Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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ACTS - Chapter 12

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Acts 12

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE CHURCH IN PALESTINE AND SYRIA  2, 1 -- 12, 25 (continued)

Conclusion:  Persecution of the Church by Herod Agrippa  12, 1-25

12, 1-17:  Peter in Prison:  His Deliverance.  After St. Peter's return to Jerusalem another persecution broke out under the leadership of King Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, and the last king of the Jews.  His early years were spent in Rome where he enjoyed the favor of Caligula who on his accession in A.D. 37 gave him the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias and the title of king.  Two years later, when Herod Antipas was banished, he received Galilee and Perea also, and in A.D. 41 Claudius gave him Judea and Samaria, so that he ruled over all the land of his grandfather.  His persecution of the Christians was in harmony with his policy of courting favor with the people by a display of zeal for the Law.  He reversed the method of the earlier attack by striking now at the leaders.

The vividness of the narrative of St. Peter's delivery from prison shows that it came directly from the actors, probably from St. Mark the Evangelist, to the house of whose mother St. Peter went for a hasty visit.  He sent a message to James and the brethren, and went to another place.  As all Palestine was under the jurisdiction of Agrippa, St. Peter must have left that country.  There is a good tradition that around A.D. 42 he went to Rome, and the persecution of Agrippa seems to have occurred in 42.

12, 18-25:  Herod Punished.  Tyre and Sidon were commercial cities on the coast north of Palestine and depended on Galilee for their grain.  Josephus gives a similar account of Herod's death and adds some details: the occasion was the celebration of games in honor of the Roman Emperor and Agrippa was wearing a robe of silver that shone brilliantly in the sun; hardly had he accepted the people's salutation implying that he was a god when he saw an owl seated above him and took it as an omen of death; severe pains immediately seized him and continued until his death five days later.  The Romans then resumed direct rule over all of Palestine.

Confraternity Bible:

Peter in Prison  1* Now at this time Herod the king set hands on certain members of the Church to persecute them.  2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also, during the days of the Unleavened Bread.  4 After arresting him he cast him into prison, committing the custody of him to four guards of soldiers, four in each guard, intending to bring him forth to the people after the Passover.  5 So Peter was being kept in prison; but prayer was being made to God for him by the Church without ceasing.

His Deliverance  6 Now when Herod was about to bring him forth, that same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and outside the door sentries guarded the prison.  7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood beside him, and a light shone in the room; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly."  The chains dropped from his hands.  8 And the angel said to him, "Gird thyself and put on thy sandals."  And he did so; and he said to him, "Wrap thy cloak about thee and follow me."

9 And he followed him out, without knowing that what was being done by the angel was real, for he thought he was having a vision.  10 They passed through the first and second guard and came to the iron gate that leads into the city; and this opened to them of its own accord.  And they went out, and passed on through one street, and straightway the angel left him.  11 Then Peter came to himself, and he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the power of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."

12 When he realized his situation, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was surnamed Mark, where many had gathered together and were praying.  13 When he knocked at the outer door, a maid name Rhoda came to answer it.  14 And as soon as she recognized Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing before the gate.  15 But they said to her, "Thou art mad."  But she insisted that it was so.  Then they said, "It is his angel."  16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.  17 But he motioned to them with his hand to be quiet, and related how the Lord had brought him out of the prison.  And he said, "Tell this to James and to the brethren."  And he departed, and went to another place.

Herod Punished  18 Now when morning came, there was no little stir among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter.  19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death; then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.

20 Now he was very angry with the Tyrians and Sidonians; but they came to him in a body and, having won over Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on him for its food supply.  21 So a day was fixed and on it Herod, arrayed in kingly apparel, sat in the judgment-seat and began to address them.  22 And the people shouted, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man."  23 But immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he had not given the honor to God; and he was eaten by worms, and died.

24 But the word of the Lord continued to grow and spread.  25 Now Barnabas and Saul, when they had fulfilled their mission, returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, who was surnamed Mark.


1: Herod: Herod Agrippa I, who ruled over Judea from 41 A.D. till his death in 44 A.D.