J.B. Phillips New Testament
Herod kills James and imprisons Peter
12 1-5 It was at this time that King Herod laid violent hands on some of the Church members. James, John’s brother, he executed with the sword, and when he found this action pleased the Jews he went on to arrest Peter as well. It was during the days of unleavened bread that he actually made the arrest. He put Peter in prison with no less than four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. So Peter was closely guarded in the prison, while the Church prayed to God earnestly on his behalf.
Peter’s miraculous rescue
6-8a On the very night that Herod was planning to bring him out, Peter was asleep between two soldiers, chained with double chains, while guards maintained a strict watch in the doorway of the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” His chains fell away from his hands and the angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.”
8b-15a And he did so. Then the angel continued, “Wrap your cloak round you and follow me.” So Peter followed him out, not knowing whether what the angel was doing were real—indeed he felt he must be taking part in a vision. So they passed right through the first and second guard-points and came to the iron gate that led out into the city. This opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and had passed along the street when the angel suddenly vanished from Peter’s sight. Then Peter came to himself and said aloud, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel to rescue me from the power of Herod and from all that the Jewish people are expecting.” As the truth broke upon him he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John surnamed Mark where many were gathered together in prayer. As he knocked at the door a young maid called Rhoda came to answer it, but on recognising Peter’s voice failed to open the door from sheer joy. Instead she ran inside and reported that Peter was standing on the doorstep. At this they said to her, “You must be mad!”
15b But she insisted that it was true. Then they said, “Then it is his angel.”
16-17 But Peter continued to stand there knocking on the door, and when they opened it and recognised him they were simply amazed. Peter, however, made a gesture to them to stop talking while he explained to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. Then he said, “Go and tell James and the other brothers what has happened.” After this he left them and went on to another place.
Peter’s escape infuriates Herod
18-19 But when morning came there was a great commotion among the soldiers as to what could have happened to Peter. When Herod had had a search put out for him without success, he cross-examined the guards and then ordered their execution. Then he left Judea and went down to Caesarea and stayed there.
But Herod dies a terrible death
20-23 Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. They approached him in a body and after winning over Blastus the king (Herod)’s chamberlain, they begged him for peace. They were forced to do this because their country’s food supply was dependent on the king’s dominions. So on an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the public throne and made a speech to them. At this people kept shouting, “This is a god speaking, not a mere man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not give God the glory. And in fearful agony he died.
The message continues to spread
24-25 But the Word of the Lord continued to gain ground and increase its influence. Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their mission there, bringing with them John whose surname was Mark.