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Bible Commentaries
Acts 12

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.

1. Adam Clarke explains who this king is. " This was Herod Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus, and grandson of Herod the Great; he was nephew to Herod Antipas, who beheaded John they Baptist, and brother to Herodias. He was made king by the Emperor Caligula, and was put in possession of all the territories formerly held by his uncle Philip and by Lysanias; viz. Iturea, Trachonitis, Abilene, with Gaulonitis, Batanaea, and Penias. To these the Emperor Claudius afterwards added Judea and Samaria; which were nearly all the dominions possessed by his grandfather, Herod the Great."

2. He "stretched out his hand" to persecute the Christians in Judea and Jerusalem. This was nothing new for this family. His grandfather killed hundreds of infant boys after the birth of Jesus. His uncle beheaded John the Baptizer. His sister was Herodias, who danced to obtain the head of John.

Verse 2

2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

1. James the brother of John - He was known as James the Greater, the son of Zebedee.

2. Adam Clarke explains: By killing with the sword we are to understand beheading. Among the Jews there were four kinds of deaths:

1. Stoning;

2. burning;

3. killing with the sword, or beheading;

4. and, strangling.

3. NOTE : James was the first of the apostles to be killed for the sake of Christ. He would not be the last.

Verse 3

3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

1. The Jews were happy. The "Christians" were being persecuted. They were being left alone.

2. So - He decided to arrest Peter.

3. This was the time of Passover (Days of Unleavened Bread).

1. Passover was only one night.

2. Days of Passover refers to the feast that lasted a week following Passover.

3. Exo_12:15-17 - They were to eat unleavened bread for 7 days

Verse 4

4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

1. Peter was put in prison and given over to four squads of four men each (total of 16 men) to guard him.

2. At all times - two men would be in the room with Peter, watching him. And the other two men would be guarding the outer doors - in case his friends tried to break in to free him.

3. This was a temporary arrangement until the days of Unleavened Bread were finished and Peter could be turned over to the Jews.

Verse 5

5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

1. Meanwhile - the church was praying.

2. Constant Prayer - The situation with Peter was on the mind of every Christian.

3. The church, in addition to individuals, was in constant prayer for Peter.

Verse 6

6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

1. It was almost time to bring Peter out and let the people decide what to do with him.

2. Peter was sleeping. What else could he do? He was:

1. Bound with two chains

2. Linked to two soldiers with those chains

3. And guards at the door if, somehow, he managed to escape.

3. It is clear - Herod did NOT want Peter to escape.

Verse 7

7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, " Arise quickly! " And his chains fell off his hands.

1. An angel of the Lord (was this Jesus, himself?) was at his side.

2. The dark dungeon was suddenly filled with light.

3. Peter was awakened from his sleep and told to quickly get up.

4. The chains fell off. He was no longer chained to the two soldiers.

5. But - how would he get past the other two soldiers at the door?

Verse 8

8 Then the angel said to him, " Gird yourself and tie on your sandals " ; and so he did. And he said to him, " Put on your garment and follow me. "

1. Peter is told to get dressed, put on his shoes and outer garment.

2. Peter gets dressed and follows the angel.

Verse 9

9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

1. What is happening? Is it a dream? Is it real?

2. Peter did not understand what was happening. He did not realize that this was really happening.

Verse 10

10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

1. They just walked past the first guards (the ones to whom he was chained) and they walked past the next two guards (the ones at the door) and were outside the gate.

2. Peter was free. The angel started walking with Peter down a street and the angel disappeared.

Verse 11

11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, " Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people. "

1. Peter now realizes - this is for real. It is not a dream or vision.

2. Peter finally figures out that an angel came to free him from Herod.

3. Peter is not just free from Herod and the prison. He is also free from the Jewish people who are anticipating the opportunity to sentence him to death.

Verse 12

12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

1. Peter now develops a plan. He will go where he believes some Christians will be gathered together.

2. He goes to the house of Mary. She is the mother of John Mark.

1. We know his a Mark, the author of the second gospel.

2. Col_4:10 says that he is the cousin of Barnabas.

3. Many were there - praying. They were praying for Peter.

4. What was their prayer? Free him? Release him? Don't let them kill him?

Verse 13

13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer.

1. Peter knocks at the gate to the house.

2. Think about a house with an enclosed front porch. There is a door to enter the porch - then another door to enter the house. Peter is at the outer door, knocking.

3. Rhoda came to see who was at the door - at this late hour.

Verse 14

14 When she recognized Peter ' s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.

1. She recognized Peter's voice. This is the middle of the night, so it is quite dark and voice would be the best way to know who is at the door.

2. She is so overjoyed - she does not open the door. She runs in the house yelling that Peter is at the door.

Verse 15

15 But they said to her, " You are beside yourself! " Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, " It is his angel. "

1. Here are many Christians, members of the church, gathered together for prayer. They were there praying about Peter. They were concerned that Peter would die as James had died. It was a real threat and their fear and concern drove them to meet and pray.

2. But - when their prayer was answered - they did not believe that it could be true.

1. They told Rhoda that she was "crazy," "beside herself."

2. She kept telling them that it was true.

3. Then they said they she had seen his angel.

1. The Jews believed that each person had a special guardian angel.

2. They thought Peter had been killed and his angel was here to deliver the bad news to the church.

3. Read Luk_16:22 - where Lazarus died and angels carried him to Abraham's bosom.

Verse 16

16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

1. All Peter could do was keep knocking. While Peter is outside in the cold and is the very answer to their prayers, they are inside having a discussion with Rhoda about her sanity.

2. Finally, they opened the door. There is Peter. Rhoda was right.

3. They were astonished. Have you ever prayed for something, God answered your prayer, and you were shocked that it happened?

4. Was this a lack of faith? I do not think so. I believe their prayer was answered more quickly and in an unexpected way. Sometimes we not only pray for God to help us, but we figure out how God should accomplish His work. I don't believe these Christians lacked faith. I believe that, like Naaman, they had faith that God would answer their prayers. They were taken back by the way, the speed, and the suddenness of the answer to their prayer.

5. God does not always do things the way we would have done them, if we had His power. Remember Naaman? He had it all figured out how God would heal him.

6. Did you hear about the town suffering a long drought, decided to pray for rain. They gathered together for this prayer for rain - but only one young girl brought her umbrella.

7. While most of us believe God will hear and answer our prayers - we are often amazed at the manner or speed with which they are answered.

Verse 17

17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, " Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren. " And he departed and went to another place.

1. Peter now has to calm and quiet them so he can speak.

2. Peter is now trying to figure out the next move. Where do we go from here?

3. First, tell James and the brethren.

1. The can not be James, the brother of John. He was killed in verse 2 of this chapter.

4. There are two possible James intended here. 1) James the Less, also known as James the son of Alphaeus; or 2) James, the brother of Jesus, who later was a leader in the Jerusalem church and wrote the book of James.

5. My Opinion : It was James the Lord's brother. He was by now, becoming a leader in Jerusalem as the apostles were making trips to other churches.

Verse 18

18 Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter.

1. As it became daylight - just at dawn - the news of the "breakout" was the buzz around the palace of the king.

2. The phrase - "no small stir" - also occurs in Act_19:23 . It is an understatement to emphasize the magnitude of the situation.

3. It is assumed that the soldiers were asleep (or in an angel induced coma) until morning. Why would Peter's escape not be noticed sooner? Several hours have gone by before his escape was discovered.

Verse 19

19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.

1. Herod, and his soldiers, begin a search.

2. He also inquired of the guards what happened and decided that they should be executed for failing in their duty.

Verse 20

20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king ' s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king ' s country.

1. Herod was angry - highly displeased. The Greek word means "to bear a hostile mind." Herod was on the verge of war against some territory to the northern edge of Palestine.

2. This fear of war led this area to send ambassadors trying to make peace and avoid the bloodshed of war.

3. Blastus the chamberlain - A chamberlain is the officer in charge of the bed, bedroom, dressing area, of the king.

4. Why would they approach a servant who washes the sheets and makes the bed? John Gill explains - "for these officers had access when others could not, the king's bedchamber next to sacred; and therefore the Tyrians and Sidonians privately applied to him first."

5. This area was isolated and totally dependent on the area of Judea for food and supplies.

Verse 21

21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them.

1. Herod was dressed to impress. He was arrayed in garments that showed his power, wealth, and high position.

2. He was not just wearing this apparel. He was arrayed with silver that sparkled and shined in the sun until it was almost blinding.

3. Herod gave an oration. There is some discussion whether this speech was to the ambassadors or to the people of Jerusalem that were gathered.

Verse 22

22 And the people kept shouting, " The voice of a god and not of a man! "

1. Herod is at his height.

1. He is arrayed in silver, glittering in the sun.

2. He is being sought for peace by ambassadors.

3. The people are shouting that he is a god.

4. He thinks he is somebody!

Verse 23

23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

1. An angel of the Lord stuck him.

2. He did not glorify God. He was "high minded" - proud - arrogant - haughty.

3. He was suddenly struck by worms - and died.

Verse 24

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

1. Sometimes we must wait for the Lord to avenge wrongs.

2. Sometimes we must wait until judgment day.

3. Here - the justice of God was swift.

4. Herod died because:

1. He was haughty and proud.

2. He thought he was some great powerful on.

3. He was not giving God the glory and honor.

4. AND - He was seeking to harm the church and the apostles.

Verse 25

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

1. Verse 25 is a transition statement. With the end of this chapter - we close out the "Peter" part of church history. While he is mentioned, he is no longer the primary focus of church growth.

2. The focus shifts to Barnabas and Saul. They had been in Antioch. They took the assistance to the needy in Jerusalem. Now they have returned to Antioch.

3. They had completed the mission of mercy and benevolence during the famine.

4. Now - They are ready to go on a mission of another type. They are ready to leave Antioch (a strong and growing church) and head into uncharted territory seeking to take the gospel where it has not gone to this point.

5. Barnabas and Saul take with them a young man, John Mark.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 12". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-12.html. 2021.
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