Acts 12

Listen to Acts 12

James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.
2 He killed 1James the brother of John 2with the sword,
3 and when he saw 3that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during 4the days of Unleavened Bread.
4 And when he had seized him, he put him 5in prison, delivering him over to four 6squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest 7prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Peter Is Rescued

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, 8bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.
7 And behold, 9an angel of the Lord 10stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. 11He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And 12the chains fell off his hands.
8 And the angel said to him, "Dress yourself and 13put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."
9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but 14thought he was seeing a vision.
10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. 15It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him.
11 When Peter 16came to himself, he said, "Now I am sure that 17the Lord has sent his angel and 18rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of 19John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and 20were praying.
13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, 21a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer.
14 Recognizing Peter's voice, 22in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.
15 They said to her, "You are out of your mind." But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, "It is 23his angel!"
16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
17 But 24motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, "Tell these things to 25James and to 26the brothers."[a] Then he departed and went to another place.
18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter.
19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and 27ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

The Death of Herod

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and 28having persuaded Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because 29their country depended on the king's country for food.
21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.
22 And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!"
23 Immediately 30an angel of the Lord struck him down, because 31he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
24 But 32the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 33And Barnabas and Saul returned from[b] Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them 34John, whose other name was Mark.

Acts 12 Commentary

Chapter 12

The martyrdom of James, and the imprisonment of Peter. (1-5) He is delivered from prison by an angel. (6-11) Peter departs, Herod's rage. (12-19) The death of Herod. (20-25)

Verses 1-5 James was one of the sons of Zebedee, whom Christ told that they should drink of the cup that he was to drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that he was to be baptized with, Mt. 20:23 . Now the words of Christ were made good in him; and if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. Herod imprisoned Peter: the way of persecution, as of other sins, is downhill; when men are in it, they cannot easily stop. Those make themselves an easy prey to Satan, who make it their business to please men. Thus James finished his course. But Peter, being designed for further services, was safe; though he seemed now marked out for a speedy sacrifice. We that live in a cold, prayerless generation, can hardly form an idea of the earnestness of these holy men of old. But if the Lord should bring on the church an awful persecution like this of Herod, the faithful in Christ would learn what soul-felt prayer is.

Verses 6-11 A peaceful conscience, a lively hope, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit, can keep men calm in the full prospect of death; even those very persons who have been most distracted with terrors on that account. God's time to help, is when things are brought to the last extremity. Peter was assured that the Lord would cause this trial to end in the way that should be most for his glory. Those who are delivered out of spiritual imprisonment must follow their Deliverer, like the Israelites when they went out of the house of bondage. They knew not whither they went, but knew whom they followed. When God will work salvation for his people, all difficulties in their way will be overcome, even gates of iron are made to open of their own accord. This deliverance of Peter represents our redemption by Christ, which not only proclaims liberty to the captives, but brings them out of the prison-house. Peter, when he recollected himself, perceived what great things God had done for him. Thus souls delivered out of spiritual bondage, are not at first aware what God has wrought in them; many have the truth of grace, that want evidence of it. But when the Comforter comes, whom the Father will send, sooner or later, he will let them know what a blessed change is wrought.

Verses 12-19 God's providence leaves room for the use of our prudence, though he has undertaken to perform and perfect what he has begun. These Christians continued in prayer for Peter, for they were truly in earnest. Thus men ought always to pray, and not to faint. As long as we are kept waiting for a mercy, we must continue praying for it. But sometimes that which we most earnestly wish for, we are most backward to believe. The Christian law of self-denial and of suffering for Christ, has not done away the natural law of caring for our own safety by lawful means. In times of public danger, all believers have God for their hiding-place; which is so secret, that the world cannot find them. Also, the instruments of persecution are themselves exposed to danger; the wrath of God hangs over all that engage in this hateful work. And the range of persecutors often vents itself on all in its way.

Verses 20-25 Many heathen princes claimed and received Divine honours, but it was far more horrible impiety in Herod, who knew the word and worship of the living God, to accept such idolatrous honours without rebuking the blasphemy. And such men as Herod, when puffed with pride and vanity, are ripening fast for signal vengeance. God is very jealous for his own honour, and will be glorified upon those whom he is not glorified by. See what vile bodies we carry about with us; they have in them the seeds of their own dissolution, by which they will soon be destroyed, whenever God does but speak the word. We may learn wisdom from the people of Tyre and Sidon, for we have offended the Lord with our sins. We depend on him for life, and breath, and all things; it surely then behoves us to humble ourselves before him, that through the appointed Mediator, who is ever ready to befriend us, we may be reconciled to him, lest wrath come upon us to the utmost.

Cross References 34

  • 1. Matthew 4:21; Matthew 20:23
  • 2. Hebrews 11:37
  • 3. [Acts 24:27; Acts 25:9]
  • 4. Acts 20:6; Exodus 12:14, 15; Exodus 23:15
  • 5. See Luke 21:12
  • 6. [John 19:23]
  • 7. 2 Corinthians 1:11; Ephesians 6:18
  • 8. Acts 21:33
  • 9. See Acts 8:26
  • 10. Luke 2:9; Luke 24:4
  • 11. [1 Kings 19:7]
  • 12. Acts 16:26
  • 13. Mark 6:9
  • 14. Psalms 126:1
  • 15. Acts 5:19; Acts 16:26
  • 16. [Luke 15:17]
  • 17. Psalms 34:7; Psalms 91:11; Daniel 3:28; Daniel 6:22
  • 18. Psalms 33:18, 19; 2 Corinthians 1:10
  • 19. ver. 25; Acts 13:5, 13; Acts 15:37, 39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13
  • 20. ver. 5
  • 21. John 18:16, 17
  • 22. Luke 24:41; [Genesis 45:26]
  • 23. Matthew 18:10; See Hebrews 1:14
  • 24. Acts 13:16; Acts 19:33; Acts 21:40
  • 25. Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; [Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9, 12]
  • 26. See John 21:23
  • 27. [Acts 16:27; Acts 27:42]
  • 28. Matthew 28:14(Gk.)
  • 29. [1 Kings 5:9; Ezra 3:7; Ezekiel 27:17]
  • 30. [2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35]; See Acts 8:26
  • 31. Psalms 115:1
  • 32. See Acts 6:7
  • 33. Acts 11:29, 30
  • 34. See ver. 12

Footnotes 2

Acts 12 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.