Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 
ACTS CHAPTER 12

VERSES 1-5 "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. {2}And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. {3}And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) {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. {5}Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

A. "Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church..." 
1. The Herod mentioned here was Herod Agrippa I, whom the Romans had placed as king over parts of Judea. He was the grandson of Herod the Great and ruled from A.D. 41-44. 

2. To understand why Herod began to persecute the church we must understand some of his background. Herod was only part Jewish and had to walk a tightrope between pleasing the Romans and the Jews. Undoubtedly, persecuting Christians was a safe way of currying favor of many of the Jews without upsetting the Romans. Rome would likely consider it an internal matter, as long as it did not result in major upheavals. 

3. He proceeded to attack the leadership of the church, beginning with a high profile killing, James the brother of Jesus.

B. "And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread...." 
1. The killing of James seems to have been somewhat of a "trial balloon" to gauge the reaction of the populace. When it was meant with support he was emboldened to move against the most visible and vocal of the apostles, Peter. 

2. But since it was during a Jewish religious festival he could not simply murder Peter like he did James. This would have made him look impious to those whom kept the Law of Moses strictly. He would have to imprison him until after the Passover ("Easter" KJV). 

3. He was imprisoned with a guard of 16 men ("four quaternions"). Herod was going to make sure that Peter did not escape.

C. "Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." 
1. While Herod intended to make sure that no earthly power would intervene to save Peter, the church was petitioning for intervention from a higher power. 

2. The early church believed in the power of prayer. 

a. See Acts 1:14; 6:4; Romans 8:26; 12:12; 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17
3. Did they pray for Peterís release? Probably. But they probably thought that Peter would be executed. They were surprised when Peter was released. They probably prayed, as they were taught, that all prayer must be according to the Lordís will. See Matthew 6:10; 1 John 5:14. 
VERSES 6-9 "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. {7}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. {8}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. {9}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."
 
 
A. "And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers...
1. Herod was going to extraordinary efforts to guard Peter. Peter had soldiers on either side of him. He then had guards at the door. Perhaps Herod could have thought that the disciples would try to free Peter. 

2. Notice that Peter was perfectly secure, without any anxiety at the prospect of being executed after the end of the Passover. He was not fretful, for he had committed himself to the Lord. 

a. See Acts 27:25
B. "And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison..." 
1. The Lord answered the prayers of the church in a mighty way. An angel was sent to Peter to deliver him. 

2. The angel awakened Peter and instructed him to prepare himself for his departure. 

a. The implication is that Peter did exactly what the angel instructed.
3. Peter was still unsure as to whether this was a vision or what was really happening, but did as he was instructed. 

4. As we shall see, the jailors did not have a clue as to what had happened. 
 
 

VERSES 10-11 "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. {11}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."
 
 
A. "When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city..." 
1. The angel led Peter directly out of the prison. The word ward here is archaic. It means a guard or sentry. 

2. The gate of the prison opened on its own. Coffman says in his commentary that it took 25 men to open and shut the gate. No soldiers were posted there, there was no need.

B. "And when Peter was come to himself..." 
1. Peter was not certain that he was in a trance or awake. When he went outside the gate of the prison and felt the fresh air of the streets of Jerusalem, he became certain that it was not a vision but really deliverance by the hand of the Lord. 
VERSES 12-19 "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. {13}And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. {14}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. {15}And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. {16}But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. {17}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 show these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place. {18}Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. {19}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."
 
 
A. "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..." 
1. After considering what he should do Peter decided to go to a house where there were friends. 

2. Mary, the mother of John Mark, was the aunt of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10 NKJV).

B. "And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda..."
1. Houses in Jerusalem would have a tall wall just outside of the house with a large gate. 

2. One of Maryís servants, Rhoda, heard Peterís voice and went out to the gate to see who it was. She was so excited that she didnít even open the door but ran back into the house and reported that she had seen Peter. 

3. At first the Christians in Maryís house thought that she was crazy. Then they said that it must be Peterís angel. There is some suggestion in the New Testament that there are angels who minister to Christians in some way (Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14). Possibly Christians erroneously thought that angels could take on the appearance and voice of the one they were protecting.

C. "But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
1. Finally, the other brethren went out to the gate and let Peter in. 

2. The brethren were understandably excited about the release of Peter, since it was the answer to their prayers. Peter quieted the group and then related how the Lord had release him and requested that James, the brother of Jesus, be notified of his release.

D. "Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter...." 
1. The angel had escorted Peter completely unawares out of the prison. The soldiers were agitated because they would be held responsible for his escape and would have to pay with their lives. 

2. Herod ordered the soldiersí death and then left the city, likely to avoid the embarrassment of having to explain why he could not even keep one prisoner in prison.

HERODíS END

Following the deliverance of Peter by the Lord Herod Agrippa left Jerusalem for more friendly and flattering territory, Caesarea. There he could be flattered and praised without having to worry about the unruly Jews of Jerusalem. This section will show Herodís final end. God will sooner or later deal with anyone who sets himself in the place of Him. 
 
 

VERSES :20-23 "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. {21}And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. {22}And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. {23}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."
 
 

A. "And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon..." 
1. Herod was extremely angry with Tyre and Sidon, which was not part of his territory. One commentator speculated that Tyre and Sidon had put a tariff of all the goods passing through Tyre and Sidon to and from Herodís territory. 

2. Since both Tyre and Sidon and Herodís kingdom was part of the Roman Empire it would have been very risky for Herod to threaten war. He must have been terribly angry. 

3. Representatives of Tyre and Sidon feared war more than Herod. They sought an audience by going through Blastus the kingís chamberlain, probably by a bribe. 

4. Galilee furnished much of the food for Tyre and Sidon and hostilities would be disastrous for them.

B. "And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them." 
1. On the day of the oration Herod dressed in kingly apparel and sat on his throne to deliver a speech to the representatives of the two cities.
2. Either his speech was stirring or they were seeking to ingratiate themselves to Herod. They shouted that Herod was not a man but a god.
3. We can assume that Herod was pleased with such accolades. It was probably that this was the reason why God sent an angel to strike him down. Literally the Greek text states that he was eaten by maggots. He had an opportunity to witness the power of God through the deliverance of Peter. Instead of taking heed to the power of God, Herod sought to puff himself up and allow others to claim that he was a god.
VERSES 24-25 "But the word of God grew and multiplied. {25}And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark."
A. "But the word of God grew and multiplied." 
1. There is a contrast intended between the enemy of God, Herod, who was struck down and killed and the people whom he persecuted. In contrast, the church continued to grow.
B. "And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark." 
1. We remember that at the end of chapter 11 Saul and Barnabas were entrusted with an amount of money to take to the needy brethren in Jerusalem. We do not know how long they stayed, but it seem from the text that they finished their mission and then returned to Antioch.
2. We are introduced to John Mark, whose mother owned the house where Peter went to after being delivered from prison. He would accompany Saul and Barnabas on the first leg of their missionary

 
 

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


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