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Bible Commentaries
Acts 12

Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New TestamentMeyer's Commentary

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Acts 12:3 . αἱ ] is wanting in Elz., but rightly adopted, in accordance with considerable attestation, by Griesb. Lachm. Tisch., because it was easily passed over as wholly superfluous.

Acts 12:5 . ἐκτενής ] Lachm. reads ἐκτενῶς , after A? B א ; comp. D, ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ . Several VSS. also express the adverb, which, however, easily suggested itself as definition to γινομ .

ὑπέρ ] Lachm. Tisch. Born. read περί , which Griesb. has also approved, after A B D א , min. But περί is the more usual preposition with προσεύχεσθαι (comp. also Acts 8:15 ) in the N. T.

Acts 12:8 . ζῶσαι ] So Lachm. Tisch. Born. But Elz. Scholz have περιζῶσαι , against A B D א , min. A more precise explanatory definition.

Acts 12:9 . αὐτῷ ] after ἠκολ . is, with Lachm. Tisch. Born., to be deleted, according to decisive evidence. A supplementary addition occasioned by μοι , Acts 12:8 .

Acts 12:13 . αὐτοῦ ] Elz. has τοῦ Πετροῦ , against decisive evidence.

Acts 12:20 . After ἦν δέ , Elz. has ὁ Ἡρώδης , against preponderant authority. The subject unnecessarily written on the margin, which was occasioned by a special section (the death of Herod) beginning at Acts 12:20 .

Acts 12:23 . δόξαν ] Elz. Tisch. have τὴν δόξαν . The article is wanting in D E G H, min. Chrys. Theophyl. Oec., but is to be restored (comp. Revelation 19:7 ), seeing that the expression without the article was most familiar to transcribers; see Luke 17:18 ; John 9:24 ; Romans 4:20 ; Revelation 4:9 ; Revelation 11:13 ; Revelation 14:7 .

Acts 12:25 . After συμπαραλ . Lachm. and Born. have deleted καί , following A B D* א , min. and some VSS. But how readily may the omission of this καί be explained by its complete superfluousness! whereas there is no obvious occasion for its being added.

Verses 1-2

Acts 12:1-2 . Κατʼ ἐκεῖνον δὲ τὸν καιρόν ] but at that juncture (Winer, p. 374 [E. T. 500]), points, as in Acts 19:23 (comp. 2MMalachi 3:5 ; 1Ma 11:14 ), to what is narrated immediately before; consequently: when Barnabas and Saul were sent to Jerusalem (Acts 11:30 ). From Acts 12:25 it is evident that Luke has conceived this statement of time in such a way, that what is related in Acts 12:1-24 is contemporaneous with the despatch of Barnabas and Saul to Judaea and with their stay there, and is accordingly to be placed between their departure from Antioch and their return from Jerusalem (Schrader, Hug, Schott), and not so early as in the time of the one year’s residence at Antioch, Acts 11:25 . (Wieseler, p. 152; Stölting, Beitr. z. Exeg. d. Paul. Br. p. 184 f.; comp. also Anger, de tempor. rat. p. 47 f.)

Ἡρώδης ] Agrippa I., grandson of Herod the Great, son of Aristobulus and Berenice, nephew of Herod Antipas, possessed, along with the royal title (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 6. 10), the whole of Palestine, as his grandfather had possessed it; Claudius having added Judaea and Samaria (Joseph. Antt. xix. 5. 1, xix. 6. 1; Bell. ii. 11. 5) to his dominion already preserved and augmented by Caligula (Joseph. Antt. xviii. 7. 2; Bell. ii. 9. 6). See Wieseler, p. 129 f.; Gerlach in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1869, p. 55 ff. A crafty, frivolous, and extravagant prince, who, although better than his grandfather, is praised far beyond his due by Josephus.

ἐπέβαλεν τὰς χεῖρας is not, with Heinrichs, Kuinoel, and others, to be interpreted: coepit, conatus est = ἐπεχείρησε (Luke 1:1 ; Acts 9:29 ), because for this there is no linguistic precedent at all (even in the LXX. Deuteronomy 12:7 ; Deuteronomy 15:10 , the real and active application of the hand is meant, and not the general notion suscipere ); but according to the constant usage (Acts 4:3 , Acts 5:18 , Acts 21:27 ; Matthew 26:50 ; Mark 14:46 ; Luke 20:19 ; Luke 21:12 ; John 7:30 ; Genesis 22:12 ; comp. Lucian, Tim. 4, also in Arrian., Polybius, etc.), and according to the context ( προσέθετο συλλαβεῖν , Acts 12:3 ), it is to be interpreted of hostile laying hands on . Herod laid hands on , he caught at ( i.e. he caused to be forcibly seized), in order to maltreat some of the members of the church (on οἱ ἀπό , used to designate membership of a corporation, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 164; Schaef. Melet. p. 26 ff.). Elsewhere the personal dative (Ar. Lys. 440; Acts 4:3 ; Mark 14:46 ; Tischendorf, Esther 6:2 ) or ἐπὶ τινα (Genesis 22:12 ; 2 Samuel 18:12 , and always in the N. T., except Acts 4:3 and Mark 14:46 ) is joined with ἐπιβαλλεῖν τὰς χεῖρας , instead of the definition of the object aimed at by the infinitive.

On the apostolic work and fate of the elder James , who now drank out the cup of Matthew 20:23 , nothing certain is otherwise known. Apocryphal accounts may be seen in Abdiae Histor. apost. in Fabric. Cod. Apocr. p. 516 ff., and concerning his death, p. 528 ff. The late tradition of his preaching in Spain, and of his death in Compostella, is given up even on the part of the Catholics. See Sepp, p. 75. [270]

τ . ἀδελφ . ʼΙωάννου ] John was still alive when Luke wrote, and in high respect.

ΜΑΧΑΊΡᾼ ] probably, as formerly in the case of John the Baptist, by beheading (“Cervicem spiculatori porrexit,” Abdias, l.c. p. 531), which even among the Jews was not uncommon and very ignominious; see Lightfoot, p. 91.

The time of the execution was shortly before Easter week (A.D. 44), which follows from Acts 12:3 ; and the place was probably Jerusalem. [271] It remains, however, matter of surprise that Luke relates the martyrdom of an apostle with so few words, and without any specification of the more immediate occasion or more special circumstances attending it ( ἁπλῶς καὶ ὡς ἔτυχεν Herod had killed him, says Chrysostom). A want of more definite information, which he could at all events have easily obtained, is certainly not to be assumed. Further, we must not in fanciful arbitrariness import the thought, that by “the entirely mute (?) suffering of death,” as well as “in this absolute quietness and apparent insignificance,” in which the first death of an apostle is here presented, there is indicated “a reserved glory” (Baumgarten), by which, in fact, moreover, some sort of more precise statement would not be excluded. Nor yet is the summary brevity of itself warranted as a mere introduction , by which Luke desired to pass to the following history derived from a special document concerning Peter (Bleek); the event was too important for that. On the contrary, there must have prevailed some sort of conscious consideration involved in the literary plan of Luke, probably this, that he had it in view to commpose a third historical book (see the Introduction), in which he would give the history of the other apostles besides Peter and Paul, and therefore, for the present, he mentions the death of James only quite briefly, and for the sake of its connection with the following history of Peter. The reason adduced by Lekebusch, p. 219: that Luke wished to remain faithful to his plan of giving a history of the development of the church, does not suffice, for at any rate the first death of an apostle was in itself, and by its impression on believers and unbelievers, too important an element in the history of that development not to merit a more detailed representation in connection with it.

Clem. Al. in Euseb. ii. 9 has a beautiful tradition, how the accuser of James, converted by the testimony and courage of the apostle, was beheaded along with him.

[270] Who, however, comes at least to the rescue of the bones of the apostle for Compostella!

[271] For Agrippa was accustomed to reside in Jerusalem (Joseph. Antt. xix. 7. 3); all the more, therefore, he must have been present, or have come thither from Caesarea, shortly before the feast (ver. 19).

Verses 3-4

Acts 12:3-4 . Herod , himself a Jew (in opposition to Harduin), born in Judaism (Deyling, Obss. II. p. 263; Wolf, Cur. ), although of Gentile leanings, a Roman favourite brought up at the court of Tiberius, cultivated out of policy Jewish popular favour, and sought zealously to defend the Jewish religion for this purpose. Joseph. Antt. xix. 7. 3.

προσέθετο συλλαβ .] a Hebraism: he further seized . Comp. on Luke 19:11 ; Luke 20:12 .

τέσσαρσι τετραδίοις ] four bands of four ( τετράδιον , a number of four, Philo, II. p. 533, just as τετράς in Aristotle and others), quatuor quaternionibus , i.e. four detachments of the watch, each of which consisted of four men , so that one such τετράδιον was in turn on guard for each of the four watches of the night. On this Roman regulation, see Veget. R. M. iii. 8; Censorinus, de die nat. 23; Wetstein in loc .

μετὰ τὸ πάσχα ] not to desecrate the feast, in consideration of Jewish orthodox observance of the law. For he might have evaded the Jewish rule, “non judicant die festo” ( Moed Katon v. 2), at least for the days following the first day of the feast (see Bleek, Beitr. p. 139 ff.), by treating the matter as peculiarly pressing and important. Wieseler ( Synops. p. 364 ff., Chronol. d. ap. Zeitalt. p. 215 ff.) has incorrectly assumed the 15th Nisan as the day appointed for the execution, and the 14th Nisan as the day of the arrest. Against this it may be decisively urged, that by μετὰ τὸ πάσχα must be meant the entire Paschal feast (not the 14th Nisan), because it corresponds to the preceding αἱ ἡμέραι τῶν ἀζύμ . (comp. Luke 22:1 ).

ἀναγαγ . αὐτ . τῷ λαῷ ] that is, to present him to the people on the elevated place where the tribunal stood (John 19:13 ), in order there publicly to pronounce upon him the sentence of death.

Verses 5-6

Acts 12:5-6 . But there was earnest prayer made by the church to God for him . On ἐκτενής , peculiar to the later Greek (1 Peter 4:5 ; Luke 22:44 ), see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 311.

προάγειν ] to bring publicly forward . See on Acts 12:4 .

τῇ νυκτὶ ἐκείνῃ ] on that night ; when, namely, Herod had already resolved on the bringing forward, which was to be accomplished on the day immediately following.

According to the Roman method of strict military custody, Peter was bound by chain to his guard. Comp. Joseph. Antt. xviii. 6. 7; Plin. ep. x. 65; Senec. Ephesians 5:0 , al. This binding, however, not by one chain to one soldier, but by two chains, and so with each hand attached to a soldier, was an aggravation , which may be explained from the fact that the execution was already determined. See, generally, Wieseler, pp. 381, 395. Two soldiers of the τετράδιον on guard were in the prison , fastened to Peter asleep ( κοιμωμ .), and, indeed, sleeping profoundly (see Acts 12:7 ) in the peace of the righteous (Psalms 3:6 ); and two as guards ( φύλακες ) were stationed outside at some distance from each other, forming the πρώτην φυλακὴν καὶ δευτέραν (Acts 12:10 ).

Verses 7-11

Acts 12:7-11 . The narrative of this deliverance falls to be judged of in the same way as the similar event recorded in Acts 5:19-20 . From the mixture of what is legendary with pure history, which, marks Luke’s report of the occurrence, the purely historical state of the miraculous fact in its individual details cannot be surely ascertained, and, in particular, whether the angelic appearance, which suddenly took place ( ἐπέστη , see on Luke 2:9 ), is to be referred to the internal vision of the apostle, a view to which Acts 12:9 may give a certain support. [272] But as the narrative lies before us, every attempt to constitute it a natural occurrence must be excluded. See Storr, Opusc. III. p. 183 ff. This holds good not only of the odd view of Hezel, that a flash of lightning had undone the chains, but also of the opinion of Eichhorn and Heinrichs, “that the jailor himself, or others with his knowledge, had effected the deliverance, without Peter himself being aware of the exact circumstances;” as also, in fine, of the hypothesis of Baur, that the king himself had let the apostle free, because he had become convinced in the interval (? Acts 12:3 ) how little the execution of James had met with popular approval. According to Ewald, [273] Peter was delivered in such a surprising manner, that his first word after his arrival among his friends was, that he thought he was rescued by an angel of God; and our narrative is an amplified presentation of this thought.

Acts 12:7 . φῶς ] whether emanating from the angel (Matthew 28:3 ), or as a separate phenomenon, cannot be determined.

οἴκημα ] generally denoting single apartments of the house (Valck. ad Ammon. iii. 4; Dorvill. ad Charit. p. 587), is, in the special sense: place of custody of prisoners , i.e. prison , a more delicate designation for the δεσμωτήριον , frequent particularly among Attic writers. Dem. 789, 2. 890, 13. 1284, 2; Thuc. iv. 47. 2, 48. 1; Kypke, II. p. 57. Comp. Valck. ad Herod. , vii. 119.

And the chains fell from his hands , round which, namely, they were entwined.

Acts 12:9 . He was so overpowered by the wonderful course of his deliverance and confused in his consciousness, that what had been done by the angel was not apprehended by him as something actual ( ἀληθές ), as a real fact, but that he fancied himself to have seen a vision (comp. Acts 16:9 ).

Acts 12:10 . τὴν φέρουσαν εἰς τὴν πόλιν ] Nothing can be determined from this as to the situation of the prison (Fessel holds that it was situated in the court of Herod’s castle; Walch and Kuinoel, that Peter was imprisoned in a tower of the inner wall of the city, and that the πύλη was the door of this tower). If the prison-house was in the city , which is to be assumed from καὶ ἐξελθόντες κ . τ . λ ., its iron gate still in fact led from the house εἰς τὴν πόλιν .

Examples of αὐτόματος , used not only of persons, but of things, may be seen in Wetstein in loc , and on Mark 4:28 . Comp. Hom. Il. v. 749; Eur. Bacch . 447: αὐτόματα δεσμὰ διελύθη . Apollon. Rhod. iv. 41: αὐτόματοι θυρέων ὑπόειξαν ὀχῆες . Ovid. Met. iii. 699.

ῥύμην μίαν ] not several.

Acts 12:11 . γενόμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ ] when he had become (present) in himself, i.e. had come to himself (Luke 15:17 ; Xen. Anab. i. 5. 17; Soph. Phil. 938), “cum animo ex stupore ob rem inopinatam iterum collecto satis sibi conscius esset.” Kypke, comp. Wetstein and Dorville, ad Charit. p. 81; Herm. ad Vig. p. 749.

καὶ πάσμς τῆς προσδοκ . τοῦ λαοῦ τ . ʼΙονδ .] For he had now ceased to be the person, in whose execution the people were to see their whole expectation hostile to Christianity gratified.

[272] Lange, apostol. Zeitalt. II. p. 150, supposes that the help had befallen the apostle in the condition of “second consciousness, in an extraordinary healthy disengagement of the higher life” [ Geniusleben ], and that the angel was a “reflected image of the glorified Christ:” that the latter Himself, in an angelic form, came within the sphere of Peter’s vision; that Christ Himself thus undertook the responsibility; and that the action of the apostle transcended the condition of responsible consciousness. There is nothing of all this in the passage. And Christ in an angelic form is without analogy in the N. T.; is, indeed, at variance with the N. T. conception of the δόξα of the glorified Lord.

[273] Who (p. 202) regards our narrative as more historical than the similar narratives in chap. 5. and 16.

Verse 12

Acts 12:12 . Συνιδών ) after he had perceived it , namely, what the state of the case as to his deliverance had been, Acts 12:11 . Comp. Acts 14:6 ; Plut. Them . 7 : συνιδὼν τὸν κίνδυνον , Xen. Anab. i. 5. 9; Plat. Dem. p. 381 E, Deuteronomy 17:7 . 1351, Deuteronomy 17:6 ; Polyb. i. 4. 6, iii. 6. 9, vi. 4. 12; 1Ma 4:21 ; 2Ma 2:24 ; Malachi 4:4; Malachi 4:4 ; 2Ma 5:17 ; 2Ma 8:8 ; and see Wetstein. It may also mean, after he had weighed it (Vulg. considerans ), namely, either generally the position of the matter (Beza), or quid agendum esset (Bengel, comp. Erasmus). Comp. Dem. 1122, 16; Arist. Rhet. i. 2; Lucian. Jup. trag. 42. The above view is simpler, and in keeping with Acts 14:6 . Linguistically inappropriate are the renderings: sibi conscius (Kuinoel); and: “after that he had set himself right in some measure as to the place where he found himself” (Olshausen; comp. Chrysostom, λογισάμενος ὅπου ἐστιν , also Grotius and others).

There is nothing opposed to the common hypothesis, that this John Mark is identical with the second evangelist. Comp. Acts 12:25 ; Acts 13:5 .

Verses 13-14

Acts 12:13-14 . Τὴν θύραν τοῦ πυλῶνος ] the wicket of the gate (Acts 10:17 ). On κρούειν or κόπτειν , used of the knocking of those desiring admission, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 177 f.; comp. Becker, Charikl. I. p. 130.

παιδίσκη ] who, amidst the impending dangers (comp. John 20:19 ), had to attend to the duties of a watchful doorkeeper; she was herself a Christian.

ὑπακοῦσαι ] For examples of this expression used of doorkeepers, who, upon the call of those outside, listen (auscultant) who is there , see Kypke, II. p. 60, and Valckenaer, p. 489 f.

τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ Π .] the voice of Peter (calling before the door).

ἀπὸ τὴς χαρᾶς ] prompted by the joy (which she now experienced; comp. Luke 24:41 ), she did not open the door at once, but ran immediately in to tell the news to those assembled.

ἀπήγγ . ἑστάναι κ . τ . λ .] εἰσαγγέλλειν is the more classical term for the announcement of a doorkeeper. See Sturz, Lex. Xen. II. p. 74.

Verses 15-16

Acts 12:15-16 . Μαίνῃ ] Thou art mad! An expression of extreme surprise at one who utters what is absurd or otherwise incredible. Comp. Acts 26:24 ; Hom. Od. xviii. 406. The hearer also of something incredible himself exclaims: μαίνομαι ! Jacobs, ad Anthol. IX. p. 440.

διϊσχυρίζ .] as in Luke 22:59 , and often in Greek writers: she maintained firmly and strongly .

ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ] Even according to the Jewish conception (see Lightfoot ad loc. ), the explanation suggested itself, that Peter’s guardian angel had taken the form and voice of his protégé and was before the door. But the idea, originating after the exile, of individual guardian angels (see on Matthew 18:10 ), is adopted by Jesus Himself (Matthew 18:10 ), and is essentially connected with the idea of the Messianic kingdom (Hebrews 1:14 ). Olshausen rationalizes this conception in an unbiblical manner, to this effect: “that in it is meant to be expressed the thought, that there lives in the world of spirit the archetype of every individual to be realized in the course of his development, and that the higher consciousness which dwells in man here below stands in living connection with the kindred phenomena of the spirit-world.” Cameron, Hammond, and others explain: “a messenger sent by him from the prison.” It is decisive against this interpretation, that those assembled could just as little light on the idea of the imprisoned Peter’s having sent a messenger, as the maid could have confounded the voice of the messenger with the well-known voice of Peter, for it must be presumed from διϊσχυρίζετο οὕτως ἔχειν that she told the more special reasons for her certainty that Peter was there.

Acts 12:16 . ἀνοίξαντες ] consequently the persons assembled themselves, who had now come out of their room.

Verse 17

Acts 12:17 . Κατασείειν τῇ χειρί ] to make a shaking motion with the hand generally, and in particular, as here (comp. Acts 13:16 , Acts 19:33 , Acts 21:40 ), to indicate that there is a wish to bring forward something, for which one bespeaks the silence and attention of those present. See Polyb. i. 78. 3; Heliod. x. 7; Krebs and Wetstein in loc. The infinitive σιγᾶν , as also often with νεύειν and the like, by which a desire is made known. Comp. Joseph. Antt. xvii. 10. 2.

The three clauses of the whole verse describe vividly the haste with which Peter hurried the proceedings, in order to betake himself as soon as possible into safe concealment . Baumgarten invents as a reason: because he saw that the bond between Jerusalem and the apostles must be dissolved . As if it would have required for that purpose such haste, even in the same night! His regard to personal safety does not cast on him the appearance of cowardly anxiety; but by the opposite course he would have tempted God . How often did Paul and Jesus Himself withdraw from their enemies into concealment!

καὶ τοῖς ἀδελφ .] who were not along with them in the assembly.

εἰς ἕτερον τόπον ] is wholly indefinite. Even whether a place in or out of Palestine (Ewald, p. 607) is meant, must remain undetermined. Luke, probably, did not himself know the immediate place of abode, which Peter chose after his departure. To fix without reason on Caesarea , or, on account of Galatians 2:11 , with Heinrichs, Kuinoel, and others, on Antioch (but see on Acts 12:25 ), or indeed, after Eusebius, Jerome, and many Catholics, [274] on Rome (so also Thiersch, K. im apost. Zeit. p. 96 ff., comp. Ewald), is all the more arbitrary, as from the words it is not even distinctly apparent that the ἕτερος τόπος is to be placed outside of Jerusalem (although this is probable in itself); for the common explanation of ἐξελθών , relicta urbe , is entirely at variance with the context (Acts 12:16 ), which requires the meaning, relicta domo (into which he was admitted).

The James mentioned in this passage is not the son of Alphaeus, a traditional opinion, which has for its dogmatic presupposition the perpetual virginity of Mary (see Hengstenberg on John 2:12 ; Th. Schott, d. zweite Br. Petr. und d. Br. Judä , p. 193 ff.), but the real brother of the Lord , [275] ἀδελφὸς κατὰ σάρκα τοῦ Χριστοῦ , Constit. ap . 8.35. [276] It is the same also at Acts 15:13 , Acts 21:18 . See on 1 Corinthians 9:4-5 ; Galatians 1:19 . Peter specially names him , because he was head of the church in Jerusalem. The fact that Peter does not name the apostles also, suggests the inference that none of the twelve was present in Jerusalem. The Clementines and Hegesippus make James the chief bishop of the whole church. See Ritschl, altkathol. Kirche , p. 415 ff. This amplification of the tradition as to his high position goes (in opposition to Thiersch) beyond the statements of the N. T. (Galatians 2:12 ; 1 Corinthians 15:7 ; Acts 15:0 ; Acts 21:18 ; Epistle of James).

[274] Even in the present day the reference to Rome is, on the part of the Catholics (see Gams, d. Jahr. d. Märtyrertodes der Ap. Petr. u. Paul. , Regensb. 1867), very welcome, because a terminus a quo is thereby thought to be gained for the duration, lasting about twenty-five years, of the episcopal functions of Peter at Rome. Gams, indeed, places this Roman journey of Peter as early as 41, and his martyrdom in the year 65.

[275] Lange ( apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 193 ff., and in Herzog’s Encykl. VI. p. 407 ff.) has declared himself very decidedly on the opposite side of the question, and that primarily on the basis of the passages from Hegesippus in Eusebius ii. 23 and iv. 22; but erroneously. Credner, Einl. II. p. 574 f., has already strikingly exhibited the correct explanation of these passages, according to which Jesus and James appear certainly as brothers in the proper sense. Comp. Huther on James , Introd. p. 5 ff.; Bleek, Einl. p. 543 ff. James the Just is identical with this brother of the Lord ; see, especially, Euseb. H. E. ii. 1, where the opinion of Clem. Al., that James the Just was the son of Alphaeus , is rejected by Eusebius (against Wieseler on Gal. p. 81 f.), although it was afterwards adopted by Jerome. See, generally, also Ewald, p. 221 ff. Böttger, d. Zeug. des Joseph. von Joh. d. T. , etc., 1863. Plitt in the Zeitschr. f. Luth. Theol. 1864, I. p. 28 ff.; Laurent, neut. Stud. p. 184 ff. According to Mark 6:3 , James was probably the eldest of the four brethren of Jesus.

[276] The Constit. ap. throughout distinguish very definitely James of Alphaeus, as one of the twelve, from the brother of the Lord, whom they characterize as ὁ ἐπίσκοπος . See ii. 55. 2, vi. 12. 1, 5, 6, vi. 14. 1, viii. 4. 1, viii. 23 f., viii. 10. 2, viii. 35, viii. 46. 7, v. 8, vii. 46. 1.

Verses 18-19

Acts 12:18-19 . What had become of the (vanished) Peter (Luke 1:66 ; John 21:21 ), whether accordingly (under these circumstances, Klotz, ad Devar. p. 176, comp. Baeumlein, Partik. p. 34) the wonderful escape was capable of no explanation this inquiry was the object of consternation ( τάραχος ) among the soldiers who belonged to the four τετραδία , Acts 12:4 , because they feared the vengeance of the king in respect to those who had served on that night-watch. And Herod actually caused those who had been the φύλακες of the prison at the time of the escape, after previous inquiry ( ἀνακρίνας , Acts 4:9 ; Luke 23:14 ), to be led to execution ( ἀπαχθῆναι , the formal word for this, see Wakefield, Silv. crit. II. p. 131; Kypke, II. p. 61; and from Philo: Loesner, p. 204). After the completion of the punishment, he went down from Judaea to his residency, where he took up his abode.

εἰς τὴν Καισάρ .] depends, as well as ἀπὸ τ . ʼΙουδ ., on κατελθών . The definition of the place of the διέτριβεν (Vulg.: ibi commoratus est) was obvious of itself.

Verse 20

Acts 12:20 . [277] Θυμομαχεῖν ] signifies to fight violently , which may be meant as well of actual war as of other kinds of enmity. See Schweighäuser, Lex. Polyb. p. 303; Kypke, II. p. 63 f.; Valcken. p. 493. Now, as an actual war of Herod against the Roman confederate cities of Tyre and Sidon is very improbable in itself, and is historically quite unknown; as, further, the Tyrians and Sidonians, for the sake of their special advantage ( διὰ τὸ τρέφεσθαι … βασιλικῆς ), might ask for peace, without a war having already broken out, namely, for the preservation of the peace, a breach of which was to be apprehended from the exasperation of the king; the explanation is to be preferred (in opposition to Raphel and Wolf): he was at vehement enmity with the Tyrians, was vehemently indignant against them (Polyb. xxvii. 8. 4). The reason of this θυμομαχία is unknown, but it probably had reference to commercial interests.

ὁμοθυμαδόν ] here also, with one accord , both in one and the same frame of mind and intention. See on Acts 1:14 .

πρὸς αὐτόν ] not precisely: with him , but before him , turned towards him (see on John 1:1 ).

Βλάστον ] according to the original Greek name, perhaps a Greek or (see the inscription in Wetstein) a Roman in the service of Herod, his praefectus cubiculo (Sueton. Domit. 16), chamberlain, chief valet de chambre to the royal person [278] ( ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ κοιτῶος τοῦ βασιλέως , comp. on ἐπί , Acts 8:27 , and on κοιτών , Wetstein and Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 252 f.). How they gained and disposed him in their favour ( πείσαντες , see Nägelsb. on Iliad , p. 50 f.), possibly by bribery, is not mentioned.

διὰ τὸ τρέφεσθαι … βασιλικῆς ] sc. χώρας . This refers partly to the important commercial gain which Tyre and Sidon derived from Palestine, where the people from of old purchased in large quantities timber, spices, and articles of luxury from the Phoenicians, to whom, in this respect, the harbour of Caesarea, improved by Herod, was very useful (Joseph. Antt. xv. 9. 6); and partly to the fact, that Phoenicia annually derived a portion of its grain from Palestine, 1Ki 5:9 ; 1 Kings 5:11 ; Ezekiel 27:17 ; Joseph. Antt. xiv. 10. 6.

[277] Chrysostom correctly remarks the internal relation of what follows: εὐθέως ἡ δίκη κατέλαβεν αὐτόν , εἰ καὶ μὴ διὰ Πέτρον , ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ μεγαληγορίαν . Comp. Euseb. ii. 10. There is much subjectively supplied by Baumgarten, who considers it as the aim of this section to exhibit the character of the kingdom of the world in this bloody persecution directed against the apostles.

[278] Scarcely overseer of the royal treasure (Gerlach), as κοιτώς is used in Dio Cass. lxi. 5. For the meaning chamber, i.e. not treasure chamber , but sleeping room , is the usual one, and lies at the root of the designations of service , κοιτωνιάρχης ( chamberlain ) and κοιτωνίτης ( valet de chambre ). Comp. Lobeck, l.c . In the LXX. and Apocr. also κοιτ . is cubiculum . See Schleusn. Thes.

Verse 21

Acts 12:21 . Τακτῇ δὲ ἡμέρᾳ ] According to Joseph. Antt. xix. 8. 2, comp. xviii. 6. 7, δευτέρᾳ δὲ τῶν θεωριῶν ἡμέρᾳ . According to Josephus, namely, he was celebrating just at that time games in honour of Claudius, at which, declared by flatterers to be a god, he became suddenly very ill, etc.

ἐνδυσάμ . ἐσθῆτα βασιλ .] στολὴν ἐνδυσάμενος ἐξ ἀργυρίου πεποιημένην πᾶσαν , Joseph. l.c.

The βῆμα , the platform from which Agrippa spoke, would have to be conceived, in harmony with Josephus, as the throne-like box in the theatre (which, according to the custom of the Romans, was used for popular assemblies and public speeches, comp. Acts 19:29 ), which was destined for the king, if Luke which, however, cannot be ascertained has apprehended the whole occurrence as in connection with the festival recorded by Josephus. This festival itself is not defined more exactly by Josephus than as held ὑπὲρ τῆς σωτηρίας of the emperor. Hence different hypotheses concerning it, such as that of Anger: that it celebrated the return of Claudius from Britain; and that of Wieseler: that it was the Quinquennalia, which, however, was not celebrated until August; a date which, according to the context (Acts 12:25 ), is too late.

ἐδημηγόρει πρὸς αὐτούς ] he made a speech in public assembly of the people (Acts 12:22 ) to them , namely, to the Tyrians and Sidonians, to whom (to whose representatives) he thus publicly before the people declared in a speech directed to them his decision on their request, his sentiments, etc. Only this simple view of πρὸς αὐτούς : to them (comp. Plat. Legg. vii. p. 817 C: δημηγ . πρὸς παῖδάς τε καὶ γυναῖκας καὶ τὸν πάντα ὄχλον ), not: in reference to them (my first edition, and Baumgarten), as well as the reference to the Tyrians and Sidonians , not to the people (so Gerlach, p. 60, after Ranisch, de Lucae et Josephi in morte Her. Agr. consensu , Lips. 1745; and Fritzsche, Conject . p. 13 f.), is suggested by the context, and is to be retained. That, moreover, the speech was planned to obtain popularity, is very probable in itself from the character of Herod, as well as from Acts 12:22 ; and this may have occasioned the choice of the word δημηγορεῖν , which often denotes such a rhetorical exhibition; see Stallb. ad Gorg. p. 482 C, ad Rep. p. 350 E.

Verse 22

Acts 12:22 . Εὐθὺς δὲ οἱ κόλακες τὰς οὐδὲ ἐκείνῳ πρὸς ἀγαθοῦ ἄλλος ἄλλοθεν φωνὰς ἀνεβόων , θεὸν προσαγορεύοντες , εὐμενής τε εἴης , ἐπιλέγοντες , εἰ καὶ μέχρι νῦν ὡς ἄνθρωπον ἐφοβήθημεν , ἀλλὰ τοὐντεῦθεν κρείττονά σε θνητῆς φύσεως ὁμολογοῦμεν ! Joseph. l.c. , who, however, represents this shout of flattery (which certainly proceeded from the mouth, not of Jews, but of Gentiles) as occasioned by the silver garment of the king shining in the morning sun, and not by a speech on his part. “Vulgus tamen vacuum curis et sine falsi verique discrimine solitas adulationes edoctum, clamore et vocibus adstrepebat,” Tacit. Hist. ii. 90. ὁ δῆμος , the common people , is found in the N. T. only in the Book of Acts; see Acts 17:5 , Acts 19:30 ; Acts 19:33 . Comp. on Acts 19:30 .

Verse 23

Acts 12:23 . Ἐπάταξεν αὐτὸν ἄγγελος κυρίον ] an angel of the Lord smote him . The paroxysm of disease suddenly setting in as a punishment of God, is in accordance with O. T. precedents (comp. 2 Samuel 24:17 ; 2 Kings 19:35 ; Isaiah 37:36 ), apprehended as the effect of a stroke (invisibly) befalling him from an angel. The fate of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:26-30 ) does not accord with this view (in opposition to Baumgarten). Josephus, l.c. , relates that soon after that display of flattery, the king saw an owl sitting on a rope above his head, and he regarded this (according to a prophecy formerly received in Rome from a German) as a herald of death, whereupon severe abdominal pains immediately followed, under which he expired after five days (at the age of fifty-four years). That Luke has not adopted this fable, instead of which Eichhorn puts merely a sudden shivering , is a consequence of his Christian view, which gives instead from its own sphere and tradition the ἐπάταξεν … Θεῷ as an exhibition of the divine Nemesis; therefore Eusebius ( H. E. ii. 10) ought not to have harmonized the accounts, and made out of the owl an angel of death. Bengel: “Adeo differt historia divina et humana.” See, besides, Heinichen, Exc. II. ad Euseb. III. p. 356 ff.

ἀνθ ̓ ὧν ] as a requital for the fact, that . See on Luke 1:20 .

οὐκ ἔδωκε τὴν δόξαν τῷ Θεῷ ] he refused God the honour due to Him, inasmuch as he received that tribute of honour for himself , instead of declining it and directing the flatterers to the honour which belongs to God (“nulli creaturae communicabilem,” Erasmus); Isaiah 48:11 . Comp. Joseph. l.c. : οὐκ ἐπέπληξε τούτοις (the flatterers) ὁ βασιλεὺς , οὐδὲ τὴν κολακείαν ἀσεβοῦσαν ἀπετρέψατο . How entirely different the conduct of Peter, Acts 10:26 , and of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14:14 f.!

γενόμενος σκωληκόβρ .] similarly with Antiochus Epiphanes, 2Ma 9:5 ; 2Ma 9:9 . [279] This is not to be regarded as at variance with Josephus, who speaks generally only of pains in the bowels; but as a more precise statement, which is, indeed, referred by Baur to a Christian legend originating from the fate of Epiphanes, which has taken the abdominal pains that befell Herod as if they were already the gnawing worm which torments the condemned (Mark 9:44 f.; comp. Isaiah 46:4 )! Kühn ( ad Ael. V. H. iv. 28), Elsner, Morus, and others, entirely against the words, have converted the disease of worms destroying the intestines (Bartholinus, de morbis Bibl. c. 23; Mead. de morb. Bibl. c. 15; and see the analogous cases in Wetstein) into the disease of lice , φθειρίασις , as if ΦΘΕΙΡΌΒΡΩΤΟς (Hesych. Mil. 40) were used!

The word ΣΚΩΛΗΚΌΒΡ . is found in Theoph. c. pl. iii. 12. 8 (?), v. 9. 1.

ἐξέψυξεν ] namely, after five days. Joseph. l.c. But did not Luke consider the γενόμ . σκωληκ . ἐξέψυχεν as having taken place on the spot? The whole brief, terse statement, the reference to a stroke of an angel, and the use of ἐξέψυξεν (comp. Acts 5:5 ; Acts 5:10 ), render this highly probable.

[279] Observe how much our simple narrative became eaten with worms is distinguished from the overladen and extravagantly embellished description in 2Ma 9:9 (see Grimm in loc. ). But there is no reason, with Gerlach, to explain σκωληκόβρ . figuratively (like the German wurmstichig ): worn and shattered by pain.

Verse 24

Acts 12:24 . A contrast full of significance in its simplicity to the tragical end of the persecutor: the divine doctrine grew (in diffusion) and gained in number (of those professing it). Comp. Acts 6:7 , Acts 19:20 .

Verse 25

Acts 12:25 . Ὑπέστρεψαν ] they returned , namely, to Antioch, Acts 11:27-30 , Acts 13:1 . The statement in Acts 12:25 takes up again the thread of the narrative, which had been dropped for a time by the episode (Acts 12:1-24 ), and leads over to the continuation of the historical course of events in chap, 13. The taking of ὑπέστρεψαν in the sense of the pluperfect (“jam ante Herodis obitum,” etc., Heinrichs, Kuinoel), rests on the erroneous assumption that the collection-journey of this passage coincides with Galatians 2:0 . The course of events, according to the Book of Acts, is as follows:

While ( κατ ̓ ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρόν , Acts 12:1 ) Barnabas and Saul are sent with the collection to Judaea (Acts 11:30 ), there occurs in Jerusalem the execution of James and the imprisonment and deliverance of Peter (Acts 12:2-18 ), and then (Acts 12:19 ), at Caesarea , the death of Herod (Acts 12:20-23 ). But Barnabas and Saul return from Jerusalem to Antioch (Acts 12:25 ). From this it follows that, according to the Acts, they visited first the other churches of Judaea and came to Jerusalem last ; so that the episode, Acts 12:1-23 , is to be assigned to that time which Barnabas and Saul on their journey in Judaea spent with the different churches, before they came to Jerusalem , from which, as from the termination of their journey, they returned to Antioch. Perhaps what Barnabas had heard on his journey among the country-churches of Judaea as to the persecution of the Christians by Agrippa, and as to what befell James and Peter, induced him (in regard to Paul, see on Acts 11:30 ) not to resort to the capital, until he had heard of the departure and perhaps also of the death of the king.

συμπαραλαβ . κ . τ . λ .] from Jerusalem; see Acts 12:12 .

Bibliographical Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Acts 12". Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hmc/acts-12.html. 1832.
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