Acts 12:3
And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
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(3) Because he saw it pleased the Jews.—This was throughout the ruling policy of the Herodian house. The persecution did not spring from any fanatic zeal against the new faith, but simply from motives of political expediency. A somewhat touching incident is recorded, illustrating the king’s sensitiveness to popular praise or blame. It was at the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Law was read, and he heard the words of Deuteronomy 17:15 : “Thou shalt not set a stranger over thee,” and he burst into tears at the thought of his own Idumæan descent. The people saw him weeping, and cried out: “Trouble not thyself, Agrippa; thou also art our brother,” and the king’s heart was comforted (Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums, I., p. 420).

Then were the days of unleavened bread.—The crowds of Hellenistic and other Jews who were gathered to keep the feast at Jerusalem naturally made this a favourable opportunity for courting the favour of the people. A tradition recorded by St. Jerome states that St. James was beheaded on the 15th of Nisan, i.e., on the same day as that of the Crucifixion. Peter was arrested probably at the same time; but the trial and execution were deferred till the seven days of the feast were over.

Acts 12:3-4. And because he saw it pleased the Jews — Whose favour he laboured by all possible means to conciliate; he proceeded to take Peter also — Renowned as he was for such a variety of miracles wrought by him at Jerusalem. According to Josephus, (Antiq., Acts 19:7,) this Herod “was a great zealot for the Mosaic law, dwelt much at Jerusalem, and gladly embraced all opportunities of obliging the Jews, as his grandfather Herod did of pleasing strangers;” a character well suiting what Luke here says of him. Then were the days of unleavened bread — When the Jews came together to Jerusalem from all parts, to celebrate the passover. And he put him in prison — And, for the greater security of so noted a person, he delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers — That is, to sixteen, each party consisting of four, who were to watch him day and night by turns, four at a time; two of them being chained to him, and two of them watching before the door of the prison; intending after Easter — Or, rather, after the passover, as μετα το πασχα signifies, and ought, doubtless, to have been translated; (the name Easter not being in use till many centuries after this book was written;) to bring him forth to the people — To be made a spectacle to them, as his Master, Jesus, had been on the first day of unleavened bread; for confining him was not all that Herod designed. His intention was, after the paschal lamb was eaten, and the seven days’ festival quite finished, to gratify the people by putting him to death, and that publicly. For, notwithstanding their zeal about rituals, they would submit to be concerned in the vilest immoralities, and most horrid cruelties, exercised on the servants of God.

12:1-5 James was one of the sons of Zebedee, whom Christ told that they should drink of the cup that he was to drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that he was to be baptized with, Mt 20:23. Now the words of Christ were made good in him; and if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him. Herod imprisoned Peter: the way of persecution, as of other sins, is downhill; when men are in it, they cannot easily stop. Those make themselves an easy prey to Satan, who make it their business to please men. Thus James finished his course. But Peter, being designed for further services, was safe; though he seemed now marked out for a speedy sacrifice. We that live in a cold, prayerless generation, can hardly form an idea of the earnestness of these holy men of old. But if the Lord should bring on the church an awful persecution like this of Herod, the faithful in Christ would learn what soul-felt prayer is.And because he saw that it pleased the Jews - This was the principle on which he acted. It was not from a sense of right; it was not to do justice, and to protect the innocent; it was not to discharge the appropriate duties of a magistrate and a king, but it was to promote his own popularity. It is probable that Agrippa would have acted in this way in any circumstances. He was ambitious, vain, and fawning; he sought, as his great principle, popularity, and he was willing to sacrifice, like many others, truth and justice to obtain this end. But there was also a particular reason for this in his case. He held his appointment under the Roman emperor. This foreign rule was always unpopular among the Jews. In order, therefore, to secure a peaceful reign, and to prevent insurrection and tumult, it was necessary for him to court their favor; to indulge their wishes, and to fall in with their prejudices. Alas, how many monarchs and rulers there have been who were governed by no better principle, and whose sole aim has been to secure popularity, even at the expense of law, truth, and justice. That this was the character of Herod is attested by Josephus (Antiq., 19, chapter 8, section 3): "This king (Herod Agrippa) was by nature very beneficent, and liberal in his gifts, and very ambitious to please the people with such large donations; and he made himself very illustrious by the many expensive presents he made them. He took delight in giving, and rejoiced in living with good reputation."

To take Peter also - Peter was one of the most conspicuous men in the church. He had made himself particularly obnoxious by his severe and pungent discourses, and by his success in winning people to Christ. It was natural, therefore, that he should be the next object of attack.

The days of unleavened bread - The Passover, or the seven days immediately succeeding the Passover, during which the Jews were required to eat bread without leaven, Exodus 12:15-18. It was some time during this period that Herod chose to apprehend Peter. Why this time was selected is not known. As it was, however, a season of religious solemnity, and as Herod was desirous of showing his attachment to the religious rites of the nation (Josephus, Antiq., Exodus 19:7, Exodus 19:3), it is probable that he chose this period to show to them more impressively his purpose to oppose all false religions, and to maintain the existing establishments of the nation.

3. because he saw it pleased the Jews—Popularity was the ruling passion of this Herod, not naturally so cruel as some of the family [Josephus, Antiquities, 19.7.3].

to take Peter also—whose loss, at this stage of the Church, would have been, so far as we can see, irreparable.

Then were the days of unleavened bread—seven in number, during which, after killing and eating the Passover, no leaven was allowed in Jewish houses (Ex 12:15, 19).

All the posterity of Herod the Great, by his example, studied chiefly to please the Roman emperors, and to gratify the Jews, whether by right or wrong.

The days of unleavened bread; or the passover, which festival solemnity lasted eight days; and God overruled the hypocrisy of Herod (for he did not out of piety observe this time) for the preservation of Peter; and Herod might fear some tumult of the people, in so great a concourse, upon Peter’s death, for which he did defer it: however, the perverseness of the Jews is very remarkable, who were mad with rage against Christ and his apostles, at such times in which they pretended to serve the God of love and peace.

And because he saw it pleased the Jews,.... That is, as Beza's ancient copy adds, "his stretching out his hands upon the faithful"; this pleased the Jews, a bloodthirsty generation of men, who had killed the prophets, and the Lord Jesus, and who were now greedy after the death of the apostles: it may easily be seen from what principle and spirit Herod acted; it was not out of regard to the Jewish religion, rites, and ceremonies, but to ingratiate himself into the affections of the people:

he proceeded further to take Peter also; a principal apostle, and who was well known, and against whom the Jews had doubtless a particular antipathy, and would have been glad to have been rid of him; this Herod was, sensible of, and therefore to please them, ordered him to be taken up:

then were the days of unleavened bread; or the feast of the passover.

{2} And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)

(2) It is an old habit of tyrants to attain the favour of the wicked, with the blood of the godly.

Acts 12:3-4. Herod, himself a Jew (in opposition to Harduin), born in Judaism (Deyling, Obss. II. p. 263; Wolf, Cur.), although of Gentile leanings, a Roman favourite brought up at the court of Tiberius, cultivated out of policy Jewish popular favour, and sought zealously to defend the Jewish religion for this purpose. Joseph. Antt. xix. 7. 3.

προσέθετο συλλαβ.] a Hebraism: he further seized. Comp. on Luke 19:11; Luke 20:12.

τέσσαρσι τετραδίοις] four bands of four (τετράδιον, a number of four, Philo, II. p. 533, just as τετράς in Aristotle and others), quatuor quaternionibus, i.e. four detachments of the watch, each of which consisted of four men, so that one such τετράδιον was in turn on guard for each of the four watches of the night. On this Roman regulation, see Veget. R. M. iii. 8; Censorinus, de die nat. 23; Wetstein in loc.

μετὰ τὸ πάσχα] not to desecrate the feast, in consideration of Jewish orthodox observance of the law. For he might have evaded the Jewish rule, “non judicant die festo” (Moed Katon v. 2), at least for the days following the first day of the feast (see Bleek, Beitr. p. 139 ff.), by treating the matter as peculiarly pressing and important. Wieseler (Synops. p. 364 ff., Chronol. d. ap. Zeitalt. p. 215 ff.) has incorrectly assumed the 15th Nisan as the day appointed for the execution, and the 14th Nisan as the day of the arrest. Against this it may be decisively urged, that by μετὰ τὸ πάσχα must be meant the entire Paschal feast (not the 14th Nisan), because it corresponds to the preceding αἱ ἡμέραι τῶν ἀζύμ. (comp. Luke 22:1).

ἀναγαγ. αὐτ. τῷ λαῷ] that is, to present him to the people on the elevated place where the tribunal stood (John 19:13), in order there publicly to pronounce upon him the sentence of death.

Acts 12:3. ἀρεστόντοῖς Ἰ: exactly what we should expect from the character and policy of Herod in his zeal for the law, and from the success with which during his short reign he retained the favour of Jews and Romans alike. Holtzmann, p. 370, seems inclined to doubt the truth of this description of Herod, and lays stress upon the mention of the king’s mild disposition in Josephus, Ant., xix., 7, 3. But Josephus also makes it quite plain how zealous Agrippa was, or pretended to be, for the laws and ordinances of Judaism, u. s., and xx., 7, 1, and see Schürer, u. s., and Feine, p. 226. Nor is it at all certain that Agrippa’s reputed mildness and gentleness would have kept him from rejoicing in the persecution of the Christians, cf. the description of his delight in the bloody gladiatorial games, Jos., Ant., xix., 9, 5.—προσέθετο συλλ.: a Hebraism, cf. Luke 19:11; Luke 20:11 : LXX, Genesis 4:2; Genesis 8:12; Genesis 25:1, Exodus 14:13, etc., peculiar to St. Luke in N.T., Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 209 (1893).—αἱ ἡ. τῶν ἀζύμων, and therefore a large number of Jews would be in Jerusalem, and Herod would thus have a good opportunity of gaining wide popularity by his zeal for the law.

3. And because he saw it pleased the Jews] Which was so great an object with him. This Josephus notices (Antiq. xix. 7. 3), for, comparing Agrippa with the Herod who ruled before him, he mentions that the latter “was more friendly to the Greeks than to the Jews,” in which matter he says Agrippa “was not at all like him.”

he proceeded further to take Peter also] The Greek is a rendering of a common Hebrew form. Literally, “he added to take Peter also.” Peter was the other most conspicuous figure among the twelve, for John, as in his Gospel he keeps himself from view under the designation “that other disciple” (John 20:2-3; John 21:20; John 21:23), so in the work of the early Church he is but little noticed after the first persecution at Jerusalem.

Then were the days of unleavened bread] Literally, “and those were,” &c. The expression refers to the whole feast, as may be seen from Luke 22:1, “The feast of unleavened bread, which is called the Passover.”

Acts 12:3. Ἰδὼν, having seen) Two incentives, leading; men to act ill and omit to do good: the desire to please others, and fear; the one is the worse, the other the more violent (active) of the two, even in the case of kings.—τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, the Jews) These were hostile, owing to conscience, but that a perverted conscience; Herod from wantonness, at the cost of believers, wishes to gratify them.—τῶν ἀζύμων, of the unleavened bread) It was at the same time of the year formerly that they had taken Jesus. The people were congregated together.

Verse 3. - When for because, A.V.; that it pleased for it pleased, A.V.; proceeded for proceeded further, A.V.; seize for take, A.V. ; and those for then, A.V. He proceeded to seize (προσέθετο συλλαβεῖν) is a Hebraism. This trait of his pleasing the Jews is in exact accordance with Josephus's description of him, as τῷ βιοῦν ἐν αὐφημίᾳ χαίρων, loving popularity, and as being very kind and sympathizing with the Jewish people, and liking to live much at Jerusalem ('Ant. Jud.' 19.7.3). The days of unleavened bread; i.e. as expressed by Luke 22:1, "The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover." It lasted seven days (Exodus 12:15-18), from the 14th to the 21st of Nisan, or Abib (Exodus 12:18-20; Leviticus 23:5, 6; Deuteronomy 16:1-4), the Passover being eaten on the night of the 14th. Acts 12:3He proceeded to take (προσέθετο συλλαβεῖν)

Rev., seize. Lit., he added to take. A Hebrew form of expression. Compare Luke 19:11, he added and spake; Luke 20:12, again he sent a third; lit., he added to send.

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