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Bible Commentaries
Acts 12

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Acts 12:1 . Persecution by Herod; St. Peter’s deliverance . κατʼ ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρὸν : “about that time,” or more precisely “at that time,” Rendall, cf. Romans 9:9 , so in Genesis 18:10 , Malachi 3:5; Malachi 3:5 : in the early part of 44 A.D. Ἡρώδης ὁ β ., Herod Agrippa I.: only in this chapter in the N.T.: on his character and death, see below Acts 12:3 ; Acts 12:23 . Born in B.C. 10 and educated in his early life in Rome, he rose from a rash adventurer to good fortune and high position first through the friendship of Caligula and afterwards of Claudius. He united under his own sway the entire empire of his grandfather, Herod the Great, while his Pharisaic piety and also his attachment to the Roman supremacy found expression in the titles which he bore, βασιλεὺς μέγας φιλόκαισαρ εὐσεβὴς καὶ φιλορώμαιος . On the pathetic story told of him in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (A.D. 41) see Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums , ii., 1, p. 28, and the whole article; Schürer, Jewish People , div. i., vol. ii., p. 150 ff., E.T.; Farrar, The Herods , p. 179 ff. (1898). ἐπέβαλεν τὰς χεῖρας , Luke 20:19 ; Luke 21:12 , and cf. Acts 4:3 ; Acts 5:18 ; Acts 21:27 , once in Matthew and Mark, in John twice; Friedrich, p. 39, cf. LXX, Genesis 22:12 , 2 Samuel 18:12 (so in Polyb.), cf. for similar construction of the infinitive of the purpose Acts 18:10 , not in the sense of ἐπεχείρησε , conatus est , but to be rendered quite literally; cf. also the context, Acts 12:3 . κακῶσαι : five times in Acts, only once elsewhere in N.T., 1 Peter 3:13 , “to afflict,” R.V., A.V. “vex,” so Tyndale. τῶν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐκ ., for the phrase cf. Acts 6:9 , Acts 15:5 , Grimm-Thayer, sub v. , ἀπό , ii., but see also Blass, Gram. , p. 122 and in loco .

Verse 2

Acts 12:2 . ἀνεῖλε , characteristic word, see on v. Acts 5:33 . Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀ . Ἰ .: St. Chrysostom reminds us of our Lord’s prophecy in Mark 10:38 ff. (Matthew 20:23 ), distinguished thus from the James of Acts 1:13 . Possibly his prominent position, and his characteristic nature as a son of Thunder marked him out as an early victim. μαχαίρᾳ : so in the case of John the Baptist. This mode of death was regarded as very disgraceful among the Jews (J. Lightfoot, Wetstein), and as in the Baptist’s case so here, the mode of execution shows that the punishment was not for blasphemy, but that James was apprehended and killed by the political power. For the touching account of his martyrdom narrated by Clement of Alexandria, see Eus., H. E. , ii., 9. Whatever St. Luke’s reason for the brevity of the account, whether he knew no more, or whether he intended to write a third book giving an account of the other Apostles besides Peter and Paul, and so only mentioned here what concerned the following history (so Meyer, but see Wendt, p. 267 (1888)), his brief notice is at least in striking contrast ( ἀπλῶς καὶ ὡς ἔτυχεν , Chrys.) with the details of later martyrologies.

Verse 3

Acts 12:3 . ἀρεστόν … τοῖς Ἰ : exactly what we should expect from the character and policy of Herod in his zeal for the law, and from the success with which during his short reign he retained the favour of Jews and Romans alike. Holtzmann, p. 370, seems inclined to doubt the truth of this description of Herod, and lays stress upon the mention of the king’s mild disposition in Josephus, Ant. , xix., 7, 3. But Josephus also makes it quite plain how zealous Agrippa was, or pretended to be, for the laws and ordinances of Judaism, u. s. , and xx., 7, 1, and see Schürer, u. s. , and Feine, p. 226. Nor is it at all certain that Agrippa’s reputed mildness and gentleness would have kept him from rejoicing in the persecution of the Christians, cf. the description of his delight in the bloody gladiatorial games, Jos., Ant. , xix., 9, 5. προσέθετο συλλ .: a Hebraism, cf. Luke 19:11 ; Luke 20:11 : LXX, Genesis 4:2 ; Genesis 8:12 ; Genesis 25:1 , Exodus 14:13 , etc., peculiar to St. Luke in N.T., Viteau, Le Grec du N. T. , p. 209 (1893). αἱ ἡ . τῶν ἀζύμων , and therefore a large number of Jews would be in Jerusalem, and Herod would thus have a good opportunity of gaining wide popularity by his zeal for the law.

Verse 4

Acts 12:4 . ὃν καὶ πιάσας , Acts 3:7 , really Doric form of πιέζω ( cf. Luke 6:38 , nowhere else in N.T.), used in this sense also in LXX, and elsewhere in N.T., cf. Song of Solomon 2:15 , Sir 23:21 (not A). Modern Greek πιάνω = seize, apprehend. καὶ : “when he had taken him, indeed,” so Rendall, as if a delay had taken place, before the arrest was actually made. τέσσαρσι τετραδ .: the night was divided by the Romans a practice here imitated by Herod into four watches, and each watch of three hours was kept by four soldiers, quaternio , two probably guarding the prisoner within the cell, chained to him, and two outside. τετραδ ., cf. Philo, in Flaccum , 13; Polyb., xv., 33, 7, and see for other instances, Wetstein. μετὰ τὸ πάσχα , “after the Passover,” R.V., i.e. , after the whole festival was over: Herod either did not wish, or affected not to wish, to profane the Feast: “non judicant die festo” ( Moed Katon ., v., 2). ἀναγαγεῖν : only here in this sense (in Luke 22:66 , ἀπήγαγον , W. H.), probably means to lead the prisoner up, i.e. , before the judgment tribunal (John 19:13 ), to sentence him openly to death before the people.

Verse 5

Acts 12:5 . ὁ μὲν οὖν … προσευχὴ δὲ : both A. and R.V. regard προσ . δὲ in the same verse as the antithesis, but see Page’s note, where the antithesis is found in Acts 12:6 , ὅτε δέ . If we retain the former interpretation, Acts 12:5 may be regarded as a kind of parenthesis, the ὅτε δέ in Acts 12:6 forming a kind of antithesis to Acts 12:4 . ἐκτενής , see critical notes; if we read ἐκτενῶς = “earnestly,” R.V. (Latin, intente ), adverb is Hellenistic, used (by St.Luke 22:44 , and) once elsewhere in 1 Peter 1:22 ( cf. the adjective in 1 Peter 4:8 ), so of prayer in Clem. Rom., Cor [248] , xxxiv., 7. In LXX cf. the use of the word in Joel 1:14 (but see H. and R.), Jonah 3:8 , Jdt 4:12 (see H. and R.), 3Ma 5:9 . The adjective is also found in Malachi 3:10; Malachi 3:10 ; 3Ma 5:29 . Their praying shows “non fuisse animis fractos,” Calvin. The word passed into the services of the Church, and was often repeated by the deacon: δεηθῶμεν ἐκ . or ἐκτενέστερον .

[248] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Verse 6

Acts 12:6 . τῇ νυκτὶ ἐκείνῃ : “that very night,” i.e. , the night before the trial. κοιμώμενος , cf. 1 Peter 5:7 and Psalms 127:2 : “for so He giveth His beloved sleep”: “and there too it is beautiful that Paul sings hymns, whilst here Peter sleeps,” Chrys., Hom. , xxvi.: cf. Acts 16:25 . to τὸ πᾶν ῥίψας ἐπὶ τὸν Κύριον , Oecumenius ( cf. Blass, in loco ). ἁλύσεσι δυσί , cf. Acts 21:33 ; on the usual Roman custom see Jos., Ant. , xviii., 6, 7, in the account of Herod’s own imprisonment by Tiberius; cf. Pliny, Epist. , x., 65; Seneca, Epist. , i., 5, “eadem catena et custodiam (vinctum) et militem copulabat,” perhaps most natural to suppose that Peter was bound on either hand to each of the soldiers, the two chains being used perhaps for greater security on account of the former escape. φύλακες , i.e. , the other two of the quaternion to make escape impossible.

Verse 7

Acts 12:7 . ἐπέστη : often as here with the notion of coming suddenly, in classical Greek it is often used of dreams, as in Homer; or of the coming of heavenly visitors, very frequent in Luke, and with the same force as here, Friedrich, pp. 7 and 87, and almost always in second aorist, see also Plummer on Luke 2:9 . οἰκήματι : only here in N.T., used in Wis 13:15 (and perhaps in Tob 2:4 ), but not in same sense. Dem. and Thuc. use it for a prison: R.V. “the cell,” lit [249] , the chamber. πατάξας δὲ τὴν πλευρὰν : to rouse him, an indication of the sound and quiet sleep which, the prisoner slept in spite of the fateful morrow (so Weiss); cf. Acts 7:24 , and Acts 7:33 ).

[249] literal, literally.

Verse 8

Acts 12:8 . περίζωσαι , but simple verb in R.V., W.H [250] , Weiss, Wendt; bind thy tunic with a girdle: during the night the long flowing undergarment was loosened, but fastened up by day, so as not to impede the movements. Wetstein, Weiss, Page, and others contrast Hor., Sat. , i., 2, 132. “Colligit sarcinulas nec festinat” (Wetstein), simple verb only twice elsewhere in N.T., and there also of St. Peter, cf. John 21:18 . σανδάλιά : Mark 6:9 , elsewhere ὑποδήματα . St. Peter still observed his Master’s rule to be shod with sandals (Mark, u. s. ), i.e. , the shoes of the poor as distinguished from those of the more wealthy: dim. of σάνδαλον , a wooden sole . In LXX cf. Joshua 9:5 , Isaiah 20:2 ; in Jdt 10:4 ; Jdt 16:9 , of the sandals of the richer class. περιβαλοῦ , only here in Acts; Luke 12:27 ; Luke 23:2 , often elsewhere in N.T., and in LXX. τὸ ἱμάτιον : the outer garment worn over the χιτών , and laid aside at night with the sandals. Lumby compares Didache 1 , i., 4. Mark the distinction between the aorist and present tense, περίζωσαι … ὑπόδ .… περιβ ., but ἀκολούθει ( cf. John 2:16 ). “Præsens propter finem non indicatum” Blass; Simcox, Language of N. T. , p. 114.

[250] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

Verse 9

Acts 12:9 . ἐδόκει δὲ ὅραμα βλέπειν : even those who regard the narrative as unhistorical can scarcely say that the writer cannot understand how to distinguish between an actual fact and a vision; moreover, this same writer describes visions such as that of Peter, Acts 10:10 , and of Paul, Acts 22:17 , as ecstacies; once in Acts 26:19 Paul speaks of the appearance of Christ vouchsafed to him before Damascus as a vision, ὀπτασία , but this word is not confined to appearances which the narrators regard as visions, cf. Luke 1:22 ; Luke 24:23 , cf. Beyschlag, Studien und Kritiken , p. 203, 1864; Witness of the Epistles (Longmans, 1892).

Verse 10

Acts 12:10 . φυλακὴν : “ward,” perhaps the best translation here with διελθόντες so often used of traversing a place. The first ward might be the place outside the cell where the other soldiers of the quaternion were on guard, and the second ward might refer to some other part of the prison or fortress Antonia (see Blass in loco ) where sentinels were stationed. Weiss apparently takes the expression to refer to the two φύλακες , Acts 12:6 , cf. 1 Chronicles 26:16 . σιδηρᾶν : specially noted since such a gate, when shut, would effectually bar their way; but it opened αὐτομάτη , only here in N.T. and in Mark 4:28 , cf. Leviticus 25:5 ; Leviticus 25:11 , 2 Kings 19:29 , Wis 17:6 , and in classical writers the striking parallel, Hom., Iliad , ver. 749 (Wendt, Blass); Virgil, Æneid , vi., 81 (Wetstein). φέρουσαν εἰς : only here in N.T., but quite usual in classical Greek. If the narrative means that immediately they were out of the prison they were in the street (so Weiss), evidently the prison was in the city, and εἰς τὴν π . would simply mean the open town, in contrast to the confined prison-house (so Weiss and Wendt, 1899). Blass decides for the tower of Antonia on account of . ἠνοίχθη , see critical notes. ἐξελθόντες : for remarkable addition in [251] see critical notes. εὐθέως : used several times in Acts, but εὐθύς only once, see Acts 10:16 . ἀπέστη : when there were no further hindrances to the Apostle’s flight, then the angel departed (Chrys.).

[251] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

Verse 11

Acts 12:11 . γενόμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ , cf. Luke 15:17 , and compare instances of similar phrases in Greek and Latin classical writers in Wetstein and Blass. Κύριος , see critical notes, if without the article Nösgen (so Weiss) takes it of God, Jehovah. ἐξαπέστειλε : a compound only found in Luke and Paul; four times in Luke’s Gospel, six or seven times in Acts, and Galatians 4:4 ; Galatians 4:6 ; very frequent in LXX, and used also in active voice by Polybius. ἐξείλετο ἐκ χ .: close parallels in LXX, cf. Exodus 3:8 , 2 Samuel 22:1 , Isaiah 43:13 , Bar 4:18 ; Bar 4:21 , etc. ἐκ χειρὸς : Hebraism, cf. Luke 1:74 . The expression is also classical, Blass, Gram. , p. 127, for close parallel. προσδοκία : only in Luke here and in Luke 21:26 , cf. Genesis 49:10 , but more allied to its sense here Psalms 119:116 , Wis 17:13 , Sir 40:2 , and in 2 and 3 Macc. (see H. and R.), and Psalms of Solomon , Tit. 11; frequently in classics. Hobart claims as a medical word, especially as the verb προσδοκᾷν is also so frequent in Luke; so too Zahn, Didache 1 N. T. , p. 436; but see Plummer on Luke 21:36 . Both verb and noun are also frequent in classical use.

Verse 12

Acts 12:12 . συνιδών , cf. Acts 14:6 ; so several times in Apocrypha, so in classical writers, and also in Josephus. It may also include a consideration of the future (Bengel and Wetstein), but the aorist refers rather to a single act and not to a permanent state (so Alford). Μαρίας : as no mention is made of Mark’s father, she may well have been a widow, possessed of some wealth like Barnabas; see below. Ἰωάννου τοῦ ἐπικ ., Acts 1:23 ; Acts 4:36 ; Acts 10:5 ; Acts 10:18 ; Acts 10:32 ; Acts 11:13 ; and below, Acts 13:9 . As in the case of Paul, his Roman name is used most frequently, cf. Acts 15:39 , 2 Timothy 4:11 , Philemon 1:24 , although in Acts 13:5 ; Acts 13:13 he is spoken of as John. No reason to doubt the identity of this John Mark with the second Evangelist: the notice of Papias that Mark was the ἑρμηνευτής of Peter, Eusebius, H. E. , iii., 39, is quite in accordance with the notice here of the Apostle’s intimacy with the family of Mark, and with his mention in 1 Peter 5:13 . Blass comments on Μάρκου , “quasi digito monstratur auctor narrationis,” and similarly Proleg., p. 11; Philology of the Gospels , pp. 192, 193. In Colossians 4:10 the A.V. calls him “sister’s son to Barnabas,” ὁ ἀνεψιός , but ἀνεψ . properly means “first cousin”; so R.V. the cousin of Barnabas ( cf. LXX, Numbers 36:11 , Tob 7:2 ), Lightfoot on Colossians 4:10 ; see on Acts 15:39 . προσευχόμενοι , cf. James 5:16 ; “media nocte,” Bengel; they betook them to prayer, “to that alliance which is indeed invincible,” Chrys., Hom. , 26. On ἦσαν with participle as characteristic of St. Luke, see Acts 1:10 . As in the former miraculous deliverance, Acts 5:16 , all attempts to get rid of the supernatural in St Luke’s narrative are unsuccessful. This is frankly admitted by Wendt, although he also maintains that we cannot discern the actual historical conditions owing to the mingling of legend and history. But he does not deny that St. Peter was liberated, and the same fact is admitted by Weizsäcker, see Wendt (1899), p. 219; and Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte , p. 230, and Wendt (1888), pp. 269, 270, for an account of the different attempts to explain the Apostle’s liberation. In contrast to all such attempts the minute circumstantiality and the naturalness of the narrative speak for themselves, and we can hardly doubt (as Wendt is inclined to admit in some details) that John Mark has given us an account derived partly from St. Peter himself, cf. Acts 12:9 ; Acts 12:11 , and partly from his own knowledge, cf. the peculiarly artless and graphic touches in Acts 12:13-14 , which could scarcely have come from any one but an inmate of the house, as also the mention of the name of the servant; cf. Ramsay, St. Paul , p. 385; Blass, Acta Apostolorum , p. 142; Belser, Theol. Quartalschrift , Heft ii. (1895), p. 257; Zahn, Einleitung , ii., 244.

Verse 13

Acts 12:13 . τὴν θ . τοῦ πυλῶνος : the door of the gateway, cf. Acts 10:17 . πυλών as in Matthew 26:71 , of the passage leading from the inner court to the street, so that strictly the door in the gateway opening upon this passage would be meant, cf. εἰσδ ., Acts 12:14 (and προσῆλθε , Acts 12:13 ). κρούσαντος : to knock at a door on the outside, cf. Luke 13:25 , but elsewhere in Luke without τὴν θύραν , Luke 11:9-10 ; Luke 12:36 (Matthew 7:7 , Revelation 3:20 ); so too in classical Greek, Xen., Symp. , i., 11, see Rutherford, New Phrynichus , p. 266; in LXX, Judges 19:22 , Song of Solomon 5:2 , Jdt 14:14 . παιδίσκη , i.e. , the portress, cf. John 18:17 , see Rutherford, u. s. , p. 312; Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek , p. 40. ὑπακοῦσαι , R.V., “to answer,” cf. above, Xen., Symp. , i., 11 (so in Plato, Phædo , 59 e , etc.). Ῥόδη : a rose, cf. Dorcas and other names of the same class. The name occurs in myths and plays, see Blass’s note.

Verse 14

Acts 12:14 . τῆς χαρᾶς : with article, the joy which she felt at the voice of Peter, cf. Luke 24:41 for the same emphatic expression. εἰσδ .: see above on Acts 12:10 , only here in N.T., cf. 2Ma 5:26 .

Verse 15

Acts 12:15 . Μαίνῃ : used as in a colloquial expression, not meaning literal insanity, see Page’s note on Acts 26:24 , so in 2 Kings 9:11 , ἐπίληπτος seems to be used. διϊσχυρίζετο : only here and in Luke 22:59 ( cf. Acts 15:2 [252] ). In Luke, A.V. renders “confidently affirmed” as it should be here, and as it is in R.V.; found in classical Greek, and so also in Jos., Ant. , ii., 6, 4, but not in LXX; cf. also its use in Acta Petri et Pauli Apocryph. , 34, 39 (Lumby). Both ἰσχυρίζεσθαι and its compound here are used in medical language, and both in the same way as in this passage. If we compare the parallel passages, Matthew 26:73 , Mark 14:70 , Luke 22:59 , in Matthew we have εἶπον , in Mark ἔλεγον , but in Luke the strong word in the passage before us; Hobart, p. 77, and see also a similar change in parallel passages on p. 76. Ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ ἐστιν , cf. Matthew 18:10 , Hebrews 1:14 . According to Jewish ideas they would believe that Peter’s guardian angel had assumed his form and voice, and stood before the door, see Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah , ii. 748 755, especially 752; “ Apocrypha ” (“Speaker’s Commentary”) “Angelology,” i., 171 ff.; Weber, Jüdische Theol. , pp. 170, 171 (1897); “Angels,” B.D., 1 2 , Blass, Nösgen, J. Lightfoot, in loco . We may contrast the reserve of the canonical books of the Jews with the details of their later theology, “Engel,” Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums , i., 2 and 3.

[252] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.

Verse 16

Acts 12:16 . ἐπέμενε , cf. John 8:7 , with a participle as here; only found elsewhere in N.T. in Luke and Paul; see on Acts 10:48 . ἀνοίξ ., another natural touch; those assembled went to the door themselves.

Verse 17

Acts 12:17 . κατασείσας … σιγᾶν : only in Acts 13:16 ; Acts 19:33 ; Acts 21:40 , prop. to shake down (as fruit from trees), thus to shake up and down (the hand), to beckon with the hand for silence, used with accusative, and later with dat [253] instrument. χειρί : so in classical Greek and Josephus, cf. Ovid, Met. , i., 206; Æneid , xii., 692, and instances in Wetstein; not in LXX as parallel to this; on the phrase, and also on σιγᾶν , as characteristic of Luke, see further Friedrich, pp. 26, 79. διηγήσατο , Acts 9:27 , only in Luke and Mark (except Hebrews 11:32 ). Ἀπαγγείλατε : “tell,” R.V., characteristic of Luke, eleven times in his Gospel, thirteen or fourteen in Acts. Ἰακώβῳ : “the Lord’s brother,” Galatians 1:19 ; Gal 2:9 , 1 Corinthians 15:7 (from Mark 6:3 it has been inferred that he was the eldest of those so called). This James may have become more prominent still since the murder of James the son of Zebedee. On his position in the Church at Jerusalem see below on Acts 15:13 , and also on Acts 11:30 . For arguments in favour of the identification of this James with James the son of Alphæus, see B.D., 1 2 , p. 1512; Felten, Apostelgeschichte , p. 239; and, on the other hand, Mayor, Introd. to Epistle of St. James ; Zahn, Didache 1 N. T. , i., 72; Lightfoot, Galatians , pp. 252 ff. and 364; Hort, Ecclesia , pp. 76, 77. In this mention of James, Feine points out that a knowledge as to who he was is evidently presupposed, and that therefore we have another indication that the “Jerusalem tradition” is the source of St. Luke’s information here. εἰς ἕτερον τόπον : all conjectures as to the place, whether it was Antioch, Rome, Cæsarea, are rendered more arbitrary by the fact that it is not even said that the place was outside Jerusalem (however probable this may have been); ἐξελθών need not mean that he went out of the city, but out of the house in which he had taken refuge, cf. Acts 12:9 . For all that can be said in support of the view that he went to Rome, see Felten, u. s. , pp. 240 244, Knabenbauer, p. 214. Harnack, Chronol. , i., p. 243, apparently is prepared to regard the visit to Rome in the reign of Claudius, A.D. 42, as not impossible, although unprovable. But see the whole question treated from the opposite side by Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte , pp. 233, 234 (second edition). The notice is so indefinite that we cannot build anything upon it, and we can scarcely go beyond Wendt’s view that if Peter left Jerusalem at all, he may have undertaken some missionary journey, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:5 .

[253] dative case.

Verse 18

Acts 12:18 . τάραχος (generally ταραχή ): only in Acts 19:23 , although several times in LXX. οὐκ ὀλίγος : only found in Acts, where it occurs eight times (litotes), cf. Acts 19:11 , Acts 20:12 , Acts 27:14 , and for similar expressions Luke 15:13 (Acts 1:5 ), Acts 7:6 : see Klostermann, Vindiciæ Lucanæ , p. 52, and Page, in loco . The guards would answer for the escape of the prisoner by suffering a like penalty, cf. Cod. Just. , ix., 4, 4. τί ἄρα ( cf. Luke 1:66 ), Peter has disappeared, what, then , has become of him? (Grimm, sub υ . ἄρα (i.), and Winer-Moulton, liii. 8); it thus marks the perplexity of the soldier as to what had become of Peter. ἐγέν .: Blass, quid Petro (ablat.) factum sit .

Verse 19

Acts 12:19 . μὴ for οὐ , as often with a participle. Simcox, Language of the N. T. , p. 188. ἀνακρίνας , Acts 4:9 ; Acts 24:8 ; Acts 28:18 , Luke 23:14 , of a judicial investigation, cf. also 1 Corinthians 9:3 for this judicial use by St. Paul, see Grimm sub υ . ἀπαχθῆναι “to be put to death,” R.V., only here in this sense in N.T. absolutely; so Latin duci in Pliny, ad Traj. , 96 (Page); Nestle, Philologia Sacra (1896), p. 53, cf. Genesis 39:22 ; Genesis 40:3 ; Genesis 42:16 , LXX, use of the same verb of carrying off to prison. κατελθών : Herod was wont to make his residence for the most part at Jerusalem, Jos., Ant. , xix., 7, 3, and we are not told why he went down to Cæsarea on this occasion. Josephus, xix., 8, 2, tells us that the festival during which the king met his death was appointed in honour of the emperor’s safety, and the conjecture has been made that the thanksgiving was for the return of Claudius from Britain (see Farrar, St. Paul , i. 315), but this must remain uncertain; he may have gone down to Cæsarea “propter Tyros,” Blass, see also B.D., 1 2 , p. 135.

Verse 20

Acts 12:20 . θυμομαχῶν : lit [254] , “to fight desperately” Polyb., ix., 40, 4; xxvii., 8, 4, and it might be used not only of open warfare, but of any violent quarrel; here almost = ὀργίζεσθαι . There could be no question of actual warfare, as Phœnicia was part of the province of Syria, and Herod had no power to wage war against it. Probably the cause of this θυμομαχία lay in commercial interests. The word is not found in LXX, or elsewhere in N.T. ὁμοθυμαδόν , Acts 1:14 . πείσαντες , cf. Matthew 28:14 , possibly with bribes, as Blass and Wendt suggest. τὸν ἐπὶ τοῦ κοιτῶνος , “chamberlain,” perhaps best. κοιτών will imply that he was over the king’s bed-chamber. Exodus 8:3 , cf. 2 Samuel 4:7 , 2 Kings 6:12 , Esther 3:3; Esther 3:3 = Latin cubicularius . κοιτών , in Dio Cassius, lxi., 5, is used of the king’s treasury, but the ordinary usage is as above. In Attic Greek δωμάτιον , not κοιτών . τρέφεσθαι , i.e. , with corn ( cf. 1 Kings 5:9 , Ezra 3:7 , Ezekiel 27:17 ; Jos., Ant. , xiv, 10, 6), and see Blass, note in loco .

[254] literal, literally.

Verse 21

Acts 12:21 . τακτῇ : only here in N.T.; cf. Jos., Ant. , xix., 8, 2 ( cf. xviii., 6, 7), δευτέρᾳ δὲ τῶν θεωριῶν ἡμέρᾳ . It is quite true that Josephus says nothing directly of the Tyrians and Sidonians, but the audience was evidently granted to them on the second day of the public spectacle; cf. for the expression, Polyb., iii., 34, 9. The description of Josephus evidently implies some special occasion, and not the return of the ordinary Quin-quennalia; see on Acts 12:19 and also below. Josephus does not menion Blastus, or those of Tyre and Sidon, but this is no reason against the narrative, as Krenkel maintains. Belser, much more reasonably, contends that Luke’s narrative supplements and completes the statement of Josephus. ἐνδ . ἐσθῆτα βασιλικήν , cf. Jos., Ant. , xix., 8, 2, στολὴν ἐνδυσάμενος ἐξ ἀργυρίου πεποιημένην πᾶσαν .; on ἐσθ . see Acts 1:10 . βήματος : Josephus speaks of the event happening in the theatre, and the βῆμα here = rather “the throne,” R.V. (margin, “judgment-seat”), the royal seat in the theatre from which the king saw the games and made his harangues to the people (so of an orator’s pulpit, Nehemiah 8:4 , 2Ma 13:26 ), see Blass and Grimm-Thayer, sub υ . ἐδημηγόρει : only here in N.T. In 4Ma 5:15 = contionari , frequent in classical Greek. πρὸς αὐτούς , i.e. , to the Tyrian and Sidonian representatives, but the word ἐδημ . might well be used of what was in any case an address, ad populum, cf. Acts 12:22 .

Verse 22

Acts 12:22 . δῆμος : only in Acts 17:5 ; Acts 19:30 ; Acts 19:33 , but in the same signification in classical Greek. ἐπεφώνει : later Greek in this sense ( cf. the flatterers in the description of Josephus, u. s. , ἀνεβόων , that Herod was θεός , and so in the words εὐμενὴς εἴης ). In N.T. only in Luke, cf. Luke 23:21 , Acts 21:34 ; Acts 22:24 ; cf. 2Ma 1:23 , 3Ma 7:13 , 1Es 9:47 . The imperfect quite corresponds to the description of Josephus: ἄλλος ἄλλοθεν φωνῆς ἀνεβ . θ . φωνή ; for instances of similar flattery see Wetstein, and cf. Josephus, u. s.

Verse 23

Acts 12:23 . παραχρῆμα , see above, p. 106. ἐπάταξεν , cf. Exod. 11:23, 2Sa 24:17 , 2 Kings 19:35 , 1 Chronicles 21:15 , Isaiah 37:36 , 1Ma 7:41 . See p. 188. On the confusion in the reading of Eusebius, H.E. , ii., 10, where for the owl whom Josephus describes as appearing to Herod as ἄγγελος κακῶν we have the reading “the angel” of the Acts, the unseen minister of the divine will, see B.D. 1 2 , p. 1345, and Eusebius , Schaff and Wace’s edition, in loco ; see also Bengel’s impressive note on this verse on the difference between human history and divine. ἀνθʼ ὧν = ἀντὶ τούτων ὅτι , cf. Luke 1:20 ; Luke 19:44 , see also Acts 12:3 ; only once outside St. Luke’s writings in N.T., 2 Thessalonians 2:10 ; see Simcox, Language of N. T. , p. 137; Plummer on Luke 1:20 ; Luke 12:3 ; quite classical and several times in LXX. ἔδωκε τὴν δ .: debitum honorem, cf. Isaiah 48:11 , Revelation 19:7 ; article elsewhere omitted ( cf. Luke 17:18 ); a Hebrew phrase. How different the behaviour of St. Peter and of St. Paul, Acts 10:26 , Acts 14:14 . Josephus expressly says that the king did not rebuke the flatterers or reject their flattery. καὶ γενόμ . σκ .: see below. St. Luke does not say that Herod died on the spot, but simply marks the commencement of the disease, παραχρῆμα ; Josephus describes the death as occurring after five days. Wendt (1899 edition) admits that the kind of death described may well have been gradual, although in 1888 edition he held that the ἐξέψυξεν meant that he expired immediately; see also Zöckler and Hackett, as against Weiss. ἐξέψ ., see on Acts 5:5 ; Acts 5:10 . σκωλ .: only here in N.T.; no contradiction with Josephus, but a more precise description of the fatal disease, cf. 2Ma 9:5 ; 2Ma 9:9 , with which detailed and strange account the simple statement of the fact here stands in marked contrast. The word cannot be taken metaphorically, cf. Herod., iv., 205: and Jos., Ant. , xvii., 6, 5, of the death of Herod the Great. Such a death was regarded as a punishment for pride; so in 2 Macc. and Herod., Farrar, St. Paul. i. 318. The term itself was one which we might expect from a medical man, and St. Luke may easily have learnt the exact nature of the disease during his two years residence in Cæsarea (Belser). See Hobart, pp. 42, 43, Knabenbauer in loco . The word was used of a disease of plants, but Luke, no less than his contemporary Dioscorides, may well have been acquainted with botanical terms (Vogel). To think with Baur and Holtzmann of the gnawing worm of the damned is quite opposed to the whole context. If we place the two narratives, the account given by Josephus and that given by St Luke side by side, it is impossible not to see their general agreement, and none has admitted this more unreservedly than Schürer. On reasons for the silence of Josephus as to the death as a punishment of the king’s impiety in contrast with the clear statement of St. Luke; and also on the whole narrative as against the strictures of Spitta, see Belser, Theologische Quartalschrift , p. 252 ff., 2 e Heft, 1895; for a full examination; cf. also Nösgen to the same effect, Apostelgeschichte , p. 242, Zahn, Einleitung , ii., 417. Belser should also be consulted as against Krenkel, Josephus und Lucas , p. 203 ff. It should be noted that Krenkel does not affirm that Luke derived his material from Josephus in Acts 12:1-23 , but only that he was influenced by the Jewish historian, and that with regard to the hapax-legomenon, σκωληκόβρωτος , he can only affirm that Josephus affords us an analogous expression, B. J. , vii., 8, 7.

Verse 24

Acts 12:24 . δὲ , marking the contrast, not only between the death of the persecutor and the growth of the Word, but also between the persecution and the vitality of the Church. ηὔξανε καὶ ἐπληθ . imperfects, marking the continuous growth in spite of all obstacles; cf. Luke 8:11 , Mat 13:32 , 2 Corinthians 9:10 .

Verse 25

Acts 12:25 . ὑπέστρεψαν ἐξ Ἱ ., see critical notes, and Ramsay, St. Paul , pp. 63, 64, and note on Acts 22:17 , below. πληρ . τὴν διακ .; if the visit extended over as long a period as Ramsay believes, viz. , from the time when the failure of harvest in 46 turned scarcity into famine until the beginning of 47 ( u. s. , pp. 51, 63), no doubt the delegates could not have simply delivered a sum of money to the elders, but would have administered the relief (not money), and carried a personal message of cheer to the distressed (Ramsay, p. 49 ff., u. s. ), and so have “fulfilled” their ministry. But the word διακονία does not of necessity involve this personal and continuous ministration, e.g., cf. Romans 15:31 , where St. Paul uses the word of the money collection brought by him to Jerusalem for the poor, a passage in which the Western gloss is δωροφορία , cf. Rom 15:25 , 2 Corinthians 8:4 ; 2Co 9:1 ; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 . Grimm writes that the word is used of those who succour need by either collecting or bestowing benefactions; see further, Expositor , March and July, 1896 (Ramsay), April, 1896 (Sanday), also Hort, Ecclesia , p. 206, and above on Acts 11:29 . Σαῦλος , see critical notes for Western addition. συμπαραλαβόντες , cf. Acts 15:37-38 , of bringing as a companion in N.T., only once elsewhere in same sense, Galatians 2:1 . ( cf. 3MMalachi 1:1 ). This incidental notice of John Mark may well emphasise the fact that he was taken with Paul and Barnabas as a supernumerary, and to mark his secondary character as compared with them. In view of subsequent events, it would be important to make this clear by introducing him in a way which showed that he was not essential to the expedition, Ramsay, St. Paul , pp. 71, 170, 177; cf. Acts 15:37 ; Acts 15:40 .

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Acts 12". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/acts-12.html. 1897-1910.
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