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Acts 12:1-23

Context
James is Killed and Peter Imprisoned

12:1 About that time King Herod 1  laid hands on 2  some from the church to harm them. 3  12:2 He had James, the brother of John, executed with a sword. 4  12:3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, 5  he proceeded to arrest Peter too. (This took place during the feast of Unleavened Bread.) 6  12:4 When he had seized him, he put him in prison, handing him over to four squads 7  of soldiers to guard him. Herod 8  planned 9  to bring him out for public trial 10  after the Passover. 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but those in the church were earnestly 11  praying to God for him. 12  12:6 On that very night before Herod was going to bring him out for trial, 13  Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, while 14  guards in front of the door were keeping watch 15  over the prison. 12:7 Suddenly 16  an angel of the Lord 17  appeared, and a light shone in the prison cell. He struck 18  Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly!” And the chains fell off Peter’s 19  wrists. 20  12:8 The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt 21  and put on your sandals.” Peter 22  did so. Then the angel 23  said to him, “Put on your cloak 24  and follow me.” 12:9 Peter 25  went out 26  and followed him; 27  he did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real, 28  but thought he was seeing a vision. 12:10 After they had passed the first and second guards, 29  they came to the iron 30  gate leading into the city. It 31  opened for them by itself, 32  and they went outside and walked down one narrow street, 33  when at once the angel left him. 12:11 When 34  Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued 35  me from the hand 36  of Herod 37  and from everything the Jewish people 38  were expecting to happen.”

12:12 When Peter 39  realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, 40  where many people had gathered together and were praying. 12:13 When he knocked at the door of the outer gate, a slave girl named Rhoda answered. 41  12:14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she did not open the gate, but ran back in and told 42  them 43  that Peter was standing at the gate. 12:15 But they said to her, “You’ve lost your mind!” 44  But she kept insisting that it was Peter, 45  and they kept saying, 46  “It is his angel!” 47  12:16 Now Peter continued knocking, and when they opened the door 48  and saw him, they were greatly astonished. 49  12:17 He motioned to them 50  with his hand to be quiet and then related 51  how the Lord had brought 52  him out of the prison. He said, “Tell James and the brothers these things,” and then he left and went to another place. 53 

12:18 At daybreak 54  there was great consternation 55  among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 12:19 When Herod 56  had searched 57  for him and did not find him, he questioned 58  the guards and commanded that they be led away to execution. 59  Then 60  Herod 61  went down from Judea to Caesarea 62  and stayed there.

12:20 Now Herod 63  was having an angry quarrel 64  with the people of Tyre 65  and Sidon. 66  So they joined together 67  and presented themselves before him. And after convincing 68  Blastus, the king’s personal assistant, 69  to help them, 70  they asked for peace, 71  because their country’s food supply was provided by the king’s country. 12:21 On a day determined in advance, Herod 72  put on his royal robes, 73  sat down on the judgment seat, 74  and made a speech 75  to them. 12:22 But the crowd 76  began to shout, 77  “The voice of a god, 78  and not of a man!” 12:23 Immediately an angel of the Lord 79  struck 80  Herod 81  down because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. 82 

1 sn King Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great). His mediocre career is summarized in Josephus, Ant. 18-19. This event took place in a.d. 42 or 43.

2 tn Or “King Herod had some from the church arrested.”

3 tn Or “to cause them injury.”

4 sn The expression executed with a sword probably refers to a beheading. James was the first known apostolic martyr (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.9.1-3). On James, not the Lord’s brother, see Luke 5:10; 6:14. This death ended a short period of peace noted in Acts 9:31 after the persecution mentioned in 8:1-3.

5 tn This could be a reference to the Jewish people (so CEV) or to the Jewish leaders (so NLT). The statement in v. 4 that Herod intended to bring Peter “out to the people” (i.e., for a public trial) may suggest the former is somewhat more likely.

6 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

7 sn Four squads of soldiers. Each squad was a detachment of four soldiers.

8 tn Grk “guard him, planning to bring him out.” The Greek construction continues with a participle (βουλόμενος, boulomeno") and an infinitive (ἀναγαγεῖν, anagagein), but this creates an awkward and lengthy sentence in English. Thus a reference to Herod was introduced as subject and the participle translated as a finite verb (“Herod planned”).

9 tn Or “intended”; Grk “wanted.”

10 tn Grk “to bring him out to the people,” but in this context a public trial (with certain condemnation as the result) is doubtless what Herod planned. L&N 15.176 translates this phrase “planning to bring him up for a public trial after the Passover.”

11 tn Or “constantly.” This term also appears in Luke 22:14 and Acts 26:7.

12 tn Grk “but earnest prayer was being made by the church to God for him.” The order of the clauses has been rearranged to follow English style, and the somewhat awkward passive “prayer was being made” has been changed to the simpler active verb “were praying.” Luke portrays what follows as an answer to prayer.

13 tn Grk “was going to bring him out,” but the upcoming trial is implied. See Acts 12:4.

14 tn Grk “two chains, and.” Logically it makes better sense to translate this as a temporal clause, although technically it is a coordinate clause in Greek.

15 tn Or “were guarding.”

16 tn Grk “And behold.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here. The interjection ἰδού (idou), often difficult to translate into English, expresses the suddenness of the angel’s appearance.

17 tn Or “the angel of the Lord.” See the note on the word “Lord” in 5:19.

18 tn Grk “striking the side of Peter, he awoke him saying.” The term refers to a push or a light tap (BDAG 786 s.v. πατάσσω 1.a). The participle πατάξας (pataxa") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

19 tn Grk “his”; the referent (Peter) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

20 tn Grk “the hands,” but the wrist was considered a part of the hand.

21 tn While ζώννυμι (zwnnumi) sometimes means “to dress,” referring to the fastening of the belt or sash as the final act of getting dressed, in this context it probably does mean “put on your belt” since in the conditions of a prison Peter had probably not changed into a different set of clothes to sleep. More likely he had merely removed his belt or sash, which the angel now told him to replace. The translation “put on your belt” is given by L&N 49.14 for this verse. The archaic English “girdle” for the sash or belt has an entirely different meaning today.

22 tn Grk “He”; the referent (Peter) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

23 tn Grk “he”; the referent (the angel) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 tn Or “outer garment.”

25 tn Grk “And going out he followed.”

26 tn Grk “Peter going out followed him.” The participle ἐξελθών (exelqwn) has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

27 tn The word “him” is not in the Greek text. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.

28 tn Grk “what was done through the angel was a reality” (see BDAG 43 s.v. ἀληθής 3).

29 tn Or perhaps, “guard posts.”

30 sn The iron gate shows how important security was here. This door was more secure than one made of wood (which would be usual).

31 tn Grk “which.” The relative pronoun (“which”) was replaced by the pronoun “it,” and a new sentence was begun in the translation at this point to improve the English style, due to the length of the sentence in Greek.

32 tn The Greek term here, αὐτομάτη (automath), indicates something that happens without visible cause (BDAG 152 s.v. αὐτόματος).

33 tn Or “lane,” “alley” (BDAG 907 s.v. ῥύμη).

34 tn Grk “And when.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

35 tn Or “delivered.”

36 sn Here the hand of Herod is a metaphor for Herod’s power or control.

37 sn King Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great).

38 sn Luke characterizes the opposition here as the Jewish people, including their leadership (see 12:3).

39 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Peter) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

40 tn Grk “John who was also called Mark.”

sn John Mark becomes a key figure in Acts 12:25; 13:5, 13; 15:37-39.

41 tn Or “responded.”

42 tn Or “informed.”

43 tn The word “them” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Direct objects in Greek were often omitted when clear from the context, but must be supplied for the modern English reader.

44 sn “You’ve lost your mind!” Such a response to the miraculous is not unusual in Luke-Acts. See Luke 24:11; Acts 26:25. The term μαίνομαι (mainomai) can have the idea of being “raving mad” or “totally irrational” (BDAG 610 s.v.). It is a strong expression.

45 tn Grk “she kept insisting that the situation was thus” (cf. BDAG 422 s.v. ἔχω 10.a). Most translations supply a less awkward English phrase like “it was so”; the force of her insistence, however, is that “it was Peter,” which was the point under dispute.

46 tn The two imperfect tense verbs, διϊσχυρίζετο (diiscurizeto) and ἔλεγον (elegon), are both taken iteratively. The picture is thus virtually a shouting match between Rhoda and the rest of the believers.

47 sn The assumption made by those inside, “It is his angel,” seems to allude to the idea of an attending angel (cf. Gen 48:16 LXX; Matt 18:10; Test. Jacob 1:10).

48 tn The words “the door” are not in the Greek text, but are implied (see Acts 12:13).

49 sn That they were greatly astonished is a common response in Luke-Acts to God’s work (Luke 8:56; Acts 2:7, 12; 8:13; 9:21; 10:45).

50 tn Or “He gave them a signal.” Grk “Giving them a signal…he related to them.” The participle κατασείσας (kataseisa") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

51 tc ‡ Most mss, including some of the most important ones (B D E Ψ Ï sy), read αὐτοῖς (autoi", “to them”) here, while some excellent and early witnesses (Ì45vid,74vid א A 33 81 945 1739 pc) lack the pronoun. Although it is possible that the pronoun was deleted because it was seen as superfluous, it is also possible that it was added as a natural expansion on the text, strengthening the connection between Peter and his listeners. Although a decision is difficult, the shorter reading is slightly preferred. NA27 puts the pronoun in brackets, indicating some doubts as to its authenticity.

52 tn Or “led.”

53 sn He…went to another place. This is Peter’s last appearance in Acts with the exception of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.

54 tn BDAG 436 s.v. ἡμέρα 1.a has “day is breaking” for ἡμέρα γίνεται (Jhmera ginetai) in this verse.

55 tn Grk “no little consternation.” The translation given for τάραχος (taraco") in this verse by BDAG 991 s.v. τάραχος 1 is “mental agitation.” The situation indicated by the Greek word is described in L&N 25.243 as “a state of acute distress and great anxiety, with the additional possible implications of dismay and confusion – ‘great distress, extreme anxiety.’” The English word “consternation” is preferred here because it conveys precisely such a situation of anxiety mixed with fear. The reason for this anxiety is explained in the following verse.

56 sn King Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great).

57 tn Or “had instigated a search” (Herod would have ordered the search rather than conducting it himself).

58 tn “Questioned” is used to translate ἀνακρίνας (anakrina") here because a possible translation offered by BDAG 66 s.v. ἀνακρίνω for this verse is “examined,” which could be understood to mean Herod inspected the guards rather than questioned them. The translation used by the NIV, “cross-examined,” also avoids this possible misunderstanding.

59 tn The meaning “led away to execution” for ἀπαχθῆναι (apacqhnai) in this verse is given by BDAG 95 s.v. ἀπάγω 2.c. Although an explicit reference to execution is lacking here, it is what would usually occur in such a case (Acts 16:27; 27:42; Code of Justinian 9.4.4). “Led away to torture” is a less likely option (Pliny the Younger, Letters 10, 96, 8).

60 tn Grk “and,” but the sequence of events is better expressed in English by “then.” A new sentence is begun in the translation because of the length of the sentence in Greek, which exceeds normal English sentence length.

61 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Since Herod has been the subject of the preceding material, and the circumstances of his death are the subject of the following verses (20-23), it is best to understand Herod as the subject here. This is especially true since according to Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 [19.343-352], Herod Agrippa I died at Caesarea in a.d. 44, and vv. 20-23 here describe his death. Thus the end of v. 19 provides Luke’s transition to explain how Herod got from Jerusalem to Caesarea where he died. In spite of all this evidence, the NRSV translates this phrase “Then Peter went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there,” understanding the referent to be Peter rather than Herod Agrippa I.

sn King Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great), who died at Caesarea in a.d. 44 according to Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 [19.343-352].

62 sn Caesarea was a city on the coast of Palestine south of Mount Carmel (not Caesarea Philippi). See the note on Caesarea in Acts 10:1.

map For location see Map2 C1; Map4 B3; Map5 F2; Map7 A1; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

63 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

sn Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great).

64 tn Or “was extremely angry.” L&N 33.453 gives the meaning “be angry and quarrel, quarrel angrily” here. However, in L&N 88.180 the alternative “to be violently angry, to be furious” is given. The term is used only once in the NT (BDAG 461 s.v. θυμομαχέω).

65 sn Tyre was a city and seaport on the coast of Phoenicia.

map For location see Map1 A2; Map2 G2; Map4 A1; JP3 F3; JP4 F3.

66 sn Sidon was an ancient Phoenician royal city on the coast between Berytus (Beirut) and Tyre (BDAG 923 s.v. Σιδών).

map For location see Map1 A1; JP3 F3; JP4 F3.

67 tn Or “with one accord.”

68 tn Or “persuading.”

69 tn On the term translated “personal assistant” BDAG 554 s.v. κοιτῶν states, “used as part of a title: ὁ ἐπὶ τοῦ κοιτῶνος the one in charge of the bed-chamber, the chamberlain.” This individual was not just a domestic servant or butler, but a highly respected person who had considerable responsibility for the king’s living quarters and personal affairs. The English word “chamberlain” corresponds very closely to this meaning but is not in common use today. The term “personal assistant,” while it might convey more business associations than management of personal affairs, nevertheless communicates the concept well in contemporary English.

70 tn The words “to help them” are not in the Greek text, but are implied.

71 tn Or “for a reconciliation.” There were grave political risks in having Herod angry at them. The detail shows the ruler’s power.

72 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

sn Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod I (Herod the Great).

73 tn Or “apparel.” On Herod’s robes see Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 (19.344), summarized in the note at the end of v. 23.

74 tn Although BDAG 175 s.v. βῆμα 3 gives the meaning “speakers platform” for this verse, and a number of modern translations use similar terms (“rostrum,” NASB; “platform,” NRSV), since the bema was a standard feature in Greco-Roman cities of the time, there is no need for an alternative translation here.

sn The judgment seat (βῆμα, bhma) was a raised platform mounted by steps and sometimes furnished with a seat, used by officials in addressing an assembly or making pronouncements, often on judicial matters. The judgment seat was a familiar item in Greco-Roman culture, often located in the agora, the public square or marketplace in the center of a city.

75 tn Or “delivered a public address.”

76 tn The translation “crowd” is given by BDAG 223 s.v. δῆμος; the word often means a gathering of citizens to conduct public business. Here it is simply the group of people gathered to hear the king’s speech.

77 tn The imperfect verb ἐπεφώνει (epefwnei) is taken ingressively in the sequence of events. Presumably the king had started his speech when the crowd began shouting.

78 sn The voice of a god. Contrast the response of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14:13-15.

79 tn Or “the angel of the Lord.” See the note on the word “Lord” in 5:19.

80 sn On being struck…down by an angel, see Acts 23:3; 1 Sam 25:28; 2 Sam 12:15; 2 Kgs 19:35; 2 Chr 13:20; 2 Macc 9:5.

81 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Herod) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

82 sn He was eaten by worms and died. Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 (19.343-352), states that Herod Agrippa I died at Caesarea in a.d. 44. The account by Josephus, while not identical to Luke’s account, is similar in many respects: On the second day of a festival, Herod Agrippa appeared in the theater with a robe made of silver. When it sparkled in the sun, the people cried out flatteries and declared him to be a god. The king, carried away by the flattery, saw an owl (an omen of death) sitting on a nearby rope, and immediately was struck with severe stomach pains. He was carried off to his house and died five days later. The two accounts can be reconciled without difficulty, since while Luke states that Herod was immediately struck down by an angel, his death could have come several days later. The mention of worms with death adds a humiliating note to the scene. The formerly powerful ruler had been thoroughly reduced to nothing (cf. Jdt 16:17; 2 Macc 9:9; cf. also Josephus, Ant. 17.6.5 [17.168-170], which details the sickness which led to Herod the Great’s death).



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