Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern

chapter 12
1. It was around this time that King Herod began arresting and persecuting certain members of the Messianic community;
King Herod Agrippa 1(11 B.C.E.-44 C.E.), ruler of all Israel, 41-44 C.E.; grandson of Herod the Great (Mt 2:1) through a son (Aristobulus) not mentioned in the New Testament; father of Herod Agrippa II (25:13-26:32). On his death, see vv. 22-23. 

2. and he had Ya‘akov, Yochanan’s brother, put to death by the sword.
Ya'akov, Yochanan's brother (Mt 4:21), the first of the twelve emissaries to die 'alkiddush-HaShem (see 7:59-60&N on Stephen's martyrdom). According to tradition, of the twelve emissaries only Yochanan survived to die a natural death. 

3. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Judeans, he went on to arrest Kefa as well. It was during the Days of Matzah,
Judeans. See Yn 1:19N. Herod Agrippa's consistent policy was to conciliate the majority.
Days of Matzah. See Mt 26:17N. 

4. so when Herod seized him, he threw him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each, with the intention of bringing him to public trial after Pesach.
Pesach, Greek pascha. It appears 29 times in the New Testament, but for some inexplicable reason KJV here translates it "Easter" — here alone! Of course the reference is to Passover (see Mt 26:2N).

Herod did not want to arouse public opinion against himself by trying a leader of a significant Jewish minority community during the holy season. 

5. So Kefa was being held under watch in prison, but intense prayer was being made to God on his behalf by the Messianic community.
A five-point teaching on prayer: Prayer must be
(1) intense, not casual;
(2) ongoing (was being made; the Greek verb tense implies continuing activity);
(3) to God — in genuine contact with the living God (possible only through Yeshua, Yn 14:6), not with empty repetition (Mt 6:7) and not in unbelief (MI 11:6);
(4) specific, not vague (on his behalf); "you don't receive because you don't ask" (Ya 4:2-3); and
(5) communal (by the Messianic community) — the believer is not called to an isolated life; even his private prayers should be not self-centered but reflective of his membership in the Body of the Messiah. 

6. The night before Herod was going to bring him to trial, Kefa was sleeping between two soldiers. He was bound with two chains; and guards were at the door, keeping watch over the prison.
7. Suddenly an angel of Adonai stood there, and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Kefa’s side and woke him. “Hurry! Get up!” he said; and the chains fell off his hands.
8. The angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals,” and he did. “Throw on your robe,” he said, “and follow me!”
9. Going out, Kefa followed him but did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real — he thought he was seeing a vision.
10. Having passed a first guard and a second, they arrived at the iron gate leading to the city. This opened to them by itself, and they made their exit. They went down the length of one street, and suddenly the angel left him.
11. Then Kefa came to himself and said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod’s power and from everything the Judean people were hoping for.”
12. Realizing what had happened, he went to the house of Miryam the mother of Yochanan (surnamed Mark), where many people had gathered to pray.
The house of Miryam. Believers met in each other's homes for prayer, worship and fellowship arising from their common trust in Yeshua (2:46,8:3). New-Testament-based prayer groups, home Bible studies and house congregations reflect this emphasis today. Within Judaism the chavurah (friendship-group) movement similarly fosters awareness of one another.

Yochanan (surnamed Mark). According to Co 4:10 he was a cousin of Bar-Nabba (see 4:36-37; 13:5,13; 15:37-39). A marginal note in an early manuscript identifies him with Mark, author of the second Gospel, and Lucius from Cyrene (13:1) with Luke himself; and this is the prevailing opinion among scholars. 

13. He knocked at the outside door, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer.
14. She recognized Kefa’s voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door, and announced that Kefa was standing outside.
15. “You’re out of your mind!” they said to her. But she insisted it was true. So they said, “It is his angel.”
"You're out of your mind!" they said to her. God is real, and he answers prayer. Many of us can grasp this concept intellectually, but when the evidence is knocking at the door we find it hard to believe.

It is his guardian angel. The concept of guardian or ministering angels is also found at Mt 18:10, but it is not exclusively a New Testament idea. "For he will give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways" (Psalm 91:11). And from the Talmud (Soncino Edition): "On entering a bathroom one should say: 'Be honored, you honored and holy ones who minister to the Most High.... Wait for me until I enter, take care of my needs and return to you.'"(B'rakhot 60b)

A note in the Soncino English edition explains that these words are addressed to the angels thought of as accompanying a man to the privy, which was regarded as the haunt of evil spirits. Also from the Talmud:

"'...I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men with me did not see the vision; instead a great quaking fell upon them....' (Daniel 10:7).... Since they did not see it, why were they terrified? Because, although they themselves saw nothing, their guardian angel did see it. Rabina said, 'This proves that when a person is terrified and doesn't know why, it is because his guardian angel has seen something, even though he hasn't.'"(Sanhedrin 94a) In the Soncino edition one note explains that according to the Talmud (Chagigah 16a), everyone has a guardian angel accompanying him. Another note speculates that there might be a connection between this "guardian spirit" and the modern idea of the "subconscious mind." 

16. Meanwhile, Kefa kept knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
17. Motioning to them with his hand to be quiet, he told them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison and said, “Tell all this to Ya‘akov and the brothers.” Then he left and went elsewhere.
Ya'akov (James). On the name itself see Mt 4:21N. This Ya'akov is called the "brother" of Yeshua at Mt 13:55, Mk 6:33; see also Mt 1 ;25N. Not a believer during the Messiah's earthly ministry (Yn 7:3-8&N), he came to faith later, perhaps as a result of seeing Yeshua resurrected (1С 15:7). He was among the 120 present in the "upstairs room" (1:14). He became leader of the Messianic Jews of Yerushalayim (15:13. 21:18; Ga 2:9, 12). Tradition considers him the author of the New Testament book of Ya'akov (Ya 1:1). Apparently Kefa had already turned over the leadership in Yerushalayim to Ya'akov and was himself establishing congregations elsewhere (8:14,9:32-11:18; 1С 1:12,9:5). 

18. When daylight came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Kefa.
19. Herod had a thorough search made for him, but they failed to find him, so he cross-examined the guards and ordered them put to death. Then Herod went down from Y’hudah to Caesarea and spent some time there.
20. Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tzor and Tzidon, so they joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, the king’s chief personal servant, they asked for peace; because they depended on the king’s lands for their food supply.
21. A day was set, and Herod in his royal robes sat on the throne and made a speech to them.
22. The mob cried out, “This is the voice of a god, not a man!”
23. At once, because Herod did not give the glory to God, an angel of Adonai struck him down. He was eaten away by worms and died.
The description here of Herod Agrippa's death is consistent, though not identical, with that of Josephus:
"Agrippa came to Caesarea, where there was a festival for him. On the second day he put on a garment made entirely of silver and came into the theater early in the morning, at which time the silver of his garment reflecting the sun's rays shone so resplendently as to spread a horror on those gazing at him. Presently his flatterers exclaimed thai he was a god, adding, 'Be merciful to us; for although till now we have reverenced you only as a man, henceforth we will regard you as superior to mortal nature.' But the king neither rebuked them nor rejected their impious flattery. However, as he looked up, he saw an owl and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings. Suddenly and violently a severe pain arose in his stomach. Therefore he looked at his friends and said, 'I, whom you call a god, am commanded now to leave this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me.' Alter five days, exhausted by the stomach pain, he died, aged fifty-three." (Adapted from Antiquities of the Jews 19:8:2)

The report is similar enough to confirm the reliability of the New Testament, yet different enough to show that the descriptions are independent of each other. 

24. But the word of the Lord went on growing and being multiplied.
Another growth report; see 2:41N. 

25. Bar-Nabba and Sha’ul, having completed their errand, returned from Yerushalayim, bringing with them Yochanan, surnamed Mark.

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