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Bible Commentaries
Acts 12

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Act 12:1. This was Herod Agrippa, I, the grandson of Herod the Great. After a career of "ups and downs" with various powers, he was finally placed in a ruling position over Palestine by authority of the Roman Emperor. His idea in vexing persons of the church was to win the favor of the Pharisaic Jews. (See verse 3.)

Verse 2

2 Act 12:2. This James was one of the sons of Zebedee (Mat 4:21).

Verse 3

3 Act 12:3. Peter was not slain but was put into prison. Days of unleavened bread denotes it was the time of the feast of the Passover (Lev 23:4-8).

Verse 4

4 Act 12:4. A quaternion consisted of four soldiers, and four of them would make 16 soldiers charged with the guarding of the prison, changing their shifts every three hours. Two of the ones on duty were with the prisoner and two watched the gate. Easter is from PASCHA. Thayer defines it, "The paschal festival, the feast of Passover." It has no connection with Easter as that term is used today.

Verse 5

5 Act 12:5. Without ceasing is from the Greek word EKTENES, and Thayer defines it, "Intent, earnest, assiduous [persistent]." The prayers were continuous and earnest.

Verse 6

6 Act 12:6. Sleeping between two soldiers. (See the notes at verse 4.)

Verse 7

7 Act 12:7. An angel of the Lord would be given supernatural power, by which he could perform this service to Peter unknown to the soldiers. (See Heb 1:13-14.)

Verse 8

8 Act 12:8. Peter had taken off his sandals and outer garment when he was preparing for sleep. The angel meant for him to resume them, tightening his belt about him.

Verse 9

9 Act 12:9. Wist [knew] not that it was true. The last word is from ALETHES, which Thayer defines with the same word used in the text, and adds by way of explanation, "an actual occurrence." Peter thought he was in a trance and was seeing a vision only.

Verse 10

0 Act 12:10. First and second ward were the two soldiers stationed some distance apart to guard the prison. (See notes at verse 4.) The same supernatural power that loosened the chains unknown to the soldiers in the prison (verse 7), enabled them to pass these other soldiers unseen. The iron gate was what closed the outer wall of the entire prison structure. Opened of his own accord. The Lord was still working in the case and miraculously removing all the barriers to Peter's freedom. Passed through one street. The angel remained with Peter until they were safely out of reach of the prison officers and guardsmen, then disappeared.

Verse 11

1 Act 12:11. Come to himself. After the angel disappeared, Peter observed that he was on one of the streets of the city, out of the vicinity of the prison. He knew that to be there it was necessary to escape the two soldiers lying by him, and the two near the gate, likewise get through the iron gate in the prison outer wall. This is what caused him to come to himself and to conclude that his experience was not "only a dream."

Verse 12

2 Act 12:12. Considered the thing. The last two words are not in the original. The phrase means that after Peter had come to himself he considered the whole situation and decided to call at the home of one of the disciples. It was at the home of Mark's mother, where a prayer service was being conducted on his behalf.

Verse 13

3 Act 12:13. Door of the gate. The last word refers to the porch in front of a house, and the first is the smaller opening through which to pass into the porch. Came to hearken means to inquire or to ask, "who is it?"

Verse 14

4 Act 12:14. When Peter answered her question she recognized his voice. She was so joyously surprised she seemed to forget to open the door. She left Peter standing and knocking and went to tell the group that Peter was at the gate.

Verse 15

5 Act 12:15. We are not told just what the church said in its prayer for Peter. If it was a scriptural prayer, the disciples placed their request on condition "if the Lord will." The favorable answer to the prayer was so gladdening that they thought it was "too good to be true." The girl was so positive about her report they thought some explanation should be resorted to that would harmonize all the phases of the situation. Their solution was that it was his angel. After his definition of the Greek word for angel, Thayer explains that "guardian angels of individuals are mentioned in Mat 18:10; Act 12:15." Funk and Wagnalls Standard Bible Dictionary says the following: "There was a popular idea that each person had assigned to him a special guardian angel, and it is to this that Jesus refers in Mat 18:10. Peter's escape from prison (Act 12:15) is an illustration of the thought that when such guardian angel appeared on earth he took the form of the person guarded." Luke does not say anything for or against such a theory, since in the present instance the experssion was that of the astonished group, and their statement had no authority in the nature of inspiration.

Verse 16

6 Act 12:16. The continual knocking made it necessary to open the door. Their amazement caused them to make some kind of clamor. (See next verse.)

Verse 17

7 Act 12:17. Peter indicated with his hand that he wished them to be quiet and listen. He then rehearsed the manner in which he was released from prison. He asked them to tell the good news, first to James and then to the other brethren. This was James the Lord's brother, and the writer of the epistle that bears his name. Special mention is made of him because of his prominence in the work at Jerusalem. (See chapter 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cortinthians 16:7; Gal 1:19 Gal 2:9 Gal 2:12.) After giving the group his request, Peter went into another place. That meant some spot in Jerusalem, for in chapter 15:7 we find him in the city and speaking to the assembly on the issue before it.

Verse 18

8 Act 12:18. By the aid of the angel, Peter had escaped prison unseen by the soldiers, hence the confusion over his absence, but we know that the soldiers were innocent.

Verse 19

9 Act 12:19. Examined is from ANAKRINO, and Thayer defines it, "To hold an investigation; to interrogate, examine, the accused or witnesses." The keepers would not be able to give Herod any information as to the escape of their prisoner, hence they were condemned to a death they did not deserve. Caesarea "was the official residence of the Herodian kings," according to Smith's Bible Dictionary, hence we have the statement that Herod went there and abode.

Verse 20

0 Act 12:20. Highly displeased is from THUMOMACHEO, which is defined in Thayer's lexicon, "to carry on war with great animosity; to be very angry, be exasperated." Adjoining countries frequently have trouble with each other; we do not know what was the cause of Herod's displeasure. But the country of Tyre and Sidon became anxious for peace because it depended on Palestine for necessary products. (See 1Ki 5:11; Ezekiel 27 Ezekiel 17.) A chamberlain is an intimate servant to a king, and the people of Tyre and Sidon induced this one to use his influence with his master. As a result, Herod agreed to drop hostilities and fixed a date when he would grant a hearing to the interested partisans.

Verse 21

1 Act 12:21. When the set day arrived, Herod put on his royal garments and made a speech (of conciliation) to the people, which aroused them to making foolish compliments.

Verse 22

2 Act 12:22. In their wild joy the people said that Herod was a god.

Verse 23

3 Act 12:23. Josephus, Antiquities, Book 19, Chapter 8, Section 2, says that Herod did not rebuke the people for their flattery. Our passage merely states that Herod was eaten of worms and died. But the passage in Josephus cited above says, "A severe pain arose in his abdomen, and began in a most violent manner. . . . When he had said this, his pain was become violent. . . . And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his abdomen for five days, he departed this life."

Verse 24

4 Act 12:24. The significance of this verse is that in spite of all the disturbances going on between rival countries, the word of God gained many adherents.

Verse 25

5 Act 12:25. Fulfilled their ministry. Act 11:29-30 shows this mission was to take the contribution collected at Antioch for the famine-stricken disciples in Judea. When they came back to Antioch they brought with them Mark, who is the writer of the book that bears his name.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Acts 12". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/acts-12.html. 1952.
 
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