People's New Testament
Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
12:1 Persecutions in Judea
SUMMARY OF ACTS 12:
The First Apostolic Martyr. Peter Seized by Herod. The Prayers of the Church. Peter's Prison Opened by an Angel. His Appearance to the Praying Disciples. Herod Pronounced a God. His Pitiful Death.
About that time. While Saul and Barnabas were at Antioch.
Herod the king. Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great. See PNT Mt 2:1. In the year 41, the Emperor Claudius had added Judea and Samaria to his former dominions, so that, at this time, Herod ruled over all Palestine. While voluptuous, and exhibiting in life none of the restrains of religion, he was a strict observer of the Jewish ceremonies, and hostile to Christianity, because it was subversive to Judaism.
To vex certain of the church. Some of its leaders.
And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
12:2 He killed James the brother of John. One of the three apostles most intimate with the Savior. The first apostle to suffer martyrdom. He is the only apostle whose death is recorded in the New Testament, save Judas the betrayer.
With the sword. He beheaded James. This James, the apostle, is to be distinguished from James, the brother of the Lord (Ga 1:19), whose name appears after this in Acts, and who wrote the Epistle of James.
And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
12:3 He saw it pleased the Jews. He would rather please men than God. Hence, he seized Peter.
The days of unleavened bread. The Passover week. See Ex 12:15,16. Called Easter in Ac 12:4.
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
12:4 Four quaterions of soldiers. Sixteen soldiers divided into four watches, so that four would be on watch all the time, two in the prison and two at the door.
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
12:5 But prayer was made without ceasing. By the whole church, in its assemblies, that God might deliver him.
And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
12:6 When Herod would have brought him forth. To execution, probably on the day after the passover week ended. The Jews thought that executions during this week were a desecration.
Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains. The Roman method was adopted. He was chained to the soldiers who slept on each side of him, while the other two soldiers of the watch stood before the prison door. These precautions were taken for fear of a rescue.
And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
12:7 The angel of the Lord. Coming in answer to prayer.
Smote Peter. To arouse him.
And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
12:8 Gird thyself. In other words, Dress thyself. His girdle was unfastened while sleeping, and his sandals laid off. The garment to be cast about him was a cloak. There was no haste.
And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
12:9 Thought he saw a vision. All seemed so strange that, just aroused from sleep, he was uncertain whether it was real.
When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
12:10 The first and second ward. Watches. The soldiers on watch seem to have been stationed apart, one near Peter's door, the other near the gate.
The iron gate. The outer gate of the prison. It was after it was passed, and the angel had left him in the street, that Peter was first sure that it was no vision, but that the Lord had delivered him.
And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
12:12 Came to the house of Mary. This Mary was the mother of Mark, called in Acts both John and Mark. See Ac 13:5,13 15:39 She was related to Barnabas (Col 4:10).
Many were assembled together praying. For Peter's deliverance.
And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
12:13 A damsel came to hearken. It was the night, and they were Christians. The knocker might be an enemy or a friend. The damsel, a maid-servant, had charge of the door.
And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
12:14 When she knew Peter's voice. In answer to her question who might be at the door. Instead of opening, in her gladness, she flew to tell the good news, a touch of nature.
And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
12:15 It is his angel. The Jews held that every one had his guardian angel, and the thought his angel had assumed Peter's voice. A mistake, and Luke does not say whether the idea on which it was based is true or not.
But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
12:16 They were astonished. They could hardly believe their own eyes.
But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
12:17 Beckoning... to hold their peace. Their joy was so tumultuous that he could not be heard.
Go shew these things unto James. Not the apostle, but the brother of the Lord, so conspicuous after this as the pastor of the church at Jerusalem. Peter's message seems to recognize the fact that he was a leading man. Perhaps the apostles had retired from the city for fear of Herod. For notices of James, see Ac 15:13 21:18 Ga 1:19 2:9,12.
Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
12:18 As soon as it was day. The sleeping soldiers did not discover that the prisoner was gone until morning.
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.
12:19 Examined the keepers. Tries them for neglect of duty.
Commanded. That those on guard, the four, should be executed.
Went down from Judaea to Caesarea. In this city by the sea, the Roman capital of Palestine, he made his abode a part of the time, though Jerusalem was his usual residence. Josephus says that he went now to Caesarea to conduct games in honor of the Emperor Claudius.
And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.
12:20 Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon. The reason of this displeasure is not known. These cities were on the seacoast, but Herod's dominions occupied the country behind them.
Having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend. Probably by a bribe. The chamberlain guarded his bed-chamber and would be a trusted friend and adviser.
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
12:21 Upon a set day Herod. Josephus (Antiq. 19:8,2) confirms Luke's account. He states why Herod was at Caesarea, speaks of the assembly, the royal robe, the oration, the impious shout of the people, the sudden death of Herod, and pronounces it a judgment.
And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
12:22 The people gave a shout. The people of Caesarea were, many of them at least, heathen. As we learn from Josephus, on the second day of the games, Herod, clad in robes of silver cloth, entered the theater, and standing in the sunshine, his robes reflected his splendor. Then he made an oration, and the people raised their shout:
It is the voice of a god. It is thought that his speech was an announcement of his decision in the matter of difficulty with Tyre and Sidon, and that the ambassadors were present.
And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
12:23 The angel of the Lord smote him. Josephus says he lingered five days in great agony. This harmonizes with Luke's account.
He was eaten of worms. Josephus says he was taken with abdominal pains; Luke explains the cause. The disease is by no means unknown. Many cases of death from the same cause are on record. Among others the Emperor Galerius, the predecessor of Constantine the Great, so died.
But the word of God grew and multiplied.
12:24 But the word of God grew. Its influence kept extending, and all these exciting events.
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
12:25 Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem. This verse is introductory to the next chapter, which introduces the era of Gentile missions. Ac 11:29,30 explains why they had gone to Jerusalem. See note.
Took with them John, whose surname was Mark. He was a relative of Barnabas (Col 4:10). In the next chapter he appears as an associate in their missionary labors (Ac 13:5).