Author: Ron Graham
—Verse by verse
This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 12:18-25. These verses describe events after Peter’s escape from prison. God strikes Herod dead.
Story of Peter Ends with Herod’s Death
¶“18At break of day, there was consternation among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19Herod made a search for him, but didn't find him, so then he examined the guards, and commanded that they be executed. Herod then went down from Judea to Caesarea, and spent time there.” (Acts 12:18-19).
¶“20Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Their country depended on the king's country for food, so they came to him with a united front to make peace —they'd been able to win over Blastus, the king's personal aide. 21On an appointed day, Herod dressed himself in royal clothing, sat on the throne, and made a speech to them. 22The people shouted, 'The voice of God, and not of a man!' 23Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he didn't give God the glory. He was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:20-23).
¶“24But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their service, also taking with them John whose surname was Mark.” (Acts 12:24-25).
1 Herod Cannot Find Peter
¶ "At break of day, there was consternation among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. Herod made a search for him, but didn't find him, so then he examined the guards, and commanded that they be executed. Herod then went down from Judea to Caesarea, and spent time there." (Acts 12:18-19).
- The soldiers panic.The guards outside seemed to notice nothing untoward during the night, even though Peter and the angel had walked right past them. The two guards inside, who had been chained to Peter, did not become aware of Peter’s absence until dawn. How could this be? No wonder there was such consternation or “no small disturbance” as Luke puts it. The punishment for letting a prisoner escape was death. God’s angel somehow delayed the discovery of Peter’s escape to gain Peter some time to find refuge.
- Where Peter went. Luke doesn't tell us where Peter lay low so that Herod couldn't find him. But it wasn't at Mary’s house. Peter went there only to bring news of his escape, then he went elsewhere while it was yet night (Acts 12:12,17).
- Peter’s story ends. This is where the book of Acts leaves the adventures of Peter and turns to the acts of Paul. Peter is mentioned only once more in Acts, when Paul goes to Jerusalem to meet with Peter and the other apostles and elders there, and Peter speaks in favour of Paul and his doctrine (Acts 15:1-12).
2 Angel Strikes King Herod Dead
¶ "Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Their country depended on the king's country for food, so they came to him with a united front to make peace —they'd been able to win over Blastus, the king's personal aide. On an appointed day, Herod dressed himself in royal clothing, sat on the throne, and made a speech to them. The people shouted, “The voice of God, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he didn't give God the glory. He was eaten by worms and died." (Acts 12:20-23).
- King Herod. Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great who slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem, and nephew of the Herod Antipas the tetrarch who killed John the Baptist (Matthew 2:16, 14:1ff Luke 9:9). These Herodian kings seem to have been especially nasty types. So when the coastland cities of Tyre and Sidon somehow angered Herod, there ensued a political scramble on their part to appease him, because he controlled the sources that supplied the cities with their food, and there was famine at that time (Acts 11:28-27-30, Acts 12:1). If Herod were to decree sanctions against Tyre and Sidon, the cities would starve.
- Herod’s stupidity. Herod sat in the judgment chair, dressed to impress. He made a speech, but the people also had a message that they were anxious to get across to him. Most translations have them shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man”. Josephus (a Jewish historian) also records this event, and leans in that direction. But some translations have, “The voice of God and not of man.” The latter makes him a prophet of God, whereas the former makes him a god. Neither case is fitting, and Herod should have raised his hands and silenced the people. He should have said something like, “I am a king. I am neither a god nor a prophet of God. God grants me power by his grace. I have no power of my own.” But instead Herod accepted the adulation and didn't give God the glory.
- Herod’s nasty death. An angel of the Lord caused Herod to be consumed by worms. Luke, a doctor, states that Herod was eaten by worms and died, not the reverse. And Luke doesn't say that he died the same day that the angel struck him with the fatal disease. We won't dwell on this terrible affliction. Enough is enough. The death by this affliction was meant to show clearly that God is God, and men are men. Even though men be worshiped as gods, they are mortal; and their bodies, no matter how gorgeously arrayed, are corruptible.
- An angel of the Lord. Josephus says that Herod saw an owl hovering above, which Herod supposed was an angel taking the form of an owl, and an ill omen. This may or may not be true.
3 Luke’s Progress Report
¶ "But the word of God grew and multiplied. Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their service, also taking with them John whose surname was Mark." (Acts 12:24-25).
- Barnabas and Saul. Barnabas and Saul were last mentioned in Acts 11:29-30. They were sent from Syrian Antioch with the funds to help the Christians in Jerusalem survive the famine. They had now fulfilled that task and came back to Antioch, accompanied by John Mark who was to be their helper when they made what is known as Paul’s first missionary journey.
END OF THE THIRD SECTION OF ACTS
With this progress report (Acts 12:24-25) Luke concludes his description of the spread of Christianity into the coastlands including Joppa, and up to Syrian Antioch. It begins with the establishment of a church in Antioch, describes the work and adventures of Peter, and includes the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 6:8 to 9:31). In the fourth section we will see Christianity spread into Cyprus and areas south of Galatia as Paul completes his first missionary journey.