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Acts 12

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Introduction

Luke does not continue his account of the journey of Paul and Barnabus to Jerusalem but instead picks up on the life of Peter and the disciples in Jerusalem as they deal with the oppression of wicked King Herod. This chapter chronicles the dramatic intervention of God on behalf of his children, which will include the demise of pompous King Herod.

Verse 1

Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.

Now about that time: This phrase refers to the time Saul and Barnabus make their trip to take the collection gathered by the saints in Antioch to the famine stricken brethren in Jerusalem. "About that time was A.D. 44, as Herod’s death occurred in this year..." (Boles 187).

Herod the king: The Herod here referred to is Herod Agrippa I. The name Herod is the surname used by all the linage of Herod the Great. Merrill F. Unger gives the following comment on the name Herod:

It belonged alike to all the Herodian house as known to the Scriptures. All descendants of Herod the Great down to the fourth generation, who were identified with the government of Palestine and are mentioned in the New Testament, are known in history by the surname Herod; Herod Archaelaus, Herod Antipas, Herod Philip II, Herod Agrippa I, and Herod Agrippa II (470).

It is little wonder that this Herod has murderous intentions toward the people of God. His pedigree contains several infamous characters who opposed the purposes of God. His grandfather was the Herod who had the babies of Bethlehem slaughtered in hopes he would destroy the baby Jesus. He is a nephew to the Herod who had John the Baptist slain. Now, Herod Agrippa I forever enshrines his name in infamy as the one guilty of the blood of the first apostle to be martyred.

stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church: Herod, not unlike politicians of today, must have been checking the popularity polls when he learns it will make him politically popular to oppress the Christians (verse 3); therefore, he takes it upon himself to bring a violent attack upon the Lord’s church. Vincent says the word "vex" is used "in the older and stronger sense of torment or oppress ... rather than its modern usage of petty annoyances" (508).

It has been about eight years since the martyrdom of Stephen. During this time the church has enjoyed relative peace, but now severe persecution again raises its ugly head. Herod may have won the appreciation of the Jews, but he has lost any respect he may have had in the eyes of God. By divine intervention this proud Herod Agrippa I is soon to be "eaten of worms" (verse 23).

Verse 2

And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

And he killed James the brother of John: How different is such an event recorded in history by divine inspiration from what one might expect. In eleven English words, seven words in the Greek, we learn of the death of James the son of Zebedee, one of the "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17).

It is of interest to note that it is the mother of James and John who requests of Jesus that her sons might sit "the one on the right hand and the other on the left, in thy kingdom." Jesus explains, "Ye know not what ye ask" but "ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with" (Matthew 20:20-23). James is the first apostle to die for his faith; John is the last. Both do endure sufferings and death as good soldiers of the cross.

with the sword: The fact that James is executed "with the sword" indicates his death is dictated by a civil power as in the case of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:10). If the Jews had been responsible for James’ death, it would have been by stoning.

Verse 3

And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)

And because he saw it pleased the Jews: These words are the only excuse given for the death of James. What a pitiful excuse for putting to death anyone much less this great apostle so valued by the Lord’s church! It seems Herod Agrippa has fallen into the trap experienced by many politicians. In an effort to please his constituency, he is willing to sacrifice anything or anyone. Popular opinion is all that matters.

he proceeded further to take Peter also: Herod’s murder of James is so well received by the Jews that Herod decides to outdo even his former dastardly deed by taking the most prominent of the apostles, Peter.

(Then were the days of unleavened bread.): The "days of unleavened bread" is a reference to the feast of the Passover during which the Jews are required to eat bread without leaven. Because of the crowds that gather in Jerusalem to observe this feast, it is an ideal time for Herod to show a favor to the Jews as there will be many more people in the city to witness his generosity toward them and his animosity toward the Christians.

The distinction between the "Passover" and "the feast of unleavened bread" is explained by Carl M. Johnson:

The Old Testament distinguishes between the Passover, which was observed the night of the Nisan fourteenth-fifteenth, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of Nisan, during the barley harvest (Exodus 12:15-20; Exodus 23:15; Leviticus 23:5-6; Numbers 28:16-17; 2 Chronicles 30:15; 2 Chronicles 30:21; etc.). In later Judaism, it became popular to treat them as one festival and refer to them both as the "Passover" or "the Feast of Unleavened Bread" (520-521).

Verse 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.

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison: Herod quickly follows up on the death of James with the arrest of Peter.

Evidently the king was seeking the destruction of the Jerusalem church, as the Pharisees, under the leadership of Saul, had done before; but, in contrast with their method, he sought to accomplish his purpose by beheading the leaders, rather than by persecuting the members. He doubtless congratulated himself on the wisdom of the new method, when he had succeeded in slaying one apostle, and in locking up, ready for execution, the chief man of them all (McGarvey, Vol. I 233).

and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him: It is for sure Herod has heard of the escape of Peter from prison on another occasion (5:18-19); therefore, he assigns sixteen soldiers to provide a constant watch over Peter. Herod has yet to learn there are not enough soldiers in all of Jerusalem or even in all the Roman empire to hold Peter in prison if it be God’s will to set him free!

A quaternion was a set of four men occupied in the work of a guard, two soldiers being chained to the prisoner and two keeping watch; alternatively one of the four watched while the other three slept. The night was divided into four watches of three hours each; there would be one quaternion for each watch by day and night (Vine, Vol. III 239).

intending after Easter: The intentions of Herod are to wait until "after the Passover" to put Peter to death. "This refers not to Passover day, but to the whole celebration of Passover which lasted eight days" (Coffman 241).

On the term "Easter, " it is most unfortunate that the translators use this word. Barnes has this to say:

There never was a more absurd or unhappy translation than this. The original is simply "after the Passover." The word "Easter" now denotes the festival observed by many Christian churches in honour of the resurrection of the Saviour. But the original has no reference to that, nor is there the slightest evidence that any such festival was observed at the time when this book was written. The translation was not only unhappy, as it does not convey at all the meaning of the original, but because it may contribute to foster an opinion that such a festival was observed in the time of the apostles. The word "Easter" is of Saxon origin, and is supposed to be derived from "Eostre, " the goddess of Love, or the Venus of the North, in honour of whom a festival was celebrated by our pagan ancestors in the month of April (452-453).

In our modern celebration of Easter, one should wonder what is the purpose of eggs, rabbits, chickens, etc., in a time that is to remember the resurrection of Christ? In reality such items have no place in a Christian celebration; these are relics of a fertility rite practiced in the early spring by pagans and introduced into Christianity by the Catholics in an attempt to homogenize Christianity and paganism. Christians do not have one special day in the year to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. They celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every first day of the week by keeping the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). One "must" worship God in "spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24), not in pagan error.

to bring him forth to the people: It is the intention of Herod to execute Peter publicly. To do this would make a spectacle of his death which the bloodthirsty Jews would relish and perhaps Herod hopes it would be demoralizing to the remaining Christians. Little does he know his own death is nearer than is the death of Peter.

Verse 5

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: It is Herod’s plan to keep Peter in prison until after the days of the Passover.

but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him: In this time of perilous consequences, the church is in constant prayer on behalf of Peter. We have here a spiritual standoff of tremendous magnitude; on the one side King Herod, soldiers, chains, prison, iron gates, murderous intentions, and on the other side we have a band of faithful Christians in fervent prayer to the one "who is able to save." Are there any doubts about the outcome?

Verse 6

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.

And when Herod would have brought him forth: After a week of anxious waiting by the disciples, the time arrives for Peter to be "brought forth" for execution.

the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison: Peter’s guards are more anxious about this situation than is Peter. They know if Peter escapes, their lives will be required of them. This is the customary penalty for allowing a prisoner to escape (verse 19). These poor guards are soon to learn that chains and bars cannot hold a child of God if it be God’s will to set him free.

Verse 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.

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: Here is yet another occasion when a messenger from God makes an appearance in all of his brilliance to carry out the purposes of God on earth.

For more information on "the angel of God, " see notes on 5:19.

and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly: This scene is really quite remarkable; Peter, chained between two soldiers, is sound asleep, the type of sleep that a clear conscience and a calm confidence in God allows. It requires a slap on the side and the voice of the angel to rouse Peter from his sleep.

And his chains fell off from his hands: The shackles that bind Peter to the guards miraculously fall off.

Verse 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.

As we will learn in the next verse, Peter is in a stupor between reality and what he thought was a vision or dream. Because he does not understand what is happening is real, it is necessary for the angel to give him explicit instructions to get dressed and put on his shoes.

Verse 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.

Peter follows the messenger of God like one in a daze, thinking these things are not real but are only a "vision." He knows not ("wist not") that he is actually being delivered out of the prison.

Verse 10

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:

When they were past the first and second ward: The word "ward" literally means a watch or guard. Vincent says, "Better, watch: the soldiers on guard" (509).

Probably the first and second guards spoken of in verse ten were half of the quaternion that was on guard at the time of the deliverance. The fact that they were enabled to pass by these men without detection bespeaks of some providential intervention" (De Welt 159).

they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: Peter has one last obstacle between himself and freedom, but it is no small hurdle. As Luke is inclined to do in his detailed descriptions, he tells us they come not to just an ordinary gate but to an "iron gate." It is generally understood it took several strong men to raise this gate. Peter and the angel walk up to this "iron gate, " and it swings open "of its own accord" just as the electric doors at the local grocery store! Again, it is made clear: bars, chains, guards, and iron gates cannot restrain the purposes of God!

and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him: The "angel of God" stays with Peter until they are out of danger; and then, his mission finished, he departs. This is just another example of how God’s purposes are carried out on earth by His holy angels.

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14 )?

Verse 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.

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: Perhaps it is the cool night winds that fully awaken Peter or the sight of the nighttime sky that makes him realize he is really out of the prison. He is now fully alert and aware that God, by the actions of this "ministering spirit," has delivered him quite literally from death.

and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.: It is certain the Jews will be disappointed because they earnestly desire to see Peter put to death. God has work yet for Peter. Herod and the Jews will not succeed in their murderous intentions, at least not this time.

Verse 12

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.

And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary: Peter now takes time to assay the position in which he finds himself. Vincent says:

The verb here translated "considered" (suneidon)"strictly means to see together, or at the same time. Hence to see in one view, to take in at a glance… He has been freed; he was there in the street alone; he must go somewhere; there was the house of Mary, where he was sure to find friends. Having taken in all this, perceived it all, he went to the house of Mary" (509).

the mother of John: There are six different Mary’s mentioned in the New Testament. This Mary is distinguished as being the mother of John Mark.

whose surname was Mark: The following description is given of John Mark:

The author of Mark is the same John Mark mentioned by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, by Peter in 1 Peter 5:13, and by Paul in Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24, and 2 Timothy 4:11. John was his Jewish name and Mark his surname or Latin name. In the epistles he is referred to exclusively as Mark, indicating his ministry was almost entirely among the Gentiles. Mark was a native of Jerusalem where his mother’s house became one of the meeting places of the early Christians ... His house was where Christians assembled to pray for the imprisoned Peter and where Peter came when he was released from prison by an angel. The scriptures indicate the house was large and included a courtyard and a gate ... The description serves to suggest that John Mark’s home was one of wealth and prominence (Johnson 6).

where many were gathered together praying: The disciples are following the example set earlier by the apostles (4:23-31). In this gloomy time of painful expectations with the time of Peter’s death drawing near, the brethren gather to pray and to turn the hurtful suspense of the moment over to God. May this noble example be noted and carried on by Christians today.

Verse 13

And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.

And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate: This "gate" is a small door that opens off the street into the porch or vestibule. To understand the logistics of what is happening, it will help to know how the houses of the more affluent are constructed.

There was erected a high fence or barricade some few yards out from the house. This entirely surrounded the home. In this fence there was built a gate. This was opened for use at times during the day; it was closed and locked at night. In this gate there was a small door just large enough for the entrance of one person. It was at this small door in the gate that Peter knocked (De Welt 160-161).

a damsel came to hearken: Vincent has the following to say about the word"damsel":

The word used of a young female slave, as well as of a young girl or maiden generally. The narrative implies that she was more than a mere menial, if a servant at all. Her prompt recognition of Peter’s voice, and her joyful haste, as well as the record of her name, indicate that she was one of the disciples gathered to pray (510).

named Rhoda: "Rhoda" is a Greek word that may be translated "Rose." It was quite common for the people of the day to name their children after beautiful things in nature. What is most uncommon and striking is the fact that God forever emblazons the name of this little servant girl, Rhoda, in the pages of His eternal word. See also the notes on Dorcas in Acts 9:36-41.

Verse 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.

One can only imagine the joy this young girl feels when she recognizes the voice of Peter. In her haste to inform the others, she fails to open the gate; thus, Peter is left standing in the street.

Verse 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.

And they said unto her, Thou art mad: It seems the brethren assume the deliverance of Peter is so unlikely, especially in view of the death of James, they decide Rhoda has lost her mind.

But she constantly affirmed that it was even so: In spite of the accusations that she is insane, Rhoda is not to be dissuaded. She confidently affirms that Peter is at the gate.

Then said they, It is his angel: Finally the gathering is convinced that someone is at the gate. They decide it must be Peter’s angel. "The thought, before they saw him, that it must be his angel, is based on the supposition that every man has an angel, which is a true Scriptural idea ..." (McGarvey, Vol. I 237)

This verse proves that in the apostolic church the Christians believed that every person has a guardian angel; but it is uncertain what deductions should be made from this fact. Jesus apparently justified such a view by his reference to the angels of little children in Matthew 18:10, as being angels of the highest rank" (Coffman 247).

A comment about "guardian angels" is in order at this place. There is ample scriptural evidence to show that angels are the agents of God used to discharge God’s will on earth. These spiritual beings are referred to by the Hebrew writer as "ministering spirits" sent to minister to the "heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). Every child of God can have the assurance that God is in control of this world, that His will is being done, and that His providence is being worked in their lives (the heirs of salvation) by the efforts of His "mighty angels" (2Thessolonians 1:7). A study on the work of angels as "ministering spirits" may be found in these and other verses: 1 Kings 19:5; Psalms 34:7; Psalms 91:11; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Luke 22:43; Hebrews 1:13-14.

One other comment may be made, which is rather sad to consider; yet one that seems to be characteristic of doubting human beings. Here is the situation: these Christians are gathered together to pray for the deliverance of Peter; yet when it is announced that Peter has been delivered, here is their reaction:

  • The bearer of the message of Peter’s deliverance is"mad.

  • It cannot be Peter it must be someone else, "his angel."

  • When they saw Peter "they were astonished."

It is small wonder that Jesus so often questions the faith of His disciples. How often does man beseech the throne of Almighty God in his prayers, yet in his heart he has no faith that God is listening? When a faithful child of God asks his Father for blessings, should he be surprised when his Father grants those blessings?

Verse 16

But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.

But Peter continued knocking: The patience of Peter is surely being tested. While the disciples speculate as to who really is at the gate, Peter continues to knock. This must have been a frustrating experience.

and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished: There is some discussion among scholars as to why the disciples are surprised to find Peter is delivered from the prison. After all, are not they praying for his release? We can be sure the disciples are praying for the release of Peter but we can be equally sure they also pray "thy will be done." In the light of the fact that James has recently died at the hands of Herod, it could be the disciples are reconciled to the idea that the same fate will come to Peter; thus, they are surprised when Peter is delivered.

Verse 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 shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace: In the midst of this excitement, Peter calls for silence.

Beckoning with the hand is from the Greek kataseisas tei cheiri, and literally means shake down with the hand. The speaker indicated by a downward movement of the hand his desire for silence. A great noise at that time of night might excite the neighboring Jews, and could produce danger (Reese 346).

declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison: Peter now gives his personal account of how the Lord spares his life and delivers him from the hand of Herod. Again, we may note that Peter is correct in saying "the Lord had brought him out of prison"; but we know the actual deed is accomplished by an angel.

And he said, Go shew these things unto James: Peter gives instructions to relay an account of the events of his deliverance to others; especially he mentions James. It is generally agreed that the James here named is not "James the son of Alphaeus, " one of the original apostles; but this James is the one identified as "the Lord’s brother" (Galatians 1:19). He is one of those Paul refers to as a "pillar" of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). This James is also credited with the authorship of the book of James.

and to the brethren: It is Peter’s desire that the brethren know their prayers have been answered and their anxious concerns for his welfare are over.

And he departed, and went into another place: It can be said for a certainty that Peter is among the "most wanted" by the authorities in Jerusalem; therefore, it is necessary that he go to a place of greater safety. Where Peter goes remains a mystery in the face of much speculation. The next scriptural record of Peter’s being in Jerusalem occurs about seven years after these events have transpired when he meets with the "apostles and elders" to discuss the problem over circumcision (15:6-7).

Verse 18

Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.

Now as soon as it was day: The day dawns, and the events of the night are soon to be learned.

there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter: "No small stir" must have been the understatement of a lifetime to those soldiers who were guarding Peter. One can only guess at the horror that comes to their minds when they discover Peter is gone. The law says if a prisoner escapes, those in charge of his safekeeping forfeit their own lives.

Verse 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.

And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not: The jails of Herod cannot hold this man of God. McGarvey says, "Herod, too was surprised and chagrined. He learned that he had no more skill in keeping apostles imprisoned than the chief priests before him" (Vol. I 239).

he examined the keepers: Again, the record understates what actually happens. These sixteen soldiers are examined for an explanation as to the escape of Peter. This examination often involved hideous forms of torture in hopes of getting the truth out of the guards. One can only pity these poor soldiers, as they can give no explanation. They are not derelict in their duties; they do all that is humanly possible to contain Peter. Luke gives the reason for the deliverance of Peter, a reason no man can thwart: "the Lord brought him forth!"

and commanded that they should be put to death: After this rigorous examination of the soldiers, there could have been no doubt in Herod’s mind that the rescue of Peter is accomplished by the will of God. Will Herod admit the obvious? Of course not; he puts sixteen innocent men to death to salve his wounded pride and cover up his political fumble.

And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode:

How soon Herod leaves Jerusalem for Caesarea is uncertain. It is in Caesarea that God will terminate the activities of Herod against the church with the death of Herod.

Verse 20

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.

And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: The cause of Herod’s displeasure is not known. Speculation is there is a trade dispute between the two countries. Whatever the cause of the dispute, Herod is ready to go to war. "The word"displeased" (thumomacheo) comes from the two Greek words thumos (passion) and machomai (to fight), hence to be very angry, to be highly displeased…" (Vine Vol. I 322).

Tyre and Sidon are cities in the country of Phoenicia. Following is a note on the geography of this area:

The province Phoenicia is a narrow strip of territory between the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Lebanon, north of Palestine and south of the Orontes. Its two great cities were Zidon the mother of Mediterranean commerce; and Tyre, her daughter. Its boundaries were never extensive; but its vessels traded with every land, and its colonies were planted all along the shores of the Mediterranean (Jesse Lyman Hurlbut 6).

but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king’s chamberlain their friend, desired peace: The people of Tyre and Sidon are attempting to avoid this conflict by sending an ambassage in an attempt to placate Herod. They also seem to have an ally in the person of Blastus, the king’s "chamberlain." More than likely, it is by bribery that these citizens of Tyre and Sidon have persuaded Blastus to help them.

Vine defines "chamberlain" as follows:

The one over the bedchamber (epi, over, koiton, a bedchamber), denotes a chamberlain, an officer who had various duties in the houses of kings and nobles (Vol. I 179).

because their country was nourished by the king’s country: As a matter of geographical convenience, it is much easier and more economical for Tyre and Sidon to trade with the country that adjoins them rather than to have to travel to Egypt or some other more distant country to find the necessary food to feed their people; therefore, they are working to appease Herod so their trade relationship might be preserved.

Verse 21

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.

And upon a set day Herod: Josephus gives an explanation of the "set day" as well as a detailed description of the events of that day:

Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Cesarea, which was formerly called Strato’s Tower; and there he exhibited shows in honor of Ceasar, upon his being informed that there was a certain festival celebrated to make vows for his safety. At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the principal persons, and such as were of dignity throughout his province. On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver (582).

arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them: Josephus describes the appearance of Herod as being dressed in a dazzling silver robe that catches the rays of the sun and gives him an illusion almost supernatural. In this theatrical setting, Herod delivers a speech the contents of which one can only guess. It would be safe to assume the theme of his oration is his own elite position and authority. The speech may have also contained the information that an agreement between Herod and the people of Tyre and Sidon has been reached, prompting the audience to react as recorded in the next verse.

Verse 22

And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.

It can be safely assumed that the people of Tyre and Sidon have received the concession they sought from Herod; therefore, they burst out in praise and flattery saying, "It is the voice of a god!"Could it be that Blastus coaches the ambassadors from Tyre and Sidon to exploit a weakness of Herod by comparing him to a god? Ah, the complexities of politics, the downfall of many proud men.

Verse 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.

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him: Here is yet another example of God’s will being carried out by His angel. What is about to happen to Herod is divinely appointed and swiftly carried out by this messenger from heaven.

because he gave not God the glory: Because Herod is willing to receive worship as a god rather than giving"God the glory, "he is smote by the angel. This is not a sin of ignorance on the part of Herod; he is a Jew, he knows the true God, and he is aware of the evils of idolatry.

and he was eaten of worms: Luke describes the manner in which Herod dies as"he was eaten of worms."This description leaves much to the imagination, but one can be sure it denotes a slow, painful, and loathsome way in which to die.

"Worm" is from the Greek skolex, and was used of "intestinal worms; " there are several cases recorded in ancient history of such deaths. Josephus says that Herod Agrippa "lingered for five days, " and says that "the rotting of his flesh produced worms..." (Boles 197).

and gave up the ghost: Herod dies. His spirit departs from him. What a simple way to state the demise of one who is a murderer of an apostle and an opponent of Christianity in general. Herod, who flinched not at robbing God of glory, now waits for judgment day to face the same Jesus whom he so bitterly opposed (Hebrews 9:27). Herod’s "death took place A.D. 44, in the seventh year of his reign, and at the age of fifty-three" (Plumptre 79).

Verse 24

But the word of God grew and multiplied.

When attempts to destroy the Lord’s church are overcome, as in the attempt just described, the end result is the church is reassured, reverence for the church increases in the general population, and the church grows. "The cause of Christ cannot be destroyed by persecution. The history of the church as revealed in Acts shows that the church multiplied more rapidly under persecution than at other times" (Boles 198). The lesson remains: adversity strengthens, "tribulation worketh patience" (Romans 5:3) (see notes on 6:7).

Verse 25

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry: The scene now switches back to an event that begins in Acts 11:30. Barnabas and Saul have completed their mission of charity to the needy saints in Judea and have returned to Antioch.

and took with them John, whose surname was Mark: Saul and Barnabus have a new traveling companion in John Mark, who is a nephew to Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). Luke here takes the opportunity to introduce John Mark, who will figure prominently in subsequent chapters of Acts.

To this point in the book of Acts, the most prominent character has been the Apostle Peter. From this point to the conclusion of the book, it is the Apostle Paul’s efforts in evangelism that will be recorded. With the closing of this chapter, the stage is set for evangelizing "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (1:8) with Antioch serving as the center from which the gospel is spread.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 12". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/acts-12.html. 1993-2022.
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