Acts 12:1-19 . PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH BY HEROD AGRIPPA I--MARTYRDOM OF JAMES AND MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE OF PETER.
13. came to hearken--not to open; for neither was it a time nor an hour of night for that, but to listen who was there.
14. opened not for gladness, but ran in and told, &c.--How exquisite is this touch of nature!
15. Thou art mad--one of those exclamations which one can hardly resist on hearing what seems far "too good to be true."
she constantly affirmed--"kept steadfastly affirming."
that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel--his disembodied spirit, his ghost; anything, in fact, rather than himself. Though this had been the burden of their fervent prayers during all the days of unleavened bread, they dispute themselves out of it as a thing incredible. Still, it is but the unbelief of the disciples who "believed not for joy and wondered" at the tidings. of their Lord's resurrection. How often do we pray for what we can hardly credit the bestowment of, when it comes in answer to our prayers! This, however, argues not so much hard unbelief as that kind of it incident to the best in this land of shadows, which perceives not so clearly as it might how very near heaven and earth, the Lord and His praying people, are to each other.
16. Peter continued knocking--delay being dangerous.
17. But he, beckoning . . . with his hand to hold their peace--a lively touch this. In the hubbub of joyful and wondering interrogatories there might mingle reflections, thrown out by one against another, for holding out so long against the testimony of Rhoda; while the emotion of the apostle's own spirit would be too deep and solemn to take part in such demonstrations or utter a word till, with his hand, he had signified his wish for perfect silence.
Go show these things unto James and to the brethren--Whether James the son of Alpheus, one of the Twelve, usually known as "James the Less," and "James the Lord's brother" ( Galatians 1:19 ), were the same person; and if not, whether the James here referred to was the former or the latter, critics are singularly divided, and the whole question is one of the most difficult. To us, it appears that there are strong reasons for thinking that they were not the same person, and that the one here meant, and throughout the Acts, is the apostle James. (But on this more hereafter). James is singled out, because he had probably begun to take the oversight of the Church in Jerusalem, which we afterwards find him exercising ( Acts 15:1-29 ).
And he departed, and went into another place--according to his Lord's express command ( Matthew 10:23 ). When told, on a former miraculous liberation from prison, to go and speak unto the people ( Acts 5:20 ), he did it; but in this case to present himself in public would have been to tempt God by rushing upon certain destruction.
18, 19. as soon as it was day, &c.--His deliverance must have been during the fourth watch (three to six A.M.); else he must have been missed by the keepers at the change of the watch [WIES].
19. examined the keepers--who, either like the keepers of our Lord's sepulchre, had "shaken and become as dead men" ( Matthew 28:4 ), or had slept on their watch and been divinely kept from awaking.
commanded that they should be put to death--Impotent vengeance!
Acts 12:20-25 . HEROD'S MISERABLE END--GROWING SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL--BARNABAS AND SAUL RETURN TO ANTIOCH.
20. Herod was . . . displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon--for some reason unknown; but the effect on their commercial relations made the latter glad to sue for peace.
their country was nourished by the king's country--See 1 Kings 5:11 , Ezra 3:7 , Ezekiel 27:17 . Perhaps the famine ( Acts 11:28 ) made them the more urgent for reconciliation.
21. And upon a set day Herod . . . made an oration unto them--to the Tyrians and Sidonians especially.
22, 23. the people gave a shout, &c.--JOSEPHUS' account of his death is remarkably similar to this [Antiquities, 19.8.2]. Several cases of such deaths occur in history. Thus was this wretched man nearer his end than he of whom he had thought to make a public spectacle.
24. But the word grew, &c.--that is, Not only was the royal representative 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. How full of encouragement and consolation is all this to the Christian Church in every age!
25. Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem--where, it thus appears, they had remained during all this persecution.
when they had fulfilled their ministry--or service; that mentioned on Acts 11:29 Acts 11:30 .
took with them John . . .Mark--(See on Ac 12:12 ), not to be confounded with the second Evangelist, as is often done. As his uncle was Barnabas, so his spiritual father was Peter ( 1 Peter 5:13 ).