Wesley's Notes on the Bible
Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
12:1 About that time - So wisely did God mix rest and persecution in due time and measure succeeding each other. Herod - Agrippa; the latter was his Roman, the former his Syrian name. He was the grandson of Herod the Great, nephew to Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist; brother to Herodias, and father to that Agrippa before whom St. Paul afterward made his defence. Caligula made him king of the tetrarchy of his uncle Philip, to which he afterward added the territories of Antipas. Claudius made him also king of Judea, and added thereto the dominions of Lysanias.
And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
12:2 James the brother of John - So one of the brothers went to God the first, the other the last of the apostles.
And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
12:3 Then were the days of unleavened bread - At which the Jews came together from all parts.
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 quaternions - Sixteen men, who watched by turns day and night.
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
12:5 Continual prayer was made for him - Yet when their prayer was answered, they could scarce believe it, Ac 12:15. But why had they not prayed for St. James also? Because he was put to death as soon as apprehended.
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 Peter was sleeping - Easy and void of fear; between two soldiers - Sufficiently secured to human appearance.
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 His chains - With which his right arm was bound to one of the soldiers, and his left arm to the other.
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 - Probably he had put off his girdle, sandals, and upper garment, before he lay down to sleep.
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.
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 - At each of which doubtless was a guard of soldiers. The gate opened of its own accord - Without either Peter or the angel touching it. And they went on through one street - That Peter might know which way to go. And the angel departed from him - Being himself sufficient for what remained to be done.
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.
12:11 Now I know of a truth - That this is not a vision, Acts 12:9.
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 And having considered - What was best to be done. Many were gathered together - At midnight.
And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
12:13 The gate - At some distance from the house; to hearken - If any knocked.
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 And knowing Peter's voice - Bidding her open the door.
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 They said, Thou art mad - As we say, Sure you are not in your senses to talk so. It is his angel - It was a common opinion among the Jews, that every man had his particular guardian angel, who frequently assumed both his shape and voice. But this is a point on which the Scriptures are silent.
But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
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 them - Many of whom being amazed, were talking together. And he said, Show these things to James - The brother or kinsman of our Lord, and author of the epistle which bears his name. He appears to have been a person of considerable weight and importance, probably the chief overseer of that province, and of the Church in Jerusalem in particular. He went into another place - Where he might be better concealed till the storm was over.
Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
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 Herod commanded them to be put to death - And thus the wicked suffered in the room of the righteous. And going down from Judea - With shame, for not having brought forth Peter, according to his promise.
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 Having gained Blastus - To their side, they sued for, and obtained peace - Reconciliation with Herod. And so the Christians of those parts were, by the providence of God, delivered from scarcity. Their country was nourished - Was provided with, corn, by the king's country - Thus Hiram also, king of Tyre, desired of Solomon food or corn for his household, 1Kings 5:9.
And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
12:21 And on a set day - Which was solemnized yearly, in honour of Claudius Cesar; Herod, arrayed in royal apparel - In a garment so wrought with silver, that the rays of the rising sun striking upon, and being reflected from it, dazzled the eyes of the beholders. The people shouted, It is the voice of a god - Such profane flattery they frequently paid to princes. But the commonness of a wicked custom rather increases than lessens the guilt of it.
And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
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 And immediately - God does not delay to vindicate his injured honour; an angel of the Lord smote him - Of this other historians say nothing: so wide a difference there is between Divine and human history! An angel of the Lord brought out Peter; an angel smote Herod. Men did not see the instruments in either case. These were only known to the people of God. Because he gave not glory to God - He willingly received it to himself, and by this sacrilege filled up the measure of his iniquities. So then vengeance tarried not. And he was eaten by worms, or vermin - How changed! And on the fifth day expired in exquisite torture. Such was the event! The persecutor perished, and the Gospel grew and multiplied.
But the word of God grew and multiplied.
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
12:25 Saul returned - To Antioch; taking John, surnamed Mark - The son of Mary, (at whose house the disciples met, to pray for Peter,) who was sister to Barnabas.