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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Acts 12



Other Authors
Verse 1

That time ( ἐκεῖνον τὸν καιρὸν )

More correctly, thatjunctu re. 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.

Verse 2

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.

Verse 3

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.

Verse 4


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.

Verse 5

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.

Verse 6

Would have brought

Rev., correctly, was about to bring.

Kept ( ἐτήρουν )

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

Verse 7

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.

Verse 8

Garment ( ἱμάτιον )

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

Verse 10

Ward ( φυλακὴν )

Better, watch: the soldiers on guard. Explanations of thefirst 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.

Verse 12

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.

Verse 13

Door of the gate

The small outside door, forming the entrance from the street, and opening into the πυλών , or door way, 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).

Verse 14

She knew

Or recognized.

Verse 15

Constantly affirmed ( διΐσχυρίζετο )

Better, confidently affirmed; constant is used in its older sense of consistent. The verb contains two ideas: strong assertion ( ἰσχύς ), andholding 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.

Verse 17

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.

Verse 19

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.

Verse 20

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.

Verse 21

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”).

Verse 22

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.

Verse 23

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” (Acts href="/desk/?q=ac+5:5&sr=1">Acts 5:5.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Acts 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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