Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Returns to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries. In this post, we learn about Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints, including Kefa.

It was around this time that King Herod began arresting and persecuting certain members of the Messianic community;

I wanted to pause for a moment to share some background on this King Herod. There are several such Kings in Isra’el’s history. Luke calls this ruler Herod, which is a dynastic name Agrippa I never used. Agrippa was born about 10 BCE to Aristopulus (son of Herod the Great) and Berenice. He grew up and was educated in Rome. As a result of his desire to live extravagantly and procure political favor, Agrippa spent most of his early adult life borrowing money and running from creditors. His financial situation even caused him to contemplate suicide.

Agrippa was a threat to the Messianic Community and its leadership: He attacked the community members and had Ya’akov, Yochanan’s brother, executed. When he learned that his actions were pleasing to the Jews, he had Kefa arrested during the feast of Unleavened Bread. While Kefa was in prison, an angel appeared and led him to freedom, causing Kefa to say that the Lord sent His angel to rescue me from Herod’s power. The next morning, when the guards discovered the empty cell and could not find Kefa, Agrippa order their execution. [1]

and he had Ya‘akov, Yochanan’s brother, put to death by the sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Judeans, he went on to arrest Kefa as well. It was during the Days of Matzah, so when Herod seized him, he threw him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each, with the intention of bringing him to public trial after Pesach. So Kefa was being held under watch in prison, but intense prayer was being made to God on his behalf by the Messianic community.

David Stern has this to share regarding verse 5:

Five-point teaching on prayer: Prayer must be (1) intense, not casual; (2) ongoing (was being made); (3) to God – in genuine contact with the living God, not with empty repetition and not in unbelief; (4) specific, not vague (on his behalf); and (5) communal (by the Messianic community) – the Believer is not called to an isolated life; even his private prayers should be not self-centered but reflective of his membership in the Body of the Messiah. [2]

The night before Herod was going to bring him to trial, Kefa was sleeping between two soldiers. He was bound with two chains, and guards were at the door, keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly, an angel of Adonai stood there, and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Kefa’s side and woke him. “Hurry! Get up!” he said, and the chains fell off his hands. The angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals,” and he did. “Throw on your robe,” he said, “and follow me!” Going out, Kefa followed him but did not realize that what was happening through the angel was real—he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 Having passed a first guard and a second, they arrived at the iron gate leading to the city. This opened to them by itself, and they made their exit. They went down the length of one street, and suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Kefa came to himself and said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod’s power and from everything the Judean people were hoping for.”

12 Realizing what had happened, he went to the house of Miryam, the mother of Yochanan (surnamed Mark), where many people had gathered to pray.

The house of Miryam. Believers met in each other‘s homes for prayer, worship, and fellowship, which arose from their mutual trust in Yeshua (see Acts 2:46, 8:3). Brit Hadashah-based prayer groups, home Bible studies, and house congregations reflect this emphasis today. Within Judaism, the chavurah (friendship-group) movement similarly fosters awareness of one another.

13 He knocked at the outside door, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Kefa’s voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door and announced that Kefa was standing outside. 15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said to her. But she insisted it was true. So they said, “It is his angel.” 16 Meanwhile, Kefa kept knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 17 Motioning to them with his hand to be quiet, he told them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison and said, “Tell all this to Ya‘akov and the brothers.” Then he left and went elsewhere.

“You’re out of your mind!” they said to her. Our God is real, and He answers prayers. Many of us can grasp this concept intellectually, but sometimes, we find it hard to believe when the evidence knocks at the door.

This Ya’akov is called the brother of Yeshua in Matthew and Mark. He was not a Believer during the Messiah’s earthly ministry. He came to faith later and became the leader of the Messianic Jews of Yerushalayim. Tradition considers him the author of the Brit Hadashah book of Ya’akov. Kefa had already turned over leadership in Yerushalayim to Ya’akov and was himself establishing congregations elsewhere.

Then Kefa left and went elsewhere. This is the last reference in the Book of Acts to Kefa’s ministry.

1When daylight came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Kefa. 19 Herod had a thorough search made for him, but they failed to find him, so he cross-examined the guards and ordered them put to death. ~ Acts 12:1-19a

In my next post, we learn that Kefa that Rabbi Sha’ul mentions Kefa in his letter to the Galatians.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Lexham Bible Dictionary.

[2] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

One thought on “Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints

  1. Pingback: Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints | Talmidimblogging

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