Herod the Great was king of Judea for almost forty years. He succeeded his father, Antipater, who had been appointed as ruler by the Roman emperor, Julius Caesar. As king of Judea, Herod the Great adorned Jerusalem with splendid monuments. His greatest and most lasting work was the reconstruction of the temple, which he directed with lavish care.
Herod was cunning and cruel. As he lay upon his death bed, he summoned many senior official to his chambers. At the moment of his death, in accordance with prior instructions, all of those by his bedside were executed. Thus, there was universal mourning in Jerusalem.
There is but one account of Herod the Great written on the pages of Holy Scripture. “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him’ ” (Matthew 2:1–2). With murderous expectations, Herod asked the Magi to return with a report of this new-born king. When they didn’t return, Herod the Great “realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men… he flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). Herod wasn’t a nice guy!
Thirty years later, Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas proved to be another nasty culprit.
He was married to his sister-in-law, Herodias (Mark 6:17). At the request of Herodias, Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29) and later sat in judgment of the sinless Jesus. “Herod, with his soldiers, treated (Jesus) with contempt, mocked him, dressed him in bright clothing, and sent him back to Pilate” (Luke 23:11) who officially ordered the Savior’s execution.
Herod the Great’s grandson, Herod Agrippa I, in cahoots with the pharisaical Jewish leaders, executed James and imprisoned Peter. “King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too” (Acts 12:1–3).
Could any member of Herod’s Hitleresque empire deserve a thimble-full of God’s mercy or grace? Absolutely not!
Yet, the Biblical account of Herod Agrippa II, the great-grandson of Herod the Great, proves God’s great grace. This son-of Satan, this descendant in Herod’s evil empire, was invited to become a follower of Jesus. In God’s sovereign economy, the Almighty orchestrated events and commissioned His ambassador to share with Herod Agrippa II the clear and explicit Gospel.
While the Apostle Paul was held in chains in Caesarea, Agrippa II arrived to hear Paul’s case. With Agrippa II on the judgement seat, Paul shared the story of his own grace-filled conversion from Pharisee and religious zealot to born-again believer and ardent follower of Jesus. In closing, Paul looked up into the eyes of the king and asked, “King Agrippa, do you believe?” (Acts 26:27). Will you accept Jesus and His offer of everlasting peace and joy?
He could have fallen to his knees and confessed his need of a Savior. He didn’t. Rather he declared, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:27, NKJV). Almost… but not quite. God offered the gift of grace, but Herod Agrippa II refused…