They grew up together but in time went their separate ways. One chose the path of truth and the other followed the course of sin. One became an influential teacher of the gospel while the other rose to prominence as a powerful politician. One chose the company of godly Christians while the other surrounded himself with liars and manipulators. Their story is a familiar one: two people who are close from an early age eventually grow miles apart.
These two men are mentioned in Acts 13:1. Among the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch was a man named “Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch.” The words “which had been brought up with” are from a single Greek word. That word in Greek writings of the time could mean a foster brother or a close personal friend. Either way, they had a close relationship from an early age.
We know little about Manaen because this is the only time he is mentioned in the Bible. We do know that he was one of the prophets or teachers in the great church at Antioch. His name is listed alongside of Christian leaders such as Paul and Barnabas. That honor alone speaks volumes about him.
Herod, on the other hand, appears often in the New Testament. With him it was a case of “like father, like son.” His father was Herod the Great, the king who searched for baby Jesus and slaughtered the infants in Bethlehem and the surrounding area (Matt. 2:16). Herod the tetrarch is the one John the Baptist confronted about unscripturally marrying his sister-in-law and “all the evils which Herod had done” (Luke 3:19). He is the ruler who had John beheaded (Mark 6:16-30). The only positive thing said about him is that he feared John because he knew he was a just and holy man (Mark 6:20). That did not keep him, however, from executing the prophet at the instigation of his wife Herodias.
These two grew up in the same area, in the same environment, and possibly in the same home. How did they end up so different? We can ask the same question about Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, and countless of others. Every person chooses his destiny. Moses was raised as the adopted grandson of a pagan king, but “when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:24-25). Josiah’s father was evil and his grandfather was one of the most vicious men in the Bible, but Josiah was such a great man that “like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him” (II Kings 23:25). In the New Testament, Joanna was a follower of Jesus even though her husband worked for Herod (Luke 8:3) and some in Caesar’s household obeyed the gospel in spite of the emperor’s paganism (Phil. 4:22). People then like now made their own decision.
The example of Manaen gives hope to those in bad homes, dangerous neighborhoods, or oppressive countries. God is “not far from every one of us” if we seek him (Acts 17:27). This Christian man’s courage also rebukes those who blame their sins on others. In an age filled with both needs, the one brief mention of this Christian man stands as a lesson waiting to be taught.