a band of four soldiers. Peter was committed by Herod to the custody of four quaternions, i.e., one quaternion for each watch of the night (Acts 12:4). Thus every precaution was taken against his escape from prison. Two of each quaternion were in turn stationed at the door (12:6), and to two the apostle was chained according to Roman custom.
a military term signifying a guard of four soldiers, two of whom were attached to the person of a prisoner, while the other two kept watch outside the door of his cell. (Acts 12:4
- kwa-tur'-ni-un (tetradion): The name given to a company of four soldiers of Herod's army (Acts 12:4
). To four such companies Peter had been handed over, who would take their turn of acting as guard over the prisoner, each of the four watches of the night according to Roman reckoning, which Herod Agrippa I would follow. In the castle of Antonia Peter was thus closely secured, in order that Herod, who had already killed James, the brother of John, with the sword (Acts 12:2
), might, after the solemnities of the Passover, make sure of his death likewise. On the night before his intended execution he was sleeping in his cell between two soldiers, "bound with two chains," his left hand chained to one and his right to the other. The other two soldiers of the quaternion mounted guard before the door, and are spoken of as "the first and the second guard" (Acts 12:10
) whom Peter and his angel guide had to pass on the way to liberty. The Greek word thus rendered is not found in the Septuagint or anywhere else in the New Testament.