Thursday, 17 November 2022
Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Acts 12:1
Acts 11 ended with a note concerning Barnabas and Saul carrying the gift from Antioch to Jerusalem. Chapter 12 begins with, “Now about that time.”
The word translated as “time,” kairos, signifies a season or an occasion. It is not easy to determine if it means “about the time of the famine” mentioned toward the end of the chapter or “about the time that Barnabas and Paul traveled.” Either is possible, but the use of the word kairos, as well as the words of verse 12:20, seem to point to the time of the famine. Verse 12:20 refers to the food supplied to the people of Tyre and Sidon.
A time of famine would certainly bring about a trying situation between people that required attention, and so “about that time” may be referring to the time of famine. However, this is only speculation. Regardless of this, it is at some point connected to one of the two events that it next refers to “Herod the king.”
This is referring to Herod Agrippa I, also simply called Agrippa. He was the son of Aristobulus and the grandson of Herod the Great. Because these events shortly preceded his death, it is believed that this is AD43/44, about a decade after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Hence, the church has been functioning for about ten years at this point. It is at this time that Herod “stretched out his hand.” The word “hand” is plural, “hands.” Also, it more correctly reads that he “laid on his hands.”
The meaning is “to wield power or authority.” When one lays his hand upon someone or something, it is to accomplish a task. In the case of a king, he will work to a particular end on behalf of his kingdom, his subjects, alliances with other kings, and so on. His actions can be taken in a positive or negative light, depending on who he is laying his hands to, on, for, upon, or against. In this case, he has laid on his hands, “to harass some from the church.”
The reason for this will become clearer in the verses ahead, but Cambridge, citing Josephus, gives us an advanced note as to why he would do this. It was because the Jews were opposed to the message of Jesus the Messiah and Herod wanted to be considered a devout Jew. They say –
“Agrippa, according to Josephus (xix. 7. 3), was anxious to be esteemed a devout Jew: ‘He loved to live continually at Jerusalem, and was exactly careful in the observance of the laws of his country. He therefore kept himself entirely pure, nor did any day pass over his head without its appointed sacrifice.’ Such a man might easily be roused, by the Jews whom he was so anxious to please, to the perpetration of cruelties upon the Christians.”
Life application: When you read the Bible, think about what is being conveyed. In Matthew 26:50, it says, “Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.” Likewise, in Luke 21:12, it says, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.”
The same word used in both verses is used in Acts 12:1. The context shows us the meaning, even if we have not heard the expression before. But understanding the context and what is being conveyed is only a part of the words. In this context, we can know that to “lay hands on” signifies to manhandle, but we should also think about the word “hand.”
The hand is something that has a purpose. The hand has fingers (Exodus 8:19). The hand is at the end of the arm (Psalm 136:12). The hand grasps (Ecclesiastes 1:14). The hand rests upon others for healing (Luke 13:13). And so on.
As you read the Bible, don’t always just read it as a narrative before you. At times, stop and consider the individual things, like the hands, that are presented. Think of them in relation to other times they are similarly used. In doing this, you will get a better understanding of what is being conveyed. There is so much richness in the word. The more you contemplate it, the fuller your mind will be with the beauty of how it is presented. Take time to meditate on it. It is well worth your effort to do so.
Lord God, Your word is rich and wonderful and beautiful. Thank You for every detail. Our lives are enriched when we read it and contemplate all it presents. Thank You for this glorious word that You have given to us. Yes, thank You for this treasure of our hearts. Amen.