Sunday, September 25, 2011

Herod's Death

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 of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. 
 - Acts 12:21-23

This verse causes problems for me.  (Not saying that it is wrong by any means, just saying that it poses difficulties in my mind.)  I confess openly that I am an incredibly analytical person.  So, as I came across this verse with a fresh perspective (this had previously been a text I memorized in High School when I was competing in "Bible Bowl" - when I would memorize large chunks of the Bible and yet not actually pay close attention to what they said), it made me ask some questions.  Here is the primary one: how did the author determine that "an angel of the Lord struck him down"?  Now, I know that this question is influenced heavily by our culture that likes to second guess everything in the Bible and to find rational explanations for everything, even the seemingly miraculous.  However, both this and the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 make me wonder these things.  Did Herod do something that was really that much different than what so many people have done before and since?  Why did the angel of the Lord strike Herod specifically?  

Here is my first example - Egyptian Pharaohs.  The Pharaoh was considered a god in the Egyptian belief system.  Therefore, the Pharaohs were regularly acting like gods and not giving praise to God.  Yet, many of them lived - and the only one that we know of that ran into any difficulties with God intervening was the Pharaoh (Ramses 2?) that Moses dealt with when trying to get the Israelites freed.  Why did God strike down Herod and let all of the other ones live?  

Even moreso - several Roman Caesar's (specifically ones that reigned during the infancy of Christianity) claimed to be divine.  Yet, we have no stories of any of them being struck down by God.  In fact, Jesus tells us to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's" and Paul tells us to be in submission to the authorities.  So, again I come back to: why was Herod struck down for accepting a divine claim?

What's my point?  I don't really have one.  This is just one of those things that I run into that makes me start questioning everything all over again.