Acts 12: Peter, Rhoda, and Herod

Original Publication Date
June 16, 2020
Oct 25, 2022 4:11 PM
ActsChapter StudyWomenPeterPersecutionRomeHolidayPassover
Bible References
Acts 12
Table of Contents
This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on June 16, 2020 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


Acts 12 focuses on 3 main people: Herod, Peter, and Rhoda. It also contains the only mention of the holiday known as “Easter”. We will take time to look at each of these topics.

Easter Controversy

If you read Acts 12:4 in the KJV, it says Easter—pretty much every other translation says Passover. The original Greek word is πάσχα, which means Passover.[2]

Some use the KJV to "validate" Easter as a Christian holiday, but even if you could justify the translation, it would not justify the holiday. Verses 1-3 set up the fact that Herod despised the Christians. Christianity was forbidden. Why would the king celebrate/honor a Christian holiday? Would it not have been even more of a show of force to desecrate the holiday?

If you take the KJV's approach and argue that the translation should be Easter, the only conclusion we can make is that Easter is a Roman holiday. It makes much more sense for Herod to put off killing an "enemy of the state" to celebrate his own holiday than to appease the people he believes are criminals.

In contrast to the Christians, however, Judaism was tolerated in Rome. The Roman governors walked a tedious line between exerting Rome's authority and allowing the Jews some autonomy to avoid revolt. The most likely scenario is that Herod thought killing Peter would make the Roman-Jewish alliance stronger, therefore he postponed the execution in honor of Passover.

Herod: Pride

Acts 12 reveals a plot by King Herod (Herod Agrippa I[1]) to kill Christians, specifically Peter. The text doesn't say much about Herod, but it clearly paints him as cruel and prideful. In the first couple of verses we see that he enjoyed harassing Christians—Herod kills James before he sets his sights on Peter. In the final verses of the chapter, we see him killed by God is response to his pridefulness. His existence bookends the chapter. In both sequences he is disobedient to God, but in the latter there are dire consequences. His master plan is interrupted by God, and Peter is saved from the prison. Despite following the Jewish practices, Herod does not see this as an act of God. He instead blames his guards and has them put to death in Peter's place. Reeling from this failure, Herod continues to boast of his own glory. As the kings of other nations claim to view him as a god, Herod does not correct them. This angers God who strikes him dead.

Just as the chapter begins and ends with Herod, Herod's story begins and ends with pride. Proverbs 16:18 says that pride goes before a fall; we see this in practice with Herod. When we behave in a prideful manner, we carve out a difficult path. If we never turn around and repent, we too will end up like Herod.

Herod’s story is also very similar to Belshazzar, king of Babylon in Daniel 5

Peter: Morality

Peter is in jail waiting to die, and yet he is found sound asleep. It’s amazing that he was able to sleep in such a situation. The only way you can sleep in times like that is if you have faith and confidence in your actions. Note that both faithfulness and peace are Fruits of the Spirit. Peter did exactly what God called him to do. If he were to die at the hands of Herod, he knew he we would be greeted eagerly by our Heavenly Father. When we stay in line with God's morals—regardless of how they line up with what the world says is right/wrong—we can be at peace in any situation.

Rhoda: Hope

It's rare that women get named in the Bible, and Rhoda is one of the few who are afforded a name. Rhoda means “rose” in Greek.[3][4] She was likely a servant in the house, explaining why she answered the door, but she had to be involved in the Church to be shocked to see Peter. After Peter was arrested, the church prayed for Peter constantly, yet they still didn't believe it when he showed up. How often do we behave the same way?

References and Footnotes

  1. "Herod Agrippa I". Encyclopædia Brittanica; visited June 15, 2020
  2. "Strong's G3957. πάσχα". Blue Letter Bible; visited June 15, 2020
  3. Strong’s G4498. Ῥόδη”. Blue Letter Bible; visited September 30, 2022
  4. Rhoda”. BabyNames.com; visited September 30, 2022

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