Acts 12
Vincent's Word Studies
Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
That time (ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρὸν)

More correctly, that juncture. See on Acts 1:7. The date is A. D. 44.

Herod the king

Called also Agrippa, and commonly known as Herod Agrippa I., the grandson of Herod the Great.

Stretched forth his hands (ἐπέβαλεν τὰς χεῖρας)

Lit., laid on his hands. The A. V. is wrong, and so is the Rev. Render, laid hand, on certain of the church to afflict them.

Vex (κακῶσαι)

Vex is used in the older and stronger sense of torment or oppress. See Exodus 22:21; Numbers 25:17; Matthew 15:22. Its modern usage relates rather to petty annoyances. Rev., better, afflict.

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

While the martyrdom of Stephen is described at length, that of James, the first martyr among the apostles, is related in two words.

And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
He proceeded to take (προσέθετο συλλαβεῖν)

Rev., seize. Lit., he added to take. A Hebrew form of expression. Compare Luke 19:11, he added and spake; Luke 20:12, again he sent a third; lit., he added to send.

And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

A quaternion was a body of four soldiers; so that there were sixteen guards, four for each of the four night-watches.

The passover

The whole seven days of the feast.

Bring him forth (ἀναγαγεῖν αὐτὸν)

Lit., lead him up; i.e., to the elevated place where the tribunal stood, to pronounce sentence of death before the people. See John 19:13.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
Without ceasing (ἐκτενὴς)

Wrong. The word means earnest. See on fervently, 1 Peter 1:22; and compare instantly, Acts 26:7; more earnestly, Luke 22:44; fervent, 1 Peter 4:8. The idea of continuance is, however, expressed here by the finite verb with the participle. Very literally, prayer was arising earnest.

And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
Would have brought

Rev., correctly, was about to bring.

Kept (ἐτήρουν)

See on reserved, 1 Peter 1:4. The imperfect, were keeping.

And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
Came upon (ἐπέστη)

Better, as Rev., stood by. See on Acts 4:1; and compare Luke 2:9.

Prison (οἰκήματι)

Not the prison, but the cell where Peter was confined. So, rightly, Rev.

And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
Garment (ἱμάτιον)

The outer garment, or mantle. See on Matthew 5:40.

And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision.
When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.
Ward (φυλακὴν)

Better, watch: the soldiers on guard. Explanations of the first and second watch differ, some assuming that the first was the single soldier on guard at the door of Peter's cell, and the second, another soldier at the gate leading into the street. Others, that two soldiers were at each of these posts, the two in Peter's cell not being included in the four who made up the watch.

And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.
When he had considered (συνιδών)

The verb strictly means to see together, or at the same time. Hence, to see in one view, to take in at a glance. Peter's mental condition is described by two expressions: First, he came to himself (Acts 12:12), or, lit., when he had become present in himself; denoting his awaking from the dazed condition produced by his being suddenly roused from sleep and confronted with a supernatural appearance (see Acts 12:9). Secondly, when he had become aware (συνιδών); denoting his taking in the situation, according to the popular phrase. I do not think that any of the commentators have sufficiently emphasized the force of σύν, together, as indicating his comprehensive perception of all the elements of the case. They all refer the word to his recognition of his deliverance from prison, which, however, has already been noted in Acts 12:11. While it may include this, it refers also to all the circumstances of the case present at that moment. He had been freed; he was there in the street alone; he must go somewhere; there was the house of Mary, where he was sure to find friends. Having taken in all this, perceived it all, he went to the house of Mary.

And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.
Door of the gate

The small outside door, forming the entrance from the street, and opening into the πυλών, or doorway, the passage from the street into the court. Others explain it as the wicket, a small door in the larger one, which is less probable.

A damsel (παιδίσκη)

Or maid. 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.


Rose. The Jews frequently gave their female children the names of plants and flowers: as Susannah (lily); Esther (myrtle); Tamar (palm-tree). "God, who leaves in oblivion names of mighty conquerors, treasures up that of a poor girl, for his church in all ages" (Quesnel).

And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
She knew

Or recognized.

And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
Constantly affirmed (διΐσχυρίζετο)

Better, confidently affirmed; constant is used in its older sense of consistent. The verb contains two ideas: strong assertion (ἰσχύς), and holding to the assertion through all contradiction (διά); hence, she strongly and consistently asserted.


Guardian angel, according to the popular belief among the Jews that every individual has his guardian angel, who may, on occasion, assume a visible appearance resembling that of the person whose destiny is committed to him.

But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
Beckoning (κατασείσας)

Lit., having shaken downward with his hand, in order to bespeak silence and attention. It was a familiar gesture of Paul. See Acts 21:40; Acts 26:1.

Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.
Examined (ἀνακρίνας)

See on Luke 23:14; and compare Acts 4:9.

Put to death (ἀπαχθῆναι)

Lit., led away; i.e., to execution. A technical phrase like the Latin ducere. Compare Matthew 27:31.

Abode (διέτριβεν)

Originally, to rub away, or consume; hence, of time, to spend.

And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.
Highly displeased (θυμομαχῶν)

Originally, to fight desperately: but as there is no record of any war of Herod with the Tyrians and Sidonians, the word is to be taken in the sense of the A.V. Only here in New Testament.

Chamberlain (τὸν ἐπὶ τοῦ κοιτῶνος)

Lit., the one over the bedchamber.

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
Set (τακτῇ)

Appointed. Only here in New Testament. What the festival was, is uncertain. According to some, it was in honor of the emperor's safe return from Britain. Others think it was to celebrate the birthday of Claudius; others that it was the festival of the Quinquennalia, observed in honor of Augustus, and dating from the taking of Alexandria, when the month Sextilis received the name of the Emperor - August.

Arrayed (ἐνδυσάμενος)

More literally, having arrayed himself.

Royal apparel

Josephus says he was clothed in a robe entirely made of silver.


See on Acts 7:5. The elevated seat or throne-like box in the theatre, set apart for the king, from which he might look at the games or address the assembly.

Made an oration (ἐδημηγόρει)

Only here in New Testament. The word is used especially of a popular harangue (δῆμος, the commons). "At Jerusalem Agrippa enacted the Jew, with solemn gait and tragic countenance, amidst general acclamation; but at Caesarea he allowed the more genial part of a Greek to be imposed on him. It was at a festival in this Hellenic capital, after an harangue he had addressed to the populace, that they shouted, "It is the voice of a god and not of a man" (Merivale, "History of the Romans under the Empire").

And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
The people (δῆμος)

The assembled people.

A god

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

And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.
An angel of the Lord smote him

An interesting parallel is furnished by the story of Alp Arslan, a Turkish prince of the eleventh century. "The Turkish prince bequeathed a dying admonition to the pride of kings. 'In my youth,' said Alp Arslan, ' I was advised by a sage to humble myself before God; to distrust my own strength; and never to despise the most contemptible foe. I have neglected these lessons, and my neglect has been deservedly punished. Yesterday, as from an eminence, I beheld the numbers, the discipline, and the spirit of my armies; the earth seemed to tremble under my feet, and I said in my heart, surely thou art the king of the world, the greatest and most invincible of warriors. These armies are no longer mine; and, in the confidence of my personal strength, I now fall by the hand of an assassin'" (Gibbon, "Decline and Fall").

Eaten of worms (σκωληκόβρωτος)

Only here in New Testament. Of Pheretima, queen of Cyrene, distinguished for her cruelties, Herodotus says: "Nor did Pheretima herself end her days happily. For on her return to Egypt from Libya, directly after taking vengeance on the people of Barca, she was overtaken by a most horrid death. Her body swarmed with worms, which ate her flesh while she was still alive" (iv., 205). The term, as applied to disease in the human body, does not occur in any of the medical writers extant. Theophrastus, however, uses it of a disease in plants. The word σκώληξ is used by medical writers of intestinal worms. Compare the account of the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, the great persecutor of the Jews. "So that the worms rose up out of the body of this wicked man, and whiles he lived in sorrow and pain, his flesh fell away, and the filthiness of his smell was noisome to all his army" (2 Maccabees 9:9). Sylla, the Roman dictator, is also said to have suffered from a similar disease.

Gave up the ghost

See on Acts 5:5.

But the word of God grew and multiplied.
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.
Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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