Acts 12:21-23 says

"Now on an appointed day Herod clothed himself in royal apparel, and sat on the judgment seat, and began addressing them. 22 But the people began to cry out, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.” 23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms, and breathed out his last breath."

By this, can we infer that the Bible prohibits worship of Kings?

  • See also 1 Chronicles 29:20.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 1:52
  • @OneGodtheFather. Also, consider Revelation 3:9 KJB, Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. By this verse, does Jesus advocate idolatry? Good Q. Commented Jul 17, 2022 at 3:32

2 Answers 2


The sudden judgement and destruction of Herod recorded in Acts 12:23 has the reason explicitly recorded:

because Herod did not give praise to God

Thus, any praise to a king had to be on the basis that he was only God's representative as the Davidic Covenant made very clear, 1 Sam 8:7, 8, 24:6, 2 Sam 19:21, 1 Chron 28:5, 2 Chron 9:8, 13:8, Ps 5:2, 44:4.

By contrast, Jesus did not do this (did not need to do this) when he was worshipped, Matt 14:33, 28:9, 17; Luke 4:8; 24:52; John 9:38; Rom 10:9, Heb 1:5, 6, Phil 2:10. In fact, none of these mention Jesus' kingship, nor do they deflect praise to God. The same was true when Thomas said in John 20:28 -

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

Further, Jesus also accepted prayers to Him as well, Acts 7:59, 60, 9:6, 1 Cor 1:1, 2, 2 Cor 12:8, 9, Rev 22:20.

  • Thanks for this - great to see this idea fleshed out. But Matthew 14:33 Jesus is explicitly worshipped as the Son of God, i.e., God's representative. Luke 4:8 doesn't involve Jesus being worshipped. Luke 24:52 Jesus has just ascended to the right hand of God, and worshipped thusly (including "praising God continually"). And so on. Sometimes your verse citations seem to be rushed and don't include relevant quotes, which IMO would make the answer more transparent and convincing (instead of me having to run down verses to check if it indeed says what you're claiming it says). Commented May 13, 2021 at 23:25
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    @OneGodtheFather - that is your interpretation which significantly differs from mine. You calmly ignore explicit declarations of Jesus divinity.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 23:58
  • Fair enough, but FWIW, John 20:28 can be straightforwardly explained on a unitarian perspective. John 14:9 "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." It is a declaration that Jesus, indeed, is the Christ - the representative and icon of God. Thomas sees Jesus, believes, and therefore sees the Father. Commented May 14, 2021 at 1:37
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    @OneGodtheFather - I am familiar with that squirm but it does not square with the syntax, nor semantics.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 6:30
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    I shall post an answer to the official question re John 20:28 asked awhile ago! Look forward to any feedback about why it doesn't square with the syntax or semantics. Commented May 14, 2021 at 6:38

By this we can infer that worship should go to God alone, and not to mere mortals.

In this specific instance, King Herod accepted the praise of the people that he spoke as "a god". However, "mere mortals" also applies to Roman Emperors.

According to the historian Josephus, Herod was holding a festival to honour Claudius Caesar. Josephus describes how Herod wore a dazzling silver robe (Antiquities, 19.8.2).

Roman Emperors expected to be worshipped as gods. They attributed deity to themselves. Herod accepted the deity attributed to him.

Since worship is due only to the Lord God Almighty (the creator) then worship of a created man (whether a King or an Emperor) is prohibited.

Exodus 20:3-5 is unambiguous:

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them..."

P.S. Josephus noted that Herod was seized with violent pains, was carried out and died five days later.

  • 1
    +1, especially for bringing in historical context. How is Ex 20:3-5 unambiguous? Isn't it talking about creating statue idols ('make for yourself') and referring to this widespread practice in ancient Egypt (from which Moses was leading the Hebrews), not whether worship in some sense can be due to human Kings in certain circumstances? (Compare Ex 18:7, where Moses himself worships his father in law.) Commented May 14, 2021 at 16:10
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    "You shall have no other gods before me" is the unambiguous part. The principle of creating and worshiping idols is not confined to wooden or stone statues. People can (and do) worship what has been created, and idolise mere mortals instead of worshiping God alone. To be honest, I think Dottard gave a better answer. I simply wanted to add to what had already been said.
    – Lesley
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 16:16
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    Respect is due to the authorities who are allowed by God to rule, but attributing divinity to what God has created is always wrong. As Dottard pointed out, "Herod did not give praise to God". He took the praise to himself. Consider what eventually happened to the Roman Empire after Emperors claimed divinity and demanded worship - the Empire fell. Our God is a jealous God and will broke no competition.
    – Lesley
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 16:29
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    "attributing divinity to what God has created is always wrong." Hopefully final question. How does this idea comport with Psalm 82, which Jesus himself references in John 10 in response to this exact sentiment by the hostile Jews? The judges are not God, but are called gods by God himself, no? Commented May 14, 2021 at 16:35
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    Ah, that's very naughty of you! You are now delving into Old Testament (Hebrew) terminology and exploring a topic that probably deserves its own question. Any human who thinks he is "a god" is asking for trouble. The Egyptian Pharaohs and the Roman Emperors are proof positive of that. If you want to ask about Psalm 82, then go right ahead, but I'm not prepared to deal with that under the question you have asked here about Herod and Acts 12:21-23.
    – Lesley
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 16:50

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