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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Acts 12

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. XII.

King Herod persecuteth the Christians, killeth James, and imprisoneth Peter, whom an angel delivereth upon the prayers of the church. Herod in his pride, taking to himself the honour due to God, is stricken by an angel, and dieth miserably. After his death the word of God prospereth.

Anno Domini 44.


Verse 1

Acts 12:1. Herod the King The Syriac version reads, Herod the king, surnamed Agrippa: Josephus styles him Agrippa; which probably was his Roman, as Herod was his Syrian name. He was the grandson of Herod the Great, by his son Aristobulus; nephew to Herod Antipas, who beheaded John the Baptist; brother to Herodias, whom that incestuous tetrarch married; and father to that Agrippa, before whom St. Paul made his defence, ch. Acts 25:13. Caius Caligula, with whom he had an early friendship, when he became emperor, released this Agrippa from the confinement under which Tiberius had on that very account kept him, and crowned him king of the tetrarchy of his uncle Philip; to which he afterwards added the territories of Antipas, whom he banished to Lyons in Gaul: in this authority Claudius confirmed him, and made him king of Judea, adding to his former dominions those of Lysanias. This person desired to ingratiate himself with the Jews by every method; and finding that the Christians were under the popular odium, he stretched forth his hands to harass and molest them; he did not reflect upon the injustice of persecuting the Christians, though he and his countrymen had taken it so ill that the heathens, and particularly Caligula, had persecuted the Jews; as if it had been persecution only to molest the Jews for their religion, but had lost its nature, and ceased to be persecution, when practised by the Jews upon the Christians. See on ch. Acts 9:31


Verse 2

Acts 12:2. And he killed James Thus was our Lord's prediction, relating to them, fulfilled, Matthew 20:23. I know not how far we areto depend upon the tradition which we find cited by Eusebius, from a book of Clemens Alexandrinus, now lost, in which he reported, "That the person who had accused James, observing the courage with which he bore his testimony to Christianity, was converted, and suffered martyrdom with him;" but it seems very beautifully observed by Clarius, who had a great deal of the true spirit of criticism, that this early execution of one of the apostles, after our Lord's death, would illustrate the courage of the rest in going on with their ministry; as it would evidently shew, that even all their miraculous powers did not secure them from dying by the sword of their enemies. Hereby the number of apostles was reduced to eleven; but no other apostle was substituted in the stead of James, nor had the apostles any successors in their apostolic office, authority, and dignity


Verse 3

Acts 12:3. And, because he saw it pleased the people This prince, as Josephus tells us, was a great zealot for the Mosaic law; dwelt much at Jerusalem, and was as fond of all opportunities to oblige the Jews, as his grandfather Herod had been of pleasing strangers—a character very agreeable to what St. Luke here says of him. St. Peter was apprehended about the beginning of April, and most probably in the third year of Claudius Caesar.


Verse 4

Acts 12:4. To four quaternions of soldiers That is, to sixteen, consisting of four in each party, who were to watch him by turns, four at a time; two of them being chained to him, and two of them watching before the door of the prison: one end of one chain was fastened to St. Peter's right hand, and the other end to the left arm of one of the soldiers; the other chain was in like manner fastened to St. Peter's left arm, and to the soldier's right arm: see Acts 12:6. Very likely the Jews remembered how all the apostles had escaped when they had formerly put them in prison; and perhaps they suspected the fidelity of the guards. It was therefore most probably at their request, that such a number of soldiers were appointed to guard the apostle. But the confining him was not all; for Herod intended after the Paschal Lamb was eaten, and the seven days festival quite finished, to bring him out to the people, and gratify them by putting him to death, and that publicly. During the festival the Jews used to spend their time in such mirth and festivity, that prisoners were commonly released, rather than executed. But notwithstanding all their zeal about rituals, they could submit to be concerned in the vilest immoralities. See chap. Acts 28:16. Instead of after Easter, the Greek would more properly be rendered after the passover.


Verse 5

Acts 12:5. Without ceasing The original word ' Εκτενης signifies not only continuance, but likewise earnestness, importunity, and vehemence.


Verse 7

Acts 12:7. The angel of the Lord An angel of the Lord. Instead of smote Peter on the side, Dr. Heylin reads, touched Peter on the side.


Verse 9

Acts 12:9. And wist not And knew not.


Verse 10

Acts 12:10. When they were past the first and the second ward, The first and second watch, where the guards were placed to secure the prison. Heylin renders it very agreeably to the Greek, the first and second guard. It was usual among the Easterns to plate over their gates with thick iron. Pitts tells us, that Algiers has five gates; and some of these have two, some three other gates within them; and some of them are plated all over with thick iron: and Bishop Pocock tells us the same of some gates not far from Antioch. The angel having conducted St. Peter into the street left him; for when things are within men's own power, it is folly and presumption to expect extraordinary assistance.


Verse 11

Acts 12:11. Now I know of a surety, &c.— The apostle may be understood here as alluding to a similar deliverance, chap. Acts 5:19. Thetime in which he was delivered was very critical,—it being the night preceding the day appointed for his execution; and if the apostle had not been thus miraculously freed, he would probably have been put to death like Stephen or James.


Verse 12

Acts 12:12. And when he had considered the thing, And making haste, ( σπευδων ) Hammond. And deliberating with himself, or recollecting where he was; Heylin and Doddridge. The Mark here mentioned is thought by Grotius to have been a different person from St. Mark the evangelist. He was the Son of Mary, as we are here informed, and he is spoken of as sister's son to Barnabas, (Colossians 4:10.) who appears to have had a great affection for him, not only by taking him with him to Antioch, and thence to Pamphylia, but by his insisting afterwards, when setting out upon another progress, that Mark should go with them to visit the churches, to which Paul was so averse, that they parted; chap. Acts 15:37-40. We have no further account of him in the Acts; but he appears to have so far retrieved his character, that he is recommended afterwards by the apostles to the Colossians as above; and when he was at Rome, St. Paul mentions him among his fellow-labourers, Phil. Acts 12:24 and at last speaks of his desire to see him, as one who was useful to him in the ministry, 2 Timothy 4:11.


Verse 13

Acts 12:13. At the door of the gate, The word πυλων, here, properly signifies what we generally call the gateway of a large house; and it is probable that this was no small house, as many were assembled there. Rhoda signifies in English rose; and Grotius has observed, that the Jews frequently gave to their female children the names of agreeable flowers or plants. Thus Susanna signifies a lily, Hedessa a myrtle, Tamar a palm-tree, &c. See the note on Mark 2:4.


Verse 15

Acts 12:15. It is his angel. Many commentators understand this as if they had said, "It is his messenger, or one sent from him;" and it is certain that the word Αγγελος has frequently this sense in the scripture; but as the maid averred that she knew his voice, and was assured that it was Peter himself, it seems clear that they judged it to be something supernatural. Possibly they might imagine that it was an angel who assumed his form, to bring them some tidings of him; or that he had been executed in prison, as John the Baptist was, in the night, and that his separate spirit appeared as a token of its being employed, asangels are, in ministering to the church on earth. See Matthew 18:10. It is by no means certain that they imagined this to be his guardian angel; for Philo speaks of it as a received notion among the Jews, that the souls of good men deceased officiated as ministering spirits.


Verse 17

Acts 12:17. Unto James, As James the brother of John was dead, Acts 12:2 the person here referred to, must have been St. James the Less, the son of Alpheus, who was probably the only apostle then at Jerusalem, except St. Peter. He was in great esteem among the apostles, and wrote the epistle which bears his name. The papists will have it that St. Peter, at this time retiring fromJerusalem, went to Rome, to found a Christian church there; but they say so, only because they apprehend that it makes for their purpose to have men believe so: for they have no ancient or authentic history to support their assertion of his going thither so early, if at all.


Verse 19

Acts 12:19. And commanded that they should be put to death. And commanded them to be led away to execution. It is well known that the word απαχθηναι has this signification; thus the wicked suffered in the room of the righteous. Herod, probably, punished the keepers with such severity, lest the apprehension of a miraculous deliverance should have prevailed, and so Christianityhave gained, as it probably did, additional strength. What had so notoriously happened to all the twelve apostles, in a circumstance muchresembling this, ch. Acts 5:19 would no doubt add great weight to such a representation; and it seems that this seasonable interposition of Divine Providence, joined with the death of Herodsoon after, put a speedy end to this persecution.


Verse 19-20

Acts 12:19-20. And he went down from Judea, &c.— See on ch. Acts 8:40. Herod the Great, after he had built Caesarea Palestine, had instituted games to the honour of Caesar, which were to be celebrated every fifth year. Not long after the apprehending of St. Peter, the usual time recurred for the celebration of these games. Herod Agrippa went down to Caesarea upon this occasion. Another affair which called him to that part of his dominions was, his being highly offended with the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, against whom he meditated a war; but they being tradingcities, and unable to carry on their traffic without a free commerce in Galilee and other parts of Herod's dominions, whence they used to purchase large quantities of corn and other provisions, they bribed Blastus the king's chamberlain, who had great influence over his master, and by that means obtained peace. Josephus confirms this account of Herod's journey, which, according to him, was in the third year of his reign over the whole country. See 1 Kings 5:9-11. Ezekiel 27:17. Instead of was highly displeased, Heylin reads was preparing to make war,— θυμομαχων : and instead of was nourished, he reads subsisted.


Verses 21-23

Acts 12:21-23. And upon a set day Herod, &c.— Upon occasion of the games and approaching festival hinted at in the last verse, there was a great resort of the governors and principal men of the neighbouring provinces, and of persons of figure from all the surrounding countries. On the second day of that solemnity, Herod Agrippa came early in the morning, most probably into the amphitheatre, built by his grandfather Herod the Great, dressed in a robe of most curious workmanship, all made of silver, as Josephus informs us; which, reflecting the rays of the rising sun with an unusual and almost insupportable splendor, gave him a most awful and majestic appearance. In that magnificent manner he sat upon his throne, and made an oration to the people; which when he had finished, they cried out with flattering acclamations, "Surely this is the Bath kol,—the speech of God,—and not of any mortal man!" See the Syriacversion. The king was pleased with this blasphemous applause, and did not reprove the persons, nor reject their impious adulation. Mr. Fleming imagines, that they herein referred to the glory with which the Shechinah used to appear; and that Herod being profane enough to assume the honour of it, provoked the Divine Majesty beyondany further sufferance; so that he sent a disease upon him, which rendered him equally contemptible and miserable. "As he did not rebuke this impious flattery, says Josephus, he was immediately seized with exquisite and racking tortures in his bowels, so that he was compelled, before he left the place, to own his folly in admitting such acclamations, and upbraided those about him with the wretched condition in which they saw their God; and being carried out of the assembly to his palace, he expired in violent agonies the fifth day after he was taken, in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and the seventh of his reign;" reckoning from the time of his first advancement by Caligula to the tetrarchy of his uncle Philip, being the fourth year of the emperor Claudius, in the year of the Christian aera, 44. The word Σκωληκοβρωτος, Acts 12:23 signifies in the general consumed with vermin, and may express the disease called morbus pedicularis, of which several cruel and persecuting princes have died. Elsner has given several instances ofthe madness of heathen princes, who arrogated divinity to themselves, and came to the most infamous and shocking ends. Antiochus Epiphanes and Herod the Great both died in the same manner with Herod Agrippa. See 2 Maccab. Acts 9:9 and on Matthew 2:19. Herod Agrippa's knowledge of the true God, and of his jealousy with respect to divine honours, no doubt aggravated his guilt. The reader will find, by referring to Josephus, a wonderful harmony between the accounts which he and St. Luke have given of this affair. Josephus is indeed larger and more express; though out of a partial fondness, as it seems, for Herod Agrippa, whom he had so much extolled, he has concealed the particular disease, which was the true cause of the excruciating pains in the bowels which he mentions. Herod left behind him a son called Agrippa, then seventeen years of age, before whom St. Paul afterwards appeared, and made an apology for Christianity. He left also two daughters, taken notice of in the New Testament; namely, Berenice, who was married to Herod king of Chalcis, his father's brother, being sixteen years of age; and Drusilla, who was afterwards married to the governor Felix; as well as Mariamne, of whom there is no mention in the Scripture. After the death of Herod Agrippa, the kingdom was again reduced to a Roman province, when the persecution of the Christians for a while abated. Comp. 2 Samuel 24:16. 2 Kings 19:35.


Verse 24

Acts 12:24. Grew and multiplied. The expressions here used relate properly to vegetables, and may be intended to signify, that the growth of the gospel, that is, its prevalency in the minds and lives of some, was, as it were, the means of sowing that divine seed in the hearts of many more. See Mark 4:26; Mark 4:41.


Verse 25

Acts 12:25. And—when they had fulfilled their ministry, When they had delivered up the alms which they brought from Antioch to the elders at Jerusalem, ch. Acts 11:29-30 and finished all their ministerial business there.—Thus ends the second period of the history of the first planting of Christianity, in which the conversion of the devout Gentiles, otherwise called proselytes of the gate, is chiefly treated of; and here the history of the Apostles of the circumcision is very naturally dropped; for it does not appear from the New Testament that they ever preached to idolatrous Gentiles; at least, before the destruction of Jerusalem. That was the province of the apostle of the un-circumcision and his co-adjutors, whose labours with, and success among the idolatrous Gentiles, form the subject of the following chapters.

Inferences.—How strange a consideration is it, that a murder like this of St. James should please the Jews! To see the slaughter of one of the most excellent persons that ever adorned their nation, one of the greatest benefactors that had ever appeared in all the list of the prophetic and inspired race, slain with the sword of a lawless, time-serving tyrant! yet thus it was that they proceeded to fill up the measure of their fathers, Matthew 23:32 and such was still the hardness of their hearts, that after having rejected the message, they soon came to hate the messengers, and to thirst for their blood;—the surest token of wrath coming upon them to the uttermost! As indeed it was but a few years more, and such an execution was done upon them, as seemed to be the accumulated vengeance due for all the righteous blood from Abel to James.

Peter is also imprisoned, and bound in chains; but the prayers and tears of the church contending for his delivery, despicable as they might appear to his enemies, pierce the clouds of heaven; and they find, to their shame and confusion, that his Redeemer is strong, Jeremiah 50:34. The angel of the Lord Jesus is sent to his faithful servant in his tribulation: he comes, and finds him, secure in his innocence, and happy in hope, sleeping between those two guards, who, perhaps, in a few hours were to have been his executioners; and sleeping so sweetly sound, that the brightness of the angelic presence did not immediately awaken him. The angel smites him, and his chains fall off; the iron gates are opened, as with a thought, and the prisoner is set at full liberty:—and thus does the angel of death smite as it were, but with a gentle blow, the servants of Christ; and the fetters of mortality fall off; the doors of the dungeon are opened; they are led triumphantly into the new Jerusalem, and there find another kind of society, another kind of rest, another kind of joy, far more noble, sweet, and high, than Peter knew even in the first transports of his wondrous deliverance.

The apostle was so venerated and beloved by the disciples, that on his behalf we find the prayers of the night are added to those of the day. Pious men and women, the aged and the young, with equal solicitude, assemble on this important occasion; and, while they are praying, the God who heareth prayer answers them: while they are yet speaking, he hears their cry, Isaiah 65:24. Behold! Peter himself is sent among them, to bring the astonishing news of that real deliverance, which at first seemed to him but as a vision of the night. What delight must such a mercy give their melting hearts, especially when considered as an answer of prayer! What an encouragement must it be to them all, to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering, and, in every future exigence, by prayer and supplication to make their requests known unto God!

St. Peter was solicitous that it might be known to the surviving James, and the other apostles, that so they might glorify God in him, and take encouragement from it to go on boldly in the prosecution of their work. With such views as these should we also own the goodness of God in any deliverance he grants us, that others may learn to confide in him, and may join their praises with ours.

Herod, in his disappointment, turns his rage on the soldiers, and makes those unhappy men the victims of his wrath,—unhappy indeed, if they had not learnt from St. Peter, while they had him in their power, that lesson which his charity would be so glad to teach them, in what he apprehended to be the last moments of his life,—to believe in Jesus for life and salvation. But whatever they suffered, a much severer fate was reserved for Herod, on whom GOD quickly began to visit that innocent and pious blood which he had spilt, and that too after which he had thirsted; for in His all-piercing sight he must have appeared the murderer of Peter, as well as of James.

The wrath of a king, says Solomon, is as messengers of death; but a wise man will pacify it, Proverbs 16:14. The world generally teaches this wisdom to its votaries; and the ties of interest are felt, when those of affection have but little force. Tyre and Sidon were nourished by the King's country, and therefore they sought peace with him, But how much more necessary is it for all countries, and people, and princes, to seek peace with the God of heaven, by whom the earth and all its inhabitants are nourished; who giveth rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and can, by his sovereign word, turn the heavens into brass, and the earth into iron, Deuteronomy 28:23.

How vain and impious was the applause of the servile multitude, when they were so ready to compliment a mortal man, in shining apparel, and one royal throne, with the title of divinity! How wretched the infatuation of his mind, when he could receive that ascription without horror, nay, and even with complacency! Thus do pomp and power, wealth and grandeur, corrupt and take away the heart of their possessors. Never is a mortal nearer to destruction, than when he forgets that he is a mortal.

With pleasure, no doubt, did the angel of the Lord come down to execute upon this proud and persecuting prince, the vengeance due to the honours of God which he had invaded, and the blood of his saints which he had spilt.—Let us adore the triumph of the injured Majesty of heaven. Herod was smitten with death, with a death equally tormenting and ignominious. Vermin devoured this god: nor could all his robes, his guards, or his physicians, preserve his living body from being as easy a prey to them, as the carcase of the meanest slave.

Thus is the Almighty Sovereign of the universe known by the judgments which he executeth upon the haughty ones of the earth: and well might the gospel flourish on occasion of such an event, when this royal corpse was (as it were) given for manure to the roots of that sacred vine, which he, in contempt of the King of Kings, by whom it was planted, had impiously endeavoured to root up and destroy.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Herod had now, through the favour of Claudius the Roman emperor, received the government of Judea as well as of Galilee. Being a bitter enemy to Christianity, he interrupted the rest which the church had for a while enjoyed, and lighted up afresh the fire of persecution.

1. He began to harass and distress the saints at Jerusalem; either countenancing those who insulted and abused them, or imprisoning and persecuting them on account of their profession. The faithful must be always prepared to suffer.

2. He killed James the brother of John, with the sword. Thus did the apostle James drink of the cup with his Lord, as was foretold; and was the first of the apostles who sealed his testimony with his blood. He was probably executed in prison, like the Baptist, by a private order from the king, and led the way to his brethren, who were hereby taught to prepare for the like fate and be faithful unto death.

3. Because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also; glad to ingratiate himself with the people, at the same time that he gratified his own enmity against the disciples of Jesus; and as St. Peter, as an especially active, zealous preacher, was peculiarly obnoxious. Then were the days of unleavened bread, the feast of the Passover approaching. When therefore he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers, sixteen in number, who guarded him by four at a time, and relieved each other, to keep him, that he might not escape, intending after Easter, or the Passover, to bring him forth to the people, to gratify them with the pleasing spectacle of his ignominious execution. Note; (1.) They who study to please men, will be led into many a guilty deed. (2.) Success in wickedness often emboldens sinners to proceed to greater lengths.

2nd, To human view St. Peter's case seemed desperate; and a few days would complete the triumph of his persecutors. But God had otherwise ordained; and then the craft of the wisest and the power of the mightiest are alike vain.

1. During St. Peter's imprisonment, prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him; they were fervent and frequent at the throne of grace; perhaps one company after another continued their incessant supplications, deeply concerned for fear of losing him after all their other breaches, and trusting that, though no human prospect of his deliverance appeared, the Lord would, in his own time and way, rescue his suffering servant from the hands of his blood-thirsty persecutors. Note; When the faithful ministers of Jesus are suffering for their testimony, the church is called to pray earnestly for them, that, if the Lord so please, they may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, and spared for farther usefulness.

2. The time fixed for St. Peter's execution now drew near; the next was the fatal day appointed to bring him forth to the people. St. Peter, in the mean time, was kept with the greatest care, chained to two soldiers within the prison, while the guards kept the door without, to prevent any rescue or escape; and never could greater precaution be taken. Yet, though his danger was so imminent, his case so desperate, unterrified, composed, in peace he sweetly slept, while probably the eyes of his malicious foes were held waking, and their disturbed minds could take no rest on beds of ivory. A good cause, a good conscience, and the desire to glorify God, whether by life or death, raised him superior to every fear; and, though expecting no deliverance, he took his wonted repose. Note; (1.) God suffers us sometimes to be reduced to extremities, that his power and grace in rescuing us from our trials may appear with more distinguished lustre. (2.) When wicked men seem to have ensured the success of their enterprizes, God is often pleased to blast their designs, and to cover them with confusion.

3. God sends his angel to deliver the faithful prisoner; and he, whom neither gates nor guards could exclude, suddenly entering the prison in a blaze of light, awakened Peter with a gentle touch from his slumbers; then, bidding him arise, his chains marvellously fell off from his hands; and, being now at liberty, the angel said unto him, Gird thyself and bind on thy sandals; and so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. St. Peter obeyed, and as yet apprehended not the reality of the facts, but supposed the scene was merely visionary. Passing now the first and second bodies of guards without molestation, who were cast into a profound sleep, they came unto the iron gate, which opened of its own accord; and, being now in the city, the angel accompanied Peter through one street, and then departed, his presence being no longer needful; and Peter could then provide for his own safety. Note; (1.) We have in St. Peter's deliverance a lively image of our redemption. We lie by nature fast bound in the chains of sin, and sleep securely, not apprehensive of danger, though ruin is before us. Then God sends his gospel as this angel, and, if we will receive it, his Spirit smiting our hearts awakens us from our security and insensibility. Quickened by grace, the chains of corruption fall off, and we are now enabled to rise and walk, clothed with the Spirit of holiness, and our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Under divine light and guidance the faithful saints are enabled to pass through numberless difficulties, and through hosts of enemies hold on their way, till the iron gate of death appears in view, and, opening wide, admits them into the new Jerusalem. (2.) No difficulties are insurmountable, if God be for us. (3.) When we have the ordinary means before us, we are not to expect miracles.

4. St. Peter, being left alone, soon recovered from his surprize, and, reflecting on what was past, was fully assured that the scene was not visionary, but real; that the Lord had sent his angel, and delivered him out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews, who waited impatiently for his execution. Deliberating then whither in prudence he should direct his steps, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together, praying; and importunate no doubt they were, when the danger was now so near: when, lo! a most astonishing answer is given to their prayers; behold, Peter knocked at the door,—a visitant little expected by them. A damsel, named Rhoda, ran immediately into the porch, to listen whether it were a friend or foe, before she opened the gate; when, hearing Peter's well-known voice, so transported was she, that, instead of opening the door, she ran into the room where they were all assembled for prayer, and told them, to their astonishment, that Peter stood before the gate. Unable to credit so strange an incident, they said, thou art mad; it is impossible. But she constantly affirmed the certainty of the fact, that it was even so. Then said they, it is his angel, one of the celestial spirits, who imitates his voice, and brings some tidings concerning him, or his own spirit delivered from the flesh. Meantime Peter repeated his knocks at the gate; and, going down, they opened the door, when with amazement they beheld him; and, eager to know the circumstances of this extraordinary event, they together began to ask him concerning it: whereupon he beckoned with his hand, commanding silence, while he declared to them his miraculous deliverance. And as no time was to be lost to secure himself, having charged them to inform James and the brethren of his escape, for their comfort and encouragement, he departed, and went into another place, where he might be secured from the danger. Note; (1.) They who persevere in prayer, will at last meet an answer of peace. (2.) Though when called of God, neither death nor danger must deter us from the way of duty, yet, when the Lord opens a door for our escape, we may lawfully provide for our own safety.

5. The next morning the guards were in the utmost consternation at finding their prisoner gone, and justly dreaded the rage of the king, as if they had been chargeable with neglect or connivance. In vain strict search is made by Herod every where; and, unable to find Peter, he wreaks his vengeance on the keepers, who could not give the least satisfactory account of the matter, and therefore were ordered to be put to death for their supposed negligence or corruption. Then retiring from Judea to Cesarea, in order to celebrate games in honour of Augustus Caesar, he abode there for some time. Note; God can, when he pleases, hide his people from the malice of their most envenomed foes.

3rdly, Proud persecutors justly meet an avenging God.

1. Herod's pride now reached the summit of wickedness. On some provocation given him by the maritime cities of Tyre and Sidon, Herod was highly offended; and, justly fearing the wrath of this haughty monarch, they instantly dispatched ambassadors to him to make their submission, and deprecate his displeasure; for, as they chiefly drew their provision from his territories, if he had prohibited his subjects from supplying them, it would have exposed them to a famine. Therefore having by presents gained Blastus the king's chamberlain for their friend, who had a considerable influence with his master, they desired peace; and a day was fixed to give them public audience. Herod, arrayed in royal robes, glittering, says Josephus, with silver, and reflecting the sun-beams so strongly as dazzled the eyes of the spectators, and seated on his gorgeous throne, made an oration unto them, probably expatiating on the provocations of the Tyrians, and displaying his own clemency in pardoning them on their submission. The people, delighted with his splendid appearance, pleased with his discourse, and willing to flatter his pride, shouted their blasphemous admiration, as if they heard a present deity, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man; while he, well pleased, received the impious adulation.

2. Instantly God smote him, and hurled him from his towering height of pride into the abyss of despicable wretchedness. An angel, the executioner of wrath, struck the fatal blow, because he gave not God the glory, and dared accept such adoration. A foul, filthy, and tormenting disease seized his vitals; in agonies he lingered five days; worms bred in his putrid carcase; and, devoured alive, he miserably perished, a spectacle of horror to every beholder. So easily can God abase those who walk in pride, and make the meanest worm that crawls, an instrument of his vengeance.

3. In spite of all persecution and opposition, the word of God grew and multiplied, spreading with rapidity and vast success. And Barnabas and Saul, having finished their business at Jerusalem, returned again to Antioch. Note; When ministers are called abroad, and have finished their work, they must hasten back again to their regular appointed labours.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Acts 12:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/acts-12.html. 1801-1803.

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