18, 19. The escape of Peter had been altogether unobserved by the soldiers who guarded him. The two who were chained to him in the prison slept on till day, and those guarding the outside changed their watches at the regular hours without suspecting any thing wrong within.
(18) “Now when it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. (19) And when Herod had sought for him and found him not, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Cæsarea, and abode there.”
The military law of the Romans required that guards who allowed the escape of a prisoner, and rendered no satisfactory account of it, should be put to death. But it is impossible to believe that on this occasion Herod was governed by an honest sense of military duty. He must have known that the escape of Peter was miraculous, and the execution of the guards was an act of insane fury. A conscience stained by the blood of an apostle and of sixteen faithful soldiers could not find rest in the place where the deeds were done; and doubtless this had much to do with the removal of his residence to Cæsarea.
John W. McGarvey, “Acts XII”, A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, with a Revised Version of the Text,
John McGarvey (1829 – 1911) was part of the American Restoration Movement and president of the College of the Bible in Kentucky.
There’s hardly a single entity, aside from the devil, in scripture that is more synonymous in three syllables with the cause of massive suffering other than “the Romans”. When I started searching for this word, once I figured out how to avoid references to the book of the bible, I was expecting all kinds of incisive writing about the guilt of the oppressors. This one passage really struck me. These sixteen Roman soldiers, who aside from all the SJ violations, had in this case specifically been involved with direct attempts at thwarting the Gospel of Life itself, are our targets of sympathy?! Acts 12 records their tragic deaths because of the miraculous escape of Peter from prison. McGarvey points out how they were the innocent victims of the rage of Herod. McGarvey supposes that the guilt of this scene made Herod want to change residences.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let us seek out the interest of those who harm us. Let us not paint those who seem to be in the way of “our” spreading of the Gospel to be less worthy of compassion. AMEN.