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ACTS
The continued Life of Jesus through the Apostles

CHAPTER TWELVE

"Penetrating Prayer"
Key Verse = Acts 12:5

  1. Herod's Violence Against the Church 3. Herod's Violent Death
  2. Peter Freed From Prison 4. Barnabas and Saul Return with John Mark


HEROD'S  VIOLENCE  AGAINST  THE  CHURCH

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Acts 12:1
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

Now at that very time Herod the king surnamed Agrippa seized some of the people of the church to oppress them.


Persecution - The 9th Attempt of Satan to Destroy the Church

About that time
Herod ruled Palestine from AD 41 to 44.

Herod the King
This was Herod Agrippa. The Syriac so renders it expressly and the chronology require us so to understand it.  He was a grandson of Herod the Great,  and one of the sons of Aristobulus, whom Herod put to death (Josephus, Antiq., 18, 5).  Herod the Great left three sons,  between whom his kingdom was divided - Archelaus,  Philip,  and Antipas.  See Luke 3:1.
To Philip was left Ituraea and Trachonitis
To Antipas was left Galilee and Perea
To Archelaus was left Judea, Idumaea, and Samaria
Archelaus,  being accused of cruelty,  was banished by Augustus to Vienna in Gaul,  and Judea was reduced to a province,  and united with Syria.  When Philip died,  this region was granted by the Emperor Caligula to Herod Agrippa.  Herod Antipas was driven as an exile also into Gaul,  and then into Spain,  and Herod Agrippa received also his tetrarchy.  In the reign of Claudius also,  the dominions of Herod Agrippa were still further enlarged.  When Caligula was slain,  he was at Rome,  and having ingratiated himself into the favor of Claudius,  he conferred on him also Judea and Samaria,  so that his dominions were equal in extent to those of his grandfather,  Herod the Great. See Josephus, Antiq., book 19, chapter 5, section 1.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

“Herod the King” of this chapter is Herod Agrippa I,  a grandson of Herod the Great and the Hasmonaean princess Mariamne,  born in 11 B.C.  and sent by his mother to be brought up at Rome after the execution of his father Aristobulus in 7 B.C.  At Rome he grew up on terms of intimate friendship with some members of the imperial family,  especially with Gaius,  the grand-nephew of the Emperor Tiberius,  and he was educated with Drusus,  son of the emperor Tiberius;  but the death of Drusus and lack of funds led to his return to Judea.

In A.D. 37 he made another journey to Rome to bring accusation against Herod the Tetrarch  (his uncle,  Antipas).  He did not return when his business was transacted,  but remained in the metropolis,  cultivating the acquaintance of people who might be of use to him in the future.  For rash words spoken in favor of Gaius (Caligula),  Tiberius cast him into chains;  but 6 months later Gaius became emperor and appointed Agrippa to be king of the tetrarchy which his late uncle Philip had governed,  and also of Lysanias,  with the title “king.”

Two years later Agrippa’s kingdom was augmented by the addition of Galilee and Peraea,  the former territory of his uncle Antipas,  whom Gaius deposed from his rule and sent into exile.  When Claudius was made emperor in A.D. 41,  after the assassination of Gaius,  he further increased Agrippa’s realm by the addition of Judaea,  which since A.D. 6 had been administered on the emperor’s behalf by a procurator.

Agrippa was more popular with the Jews than most members of the Herod dynasty were,  largely owing to his descent from the Hasmonaean royal family;  and he set himself sedulously to win and retain their good will.  The Mishnah relates how he read  “the law of the kingdom”  publicly at the Feast of Tabernacles in a sabbatical year and wept as he read the words  “thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee,  who is not thy brother,”  for he remembered his Edomite ancestry of the Herod’s.  But the people,  thinking rather of his Hasmonaean descent,  cried out repeatedly,  “Be not dismayed;  you are indeed our brother!”

Stretched out his hand
A figurative expression,  denoting that  "he laid his hands on them,"  or that he endeavored violently to oppress the church."

From the Amplified Bible
(1)  About that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to afflict and oppress and torment some who belonged to the church (assembly).

Acts 12:2 & 3
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

(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.

And when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Simon Peter also.  This happened during the days of unleavened bread.


He killed James
Herod Agrippa,  the grandson of Herod the Great,  was,  like his forbears,  a murderer.
The Herods were Edomites,  descendants of Esau.
In one sense,  we see Esau persecuting Jacob again,  for  "James"  is simply another form of the name Jacob!
This persecution is a picture of the time of tribulation the Jews will endure in the last days.  Read again Matthew 20:20-23 where James and John were promised a baptism of suffering.  James was the first of the apostles slain.
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

The brother of John
This was the son of Zebedee,  Matthew 4:21.  He is commonly called James the Greater,  in contradistinction from James,  the son of Alpheus,  who is called James the Less,  Matthew 10:3.  It was James and his brother John who wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume the Samaritans who would not allow them to spend the night in their village (Luke 9:54).

He was one of the three who,  of all the Twelve,  were alone privileged to witness
the transfiguration   (Luke 9:28)
the resurrection of Jairus' daughter  (Mark 5:37)
the agony in the garden  (Mark 14:33)
He and his younger Brother John were called by their Master 'sons of thunder;'  that through their mother they applied for the right and left-hand posts of honor in the expected kingdom; and that,  when asked if they were able to drink of their Master's cup and he baptized with His baptism,  and replying that they were,  Jesus told them they should indeed have that to do,  but that what they sought was under other arrangement:  finally,  we have James here,  as a martyr of Jesus,  indeed drinking of his Masters cup and with his bloody baptism at length baptized.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

This is the last mention of John in the book of Acts.

With the sword
Either by beheading,  or piercing him through.
It was regarded by the Rabbis as particularly disgraceful for a Jew to die by the sword.

No successor for James was ever chosen.  In fact,  there is no record of any of the other apostles being replaced after Judas.

THE FATE OF THE APOSTLES

Name Fate
Simon Peter
Crucified upside down (reported by Origen)
James, son of Zebedee
Martyred by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-2)
John, son of Zebedee
Exiled to Patmos;  later died of old age (one legend is that Domitian had John thrown into a pot of boiling oil, but he was unharmed)
Andrew
According to tradition, was crucified  (in the form of an X)  at Patrae,  a city of Achaia,  because he rebuked Aegeas,  the proconsul,  for idolatry
Philip
According to tradition,  died as a martyr at Hierapolis
Bartholomew/Nathanael
Said to have preached the gospel in India or perhaps Armenia where conflicting reports have him flayed alive or crucified upside down
Matthew/Levi
According to legend,  preached in unspecified foreign nations
Thomas
According to tradition,  preached in Parthia and Persia and died as a martyr by being speared with a lance
James, son of Alphaeus
Not known
Thaddaeus/Judas, son of James
Not known
Simon the Zealot
Not known
Judas Iscariot
Committed suicide by hanging himself  (Matthew 27:5; Acts
1:18
)
Matthias
According to tradition, went to Ethiopia to minister, where he was eventually martyred
Saul/Paul
According to tradition, was beheaded at Nero’s command along the Appian Way
(Tyndale Handbook of Bible charts and maps, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, IL)


He saw that it pleased the Jews
This was the principle on which he acted.
It was not from a sense of right
It was not to do justice, and to protect the innocent
It was not to discharge the appropriate duties of a magistrate and a king
but it was to promote his own popularity.  It is probable that Agrippa would have acted in this way in any circumstances.  He was ambitious,  vain,  and fawning;  he sought,  as his great principle,  popularity,  and he was willing to sacrifice,  like many others,  truth and justice to obtain this end.  But there was also a particular reason for this in his case.
He held his appointment under the Roman emperor. This foreign rule was always unpopular among the Jews.  In order,  therefore,  to secure a peaceful reign,  and to prevent insurrection and tumult,  it was necessary for him to court their favor;  to indulge their wishes,  and to fall in with their prejudices.
That this was the character of Herod is attested by Josephus (Antiq., 19, chapter 8, section 3):  "This king  (Herod Agrippa)  was by nature very beneficent,  and liberal in his gifts,  and very ambitious to please the people with such large donations;  and he made himself very illustrious by the many expensive presents he made them.  He took delight in giving,  and rejoiced in living with good reputation."
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Peter also
This is the 4th arrest of Peter:
Arrest Acts Occasion Result Acts
1st 4:3 Healing the lame man at the Gate Beautiful Threatened and released 4:21
2nd 5:18 Healing the multitudes Released by an angel 5:19
3rd 5:26 Teaching in the Temple Beaten and released 5:40
4th 12:3 Herod Agrippa harassing the church Released by an angel 12:7

The days of unleavened bread
By this parenthesis Luke locates the time of the year when Peter was arrested,  the Passover.  It was a fine occasion for Agrippa to increase his favor among the crowds of Jews there by extra zeal against the Christians.  It is possible that Luke obtained his information about this incident from John Mark for at his Mother's house the disciples gathered (Acts 12:12).
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

The Passover, or the seven days immediately succeeding the Passover, during which the Jews were required to eat bread without leaven, Exodus 12:15-18. It was some time during this period that Herod chose to apprehend Peter.

It was celebrated on the first month of the religious year, on the 14th of  Nisan (our April).

From the Amplified Bible
(2)  And he killed James the brother of John with a sword;
(3)  And when he saw that it was pleasing to the Jews, he proceeded further and arrested Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread [the Passover week].

Acts 12:4
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(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.

So he seized him and put him in prison and delivered him to the care of sixteen soldiers to keep him, so that he might deliver him to the Jewish people after the Passover.


Four squads
Squad is tetradíois  - a quaternion or squad (picket) of four Roman soldiers.  Four squads would equal 16 soldiers assigned to guard Peter.

Two on the inside with the prisoner (chained to him) and two on the outside,  in shifts of six hours each,  sixteen soldiers in all,  the usual Roman custom.  Probably Agrippa had heard of Peter's previous escape (Acts 5:19) and so he took no chances for connivance of the jailors.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Many commentators suggest that each squad guarded him 3 hours, a squad for each of the four watches of the night.  However, since it is evident that Peter was kept in prison more than a day, I would agree with Robertson - that each squad served in shifts of six hours each day.

To bring him before the people
But scarcely for trial:  it probably means  'to bring him up'  aloft to the view of the people in public execution;  because the people were getting as virulent in their opposition to Christians as the rulers.  And as the more private and summary execution of James may have been complained of as not having effect enough,  Herod determines to gratify both rulers and people with the public spectacle of the slaughter of Peter.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

After Passover
pascha (NT:3957) of Aramaic origin;  the Passover  (the meal,  the day,  the festival or the special sacrifices connected with it).

The Passover feast of eight days.  "The stricter Jews regarded it as a profanation to put a person to death during a religious festival" (Hackett).  So Agrippa is more scrupulous than the Sanhedrin was about Jesus.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

The King James Version, unfortunately, translates this word as "Easter."
Dake states:
This is an unfortunate and absurd translation,  as Easter was a pagan festival observed long before Christ.
It is not a Christian name,  but is derived from Ishtar,  one of the Babylonian titles of an idol goddess,  the Queen of Heaven.  The Saxon goddess Eastre is the same as the Astarte,  the Syrian Venus,  called Ashtoreth in the Old Testament. 
It was the worship of this woman by Israel that was such an abomination to God  (1 Samuel 7:3;  1 Kings 11:5,33;  2 Kings 23:13;  Jeremiah 7:18;  Jeremiah 44:18).  Round cakes,  imprinted with the sign of the cross were made at this festival,  the sign being,  in the Babylonian mysteries,  a sign of life.  Easter eggs which play a great part in this day's celebration were common in all heathen nations.  The fable of the egg declares that  "an egg of wondrous size fell from heaven into the river Euphrates;  the fish rolled it to the bank,  where doves settled upon it and hatched it;  and out came Astarte,  or Ishtar,  the goddess of Easter."
(Dake's Annotated Reverence Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, Dake Publishing, Lawrenceville, GA)

Clarke adds:
Our term called Easter is not exactly the same with the Jewish Passover.
This festival (Passover) is always held on the fourteenth day of the first vernal full moon;
but the Easter of the Christians,  never until the next Sabbath after said full moon;
and,  to avoid all conformity with the Jews in this matter,  if the fourteenth day of the first vernal full moon happen on a Sabbath,  then the festival of Easter is deferred until the Sabbath following.
The term Easter,  inserted here by our translators,  they borrowed from the ancient Anglo-Saxon service-books,  or from the version of the Gospels,  which always translates the to pascha of the Greek by this term; 
Matthew 26:2:  Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover.
The Anglo-Saxon has:  "Wite ge that aefter twam dagum beoth Eastro."
Matthew 26:19: And they made ready the Passover.
The Anglo-Saxon has:  "And hig gegearwodon hym Easter thenunga"  (i.e. the paschal supper).
Other examples occur in this version (Anglo-Saxon). 
Wycliffe used the word "paske",  i.e. Passover;
but Tyndale, Coverdale,  Becke,  and Cardmarden,  following the old Saxon mode of translation,  insert "Easter":
the Geneva Bible very properly renders it the "Passover".
There are several Saxon spellings of the name of the goddess Easter,  whose festival was celebrated by our pagan forefathers in the month of April;  hence,  that month,  in the Saxon calender,  is called "Easter month".  Every view we can take of this subject shows the gross impropriety of retaining a name every way exceptionable,  and palpably absurd.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Excerpts from The Bible Exposition Commentary
"The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous" (1 Peter 3:12).
God watched and noted what Herod Agrippa I was doing to His people.  This evil man was the grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered the Bethlehem children to be murdered,  and the nephew of Herod Antipas,  who had John the Baptist beheaded.  A scheming and murderous family,  the Herods were despised by the Jews,  who resented having Edomites ruling over them.  Of course,  Herod knew this;  so he persecuted the church to convince the Jewish people of his loyalty to the traditions of the fathers.  Now that the Gentiles were openly a part of the church,  Herod's plan was even more agreeable to the nationalistic Jews who had no place for "pagans."
If it pleased the Jews when James was killed,  just think how delighted they would be if Peter were slain!  God permitted Herod to arrest Peter and put him under heavy guard in prison.  Sixteen soldiers,  four for each watch,  kept guard over the apostle,  with two soldiers chained to the prisoner and two watching the doors.  After all,  the last time Peter was arrested,  he mysteriously got out of jail,  and Herod was not about to let that happen again.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(4)  And when he had seized [Peter], he put him in prison and delivered him to four squads of soldiers of four each to guard him, purposing after the Passover to bring him forth to the people.



PETER  FREED  FROM  PRISON

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Acts 12:5
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

And while Simon Peter was kept in the prison, continual prayer was offered for him to God by the church.


Kept in prison
Peter was held under heavy security,  consisting of chains,  multiple guards,  and iron doors.

BUT
Only 3 little letters (in the Greek, de - only 2 little letters) - but what a powerful word in this context.
As in Acts 5:19 when the angel released the apostles from prison:
 

Herod had Peter put in prison under heavy guard with the intent to kill him publicly

BUT

Constant prayer was offered to God for him!

 
Peter was therefore kept in prison – (A HUMAN IMPOSSIBILITY)
BUT
Prayer was made without ceasing – (GOD’S OPPORTUNITY)

How often do we see someone in what appears to be an impossible situation, and we say: "Well, all we can do is pray..."

Prayer is not only ALL we can do –
Prayer is the MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do –
Prayer is the one thing we SHOULD do!
Prayer should not be the LAST THING WE SHOULD do –
Prayer should be the FIRST THING WE SHOULD do!


Constant
Two things emphasize the intensity of the prayer offered by the people of the church in behalf of Peter:
(1) The verb itself, were praying, which indicates continuous action
(2) The adverbial expression earnestly
The expression of earnestly may be rendered as "strongly,"  for example,  "they were praying strongly to God"  or "they were praying with words they felt in their hearts."
(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

From the Amplified Bible
(5)  So Peter was kept in prison, but fervent prayer for him was persistently made to God by the church (assembly).

Acts 12:6-11

A striking modern parallel has been quoted more than once from the experiences of Sundar Singh.

By order of the chief lama of a certain Tibetan community he was thrown into a dry well,  the lid of which was securely locked.  Here he was left to die,  like many others before him,  whose bones and rotting flesh lay at the bottom of the well.  On the third night,  when he had been crying to God in prayer, he heard someone unlocking the lid of the well and removing it,  and then a voice spoke,  telling him to take hold of the rope that was being lowered.  He did so,  and was glad to find a loop at the bottom of the rope in which he could place his foot,  for his right arm had been injured before he was thrown down.
He was then drawn up,  the lid was replaced and locked,  but when he looked round to thank his rescuer,  he could find no trace of him.  When morning came,  he returned to the city where he had been arrested,  and resumed preaching.
News was brought to the lama that the man who had been thrown into the execution-well for preaching had been liberated and was preaching again.  Sundar Singh was brought before him and questioned,  and told the story of his release.  The lama declared that someone must have got hold of the key and let him out,  but when search was made for the key,  it was found attached to the lama’s own girdle!
(The Sadhu, by Streeter and A.J. Appasamy,  Kessinger Publishing Company)

Acts 12:6
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(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.

And on the very night before the morning that he was to be delivered up, while Simon Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and others were guarding the doors of the prison,


When Herod was about to bring him out
The Passover would be over, and Herod was about to bring him out to be put to death.

That night
The last night Peter would be held, waiting for Herod to put him to death.

Peter was sleeping
Possibly peter remembered what Jesus had said to him in John 21:18,  that he would die in his old age.

Here is an instance of remarkable composure,  and an illustration of the effects of peace of conscience and of confidence in God.

It was doubtless known to Peter what the intention of Herod was.
James had just been put to death, and Peter had no reason to expect a better fate.
And yet in this state he slept as quietly as if there had been no danger.  There is nothing that will give quiet rest and gentle sleep so certainly as a conscience void of offence;  and in the midst of imminent dangers,  he who confides in God may rest securely and calmly  (Psalms 3:5; 4:8).
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Psalms 3:5-6
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.     (NKJV)
Psalms 4:8
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.     (NKJV)

Excerpts from The Bible Exposition Commentary
The fact that Peter had been a prisoner twice before is not what gave him his calm heart.  For that matter,  this prison experience was different from the other two.
This time,  he was alone,  and the deliverance did not come right away.  And no special witnessing opportunities appeared.
The other two times,  he was able to witness;
Peter's previous arrests had taken place after great victories,
but this one followed the death of James, his dear friend and colleague.
It was a new situation altogether.
What gave Peter such confidence and peace?
To begin with,  many believers were praying for him  (Acts 12:12),   and kept it up day and right for a week;  and this helped to bring him peace (Philippians 4:6-7).
Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing,  but in everything by prayer and supplication,  with thanksgiving,  let your requests be made known to God;   and the peace of God,  which surpasses all understanding,  will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.       (NKJV)
Prayer has a way of reminding us of the promises of God's Word,   such as,
Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you,  yes,  I will help you,  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'       (NKJV)
But the main cause of Peter's peace was the knowledge that Herod could not kill him.  Jesus had promised Peter that he would live to be an old man and end his life crucified on a Roman cross (John 21:18-19).
Peter simply laid hold of that promise and committed the entire situation to the Lord,  and God gave him peace and rest.
He did not know how or when God would deliver him,  but he did know that deliverance was coming.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

Chains - Soldiers - Guards
His left hand was chained to the right hand of one of the soldiers,  and his right hand to the left hand of the other.
Two soldiers were stationed at the door.  We may see now that every possible precaution was used to ensure the safe custody of Peter:
(1) He was in prison.
(2) He was under the charge of sixteen men,  who could relieve each other when weary,  and thus every security was given that he could not escape by inattention on their part.
(3) He was bound fast between two men.
(4) He was further guarded by two others,  whose business it was to watch the door of the prison.
It is to be remembered,  also,  that it was death for a Roman soldier to be found sleeping at his post.
But God can deliver in spite of all the precautions of people;
and it is easy for him to overcome the most cunning devices of his enemies.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Guarded by double sentinels,  while double keepers and double chains seem to defy all rescue!  So thought the chief priests,  who  "made the sepulchre of the Lord sure,  sealing the stone and setting a watch." But  "He that sitteth in the heaven shall laugh at you." (Psalms 2:4)
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
Psalms 2:2-4
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
"Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh.     (NKJV)

From the Amplified Bible
(6)  The very night before Herod was about to bring him forth, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, fastened with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.

Acts 12:7-10
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(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.

The angel of the Lord stood over him, and a light shone in all the prison; and the angel touched him on the side and woke him, and said to him, Rise up quickly.  And the chains fell off from his hands.

(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."

And the angel said to him, Bind on your girdle and put on your sandals.  And so he did.  And again he said to him, Put on your robe and follow me.

(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.

And he went out and followed the angel,  not knowing that what was done by the angel was true,  but thought he saw a vision.

(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.

When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate and it opened to them of its own accord; and when they had gone out and had passed one street, the angel departed from him.


The angel delivered Peter,  but note that he did not do for the apostle what he could do for himself.
The angel released him from the chains and led him out of the prison,
but he told Peter to put on his own shoes, dress, and follow.
We can expect God to do the impossible if we obey and do the possible.
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

The iron gate
But still there is an iron gate,  after all,  that will stop them,  and,  if the guards can but recover themselves,  there they may recover their prisoner,  as Pharaoh hoped to retake Israel at the Red Sea.  However,  up to that gate they march,  and,  like the Red Sea before Israel,  it opened to them.   And thus was fulfilled in the letter what was figuratively promised to Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1,2):  I will open before him the two-leaved gates,  will break in pieces the gates of brass,  and cut in sunder the bars of iron.  And probably the iron gate shut again of itself,  that none of the guards might pursue Peter.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

As Job 5:12 says:
He frustrates the devices of the crafty,  so that their hands cannot carry out their plans.      (NKJV)

Thought he was seeing a vision
Why did he think this was only a vision?  We can only guess.
On the one hand -
An angel had already come in the night when the apostles were in prison (Acts 5:19), opened the doors and let them out.
On the other hand -
Peter had the vision of the sheet let down from heaven (Acts 10:9-16)  in which he had a conversation with the Lord.

Went down one street
Until Peter was entirely safe from any danger of pursuit,  and then the angel left him.  God had affected his complete rescue,  and now left him to his own efforts as usual.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Clarke notes:
1. The angel of the Lord came upon him;  epeste  -  stood over him.  He seemed as one abandoned by men, yet not forgotten of his God; The Lord thinketh upon him. Gates and guards kept all his friends from him,  but could not keep the angels of God from him:  and they invisibly encamp round about those that fear God, to deliver them (Psalms 34:7),
Psalms 34:7
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.      (NIV)
and therefore they need not fear, though a host of enemies encamp against them, Psalms 27:3.
Psalms 27:3
Though an army besiege me,  my heart will not fear;  though war break out against me,  even then will I be confident.
Wherever the people of God are, and however surrounded, they have a way open heavenward, nor can any thing intercept their intercourse with God.
2. A light shone in the prison.  Though it is a dark place,  and in the night,  Peter shall see his way clear.   The soldiers to whom Peter was chained were either struck into a deep sleep for the present  (as Saul and his soldiers were when David carried off his spear and cruise of water - 1 Samuel 26:12),  or,  if they were awake,  the appearance of the angel made them to shake,  and to become as dead men,  as it was with the guard set on Christ's sepulchre.
3. The angel awoke Peter,  by giving him a blow on his side,  a gentle touch,  enough to rouse him out of his sleep,  though so fast asleep that the light that shone upon him did not awaken him.
4. His chains fell off from his hands.  It seems they had handcuffed him,  to make him sure,  but God loosed his bands.
5. He was ordered to dress himself immediately,  and follow the angel;  and he did so.  When Peter was awake he knew not what to do but as the angel directed him.
(1) He must gird himself;  for those that slept in their clothes ungirded themselves,  so that they had nothing to do,  when they got up,  but to fasten their girdles.
(2) He must bind on his sandals,  that he might be fit to walk.  Those whose bonds are loosed by the power of divine grace must have their feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
(3) He must cast his garments about him,  and come away as he was,  and follow the angel;  and he might go with a great deal of courage and cheerfulness who had a messenger from heaven for his guide and guard.
He went out, and followed him.  Those who are delivered out of a spiritual imprisonment must follow their deliverer,  as Israel when they went out of the house of bondage did; they went out,  not knowing whither they went,  but whom they followed.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Wuest translates:
And behold,  the Lord's angel came suddenly and stood by him,  and a light shone in his cell.  And having gently tapped Peter's side,  he raised him up,  saying,  Arise quickly.  And his chains fell off his hands.  Then the angel said to him,  Put on your belt and bind on your sandals.  And he did this.  And he said to him,  Throw your outer garment around yourself and keep on following with me.  And having gone out,  he kept on following,  and he did not know that it was true,  namely,  that which was taking place through the agency of the angel,  but he was of the opinion that he was seeing a vision.
Now,  after they had gone through the guards posted at the first and second stations,  they came up against the iron gate which leads into the city,  which opened to them automatically,  and having gone out they went on along one street,  and immediately the angel departed from him.
(from The New Testament: An Expanded Translation by Kenneth S. Wuest Copyright © 1961 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(7)  And suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared [standing beside him], and a light shone in the place where he was. And the angel gently smote Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, Get up quickly! And the chains fell off his hands.
(8)  And the angel said to him, Tighten your belt and bind on your sandals. And he did so. And he said to him, Wrap your outer garment around you and follow me.
(9)  And [Peter] went out [along] following him, and he was not conscious that what was apparently being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
(10)  When they had passed through the first guard and the second, they came to the iron gate which leads into the city. Of its own accord [the gate] swung open, and they went out and passed on through one street; and at once the angel left him.

Acts 12:11 & 12
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(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."

And when Simon Peter came to himself he said, Now I surely know that the Lord has sent his angel and has delivered me out of the hand of Herod, the king, and from all that the Jews were conspiring against me.

(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.

And when he understood, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, because many brethren were gathered there praying.


When Peter was come to himself
Second aorist middle participle of ginomai with en and the locative case,  "becoming at himself."   In Luke 15:17 we have eis heauton elthoon,  "coming to himself,"  as if he had been on a trip away from himself.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)


He had been amazed by the whole transaction.  He thought it was a vision:  and in the suddenness and rapidity with which it was done,  he had no time for cool reflection.  He had been walking as though in a trance.  For the first time,  the true significance of what had occurred came home to him.  Everything he saw astonished him;  he could scarcely credit his eyes;  he thought he was in a sort of ecstasy (as in Acts 10:10);  and it was only when the angel left him that he was fully convinced that all was real.

I know for certain
I know oída To comprehend the meaning of something,  with focus upon the resulting knowledge - 'to understand,  to comprehend.'
For certain aleethoós truly,  of a truth,  in reality;  most certainly

Adam Clarke offers
The poor German divine is worthy of pity,  who endeavored to persuade himself and his countrymen that all this talk about the angel was mere illusion;  that Peter was delivered in a way which he could not comprehend,  and therefore was led to attribute to a particular providence of God what probably was done by the prefect of the prison,  who favored him!  But it is the study of this writer to banish from the word of God all supernatural influence;  and to reduce even the miracles of Christ to simple operations of nature,  or to the workings of imagination and the prejudices of a weak and credulous people.  Such men should at once cast off the mask which so thinly covers their infidelity,  and honestly avow themselves to be,  what they are,  the enemies of revelation in general,  and of the Christian religion in particular.
Peter could say,  Now I know of a certainty that the Lord hath sent his angel,  and delivered me.
No such thing,  says Mr. E.,  Peter was deceived;  it was not the Lord,  it was the prefect or some other person. - Now we know that Peter spake by the Holy Spirit;  but we have no such testimony of Mr. E. nor of any of his associates.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Expectation of the Jewish people
From this it appears that the people earnestly desired his death;  and it was to gratify that desire that Herod had imprisoned him.

The Jews were looking forward to seeing Peter killed as James was (Acts 12:2-3).

The house of Mary
She may have been a widow and was possessed of some means since her house was large enough to hold the large group of disciples there.  Barnabas,  cousin of John Mark her son (Colossians 4:10),  was also a man of property or had been (Acts 4:36 f).  It is probable that the disciples had been in the habit of meeting in her house,  a fact known to Peter and he was evidently fond of John Mark whom he afterward calls  "my son"  (1 Peter 5:13)  and whom he had met here.  The upper room of Acts 1:13 may have been in Mary's house.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Six Marys are mentioned in the New Testament
1. Mary the mother of Jesus Luke 1:26-38 Luke 2:1-7
2. Mary Magdalene Luke 8:2 Luke 24:10
3. Mary the sister of Lazarus John 12:3; Luke 10:39-42; John 11;
4. Mary the mother of James John 19:25
5. Mary the mother of Mark Acts 12:12
6. Mary a helper of Paul Romans 16:6
(Dake's Annotated Reverence Bible, Finis Jennings Dake, Dake Publishing, Lawrenceville, GA)

John whose surname was Mark
Or, who was called Mark.  It does not mean that he had two names conferred,  as with us,  both of which were used at the same time,  but he was called by either,
the Greeks probably using the name Mark,
the Jews using the name John.

from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary
An occasional associate of Peter and Paul,  and the probable author of the second gospel. Mark's lasting impact on the Christian church comes from his writing rather than his life.
John Mark appears in the New Testament only in association with more prominent personalities and events.
His mother,  Mary,  was an influential woman of Jerusalem who possessed a large house with servants. The early church gathered in this house during Peter's imprisonment under Herod Agrippa I  (Acts 12:12).
Barnabas and Saul  (Paul)  took John Mark with them when they returned from Jerusalem to Antioch after their famine-relief visit (Acts 12:25).
Shortly thereafter,  Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey as far as Perga.  He served in the capacity of  "assistant"  (Acts 13:5),  which probably involved making arrangements for travel,  food,  and lodging;  he may have done some teaching, too.
At Perga John Mark gave up the journey for an undisclosed reason  (Acts 13:13);  this departure later caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas when they chose their companions for the second missionary journey (Acts 15:37-41).
Paul was unwilling to take Mark again and chose Silas;  they returned overland to Asia Minor and Greece.  Barnabas persisted in his choice of Mark,  who was his cousin (Colossians 4:10),  and returned with him to his homeland of Cyprus (Acts 15:39, also Acts 4:36).  This break occurred about A.D. 49-50, and John Mark is not heard from again until a decade later.
He is first mentioned again,  interestingly enough,  by Paul - and in favorable terms.  Paul asks the Colossians to receive Mark with a welcome  (Colossians 4:10),  no longer as an assistant but as one of his  "fellow laborers" (Philemon 24).
And during his imprisonment in Rome,  Paul tells Timothy to bring Mark with him to Rome, "for he is useful to me for ministry"  (2 Timothy 4:11).
One final reference to Mark comes also from Peter in Rome;  Peter affectionately refers to him as  "my son" (1 Peter 5:13).
Thus,  in the later references to Mark in the New Testament,  he appears to be reconciled to Paul and laboring with the two great apostles in Rome.
Information about Mark's later life is dependent on early church tradition.
Writing at an early date,  Papias (A.D. 60-130),  whose report is followed by Clement of Alexandria ( A.D. 150-215),  tells us that Mark served as Peter's interpreter in Rome and wrote his gospel from Peter's remembrances.
Of his physical appearance we are only told,  rather oddly,  that Mark was "stumpy fingered."
Writing at a later date (about A.D. 325),  the church historian Eusebius says that Mark was the first evangelist to Egypt,  the founder of the churches of Alexandria,  and the first bishop of that city.  So great were his converts,  both in number and sincerity of commitment,  says Eusebius,  that the great Jewish philosopher,  Philo,  was amazed.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Mark may have been the man bearing a pitcher of water (Luke 22:10) and the young man who fled in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:51 f).  There was a gate and fortress here as in the house of the high priest (John 18:16).  Peter knew where to go and even at this early hour hoped to find some of the disciples.  Mary is one of the many mothers who have become famous by reason of their sons, though she was undoubtedly a woman of high character herself.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Gathered together praying
We should never underestimate the power of a praying church.  They prayed fervently (verse 5),  definitely,  and courageously.  In spite of their unbelief when Peter did appear,  God honored their prayers and drew glory to Himself.
(from Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Copyright © 1992 by Chariot Victor Publishing, an imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved.)

From the Amplified Bible
(11)  Then Peter came to himself and said, Now I really know and am sure that the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting [to do to me].
(12)  When he, at a glance, became aware of this [comprehending all the elements of the case], he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where a large number were assembled together and were praying.

Acts 12:13-15
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

When he knocked at the door of the courtyard, a little girl named Rhoda came out to answer.

(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.

And when she recognized Simon's voice, because of her joy she did not open the door to him, but ran back and said, Behold, Simon Peter stands at the gate of the courtyard.

(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."

They said to her, You are excited.  But she argued that it was so.  Then said they, Perhaps it is his angel.


Door of the gate
Gate = the area associated with the entrance into a house or building - 'gateway, entrance, vestibule.'  -  'when he was knocking at the door of the vestibule'
(from Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain. Copyright © 1988 United Bible Societies, New York. Used by permission.)

A girl
Paidískee -
1. a young girl, damsel
2. a maid-servant, a young female slave

The word was used of a young female slave,  as well as of a young girl or maiden generally.  The narrative implies that she was more than a mere menial,  if a servant at all.  Her prompt recognition of Peter's voice,  and her joyful haste,  as well as the record of her name,  indicate that she was one of the disciples gathered for prayer.
(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Rhoda
This is a Greek name signifying a rose.  It was not unusual for the Hebrews to give the names of flowers, etc., to their daughters.  Thus,  Susanna, a lily;  Hadessa, a myrtle;  Tamar, a palm-tree, etc. (Grotius).
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Of course,  the knock at the door might have been that of Herod's soldiers,  coming to arrest more believers.  It took courage for the maid Rhoda ("rose") to go to the door,  but imagine her surprise when she recognized Peter's voice!  She was so overcome that she forgot to open the door!  Poor Peter had to keep knocking and calling while the  "believers"  in the prayer meeting decided what to do!
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

You are beside yourself
Thou art insane.  They seemed to have regarded his rescue as so difficult and so hopeless,  that they deemed it proof of derangement that she now affirmed it.  And yet this was the very thing for which they had been so earnestly praying.  When it was now announced to them that the object of their prayers was granted,  they deemed the messenger that announced it insane.  Christians are often surprised even when their prayers are answered.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

You are crazy! captures both the spirit and the meaning of the people's response to Rhoda's statement.
(from the UBS New Testament Handbook Series. Copyright © 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies.)

Kept insisting Diischurízeto  (NT:1340) - vigorous and confident assertion

The verb contains two ideas:
(1) "strong" assertion
(2) holding to the assertion "through" all contradiction

It is his angel
It was a common opinion among the Jews that every man has a guardian angel.  The Jews also believed that angels often assumed the likeness of particular persons.  They have many stories of the appearance of Elijah in the likeness of different rabbis.  Since angelos signifies in general a messenger,  whether divine or human,  some have thought that the angel or messenger here means a servant or person which the disciples supposed was sent from Peter to announce something of importance to the brethren:  it was also an opinion among the Jews,  even in the time of the apostles,  as appears from Philo,  that the departed souls of good men officiated as ministering angels;  and it is possible that the disciples at Mary's house might suppose that Peter had been murdered in the prison;  and that his spirit was now come to announce this event,  or give some particular warning to the church.
(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Any way of accounting for it rather than to admit the simple fact,  or to ascertain the simple truth.  All this was caused by the little hope which they had of his release,  and their earnest desire that it should be so.  The expression  "It is his angel"  may mean that they supposed that the  angel appointed to attend Peter,  had come to announce something respecting him,  and that he had assumed the voice and form of Peter in order to make them certain that he came from him.  This notion arose from the common belief of the Jews that each individual had assigned to him,  at birth,  a celestial spirit,  whose office it was to guard and defend him through life.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

When you remember that
(a) many people were praying
(b) they were praying earnestly
(c) they prayed night and day for perhaps as long as a week
And their prayers were centered specifically on Peter's deliverance,  then the scene that is described here is almost comical.  The answer to their prayers is standing at the door,  but they don't have faith enough to open the door and let him in!
God could get Peter out of a prison,
but Peter can't get himself into a prayer meeting!
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(13)  And when he knocked at the gate of the porch, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.
(14)  And recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she failed to open the gate, but ran in and told the people that Peter was standing before the porch gate.
(15)  They said to her, You are crazy! But she persistently and strongly and confidently affirmed that it was the truth. They said, It is his angel!

Acts 12:16 & 17
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

But Simon Peter continued knocking at the door; and they went out and saw him, and were astonished.

(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.

But he motioned to them with his hand to keep quiet; then he entered and related to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison.  And he said, Tell these things to James and to our brethren.  And he went out and departed for another place.


When they ... saw him
As he stood outside knocking,  Peter must have been reminded of his own experience:
When Mary Magdalene told the disciples that Jesus was alive, but they did not believe (Mark 16:9, 10).
Like Thomas, Peter did not believe Jesus was alive until he saw Jesus for himself.
And like Peter and Thomas, and the rest of the disciples, the Christians in Mary's house, would not believe until they saw Peter alive for themselves.
 
Rhoda Believed without seeing - she heard his voice only
The Christians Believed only after they saw Peter

Jesus said to Thomas: "Thomas,  because you have seen Me,  you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  (John 20:29)

Excerpts from The Bible Exposition Commentary
Apparently everybody began to speak at once and Peter had to silence them.  He quickly gave an account of the miracle of his deliverance and no doubt thanked them for their prayer help.  He instructed them to get the word to James,  the half brother of the Lord,  who was the leader of the Jerusalem assembly  (Matthew 13:55; Acts 15:13 ff, Galatians 1:19).
Where Peter went when he left the meeting,  nobody knows to this day!  It certainly was a well-kept secret.  Except for a brief appearance in Acts 15,  Peter walks off the pages of the Book of Acts to make room for Paul and the story of his ministry among the Gentiles.
1 Corinthians 9:5 tells us that Peter traveled in ministry with his wife,
1 Corinthians 1:12 suggests that he visited Corinth.
There is no evidence in Scripture that Peter ever visited Rome.  In fact,  if Peter had founded the church in Rome,  it is unlikely that Paul would have gone there,  for his policy was to work where other Apostles had not labored  (Romans 15:18-22).  Also,  he certainly would have said something to or about Peter when he wrote his letter to the Romans.
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright © 1989 by Chariot Victor Publishing, and imprint of Cook Communication Ministries. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)

From the Amplified Bible
(16)  But meanwhile Peter continued knocking, and when they opened the gate and saw him, they were amazed.
(17)  But motioning to them with his hand to keep quiet and listen, he related to them how the Lord had delivered him out of the prison. And he said, Report all this to James [the Less] and to the brethren. Then he left and went to some other place.

Acts 12:18 & 19
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

Now when it was morning, there was great tumult among the soldiers as to what had become of Simon Peter.

(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.

When Herod had sought him and could not find him, he sentenced the guards and commanded that they should be put to death.  And Simon Peter left Judea and stayed at Caesarea.


His deliverance must have been during the fourth and last watch of the night - from 3:00 to 6:00 a.m., or else he would have been missed by the keepers at the change of the watch
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

No small stir
Disturbance, tumult - 'commotion, serious trouble.'

Amazement that he had escaped and apprehension of the consequences.  The punishment which they had reason to expect,  for having suffered his escape, was death.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Probably all sixteen soldiers were agitated over this remarkable escape.  They were responsible for the prisoner with their lives.
(from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright © 1985 by Broadman Press.)

Examined the guards
The soldiers who were entrusted with his custody.  Probably only those who had the special care of him at that watch of the night.  The word  "examine"  here means  "to inquire diligently,  to make investigation."  Herod subjected them to a rigid scrutiny to ascertain the manner of his escape;  for it is evident that Herod did not mean to admit the possibility of a miraculous interposition.

Should be put to death
For having failed to keep Peter. This punishment they had a right to expect for having suffered his escape.

Roman law prescribed that if a prisoner escaped,  the penalty due him should be inflicted on his guard.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1962 by Moody Press. All rights reserved.)

He went down to Caesarea
How soon after the escape of Peter that Herod went down to Caesarea,  or how long he abode there,  is not known.  Caesarea was rising into magnificence,  and the Roman governors made it often their abode. This journey of Herod is related by Josephus (Antiq., book 19, chapter 8, section 2).  He says that it was after he had reigned over all Judea for three years.

From the Amplified Bible
(18)  Now as soon as it was day, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter.
(19)  And when Herod had looked for him and could not find him, he placed the guards on trial and commanded that they should be led away [to execution]. Then [Herod] went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed on there.



HEROD'S  VIOLENT  DEATH

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Acts 12:20
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(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.

Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, but they assembled together and came to him, and they appealed to Blastus, the king's chamberlain, and asked him that they might have peace because their country was dependent upon the kingdom of Herod for food supplies.


Very angry
Thumomachoón – fighting mad.

"Bore a hostile mind,"  intending war.  It means to meditate war;  to purpose war in the mind;  or here,  probably,  to be enraged or angry at them.  What was the cause of this hostility to the people of Tyre and Sidon is not mentioned,  and conjecture is useless.  It is not at all inconsistent,  however,  with the well known character of Herod.  It was probably from some cause relating to commerce.  Tyre and Sidon were under the Roman power, and had some shadow of liberty (Grotius),  and it is probable that they might have embarrassed Herod in some of his regulations respecting commerce.

The cities of Tyre and Sidon depended on Galilee for their food supply as they had done in the days of Hiram and Solomon.  When,  therefore,  they found that they had given Agrippa great offence  [Tyre and Sidon were equal subjects of the Romans,  so Herod could not go to war with them.  He could cut off supplies from Galilee and other countries under him.]  they realized that the wisest course was to regain his favor as soon as possible.  They made use accordingly of the good offices of his chamberlain Blastus,  and an opportunity was found for them to present themselves before the king and make their peace with him publicly.

Fearing the effects of his anger, they united in sending an embassage to him to make peace.

The country of Tyre and Sidon included a narrow strip of land on the coast of the Mediterranean.  Of course they were dependent for provisions,  and for articles of commerce,  on the interior country;  but this belonged to the kingdom of Herod;  and as they were entirely dependent on his country,  as he had power to dry up the sources of their support and commerce,  they were the more urgent to secure his favor.

From the Amplified Bible
(20)  Now [Herod] cherished bitter animosity and hostility for the people of Tyre and Sidon; and [their deputies] came to him in a united body, and having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was nourished by and depended on the king's [country] for food.

Acts 12:21 & 22
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

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

Upon the set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon the throne and addressed the assembly.

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

And all the people shouted, saying, This sounds like the voice of God speaking and not that of a man.


On a set day
An appointed,  public day.  This was the second day of the sports and games which Herod celebrated in Caesarea in honor of Claudius Caesar.  Josephus has given an account of this occurrence,  which coincides remarkably with the narrative here.  The account is contained in his  "Antiquities of the Jews," book 19, chapter 8, section 2,  and is as follows:

"Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea,  he came to the city Caesarea,  which was formerly called Strato's Tower;  and there he exhibited shows in honor of Caesar,  upon his being informed that there was a certain festival celebrated to make vows for his safety.  At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the principal persons,  and such as were of dignity throughout his province.  On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver,  and of wonderful contexture,  and early in the morning came into the theater  [place of the shows and games],  at which time the silver of his garment,  being illuminated by the first reflection of the sun's rays upon it,  shone after a surprising manner,  and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently on him."


Sat on his throne
This does not denote a throne in the usual sense of that word,  but  "a high seat"  in the theater,  where he sat,  and from whence he could have a full view of the games and sports.  From this place he made his speech.

What was the subject of this speech is not intimated by Luke or Josephus.

The voice of a god
It is not probable that the Jews joined in this acclamation,  but that it was made by the idolatrous Gentiles.  Josephus gives a similar account of their feelings and conduct.
"And presently his flatterers cried out,  one from one place,  and another from another  (though not for his good),  that he was a god;  and they added,  'Be thou merciful unto us;  for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a king, y et shall we henceforth own thee as a superior to mortal nature.'"

Since most of the assembly were pagan,  the word does not refer to the Supreme Being,  but is to be taken in the pagan sense - a god.

From the Amplified Bible
(21)  On an appointed day Herod arrayed himself in his royal robes, took his seat upon [his] throne, and addressed an oration to them.
(22)  And the assembled people shouted, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man!

Acts 12:23 & 24
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

 (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.

And because he did not give the glory to God, in that very hour an angel of the Lord smote him, and he was eaten by disease and died.

(24)  But the word of God grew and multiplied.

But the gospel of God continued to be preached and to reach many.


Josephus records his death:
Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.  But as he presently afterward looked up,  he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head,  and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings,  as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him;  and fell into the deepest sorrow.
A severe pain also arose in his belly,  and began in a most violent manner.  He therefore looked upon his friends,  and said,  "I,  whom you call a god,  am commanded presently to depart this life;  while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me;  and I,  who was by you called immortal,  am immediately to be hurried away by death.  But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots,  as it pleases God;  for we have by no means lived ill,  but in a splendid and happy manner."
When he said this,  his pain was become violent.  Accordingly he was carried into the palace,  and the rumor went abroad every where,  that he would certainly die in a little time.  But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth,  with their wives and children,  after the law of their country,  and besought God for the king's recovery.  All places were also full of mourning and lamentation.  Now the king rested in a high chamber,  and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground,  he could not himself forbear weeping.
And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days,  he departed this life,  being in the fifty-fourth year of his age;
Josephus (Ant. xix, viii, 2)

Herod Agrippa I died in A.D. 44,  in the 54th year of his age,  leaving 4 children,  of whom 3 are mentioned in Scripture:
Agrippa 2 (before whom Paul was tried)
Bernice (who was with Agrippa 2 when Paul was tried)
Drusilla (wife of the Roman procurator Felix, before whom Paul the tried)

Because he did not give glory to God
Because he was willing to receive the worship due to God.  It was the more sinful in him as he was a Jew
He was acquainted with the true God,  and with the evils of idolatry
He was proud,  and willing to be flattered,  and even adored
He had sought their applause
He had arrayed himself in this splendid manner to excite admiration
When they carried it even so far as to offer divine homage,   he did not reject the impious flattery,  but listened stir to their praises
Hence,  he was judged;  and God vindicated his own insulted honor by inflicting severe pains on him, and by a most awful death.

Eaten by worms
The word used here is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.  A similar disease is recorded of Antiochus Epiphanes,  in the Apocrypha, 2 Macc. 9:5,
"But the Lord Almighty,  the God of Israel,  smote him with an invisible and incurable plague;  for a pain in the bowels that was remediless came upon him,  and sore torments of the inner parts,  so that worms rose up out of the body of this wicked man," etc.
Probably this was the disease known as morbus pedicularis.  It is loathsome,  offensive,  and most painful.

With this disease also Herod the Great, grandfather of Herod Agrippa,  died (Josephus, Antiq., book 17, chapter 6, section 5).  Such a death,  so painful,  so sudden,  and so loathsome,  was an appropriate judgment on the pride of Herod.

God said in Isaiah 42:8
I am the Lord  (Yahweh);  that is My name!  And My glory I will not give to another,  nor My praise to graven images.

But the word of God grew
Not only was the royal persecutor ignominiously swept from the stage,  while his intended victim was spared to the Church,  but the cause which he and his Jewish instigators sought to crush was only furthered and glorified.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Great success attended it.  The persecutions had now ceased;  and notwithstanding all the attempts which had been made to crush it,  still the church increased and flourished.  The liberation of Peter and the death of Herod would contribute to extend it.  It was a new evidence of divine interposition in behalf of the church;  it would augment the zeal of Christians;  it would humble their enemies,  and would fill those with fear who had attempted to oppose and crush the church of God.

From the Amplified Bible
(23)  And at once an angel of the Lord smote him and cut him down, because he did not give God the glory (the preeminence and kingly majesty that belong to Him as the supreme Ruler); and he was eaten by worms and died.
(24)  But the Word of the Lord [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] continued to grow and spread.


BARNABAS  AND  SAUL  RETURN  WITH  JOHN  MARK

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Acts 12:25
From the NKJV From the  Peshitta

(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.

Barnabas and Saul, after they had fulfilled their ministry, returned from Jerusalem to Antioch, and took with them John whose surname was Mark.


Fulfilled their ministry
When they had accomplished the purpose for which they had been sent there;  that is,  to deposit the alms of the church at Antioch in the hands of the elders of the churches,  Acts 11:30.

John, whose surname was Mark
See the notes on Acts 12:12.

From this period the sacred historian records chiefly the labors of Paul.  The labors of the other apostles are,  after this,  seldom referred to in this book,  and the attention is fixed almost entirely on the trials and travels of the great apostle of the Gentiles.  His important services,  his unwearied efforts,  his eminent success,  and the fact that Luke was his companion,  may be the reasons why his labors are made so prominent in the history.

Through the previous chapters -
We have seen the church rise from small beginnings,  until it was even now spreading into surrounding regions.
We have seen it survive two persecutions,  commenced and conducted with all the power and malice of Jewish rulers.
We have seen the most zealous of the persecutors converted to the faith which he once destroyed, and the royal persecutor put to death by the divine judgment.
And we have thus seen
that God was the protector of the church; that no weapon formed against it could prosper;
that, according to the promise of the Redeemer, the gates of hell could not prevail against it.
In that God and Savior who then defended the church,  we may still confide,  and may be assured that he who was then its friend has it still  "engraved on the palms of his hands,"  and designs that it shall extend until it fills the earth with light and salvation.
(From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

From the Amplified Bible
(25)  And Barnabas and Saul came back from Jerusalem when they had completed their mission, bringing with them John whose surname was Mark. [Acts 11:28-30.]



(End of Chapter Twelve)

 

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