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Acts 12:20-23

Context

12:20 Now Herod 1  was having an angry quarrel 2  with the people of Tyre 3  and Sidon. 4  So they joined together 5  and presented themselves before him. And after convincing 6  Blastus, the king’s personal assistant, 7  to help them, 8  they asked for peace, 9  because their country’s food supply was provided by the king’s country. 12:21 On a day determined in advance, Herod 10  put on his royal robes, 11  sat down on the judgment seat, 12  and made a speech 13  to them. 12:22 But the crowd 14  began to shout, 15  “The voice of a god, 16  and not of a man!” 12:23 Immediately an angel of the Lord 17  struck 18  Herod 19  down because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. 20 

1 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

sn Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great).

2 tn Or “was extremely angry.” L&N 33.453 gives the meaning “be angry and quarrel, quarrel angrily” here. However, in L&N 88.180 the alternative “to be violently angry, to be furious” is given. The term is used only once in the NT (BDAG 461 s.v. θυμομαχέω).

3 sn Tyre was a city and seaport on the coast of Phoenicia.

map For location see Map1 A2; Map2 G2; Map4 A1; JP3 F3; JP4 F3.

4 sn Sidon was an ancient Phoenician royal city on the coast between Berytus (Beirut) and Tyre (BDAG 923 s.v. Σιδών).

map For location see Map1 A1; JP3 F3; JP4 F3.

5 tn Or “with one accord.”

6 tn Or “persuading.”

7 tn On the term translated “personal assistant” BDAG 554 s.v. κοιτῶν states, “used as part of a title: ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ κοιτῶνος the one in charge of the bed-chamber, the chamberlain.” This individual was not just a domestic servant or butler, but a highly respected person who had considerable responsibility for the king’s living quarters and personal affairs. The English word “chamberlain” corresponds very closely to this meaning but is not in common use today. The term “personal assistant,” while it might convey more business associations than management of personal affairs, nevertheless communicates the concept well in contemporary English.

8 tn The words “to help them” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.

9 tn Or “for a reconciliation.” There were grave political risks in having Herod angry at them. The detail shows the ruler’s power.

10 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

sn Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great).

11 tn Or “apparel.” On Herod’s robes see Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 (19.344), summarized in the note at the end of v. 23.

12 tn Although BDAG 175 s.v. βῆμα 3 gives the meaning “speakers platform” for this verse, and a number of modern translations use similar terms (“rostrum,” NASB; “platform,” NRSV), since the bema was a standard feature in Greco-Roman cities of the time, there is no need for an alternative translation here.

sn The judgment seat (βῆμα, bhma) was a raised platform mounted by steps and sometimes furnished with a seat, used by officials in addressing an assembly or making pronouncements, often on judicial matters. The judgment seat was a familiar item in Greco-Roman culture, often located in the agora, the public square or marketplace in the center of a city.

13 tn Or “delivered a public address.”

14 tn The translation “crowd” is given by BDAG 223 s.v. δῆμος; the word often means a gathering of citizens to conduct public business. Here it is simply the group of people gathered to hear the king’s speech.

15 tn The imperfect verb ἐπεφώνει (epefwnei) is taken ingressively in the sequence of events. Presumably the king had started his speech when the crowd began shouting.

16 sn The voice of a god. Contrast the response of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:13-15.

17 tn Or “the angel of the Lord.” See the note on the word “Lord” in 5:19.

18 sn On being struck…down by an angel, see Acts 23:3; 1 Sam 25:28; 2 Sam 12:15; 2 Kgs 19:35; 2 Chr 13:20; 2 Macc 9:5.

19 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 sn He was eaten by worms and died. Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 (19.343-352), states that Herod Agrippa I died at Caesarea in a.d. 44. The account by Josephus, while not identical to Luke’s account, is similar in many respects: On the second day of a festival, Herod Agrippa appeared in the theater with a robe made of silver. When it sparkled in the sun, the people cried out flatteries and declared him to be a god. The king, carried away by the flattery, saw an owl (an omen of death) sitting on a nearby rope, and immediately was struck with severe stomach pains. He was carried off to his house and died five days later. The two accounts can be reconciled without difficulty, since while Luke states that Herod was immediately struck down by an angel, his death could have come several days later. The mention of worms with death adds a humiliating note to the scene. The formerly powerful ruler had been thoroughly reduced to nothing (cf. Jdt 16:17; 2 Macc 9:9; cf. also Josephus, Ant. 17.6.5 [17.168-170], which details the sickness which led to Herod the Great’s death).



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