Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Power Struggles in Jerusalem
Acts 12:1-25

warm up

The Herod Family Tree:
Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.) He had four sons.
(1) Archalaus 4 (B.C.- 6 A.D.)
(2) Herod Antipas (4 B.C.- 39 A.D.)
(3) Herod Philip (4 B.C. - 34 A.D.)
(4) Aristobulus 
(1) Herod Agrippa I (37-44 A.D.) The one in this chapter!
(2) Herod Agrippa II (53-75 A.D.)
wise up

    Herod Agrippa I, like the others of the Herod dynasty proved himself to be a powerful foe of Christ and his followers. But as we see in this text, his persecution of Christians was an assault against the Christ himself. In the end, Herod is destroyed and Christianity continues. The power of the Almighty is greater than the power of the most mighty of this world.

I. The power of persecution: Vs. 1-4 
   1. Nearly ten or so years after the death of Jesus, King Herod Agrippa ruthlessly and without conscience nor reason had the apostle James slain with a sword. Perhaps he was attempting to show those who acknowledged Jesus as their king, that Herod was their "only king."  Or perhaps he was simply a bully that enjoyed hurting the helpless. What would be the advantage of attacking the leadership of the church?

    2. Only about eleven words are used to describe the death of James. Why do you think the Bible does not indulge in excessive eulogies? It is interesting that after the death of James, there was not any effort to find a replacement for his apostolic office.
    3. Discuss why Herod seized Peter. Do the politics of hatred and prejudice still exist today? If so, discuss some examples of such today. Is it possible for politicians today to be more concerned with popularity than with right and wrong? Does one have to be a king or politician to be governed by such motives? Is it ever right to put popularity over principle? Have you ever prayed for the strength to do what is right regardless of the pressure?

4. Compare several translations of the word "Easter" in verse 4.  What word is used other than Easter? The correct and original Greek word in this text is the word "Passover." This is a reference to the Jewish festival and not to a special holy day for Christians. Neither Jesus nor the apostles instituted a special holy day called Easter.  

Actually the term "Easter" came from the Anglo-Saxons, who had a spring festival during which they offered sacrifices to their pagan goddess "Estera." About the 8th century, the Catholic church transferred this name "Easter" to a festival that had arisen to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. 

II. The power of prayer: Vs.5-16 
   1. Release: Vs.5-10. How many soldiers had been assigned to guard Peter. Why do you think there was such a heavy guard? Had Peter escaped prison before? (Cf., Acts 5.) Was it humanly possible for Peter to escape?
List some of the miraculous aspects of Peter's escape. Many commentaries point out that we have strong reason to believe that the prayers were not for Peter's miraculous release. After all,  God had not rescued James. Also, far from hoping for Peter's release, they could not believe it when he came to where they were praying. The scripture says that they prayed "for him," which implies that they prayed that his faith not fail as it had in the past, that he have courage, strength and like both James and Stephen, he would glorify God in his death. (See McGarvey, Acts p. 234.)
    2. Realization: Vs. 11-12
When did it dawn on Peter that this was not a dream? Whose home did he go to once he realized that he was safe? 
    3. Rejoicing: Vs. 13-16
Who was Rhoda? What was her humorous and  scatterbrained reaction when she heard Peter's voice? What did the others think about Rhoda? The term "angel" can also be translated as "messenger." The comment that it was Peter's "angel" likely was meant as his "messenger" or envoy. In other words, someone that Peter had sent. Meanwhile what did Peter keep doing at the door?

III. The power of providence: Vs. 17-25 
   1. Report: Vs. 17 Who did Peter say had brought him safely out of prison? Peter wanted word of his escape to be known by others and made certain word of his miraculous escape was told to James. Since the apostle James had been slain by the sword of Herod, who was this James? Discuss some possible reasons why Peter went to another city. What would be the advantages of this for Peter, the church, and even Herod?

    2. Rage: Vs. 18-19
The confusion the next morning at the prison, when they discovered that Peter was missing, must have created a great stir of emotion and panic. What did Herod do to all 16 guards. What did Herod himself do?
    3. Retribution: Vs. 20-25
As Herod got back to "politics as usual" he made a public appearance and speech during which the people said that he was a god and he failed to correct them. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that on that day Herod had on a robe woven entirely of silver which glistened in the morning sun. According to our text, what happened to Herod and for what reason? 

wrap up

   1.  Herod's evil hand against God's people did not last. At the young age of 34 he died a painful death. The power of God is greater than the power of kings.


  Please read Acts 13:1-15 for next week    copyright 2001