Acts 12:16-20
Acts 12:16 (KJB)
But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
Astonished - Amazed or astounded
Peter had continued to knock and finally some of them had gone to the door and saw Peter standing there, and their initial response was amazement. Instead of realizing that they were praying for his release and that God had answered their prayer, they basically prayed with an unbelieving heart. Should not they have expected Peter to be released in response to their prayers? (2 Tim 2:13 KJV) If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. Many times God overrides our unbelief because of His perfect faithfulness.
Acts 12:17 (KJB)
But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go show these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.
Beckoning - To wave or signal with your hand
They were so happy to see Peter that they had started making a little joyful noise but Peter had quieted them because their loudness would have summoned the soldiers and they could have re-arrested Peter. Then Peter began to tell them how the Lord had freed him from the prison. The James in view here was James the son of Alphaeus who had succeeded Peter as the pastor of the church of Jerusalem. James the son of Zebedee was the James which was put to death by Herod. Then after Peter had explained his release to them, he had departed from them because he knew that the soldiers would be out looking for him, so in order to prevent the Christians in Jerusalem from being “complicit” in his escape, he did not tell them where he was going. This prevented any guilt on the part of these believers.
Acts 12:18 (KJB)
Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter.
Stir - Confusion or consternation
It looks like the soldiers had slept till day thus giving Peter a good head start. The fact that he was chained between two soldiers, two were outside the cell and others were placed on the perimeter of the jail had caused much stir among the soldiers because they could not understand how he could have gotten free. Even if the soldiers had fallen asleep, Peter was still chained to the two inside the cell which means if he would have escaped, he would have had to drag two big soldiers behind him. This situation had definitely caused a mystery among the soldiers.
Acts 12:19 (KJB)
And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and there abode.
Herod had sent for Peter but the soldiers had come to him and stated that Peter had escaped. Herod had examined the soldiers to get the full story but this would have been an embarrassment to Herod, so to save face he ordered that the guards be led away to death. According to Roman law, if someone is guarding a condemned prisoner and that prisoner escapes, then the guard was to take the place of the condemned man and be executed in his place. It was called the “Code of Justinian.” Herod no doubt felt disgraced by the whole situation, that he left Judaea and had gone to Caesarea which was the provincial capital on the seacoast. He never returned to Judaea.
Acts 12:20 (KJB)
And Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon: but they came with one accord to him, and, having made Blastus the king's chamberlain their friend, desired peace; because their country was nourished by the king's country.
Caesarea was just a little bit south of the border with Phoenicia where Tyre and Sidon were located. Apparently there was some type of situation going on that had raised the ire of Herod and maybe Herod wanted to attack these two cities. He would not been allowed to do so because war between two Roman provinces would be forbidden. So in order to mollify the situation, representatives of the two cities came to Blastus, who was probably a confidential adviser to Herod and they befriended him. They no doubt wanted him to bring to Herod their case because they wanted to have peace and not a state of war. Their country was not one for good agriculture, so they had to get most of their food from Palestine. If Herod would have cut off their food supply, then war would have come but the Romans would have intervened and stopped it before it escalated. Peace for them was a matter of life and death. Apparently the situation had been settled for there was no more mention of it.