Acts 12

Acts 12:1

Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.

Herod the king. There are several men identified as “Herod the King” in the Bible. This one was Herod Agrippa I, the son of Aristobulus and the grandson of Herod the Great (see entry for Matt. 2:1). His uncles were Herod Antipas the tetrarch of Galilee (see entry for Matt. 14:1) and Philip the tetrarch (see entry for Luke 3:1). He should not be confused with his son Herod Agrippa II (see entry for Acts 25:13).

Acts 12:2

And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.

Jesus had personally told Peter, James, John, and Andrew that they, along with other disciples, would be persecuted and killed (Matt. 24:9). James was the first of the group to be executed.

Acts 12:5

So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

Prayer. The church was praying but Peter was sleeping (see next verse). It may have seemed to Peter as though his time had come, yet he was at rest and ready to meet the Lord.

Acts 12:7

And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands.

He struck Peter’s side. Peter must’ve been sleeping soundly.

His chains fell off. Peter was chained to two soldiers (see previous verse).

Get up quickly. Why was the angel in a hurry? An angel of the Lord who fears neither soldiers nor prison guards has no need for haste. Perhaps Peter was slow to wake or react to what was happening.

Acts 12:12

And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

(a) Mary was one of six women named Mary in the New Testament; see entry for Matt. 1:18

(b) John. The John who was also known as Mark, or John Mark, was a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10) and the probable author of the Gospel of Mark. A resident of Jerusalem, he joined Paul and Barnabas on their trip to Antioch (Acts 12:25). He then accompanied them for part of their first journey abroad, travelling as far as Perga (Acts 13:5, 13). Why John left Paul and Barnabas is a subject of debate, but his departure did not sit well with Paul (Acts 15:37–38). Peter considered Mark to be a spiritual son (1 Pet. 5:13). Papias, the Bishop of Hierapolis, considered Mark’s Gospel to be based on Peter’s memories.

Acts 12:20

Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre 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 their country was fed by the king’s country.

Tyre and Sidon. There was political tension between Judea and its neighbors.

In AD40 the Roman emperor Caligula sent Publius Petronius and two legions to Israel to erect statues in the temple. The army was met by tens of thousands of protesting Jews. Petronius threatened war, but the unarmed Jews said they are ready to die. Petronius eventually backed down, but on account of the unrest in Judea, the harvest was interrupted, and the resulting food shortage led to tensions with neighboring Tyre and Sidon (Wars, 2.10).

Acts 12:24

But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.

(a) The word of the Lord is synonymous with the word of God. The gospel of Jesus, in other words. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14, Rev. 19:13), and the exact radiance or representation of God the Father (Heb. 1:3).

See entry for Word of God.

(b) Continued to grow. The preaching of the gospel bore fruit. People were turning to God and being delivered from sin and sickness.

The Christians of the early church bore witness to the great fruitfulness of the gospel (Acts 13:49, 19:10, 20). By the time Paul wrote to the Colossians, the gospel was bearing fruit all over the world (Col. 1:6).

Acts 12:25

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.

(a) Barnabas; see entry for Acts 9:27.

(b) John, the son of Mary, was Barnabas’s cousin (Col. 4:10). See also the entry for Acts 12:12.

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