1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.
2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.
5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.
6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.
7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.
11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
about that time (v.1) — when Barnabas and Saul were in Antioch. Herod died in A.D. 44, the year before the famine in Judea.
Herod, the king, mentioned here is known in history as Herod Agrippa I. He was the grandson of Herod the Great. First he had the tetrarchy of Philip (Luke 3:1), then he received the territory of Herod Antipas, Galilee and Peraea; lastly through political intrigue he added to his kingdom Judea and Samaria. Much of his time was spent in Rome, where he lived extravagantly. When he came to Jerusalem he tried in every possible way to gain the good will of the Jews by an outward observance of the law and defense of their customs. The persecution of the church was no doubt inspired by the desire to gain favor with the Jews. As far as the historical account goes, it seems his hatred was exclusively directed against the Apostles.
Four Herods are mentioned in the New Testament. All are types of the Anti-Christ and all were energized by Satan. Herod the Great who had the children of Bethlehem killed. The Herod who killed John the Baptist. The Herod who slew James, and the Herod Agrippa before whom Paul stood and preached. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, pages 219-221.
Mark well: Herod does not stretch forth his hands against the Jews; he stretches forth his hands against “certain of the church” and, sad to say, Israel is pleased to have it so. She prefers the reign of this part Edomite to that of her own Messiah.
The Edomites, the descendents of Esau, were Israel’s hereditary enemies. Indeed, Herod’s right to the throne was forfeited by the mere fact that he was not of the royal Davidic line nor even a full Israelite (Deuteronomy 17:15). — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 131.
James (v.2) — His only other mention in Acts is in 1:13 in the list of those at Pentecost. He had been one of Christ’s inner circle (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33).
with the sword (v.2) — beheaded — considered disgraceful by the Jews
Days of Unleavened Bread (v.3) — leading up to Passover — Large crowds were in town for the feast, and Herod acted politically to appeal to them.
This (v.4) was Peter’s third (at least) trip to prison. (Acts 4:3; 5:18)
four squads (v.4) — four quaternions — four bands of four soldiers each, probably one squad for each three-hour watch during the night
bring him before the people (v.4) — for trial
after Passover (v.4) — after the entire eight-day feast. Herod behaved like a devout Jew and so would have avoided executions during Passover.
constant prayer (v.5) = earnest — lit. “to stretch out” — intense
two chains (v.6) — Peter was chained to two guards and two other guards stood by the door. Luke emphasizes how securely Peter was imprisoned. This was probably because of his previous escape from prison (Acts 5:19).
struck Peter on the side (v.7) — Although in prison and about to be killed, Peter was sleeping securely.
Our Lord had predicted that Peter would live to be an old man (John 21:18). Thus Herod’s plan to put him to death at this time could not succeed. Perhaps this is why Peter slept so soundly the night before he was to have been executed. — Stam, page 141.
gird yourself (v.8) — the long tunic, or under-garment, was tied on securely during the day but loosened at night
garment (v.8) — outer cloak
expectation (v.11) — of Peter’s trial and execution
We have seen how our Lord had promised the twelve apostles that they should occupy twelve thrones in the kingdom and should reign with Him over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). We have further seen how, at Pentecost, “Peter, standing up with the eleven,” appealed to Israel to repent and receive her Messiah (Acts 2) and how God protected and sustained the twelve in the midst of the most violent persecutions, so that even when all the other believers had to flee from Jerusalem for their lives, the twelve alone remained in the city, divinely protected.
but now one of the twelve is slain; nor can any attempt be made to replace him by another, for he, unlike Judas, has a legitimate claim to one of the twelve thrones. Thus it becomes evident that the kingdom is not yet to be established on earth and that a new dispensation has already begun, as God removes His protecting hand from one of the twelve and allows Herod the king to slay him with the sword. Meanwhile the depth of Israel’s declension is seen in the fact that the Jews are pleased with Herod for killing James. — Stam, pages 133-134.