“Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church” (Acts 12:1).

Who was the cruellest dictator in all of history? There is no small list of contenders. Maximilien Robespierre, leader of the French Revolution, was famous for guillotining just about anyone around him suspected of being an enemy—even his closest friends. At least one million Cambodians died under the evil hand of Pol Pot. Ivan IV of Russia had troops bring 500 to 1,000 people each day before him to be tortured and killed. Certainly Adolf Eichmann, a major organizer of the Holocaust, along with Adolf Hitler, would make the list.

Many historians call Josef Stalin one of the most dangerous dictators of all time. He exercised greater political power than just about anyone else in history. In the 1930s, by his orders, millions of peasants were killed or were allowed to starve to death. Stalin was guilty of the deaths of more than 20 million of his own people during his twenty-nine years of ruling Russia.

Herod Agrippa I ruled in a line of cruel dictators. He was the grandson of Herod the Great who massacred innocent babies and children in Bethlehem, nephew of Herod Antipas who executed John the Baptist, and brother of Herodias who asked for John the Baptist’s head. In order to gain greater favour with the Jewish leaders, he had the apostle James put to the sword, meaning that James lost his head. The positive response by the religious leaders led him to attempt to do the same to Peter. But when Peter escaped from prison, Herod promptly executed the soldiers who let the apostle get away.

While visiting the people of Tyre and Sidon, Herod sat before the people in royal apparel. They shouted, “The voice of a god and not of a man” (Acts 12:22). He gladly received homage that was due only to God, and an angel of the Lord struck the proud ruler and he died an inglorious death. Such is the fate of cruel leaders who try to lift themselves up in the place of God.

Heavenly Father, You alone receive my highest praise and adoration. You alone are God over all.

For Further Study: Acts 12:1–23; Isaiah 14:12–20; Psalm 115:1

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