently by microscopes of the multitude of worms that are in human bodies, and how much they contribute to bodily diseases, which is a good reason why we should not be proud of our bodies, or of any of their accomplishments, and why we should not pamper our bodies, for they are just food for the worms.
(2.) See what weak and contemptible creatures God can make the instruments of his justice, when he pleases. Pharaoh is plagued with lice and flies, Ephraim consumed as with a moth, and Herod eaten with worms.
(3.)See how God delights not only to bring down proud men, but to bring them down in a way that is most humiliating, and pours the most contempt upon them. Herod is not only destroyed, but destroyed by worms, so that the pride of his glory may be effectually stained.
This story of the death of Herod is related by Josephus, a Jew; and it bears repeating. “Herod came down to Caesarea, to celebrate a festival in honor of Caesar. On the second day of the festival, he went to the theatre in the morning, clothed with that splendid robe mentioned before (covered entirely with silver); that his flatterers saluted him as a god, begged that he would be benevolent to them; that up till then they had admired him as a man, but now they would confess him to be a god. He did not correct this impious flattery. But presently, looking up, he saw an owl perched over his head, and was at the same instant seized with a most violent pain in his bowels, and cramps in his belly, which were intense from the very first. His torture continued without ever easing up, and then he died at the age of fifty-four, having been king seven years.” The Jews say that the spies who brought an ill report on the good land, died this death: the account of it is that“their tongues swelled and fell upon their navels, and worms came out of their tongues and went into their navels, and out of their navels they went into their tongues.'' Many tyrants, oppressors, and persecutors, such as Antiochus, died in this manner.
Notice what we may learn from this incident:
(1.) That sudden and violent deaths are often acts of direct divine judgment on wicked people.
(2.)That people, when they seek praise and flattery, expose themselves to the displeasure of God. He will not give His glory to another—“I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8). I will not allow it to be ascribed to another; I will not allow another to assume or receive the honor which is due to me.
(3.)That the most proud, and mighty, and magnificent princes have no security in their lives. God can in a moment—even when they are surrounded by their worshippers and flatterers—touch the seat of life, and turn them to loathsomeness and putrefaction. What a pitiable being is a man of pride receiving from his fellow-men that homage which is due to God alone! See Isaiah 14.
(4.)Pride and vanity, in any station of life, are hateful in the sight of God. Nothing is more inappropriate to our situation as lost, dying sinners, and nothing will more certainly meet the wrath of heaven.
(5.)We have here a strong confirmation of the truth of the sacred narrative. In all essential particulars, Luke coincides in his account of the death of Herod with Josephus. This is one of the many circumstances which show that the sacred Scriptures were written at the time when they professed to be, and that they agree with the truth.
And gave up the ghost
He died in agony and shame, due to the nature of his death, he sunk as much below the common state of human nature, as his flatterers endeavored to raise him above it! The Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms St. Luke’s account of the end of this miserable man. He tells us, that “since he did not rebuke the impious flattery addressed to him, he was immediately seized with severe and tormenting tortures in his bowels, so that he was compelled, before he left the place, to admit his rash and foolish behavior of submitting himself to their making a God of him, and scolded those about him for the wretched condition in which they then saw their god; and after being carried out of the assembly to his palace, he expired in violent agonies after five days. Josephus wrote that before he died, and as soon as he was smitten, he turned to his friends and said, I, your God, am obliged to depart this life, and now fate reproves the lying words you have just now spoke of me; and I who was called immortal by you, am led away to die.