Who was King Agrippa in the Bible?

There are two King Agrippas in the Bible, both part of the Herod family. King Herod Agrippa I was a grandson of Herod the Great; he ruled over Judea and Samaria. Agrippa I is the "King Herod" who killed James and imprisoned Peter (Acts 12:1–3). The son of Agrippa I was King Herod Agrippa II, also known as Julius Marcus Agrippa; he was the brother of Bernice and Drusilla and heard Paul's defense of the gospel in Acts 26. Agrippa II had quite a lot of power in Jewish religious affairs, for he had been given custodianship of the temple and the authority to appoint the high priest.

The apostle Peter escaped King Agrippa I's clutches, being miraculously released from prison (Acts 12:6–11). Later, Agrippa I traveled to Caesarea where he addressed a crowd from his throne. The people shouted, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" (Acts 12:22). Agrippa, filled with pride, accepted the praise, and "immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last" (Acts 12:23). So the persecutor of Christians died, "but the word of God increased and multiplied" (Acts 12:24).

During King Agrippa II's rule, the apostle Paul was engaged in a missionary journey. His teachings about Jesus Christ and salvation were accepted by many, but he also gathered quite a few enemies. When opponents to Paul's preaching incited a citywide riot in Jerusalem (see Acts 21:27–31), Paul was arrested by the Roman commander in charge of the city. Not knowing what to do with a Roman citizen who had the ability to incite so much anger among the Jews, the commander brought him before the Sanhedrin. The priests conspired to kill Paul, but the Roman commander got wind of the plot and had Paul safely transferred to Caesarea (Acts 23:35). Here, the Jewish leaders secured a lawyer named Tertullus (Acts 24:1) and accused Paul before the Roman governor, Felix. To appease the Jews, Felix imprisoned Paul.

After two years in prison, Paul was brought before Festus, Felix's successor (Acts 24:27—25:1). Paul appealed to the emperor, and Festus acquiesced, intending to send Paul to Rome. A few days later, King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice (with whom Agrippa had an incestuous relationship) arrived for a visit. Festus told King Agrippa about Paul's case, admitting that he was at a loss as to how to handle the matter (Acts 25:20). Agrippa's curiosity was piqued, and he asked to hear what Paul had to say (Acts 25:22).

The next day, Paul was brought before Festus, Agrippa, Bernice, and other officials gathered in the audience chamber of the palace (Acts 25:23), where Festus announced that he needed specific charges against Paul before sending him to Emperor Nero. King Agrippa II gave Paul leave to speak his mind (Acts 26:1). Paul spoke boldly, outlining his Roman citizenship, reputation, past history as a Pharisee of the Law, and conversion to Christianity. In the course of his speech he laid out the gospel clearly to all who were gathered.

When Paul mentioned the resurrection of Christ in Acts 26:23, Governor Festus interrupted his speech in a state of incredulity, saying that Paul's learning must have made him insane (Acts 26:24). But Paul turned to Agrippa instead, knowing that Agrippa had knowledge of Jesus' ministry and the prophets' predictions about Him: " For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Paul then pressed the ruler on the matter of faith: "King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you believe" (Acts 26:27). But King Agrippa, likely knowing that he had a reputation to uphold, replied, "In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?" (Acts 26:28). Paul responded graciously with the prayer that the whole assembly would come to know Christ (Acts 26:29), and then King Agrippa, Bernice, and the governor left the room. Conferring with each other, they decided that Paul was innocent and need not be jailed. King Agrippa II pointed out that, since Paul had appealed to Caesar, he could not be released (Acts 26:32).

Paul was later transferred to Rome, where he was placed under house arrest. He would eventually be executed in this city in AD 68, the final year of Emperor Nero's reign.

Related Truth:

Who are all the Herods in the Bible?

What does history tell us about Pontius Pilate?

Who were Jesus' twelve (12) disciples / apostles?

Why is knowing about the various characters in the Bible important?

Who was Nero?

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