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Acts 12:23 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.

There are many who go around blaspheming much worse and nothing happens to them. The reason I've heard is that God does not interfere and manipulate. He lets things run their course and has set aside a day for judgement.

Then why did God strike Herod immediately? Why didn't he wait to judge him on the judgement day like he does for others? Herod's sin seems trivial compared to what you can see at the 9 o'clock news.

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Eusebius of Caesarea's Church History recounts some of the other stuff regarding Herod's grizzly death. –  Peter Turner Aug 8 '12 at 15:21

2 Answers 2

The Bible does not anywhere indicate that the ‘most’ evil people are killed directly by God. God rather often, according to the purposes of his will, postpones the eternal judgment for sin a long while. Even the very worst of criminals may live long and prosperous lives and we must not expect full justice in this world. The injustice in the world is part of the judgment for Adam’s sin. It is only in certain situation that God hastens judgment directly to bring attention to certain things that people might otherwise think God is not that concerned about, or for other mysterious reasons according to Him ‘who works out everything to the good to those that love him’. (Rom 8:28). Things that everybody knows are evil God often overlooks as know special point needs to be made.

It might be asked ‘Why does not God kill more people, or even all people, like in the days of Noah? But God’s postponement of justice is not the absence of justice, which is what hell is for. It is only his mercy and intentions of grace in Christ (signified by the rainbow) that keeps God form killing more swiftly each new generation. Death itself is in a sense God killing mankind.

As it turns out on this earth, it sometimes almost seems ‘random’ who God directly causes to die and he alone knows his sovereign purposes. When God does miraculously step forward to execute sudden judgment he seems to be sending an important message in line with his purposes at that time of history.

For example in the Old Testament he killed Uzzah for Touching the Ark while trying to prevent it from tipping over (2 Samuel 6:6-7) which makes it seem singled out to be made an example. Meanwhile, while others did more wicked things God may have had no direct interest to intervene according to his own purpose.

In most cases however, it seems God takes direct actions when the people involved are committing public, almost symbolic sins, to put fear in the hearts of those observing and to therefore prevent similar sins by others. For example, Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5:1-10. In the case of Herod he was busy persecuting the newly founded church and allowing others to worship him as a god, all the while pretending to be a Jew and a king of Jews. This was simply something, according to God's direct purposes for his church, that God wanted to publicly show as not acceptable.

Furthermore, just because the Bible does not mention God's involvement in killing other wicked men, history is filled with crazy dictators and especially vile public figures that have all died sudden and horrific deaths at young ages or otherwise killed themselves such as Judas, Nero, Hitler, etc.

I am not aware of God directly killing (or other dramatic judgement) a person for private sins — it seems always related to 'scandalous public affairs' that if gone unpunished in the eyes of men might affront God's purposes among certain groups at certain times.

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I interpreted the OP's question as more broad, but as I was reading your answer, I thought of something more specific to Herod. I am wondering, why the Lord did not strike Herod the Great down before he slaughtered all the babies in Bethlehem. It's something I have struggled with for a long time, and my heart aches every time I come across it in the Bible. –  treehau5 Aug 8 '12 at 16:22
@treehau5 - Added first two paragraphs for your wider scope of the question. Also Herod the great, as it so happens, also died a few short years after his crimes reached their fullness. History seems to say that his death was as horrible if not more horrible and painful than Herod. Cheers. –  Mike Aug 9 '12 at 0:19

If you read the account linked to in Peter's comment, it sure doesn't sound anything like what you might imagine from the Bible verse alone:

The disease then seized upon his whole body and distracted it by various torments. For he had a slow fever, and the itching of the skin of his whole body was insupportable. He suffered also from continuous pains in his colon, and there were swellings on his feet like those of a person suffering from dropsy, while his abdomen was inflamed and his privy member so putrefied as to produce worms. Besides this he could breathe only in an upright posture, and then only with difficulty, and he had convulsions in all his limbs, so that the diviners said that his diseases were a punishment. But he, although wrestling with such sufferings, nevertheless clung to life and hoped for safety, and devised methods of cure. For instance, crossing over Jordan he used the warm baths at Callirhoë, which flow into the Lake Asphaltites, but are themselves sweet enough to drink.

His physicians here thought that they could warm his whole body again by means of heated oil. But when they had let him down into a tub filled with oil, his eyes became weak and turned up like the eyes of a dead person. But when his attendants raised an outcry, he recovered at the noise; but finally, despairing of a cure, he commanded about fifty drachms to be distributed among the soldiers, and great sums to be given to his generals and friends.

Then returning he came to Jericho, where, being seized with melancholy, he planned to commit an impious deed, as if challenging death itself. For, collecting from every town the most illustrious men of all Judea, he commanded that they be shut up in the so-called hippodrome.

And having summoned Salome, his sister, and her husband, Alexander, he said: 'I know that the Jews will rejoice at my death. But I may be lamented by others and have a splendid funeral if you are willing to perform my commands. When I shall expire surround these men, who are now under guard, as quickly as possible with soldiers, and slay them, in order that all Judea and every house may weep for me even against their will.'

There's more, but the point is he apparently suffered a long, slow, agonizing disease all the while he continued to commit evil acts of cruelty. The entire episode is glossed into the single verse in question.

I've found that a lot of the Bible is missing crucial context like this. I'm finding that I often learn a good deal more by reading about a book of the Bible than by reading the book itself.

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