Acts 12:19

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Monday, 5 December 2022

“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.” Acts 12:19

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

The previous words told of the stir that had arisen among the soldiers. Now, it says “But when Herod had searched for him and not found him.”

The verbs are aorist participles – “And Herod, having searched for him and having not found.” Luke is recording the events as they occurred.

One can see Herod being apprised of the situation and personally coming to the prison and looking it over, seeing if there were any rooms that Peter could have been secreted away in. Maybe there was a trap door, or maybe there was a hidden chamber. He was probably both embarrassed and perplexed at what had transpired and wanted to personally look things over before making any determination as to what he should do.

These words contain the last implied noting of Peter in the account. He was searched for and not found. Peter will not be mentioned again until Acts 15. Next, and speaking of Herod, it says, “he examined the guards.”

Again, it is an aorist participle, “having examined the guards.” The Greek word, translated as examined, signifies a process of distinguishing a matter from “down to up.” In other words, one starts at the very bottom, or beginning, of a matter and thoroughly checks every detail until the top is reached. Such an examination leaves nothing out.

In other words, the lives of the guards are at stake. It would make no sense for them to simply let Peter go, even if he offered them vast sums of money. However, if a gang had abducted the families of the soldiers and threatened to kill them unless they freed Peter, they may have acquiesced.

The examination would consider every imaginable thing that could have prompted the soldiers to do what they did. With the examination complete, and surely with no reasonable explanation for Peter’s disappearance, it next says that Herod “commanded that they should be put to death.”

The Greek reads, “commanded them to be led away.” The supposition is death, and this is what is generally accepted as what occurred. However, without knowing Herod’s command, it could simply be for punishment or for a set duration of incarceration. The word is used in Matthew 27:31, at Jesus’ trial, saying –

“And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.”

As can be seen, the word “crucified” is affixed to the verb. As such, it provides a definitive explanation for what occurred. This is not the case with these soldiers. The leading away could be for a future trial. The probability is that they were executed, but an adamant stand on this is unjustified.

With this thought complete, it now says of Herod, “And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.” Of this, Albert Barnes says, “This journey of Herod is related by Josephus (Antiq., book 19, chapter 8, section 2). He says that it was after he had reigned over all Judea for three years.”

Herod stayed in Caesarea until his death which was not much later. That will be recorded in the verses to come. The word translated as “stayed” is diatribó. One can see the obvious etymological root of the modern word “diatribe.” It is a compound word coming from words meaning “through” and “rub.”

In the case of staying, it signifies “to wear through time.” One can think of being in time (dia/through) and rubbing it away. In the case of a diatribe, one can think of thoroughly rubbing away someone through a verbal attack. As for Herod, he tarried in Caesarea after his arrival there.

Life application: As noted, it is more than probable that the soldiers who had guarded Peter were executed. It may seem unfair to someone that Peter escaped while these soldiers were taken out and punished or even executed. But God determined that Peter should be spared. It is His right to dispose of His creatures according to His wisdom. He is the Creator, and we are merely a part of His creation.

But more, if Peter had done his job, which he surely did, he at least attempted to tell the soldiers about Jesus. In fact, he had just witnessed to Gentiles in Acts 10 and re-explained what occurred in Acts 11. He was fully aware of their need for Jesus and of Jesus’ willingness to accept them. It may be for this very reason that Peter was incarcerated at this time.

And so, someday, we might be in glory and find out that one or more of these soldiers was saved because Peter opened his mouth and spoke out the words of life concerning Jesus. It is a great lesson for us. We have no idea who around us will die before we see them again. What a day of regret to hear that the person we were sitting so close to won’t be around any longer. We had the opportunity and every reason to speak, and yet we chose not to.

Let us consider this and be sure to act accordingly. Let us speak out the wonderful words of life to those we come across!

Yes, Lord God, we have a responsibility to speak out the gospel to those we encounter. May we do so with joy and with a sense of urgency. The day is almost spent, and the time is short. Help us to speak while it is day. Night is coming when that opportunity will have passed. Give us wisdom in this, O God. Amen.