Herod Agrippa was the King of Judea and Grandson of Herod the Great. The old saying is often true: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Or in the case of Herod Agrippa I, the apple doesn’t fall far from the grand-tree, Herod the Great.
Herod the Great, who was king over the land of Israel when Jesus was born, was notorious for his ruthlessness toward those who appeared to threaten his rule. Upon his death, the Romans divided his territory among some of his sons, who also took the title “Herod.” Three other sons, including one named Aristobulus, were killed as the family members fought among themselves for the crown.
After Gaius Caligula became emperor of Rome, he appointed Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus, as king over the land of Israel and eventually granted him virtually all the land that his grandfather Herod the Great had ruled.
Unfortunately Agrippa appears to have acquired his grandfather’s ruthless political jealousy. As the church began to grow, Herod Agrippa must have regarded these followers of Jesus as a threat to his rule, and he began to persecute them. He even killed James, the brother of John.
Once Agrippa saw that this gained him favor with the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter, but an angel allowed Peter to escape from prison unharmed. Herod was struck down by an angel of the Lord when he allowed people to praise him as a god (Acts 12).
Gaius Caligula and Agrippa had been raised together in Rome, where they became friends. Agrippa continued to support the promotion of Gaius as emperor, which explains why Gaius granted Agrippa rule over so much land in Israel.