At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 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. . .Acts 12:18-19
Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”Acts 12:20-22
Two of you have asked me if I knew where Peter went when “he went to another place”?
I don’t know because Luke has left it decidedly vague. Was it another place within Jerusalem or outside the city in the surrounding area or was it another city altogether? One would suppose when they found Peter was missing at dawn Herod would have ordered the city sealed at all the exits to prevent Peter from escaping and then scoured the city for him. Luke tells us they made a thorough search for him. That infers to me that it was most likely that Peter made his way out of Jerusalem as far as he could go. But I suppose that depends on a number of factors:
- how long he took to tell them all that had happened,
- when he escaped and
- when he started his story.
If he were to have escaped Jerusalem he would have had to have left the city before they seal off the gates after the discovery of his escape was known at daylight. I guess it also depends how thorough the search was. Was it a search of the prison, the known places Christians gathered or a thorough search of the entire city? That would have taken a long time and would have had to have full Roman approval.
After the search had been made and Peter was still not found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Did Herod interrogate the four immediate guards set to guard Peter at the time he escaped or did he interrogate all sixteen who had guarded Peter through the watches of the night? The statement “he sentenced them to death” is interesting because there is a difference in the Greek text. The Western manuscripts read [apoktanthenai] “to put to death” whereas other manuscripts read [apachthenai] from [apago] which has the sense “to lead off to execution” or “to arrest or lead off to prison” and the fate which awaits them. Under Roman law a guard or guards who had allowed a prisoner to escape, especially a prisoner held under a sentence of death, would become liable to the same penalty as the prisoner would have suffered. But in this case this was not a Roman matter. It was an internal matter under Herod Agrippa I’s authority.
The next question we must ask is the meaning and juxtaposition of: –
- Herod interrogated the guards
- sentenced them to death.
- Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.
- Does that infer Herod waited in Jerusalem until the guards were executed, or after sentencing them to death then he left for Caesarea again.
- How intent was Herod on seeing them executed? Did he wait around until the deed was done or did he leave for Caesarea after he order them arrested pending execution?
Luke then follows this matter of the Peter’s escape and Herod ordering the guards to be executed with . . . Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. But we have no time frame, nor indication of how these two incidents are linked together, they are merely connected because that is the way Luke positions the two events. One would assume there is no causal link between the two but with Herod’s temperamental nature and spitefulness, who knows? In other words he was so incensed at Peter’s escape that he returns to Caesarea and aims to take his spite out on those from Tyre and Sidon. Or did the people of Tyre and Sidon send their delegation to Herod upon his arrival back in Caesarea after they heard he was back and that Peter had escaped his clutches. Maybe they were very aware that Herod Agrippa would then look for a scapegoat on which to vent his anger.
I personally think the connection between the two is because Lue wants us to see Herod’s death being a result of his cruelty to the apostles. God has intervened and taken him out of the equation. Could it be that the same angel of the Lord who escorted Peter out of the prison then had a hand in Herod’s demise? Blastus, Herod’s PA, gains a hearing for these people in order to settle their dispute. We are not even told the reason Herod is angry with them. That appears to be irrelevant where Herod Agrippa was concerned. He could be angry for no particular reason. But we are told that these people were his subjects and were dependant on Herod for their food supply.
Now comes the day of their hearing – an appointment with Herod was granted and when the day arrives, Herod puts on his royal robes, sat on his throne and made a speech to them. That is, Herod made a speech to the delegation from Tyre and Sidon. The words used seem to indicate that this moment was filled with undue pomp and ceremony. It is like Herod is opening the games for some celebration. But he is only attending a hearing arranged by Blastus over his dispute with the residents of the two coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon. The words Luke uses are “Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne and made a speech to them.” One would expect the people to make their submissions after which Herod gives them his ruling. Herod’s speech should be the final act of the hearing. This appears at face value to be a major hearing over a minor issue. So much so that Herod dresses in his royal robes and sits on his throne for it. Minor hearings could have been held in a small court. But here we have the full pomp and ceremony for a major event. But take note of what we are not told.
We are not told the nature of the grievance. We are not told the submission or the case for the hearing. We are not told what the people of Tyre and Sidon said in their submission.We are not told what Herod said in his speech, just that he made one.
Luke tells us this story for a purpose. I am sure Luke had a heap of stories he could have included in Scripture for us but he chose this one. Luke is a man of detail when he tells a story. That is he gives us all the relevant detail. Remember the importance Luke places on speeches throughout the book of Acts. Speeches mark high points in the text – always – except in this case. This is the one speech of Acts where Luke omits the transcript. It’s the speech that wasn’t. However Luke does tell us word for word the reaction of the people. The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”
Luke’s purpose for this little pericope is staring us in the face. Take some time to ponder it and what follows. I will deal with the pieces in the next Gems.
- And while you are at it, ponder the significance of what followed.
- Do you see anything curious about how Luke tells us the end result?
Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.Acts 12:23-25
When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.Anon
When you judge a person by their appearance it doesn’t define them; it defines you.Anon
Some people like to dress up in all their regalia when in fact they have nothing important to say.Ian Vail
When you have nothing importance to say, don’t let anyone persuade you to say it.Anon
Talent is God given. Be humble; Fame is man-given. Be grateful; Conceit is self-given. Be careful.Ian Vail