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Bible Commentaries
Acts 12

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-25

Imprisonment of Peter. Death of Herod

1-19. Persecution of the Church at Jerusalem by Herod. Martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee. Peter’s imprisonment and miraculous release. The Church was persecuted (1) by the Sadducees and chief priests, Acts 4:1; Acts 5:17; (2) afterwards by the Pharisees, Acts 6:11. and now (3) by the king of the Jews. Not till later was persecution to come from the Romans.

1. About that time] viz. when relief was sent to the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30). The death of Herod (Acts 12:23) fixes the date as 44 a.d. Herod the king] i.e. Herod Agrippa I, son of Aristobulus (Herod the Great’s son) and Bernice; born 10 b.c. See art. ’The Dynasty of the Herods.’

2. James] i.e. James the Great, son of Zebedee.

4. Four quaternions] four parties of four soldiers each, relieving one another at intervals. Easter] i.e. the Passover.

5. Without ceasing] RV ’earnestly.’

7. The prison] RV ’the-cell.’

10. The second ward] i.e the second guard of soldiers. And they went out] D adds, ’and went down the seven steps’ (probably an authentic detail).

12. Mary] This Mary, mother of Mark, and aunt of Barnabas, was a widow of considerable wealth, as her style of living testifies. Her house had a gateway into the courtyard (not a ’door,’ as AV), which was kept by a portress. There was room within for the Church to worship (Acts 12:12). Many suppose that her house was the scene of the Last Supper, and of the descent of the Holy Ghost.

John.. Mark] the evangelist: see Intro, to Mk.

13, 14. The gate] i.e. the gateway or vestibule.

15. His angel] They thought that Peter’s guardian angel had assumed his voice and appearance: see on Matthew 18:10.

17. Unto James, and to the brethren] The meeting in Mary’s house was clearly an unofficial one. Observe that Peter recognises James (i.e. the Lord’s brother) as the head of the local Church of Jerusalem.

20-24. Death of Herod Agrippa I, 44 a.d. Josephus’s account of Herod’s death, which is quite independent, confirms St. Luke’s (see ’Ant.’


20. Tyre and Sidon obtained their corn and provisions from Palestine. Hence when a dispute arose (perhaps over some commercial or tariff question), Herod forbade the exportation of corn to Tyre and Sidon. Famine prices prevailed, and the cities were obliged to come to terms. They ’persuaded’ Blastus (AV ’made him their friend’), probably by a bribe, and desired ’peace,’ i.e. a cessation of the tariff war.

23. The angel] RV ’an angel.’ This is, of course, the Christian interpretation of the incident. No angelic appearance is to be assumed.

24. So signal a judgment upon a persecutor was an indication of the righteousness of the Christian cause. It is a remarkable fact that most of the early persecutors perished miserably.

Acts 12:25 to Acts 13:3. Separation of Barnabas and Saul for missionary work, 47 a.d.

25. Returned from Jerusalem] the best reading is ’returned to Jerusalem,’ i.e. to fetch Mark to Antioch.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 12". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/acts-12.html. 1909.
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