Acts 12:15
And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
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(15) It is his angel.—The language expresses the common belief of the Jews, that every true Israelite had a guardian angel specially assigned to him, who, when he appeared in human form, assumed the likeness of the man whom he protected. It is obvious that the record of the casual utterance of such a belief cannot be taken as an authoritative sanction of it.

12:12-19 God's providence leaves room for the use of our prudence, though he has undertaken to perform and perfect what he has begun. These Christians continued in prayer for Peter, for they were truly in earnest. Thus men ought always to pray, and not to faint. As long as we are kept waiting for a mercy, we must continue praying for it. But sometimes that which we most earnestly wish for, we are most backward to believe. The Christian law of self-denial and of suffering for Christ, has not done away the natural law of caring for our own safety by lawful means. In times of public danger, all believers have God for their hiding-place; which is so secret, that the world cannot find them. Also, the instruments of persecution are themselves exposed to danger; the wrath of God hangs over all that engage in this hateful work. And the range of persecutors often vents itself on all in its way.Thou art mad - Thou art insane. They seemed to have regarded his rescue as so difficult and so hopeless, that they deemed it proof of derangement that she now affirmed it. And yet this was the very thing for which they had been so earnestly praying. When it was now announced to them that the object of their prayers was granted, they deemed the messenger that announced it insane. Christians are often surprised even when their prayers are answered. They are overwhelmed and amazed at the success of their own petitions, and are slow to believe that the very thing for which they have sought could be granted. It shows, perhaps, with how little faith, after all, they pray, and how slow they are to believe that God can hear and answer prayer. In a revival of religion in answer to prayer, Christians are often overwhelmed and astonished when even their own petitions are granted, and when God manifests his own power in his own way and time. Prayer should be persevered in, and we should place ourselves in a waiting posture to catch the first indications that God has heard us.

But she constantly affirmed - She insisted on it. How much better it would have been to have hastened at once to the gate, than thus to have engaged in a controversy on the subject. Peter was suffered to remain knocking while they debated the matter. Christians are often engaged in some unprofitable controversy when they should hasten to catch the first tokens of divine favor, and open their arms to welcome the proofs that God has heard their prayers.

Then said they - Still resolved not to be convinced.

It is his angel - Any way of accounting for it rather than to admit the simple fact, or to ascertain the simple truth. All this was caused by the little hope which they had of his release, and their earnest desire that it should be so. It was just such a state of mind as is indicated when we say, "The news is too good to e believed." The expression "It is his angel" may mean that they supposed that the "tutelary guardian," or angel appointed to attend Peter, had come to announce something respecting him, and that he had assumed the voice and form of Peter in order to make them certain that he came from him. This notion arose from the common belief of the Jews that each individual had assigned to him, at birth, a celestial spirit, whose office it was to guard and defend him through life. See the notes on Matthew 18:10. That the Jews entertained this opinion is clear from their writings. See Kuinoel. Lightfoot thinks that they who were assembled supposed that the angel had assumed the voice and manner of Peter in order to intimate to them that he was about to die, and to excite them to earnest prayer that he might die with constancy and firmness. Whatever their opinions were, however, it proves nothing on these points. There is no evidence that they were inspired in these opinions, nor are their notions countenanced by the Scriptures. They were the mere common traditions of the Jews, and prove nothing in regard to the truth of the opinion one way or the other.

15. Thou art mad—one of those exclamations which one can hardly resist on hearing what seems far "too good to be true."

she constantly affirmed—"kept steadfastly affirming."

that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel—his disembodied spirit, his ghost; anything, in fact, rather than himself. Though this had been the burden of their fervent prayers during all the days of unleavened bread, they dispute themselves out of it as a thing incredible. Still, it is but the unbelief of the disciples who "believed not for joy and wondered" at the tidings of their Lord's resurrection. How often do we pray for what we can hardly credit the bestowment of, when it comes in answer to our prayers! This, however, argues not so much hard unbelief as that kind of it incident to the best in this land of shadows, which perceives not so clearly as it might how very near heaven and earth, the Lord and His praying people, are to each other.

Thou art mad; thou speakest thou knowest not what; thinking her, out of fear, to have been discomposed in her mind.

It is his angel: some have thought, that by Peter’s angel no other was meant than some messenger from Peter, which they might expect from him in such a case as he was in; now though aggelov (the word here) signifies a messenger or an angel, indifferently, yet how could Rhoda then know it to have been Peter’s voice? A messenger’s voice being no more like his that sent him than another man’s. They did, probably mean some angel that had assumed Peter’s shape, and imitated his voice: and the Jews having had a constant opinion, that at least every good man hath a guardian angel which God appoints to him for a means of his preservation, might be apt to imagine that this was that angel whose charge St. Peter was, Matthew 18:10. Though that angel spoken of, Genesis 48:16, most probably was the angel of the new covenant, and not a created angel, being Jacob blesseth in his name; yet the opinion of tutelar angels, though not certain or needful, is to this day thought probable.

And they said unto her, thou art mad, &c. "Or art thou not mad?" as the Ethiopic version, and two of Beza's exemplars read, and some others: they thought the girl must be out of her senses; they looked upon the thing impossible; for though they were praying for him, and praying in faith, yet they might have no expectation of a deliverance; but were praying that they might be supported under such a trial, and that it might be sanctified to them; and for Peter, that he might be strengthened and made steadfast, and kept faithful to the last; and bear, by his sufferings and death, a glorious and honourable testimony for Christ:

but she constantly affirmed that it was even so; she asserted it over and over, and was positive in it; nothing they could say could put her off of it; she was sure of it; which when they observed, they could not tell what to say to it, but as follows: then said they,

it is his angel; not his tutelar or guardian angel, everyone having, as some think, a particular angel to attend him; whereas sometimes one angel attends many persons, and sometimes many angels encamp about, and are a guard to a single saint; nor did they think it was an angel sent to give notice of his death, as some persons, by one means or another, have had previous notices of the death of their friends; but rather, that it was an angel in Peter's shape, who had something to communicate: and this agrees with the notions of the Jews, who think that angels do assume the shapes of men on certain occasions: so they say (i), when Moses was in danger in Pharaoh's court, God sent Michael, the prince of the host of heaven, "in the shape of an executioner"; who brought him at once out of Egypt, and set him at the border of it, the distance of three days journey: Bar Kaphra says (k), an angel descended , "in the likeness of Moses", and caused him to flee, and they thought the angel had been Moses: and so it is elsewhere said (l), that an angel descended "in the likeness of Solomon", sitting upon his throne: there are some who think, that the sense of the brethren praying for Peter, was not that it was an angel, a celestial spirit, but a messenger sent by Peter from the prison on some errand: who represented him, or mentioning his name, the damsel took him for Peter himself. Beza's ancient copy reads, "then said they unto her, perhaps it is his angel", and so the Syriac version.

(i) Chronicon Mosis, fol. 6. 1.((k) Debarim Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 237. 1.((l) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 64. 4.

And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel.
Acts 12:15-16. Μαίνῃ] Thou art mad! An expression of extreme surprise at one who utters what is absurd or otherwise incredible. Comp. Acts 26:24; Hom. Od. xviii. 406. The hearer also of something incredible himself exclaims: μαίνομαι! Jacobs, ad Anthol. IX. p. 440.

διϊσχυρίζ.] as in Luke 22:59, and often in Greek writers: she maintained firmly and strongly.

ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ ἐστιν] Even according to the Jewish conception (see Lightfoot ad loc.), the explanation suggested itself, that Peter’s guardian angel had taken the form and voice of his protégé and was before the door. But the idea, originating after the exile, of individual guardian angels (see on Matthew 18:10), is adopted by Jesus Himself (Matthew 18:10), and is essentially connected with the idea of the Messianic kingdom (Hebrews 1:14). Olshausen rationalizes this conception in an unbiblical manner, to this effect: “that in it is meant to be expressed the thought, that there lives in the world of spirit the archetype of every individual to be realized in the course of his development, and that the higher consciousness which dwells in man here below stands in living connection with the kindred phenomena of the spirit-world.” Cameron, Hammond, and others explain: “a messenger sent by him from the prison.” It is decisive against this interpretation, that those assembled could just as little light on the idea of the imprisoned Peter’s having sent a messenger, as the maid could have confounded the voice of the messenger with the well-known voice of Peter, for it must be presumed from διϊσχυρίζετο οὕτως ἔχειν that she told the more special reasons for her certainty that Peter was there.

Acts 12:16. ἀνοίξαντες] consequently the persons assembled themselves, who had now come out of their room.

Acts 12:15. Μαίνῃ: used as in a colloquial expression, not meaning literal insanity, see Page’s note on Acts 26:24, so in 2 Kings 9:11, ἐπίληπτος seems to be used.—διϊσχυρίζετο: only here and in Luke 22:59 (cf. Acts 15:2 [252]). In Luke, A.V. renders “confidently affirmed” as it should be here, and as it is in R.V.; found in classical Greek, and so also in Jos., Ant., ii., 6, 4, but not in LXX; cf. also its use in Acta Petri et Pauli Apocryph., 34, 39 (Lumby). Both ἰσχυρίζεσθαι and its compound here are used in medical language, and both in the same way as in this passage. If we compare the parallel passages, Matthew 26:73, Mark 14:70, Luke 22:59, in Matthew we have εἶπον, in Mark ἔλεγον, but in Luke the strong word in the passage before us; Hobart, p. 77, and see also a similar change in parallel passages on p. 76.—Ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ ἐστιν, cf. Matthew 18:10, Hebrews 1:14. According to Jewish ideas they would believe that Peter’s guardian angel had assumed his form and voice, and stood before the door, see Edersheim, Jesus the Messiah, ii. 748–755, especially 752; “Apocrypha” (“Speaker’s Commentary”) “Angelology,” i., 171 ff.; Weber, Jüdische Theol., pp. 170, 171 (1897); “Angels,” B.D., 12, Blass, Nösgen, J. Lightfoot, in loco. We may contrast the reserve of the canonical books of the Jews with the details of their later theology, “Engel,” Hamburger, Real-Encyclopädie des Judentums, i., 2 and 3.

[252] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.

15. she constantly affirmed] i.e. confidently, with determination; which was the old meaning of the word in the A. V. Cp. Frith, Workes, Life, fol. 3, “he so constantly defended himself, that he had prevailed, if he might have been heard.”

It is his angel] The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Acts 1:14) expresses in part the opinion of the Jews concerning angels when he asks, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” The Jewish belief was that each man had a guardian angel assigned to him. Cp. Midrash Rabbah on Ecclesiastes 4:4, where it is said that “six hundred thousand of the angels of the presence came down on Sinai at the giving of the Law, and each one bore a crown to crown Israel, one for each Israelite.” Cp. also our Lord’s language (Matthew 18:10).

Acts 12:15. Μαίνῃ, thou art mad) [Some subjoin the mark of interrogation after this word. But the margin of both Gr. Editions leaves it undecided.—E. B.] A formula used in case of a thing which is not believed.—διϊσχυρίζετο, she perseveringly affirmed) Quite differently from what they are wont to do, who are either mad or sleeping.—ὁ ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ, his angel) So they inferred from the similarity of the voice. From the opinion of those saints as to the angel of Peter, whom they were supposing to be close to death, having been heard by the damsel, no solid conclusion can be inferred as to a single angel being the attendant on each individual among men. [Scripture assigns frequently to one holy man the guardianship rather of many angels.—V. g.] However even Peter speaks definitely with the article τὸν, Acts 12:11, τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ: whereas ordinarily the article is not always added to possessive pronouns. Comp. Matthew 19:28, δόξης αὐτοῦ; Acts 3:2, μητρὸς αὐτοῦ.

Verse 15. - Confidently for constantly, A.V. (for the same use of διι'σχυρίζομαι, see Luke 22:59); and they said for then said they, A.V. It is his angel; meaning probably his guardian angel (Matthew 18:10). But the expression is obscure, and we do not know exactly the nature of the belief on which it was grounded. They must have thought that perhaps Peter had been put to death in prison that very night, and that his angel, speaking with his voice, was sent to announce it to the Church. The narrative is a striking instance how "slow of heart to believe" are even the most devout. They were praying very earnestly for Peter's life; their prayer was granted; and yet the announcement of it only draws out the answer, "Thou art mad!" and then, as an alternative, the explanation, "It is his angel!" Acts 12:15Constantly affirmed (διΐσχυρίζετο)

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

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