King Herod Agrippa I

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Agrippa I (10 BC - 44 AD), referred to in the New Testament as Herod Agrippa (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας), was the tetrarch of the Roman provinces of Galilee and Peraea from 39 to 44. He is most famous for ordering the beheading of James the Apostle. He ruled under the watchful eye of the Romans who had ultimate authority in the region. His tetrachy was subordinate to Emperor Claudius.

King Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great, who had ordered the murder of infants in an attempt to kill baby Jesus in Matthew 2. Herod Agrippa I was the nephew of Herod Antipas, who murdered John the Baptist (Mark 6) and examined Jesus on Good Friday (Luke 23). Herod Agrippa I was also the father of Herod Agrippa II, who heard the defense of Paul before Festus in Acts 25. Herod's daughter, Berenice, had an affair with the Roman emperor Titus, who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD and ended the Jewish Revolt.

Herod Agrippa I himself ordered the beheading of James (Acts 12:2) and then put Peter into prison, although Peter was miraculously freed (Acts 12:3-10). Herod died when he was forming an alliance with other rulers who said he was a god; Herod didn't deny not, and was struck down by an angel of the Lord (Acts 12:20-23). Secular Roman records give a slightly different account, but also record Herod being struck down unexpectedly.


The death of Herod is recounted by Luke in the Book of Acts and Josephus in the Antiquities of the Jews.

Acts 12:20-25: He had been very angry with the Tyrians and Sidonians. Together they presented themselves before him. They won over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, and through him they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. So on an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a public address to them. The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he became infected with worms and died. Then God’s message flourished and multiplied. After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who is called Mark.

Jewish Antiquities 19.343-350: "Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Caesarea [...] There he exhibited shows in honor of the emperor [...] On the second day of the festival, Herod put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a truly wonderful contexture, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment was illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it. It shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him. At that moment, his flatterers cried out [...] that he was a god; and they added, 'Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.' Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and he fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, 'I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner.' After he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign."