RPM, Volume 18, Number 6, January 31 to February 6, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes
Explanatory and Practical

Part 40

By Albert Barnes

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 1

CHAPTER VIII

Verse 1. And Saul was consenting, etc. Was pleased with his being put to death, and approved it. Comp. Ac 22:20. This part of the verse should have been connected with the previous chapter.

At that time. That is, immediately following the death of Stephen. The persecution arose on account of Stephen, Ac 11:19. The tumult did not subside when Stephen was killed. Their anger continued to be excited against all Christians. They had become so embittered by the zeal and success of the apostles, and by their frequent charges of murder in putting the Son of God to death, that they resolved at once to put a period to their progress and success. This was the first persecution against Christians; the first in a series that terminated only when the religion which they wished to destroy was fully established on the ruins of both Judaism and Paganism.

The Church. The collection of Christians which were now organized into a church. The church at Jerusalem was the first that was collected.

All scattered. That is, the great mass of Christians.

The regions of Judea, etc. See Barnes "Mt 2:22".

Except the apostles. Probably, the other Christians fled from fear. Why the apostles, who were particularly in danger, did not flee also, is not stated by the historian. Having been, however, more fully instructed than the others, and having been taught their duty by the example and teaching of the Saviour, they resolved, it seems, to remain and brave the fury of the persecutors. For them to have fled then would have exposed them, as leaders and founders of the new religion, to the charge of timidity and weakness. They therefore resolved to remain in the midst of their persecutors; and a merciful Providence watched over them, and defended them from harm. The dispersion extended not only to Judea and Samaria, but those who fled carried the gospel also to Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, Ac 11:19. There was a reason why this was permitted. The early converts were Jews. They had strong feelings of attachment to the city of Jerusalem, to the temple, and to the land of their fathers. Yet it was the design of the Lord Jesus that the gospel should be preached everywhere. To accomplish this, he suffered a persecution to rage; and they were scattered abroad, and bore his gospel to other cities and lands. Good thus came out of evil; and the first persecution resulted, as all others have done, in advancing the cause which was intended to be destroyed.

{c} "Saul was consenting" Ac 7:58

{d} "scattered abroad" Ac 11:19

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 2

Verse 2. And devout men. Religious men. The word used here does not imply of necessity that they were Christians. There might have been Jews who did not approve the popular tumult, and the murder of Stephen, and who gave him a decent burial. Joseph of Arimathaea, and Nicodemus, both Jews, thus gave to the Lord Jesus a decent burial, Joh 19:38,39.

Carried Stephen. The word translated carried means, properly, to collect, as fruits, etc. Then it is applied to all the preparations necessary for fitting a dead body for burial�"as collecting, or confining it by bandages, with spices, etc.

And made great lamentation. This was usual among the Jews at a funeral. See Barnes "Mt 9:23".

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 3

Verse 3. As for Saul. But Saul. He had no concern in the pious attentions shown to Stephen, but engaged with zeal in the work of persecution.

He made havoc. Elumaineto. This word is commonly applied to wild beasts, to lions, wolves, etc., and denotes the devastations which they commit. Saul raged against the church like a wild beast�"a strong expression, denoting the zeal and fury with which he engaged in persecution.

Entering into every house. To search for those who were suspected of being Christians.

Haling. Dragging, or compelling them.

Committed them to prison. The sanhedrim had not power to put them to death, Joh 18:31, but they had power to imprison; and they resolved, it seems, to exercise this power to the utmost. Paul frequently refers to his zeal in persecuting the church, Ac 26:10,11; Ga 1:13. It may be remarked here, that there never was a persecution commenced with more flattering prospects to the persecutors. Saul, the principal agent, was young, zealous, learned, and clothed with power. He showed afterwards that he had talents fitted for any station; and zeal that tired with no exertion, and that was appalled by no obstacle. With this talent he entered on his work. Christians were few and feeble. They were scattered and unarmed. They were unprotected by any civil power, and exposed, therefore, to the full blaze and rage of persecution. That the church was not destroyed, was owing to the protection of God�"a protection that not only secured its existence, but which extended its influence and power, by means of this very persecution, far abroad on the earth.

{a} "he made havoc" Ac 26:10,11; Ga 1:13

{*} "haling" "Dragging forth"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 4

Verse 4. Went every where. That is, they travelled through the various regions where they were scattered. In all places to which they came, they preached the word.

Preaching the word. Greek, Evangelizing, or announcing the good news of the message of mercy, or the word of God. It is not the usual word which is rendered preach, but means simply announcing the good news of salvation. There is no evidence, nor is there any probability, that all these persons were ordained to preach. They were manifestly common Christians who were scattered by the persecution; and the meaning is, that they communicated to their fellow-men in conversation, wherever they met them�"and probably in the synagogues, where all Jews had a right to speak�"the glad tidings that the Messiah had come. It is not said that they set themselves up for public teachers; or that they administered baptism; or that they founded churches; but they proclaimed everywhere the news that a Saviour had come. Their hearts were full of it. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; and they made the truth known to all whom they met. We may learn from this,

(1.) that persecution tends to promote the very thing which it would destroy.

(2.) That one of the best means to make Christians active and zealous is to persecute them.

(3.) That it is right for all Christians to make known the Paths of the gospel. When the heart is full, the lips will speak; and there is no more impropriety in their speaking of redemption than of anything else.

(4.) It should be the great object of all Christians to make the Saviour known everywhere. By their lives, conversation, and pious exhortations and entreaties, they should beseech dying sinners to be reconciled to God. And especially should this be done when they are travelling. Christians, when away from home, seem almost to imagine that they lay aside the obligations of religion. But the example of Christ and his early disciples has taught us that this is the very time to attempt to do good.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 5

Verse 5. Then Philip. One of the seven deacons, Ac 6:5. He is afterwards called the Evangelist, Ac 21:8.

The city of Samaria. This does not mean a city whose name was Samaria, for no such city at that time existed. Samaria was a region, Mt 2:22. The ancient city Samaria, the capital of that region, had been destroyed by Hyrcanus so completely, as to leave no vestige of it remaining; and he "took away," says Justifies, "the very marks that there had ever been such a city there, Anti. b. xlii. chap. x. 3. Herod the Great afterwards built a city on this site, and called it Sebaste, i. e. Augusta, in honour of the emperor Augustus, Jos. Anti. b. xv. chap. viii. 5. Perhaps this city is intended, as being the principal city of Samaria; or possibly Sychar, another city where the gospel had been before preached by the Saviour himself, Joh 4.

And preached Christ. Preached that the Messiah had come, and made known his doctrines. The same truths had been before stated in Samaria by the Saviour himself, Joh 4 and this was doubtless one of the reasons why they so gladly now received the word of God. The field had been prepared by the Lord Jesus; and he had said that it was white for the harvest, Joh 4:35 and into that field Philip now entered, and was signally blessed. His coming was attended with a remarkable revival of religion. The word translated preach here is not that which is used in the previous verse. This denotes to proclaim as a crier, and is commonly employed to denote the preaching of the gospel, so called, Mr 5:20; 7:36; Lu 8:39; Mt 24:14; Ac 10:42; Ro 10:15; 1 Co 9:27; 15:12; 2 Ti 4:2.

It has been argued that because Philip is said thus to have preached to the Samaritans, that therefore all deacons have a right to preach, or that they are, under the New Testament economy, an order of ministers. But this is by no means clear. For,

(1.) it is not evident, nor can it be shown, that the other deacons Ac 6 ever preached. There is no record of their doing so; and the narrative would lead us to suppose that they did not.

(2.) They were appointed for a very different purpose, Ac 6:1-5; and it is fair to suppose that, as deacons, they confined themselves to the design of their appointment.

(3.) It is not said that Philip preached, in virtue of his being a deacon. From anything in this place, it would seem that he preached as the other Christians did�"wherever he was.

(4.) But elsewhere an express distinction is made between Philip and the others. A new appellation is given him, and he is expressly called the Evangelist, Ac 21:8. From this, it seems that he preached, not because he was a deacon, but because he had received a special appointment to this business as an evangelist.

(5.) This same office, or rank of Christian teachers, is expressly recognized elsewhere, Eph 4:11. All these considerations show that there is not, in the sacred Scriptures, an order of ministers appointed to preach as deacons.

{b} "Philip went down" Ac 6:5

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 6

Verse 6. With one accord. Unitedly, or with one mind. Great multitudes of them did it.

Gave heed. Paid attention to; embraced.

Hearing. Hearing what he said.

{+} "accord" "Consent"

{d} "hearing and seeing" Joh 4:41,42

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 7

Verse 7. For unclean spirits. See Barnes "Mt 4:24".

Crying with loud voice. See Barnes "Mr 1:26".

Palsies. See Barnes "Mt 4:24".

{e} "unclean spirits" Mr 16:17

{f} "palsies" Mr 2:3-11; Ac 9:33,34

{g} "lame" Mt 11:5

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 8

Verse 8. And there was great joy. This joy arose,

(1.) from the fact that so many persons, before sick and afflicted, were restored to health.

(2.) From the conversion on individuals to Christ. The tendency of religion is to produce joy.

(3.) From the mutual joy of families and friends that their friends were converted. The tendency of a revival of religion is thus to produce great joy.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 9

Verse 9. But there was a certain man, called Simon. The Fathers have written much respecting this man, and have given strange accounts of him; but nothing more is certainly known of him than is stated in this place. Rosenmuller and Canaille suppose him to have been a Simon mentioned by Justifies, (Anti. b. xx. chap. vii. § 2,) who was born in Cyprus. He was a magician, and was employed by Felix to persuade Drusilla to forsake her husband Azizus, and to marry Felix. But it is not very probable that this was the same person. See Note in Whiston's Justifies. Simon Magus was probably a Jew or a Samaritan, who had addicted himself to the arts of magic, and who was much celebrated for it. He had studied philosophy in Alexandria in Egypt, (Mosheim, i. p. 113, 114, Murdock's translation,) and then lived at Samaria. After he was cut off from the hope of adding to his other powers the power of working miracles, the Fathers say that he fell into many errors, and became the founder of the sect of the Simonians. They accused him of affirming that he came down as the Father in respect to the Samaritans; the Son in respect to the Jews; and the Holy Spirit in respect to the Gentiles, He did not acknowledge Christ to be the Son of God, but a rival, and pretended himself to be Christ. He rejected the law of Moses. Many other things are affirmed of him, which rest on doubtful authority. He seems to have become an enemy to Christianity; though he was willing then to avail himself of some of its doctrines in order to advance his own interests. The account that he came to a tragical death at Rome; that he was honoured as a deity by the Roman senate; and that a statue was erected to his memory in the isle of Tiber, is now generally rejected. His end is not known. See Calmed, art. Simon Magus, and Mosheim, i. p. 114, Note.

Beforetime. The practice of magic, or sorcery, was common at that time, and in all the ancient nations.

Used sorcery. mageuwn. Exercising the arts of the Magi, or Magicians; hence the name Simon Magus. See Barnes "Mt 2:1".

The ancient Magi had their rise in Persia, and were at first addicted to the study of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, etc. This name came afterwards to signify those who made use of the knowledge of these arts for the purpose of imposing on mankind�"astrologers, soothsayers, necromancers, fortune-tellers, etc. Such persons pretended to predict future events by the positions of the stars, and to cure diseases by incantations, etc. See Isa 2:6; see also Da 1:20; 2:2. It was expressly forbidden the Jews to consult such persons on pain of death, Le 19:31; 20:6. In these arts Simon had been eminently successful.

And bewitched. This is an unhappy translation. The Greek means merely that he astonished or amazed the people, or confounded their judgment. The idea of bewitching them is not in the original.

Giving out, etc. Saying, i.e. boasting. It was in this way, partly, that he so confounded them. Jugglers generally impose on people just in proportion to the extravagance and folly of their pretensions. The same remark may be made of quack doctors, and of all persons who attempt to delude and impose on mankind.

{*} "sorcery" "magic"

{a} "and bewitched" Ac 13:6; Re 22:15

{+} "bewitched" "astonished"

{b} "giving out" Ac 5:36

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 12

Verse 12. No notes from Barnes on this verse.

{e} "believed Philip" Ac 8:37; 2:41

{f} "things concerning" Ac 1:3

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 13

Verse 13. Then Simon himself believed also. That is, he believed that Jesus had wrought miracles, and was raised from the dead, etc. All this he could believe in entire consistency with his own notions of the power of magic: and all that the connexion requires us to suppose is that he believed this�"that Jesus had power of working miracles, etc.; and as he purposed to turn this to his own account, he was willing to profess himself to be his follower. It might have injured his popularity, moreover, if he had taken a stand when so many were professing to become Christians. Men often profess religion because, if they do not, they fear they will lose their influence, and be left with the ungodly. That Simon was not a real Christian is apparent from the whole narrative, Ac 8:18,21-23.

And when he was baptized. He was admitted to a profession of religion in the same way as the others. Philip did not pretend to know the heart; and Simon was admitted because he professed his belief. This is all the evidence that ministers can have; and it is no wonder that they, as well as Philip, are often deceived. The reasons which influenced Simon to make a profession of religion seem to have been these:

(1.) An impression that Christianity was true. He seems to have been convinced of this by the miracles of Philip.

(2.) The fact that many others were becoming Christians; and he went in with the multitude. This is often the case in revivals of religion.

(3.) He had no religion; but it is clear Ac 8:20,21, that he was willing to make use of Christianity to advance his own power, influence, and popularity�"a thing which multitudes of men of the same mind with Simon Magus have been willing since to do.

He continued, etc. It was customary and natural for the disciples to remain with their teachers. See Ac 2:42.

And wondered. This is the same word that is translated bewitched in Ac 8:9,11. It means that he was amazed that Philip could really perform so much greater miracles than he had even pretended to. Hypocrites will sometimes be greatly attentive to the external duties of religion, and will be greatly surprised at what is done by God for the salvation of sinners.

Miracles and signs. Greek, Signs and great powers, or great miracles. That is, so much greater than he pretended to be able to perform.

{1} "miracles" "signs and great miracles"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 14

Verse 14. They sent. That is, the apostles deputed two of their number. This shows conclusively that there was no chief or ruler among them. They acted as being equal in authority. The reason why they sent them was, probably, that there would be a demand for more labour than Philip could render; a church was to be founded, which required their presence; and it was important that they should be present to organize it, and to build it up. The harvest had occurred in Samaria, of which the Saviour spoke, Joh 4:35, and it was proper that they should enter into it. In times of revival there is often more to be done than can be done by the regular pastor of a people, and it is proper that he should be aided from abroad.

Peter. This shows that Peter had no such authority and primacy as the Roman Catholics claim far him. He exercised no authority of sending others, but was himself sent. He was appointed by their united voice, instead of claiming the power himself of directing them.

And John. Peter was ardent, bold, zealous, rash; John was mild, gentle, tender, persuasive. There was wisdom in uniting them in this work, as the talents of both were needed; and the excellencies in the character of the one would compensate for the defects of the other. It is observable that the apostles sent two together, as the Saviour had himself done. See Barnes "Mr 6:7".

The reasons why this additional aid was sent to Samaria were probably these:

(1.) To assist Philip in a great work�"in the harvest which he was there collecting.

(2.) To give the sanction of the authority of the apostles to what he was doing.

(3.) To confer on the converts the gift of the Holy Ghost, Ac 8:17.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 15

Verse 15. Were come down. To Samaria. Jerusalem was generally represented as up, or higher than the rest of the land, Mt 20:18; Joh 7:8.

Prayed for them. They sought at the hand of God the extraordinary communications of the Holy Spirit. They did not even pretend to have the power of doing it without the aid of God.

That they might receive the Holy Ghost. The main question here is, what was meant by the Holy Ghost? In Ac 8:20, it is called "the gift of God." The following remarks may make this plain:

(1.) It was not that gift of the Holy Ghost by which the soul is converted, or renewed, for they had this when they believed, Ac 8:6. Everywhere the conversion of the sinner is traced to his influence. Comp. Joh 1:13.

(2.) It was not the ordinary influences of the Spirit by which the soul is sanctified; for sanctification is a progressive work, and this was sudden: sanctification is shown by the general tenor of the life; this was sudden and striking.

(3.) It was something that was discernible by external effects; for Simon saw Ac 8:18 that this was done by the laying on of hands.

(4.) The phrase, "the gift of the Holy Ghost," and "the descent of the Holy Ghost," signified not merely his ordinary influences in converting sinners, but those extraordinary influences that attended the first preaching of the gospel�"the power of speaking with new tongues, Ac 2, the power of working miracles, etc., Ac 19:6.

(5.) This is further clear from the fact that Simon wished to purchase this power, evidently to keep up his influence among the people, and to retain his ascendancy as a juggler and sorcerer. But surely Simon would not wish to purchase the converting and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; it was the power of working miracles. These things make it clear that by the gift of the Holy Spirit here is meant the power of speaking with new tongues, (comp. 1 Co 14,) and the power of miracles. And it is further clear that this passage should not be adduced in favour of "the rite of confirmation" in the Christian church. For, besides the fact that there are now no apostles, the thing spoken of here is entirely different from that of the rite of confirmation. This was to confer the extraordinary power of working miracles; that is for a different purpose.

If it be asked why this power was conferred on the early Christians, it may be replied, that it was to furnish striking proof of the truth of the Christian religion; to impress the people, and thus to win them to embrace the gospel. The early church was thus armed with the power of the Holy Spirit; and this extraordinary attestation of God to his message was one cause of the rapid propagation and permanent establishment of the gospel.

{§} "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 16

Verse 16. He was fallen. This expression is several times applied to the Holy Spirit, Ac 10:44; 11:15. It does not differ materially from the common expression, "the Holy Ghost descended." It means that he came from heaven; and the expression to fall, applied to his influences, denotes the rapidity and suddenness of his coming. Comp. Ac 19:2.

In the name of the Lord Jesus. See Barnes "Ac 2:38".

See also Ac 10:48; 19:5,6.

{a} "as yet" Ac 19:2

{b} "were baptized" Ac 2:38; 10:48; 19:5,6; 1 Co 1:13

{*} "in the name" "unto"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 17

Verse 17. Then laid they their hands, etc. This was an act of prayer, expressing an invocation to God that he would impart the blessing to them. On how many they laid their hands is not said. It is evident that it was not on all, for they did not thus lay hands on Simon. Perhaps i.t was done on a few of the more prominent and leading persons, who were to be employed particularly in bearing witness to the truth of the gospel. It was customary to lay the hands on any person when a favour was to be conferred, or a blessing imparted. See Barnes "Mt 9:18".

{c} "laid they their hands" Ac 6:5; Heb 6:2

{+} "Holy Ghost" "Holy Spirit"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 18

Verse 18. Simon saw, etc. That is, he witnessed the extraordinary effects, the power of speaking in a miraculous manner, etc. See Barnes "Ac 8:15".

He offered them money. He had had a remarkable influence over the Samaritans, and he saw that the possession of this power would perpetuate and increase his influence. Men commonly employ the tricks of legerdemain for the purpose of making money; and it seems probable that such had been the design of Simon. He saw that if he could communicate to others this power, if he could confer on them the talent of speaking other languages, it might be turned to vast account, and he sought therefore to purchase it of the apostles. From this act of Simon we have derived our word simony, to denote the buying and selling of ecclesiastical preferment, or church offices, where religion is supported by the state. This act of Simon shows conclusively that he was influenced by improper motives in becoming connected with the church.

{d} "purchase" 1 Ti 6:5

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 19

Verse 19. No Barnes text on this verse.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 20

Verse 20. Thy money perish with thee. This is an expression of the horror and indignation of Peter at the base offer of Simon. It is not to be understood as an imprecation on Simon. The main idea is the apostle's contempt for the money, as if he regarded it as of no value. "Let your money go to destruction. We abhor your impious offer. We can freely see any amount of money destroyed, before we will be tempted to sell the gift of the Holy Ghost." But there was here also an expression of his belief that Simon also would perish. It was a declaration that he was hastening to ruin, and as if this was certain, Peter says, let your money perish too.

The gift of God. That which he has given, or conferred as a favour. The idea was absurd that that which God himself gives as a sovereign could be purchased. It was impious to think of attempting to buy with worthless gold that which was of so inestimable value. The gift of God here means the extraordinary influences of the Holy Ghost, Ac 10:45; 11:17. How can we pay a price to God? All that we can give, the silver, and the gold, and the cattle on a thousand hills, belong to him already. We have nothing which we can present for his favours. And yet there are many who seek to purchase the favour of God. Some do it by alms and prayers; some by penance and fasting; some by attempting to make their own hearts better, and by self-righteousness; and some by penitence and tears. All these will not purchase his favour. Salvation, like every other blessing, will be his gift; and if ever received, we must be willing to accept it on his own terms, at his own time, and in his own way. We are without merit; and if saved, it will be by the sovereign grace of God.

{e} "because thou thought" 2 Ki 5:15,16; Mt 10:8

{f} "gift of God" Ac 10:45; 11:17

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 21

Verse 21. Neither part. You have no portion of the grace of God; that is, you are destitute of it altogether. This word commonly denotes the part of an inheritance which falls to one when it is divided.

Nor lot. This word means, properly, a portion which falls to one when an estate, or when spoil in war, is divided into portions, according to the number of those who are to be partakers, and the part of each one is determined by lot. The two words denote emphatically that he was in no sense a partaker of the favour of God.

In this matter. Greek, In this word, i.e. thing. That which is referred to here is the religion of Christ. He was not a Christian. It is remarkable that Peter judged him so soon, and when he had seen but one act of his. But it was an act which satisfied him that he was a stranger to religion. One act may sometimes bring out the whole character; it may evince the governing motives; it may show traits of character utterly inconsistent with true religion; and then it is as certain a criterion as any long series of acts.

Thy heart. Your affections, or governing motives; your principle of conduct. Comp. 2 Ki 10:15. You love gold and popularity, and not the gospel for what it is. There is no evidence here that Peter saw this in a miraculous manner, or by any supernatural influence. It was apparent and plain that Simon was not influenced by the pure, disinterested motives of the gospel, but by the love of power and of the world.

In the sight of God. That is, God sees or judges that your heart is not sincere and pure. No external profession is acceptable without the heart. Reader, is your heart right with God? Are your motives pure�"and does God see there the exercise of holy, sincere, and benevolent affections towards him? God knows the motives; and with unerring certainty he will judge; and with unerring justice he will fix our doom, according to the affections of the heart.

{g} "neither part" Jos 22:25

{h} "for thy heart" Ps 78:36,37; Eze 14:3

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 22

Verse 22. Repent therefore. Here we may remark,

(1.) that Simon was at this time an unconverted sinner.

(2.) That the command was given to him as such.

(3.) That he was required to do the thing; not to wait or seek merely, but actually to repent.

(4.) That this was to be the first step in his conversion. He was not even directed to pray first; but his first indispensable work was to repent, that is, to exercise proper sorrow for this sin, and to abandon his plan or principle of action. And this shows,

(1.) that all sinners are to be exhorted to repent, as their first work. They are not to be told to wait, and read, and pray, in the expectation that repentance will be given them. With such helps they can obtain, they are to do the thing.

(2.) Prayer will not be acceptable, or heard, unless the sinner comes repenting, that is, unless he regrets his sin, and desires to forsake it. Then, and then only, will he be heard. When he comes loving his sins, and resolving still to practise them, God will not hear him. When he comes desirous of forsaking them, grieved that he is guilty, and feeling his need of help, God will hear his prayer. See Isa 1:15; Mic 3:4; Pr 1:28; Ps 66:18.

And pray God. Having a desire to forsake the sin, and to be pardoned, then pray to God to forgive. It would be absurd to ask forgiveness until a man felt his need of it. This shows that a sinner ought to pray, and how he ought to do it. It should be with a desire and purpose to forsake sin, and in that state of mind God will hear the prayer. Comp. Da 4:27.

If perhaps. There was no certainty that God would forgive him; nor is there any evidence either that Simon prayed, or that he was forgiven. This direction of Peter presents another important principle in regard to the conduct of sinners. They are to be directed to repent, not because they have the promise of forgiveness, and not because they hope to be forgiven, but because sin is a great evil, and because it is right and proper that they should repent, whether they are forgiven or not. That is to be left to the sovereign mercy of God. They are to repent of sin; and then they are to feel, not that they have any claim on God, but that they are dependent on him, and must be saved or lost at his will. They are not to suppose that their tears will purchase forgiveness, but that they lie at the foot of mercy, and that there is hope�"not certainty�"that God will forgive. The language of the humbled sinner is�"

Perhaps he will admit my plea,
Perhaps will hear my prayer;
But if I perish I will pray,
And perish only there.

I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try,
For if I stay away, I know
I shall for ever die.

The thought, etc. Your purpose,, or wish. Thoughts may be, therefore, evil, and need forgiveness. It is not open sin only that needs to be pardoned; it is the secret purpose of the soul.

{i} "if perhaps" Da 4:27; 2 Ti 2:25

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 23

Verse 23. For I perceive. That is, by the act which he had done. His offer had shown a state of mind that was wholly inconsistent with true religion. One single sin may as certainly show that there is no true piety, as many acts of iniquity. It may be so decided, so malignant, so utterly inconsistent with just views, as at once to determine what the character is. The sin of Simon was of this character. Peter here does not appear to have claimed the power of judging the heart; but he judged, as all other men would, by the act.

In the gall. This word denotes properly bile, or that bitter, yellowish-green fluid that is secreted in the liver. Hence it means anything very bitter; and also any bad passion of the mind, as anger, malice, etc. We speak of bitterness of mind, etc.

Of bitterness. This is a Hebraism; the usual mode of expressing the superlative, and means excessive bitterness. The phrase is used respecting idolatry, De 29:18 "Lest there should be among, you a root that beareth gall and wormwood." A similar expression occurs in Heb 12:15, "Lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble you," etc. Sin is thus represented as a bitter or poisonous thing; a thing not only unpleasant in its consequences, but ruinous in its character, as a poisonous plant would be in the midst of other plants. Jer 2:19, "It is an evil and bitter thing that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God;" Jer 4:18; Ro 3:14, "Whose mouth is full of cursings and bitterness;" Eph 4:31. The meaning here is, that the heart of Simon was full of dreadful, malignant sin.

Bond of iniquity. Or, that thou art bound by iniquity. That is, that it has the rule over you, and binds you as a slave. Sin is often thus represented as bondage and captivity. Sinners are represented as chained to it, and kept in hard servitude, Ps 116:16; Pr 5:22, "He shall be holden with the cords of his sins;" Ro 7:23,24. These expressions prove conclusively that Simon was a stranger to religion.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 24

Verse 24. Pray ye, etc. Here remark,

(1.) that Simon was directed to pray for himself, Ac 8:22, but he had no disposition to do that. Sinners will often ask others to pray for them, when they are too proud, or too much in love with sin, to pray for themselves.

(2.) The main thing that Peter wished to impress on him was a sense of his sin. Simon did not regard this, but looked only to the punishment. He was terrified and alarmed; and he sought to avoid future punishment; but he had no alarm about his sins. So it is often with sinners. So it was with Pharaoh, Ex 8:28,32 and with Jeroboam, 1 Ki 13:6. And so sinners often quiet their own consciences by asking ministers and Christian friends to pray for them, while they still purpose to persevere in iniquity. If men expect to be saved, they must pray for themselves; and pray, not chiefly to be freed from punishment, but from the sin which deserves hell. This is all that we hear of Simon in the New Testament; and the probability is, that, like many other sinners, he did not pray for himself, but continued to live in the gall of bitterness, and died in the bond of iniquity. The testimony of antiquity is decided on that point. See Barnes "Ac 8:9".

{c} "Pray ye" Ex 8:8; Nu 21:7; 1 Ki 13:6; Job 42:8; Jas 5:16

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 25

Verse 25. In many villages, etc. They went at first directly to the city of Samaria. On their return to Jerusalem, they travelled more at leisure, and preached in the villages also�"a good example for the ministers of the gospel, and for all Christians, when travelling from place to place. The reason why they returned to Jerusalem, and made that their permanent abode, might have been, that it was important to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ in the very city where he had been crucified, and where his resurrection had occurred. If the doctrine was established there, it would be more easy to establish it elsewhere.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 26

Verse 26. And the angel of the Lord. The word angel is used in the Scriptures in a great variety of significations. See Barnes "Mt 1:20".

Here it has been supposed by some to mean literally a celestial messenger sent from God; others have supposed that it means a dream, others a vision, etc. The word properly means a messenger; and all that it can be shown to signify here is, that the Lord sent a message to Philip of this kind. It is most probable, I think, that the passage means that God communicated the message by his Spirit; for, in Ac 8:29,39, it is expressly said that the Spirit spake to Philip, etc. Thus in Ac 16:7, the Spirit is said to have forbidden Paul to preach in Bithynia; and in Ac 16:9, the message on the subject is said to have been conveyed in a vision. There is no absurdity, however, in supposing that an angel literally was employed to communicate this message to Philip. See Heb 1:14; Ge 19:1; 22:11; Jud 6:12.

Spake unto Philip. Comp. Mt 2:13.

Arise. See Barnes "Lu 15:18".

And go, etc. philip had been employed in Samaria. As God now intended to send the gospel to another place, he gave a special direction to Philip to go and convey it. It is evident that God designed the conversion of this eunuch; and the direction to Philip shows how he accomplishes his designs. It is not by miracle, but by the use of means. It is not by direct power without truth, but it is by a message fitted to the end. The salvation of a single sinner is an object worthy the attention of God. When such a sinner is converted, it is because God forms a plan or purpose to do it. When it is done, he inclines his servants to labour; he directs their labours; he leads his ministers; and he prepares the way Ac 8:28 for the reception of the truth.

Toward the south. That is, south of Samaria, where Philip was then labouring.

Unto Gaza. Gaza, or AZZAH, Ge 10:19, was a city of the Philistines, given by Joshua to Judah, Jos 15:47; 1 Sa 6:17. It was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines. It was formerly a large place; was situated on an eminence, and commanded a beautiful prospect. It was in this place that Samson took away the gates of the city, and bore them off, Jud 16:2,3. It was near Askelon, about sixty miles south-west from Jerusalem.

Which is desert. This may refer either to the way or to the place. The natural construction is the latter. In explanation of this, it is to be observed that there were two towns of that name, Old and New Gaza. The prophet Zephaniah Zep 2:4 said that Gaza should be forsaken, i. e., destroyed. "This was partly accomplished by Alexander the Great. (Jos. Antiq. b. xi. ch. viii. § 3, 4; b. xiii. ch. xiii. § 3.) Another town was afterwards built of the same name, but at some distance from the former; and Old Gaza was abandoned to destruction. Strabo mentions 'Gaza the desert,' and Diodorous Siculus speaks of 'Old Gaza.'" (Robin. Calmet.) Some have supposed, however, that Luke refers here to the road leading to Gaza, as being desolate and uninhabited. But I regard the former interpretation as most natural and obvious. In this place, in 1823, the American missionaries, Messrs. Fisk and King, found Gaza, a town built of stone, making a very mean appearance, and containing about five thousand inhabitants." (Hall on the Acts.)

{d} "unto Gaza" Jos 15:47

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 27

Verse 27. A Man of Ethiopia. Gaza was near the confines between Palestine and Egypt. It was in the direct road from Jerusalem to Egypt. Ethiopia was one of the great kingdoms of Africa, part of which is now called Abyssinia. It is frequently mentioned in Scriptare under the name of Cush. But Cush comprehended a much larger region, including the southern part of Arabia, and even sometimes the countries adjacent to the Tigris and Euphrates. Ethiopia Proper lay south of Egypt, on the Nile, and was bounded north by Egypt, that is, by the cataracts near Syene; east by the Red Sea, and perhaps part by the Indian Ocean; south by unknown regions in the interior of Africa; and west by Lybia and the deserts. It comprehended the modern kingdoms of Nubia or Sennaar, and Abyssinia. The chief city in it was the ancient Meroe, situated on the island or tract of the same name, between the Nile and Ashtaborus, not far from the modern Shendi. (Robinson's Calmet,)

An eunuch, etc. See Barnes "Mt 19:12".

Eunuchs were commonly employed in attendance on the females of the harem; but the word is often used to denote any confidential officer, or counsellor of state. It is evidently so used here.

Of great authority. Of high rank; an officer of the court. It is clear, from what follows, that this man was a Jew. But it is known that Jews were often raised to posts of high honour and distinction in foreign courts, as in the case of Joseph in Egypt, and of Daniel in Babylon.

Under Candace, etc. Candace is said to have been the common name of the queens of Ethiopia, as Pharaoh was of the sovereigns of Egypt. This is expressly stated by Pliny. (Nat. Hist. vii. 29.) His words are, "The edifices of the city were few; a woman reigned there of the name of CANDACE, which name had been transmitted to these queens for many years." Strabo mentions also a queen of Ethiopia of the name of Candace. Speaking of an insurrection against the Romans, he says, "Among these were the officers of queen CANDANCE, who in our days reigned over the Ethiopians." As this could not have been the Candace mentioned here, it is plain that the name was common to these queens�"a sort of royal title. She was probably queen of Meroe, an important part of Ethiopia. (Bruce's Travels, vol. ii. p. 431�"Clarke.)

Who had the charge, etc. The treasurer was an officer of high trust and responsibility.

And had come, etc. This proves that he was a Jew, or at least a Jewish proselyte. It was customary for the Jews in foreign lands, as far as practicable, to attend the great feasts at Jerusalem. He had gone up to attend the Passover, etc. See Barnes "Ac 2:5".

{e} "man of Ethiopia" Zep 3:10

{f} "an eunuch of high" Isa 56:3-5

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 28

Verse 28. And sitting in his chariot. His carriage; his vehicle. The form of the carriage is not known. In some instances the carriages of the ancients were placed on wheels; in others, were borne on poles in the form of a litter or palanquin, by men, or mules, or horses. (See Calmet, art. Chariot.)

Read Esaias, etc. Isaiah. Reading doubtless the translation of Isaiah called the Septuagint. This translation was made in Egypt, for the special use of the Jews in Alexandria and throughout Egypt, and was that which was commonly used. Why he was reading the Scriptures, and especially this prophet, is not certainly known. It is morally certain, however, that he was in Judea at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; that he had heard much of him; that this would be a subject of discussion; and it was natural for him, in returning, to look at the prophecies respecting the Messiah, perhaps either to meditate on them as a suitable subject of inquiry and thought, or perhaps to examine the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to this office. The prophecy in Isa 53 was so striking, and coincided so clearly with the character of Jesus, that it was natural for a candid mind to examine whether he might not be the person intended by the prophet. On this narrative we may remark:

(1.) It is a proper and profitable employment on returning from worship to examine the sacred Scriptures.

(2.) It is well to be in the habit of reading the Scriptures when we are on a journey. It may serve to keep the heart from worldly objects, and secure the affections for God.

(3.) It is well at all times to read the Bible. It is one of the means of grace. And it is when we are searching his will that we obtain light and comfort. The sinner should examine with a candid mind the sacred volume. It may be the means of conducting him in the true path of salvation.

(4.) God often gives us light in regard to the meaning of the Bible in unexpected modes. How little did this eunuch expect to be enlightened in the manner in which he actually was. Yet God, who intended to instruct and save him, sent the living teacher, and opened to him the sacred Scriptures, and led him to the Saviour. It is probable Ac 8:30 that he was reading it aloud.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 29

Verse 29. The Spirit. See Barnes "Ac 8:26".

The Holy Spirit is here evidently intended. The thought in Philip's mind is here traced to his suggestion. All good thoughts and designs have the same origin.

Join thyself. Join him in his chariot. Go and sit with him.

{b} "Then the Spirit said to Philip" Isa 65:24; Hos 6:3

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 30

Verse 30. And Philip ran, etc. Indicating his haste, and his desire to obey the suggestions of the Spirit. A thousand difficulties might have been started in the mind of Philip if he had reflected a little. The eunuch was a stranger; he had the appearance of a man of rank; he was engaged in reading; he might be indisposed to be interrupted or to converse, etc. But Philip obeyed without any hesitation the monitions of the Spirit, and ran to him. It is well to follow the first suggestions of the Spirit; to yield to the clear indications of duty, and to perform it at once. Especially in a deed of benevolence, and in conversing with others on the subject of religion, our first thoughts are commonly safest and best. If we do not follow them, the calculations of avarice, or fear, or some worldly prudence, are very apt to come in. We become alarmed; we are afraid of the rich and the great; and we suppose that our conversation and admonitions will be unacceptable. We may learn from this case,

(1.) to do our duty at once, without hesitation or debate.

(2.) We shall often be disappointed in regard to subjects of this kind. We shall find candid, humble, Christian conversation far more acceptable to strangers, to the rich, and to the great, than we commonly suppose. If, as in this case, they are alone; if we approach them kindly; if we do not rudely and harshly address them, we shall find most men willing to talk on the subject of religion. I have conversed with some hundreds of persons on the subject of religion, and do not now recollect but two instances in which I was rudely treated, and in which it was not easy to gain a respectful and kind attention to Christian conversation.

And heard him read. He was reading loud�"sometimes the best way of impressing truth on the mind in our private reading the Scriptures.

And said, etc. This question, there might have been reason to fear, would not be kindly received. But the eunuch's mind was in such a state that he took no offence from such inquiry, though made by a foot-man and a stranger. He doubtless recognized him as a brother Jew. It is an important question to ask ourselves when we read the sacred Scriptures.

{c} "Understandest thou what thou readest? Mt 13:23,51; Eph 5:17

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 31

Verse 31. And he said, etc. This was a general acknowledgment of his need of direction. It evinced a humble state of mind. It was an acknowledgment, also, originating probably from this particular passage which he was reading. He did not understand how it could be applied to the Messiah; how the description of his humiliation and condemnation Ac 8:33 could be reconciled to the prevalent ideas of his being a prince and a conqueror. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in Ro 10:14. The circumstances, the state of mind in the eunuch, and the result, strongly remind one of the declaration in Ps 25:9, "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way."

And he desired, etc. He was willing to receive instruction even from a stranger. The rich and the great may often receive valuable instruction from a stranger, and from a poor, unknown man.

{d} "How can I" Ro 10:14

{e} "some man should guide me" Ps 25:9

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 32

Verse 32. The place, etc. Isa 53:7,8.

He was led, etc. This quotation is taken literally from the Septuagint. It varies very little from the Hebrew. It has been almost universally understood that this place refers to the Messiah; and Philip expressly applies it to him. The word "was led" hcyh, implies that he was conducted by others; that he was led as a sheep is led to be killed. The general idea is that of meekness and submission when he was led to be put to death; a description that applies in a very striking manner to the Lord Jesus.

To the slaughter. To be killed. The characteristic here recorded is more remarkable in the sheep than in any other animal.

And like a lamb dumb, etc. Still, patient, unresisting.

So opened he not his mouth. He did not complain, or murmur; he offered no resistance, but yielded patiently to what was done by others.

{f} "He was lead" Isa 53:7,8

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 33

Verse 33. In his humiliation. This varies from the Hebrew, but is copied exactly from the Septuagint, showing that he was reading the Septuagint. The Hebrew is, "he was taken from prison, and from judgment." The word rendered "prison" denotes any kind of detention, or even oppression. It does not mean, as with us, to be confined in a prison or jail, but may mean custody, and be applied to the detention or custody of the Saviour when his hands were bound, and he was led to be tried. See Barnes "Mt 27:2".

It is not known why the Seventy thus translated the expression "he was taken from prison" etc., by "in his humiliation," etc. The word "from prison," may mean, as has been remarked, however, from oppression, and this does not differ materially from humiliation; and in this sense the Seventy understood it. The meaning of the expression in the Septuagint and the Acts is clear. It denotes that in his state of oppression and calamity, when he was destitute of protectors and friends, when at the lowest state of his humiliation, and, therefore, most the object of pity, that in addition to that, justice was denied him, his judgment�"a just sentence�"was taken away, or withheld, and he was delivered to be put to death. His deep humiliation and friendless state was followed by an unjust and cruel condemnation, when no one would stand forth to plead his cause. Every circumstance thus goes to deepen the view of his sufferings.

His judgment. Justice, a just sentence, was denied him, and he was cruelly condemned.

And who shall declare his generation? The word generation, used here, properly denotes posterity; then an age of mankind, comprehending about thirty years, as we speak of this and the next generation; then it denotes the men of a particular age or time. Very various interpretations have been given of this expression. Lowth translates it, "His manner of life, who would declare?" referring, as he supposes, to the fact that when a prisoner was condemned and led to execution, it was customary for a proclamation to be made by a crier in these words, "Whoever knows anything about his innocence, let him come and declare it." This passage is taken from the Gemara of Babylon.�"Kennicott, as quoted by Lowth. The same Gemara of Babylon on this passage adds, that "before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made forty days; but no defence could be found"�"a manifest falsehood; and a story strikingly illustrative of the character of the Jewish writings. The Gemara was written some time after Christ, perhaps not far from the year 180, Lardher, and is a collection of commentaries on the traditional laws of the Jews. That this custom existed is very probable; but it is certain that no such thing was done on the trim of the Saviour. But instances are wanting where the word "generation" has this meaning. The Chaldee paraphrase translates the passage in Isaiah, "He shall collect our captivity from infirmities and vengeance; and who can declare what wonderful things shall be done for us in his days?" Others have referred this question to his Deity, or Divine generation; intimating that no one could explain the mystery of his eternal generation. But the word in the Scriptures has no such signification; and such a sense would not suit the connexion. (See Calvin, in loco.) Others have referred it to his own spiritual posterity, his disciples, his family: "The number of his friends and followers who could enumerate?"�"

Calvin, Beza, etc. But this as little suits the connexion. Another sense which the word has, is to denote the men of any particular age or time, Mt 11:16; 23:36; Lu 16:8, etc. And it has been supposed that the question here means, "Who can describe the character and wickedness of the generation when he shall breathe enormous crime of that age, in putting him to death?' This, perhaps, is the most probable interpretation of the question, for these reasons:

(1.) It is the most usual signification of the word, (see Schleusner,) and would be its obvious meaning in any other connexion.

(2.) It suits the connexion here. For the prophet immediately adds as a reason for the fact that no one can describe that generation, that he was put to death�"a deed so enormous, as to make it impossible to describe the wickedness of the generation that would do it. This was the sum, the crowning act of human guilt�"a deed so enormous as to defy all attempt at description. The murder of the Messiah; the crucifixion of the Son of God; the killing of the highest Messenger that heaven could send, was the consummation of all earthly wickedness. There was no other deed so enormous that could be performed; and there were no words to describe this. The same thing is implied in what the Saviour himself said, Mt 23:37,38; Lu 13:34,35; 19:42, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," etc. The idea in these places is, that notwithstanding their sin in killing the prophets, and stoning those who had been sent to them, he would still have been willing to receive and pardon them, but for this enormous act of wickedness in putting the Messiah to death�"a deed which they were about to accomplish, and which should be attended with the destruction of their state and nation. The Hebrew word "declare" Isa 53:8 means, properly, to meditate, to think of, and then to speak, to declare. It means probably in that place," Who can think of, who can conceive the enormity of the crimes of that age, so as fully to publish or declare them?"

For his life, etc. This is the act of wickedness just referred to�"putting the Messiah to death. The Hebrew is, "For he was cut off from the land of the living," i. e., he was put to death. The expression used in the Acts was taken from the Septuagint, and means substantially the same as the Hebrew.

{*} "generation" "The men of his generation who can describe"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 34

Verse 34. Answered Philip. That is, addressed Philip. The Hebrews often use the word answer as synonymous with addressing one, whether he had spoken or not.

Of himself, etc. This was a natural inquiry, for there was nothing in the text itself that would determine expressly to whom the reference was. The ancient Jews expressly applied the passage to the Messiah. Thus the Targum of Jonathan on Isa 52:13, "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently," etc., renders it, "Behold, my servant, the Messiah, shall be prospered," etc. But we should remember that the eunuch was probably not deeply versed in the Scriptures. We should remember, further, that he had just been at Jerusalem, and that the public mind was agitated about the proceedings of the sanhedrim in putting Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah, to death. It is by no means improbable that this passage had been urged as a proof that he was the Messiah; and that the Jews, to evade the force of it, had maintained that it referred to Isaiah or Jeremiah�"as they have since done. Yet the subject was so important and so difficult, that it had occupied the attention of the traveller during his journey; and his question shows that he had been deeply pondering the inquiry whether it could refer to Isaiah, or whether it must have reference to the Messiah. In this state of suspense and agitation, when his mind was just fitted to receive instruction, God sent a messenger to guide him. He often thus prepares, by his providence, or by a train of affecting and solemn events, the minds of men for a reception of the truth; and then he sends his messengers to guide the mind, thoughtful and anxious, in the way of peace and salvation.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 35

Verse 35. Opened his mouth. See Mt 5:2.

At the same Scripture. Taking this as a text to be illustrated.

Preached unto him Jesus. Showed him that Jesus of Nazareth exactly answered to the description of the prophet; and that therefore the prophet referred to the Messiah, and that that Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth. How far Philip detailed the circumstances of the life and death of Christ is unknown. What follows shows also that he stated the design of baptism, and the duty of being baptized.

{a} "at the same Scripture" Lu 24:27

{b} "and preached unto him" Ac 18:28

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 36

Verse 36. As they went on their way.

A certain water. The expression used here does not determine whether this was a river, a brook, or a pond or standing pool. And there are no circumstances to determine that. It is well known, however, that there is no large river, or very considerable stream, in this vicinity. All that is intimated is, that there was water enough to perform the rite of baptism, whether that was by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. It must be admitted, I think, that there might have been water enough for either. Grotius says they came "to a fountain which was in the neighbourhood of Bethsora, in the tribe of Juda, at the twentieth milestone from AElia (Jerusalem) to Hebron." This is, however, a tradition taken from Eusebius. The place is still shown.�"Pococke.

What doth hinder me, etc. This shows that he had been instructed by Philip in the nature and design of baptism. It evinces also a purpose at once to give himself to Christ, to profess his name, and to be dedicated to his service.

To be baptized. On the meaning of the word baptize, See Barnes "Mt 3:6".

{c} "what doth hinder me" Ac 10:47

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 37

Verse 37. And Philip said, etc. This was then stated to be the proper qualification for making a profession of religion. The terms are:

(1.) Faith, that is, a reception of Jesus as a Saviour; yielding the mind to the proper influences of the truths of redemption. See Barnes "Mr 16:16".

(2.) There is required not merely the assent of the understanding, but a surrender of the heart, the will, the affections, to the truth of the gospel. As these were the proper qualifications then, so they are now. Nothing less is required; and nothing but this can constitute a proper qualification for the Lord's Supper.

I believe, etc. This profession is more than a professed belief that Jesus was the Messiah. The name Christ implies that. "I believe that Jesus the Messiah" is, etc. In addition to this, he professed his belief that he was the Son of God�"showing either that he had before supposed that the Messiah would be the Son of God, or that Philip had instructed him on that point. It was natural for Philip, in discoursing on the humiliation and poverty of Jesus, to add also that he sustained a higher rank of being than a man, and was the Son of God. What precise ideas the eunuch attached to this expression cannot be now determined. This verse is wanting in a very large number of manuscripts, (Mill,) and has been rejected by many of the ablest critics. It is also omitted in the Syriac and Ethiopic versions. It is not easy to conceive why it has been omitted in almost all the Greek Mss., unless it is spurious. If it was not in the original copy of the Acts, it was probably inserted by some early transcriber, and was deemed so important to the connexion, to show that the eunuch was not admitted hastily to baptism, that it was afterwards retained. It contains, however, an important truth, elsewhere abundantly taught in the Scriptures, that faith is necessary to a proper profession of religion.

{d} "If thou believest" Mr 16:16; Ac 8:12

{a} "I believe that Jesus Christ" Joh 11:27; 1 Co 12:3; 1 Jo 4:15.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 38

Verse 38. And they went down both into the water. This passage has been made the subject of much discussion on the subject of baptism. It has been adduced in proof of the necessity of immersion. It is not proposed to enter into that subject here. See Barnes "Mt 3:6".

It maybe remarked here, that the preposition eiv, translated here "into," does not of necessity mean that. Its meaning would be as well expressed by "to," or "unto," or, as we should say, "they went to the water," without meaning to determine whether they went into it or not. Out of twenty-six significations which Schleusner has given the word, this is one. Joh 11:38: "Jesus therefore groaning in himself, cometh to eiv the grave "�"assuredly not into the grave. Lu 11:49: I send them prophets. Greek, I send to eiv them prophets" �"to them, not into them. Comp. Ro 2:4; 1 Co 14:36; Mt 12:41: "They repented at eiv the preaching of Jonas"�"not into his preaching, Joh 4:5: "Then cometh he to eiv a city of Samaria," that is, near to it; for the context shows that he had not yet entered into it. Comp. Joh 4:6,8; Joh 21:4: "Jesus stood on eiv the shore;" that is, not in, but near the shore. These passages show that the word does not necessarily mean that they entered into the water; but

(1.) if it did, it does not necessarily follow that the eunuch was immersed. There might be various ways of baptizing, even after they were in the water, besides immersing. Sprinkling or pouring might be performed there as well as elsewhere.

(2.) It is incumbent on those who maintain that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism, to prove that this passage cannot possibly mean anything else, and that there was no other mode practised by the apostles.

(3.) It would be still incumbent to show that if this were the common and even the only mode then, in a warm climate, etc., that it is indispensable that this mode should be practised everywhere else. No such positive command can be adduced. And it follows, therefore, that it cannot be proved that immersion is the only lawful mode of baptism. See Barnes "Mt 3:6".

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 39

Verse 39. Out of the water, ek. This preposition stands opposed to eiv "into;" and as that may mean to, so this may mean from; if that means into, this means here out of.

The Spirit of the Lord. Ac 8:29. The Spirit had suggested to Philip to go to meet the eunuch; and the same Spirit, now that he had fulfilled the design of his going there, directed his departure.

Caught away. This phrase has been usually understood of a forcible or miraculous removal of Philip to some other place. Some have even supposed that he was borne through the air by an angel. (See even Doddridge.) To such foolish interpretations have many expositors been led. The meaning is, clearly, that the Spirit, who had directed Philip to go near the eunuch, now removed him in a similar manner. That this is the meaning is clear,

(1.) because it accounts for all that occurred. It is not wise to suppose the existence of a miracle, except where the effect cannot otherwise be accounted for, and except where there is a plain statement that there was a miracle.

(2.) The word "caught away" hrpase does not imply that there was a miracle. The word properly means, to seize and bear away anything violently, without the consent of the owner, as robbers and plunderers do. Then it signifies to remove anything in a forcible manner; to make use of strength or power to remove it, Ac 23:10; Mt 13:19; Joh 10:28; 2 Co 12:2,4, etc. In no case does it ever denote that a miracle is performed. And :all that can be signified here is, that the Spirit strongly admonished Philip to go to some other place; that he so forcibly or vividly suggested the duty to his mind, as to tear him away, as it were, from the society of the eunuch. He had been deeply interested in the case. He would have found pleasure in continuing the journey with him. But the strong convictions of duty, urged by the Holy Spirit, impelled him, as it were, to break off this new and interesting acquaintanceship, and to go to some other place. The purpose for which he was sent, to instruct and baptize the eunuch, was accomplished, and now he was called to some other field of labour. A similar instance of interpretation has been considered See Barnes "Mt 4:5".

And he went on his way rejoicing. His mind was enlightened on a perplexing passage of scripture. He was satisfied respecting the Messiah. He was baptized; and he experienced that which all feel who embrace the Saviour and are baptized, joy. It was joy resulting from the fact that he was reconciled to God; and a joy, the natural effect of having done his duty promptly, in making a profession of religion. If we wish happiness, if we would avoid clouds and gloom, we shall do our duty at once. If we delay till tomorrow what we ought to do today, we may expect to be troubled with melancholy thoughts. If we find peace, it will be in doing promptly: just that which God requires at our hands. This is the last that we hear of this man. Some have supposed that this eunuch carried the gospel to Ethiopia, and preached it there. But there is strong evidence to believe that the gospel was not preached there successfully until about the year 330, when it was introduced by Frumentius, sent to Abyssinia for that purpose by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. From this narrative we may learn,

(1.) that God often prepares the mind to receive the truth.

(2.) That this takes place sometimes with the great and the noble, as well as the poor and obscure.

(3.) We should study the Scriptures. It is the way in which God usually directs the mind in the truths of religion.

(4.) They who read the Bible with candour and care may expect that God will, in some mode, guide them into the truth. It will often be in a way which they least expect; but they need not be afraid of being left to darkness or error.

(5.) We should be ready at all times to speak to sinners. God often prepares their minds, as he did that of the eunuch, to receive the truth.

(6.) We should not be afraid of the great, the rich, or of strangers. God often prepares their minds to receive the truth; and we may find a man willing to hear of the Saviour where we least expected it.

(7.) We should do our duty in this respect, as Philip did, promptly. We should not delay or hesitate; but should at once do that which we believe is in accordance with the will of God. See Ps 119:60.

{b} "caught away" 1 Ki 18:12; Eze 3:12,14

{c} "rejoicing" Ps 119:14,111

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 40

Verse 40. But Philip was found. That is, he came to Azotus; or, he was not heard of until he reached Azotus. The word is often used in this sense. See 1 Ch 29:17, margin; 2 Ch 29:29, margin; Ge 2:20. See also Lu 17:18; Ro 7:10. In all these places the word is used in the sense of to be, or to be present. It does not mean here that there was any miracle in the case, but that Philip, after leaving the eunuch, came to or was in Azotus.

Azotus. This is the Greek name of the city, which by the Hebrews was called Ashdod. It was one of the cities which were not taken by Joshua, and which remained in the possession of the Philistines. It was to this place that the ark of God was sent when it was taken by the Philistines from the Israelites; and here Dagon was cast down before it, 1 Sa 5:2,3. Uzziah, king of Judah, broke down its wall, and built cities or watch-towers around it, 2 Ch 26:6. It was a place of great strength and consequence. It was distant about thirty miles from Gaza. It was situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, and was a seaport. The distance which Philip had to travel, therefore, was not very great; and as Azotus lay almost directly north of Gaza, it shows that, in order to reach it, he must have parted from the eunuch, whose route was almost directly south of Gaza. It is at present inhabited by Arabs chiefly, and is by them called Mezdel. Dr. Wittman describes it at present as being entered by two small gates. In passing through it, he saw several fragments of columns, capitals, etc. In the centre of the town is a handsome mosque, with a minaret. The surrounding country is represented as remarkably verdant and beautiful. In the neighbourhood there stands an abundance of fine old olive-trees, and the region around it is fertile.

He preached in all the cities. Joppa, Lydda, Askelon, Arimathea, etc., lying along the coast of the Mediterranean.

Caesarea. This city was formerly called Strato's Tower. It is situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, at the mouth of a small river, and has a fine harbour. It is thirty-six miles south of Acre, and about sixty-two north-west of Jerusalem, and about the same distance north-east of Azotus. This city is supposed by some to be the Hazor mentioned in Jos 11:1. It was rebuilt by Herod the Great, and named Caesarea in honour of Augustus Caesar. The city was dedicated to him; the seaport was called Sebaste, the Greek word for Augustus. It was adorned with most splendid houses; and the temple of Caesar was erected by Herod over against the mouth of the haven, in which was placed the statue of the Roman emperor. It became the seat of the Roman governor, while Judea was a Roman province, Ac 23:33; Ac 25:6,13. Philip afterwards resided at this place. See Ac 21:8,9. Caesarea at present is inhabited only by jackals and beasts of prey. "Perhaps," says Dr. Clarke, "there has not been in the history of the world an example of any city that, in so short a space of time, rose to such an extraordinary height of splendour as did this of Caesarea; or that exhibits a more awful contrast to its former magnificence, by the present desolate appearance of its ruins. Not a single inhabitant remains. Of its gorgeous palaces and temples, enriched with the choicest Works of art, scarcely a trace can be discerned. Within the space of ten years after laying the foundation, from an obscure fortress, it became the most flourishing and celebrated city of all Syria." Now it is in utter desolation. (See Robinson's Calmet, Art. Caesarea.)

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9

Chapter 9 — Introduction

This chapter commences a very important part of the Acts of the Apostles�"the conversion and labours of Saul of Tarsus. The remainder of the book is chiefly occupied with an account of his labours and trials in the establishment of churches, and in spreading the gospel through the Gentile world. As the fact that the gospel was to be thus preached to the Gentiles was a very important fact, and as the toils of the apostle Paul and his fellow-labourers for this purpose were of an exceedingly interesting character, it was desirable to preserve an authentic record of those labours; and that record we have in the remainder of this book.

Verse 1. And Saul. See Barnes "Ac 7:58" See Barnes "Ac 8:3".

He had been engaged before in persecuting the Christians, but he now sought opportunity to gratify his insatiable desire on a larger scale.

Yet breathing. Not satisfied with what he had done, Ac 8:3. The word breathing out is expressive often of any deep, agitating emotion, as we then breathe rapidly and violently. It is thus expressive of violent anger. The emotion is absorbing, agitating, exhausting, and demands a more rapid circulation of blood to supply the exhausted vitality; and this demands an increased supply of oxygen, or vital air, which leads to the increased action of the lungs. The word is often used in this sense in the classics. (Schleusner.) It is a favourite expression with Homer. Euripides has the same expression: "Breathing out fire and slaughter." So Theocritus: "They came unto the assembly, breathing mutual slaughter," Idyll. xxii. 28.

Threatening. Denunciation; threatening them with every breath �"the action of a man violently enraged, and who was bent on vengeance. It denotes, also, intense activity and energy in persecution.

Saughter. Murder. Intensely desiring to put to death as many Christians as possible. He rejoiced in their death, and joined in condemning them, Ac 26:10,11. From this latter place, it seems that he had been concerned in putting many of them to death.

The disciples of the Lord. Against Christians.

Went unto the High Priest. The letters were written and signed in the name and by the authority of the sanhedrim, or great council of the nation. The high priest did it as president of that council. See Ac 9:14; 22:5. The high priest of that time was Theophilus, son of Artanus, who had been appointed at the feast of Pentecost, A. D. 37, by Vitellius, the Roman governor. His brother Jonathan had been removed from that office the same year. (Kuinoel.)

{a} "breathing out threatenings" Ac 8:3; Ga 1:13

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 2

Verse 2. And desired of him. This shows the intensity of his wish to persecute the Christians, that he was willing to ask for such an employment.

Letters. Epistles; implying a commission to bring them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment. From this, it seems that the sanhedrim at Jerusalem claimed jurisdiction over all synagogues everywhere. They claimed the authority of regulating everywhere the Jewish religion.

To Damascus. This was a celebrated city of Syria, and long the capital of a kingdom of that name. It is situated in a delightful region about one hundred and twenty miles north-east of Jerusalem, and about one hundred and ninety miles south-east of Antioch. It is in the midst of an extensive plain, abounding with cypress and palm-trees, and extremely fertile. It is watered by the river Barrady, anciently called Abana, 2 Ki 5:12. About five miles from the city is a place called the "meeting of the waters," where the Barrady is joined by another river, and thence is divided by art into several streams that flow through the plain. These streams, six or seven in number, are conveyed to water the orchards, farms, etc., and give to the whole scene a very picturesque appearance. The city, situated in a delightful climate, in a fertile country, is perhaps among the most pleasant in the world. It is called by the Orientals themselves the paradise on earth. This city is mentioned often in the Old Testament. It was a city in the time of Abraham, Ge 15:2. By whom it was founded is unknown. It was taken and garrisoned by David, A.M. 2992; 2 Sa 8:6; 1 Ch 18:6. It is subsequently mentioned as sustaining very important parts in the conflicts of the Jews with Syria, 2 Ki 14:25; 2 Ki 16:6; Isa 9:11. It was taken by the Romans, A.M. 3939, or about sixty years before Christ; in whose possession it was when Saul went there. It was conquered by the Saracens, A.D. 713. About the year 1250 it was taken by the Christians in the crusades; and was captured, A.D. 1517, by Selim, and has been since under the Ottoman emperors.

The Arabians call this city Damasch, or Demeseh, or Schams. It is one of the most commercial cities in the Ottoman empire, and is distinguished also for manufactures, particularly for steel, hence called Damascus steel. The population is estimated by Ali Bey at two hundred thousand; Volney states it at eighty thousand; Hassel, at one hundred thousand. About twenty thousand are Maronites of the Catholic church, five thousand Greeks, and one thousand are Jews. The road from Jerusalem to Damascus lies between two mountains, not above a hundred paces distant from each other; both are round at the bottom, and terminate in a point. That nearest the great road is called Cocab, the star, in memory of the dazzling light which is here said to have appeared to Saul.

To the synagogues. See Barnes "Mt 4:23".

The Jews were scattered into nearly all the regions surrounding Judea; and it is natural to suppose that many of them would be found in Damascus. Josephus assures us that ten thousand were massacred there in one hour; and at another time eighteen thousand, with their wives and children. (Jewish Wars, b. ii. chap. xx. § 2; b. vii. chap. viii. § 7.) See Barnes "Ac 2:9-11".

By whom the gospel was preached there, or how they had been converted to Christianity, is unknown. The presumption is, that some of those who had been converted on the day of Pentecost had carried the gospel to Syria.

That if, etc, It would seem that it was not certainly known that there were any Christians there. It was presumed that there were; and probably there was a report of that kind.

Of this way. Of this way or mode of life; of this kind of opinions and conduct; that is, any Christians.

He might bring them, etc. To be tried. The sanhedrim at Jerusalem claimed jurisdiction over religious opinions; and their authority would naturally be respected by foreign Jews.

{1} "any of this way" "the way"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 3

Verse 3. And as he journeyed. On his way; or while he was travelling. The place. where this occurred is not known. Tradition has fixed it at the mountain now called Cocab. See Barnes "Ac 9:2".

All that we know of it is, that it was near to Damascus.

And suddenly. Like a flash of lightning.

There shined round about him etc. The language which is expressed here would be used in describing a flash of lightning. Many critics have supposed that God made use of a sudden flash to arrest Paul, and that he was much alarmed, and brought to reflection. That God might make use of such a means cannot be denied. But to this supposition in this case there are some unanswerable objections.

(1.) It was declared to be the appearance of the Lord Jesus: Ac 9:27, "Barnabas declared unto them how that he had seen the Lord in the way." 1 Co 15:8: "And last of all he was seen of me also." 1 Co 9:1: "Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?"

(2.) Those who were with Saul saw the light, but did not hear the voice, Ac 22:9. See Barnes "Ac 22:9".

This is incredible on the supposition that it was a flash of lightning near them.

(3.) It was manifestly regarded as a message to Saul. The light appeared, and the voice spake to him. The others did not even hear the address. Besides,

(4.) it was as easy for Jesus to appear in a supernatural manner, as to appear amidst thunder and lightning. That the Lord Jesus appeared, is distinctly affirmed. And we shall see that it is probable that he would appear in a supernatural manner.

In order to understand this, it may be necessary to make the following remarks:

(1.) God was accustomed to appear to the Jews in a cloud; in a pillar of smoke, or of fire; in that peculiar splendour which they denominated the Shecaniah. In this way he went before them into the land of Canaan, Ex 13:21,22. Comp. Isa 4:5,6. This appearance or visible manifestation they called the glory of JEHOVAH, Isa 6:1-4; Ex 16:7, "In the morning ye shall see the glory of the Lord;" Le 9:23; Nu 14:10; 15:19; 24:16; 1 Ki 8:11; Eze 10:4. See Barnes "Lu 2:9, "The glory of the Lord shone round about them."

(2.) The Lord Jesus, in his transfiguration on the mount, had been encompassed with that glory. See Barnes "Mt 17:1-5".

(3.) He had spoken of similar glory as pertaining to him; as that which he had been invested with before his incarnation; and to which he would return. Joh 17:5, "And now, Father, glorify thou me, etc., with the glory Which I had with thee before the world was." Mt 25:31, "The Son of man shall come in his glory." Comp. Mt 16:27; 19:28. To this glory he had returned when he left the earth.

(4.) It is a sentiment which cannot be shown to be incorrect, that the various appearances of" the angel of Jehovah," and of Jehovah, mentioned in the Old Testament, were appearances of the Messiah; the God who should be incarnate; the peculiar Protector of his people. See Isa 6, comp. with Joh 12:41.

(5.) If the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul, it would be in this manner. It would be in his appropriate glory and honour, as the ascended Messiah.

That he did appear is expressly affirmed.

(6.) This was an occasion when, if ever, such an appearance was proper. The design was to convert an infuriated persecutor, and to make him an apostle. To do this, it was necessary that he should see the Lord Jesus, 1 Co 9:1,2. The design was, further, to make him an eminent instrument in carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. A signal miracle; a demonstration that he was invested with his appropriate glory, Joh 17:5; a calling up a new witness to the fact of his resurrection, and his solemn investment with glory in the heavens, seemed to be required in thus calling a violent persecutor to be an apostle and friend.

(7.) We are to regard this appearance, therefore, as the reappearance of the Shecaniah, the Son of God invested with appropriate glory, appearing to convince an enemy of his ascension, and to change him from a foe to a friend.

It has been objected, that as the Lord Jesus had ascended to heaven, it cannot be presumed that his body would return to the earth again. To this we may reply, that the New Testament has thrown no light on this. Perhaps it is not necessary to suppose that his body returned, but that he made such a visible manifestation of himself as to convince Saul that he was the Messiah.

From heaven. From above; from the sky. In Ac 26:13, Paul says that the light was above the brightness of the sun at mid-day.

{a} "why persecutest thou me" Mt 25:40,45

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 4

Verse 4. And he fell to the earth. He was astonished and overcome by the sudden flash of light. There is a remarkable similarity between what occurred here, and what is recorded of Daniel in regard to the visions which he saw, Da 8:17. Also Da 10:8, "Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision; and there remained no strength in me, for my comeliness (vigour) was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength." The effect was such as to overpower the body.

And heard a voice. The whole company heard a voice, Ac 9:7, but did not distinguish it as addressed particularly to Saul. He heard it speaking to himself.

Saying unto him, etc. This shows that it was not thunder, as many have supposed. It was a distinct articulation or utterance, addressing him by name.

Saul, Saul. A mode of address that is emphatic. The repetition of the name would fix his attention. Thus Jesus addresses Martha, Lu 10:41 and Simon, Lu 22:31; and Jerusalem, Mt 23:37.

Why. For what reason, Jesus had done him no injury; had given him no provocation. All the opposition of sinners to the Lord Jesus, and his church, is without cause. See Barnes "Joh 15:25, "They hated me without a cause."

Persecutest. See Barnes "Mt 5:11".

Thou me? Christ and his people are one, Joh 15:1-6. To persecute them, therefore, was to persecute him, Mt 25:40,45.

{b} "to kick" Ac 5:39

{*} "pricks" "goads"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 5

Verse 5. And he said, Who art thou, Lord? The word Lord here, as is frequently the case in the New Testament, means no more than Sir, Joh 4:19. It is evident that Saul did not as yet know that this was the Lord Jesus. He heard the voice as of a man; he heard himself addressed; but by whom the words were spoken was to him unknown. In his amazement and confusion, he naturally asked who it was that was thus addressing him.

And the Lord said. In this place the word Lord is used, in a higher sense, to denote the Saviour. It is his usual appellation. See Barnes "Ac 1:24".

I am Jesus. It is clear from this, that there was a personal appearance of the Saviour; that he was present to Saul; but in what particular form whether seen as a man, or only appearing by the manifestation of his glory�"is not affirmed. It was a personal appearance, however, of the Lord Jesus, designed to take the work of converting such a persecutor into his own hands, without the ordinary means. Yet he designed to convert him in a natural way. He arrested his attention; filled him with alarm at his guilt; and then presented the truth respecting himself. In Ac 22:8, the expression is thus recorded: "I am Jesus of Nazareth," etc. There is no contradiction, as Luke here records only a part of what was said; Paul afterwards stated the whole. This declaration was fitted peculiarly to humble and mortify Saul. There can be no doubt that he had often blasphemed his name, and profanely derided the notion that the Messiah could come out of Nazareth. Jesus here uses, however, that very designation: "I am Jesus the Nazarene, the object of your contempt and scorn." Yet Saul saw him now invested with peculiar glory.

It is hard, etc. This is evidently a proverbial expression. Kuinoel has quoted numerous places in which a similar mode of expression occurs in Greek writers. Thus Euripides, Bacch. 791: "I, who am a frail mortal, should rather sacrifice to him who is a God, than, by giving place to anger, kick against the goads." So Pindar, Pyth. ii. 173: "It is profitable to bear willingly the assumed yoke. To kick against the goad is pernicious conduct." So Terence, Phome. 1, 2, 27: "It is foolishness for thee to kick against a goad." Ovid has the same idea, (Trist. b. ii. 15.) The word translated "pricks" here�"kentra�"means, properly, any sharp point which will pierce or perforate, as the sting of a bee, etc. But it commonly means an ox-goad, a sharp piece of iron stuck into the end of a stick, with which the ox is urged on. These goads, among the Hebrews, were made very large. Thus Shamgar slew six hundred men with one of them, Jud 3:31: Comp. 1 Sa 13:21. The expression, "to kick against the prick," or the goad, is derived from the action of a stubborn and unyielding ox, kicking against the goad. And as the ox would injure no one by it but himself�"as he would gain nothing�"it comes to denote an obstinate and refractory disposition and course of conduct, opposing motives to good conduct; resisting the authority of Him who has a right to command; and opposing the leadings of Providence, to the injury of him who makes the resistance. It denotes rebellion against lawful authority, and thus getting into greater difficulty by attempting to oppose the commands to duty. This is the condition of every sinner. If men wish to be happy, they should cheerfully submit to the authority of God. They should not rebel against the dealings of Providence. They should not murmur against their Creator. They should not resist the claims of their consciences. By all this they would only injure themselves. No man can resist God, or his own conscience, and be happy. And nothing is more difficult than for a man to pursue a course of pleasure and sin against the admonitions of God and the reproofs of his own conscience. Men evince this temper in the following ways:

(1.) By violating plain laws of God.

(2.) By attempting to resist his claims.

(3.) By refusing to do what their conscience requires.

(4.) By grieving the Holy Spirit, by attempting to free themselves from serious impressions and alarms. They will return with redoubled frequency and power.

(5.) By pursuing a course of vice and wickedness against what they know to be right.

(6.) By refusing to submit to the dealings of Providence, And

(7.) in any way by opposing God, and refusing to submit to his authority, and to do what is right.

{b} "kick" Ac 5:39

{*} "pricks" "goads"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 6

Verse 6. And he trembling. Alarmed at what he saw and heard, and at the consciousness of his own evil course. It is not remarkable that a sinner trembles when he sees his guilt and danger.

And astonished. At what he saw.

Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? This indicates a subdued soul; a humbled spirit. Just before he had sought only to do his own will; now he inquired what was the will of the Saviour. Just before he was acting under a commission from the sanhedrim; now he renounced their supreme authority, and asked what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Just before he had been engaged in a career of opposition to the Lord Jesus; now he sought at once to do his will. This indicates the usual change in the sinner. The great controversy between him and God is, whose will shall be followed. The sinner follows his own; the first act of the Christian is to surrender his own will to that of God, and to resolve to do that which he requires. We may further remark here, that this indicates the true nature of conversion. It is decided, prompt, immediate. Paul did not debate the matter, Ga 1:16; he did not inquire what the scribes and Pharisees would say; he did not consult his own reputation; he did not ask what the world would think. With characteristic promptness�"with a readiness which showed what he would yet be�"he gave himself up at once and entirely to the Lord Jesus; evidently with a purpose to do his will alone. This was the case also with the jailer, at Philippi, Ac 16:30. Nor can there be real conversion where the heart and will are not given to the Lord Jesus, to be directed and moulded by him at his pleasure. We may test our conversion, then, by the example of the apostle Paul. If our hearts have been given up as his was, we are true friends of Christ.

Go into the city. Damascus. They were near it, Ac 9:3.

And it shall be told thee. It is remarkable that he was thus directed. But we may learn from it,

(1.) that even in the most striking and remarkable cases of conversion, there is not at once a clear view of duty. What course of life should be followed; what should be done; nay, what should be believed, is not at once apparent.

(2.) The aid of others, and especially of ministers, and of experienced Christians, is often very desirable to aid even those who are converted in the most remarkable manner. Saul was converted by a miracle: the Saviour appeared to him in his glory; of the truth of his Messiahship he had no doubt; but still he was dependent on a humble disciple in Damascus to be instructed in what he should do.

(3.) Those who are converted, in however striking a manner it may be, should be willing to seek the counsel of those who are in the church and in the ministry before them. The most striking evidence of their conversion will not prevent their deriving important direction and benefit from the aged, the experienced, and the wise in the Christian church.

(4.) Such remarkable conversions are fitted to induce the subjects of the change to seek counsel and direction. They produce humility, a deep sense of sin and of unworthiness; and a willingness to be taught and directed by any one who can point out the way of duty and of life.

{a} "What will thou have me to do?" Ac 16:30

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 7

Verse 7. And the men which journeyed with him. Why these men attended him is unknown. They might have been appointed to aid him, or they may have been travellers with whom Saul had accidentally fallen in.

Stood speechless. In Ac 26:14, it is said that they all fell to the earth at the appearance of the light. But there is no contradiction. The narrative in that place refers to the immediate effect of the appearance of the light. They were immediately smitten to the ground together. This was before the voice spake to Saul, Ac 26:14. In this place Ac 9:7 the historian is speaking of what occurred after the first alarm. There is no improbability that they rose fro the ground immediately, and surveyed the scene with silent amazement and alarm. The word speechless�"enneoi�" properly denotes those who are so astonished or so stupified as to be unable to speak. In the Greek writers it means those who are deaf and dumb.

Hearing a voice. Hearing a sound or noise. The word here rendered "voice" is thus frequently used, as in Ge 3:8; 1 Sa 12:18; Ps 29:3,4; Mt 24:31, (Greek;) 1 Th 4:16. In Ac 22:9, it is said, "They which were with me (Paul) saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." In this place the words "heard not the voice" must be understood in the sense of understanding the words, of hearing the address, the distinct articulation, which Paul heard. They heard a noise, they were amazed and alarmed, but they did not hear the distinct words addressed to Saul. A similar instance we have in Joh 12:28,29, when the voice of God came from heaven to Jesus: "The people who stood by and heard it, said that it thundered." They heard the sound, the noise; they did not distinguish the words addressed to him. See also Da 10:7, and 1 Ki 19:11-13.

{b} "but seeing no man" Da 10:7

{*} "speechless" "Da 10:7"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 8

Verse 8. When his eyes were opened. He naturally closed them at the appearance of the light; and in his fright kept them closed for some time.

He saw no man. This darkness continued three days, Ac 9:9. There is no reason to suppose that there was a miracle in this blindness, for in Ac 22:11, it is expressly said to have been caused by the intense light: "And when I could not see for the glory of that light," etc. The intense, sudden light had so affected the optic nerve of the eye as to cause a temporary blindness. This effect is not uncommon. The disease of the eye which is thus produced is called amaurosis, or, more commonly, gutta serena. It consists in a loss of sight without any apparent defect of the eye. Sometimes the disease is periodical, coming on suddenly, continuing for three or four days, and then disappearing.�"(Webster.) A disease of this kind is often caused by excessive light. When we look at the sun, or into a furnace, or into a crucible, with fused metal, we are conscious of a temporary pain in the eye, and of a momentary blindness. "In northern and tropical climates, from the glare of the sun or snow, a variety of amaurosis (gutta serena) occurs, which, if it produces blindness during the day, is named nyctalopia, if during the night, hemeralopia. Another variety exists in which the individual is blind all day, until a certain hour, when he sees distinctly, or he sees and is blind every alternate day, or is only blind one day in the week, fortnight, or month." (Edin. Encyc. Art. Surgery.) A total loss of sight has been the consequence of looking at the sun during an eclipse, or of watching it as it sets in the west. This effect is caused by the intense action of the light on the optic nerve, or sometimes from a disorder of the brain. A case is mentioned by Michaelis (Kuinoel, in loco) of a man who was made blind by a bright flash of lightning, and who continued so for four weeks, who was again restored to sight in a tempest by a similar flash of lightning. Electricity has been found one of the best remedies for restoring sight in such cases.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 9

Verse 9. And neither did eat nor drink. Probably because he was overwhelmed with a view of his sins, and was thus indisposed to eat. All the circumstances would contribute to this. His past life; his great sins; the sudden change in his views; his total absorption in the vision; perhaps also his grief at the loss of his sight, would all fill his mind, and indispose him to partake of food. Great grief always produces this effect. And it is not uncommon now for an awakened and convicted sinner, in view of his past sins and danger, to be so pained, as to destroy his inclination for food, and to produce involuntary fasting. We are to remember, also, that Paul had yet no assurance of forgiveness. He was arrested, alarmed, convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, and humbled, but he had no comfort. He was brought to the dust, and left to three painful days of darkness and suspense, before it was told him what he was to do. In this painful and perplexing state, it was natural that he should abstain from food. This case should not be brought now, however, to prove that convicted sinners must remain in darkness and under conviction. Saul's case was extraordinary. His blindness was literal. This state of darkness was necessary to humble him, and fit him for his work. But the moment a sinner will give his heart to Christ, he may find peace. If he resists, and rebels longer, it will be his own fault. By the nature of the case, as well as by the promises of the Bible, if a sinner will yield himself at once to the Lord Jesus, he may obtain peace. That sinners do not sooner obtain peace, is because they do not sooner submit themselves to God.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 10

Verse 10. A certain disciple. A christian. Many have supposed that he was one of the seventy disciples. But nothing more is certainly known of him than is related here. He had very probably been some time a Christian, Ac 9:13 and had heard of Saul, but was personally a stranger to him. In Ac 22:12, it is said that he was a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there. There was wisdom in sending such a Christian to Saul, as it might do much to conciliate the minds of the Jews there towards him.

Said the Lord. The Lord Jesus is alone mentioned in all this transaction. And as he had commenced the work of converting Saul, it is evident that he is intended here. See Barnes "Ac 1:24".

In a vision. Perhaps by a dream. The main idea is, that he revealed his will to him in the case. The word vision is often used in speaking of the communications made to the prophets, and commonly means that future events were made to pass in review before the mind, as we look upon a landscape. See Isa 1:1; Ge 15:1; Nu 12:6; Eze 11:24; Da 2:19; 7:2; 8:1,2,26; 10:7; Ac 10:3; 11:5; 16:9; See Barnes "Mt 17:9".

{a} "named Ananias" Ac 22:12

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 11

Verse 11. Into the street which is called Straight. This street extends now from the eastern to the western gate, about three miles, crossing the whole city and suburbs in a direct line. Near the eastern gate is a house, said to be that of Judah, in which Paul lodged. There is in it a very small closet, where tradition reports that the apostle passed three days without food, till Ananias restored him to sight. Tradition also says that he had here the vision recorded in 2 Co 12:2. There is also in this street a fountain whose water is drunk by Christians, in remembrance of that which, they suppose, the same fount as produced for the baptism of Paul. �"Rob. Calmet.

Of Tarsus. This city was the capital of Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor. It was situated on the banks of the river Cydnus. It was distinguished for the culture of Greek philosophy and literature, so that at one time in its schools, and in the number of its learned men, it was the rival of Athens and Alexandria. In allusion to this, perhaps, Paul says that he was "born in Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city," Ac 21:39. In reward for its exertions and sacrifices during the civil wars of Rome, Tarsus was made a free city by Augustus. See Barnes "Ac 22:28, See Barnes "Ac 22:25, See Barnes "Ac 21:39, See Barnes "Ac 16:37".

Beheld, he prayeth. This gives us a full indication of the manner in which Saul passed the three days mentioned in Ac 9:9. It is plain, from what follows, that Ananias regarded Saul as a foe to Christianity, and that he would have been apprehensive of danger if he were with him, Ac 9:13,14. This remark, "behold he prayeth," is made to him to silence his fears, and to indicate the change in the feelings and views of Saul. Before he was a persecutor; now his change is indicated by his giving himself to prayer. That Saul did not pray before, is not implied by this; for he fully accorded with the customs of the Jews, Php 3:4-6. But his prayers then were not the prayers of a saint. They were then the prayers of a Pharisee, (comp. Lu 18:10, etc.;) now they were the prayers of a broken-hearted sinner. Then he prayed depending on his own righteousness; now depending on the mercy of God in the Messiah. We may learn here,

(1,) that one indication of conversion to God is real prayer. A Christian may as well be characterized by that as by any single appellation�"" a man of prayer."

(2.) It is always the attendant of true conviction for sin, that we pray. The convicted sinner feels his danger, and his need of forgiveness. Conscious that he has no righteousness himself, he now seeks that of another, and depends on the mercy of God. Before he was too proud to pray; now he is willing to humble himself through Jesus Christ, and ask for mercy.

(3.) It is a sufficient indication of the character of any man to say, "Behold, he prays." It at once tells us, better than volumes would without this, his real character. Knowing this, we know all about him. We at once confide in his piety, his honesty, his humility, his willingness to do good. It is at once the indication of his state with God, and the pledge that he will do his duty to men. We mean, of course, real prayer. Knowing that a man is sincere, and humble, and faithful in his private devotions, and in the devotions of his family, we confide in him, and are willing at once to trust to his readiness to do all that he is convinced that he ought to do. Ananias, apprized of this in Saul, had full evidence of the change of his character, and was convinced that he ought to lay aside all his former views, and at once to seek him, and to acknowledge him as a brother.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 12

Verse 12. And hath seen in a vision, etc. When this was shown to Saul, or how, is not recorded. The vision was shown to Saul to assure him when he came that he was no impostor. He was thus prepared to receive consolation from this disciple. He was even apprized of his name, that he might be more confirmed.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 13

Verses 13,14. I have heard by many, etc. This was in the vision, Ac 9:10. The passage of such a train of thoughts through the mind was perfectly natural at the command to go and search out Saul. There would instantly occur all that had been heard of his fury in persecution; and the expression here may indicate the state of a mind amazed that such an one should need his counsel, and afraid, perhaps of entrusting himself to one thus bent on persecution. All this evidently passed in the dream or vision of Ananias; and perhaps cannot be considered as any deliberate unwillingness to go to him. It is clear, however, that such thoughts should have been banished, and that he should have gone at once to the praying Saul. When Christ commands, we should suffer no suggestion of our own thoughts, and no apprehension of our own danger, to interfere,

By many. Probably many who had fled from persecution, and had taken refuge in Damascus. It is also evident, Ac 9:14, that Ananias had been apprized, perhaps by letters from the Christians at Jerusalem, of the purpose which Saul had in view in now going to Damascus.

To thy saints. Christians; called saints�"agioiv�"because they are holy, or consecrated to God.

{b} "this man" 1 Ti 1:13

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 14

Verse 14. No Barnes text on this verse.

{c} "he hath authority" Ac 9:21

{d} "that call on thy" 1 Co 1:2; 2 Ti 2:22

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 15

Verse 15. go thy way. This is often the only answer that we obtain to the suggestion of our doubts and hesitations about duty. God tells us still to do what he requires, with an assurance only that his commands are just, and that there are good reasons for them.

A chosen vessel. The usual meaning of the word vessel is well known. It usually denotes a cup or basin, such as is used in a house. It then denotes any instrument which may be used to accomplish a purpose, perhaps particularly with the notion of conveying or communicating. In the Scriptures it is used to denote the instrument or agent which God employs to convey his favours to mankind; and is thus employed to represent the ministers of the gospel, or the body of the minister, 2 Co 4:7; 1 Th 4:4; comp. Isa 13:5. Paul is called chosen because Christ had selected him, as he did his other apostles, for this service. See Barnes "Joh 15:16".

To bear my name. To communicate the knowledge of me.

Before the Gentiles. The nations; all who were not Jews. This was the principal employment of Paul. He spent his life in this, and regarded himself as peculiarly called to be the apostle of the Gentiles, Ro 11:13; 15:16; Ga 2:8.

And kings. This was fulfilled, Ac 25:23; 26:1-32; 27:24.

And the children of Israel. The Jews. This was done. He immediately began to preach to them, Ac 9:20-22.

Wherever he went, he preached the gospel first to them, and then to the Gentiles, Ac 13:46; 28:17.

{e} "he is a chosen vessel" Ac 13:2; Ro 1:1; 1 Co 15:10; Ga 1:15; Eph 3:7,8

{f} "before the gentiles" Ro 11:13 Ga; 2:7,8

{g} "kings" Ac 25:23

{h} "the children of Israel" Ac 20:23

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 16

Verse 16. For I will shew him etc. This seems to be added to encourage Ananias. He had feared Saul. The Lord now informs him that Saul, hitherto his enemy, would ever after be his friend. He would not merely profess repentance, but would manifest the sincerity of it by encountering trials and reproaches for his sake. The prediction here was fully accomplished, Ac 20:23; 2 Co 11:23-27; 2 Ti 1:11,12.

{i} "must suffer" Ac 20:23; 2 Co 11:23-27; 2 Ti 1:11,12

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 17

Verse 17. Putting his hands on him. This was not ordination, but was the usual mode of imparting or communicating blessings. See Barnes "Mt 19:13" See Barnes "Mt 9:18".

Brother Saul. An expression recognizing him as a fellow-Christian.

Be filled with the Holy Ghost. See Barnes "Ac 2:4".

{k} "putting his hands" Ac 8:17

{a} "be filled" Ac 2:4

{*} "Ghost" "Spirit"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 18

Verse 18. As it had been scales. wsei lepidev The word wsei, "as it had been," is designed to qualify the following word. It is not said that scales literally fell from his eyes; but that an effect followed as if scales had been suddenly taken off. Evidently the whole expression is designed to mean no more than this. The effect was such as would take place if some dark, impervious substance had been placed before the eyes, and had been suddenly removed. The cure was as sudden, the sight was as immediate, as if such an interposing substance had been suddenly removed. This is all that the expression fairly implies, and this is all that the nature of the case demands. As the blindness had been caused by the natural effect of the light, probably on the optic nerve, See Barnes "Ac 9:8, See Barnes "Ac 9:9, it is manifest that no literal removing of scales would restore the vision. We are therefore to lay aside the idea of literal scales falling to the earth; no such thing is affirmed, and no such thing would have met the case. The word translated scales is used nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, the small crust or layer which composes a part of the covering of a fish, and also any thin layer or leaf exfoliated or separated; as scales of iron, bone, or a piece of bark, etc.�"Webster. An effect similar to this is described in Tobit xi. 8, 13. It is evident that there was a miracle in the healing of Saul. The blindness was the natural effect of the light. The cure was by miraculous power. This is evident,

(1.) because there were no means used that would naturally restore the sight. It may be remarked here, that gutta serena has been regarded by physicians as one of the most incurable of diseases. Few cases are restored; and few remedies are efficacious. (See Edin. Encyc. Art. Surgery, on Amaurosis.)

(2.) Ananias was sent for this very purpose to heal him, Ac 9:17.

(3.) The immediate effect shows that this was miraculous. Had it been a slow recovery, it might have been doubtful; but here it was instantaneous, and thus put beyond a question that it was a miracle.

And was baptized. In this he followed the example of all the early converts to Christianity. They were baptized immediately. See Ac 2:41; 8:12,36-39.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 19

Verse 19. Had received meat. Food. The word meat has undergone a change since our translation was made. It then meant, as the original does, food of all kinds.

With the disciples. With Christians. Comp. Ac 2:42.

Certain days. How long is not known. It was long enough, however, to preach the gospel, Ac 9:22; 26:20. It might have been for some months, as he did not go to Jerusalem under three years from that time. He remained some time at Damascus, and then went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus, and then went to Jerusalem, Ga 1:17. This visit to Arabia Luke has omitted, but there is no contradiction. He does not affirm that he did not go to Arabia.

We have now passed through the account of one of the most remarkable conversions to Christianity that has ever occurred�"that of the apostle Paul. This conversion has always been justly considered as a strong proof of the Christian religion. For,

(1.) this change could not have occurred by any event of fair prospects of honour. He was distinguished already as a Jew. He had had the best opportunities for education that the nation afforded. He had every prospect of rising to distinction and office.

(2.) It could not have been produced by any prospect of wealth or fame; by becoming a Christian. Christians were poor; and to be a Christian then was to be exposed to contempt, persecution, and death. Saul had no reason to suppose that he would escape the common lot of Christians.

(3.) He was as firmly opposed to Christianity before his conversion as possible. He had already distinguished himself for his hostility. Infidels often say that Christians are prejudiced in favour of their religion. But here was a man, at first, a bitter infidel and foe to Christianity. All the prejudices of his education, and his prospects, all his former views and feelings, were opposed to the gospel of Christ. He became, however, one of its most firm advocates and friends; and it is for infidels to account for this change. There must have been some cause, some motive for it; and is there anything more rational than the supposition, that Saul was convinced in a most striking and wonderful manner of the truth of Christianity?

(4.) His subsequent life showed that his change was sincere and real. He encountered danger and persecution to evince his attachment to Christ; he went from land to land, and exposed himself to every danger, and every mode of obloquy and scorn, always rejoicing that he was a Christian, and was permitted to suffer as a Christian; and has thus given the highest proofs of his sincerity. If these sufferings, and if the life of Paul were not evidences of sincerity, then it would be impossible to fix on any circumstances of a man's life that would furnish proof that he was not a deceiver.

(5.) If Paul was sincere�"if this conversion was genuine�"the Christian religion is true. Nothing else but a religion from heaven could produce this change. There is here, therefore, the independent testimony of a man who was once a persecutor; converted, not by the preaching of the apostles; changed in a wonderful manner; his whole life, views, and feelings revolutionized, and all his subsequent days evincing the sincerity of his feelings, and the reality of the change. He is just such a witness as infidels ought to be satisfied with; whose testimony cannot be impeached; who had no interested motives, and who was willing to stand forth anywhere, and avow his change of feeling and purpose. We adduce him as such a witness; and infidels are bound to dispose of his testimony, or to embrace the religion which he embraced.

(6.) The example of Saul does not stand alone. Hundreds and thousands of enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, have been changed, and each one becomes a living witness of the power and truth of the Christian religion. The scoffer becomes reverent; the profane man learns to speak the praise of God; the sullen, bitter foe of Christ becomes his friend, and lives and dies under the influence of his religion. Could better proof be asked that this religion is from God?

{+} "meat" "food"

{b} "Damascus" ac 26:20; Ga 1:17

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 20

Verse 20. And straightway. Immediately. This was an evidence of the genuineness of his conversion, that he was willing at once to avow himself to be the friend of the Lord Jesus.

He preached Christ. He proclaimed and proved that Jesus was the Christ. See Ac 9:22. Many manuscripts read here Jesus instead of Christ. Griesbach has adopted this reading. Such is also the Syriac, the Vulgate, and the Ethiopic. This reading accords much better with the subject than the common reading. That Christ, or the Messiah, was the Son of God, all admitted. In the New Testament the names Christ and Son of God are used as synonymous. But the question was, whether Jesus was the Christ, or the Son of God, and this Paul showed to the Jews. Paul continued the practice of attending the synagogues; and in the synagogues any one had a right to speak, who was invited by the officiating minister. Ac 13:15.

That he is the Son of God. That he is the Messiah.

{+} "straitway" "immediately"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 21

Verse 21. Were amazed. Amazed at his sudden and remarkable change.

That destroyed. That opposed; laid waste; or persecuted. Comp. Ga 1:13.

For that intent. With that design, that he might destroy the church at Damascus.

{c} "were amazed" Ga 1:13,23

{d} "he that destroyed" Ac 8:3

{§} "intent" "For this purpose"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 22

Verse 22. Increased the more in strength. His conviction of the truth of the Christian religion became stronger every day. Hence his moral strength or boldness increased.

And confounded. See Ac 2:6. The word here means confuted. It means also, occasionally, to produce a tumult, or excitement, Ac 19:32; 21:31. Perhaps the idea of producing such a tumult is intended to be conveyed here, Paul confuted the Jews, and by so doing he was the occasion of their tumultuous proceedings, or he so enraged them as to lead to great agitation and excitement. A very common effect of close and conclusive argumentation.

Proving that this. This Jesus.

Is very Christ. Greek, that this is the Christ. The word very means here simply the. Greek, o cristov. It means that Paul showed, by strong and satisfactory arguments, that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah. The arguments which he would use may be easily conceived; but the evangelist has not seen fit to record them.

{e} "more in strength" Ps 84:7

{f} "confounded the Jews" Ac 18:28

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 23

Verse 23. And after that many days, etc. How long a time elapsed before this, is not recorded in this place; but it is evident that the writer means to signify that a considerable time intervened. There is, therefore, an interval here which Luke has not filled up; and if this were the only narrative which we had, we should be at a loss how to understand this. From all that we know now of the usual conduct of the Jews towards the apostles, and especially towards Paul, it would seem highly improbable that this interval would be passed peaceably or quietly. Nay, it would be highly improbable that he would be allowed to remain in Damascus many days without violent persecution. Now it so happens that, by turning to another part of the New Testament, we are enabled to ascertain the manner which this interval was filled up. Turn then to Ga 1:17, and we learn from Paul himself that he went into Arabia, and spent some time there, and then returned again to Damascus. The precise time which would be occupied in such a journey is not specified; but it would not be performed under a period of some months. In Ga 1:18, we are informed that he did not go to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion; and as there is reason to believe that he went up to Jerusalem directly after escaping from Damascus the second time, Ac 9:25,26 it seems probable that the three years were spent chiefly in Arabia. We have thus an account of the "many days" here referred to by Luke. And in this instance we have a striking example of the truth and honesty of the sacred writers. By comparing these two accounts together, we arrive at the whole state of the case. Neither seems to be complete without the other. Luke has left a chasm which he has nowhere else supplied. But that chasm we are enabled to fill up from the apostle himself, in a letter written long after, and without any design to amend or complete the history of Luke: for the introduction of this history into the epistle to the Galatians was for a very different purpose�"to show that he received his commission directly from the Lord Jesus, and in a manner independent of the other apostles. The two accounts, therefore, are like the two parts of a tally; neither is complete without the other; and yet being brought together, they so exactly fit as to show that the one is precisely adjusted to the other. And as the two parts were made by different individuals, and without design of adapting them to each other, they show that the writers had formed no collusion or agreement to impose on the world; that they are separate and independent witnesses; that they are honest men; that their narratives are true records of what actually occurred; and the two narratives constitute, therefore, a strong and very valuable proof of the correctness of the sacred narrative. If asked why Luke has omitted this in the Acts, it may be replied, that there are many circumstances and facts omitted in all histories from the necessity of the case. Comp. Joh 21:25. It is remarkable here, not that he has omitted this, but that he has left a chasm in his own history which can be so readily filled up.

Were fulfilled. Had elapsed.

Took counsel, etc. Laid a scheme; or designed to kill him. Comp. Ac 23:12; 25:3. His zeal and success would enrage them, and they knew of no other way in which they could free themselves from the effects of his arguments and influence.

{a} "took counsel" Ac 23:12; 25:3

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 24

Verse 24. But their laying await. Their counsel; their design.

Was known of Saul. Was made known to him. In what way this was communicated we do not know. This design of the Jews against Saul is referred to in 2 Co 11:32, 33, where it is said, "In Damascus, the governor under Aretas the king kept the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me; and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped their hands."

And they watched the gates. Cities were surrounded by high walls; and of course the gates were presumed to be the only places of escape. As they supposed that Saul, apprized of their designs, would make an attempt to escape, they stationed guards at the gates to intercept him. In 2 Cor. xi. 32, it is said that the governor kept the city for the purpose of apprehending him. It is possible that the governor might have been a Jew, and one, therefore, who would enter into their views. Or if not a Jew, the Jews who were there might easily represent Saul as an offender, and demand his being secured; and thus a garrison or guard might be furnished them for their purpose. See a similar attempt made by the Jews recorded in Mt 28:14.

{b} "watched the gates" 2 Co 11:26; Ps 21:11; 37:32,33

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 25

Verse 25. They took him by night, etc. This was done through a window in the wall, 2 Co 11:33.

In a basket. This word is used to denote commonly the basket in which food was carried, Mt 15:37; Mr 8:8,20.

This conduct of Saul was in accordance with the direction of the Lord Jesus, Mt 10:23, "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another," etc. Saul was certain of death if he remained; and as he could secure his life by flight without abandoning any principle of religion, or denying his Lord, it was his duty to do so. Christianity requires us to sacrifice our lives only when we cannot avoid it without denying the Saviour, or abandoning the principles of our holy religion.

{c} "let him down" Jos 2:15

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 26

Verse 26. Was come to Jerusalem. It is probable that he then went immediately to Jerusalem, Ga 1:18. This was three years after his conversion.

He assayed. He attempted; he endeavoured.

To join himself. To become connected with them as their fellow Christian.

But they were all afraid of him. Their fear, or suspicion, was excited probably on these grounds:

(1.) They remembered his former violence against Christians. They had an instinctive shrinking from him, and suspicion of the man that had been so violent a persecutor.

(2.) He had been absent three years. If they had not heard of him during that time, they would naturally retain much of their old feelings towards him. If they had, they might suspect the man who had not returned to Jerusalem; who had not before sought the society of other Christians; and who had spent that time in a distant country, and among strangers. It would seem remarkable that he had not at once returned to Jerusalem and connected himself with the apostles. But the sacred writer does not justify the fears of the apostles. He simply records the fact of their apprehension. It is not unnatural, however, to have doubts respecting an open and virulent enemy of the gospel who suddenly professes a change in favour of it. The human mind does not easily cast off suspicion of some unworthy motive, and open itself at once to entire confidence. When great and notorious sinners profess to be converted�"men who have been violent, or artful, or malignant�" it is natural to ask whether they have not some unworthy motive still in their professed change. Confidence is a plant of slow growth, and starts up not by a sudden profession, but by a course of life which is worthy of affection and of trust.

A disciple. A sincere Christian.

{d} "come to Jerusalem" Ga 1:18

{*} "assayed" "Attempted"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 27

Verse 27. But Barnabas. See Barnes "Ac 4:36".

Barnabas was of Cyprus, not far from Tarsus, and it is not improbable that he had been before acquainted with Saul.

To the apostles. To Peter and James, Ga 1:18,19. Probably the other apostles were at that time absent from Jerusalem.

And declared unto them, etc. It may seem remarkable that the apostles at Jerusalem had not before heard of the conversion of Saul. The following considerations may serve in some degree to explain this:

(1.) It is certain that intercourse between different countries was then much more difficult than it is now. There were no posts; no public conveyances; nothing that corresponded with our modes of intercourse between one part of the world and another.

(2.) There was at this time a state of animosity, amounting to hostility, subsisting between Herod and Aretas. Herod the tetrarch had married the daughter of Aretas, king of Arabia, and had put her away.�"Josephus, Antiq. b. xviii. chap. v. § 1, 2. The result of this was a long misunderstanding between them, and a war; and the effects of that war might have been to interrupt the communication very much throughout all that country.

(3.) Though the Jews at Jerusalem might have heard of the conversion of Saul, yet it was for their interest to keep it a secret, and not to mention it to Christians. But,

(4.) though the Christians who were there had heard of it, yet it is probable that they were not fully informed on the subject; that they had not had all the evidence of his conversion which they desired; and that they looked with suspicion on him. It was therefore proper that they should have a full statement of the evidence of his conversion; and this was made by Barnabas.

{e} "Barnabas took him" Ac 4:36

{f} "at Damascus" Ac 9:20,22

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 28

Verse 28. And he was with them, etc. That is, he was admitted to their friendship, and recognized as a Christian and an apostle. The time during which he then remained at Jerusalem was, however, only fifteen days, Ga 1:18.

{+} "coming in and going out" "He continued to associate with them"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 29

Verse 29. He spake boldly. He openly defended the doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah.

In the name, etc. By the authority of the Lord Jesus.

Against the Grecians. See the word Grecians explained See Barnes "Ac 6:1".

It means, that he not only maintained that Jesus was the Christ in the presence of those Jews who resided at Jerusalem, and who spoke the Hebrew language, but also before those foreign Jews, who spoke the Greek language, and who had come up to Jerusalem. They would be as much opposed to the doctrine that Jesus was the Christ, as those who resided in Jerusalem.

They went about. They sought to slay him; or they formed a purpose or plan to put him to death as an apostate. See Ac 9:23.

{*} "Grecians" "Helenists"

{a} "but they went" Ac 9:23

{+} "slay" "kill"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 30

Verse 30. Caesarea. See Barnes "Ac 8:40".

And sent him forth to Tarsus. This was his native city. See Barnes "Ac 9:11".

It was in Cilicia, where Paul doubtless preached the gospel. Ga 1:21: "Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia."

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 31

Verse 31. Then had the churches rest. That is, the persecutions against Christians ceased. Those persecutions had been excited by the opposition made to Stephen, Ac 11:19 they had been greatly promoted by Saul, Ac 8:3 and had extended, doubtless, throughout the whole land of Palestine. The precise causes of this cessation of the persecution are not known. Probably they were the following:

(1.) It is not improbable that the great mass of Christians had been driven into other regions by these persecutions.

(2.) He who had been most active in exciting the persecution, who was, in a sort, its leader, and who was best adapted to carry it on, had been converted. He had ceased his opposition; and even he now was removed from Judea. All this would have some effect in causing the persecution to subside.

(3.) But it is not improbable that the civil state of things in Judea contributed much to turn the attention of the Jews to other matters. Dr. Lardner accounts for this in the following manner:

Soon after Caligula's accession, the Jews at Alexandria suffered very much from the Egyptians in that city, and at length their oratories there were all destroyed. In the third year of Caligula, A.D. 39, Petronius was sent into Syria, with orders to set up the emperor's statue in the temple at Jerusalem. This order from Caligula was, to the Jews, a thunderstroke. The Jews must have been too much engaged after this to mind anything else, as may appear from the accounts which Philo and Josephus have given us of this affair. Josephus says, that "Caligula ordered Perronius to go with an army to Jerusalem, to set up his statue in the temple there; enjoining him, if the Jews opposed it, to put to death all who made any resistance, and to make all the rest of-the nation slaves. Petronius, therefore, marched from Antioch into Judea, with three legions and a large body of auxiliaries raised in Syria. All were hereupon filled with consternation, the army being come as far as Ptolemais."

See Lardner's Works, vol. i. pp. 101, 102; Lond. Ed. 1829. Philo gives the same account of the consternation as Josephus. Philo de legat, ad Cal. pp. 1024,1025. He describes the Jews,

as abandoning their cities, villages, and open country, as going to Petronius in Phenicia, both men and women, the old, the young, the middle aged; as throwing themselves on the ground before Petronius with weeping and lamentation, etc.

The effect of this consternation in diverting their minds from the Christians can be easily conceived. The prospect that the images of the Roman emperor were about to be set up by violence in the temple, or that, in case of resistance, death or slavery was to be their portion; the advance of a large army to execute that purpose; all tended to throw the nation into alarm. By the providence of God, therefore, this event was permitted to occur to divert the attention of bloody-minded persecutors from a feeble and a bleeding church. Anxious for their own safety, the Jews would cease to persecute the Christians; and thus, by the conversion of the main instrument in persecution, and by the universal alarm for the welfare of the nation, the trembling and enfeebled church was permitted to obtain repose. Thus ended the first general persecution against Christians, and thus effectually did God show that he had power to guard and protect his chosen people.

All Judea, etc. These three places included the land of Palestine. See Barnes "Mt 2:22".

The formation of churches in Galilee is not expressly mentioned before this; but there is no improbability in supposing that Christians had travelled there, and had preached the gospel. Comp. Ac 11:19. The formation of churches in Samaria is expressly mentioned, Ac 8:5, etc.

Were edified. Were built up, increased, and strengthened. See Ro 14:19; 15:2; 1 Co 8:1.

And walking. Proceeding; living. The word is often used to denote Christian conduct, or manner of life, Col 1:10; Lu 1:6; 1 Th 4:1

1 Jo 2:6. The idea is that of travellers who are going to any place, and who walk in the right path. Christians are thus travellers to another country, an heavenly.

In the fear of the Lord. Fearing the Lord; with reverence for him and his commandments. This expression is often used to denote piety in general, 2 Ch 19:7; Job 28:28; Ps 19:9; 111:10; Pr 1:7; 9:10; 13:13.

In the comfort of the Holy Ghost. In the consolations which the Holy Ghost produced, Joh 14:16,17; Ro 5:1-6.

Were multiplied. Were increased.

{b} "Then had the churches rest" Zec 9:1; Ac 8:1

{c} "throughout Judaea" Ps 94:13

{d} "were edified" Ro 14:19

{e} "walking in the fear" Joh 14:16,17

{f} "comfort of" Joh 14:16,17

{+} "Ghost" "Spirit"

{g} "were multiplied" Zec 8:20,22

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 32

Verse 32. To the saints. To the Christians.

Which dwelt at Lydda. This town was situated on the road from Jerusalem to Caesarea Philippi. It was about fifteen miles east of Joppa, and belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. It was called by the Greeks Diospolis, or city of Jupiter, probably because a temple was at some period erected to Jupiter in that city. It is now so entirely ruined as to be a miserable village. Since the crusades, it has been called by the Christians St. George, on account of its having been the scene of the martyrdom of a saint of that name. Tradition says, that in this city the emperor Justinian erected a church.

{§} "all quarters" "all parts"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 33

Verse 33. Aeneas. This is a Greek name; and probably he was a Hellenist. See Barnes "Ac 6:1".

Sick of the palsy. See Barnes "Mt 9:6"

See Barnes "Mr 2:9, See Barnes "Joh 5:11,12"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 34

Verse 34. Maketh the whole. Cures thee. Peter claimed no power to do it himself. Comp. Ac 3:6,16; 4:10.

Make thy bed. This would show that he was truly healed. Comp. Mt 9:6; Mr 2:9,11; Joh 5:11,12

{h} "maketh thee whole" Ac 3:6,16; 4:10

{*} "whole" "well"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 35

Verse 35. And all. The mass, or body of the people. The affliction of the man had been long, and was probably well known; the miracle would be celebrated, and the effect was an extensive revival of religion.

Saron. This was the champaign, or open country, usually mentioned by the name of Sharon in the Old Testament, 1 Ch 5:16; 1 Ch 27:29; So 2:1; Isa 33:9.

It was a region of extraordinary fertility, and the name was almost proverbial to denote any country of great beauty and fertility. Comp. Isa 33:9; 35:2; 65:19.

It was situated south of Mount Carmel, along the coast of the Mediterranean, extending to Caesarea and Joppa. Lydda was situated in this region.

Turned to the Lord. Were converted; or received the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, Ac 11:21; 2 Co 3:16.

{i} "Saron" 1 Ch 5:16

{k} "turned to the Lord" Ac 11:21

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 36

Verse 36. At Joppa. This was a seaport town, situated on the Mediterranean, in the tribe of Dan, about thirty miles south of Caesarea, and forty-five north-west of Jerusalem. It was the principal seaport of Palestine; and hence, though the harbour was poor, it had considerable celebrity. It was occupied by Solomon to receive the timber brought for the building of the temple from Tyre, 2 Ch 2:16 and was used for a similar purpose in the time of Ezra, Ezr 3:7. The present name of the town is Jaffa. It is situated on a promontory, jutting out into the sea, rising to the height of about one hundred and fifty feet above its level, and offering on all sides picturesque and varied prospects. The streets are narrow, uneven, and dirty. The inhabitants are estimated at between four and five thousand, of whom the greater part are Turks and Arabs. The Christians are stated to be about six hundred, consisting of Roman Catholics, Greeks, Maronites, and Arminians. It is several times mentioned in the New Testament, Ac 10:5,23; 11:5.

Tabitha. This word is properly Syriac, and means, literally, the gazelle or antelope. The name became an appellation of a female probably on account of the beauty of its form. "It is not unusual in the East to give the names of beautiful animals to young women." (Clark.) Comp. So 2:9; 4:5.

Dorcas. A Greek word signifying the same as Tabitha. Our word doe or roe answers to it in signification.

Full of good works. Distinguished far good works. Comp. 1 Ti 2:10; Tit 2:7.

And almsdeeds. Acts of kindness to the poor.

{1} "Dorcas" "Doe" or "Roe"

{l} "full of good" 1 Ti 2:10; Tit 2:7

{%} "almsdeeds" "Alms"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 37

Verse 37. Whom, when they had washed. Among most people it has been customary to wash the body before it buried or burned. They prepared her in the usual manner for interment.

In an upper chamber. See Barnes "Ac 1:13".

There is no evidence that they expected that Peter would raise her up to life.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 38

Verse 38. Was nigh to Joppa. It was about six miles.

They sent unto him, etc. Why they sent is not affirmed. It is probable that they desired his presence to comfort and sustain them in their affliction. It is certainly possible that they expected he would restore her to life; but as this is not mentioned�"as the apostles had as yet raised up no one from the dead�"as even Stephen had not been restored to life�"we have no authority for assuming, or supposing, that they had formed any such expectation.

{1} "not delay" "be grieved"

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 39

Verse 39. Then Peter arose. See Barnes "Lu 15:8".

And all the widows. Whom Dorcas had benefited by her kindness. They had lost a benefactress; and it was natural that they should recall her kindness, and express their gratitude by enumerating the proofs of her beneficence. Each one would therefore naturally dwell on the kindness which had been shown to herself.

{*} "garments" "mantles"

{a} "while she was with them" Joh 12:11

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 40

Verse 40. But Peter put them all forth. From the room. See a similar case in Mt 9:25. Why this was done is not said. Perhaps because he did not wish to appear as if seeking publicity. If done in the presence of many persons, it might seem like ostentation. Others suppose it was that he might offer more fervent and agonizing prayer to God than he would be willing they should witness. Compare 2 Ki 4:23.

Tabitha, arise. Compare Mr 5:41,42.

{b} "put them all forth" Mt 9:25

{c} "Tabitha, arise" Mr 5:41,42; Joh 11:43

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 41

Verse 41. He presented her alive. He exhibited, or showed her to them alive. Compare 1 Ki 17:23.

{d} "presented her" 1 Ki 17:23

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 42

Verse 42. And many believed, etc. A similar effect followed when Jesus raised up Lazarus. See Joh 12:11.

This was the first miracle of this kind that was performed by the apostles. The effect was, that many believed. It was not merely a work of benevolence in restoring to life one who contributed largely to the comfort of the poor, but it was used as a means of extending and establishing, as it was designed doubtless to do, the kingdom of the Saviour.

{e} "many believed" Joh 12:11

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 9 - Verse 43

Verse 43. No Barnes text on this verse.

{+} "tarried" "abode"

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