The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 12

Act 12:1

Act 12: "Outline: [1] Martyrdom of James: vv 1,2. [2] Peter is imprisoned: vv 3-5. [3] The escape: vv 6-10. [4] Peter's astonishment: v 11. [5] The ecclesia is taught the power of prayer: vv 12-16. [6] Flight of Peter: v 17. [7] Confusion and anxiety of the guard: vv 18,19. [8] Death of Herod Agrippa: vv 20-23. [9] Paul, the instrument commissioned: vv 24,25" (GEM).

Act 12:2

PUT TO DEATH WITH THE SWORD: Publicly beheaded. Since blasphemy is punishable by stoning, this execution was prob done at the king's orders, by military mandate.

Act 12:3

WHEN HE SAW THAT THIS PLEASED THE JEWS: The mark of a consummate politician.

DURING THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD: Just prior to Passover. As with Christ, the rulers of Israel showed a meticulous compliance with the letter of the Law, but a gross denial of its spirit (John 18:28).

Act 12:4

HE PUT HIM IN PRISON: Peter is now in prison for the third time (cp Acts 4:3; 5:18).

FOR PUBLIC TRIAL: And probable execution, as with James.

THE PASSOVER: Erroneously translated "Easter" in KJV.

Act 12:5

PETER WAS KEPT IN PRISON: Possibly in Tower of Antonia, at nw corner of Temple (cp Acts 21:34).

THE CHURCH WAS EARNESTLY PRAYING: Prayer for deliverance from a Jewish "Pharaoh"! The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that fetched the angel.

It was deemed appropriate on this occasion to get people together in one place to pray about this particular issue. Whilst God hears our individual prayers in secret and rewards us openly, it seems there is also room for this more communal approach, and its effectiveness is clear: Eph 6:18,19; 1Th 5:17; Jam 5:16.

Act 12:6

Cp Peter's attitude here with his attitude the night before Christ's crucifixion: "Those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator" (1Pe 4:19). Thus faith resists fleshly power.

Act 12:7

"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them" (Psa 34:7).

HE STRUCK PETER ON THE SIDE: Smiting in love (here), and in vengeance (v 23)!

Act 12:8

PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES AND SANDALS: "Gird up your loins" -- a Passover commandment (Exo 12:11; 1Pe 1:13). Note other allusions to Passover (vv 3,5). Ct Joh 21:18: the time to be girded by another has not yet come.

Act 12:10

THE FIRST AND SECOND GUARDS: One sentry at cell door, another at prison door.

THE IRON GATE... IT OPENED FOR THEM: "Your descendants will take possession of the cities [lit, gate] of their enemies" (Gen 22:17). Cp the great stone at the tomb of Christ.

Act 12:11

THEN PETER CAME TO HIMSELF: Until this point, Peter had thought he was dreaming.

Act 12:12

HE WENT TO THE HOUSE OF MARY: Poss her home was the site of the last supper, and the gathering of the apostles in Acts 1 (SB 14:185,186).

THE MOTHER OF JOHN, ALSO CALLED MARK: Son of Mary (Acts 12:12), cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10, RSV), companion of Paul (Phm 1:24) and Peter (1Pe 5:13), and author of the second Gospel. Like many other Jews of his day, he had assumed a Latin surname (Marcus: "a large hammer") in addition to his Heb name John. His father is not mentioned in the NT, but his mother appears to have been a prominent and somewhat well-to-do member of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:12). It has been conjectured that Mark was the youth who fled from the scene of Christ's arrest (Mar 14:51,52), and that he was the man with the pitcher whom the disciples were to follow (Mar 14:13).

Act 12:14

The angel who delivered him from the heavily-guarded and fortified prison could not get him into the ordinary house where the ecclesia was!

Act 12:15

"YOU'RE OUT OF YOUR MIND," THEY TOLD HER: Evidently, since James had been slain despite their prayers, they now doubt the efficacy of all their prayers -- which was a great mistake!

IT MUST BE HIS ANGEL: See Mat 18:10; Psa 34:7; Heb 1:14.

Or, alternatively... "Angel" sig "messenger" (Mat 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luk 7:24; 9:52; Jam 2:25): Possibly they meant, 'You just thought it was Peter; it is a messenger from Peter!' Note: Rhoda heard only; she did not see. Perhaps the door and walls were so thick that voices were from outside were muffled. Perhaps, also, Peter was trying to be quiet, so he didn't raise his voice, but whispered (v 17).

Act 12:17

PETER MOTIONED WITH HIS HAND FOR THEM TO BE QUIET: He was prob afraid that too much noise might bring the authorities.

AND THEN HE LEFT FOR ANOTHER PLACE: Prob to some more obscure house of Christians in the vicinity -- unknown to the authorities. Later, he seems to have gone to Antioch (cp Gal 2:8-14).

Act 12:19

CROSS-EXAMINED: Prob including torture.

AND ORDERED THAT THEY BE EXECUTED: "The words translated put to death may mean 'led off to prison'; but Roman law prescribed that if a prisoner escaped, the penalty due him should be inflicted on his guard" (WyC).

Act 12:20

TYRE AND SIDON: There were murmurings and talk of revolt in these areas.

THEY DEPENDED ON THE KING'S COUNTRY FOR THEIR FOOD SUPPLY: Although Tyre and Sidon were free cities, they were dependent for their food upon the grain of Galilee in Herod's kingdom

Act 12:23

AN ANGEL OF THE LORD STRUCK HIM DOWN: Cp Psa 35:5: in keeping with Passover motif, angels of the LORD may deliver -- as with Peter (Psa 34:7) -- AS WELL AS destroy -- as here.

HE WAS EATEN BY WORMS: "Like a rotten cabbage" (HAW).

AND DIED: He died 5 days later, at age of 54 (Josephus).

"All flesh before Him is as nothing. He will not allow the flesh to glory in His sight. Adam was banished from Eden for casting dishonour on Him by disobedience. Moses was punished for taking to himself the credit of the miracle at the rock of Meribah. David fell into the hands of God, in three days' plague, for exalting in the numbers of his army. The Assyrian was brought down for taking to himself the credit of what God did by him in the punishment of Israel. Mighty and arrogant Nebuchadnezzar was sent to herd among the beasts till he learnt that 'the heavens do rule.' Herod was eaten up by worms, because he gave not God the glory; and salvation is by God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself -- not of works, lest any man should boast" (SC 62).

Act 12:25

THEY RETURNED FROM JERUSALEM: They went back to Antioch from Jerusalem -- where they had delivered the relief supplies and money collected (Act 11:29,30).

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