What does Acts 12:19 mean?
ESV: And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
NIV: After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed. Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
NASB: When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.
CSB: After Herod had searched and did not find him, he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.
NLT: Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.
KJV: And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.
NKJV: But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.
Verse Commentary:
An angel has rescued Peter from prison and execution, and the guards will pay for it. Herod Agrippa I had planned on executing Peter to build on his already strong relationship with the Jewish religious leadership. The angel arrived the evening before, removed Peter's shackles, and walked him out past at least four soldiers. Peter is gone, and the guards have no idea why (Acts 12:1–11).

The question arises, "How is it fair that the soldiers are punished for something God did?" It's not. It is not fair for the soldiers to lose their lives because God sent an angel to free a prisoner. That doesn't mean God is responsible for the guards' deaths. It is Agrippa who chose to arrest and execute Peter for the sole purpose of winning favor with the Sanhedrin. And it is Agrippa who chooses to execute the guards. Under Roman law, a guard who lets a prisoner escape can receive the same punishment the prisoner is scheduled for. That doesn't mean Agrippa has to sentence them.

We will see this law played out in a different way in Acts 16:25–34. Paul and Silas will be in jail in Philippi when an earthquake opens the doors and releases the chains of all the prisoners there. The jailor will come, see the open doors, and prepare to kill himself when Paul reassures him that all the prisoners are there. The stunned man will bind Paul and Silas' wounds, and they will lead him and his family to Christ.

The soldiers who guarded Jesus' tomb seemed to be in no threat of harm. Pilate told the Sanhedrin to take them to guard Jesus' tomb for their own peace of mind; Pilate didn't seem to care. Three days later, an angel appeared, Jesus rose, and the guards became catatonic. The Sanhedrin bribed the soldiers to say they had fallen asleep and the disciples stole the body. Under normal circumstances, if a prisoner escaped a Roman soldier would be vulnerable to the punishment the prisoner was to have. But they were working for the Jews, not the Romans, plus the chief priests said they would ensure that if the governor heard of it they would keep the guards out of trouble, so it appears the guards lived (Matthew 27:62–66; 28:11–15).

After Peter's escape Agrippa left Jerusalem and went to Caesarea Maritima. Caesarea is the capital of the Roman government in the region, but Agrippa made his home in Jerusalem, near the Jewish leadership. He probably should have stayed in Jerusalem. Soon, according to ancient historians, he will hold games in honor of Caesar. The second day of the games, he will stand before the audience in a robe woven with silver thread. The morning sun will catch the silver and he will appear to glow. The people will cry out, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" (Acts 12:22). The Roman king who showed a modicum of respect for the God of the Jews will foolishly take in the praise. Five painful days later, he will die as worms eat his bowels (Acts 12:20–23).
Verse Context:
Acts 12:12–19 records Peter quickly telling the story of his escape from a Roman prison before fleeing. Herod Agrippa I had arrested and beheaded James and found the Sanhedrin greatly impressed. He arrested Peter, as well, and planned to execute him after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Acts 12:1–5), but an angel arrived first and led Peter out of prison (Acts 12:6–11). Once Peter realized he wasn't dreaming he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12–19). Peter will reappear briefly in Acts 15:6–11, but this is the last significant mention of any of the apostles in the book of Acts.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 12 starts with the first death of an apostle and ends with the death of a king. Herod Agrippa I beheads James and imprisons Peter. An angel rescues Peter and he quickly lets the church in Jerusalem know before he goes into hiding. Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great and friend to the Pharisees, accepts glory due only to God and dies, likely a few days later, of internal worms. Meanwhile, the church continues to grow, and Barnabas and Saul return to Syrian Antioch. The scene is set for Paul's extensive ministry to the Gentiles.
Chapter Context:
When Acts 12 opens, at least some of the apostles are in Jerusalem, and Barnabas and Saul are in Syrian Antioch, collecting support so the church in Jerusalem can survive the coming famine (Acts 11:27–30). The church is established in Jerusalem and growing in the regions on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. When the chapter closes, Barnabas and Saul are poised for their missionary trip in modern-day Asia Minor. Saul will take on the Greek version of his name, Paul, and the story of Jesus will spread to Rome and beyond.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
Accessed 5/30/2024 5:46:55 AM
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