Acts 12:4
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
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(4) Delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers.—Agrippa apparently followed the lessons of Roman practice which he had learnt by his own experience. The four quaternions relieved each other at set times, and the prisoner was chained to two of the soldiers of each company, while the others were stationed as sentinels at the door of the dungeon. (Comp. St. Paul’s chains in Acts 28:20; Ephesians 6:20.)

Intending after Easter.—Better, after the Passover, as elsewhere. In this solitary instance the translators have introduced, with a singular infelicity, the term which was definitely appropriate only to the Christian festival which took the place of the Passover.

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 when he had apprehended him - When he had taken or arrested him.

He put him in prison - During the solemnities of this religious festival, it would have been deemed improper to have engaged in the trial of a supposed criminal. The minds of the people were expected to be devoted solely to the services of religion; and hence, Herod chose to retain him in custody until the Passover had ended.

To four quaternions of soldiers - A "quaternion" was a company of "four"; consequently the whole number employed here was sixteen. The Romans divided the night into four watches so that the guards could be relieved; those who were on guard occupying three hours, and being then relieved. Of the four who were on guard, two were with Peter in the prison Acts 12:6, and two kept watch before the door of the prison. The utmost precaution was taken that he should not escape; and Herod thus gave the most ample assurance to the Jews of his intention to secure Peter, and to bring him to trial.

Intending after Easter - There never was a more absurd or unhappy translation than this. The original is simply after the Passover (μετὰ τὸ πάσχα meta to pascha. The word "Easter" now denotes the festival observed by many Christian churches in honor of the resurrection of the Saviour. But the original has no reference to that, nor is there the slightest evidence that any such festival was observed at the time when this book was written. The translation is not only unhappy, as it does not convey at all the meaning of the original, but because it may contribute to foster an opinion that such a festival was observed in the time of the apostles. The word "Easter" is of Saxon origin, and is supposed to be derived from "Eostre," the goddess of Love, or the Venus of the North, in honor of whom a festival was celebrated by our pagan ancestors in the month of April (Webster). Since this festival coincided with the Passover of the Jews, and with the feast observed by Christians in honor of the resurrection of Christ, the name came to be used to denote the latter. In the old Anglo-Saxon service-books the term "Easter" is used frequently to translate the word "Passover." In the translation by Wycliffe, the word "paske," that is, "Passover," is used. But Tyndale and Coverdale used the word "Easter," and hence, it has very improperly crept into our King James Version.

To bring him forth to the people - That is, evidently, to put him publicly to death to gratify them. The providence of God in regard to Peter is thus remarkable. Instead of his being put suddenly to death, as was James, he was reserved for future trial; and thus an opportunity was given for the prayers of the church, and for his consequent release.

4. delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers—that is, to four parties of four each, corresponding to the four Roman watches; two watching in prison and two at the gates, and each party being on duty for the space of one watch.

intending after Easter—rather, "after the Passover"; that is, after the whole festival was over. (The word in our King James Version is an ecclesiastical term of later date, and ought not to have been employed here).

to bring him forth to the people—for execution; for during "the days of unleavened bread," or the currency of any religious festival, the Jews had a prejudice against trying or putting anyone to death.

Four quaternions of soldiers: there were sixteen soldiers appointed to keep Peter; the Romans using four soldiers at a time to keep sentry, and the Jews dividing their nights into four watches, there were enough to relieve the other, and to set a new watch as often as was required for every night; of which four at a time, two were with the prisoner, and perhaps, for the greater security, bound with the same chain, and two did always stand at the door or gate; and this they might the rather do, out of great caution, having heard what miracles Peter did, and that he had been delivered by an angel out of prison, Acts 5:19.

After Easter; that day in which the paschal lamb was ate, on which the Jews would put none to death, that they might not eclipse the joy of that day.

Bring him forth to the people; to do with him what they would, leaving him to their mercy, or rather cruelty.

When he had apprehended him,.... When his officers he sent to take him had brought him:

he put him in prison; in the common prison, very likely where he had been once before, Acts 5:18

and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; each quaternion consisted of four soldiers, so that they were in all sixteen; and so the Syriac version renders it, "and delivered him to sixteen soldiers": how the Ethiopic version should make "seventeen" of them is pretty strange: these perhaps might take their turns to watch him by four at a time, two to whom he was chained, and two others to keep the doors; or all the sixteen together, being posted in one place or another for greater security: and it may be, that the reason of all this caution, and strong guard, might be, because it was remembered that he, and the rest of the apostles, when committed to the same prison some years ago, were delivered out of it:

intending after Easter, or the passover,

to bring him forth to the people; to insult and abuse him, and to put him to what death they should desire.

{3} And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

(3) The tyrants and wicked make a gallows for themselves even then when they do most according to their own will and fantasy.

Acts 12:4. ὃν καὶ πιάσας, Acts 3:7, really Doric form of πιέζω (cf. Luke 6:38, nowhere else in N.T.), used in this sense also in LXX, and elsewhere in N.T., cf. Song of Solomon 2:15, Sir 23:21 (not A). Modern Greek πιάνω = seize, apprehend.—καὶ: “when he had taken him, indeed,” so Rendall, as if a delay had taken place, before the arrest was actually made.—τέσσαρσι τετραδ.: the night was divided by the Romans—a practice here imitated by Herod—into four watches, and each watch of three hours was kept by four soldiers, quaternio, two probably guarding the prisoner within the cell, chained to him, and two outside. τετραδ., cf. Philo, in Flaccum, 13; Polyb., xv., 33, 7, and see for other instances, Wetstein.—μετὰ τὸ πάσχα, “after the Passover,” R.V., i.e., after the whole festival was over: Herod either did not wish, or affected not to wish, to profane the Feast: “non judicant die festo” (Moed Katon., v., 2).—ἀναγαγεῖν: only here in this sense (in Luke 22:66, ἀπήγαγον, W. H.), probably means to lead the prisoner up, i.e., before the judgment tribunal (John 19:13), to sentence him openly to death before the people.

4. And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison] To keep him a prisoner till the termination of the feast.

and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep [guard] him] A quaternion was a set of four men, which number was at one time occupied in the work of the guard, two soldiers being chained to the prisoner, and two keeping guard outside. These latter are called (Acts 12:10) “the first and second ward.” There were four such sets appointed to have charge of Peter, one company for each of the four watches by day and by night.

intending after Easter (the Passover)] The rendering “Easter” is an attempt to give by an English word the notion of the whole feast. That this meaning and not the single day of the Paschal feast is intended by the Greek seems clear from the elaborate preparation made, as for a longer imprisonment than was the rule among the Jews. Peter was arrested at the commencement of the Passover feast (14th of Nisan), and the king’s intention was to proceed to sentence and punish him when the feast was at an end on the 21st of Nisan.

to bring him forth to the people] that they might take notice of the zeal for Judaism which would be shewn by the sentence passed upon Peter. The verb is employed by St Luke about the trial of Jesus (Luke 22:66), “As soon as it was day … they led him into their council.”

Acts 12:4. Τέταρσι τετραδίοις, four quaternions) So that they might keep watch by turns, and in several places: Acts 12:10.—ἀναγαγεῖν, to bring him forth) Such proceedings used to be carried on in elevated places. Therefore ἀναγεῖν is employed, and this by a Metonymy of the antecedent for the consequent, viz. the punishment.

Verse 4. - Taken for apprehended, A.V.; guard for keep, A.V.; the Passover for Easter, A.V. Four quaternions; i.e. four bands of four soldiers each, which were on guard in succession through the four watches of the night - one quaternion for each watch. The Passover. This is a decided improve-merit, as the use of the word "Easter" implies that the Christian feast is here meant. But perhaps" Feast of the Passover" would have been better, as showing that the whole seven days are intended. This is, perhaps, the meaning of τὸ πάσχα in John 18:28, and certainly is its meaning here. We have another characteristic trait of the religion of Agrippa, and of his sympathy with the feelings of the Jews about the Law, that he would not allow a trial on a capital charge, or an execution, to take place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (comp. John 18:8). To bring him forth to the people. Still the same desire uppermost, to propitiate the people by gifts or shows, or by blood; ἀναγαγεῖν means exactly "to bring up" (Acts 9:39; Romans 10:7, etc.), either on to a stage or on some high ground, where all the people could see him condemned, which would be as good to them as an auto da fé to a Spanish mob, or a gladiatorial slaughter to a Roman audience (see ver. 11). Acts 12:4Quaternions

A quaternion was a body of four soldiers; so that there were sixteen guards, four for each of the four night-watches.

The passover

The whole seven days of the feast.

Bring him forth (ἀναγαγεῖν αὐτὸν)

Lit., lead him up; i.e., to the elevated place where the tribunal stood, to pronounce sentence of death before the people. See John 19:13.

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