Acts 12:23

23 Immediately 1an angel of the Lord struck him down, because 2he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

Acts 12:23 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 12:23

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him
With a disease after mentioned; this angel, according to Josephus, appeared in the form of an owl; for he says, that a little after (the shout of the people) the king looked up, and saw an owl sitting upon a rope over his head; whom he immediately understood to be an angel, or messenger of evil things to him, as it had been before of good things; for it seems by the same historian F19, that when he was bound by the order of Caligula, he saw an owl sitting on that tree, on which he leaned; when a certain German predicted, that things would in a short time be changed with him, and he should be advanced to great honour; but remember, says he, whenever you see that bird again, you will die within five days. Eusebius F20, out of Josephus, makes no mention of the owl, but relates it thus; that a little after (the oration and the salutation of the people) the king looked up, and saw an angel sitting over his head, whom he immediately understood to be the cause of evil things to him, as he had formerly been of good: the reason of the angel's smiting him was,

because he gave not glory to God;
or as the Jewish historian says, because he reproved not the flatterers, nor rejected their impious flattery, but tacitly took that to himself, which belonged to God:

and he was eaten of worms:
Beza's most ancient copy adds, "while he was alive"; Josephus only makes mention of pains in his belly, but these were occasioned by the gnawing of the worms: this was accounted by the Jews a very accursed death; they say F21, that the spies which brought an ill report on the good land, died this death: their account is this, 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,''

of this death died many tyrants, oppressors, and persecutors! as Antiochus,

``So that the worms rose up out of the body of this wicked man, and whiles he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell away, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to all his army.'' (2 Maccabees 9:9)

and Herod the great, the grandfather of this, according to Josephus {w}; and Maximianus Galerius, according to Eusebius F24, and many others:

and gave up the ghost:
not directly, but five days after, as Josephus relates, in the fifty fourth year of his age, and when he had reigned seven years; but 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, with more, as related by Josephus: by such a token as this, a man was discovered to be a murderer with the Jews; for so they say F25, that

``out of the beheaded heifer went a vast number of worms, and went to the place where the murderer was, and ascended upon him, and then the sanhedrim laid hold on him and condemned him.''


F19 Ib. l. 18. c. 7. sect. 7.
F20 Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 10.
F21 T. Bab. Sota, fol. 35. 1.
F23 Antiqu. l. 17. c. 6. sect. 5.
F24 Hist. Eccl. l. 8. c. 16.
F25 Targum Jon. in Deut. xxi. 8.

Acts 12:23 In-Context

21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.
22 And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!"
23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Cross References 2

  • 1. [2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35]; See Acts 8:26
  • 2. Psalms 115:1
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.