Acts of Apostles 12:1-25

12  About that time Herod the king began mistreating some of those of the congregation.+  He put James the brother of John+ to death by the sword.+  When he saw that it was pleasing to the Jews, he also went on to arrest Peter. (This was during the days of the Unleavened Bread.)+  He seized him and put him in prison,+ turning him over to four shifts of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out* before the people after the Passover.+  So Peter was being kept in the prison, but the congregation was intensely praying to God for him.+  When Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping bound with two chains between two soldiers, and guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison.  But look! Jehovah’s angel was standing there,+ and a light shone in the prison cell. Hitting Peter on the side, he woke him, saying: “Get up quickly!” And the chains fell off his hands.+  The angel said to him: “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” He did so. Finally he said to him: “Put your outer garment on, and keep following me.”  And he went out and kept following him, but he did not know that what was happening through the angel was real. In fact, he thought he was seeing a vision. 10  Going past the first sentinel guard and the second, they reached the iron gate leading into the city, and this opened to them by itself.+ After they went out, they made their way down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11  And Peter, realizing what was happening, said: “Now I know for sure that Jehovah sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s hand and from everything that the Jews were expecting to happen.”+ 12  After he realized this, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John who was called Mark,+ where quite a few were gathered together and were praying. 13  When he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the call. 14  On recognizing the voice of Peter, she was so overjoyed that she did not open the gate, but ran inside and reported that Peter was standing at the gateway. 15  They said to her: “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so. They began to say: “It is his angel.” 16  But Peter remained there, knocking. When they opened the door, they saw him and were astonished. 17  But he motioned to them with his hand to be silent and told them in detail how Jehovah had brought him out of the prison, and he said: “Report these things to James+ and the brothers.” With that he went out and traveled to another place. 18  Now when it became day, there was quite a disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19  Herod made a diligent search for him, and not finding him, he interrogated the guards and commanded them to be led off to punishment;+ and he went down from Ju·deʹa to Caes·a·reʹa and spent some time there. 20  Now he was in an angry mood* against the people of Tyre and Siʹdon. So they came to him with one purpose,* and after persuading Blastus, the man in charge of the king’s household affairs, they sued for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the land of the king. 21  On a set day, Herod clothed himself with royal raiment and sat down on the judgment seat and began giving them a public address. 22  Then the people who were assembled began shouting: “A god’s voice, and not a man’s!” 23  Instantly the angel of Jehovah struck him, because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten up with worms and died. 24  But the word of Jehovah went on growing and spreading.+ 25  As for Barʹna·bas+ and Saul, after fully carrying out the relief work in Jerusalem,+ they returned and took along with them John,+ the one also called Mark.


Or “to bring him out to trial.”
Or “they unitedly presented themselves before him.”
Or “a fighting mood.”

Study Notes

Herod: That is, Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great. (See Glossary.) Born in 10 B.C.E., Herod Agrippa I was educated in Rome. He cultivated friendships with various members of the imperial family. One friend was Gaius, better known as Caligula, who became emperor in 37 C.E. He soon proclaimed Agrippa king over the regions of Ituraea, Trachonitis, and Abilene. Later, Caligula expanded Agrippa’s domain to include Galilee and Perea. Agrippa was in Rome when Caligula was assassinated in 41 C.E. Reportedly, Agrippa played an important role in resolving the crisis that ensued. He participated in tense negotiations between another powerful friend, Claudius, and the Roman Senate. The result was that Claudius was proclaimed emperor and civil war was averted. To reward Agrippa for his mediation, Claudius granted him kingship also over Judea and Samaria, which had been administered by Roman procurators since 6 C.E. Thus Agrippa came to be in charge of territories equaling those of Herod the Great. Agrippa’s capital was Jerusalem, where he won the favor of the religious leaders. He is said to have observed Jewish law and traditions scrupulously by, among other things, offering sacrifices in the temple daily and reading the Law publicly. He is also said to have been a zealous protector of the Jewish faith. However, he belied his claim of being a worshipper of God by arranging gladiatorial combats and pagan spectacles in the theater. Agrippa’s character has been described as treacherous, superficial, and extravagant. His rule was cut short when he was executed by Jehovah’s angel, as described at Ac 12:23. Scholars place the death of King Herod Agrippa I in 44 C.E. He was at that time 54 years old and had reigned for three years over all Judea.

put James the brother of John to death: The execution probably took place about the year 44 C.E. James thus became the first of the 12 apostles to die as a martyr. Herod may have targeted James because that apostle was known to be particularly close to Jesus or because James had a reputation for fiery zeal. It was likely for this reason that James and his brother John had been given the surname Boanerges, which means “Sons of Thunder.” (Mr 3:17) Herod’s cowardly, politically motivated act did not stop the spread of the good news, but it did rob the congregation of a beloved apostle, shepherd, and source of encouragement. The expression by the sword may indicate that James was beheaded.

the days of the Unleavened Bread: The Festival of Unleavened Bread began on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover (Nisan 14), and lasted for seven days. (See Glossary, “Festival of Unleavened Bread,” and App. B15.) The frequent references in the Gospel accounts and the book of Acts to the various festival seasons show that the Jewish calendar continued to be observed by the Jews during the time of Jesus and the apostles. These festival seasons serve as a guide for determining the approximate time of Biblical events of that time.​—Mt 26:2; Mr 14:1; Lu 22:1; Joh 2:13, 23; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2, 37; 10:22; 11:55; Ac 2:1; 12:3, 4; 20:6, 16; 27:9.

Jehovah’s angel: Starting at Ge 16:7, this phrase is often found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “angel” and the Tetragrammaton. When it occurs at Zec 3:5, 6 in an early copy of the Septuagint, the Greek word agʹge·los (angel; messenger) is followed by the divine name written in Hebrew characters. This fragment, found in a cave in Nahal Hever, Israel, in the Judean Desert, is dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. The reasons why the New World Translation uses the expression “Jehovah’s angel” in the main text, although available Greek manuscripts of Ac 5:19 read “Lord’s angel,” are explained in App. C1 and C3 introduction; Ac 5:19.

Get dressed: Or “Gird yourself.” Apparently referring to securing a loose inner garment with a belt or a piece of cloth.​—See study note on Lu 12:35.

Be dressed and ready: Lit., “having your loins girded around.” This idiom refers to binding up the ends of a long outer garment with a belt to facilitate physical work, running, and so forth. It came to denote a state of readiness for any activity. Similar expressions occur many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. (For example: Ex 12:11, ftn.; 1Ki 18:46, ftn.; 2Ki 3:21, ftn.; 4:29; Pr 31:17, ftn.; Jer 1:17, ftn.) In this context, the form of the verb indicates a continuous state of readiness for spiritual activity on the part of God’s servants. At Lu 12:37, the same Greek verb is rendered “dress himself for service.” At 1Pe 1:13, the expression “brace up your minds for activity” literally means “gird up the loins of your mind.”

Jehovah sent his angel: The phrase “sent his angel” calls to mind similar acts of deliverance mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. For example, at Da 3:28; 6:22, God is said to have “sent his angel” to rescue Daniel and his companions.​—Compare Ps 34:7; see App. C3 introduction; Ac 12:11.

Mark: From the Latin name Marcus. Mark was the Roman surname of the “John” mentioned at Ac 12:12. His mother was Mary, an early disciple who lived in Jerusalem. John Mark was “the cousin of Barnabas” (Col 4:10), with whom he traveled. Mark also traveled with Paul and other early Christian missionaries. (Ac 12:25; 13:5, 13; 2Ti 4:11) Although the Gospel nowhere specifies who wrote it, writers of the second and third centuries C.E. ascribe this Gospel to Mark.

the house of Mary: The congregation in Jerusalem apparently met in a private home, that of Mary the mother of John Mark. The house was spacious enough to accommodate “quite a few” worshippers, and a servant girl worked there. So Mary may have been a relatively wealthy woman. (Ac 12:13) Further, the residence is referred to as “the house of Mary,” without any mention of a husband, so it is possible that she was a widow.

John who was called Mark: One of Jesus’ disciples, “the cousin of Barnabas” (Col 4:10), and the writer of the Gospel of Mark. (See study note on Mr Title.) The English name John is the equivalent of the Hebrew name Jehohanan or Johanan, which means “Jehovah Has Shown Favor; Jehovah Has Been Gracious.” At Ac 13:5, 13, this disciple is simply called John. However, here and at Ac 12:25; 15:37, his Roman surname, Mark, is also given. Elsewhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures, he is referred to simply as Mark.​—Col 4:10; 2Ti 4:11; Phm 24; 1Pe 5:13.

It is his angel: Both the Hebrew and the Greek terms rendered “angel” mean “messenger.” (See study note on Joh 1:51.) Those who referred to “his [Peter’s] angel” may have assumed that an angelic messenger representing the apostle was at the gate. It appears that some Jews believed that each servant of God had his own angel​—in effect, a guardian angel, a view that is not directly taught in God’s Word. Jesus’ disciples knew, though, that throughout history, angels rendered personal assistance to God’s people. For example, Jacob spoke of “the angel who has been recovering me from all calamity.” (Ge 48:16) Also, Jesus said of his disciples that “their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my Father,” showing that angels take an active interest in each of Jesus’ disciples. (See study note on Mt 18:10.) Those gathered at Mary’s house would not have imagined that Peter himself was appearing in some angelic form, as if he had died and was now a spirit; they knew what the Hebrew Scriptures said about the condition of the dead.​—Ec 9:5, 10.

their angels: In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Greek Scriptures, God’s servants are assured of the protection of Jehovah’s ever-present, invisible army of angels. (2Ki 6:15-17; Ps 34:7; 91:11; Ac 5:19; Heb 1:14) The original-language terms rendered “angel” have the basic meaning of “messenger.” (See study note on Joh 1:51.) Jesus’ statement about these little ones (namely, his disciples) and “their angels” does not necessarily mean that each devoted Christian has a special guardian angel assigned to him. But angels are looking out for the spiritual welfare of true Christians as a whole and take an active interest in each of Christ’s disciples.​—See study note on Ac 12:15.

angels: Or “messengers.” The Greek word agʹge·los and the corresponding Hebrew word mal·ʼakhʹ occur nearly 400 times in the Bible. Both words have the basic meaning of “messenger.” When spirit messengers are meant, the words are translated “angels,” but if the reference is definitely to humans, the rendering is “messengers.” The context usually makes clear whether human or angelic messengers are meant, but where both meanings are possible, footnotes often show the alternative rendering. (Ge 16:7; 32:3; Job 4:18, ftn.; 33:23, ftn.; Ec 5:6, ftn.; Isa 63:9, ftn.; Mt 1:20; Jas 2:25; Re 22:8; see Glossary.) In the highly symbolic book of Revelation, certain references to angels may apply to human creatures.​—Re 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14.

Jehovah: Most Greek manuscripts use the term “the Lord” (Greek, ho Kyʹri·os) here. However, as explained in App. C, there are a number of reasons to believe that the divine name was originally used in this verse and later replaced by the title Lord. Therefore, the name Jehovah is used in the main text.​—See App. C3 introduction; Ac 12:17.

James: Most likely referring to Jesus’ half brother. He may have been next to Jesus in age, being the first named of Mary’s four natural-born sons: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (Mt 13:55; Mr 6:3; Joh 7:5) James was an eyewitness at Pentecost 33 C.E. when thousands of visiting Jews from the Diaspora responded to the good news and got baptized. (Ac 1:14; 2:1, 41) Peter instructed the disciples to “report . . . to James,” indicating that James was taking the lead in the Jerusalem congregation. He is apparently also the James mentioned at Ac 15:13; 21:18; 1Co 15:7; Ga 1:19 (where he is called “the brother of the Lord”); 2:9, 12 and the one who wrote the Bible book bearing his name.​—Jas 1:1; Jude 1.

the man in charge of the king’s household affairs: Lit., “the man over the king’s bedchamber.” Apparently, this was a highly respected person who was entrusted with considerable responsibility for the king’s house and personal affairs.

Jehovah’s angel: Starting at Ge 16:7, this phrase is often found in the Hebrew Scriptures as a combination of the Hebrew word for “angel” and the Tetragrammaton. When it occurs at Zec 3:5, 6 in an early copy of the Septuagint, the Greek word agʹge·los (angel; messenger) is followed by the divine name written in Hebrew characters. This fragment, found in a cave in Nahal Hever, Israel, in the Judean Desert, is dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. The reasons why the New World Translation uses the expression “Jehovah’s angel” in the main text, although available Greek manuscripts of Ac 5:19 read “Lord’s angel,” are explained in App. C1 and C3 introduction; Ac 5:19.

the word of Jehovah: This expression has its background in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it appears as a combination of a Hebrew term for “word” and the divine name. Together with the expression “Jehovah’s word,” it occurs in some 200 verses. (Some examples are found at 2Sa 12:9; 24:11; 2Ki 7:1; 20:16; 24:2; Isa 1:10; 2:3; 28:14; 38:4; Jer 1:4; 2:4; Eze 1:3; 6:1; Ho 1:1; Mic 1:1; Zec 9:1.) When this expression occurs at Zec 9:1 in an early copy of the Septuagint found at Nahal Hever, Israel, in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, the Greek word loʹgos is followed by the divine name written in ancient Hebrew characters (). This parchment scroll is dated between 50 B.C.E. and 50 C.E. The reasons why the New World Translation uses the expression “the word of Jehovah” in the main text, although many Greek manuscripts of Ac 8:25 read “the word of the Lord,” are explained in App. C3 introduction; Ac 8:25.

relief: Or “a relief ministration.” This is the first recorded instance of Christians sending relief aid to fellow Christians living in another part of the world. The Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa, often rendered “ministry,” is also used in the sense of “relief work” at Ac 12:25 and “relief ministry” at 2Co 8:4. The use of the Greek word di·a·ko·niʹa in the Christian Greek Scriptures shows that Christians have a twofold ministry. One aspect is “the ministry [form of di·a·ko·niʹa] of the reconciliation,” that is, the preaching and teaching work. (2Co 5:18-20; 1Ti 2:3-6) The other aspect involves their ministry in behalf of fellow believers, as mentioned here. Paul stated: “There are different ministries [plural of di·a·ko·niʹa], and yet there is the same Lord.” (1Co 12:4-6, 11) He showed that these different aspects of the Christian ministry all constitute “sacred service.”​—Ro 12:1, 6-8.

the relief work: Or “the relief ministry.”​—See study note on Ac 11:29.


Herod Agrippa I
Herod Agrippa I

The coin shown here was minted about 43-44 C.E. by Herod Agrippa I, referred to at Ac 12:1 as “Herod the king.” The coin shows on one side the head of Emperor Claudius and on the other side figures of Claudius and Agrippa I. The inscription includes Agrippa’s name. Claudius’ predecessor and nephew, Emperor Caligula (who ruled from 37 to 41 C.E. and who is not mentioned in the Scriptures), appointed Herod Agrippa I to be king in the year 37 C.E. Later, Claudius placed more territory under Agrippa’s jurisdiction. Herod Agrippa I violently persecuted the early Christian congregation; he even had the apostle James executed and Peter imprisoned. (Ac 12:1-4) Herod retained his position of power until Jehovah’s angel struck him and he died.—Ac 12:21-23.