New Defender's Study Bible Notes
12:1 Herod the king. King Herod, as described in this chapter, was Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, the cruel king who slaughtered the babies at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1,16), and the father of Herod Agrippa II, who in turn was the King Agrippa who later tried Paul (Acts 25:13–26:32). Another Herod, Herod Antipas, was one of the sons of Herod the Great, and he was tetrarch of Galilee during the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus. Another son of Herod the Great, Aristobulus, was the father of Herod Agrippa I, the Herod who had James executed.
12:2 James. It is interesting that James, son of Zebedee, was the first of the apostles to be martyred, whereas John, his brother, survived all the rest, writing the last book of the Bible while imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos.
12:3 pleased the Jews. For a time the Christians had been in favor with the Jews (Acts 9:31). This seems to have changed after Gentiles were admitted into their company. Herod wanted to curry favor with the Jews, so he intended to execute their leader after the festival week was finished.
12:4 quaternions. That is, groups of four soldiers each. Usually a prisoner was guarded by only one quaternion.
12:4 Easter. This is actually the “Passover,” following the “days of unleavened bread.” Because Christ’s resurrection occurred immediately after Passover, Easter has traditionally been near the time of Passover. The term “Easter” itself, however, is probably derived from Eastre, the Teutonic goddess of spring.
12:6 Peter was sleeping. In spite of his miserable circumstances and the probability of being executed the next morning, Peter was sleeping so soundly that the angel had to strike him and lift him up. Even then, Peter still thought he was dreaming until the angel left him outside in the street (Acts 12:10). Peter surely experienced the reality of Psalm 121:3, assuring him that “He that keepeth thee will not slumber,” and of Psalm 127:2, which says, “He giveth His beloved sleep.”
12:7 angel of the Lord. Peter had experienced a similar angelic release from prison at least once before (Acts 5:19), so he knew that God was still in control.
12:9 wist. That is, “know.”
12:12 many were gathered together. This was most likely the same upper room where they had been praying before the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:13), and where they had observed the last supper with the Lord (Luke 22:12). Mark had probably been in the house with them both times.
12:15 Thou art mad. In spite of the fact that they had been praying without ceasing for Peter’s release (Acts 12:5), they at first could not believe that God had answered their prayers!
12:15 It is his angel. There are, indeed, “guardian angels” assigned to believers (e.g., Psalm 34:7; Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14), and it was evidently believed that each such angel could, if appropriate, assume the appearance of his particular charge. There is no Scriptural basis anywhere for the pagan belief that those who die still linger as ghosts. Besides, the Christians knew that Peter was not scheduled for execution until after the Passover (Acts 12:4), so there is no reason to think that, by “his angel,” they meant “his spirit.”
12:17 James. This James was obviously not the James who had just been slain by Herod, but rather James the half-brother of Jesus, who was becoming increasingly responsible for the leadership of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15:13).
12:17 another place. At this point, Peter disappears from the narrative for several years, although he was active again in the Jerusalem church at the time of the council dealing with Jewish legalism (Acts 15:7).
12:23 angel of the Lord. This could well have been the same “angel of the Lord” who delivered Peter from Herod’s prison (Acts 12:7).
12:23 gave not God the glory. According to Josephus, Herod arrayed himself in shining silver apparel, making himself look like some heavenly being. When he accepted the ascription of divinity to himself by the self-serving Phoenicians, God slew him. Josephus describes his last days while he was dying as exceedingly painful.
12:25 returned from Jerusalem. Barnabas and Saul had been sent to Jerusalem by the church at Antioch, bringing material aid to the Christians there during the hard times occasioned by the recent famine (Acts 11:27-30). Whether they were with the believers praying for Peter in Mark’s home is not stated, but it is there they must have counseled with Mark and decided to take him back to Antioch with them.
12:25 John. John Mark was a nephew of Barnabas (although some say he was a cousin—Colossians 4:10) and evidently a close friend of Peter (the early church fathers said much of what Mark wrote in his gospel was obtained from Peter). He probably was a Levite, like his uncle (Acts 4:36) and thus well instructed in the Scriptures, as well as from a prosperous family.