And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death…
Here we have —
I. NATIONAL INTERDEPENDENCE. The Phoenicians wanted what the Palestinians had, and vice versa. This is a glorious fact in God's government of man. Throughout the earth one zone produces what other zones want, and the peculiar products of each contribute towards the consummation of man's well-being. This interdependence serves —
1. To stimulate human activities. It presses ever on the sense of need and love of gain, and thus keeps man's faculties ever on the stretch contriving and constructing methods to work the soil to the greatest advantage, and to increase facilities of transit. He makes seas his high road, electricity his messenger, winds and fire the carriers of his commodities.
2. To check all monopolies. There are narrow souls who would keep all their land produces to themselves. Ignorant alike of the laws of the universe, the genius of the world, and their own insignificance, they vainly talk of national independence. Nature laughs them to scorn. Creature independence is a solecism.
3. To promote international concord.
(1) A free commerce throughout the world is one of the best means by which men may become mutually acquainted. Buyers and sellers mutually show themselves in their transactions.
(2) It advances interest in man. It is to the interest of traders to be on terms of amity and free intercourse. The commercial interests of the world are against war.
(3) But the higher concord, the brotherhood of soul, commerce can only effect this as it becomes thoroughly inspired and ruled by those principles which were embodied in Him who came to break down all partition walls.
II. CLASS WICKEDNESS.
1. Unbounded arrogance on the part of the ruler.
(1) The "set day" some think was in honour of Claudius' return from Britain, which he had reduced to a Roman province. Anyhow, the occasion was a grand one. Caesarea was crowded with pleasure seekers. The king enters that theatre which had been erected by his grandfather. The stone seats, rising in a great semicircle, tier above tier, were covered by an excited multitude.
(2) The king magnificently arrayed makes an oration. What he said we know not; but we may be sure it was very "grand," like modern "orations" — as gorgeous as his costume, as arrogant as his pretensions. Probably it dealt with the message he received through Blastus. Herod is a type of his class. The haughtiness of rulers is proverbial. Many treat their fellow men as if they themselves were a race of gods.
(2) Base servility on the part of the ruled. Who can credit the shrewd Phoenician traders, the cultured Greeks, and the religious Jews with sincerity here? It was simply that base flattery which has been the sin and curse of the people in all ages. It is not uncommon, even in these days of enlightenment, to see men crushed by the injustice of rulers shouting hosannas in their ears. There is no greater obstruction to free government, wholesome law and national advancement, than the servile spirit of millions to those above them. No government can help the man who respects not the high prerogatives of his own humanity.
III. RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE. Angels have often done such work before (Exodus 12:21; 2 Kings 19:35; 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Chronicles 32:21). The justice of this man's fate is clear. Surely he who had killed James, imprisoned Peter, and massacred his own guards, and now accepted Divine homage, deserved the end which befell him. Such instances of retributive justice had occurred with Pharaoh, Belshazzar, etc., but they are confessedly rare as compared with the number of notorious offenders. Yet they are sufficient to show that there is a moral government in the world, and to prophesy the coming of a time when retribution shall be fairly dealt out to all.
IV. REMEDIAL FORCES.
1. The Word of God. This "grew and multiplied." The seed was growing everywhere, and the fruit was the antidote to the world's evils, the provision for the cravings of the human soul. Herod had done his best to crush it, but it went on, and as it advanced it elevated and blessed.
2. The agency of the good. Here are Barnabas, and Saul, and Mark, all working to help on the true and the right.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.