Acts 12

Peter's Arrest and Deliverance

1 Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.
2 And he 1had James the brother of John 2put to death with a sword.
3 When he saw that it 3pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during 4the days of Unleavened Bread.
4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four 5squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after 6the Passover to bring him out before the people.
5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
6 On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, 7bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.
7 And behold, 8an angel of the Lord suddenly 9appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and woke him up, saying, "Get up quickly." And 10his chains fell off his hands.
8 And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put 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 continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing 11a vision.
10 When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which 12opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
11 When Peter 13came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that 14the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."
12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of 15John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and 16were praying.
13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, 17a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.
14 When she recognized Peter's voice, 18because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
15 They said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, "It is 19his angel."
16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.
17 But 20motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, "Report these things to 21James and 22the brethren." Then he left and went to another place.
18 Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter.
19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they 23be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to 24Caesarea and was spending time there.

Death of Herod

20 Now he was very angry with the people of 25Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king's chamberlain *, they were asking for peace, because 26their country was fed by the king's country.
21 On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them.
22 The people kept crying out, "The voice of a god and not of a man!"
23 And immediately 27an angel of the Lord struck him because * he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.
24 But 28the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.
25 And 29Barnabas and 30Saul returned from Jerusalem 31when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them 32John, who was also called 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 32

  • 1. Matthew 4:21; Matthew 20:23
  • 2. Mark 10:39
  • 3. Acts 24:27; Acts 25:9
  • 4. Exodus 12:15; Exodus 23:15; Acts 20:6
  • 5. John 19:23
  • 6. Exodus 12:1-27; Mark 14:1; Acts 12:3
  • 7. Acts 21:33
  • 8. Acts 5:19
  • 9. Luke 2:9; Luke 24:4
  • 10. Acts 16:26
  • 11. Acts 9:10
  • 12. Acts 5:19; Acts 16:26
  • 13. Luke 15:17
  • 14. Daniel 3:28; Daniel 6:22
  • 15. Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5, 13; Acts 15:37, 39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13
  • 16. Acts 12:5
  • 17. John 18:16
  • 18. Luke 24:41
  • 19. Matthew 18:10
  • 20. Acts 13:16; Acts 19:33; Acts 21:40
  • 21. Mark 6:3; Acts 15:13; Acts 21:18; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19; Galatians 2:9, 12
  • 22. Acts 1:15
  • 23. Acts 16:27; Acts 27:42
  • 24. Acts 8:40
  • 25. Matthew 11:21
  • 26. 1 Kings 5:11; Ezra 3:7; Ezekiel 27:17
  • 27. 2 Samuel 24:16; 2 Kings 19:35; Acts 5:19
  • 28. Acts 6:7; Acts 19:20
  • 29. Acts 4:36; Acts 13:1f
  • 30. Acts 4:36; Acts 13:1f
  • 31. Acts 11:30
  • 32. Acts 12:12

Footnotes 13

  • [a]. I.e. Herod Agrippa I
  • [b]. Lit "they were the days"
  • [c]. Lit "quaternions;" a quaternion was composed of four soldiers
  • [d]. Lit "that night"
  • [e]. Lit "bind"
  • [f]. Lit "in himself"
  • [g]. Lit "the expectation of the people of the Jews"
  • [h]. Or "Jacob"
  • [i]. Lit "what therefore had become"
  • [j]. Or "judgment seat"
  • [k]. Lit "breathed his last breath"
  • [l]. Two early mss read "to Jerusalem"
  • [m]. Lit "ministry"

Acts 12 Commentaries

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