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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
The church that was at Antioch - See the notes on Acts 11:20.
Certain prophets - See the notes on Acts 11:27.
And teachers - Teachers are several times mentioned in the New Testament as an order of ministers, 1 Corinthians 12:28-29; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Peter 2:1. Their precise rank and duty are not known. It is probable that those mentioned here as prophets were the same persons as the teachers. They might discharge both offices, predicting future events, and instructing the people.
As Barnabas - Barnabas was a preacher Acts 4:35-36; Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22, Acts 11:26; and it is not improbable that the names "prophets and teachers" here simply designate the preachers of the gospel.
Simeon that was called Niger - "Niger" is a Latin name meaning "black." Why the name was given is not known. Nothing more is known of him than is mentioned here.
Lucius of Cyrene - Cyrene was in Africa. See the notes on Matthew 27:32. Lucius is afterward mentioned as with the apostle Paul when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, Revelation 16:21.
And Manaen - He is not mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament.
Which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch - Herod Antipas, not Herod Agrippa. Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, Luke 3:1. The word translated here as "which had been brought up," σύντροφος suntrophos, denotes "one who is educated or nourished at the same time with another." It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. He might have been connected with the royal family, and, being nearly of the same age, was educated by the father of Herod Antipas with him. He was, therefore, a man of rank and education, and his conversion shows that the gospel was not confined entirely in its influence to the poor.
And Saul - Saul was an apostle; and yet he is mentioned here among the "prophets and teachers," showing that these words denote "ministers of the gospel" in general, without reference to any particular order or rank.
2As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
As they ministered to the Lord - It is probable that this took place on some day set apart for fasting and prayer. The expression "ministered to the Lord" means as they were engaged in prayer to the Lord, or as they were engaged in divine service. The Syriac thus renders the passage.
The Holy Ghost said - Evidently by direct revelation.
Separate me - Set apart to me, or for my service. It does not mean to ordain, but simply to designate, or appoint to this specific work.
For the work whereunto I have called them - Not the apostolic office, for Saul was called to that by the express revelation of Jesus Christ Galatians 1:12, and Barnabas was not an apostle. The "work" to which they were now set apart was that of preaching the gospel in the regions round about Antioch. It was not any permanent office in the church, but was a temporary designation to a missionary enterprise in extending the gospel, especially through Asia Minor, and the adjacent regions. Accordingly, when, in the fulfillment of this appointment, they had traveled through Seleucia, Cyprus, Paphos, Pamphylia, Pisidia, etc., they returned to Antioch, having fulfilled the work to which they were separated. See Acts 14:26-27. "Whereunto I have called them." This proves that they received their commission to this work directly from God the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas had been influenced by the Spirit to engage in this work, but they were to be sent forth by the concurrence and designation of the church.
3And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
And when they had fasted - They were fasting when they were commanded to set them apart. Yet this probably refers to an appointed day of prayer, with reference to this very purpose. The first formal mission to the Gentiles was an important event in the church, and they engaged in this appointment with deep solemnity and with humbling themselves before God.
And prayed - This enterprise was a new one. The gospel had been preached to the Jews, to Cornelius, and to the Gentiles at Antioch. But there had been no solemn, public, and concerted plan of sending it to the Gentiles, or of appointing a mission to the pagan. It was a new event, and was full of danger and hardships. The primitive church felt the need of divine direction and aid in the great work. Two missionaries were to be sent forth among strangers, to be exposed to perils by sea and land; and the commencement of the enterprise demanded prayer. The church humbled itself, and this primitive missionary society sought, as all others should do, the divine blessing to attend the labors of those employed in this work. The result showed that the prayer was heard.
And laid their hands on them - That is, those who are mentioned in Acts 13:1. This was not to set them apart to the apostolic office. Saul was chosen by Christ himself, and there is no evidence that any of the apostles were ordained by the imposition of hands (see Acts 1:26 notes; Matthew 10:1-5 notes; Luke 6:12-16 notes), and Barnabas was not an apostle in the original and unique sense of the word. Nor is it meant that this was an ordination to the ministry, to the once of preaching the gospel, for both had been engaged in this before. Saul received his commission directly from the Saviour, and began at once to preach, Acts 9:20; Galatians 1:11-17. Barnabas had preached at Antioch, and was evidently recognized as a preacher by the apostles, Acts 9:27; Acts 11:22-23. It follows, therefore, that this was not an ordination in the doctrinal sense of this term, either Episcopal or Presbyterian, but was a designation to a particular work - a work of vast importance; strictly a missionary appointment by the church, under the authority of the Holy Spirit. The act of laying hands on any person was practiced not only in ordination, but in conferring a favor, and in setting apart for any purpose. See Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8,Leviticus 3:13; Leviticus 4:4, Leviticus 4:29; Leviticus 16:21; Numbers 8:12; Mark 5:23; Mark 16:18; Matthew 21:46. It means in this case that they appointed them to a particular field of labor, and by laying hands on them they implored the blessing of God to attend them.
They sent them away - The church by its teachers sent them forth under the direction of the Holy Spirit. All missionaries are thus sent by the church; and the church should not forget its ambassadors in their great and perilous work.
4So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
Being sent forth by the Holy Ghost - Having been called to this world by the Holy Spirit, and being under his direction.
Departed unto Seleucia - This city was situated at the mouth of the river Orontes, where it fails into the Mediterranean. Antioch was connected with the sea by the Orontes River. Strabo says that in his time they sailed up the river in one day. The distance from Antioch to Seleucia by water is about 41 miles, while the journey by land is only 16 12 miles (Life and Epistles of Paul, vol. 1, p. 185. "Seleucia united the two characters of a fortress and a seaport. It was situated on a rocky eminence, which is the southern extremity of an elevated range of hills projecting from Mount Aranus. From the southeast, where the ruins of the Antioch gate are still conspicuous, the ground rose toward the northeast into high and craggy summits; and round the greater part of the circumference of 4 miles the city was protected by its natural position. The harbor and mercantile suburb were on level ground toward the west; but here, as on the only weak point at Gibraltar, strong artificial defenses had made compensation for the weakness of nature. Seleucus, who had named his metropolis in his father's honor (p. 122), gave his own name to this maritime fortress; and here, around his tomb, his successors contended for the key of Syria. 'Seleucia by the sea' was a place of great importance under the Seleucidae and the Ptolemies, and so it remained under the sway of the Romans. In consequence of its bold resistance to Tigranes when he was in possession of all the neighboring country, Pompey gave it the privileges of a 'free city;' and a contemporary of Paul speaks of it as having those privileges still.
Here, in the midst of unsympathizing sailors, the two missionary apostles, with their younger companion, stepped on board the vessel which was to convey them to Salamis. As they cleared the port, the whole sweep of the bay of Antioch opened on their left - the low ground by the mouth of the Orontes; the wild and woody country beyond it; and then the peak of Mount Casius, rising symmetrically from the very edge of the sea to a height of 5000 feet. On the right, in the southwest horizon, if the day was clear, they saw the island of Cyprus from the first. The current sets northerly and northeast between the island and the Syrian coast. But with a fair wind, a few hours would enable them to run down from Seleucia to Salamis, and the land would rapidly rise in forms well known and familiar to Barnabas and Mark" (Life and Epistles of Paul, vol. 1, pp. 135, 138).
They sailed to Cyprus - An island in the Mediterranean, not far from Seleucia. See the notes on Acts 4:36.
5And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
And when they were at Salamis - This was the principal city and seaport of Cyprus. It was situated on the southeast part of the island, and was afterward called Constantia.
In the synagogues of the Jews - Jews were living in all the countries adjacent to Judea, and in those countries they had synagogues. The apostles uniformly preached first to them.
And they had also John to their minister - John Mark, Acts 12:12. He was their attendant, yet not pretending to be equal to them in circe. They had been specifically designated to this work. He was with them as their friend and traveling companion; perhaps also employed in making the needful arrangements for their comfort, and for the supply of their needs in their travels.
6And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:
And when they had gone through the isle - The length of the island, according to Strabo, was 1,400 stadia, or nearly 170 miles.
Unto Paphos - Paphos was a city at the western extremity of the island. It was the residence of the proconsul, and was distinguished for a splendid temple erected to Venus, who was worshipped throughout the island. Cyprus was fabled to be the place of the birth of this goddess. It had, besides Paphos and Salamis, several towns of note Citium, the birthplace of Zeno, Areathus, sacred to Venus, etc. Its present capital is Nicosia. Whether Paul preached at any of these places is not recorded. The island is formerly supposed to have had one million inhabitants.
A certain sorcerer - Greek: magus, or magician. See the notes on Acts 8:9.
A false prophet - Pretending to be endowed with the gift of prophecy; or a man, probably, who pretended to be inspired.
Bar-jesus - The word "Bar" is Syriac, and means "son." Jesus (Joshua) was not an uncommon name among the Jews. The name was given from his father - son of Jesus, or Joshua; as Bar-Jonas, son of Jonas.
7Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
Which was with the deputy - Or with the proconsul. The exact accuracy of Luke in this statement is worthy of special remark. In the time when Augustus united the world under his own power, the provinces were divided into two classes. Augustus found two names which were applied to public officers in existence, one of which was henceforward inseparably blended with the imperial dignity and with military command, and the other with the authority of the senate and its civil administration. The first of these names was "Praetor"; the other was "Consul." What is to be accounted for here is that the latter is the name given by Luke to Sergius Paulus, as if he derived his authority from the senate. The difficulty in the ease is this: that Augustus told the senate and the people of Rome that he would resign to them those provinces where soldiers were unnecessary to secure a peaceful administration, and that he would himself take the care and risk of the other provinces where the presence of the Roman legions would be necessary.
Hence, in the time of Augustus, and in the subsequent reigns of the emperors, the provinces were divided into these two classes; the one governed by men who went forth from the senate, and who would be styled Proconsul, ἀνθύπατος anthupatos - the term used here; and the other those sent forth by the emperor, and who would be styled Procurator, Ἐπίτροπος Epitropos or Proproetor, Ἀντιστράτηγος Antistratēgos. Both these kind of officers are referred to in the New Testament. Now we are told by Strabo and Dio Cassius that "Asaia" and "Achaia" were assigned to the senate, and the title, therefore, of the governor would be Proconsul, as we find in Acts 18:12; Acts 19:38. At the same time, Dio Cassius informs us that Cyprus was retained by the emperor for himself, and the title of the governor, therefore, would naturally have been, not "Proconsul," as here, but "Procurator." Yet it so happens that Dio Cassius has stated the reason why the title "Proconsul" was given to the governor of Cyprus, in the fact which he mentions that "Augustus restored Cyprus to the senate in exchange for another district of the empire." It is this statement which vindicates the strict accuracy of Luke in the passage before us. See Life and Epistles of Paul, vol. 1, pp. 142-144, and also Lardner's Credibility, part 1, chapter 1, section 11, where he has fully vindicated the accuracy of the appellation which is here given to Sergius by Luke.
Sergius Paulus, a prudent man - The word here rendered "prudent" means "intelligent, wise, learned." It also may have the sense of candid, and may have been given to this man because he was of large and liberal views; of a philosophic and inquiring turn of mind; and was willing to obtain knowledge from any source. Hence, he had entertained the Jews; and hence, he was willing also to listen to Barnabas and Saul. It is not often that men of rank are thus willing to listen to the instructions of the professed ministers of God.
Who called for Barnabas and Saul - It is probable that they had preached in Paphos, and Sergius was desirous himself of hearing the import of their new doctrine.
And desired to hear ... - There is no evidence that he then wished to listen to this as divine truth, or that he was anxious about his own salvation, but it was rather as a speculative inquiry. It was a professed characteristic of many ancient philosophers that they were willing to receive instruction from any quarter. Compare Acts 17:19-20.
8But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.
}}But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) - Elymas the magician. Elymas is the interpretation, not of the name Bar-jesus, but of the word rendered "the sorcerer." It is an Arabic word, and means the same as Magus. It seems that he was better known by this foreign name than by his own.
Withstood them - Resisted them. He was sensible that if the influence of Saul and Barnabas should be extended over the proconsul, that he would be seen to be an impostor, and his power be at an end. His interest, therefore, led him to oppose the gospel. His own popularity was at stake; and being governed by this, he opposed the gospel of God. The love of popularity and power, the desire of retaining some political influence, is often a strong reason why people oppose the gospel.
To turn away the deputy from the faith - To prevent the influence of the truth on his mind; or to prevent his be coming the friend and patron of the Christians.
9Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,
}}Then Saul, (who is also called Paul) - This is the last time that this apostle is called "Saul." Henceforward, he is designated by the title by which he is usually known, as "Paul." When, or why, this change occurred in the name, has been a subject on which commentators are not agreed. From the fact that the change in the name is here first intimated, it would seem probable that it was first used in relation to him at this time. By whom the name was given him whether he assumed it himself, or whether it was first given him by Christians or by Romans - is not intimated. The name is of Roman origin. In the Latin language the name Paulus signifies little, dwarfish; and some have conjectured that it was given by his parents to denote that he was small when born; others, that it was assumed or conferred in subsequent years because he was little in stature. The name is not of the same signification as the name Saul. This signifies one that is asked, or desired. After all the conjectures on this subject, it is probable:
(1) That this name was first used here; for before this, even after his conversion, he is uniformly called Saul.
(2) that it was given by the Romans, as being a name with which they were more familiar, and one that was more consonant with their language and pronunciation. It was made by the change of a single letter; and probably because the name Paul was common among them, and pronounced, perhaps, with greater facility.
(3) Paul suffered himself to be called by this name, as he was employed chiefly among the Gentiles. It was common for names to undergo changes quite as great as this, without our being able to specify any particular cause, in passing from one language to another. Thus, the Hebrew name Jochanan among the Greeks and Latins was Johannes, with the French it is Jean, with the Dutch Hans, and with us John (Doddridge). Thus, Onias becomes Menelaus; Hillel, Pollio; Jakim, Alcimus; Silas, Silvanus, etc. (Grotius).
Filled with the Holy Ghost - Inspired to detect his sin; to denounce divine judgment; and to inflict punishment on him. See the notes on Acts 2:4.
Set his eyes on him - Looked at him intently.
10And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
O full of all subtilty and all mischief - The word "subtilty" denotes "deceit and fraud," and implies that he was practicing an imposition, and that he knew it. The word rendered "mischief" ῥᾳδιουργίας radiourgias denotes properly "facility of acting," and then "sleight of hand; sly;, cunning arts, by which one imposes on another, and deceives him with a fraudulent intention." It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. The art of Elymas consisted probably in sleight of hand, legerdemain, or trick, aided by skill in the abstruse sciences, by which the ignorant might be easily imposed on. See the notes on Acts 8:9.
Child of the devil - Under his influence; practicing his arts; promoting his designs by deceit and imposture, so that he may be called your father. See the notes on John 8:44. Satan is represented here as the author of deceit and the father of lies.
Enemy of all righteousness - Practicing deceit and iniquity, and thus opposed to righteousness and honesty. A man who lives by wickedness will, of course, be the foe of every form of integrity. A man who lives by fraud will be opposed to the truth; a panderer to the vices of people will hate the rules of chastity and purity; a manufacturer or vendor of ardent spirits will be the enemy of temperance societies.
Wilt thou not cease to pervert - In what way he had opposed Paul and Barnabas is not known. It may have been either by misrepresenting their doctrines, or by representing them as apostate Jews thus retarding or hindering the progress of the gospel. The expression "wilt thou not cease." implies that he had been engaged sedulously in doing this, probably from the commencement of their work in the city.
The right ways of the Lord - The straight paths or doctrines of the Christian religion, in opposition to the crooked and perverse arts of deceivers and impostors. Straight paths denote "integrity, sincerity, truth," Jeremiah 31:9; Hebrews 12:13; compare Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 42:16; Luke 3:5. Crooked ways denote "the ways of the sinner, the deceiver, the impostor," Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 2:15; Isaiah 59:8; Philippians 2:15.
11And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
The hand of the Lord is upon thee - God shall punish thee. By this sudden and miraculous punishment he would be awed and humbled, and the proconsul and others would be convinced that he was an impostor, and that the gospel was true. His wickedness deserved such punishment; and at the same time that due punishment was inflicted, it was designed that the gospel should be extended by this means. In all this there was the highest evidence that Paul was under the inspiration of God. He was full of the Holy Spirit; he detected the secret feelings and desires of the heart of Elymas; and he inflicted on him a punishment that could have proceeded from none but God. That the apostles had the power of inflicting punishment is apparent from various places in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20. The punishment inflicted on Elymas, also, would be highly emblematic of the darkness and perverseness of his conduct.
Not seeing the sun for a season - For how long a time this blindness was to continue is nowhere specified. It was, however, in mercy ordained that the blindness should not be permanent and final; and though it was a punishment, it was at the same time benevolent, for nothing would be more likely to lead him to reflection and repentance than such a state of blindness. It was such a manifest proof that God was opposed to him it was such a sudden divine judgment; it so completely cut him off from all possibility of practicing his arts of deception, that it was adapted to bring him to repentance. Accordingly there is a tradition in the early church that he became a Christian. Origen says that "Paul, by a word striking him blind, by anguish converted him to godliness" (Clark).
A mist - The word used here properly denotes "a darkness or obscurity of the air; a cloud," etc. But it also denotes "an extinction of sight by the drying up or disturbance of the tumors of the eye" (Hippocrates, as quoted by Schleusner).
And a darkness - Blindness, night. What was the precise cause or character of this miracle is not specified.
And he went about ... - This is a striking account of the effect of the miracle. The change was so sudden that he knew not where to go. He sought someone to guide him in the paths with which he had before been familiar. How soon can God bring down the pride of man, and make him as helpless as an infant! How easily can He touch our senses, the organs of our most exquisite pleasures, and wither away all our enjoyments! How dependent are we upon Him for the inestimable blessing of sight! And how easily can He annihilate all the sinner's pleasures, break up all his plans, and humble him in the dust! Sight is his gift; and it is a mercy unspeakably great that He does not overwhelm us in thick darkness, and destroy forever all the pleasure that through this organ is conveyed to the soul.
12Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Then the deputy ...believed - Was convinced that Elymas was an impostor, and that the doctrine of Paul was true. There seems no reason to doubt that his faith was what is connected with eternal life; and if so, it is an evidence that the gospel was not always confined to the poor, and to those in obscure ranks of life.
At the doctrine of the Lord - The word "doctrine" here seems to denote, not the "teaching" or "instruction," but the wonderful effects which were connected with the doctrine. It was particularly the miracle with which he was astonished; but he might have been also deeply impressed and amazed at the purity and sublimity of the truths which were now expanded to his view. We learn nothing further respecting him in the New Testament.
13Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.
Paul and his company - Those with him - Barnabas and John - and perhaps others who had been converted at Paphos; for it was common for many of the converts to Christianity to attend on the apostles in their travels. See Acts 9:3 O.
Loosed from Paphos - Departed from Paphos. See the notes on Acts 13:6.
They came to Perga in Pamphylia - Pamphylia was a province of Asia Minor, lying over against Cyprus, having Cilicia east, Lycia west, Pisidia north, and the Mediterranean south. Perga was the metropolis of Pamphylia, and was situated, not on the seacoast, but on the river Cestus, at some distance from its mouth. There was on a mountain near it a celebrated temple of Diana.
And John departing from them ... - Why he departed from them is unknown. It might have been from fear of danger; or from alarm in traveling so far into unknown regions. But it is plain from Acts 15:38, that it was from some cause which was deemed blameworthy, and that his conduct now was such as to make Paul unwilling again to have him as a companion.
14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
They came to Antioch in Pisidia - Pisidia was a province of Asia Minor, and was situated north of Pamphylia. Antioch was not in Pisidia, but within the limits of Phrygia; but it belonged to Pisadia, and was called Antioch of Pisidia to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria - Pliny, Nat. Hist., 5, 27; Strabo, 12, p. 577 (Kuinoel; Robinson's Calmet). The city was built by Seleucus, the founder of the Antioch in Syria, and was called after the name of his father, Antiochus. He is said to have built 16 cities of that name ("Life and Epistles of Paul," vol. 1, p. 122).
Went into the synagogue - Though Paul and Barnabas were on a special mission to the Gentiles, yet they availed themselves of every opportunity to offer the gospel to the Jews first.
15And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
And after the reading of the law and the prophets - See notes on Luke 4:16.
The rulers of the synagogue - Those were persons who had the general charge of the synagogue and its service, to keep everything in order, and to direct the affairs of public worship. They designated the individuals who were to read the Law; and called on those whom they pleased to address the people, and had the power also of inflicting punishment, and of excommunicating, etc. (Schleusner), Mark 5:22, Mark 5:35-36, Mark 5:38; Luke 8:49; Luke 13:14; Acts 18:8, Acts 18:17. Seeing that Paul and Barnabas were Jews, though strangers, they sent to them, supposing it probable that they would wish to address their brethren.
Men and brethren - An affectionate manner of commencing a discourse, recognizing them as their own countrymen, and as originally of the same religion.
Say on - Greek: "speak!"
16Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.
Men of Israel - Jews. The design of this discourse of Paul was to introduce to them the doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. To do this, he evinced his usual wisdom and address. To have commenced at once on this would have probably excited their prejudice and rage. He therefore pursued a train of argument which showed that he was a firm believer in the Scriptures; that he was acquainted with the history and promises of the Old Testament; and that he was not disposed to call in question the doctrines of their fathers. The passage which had been read had probably given occasion for him to pursue this train of thought. By going over, in a summary way, their history, and recounting the former dealings of God with them, he showed them that he believed the Scriptures; that a promise had been given of a Messiah; and that he had actually come according to the promise.
Ye that fear God - Probably proselytes of the gate, who had not yet been circumcised, but who had renounced idolatry, and were accustomed to worship with them in their synagogues.
Give audience - Hear.
17The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
The God of this people - Who has manifested himself as the special friend and protector of this nation. This implied a belief that he had been particularly their God; a favorite doctrine of the Jews, and one that would conciliate their favor toward Paul.
Of Israel - The Jews.
Chose our fathers - Selected the nation to be a chosen and special people to himself, Deuteronomy 7:6-7.
And exalted the people - Raised them up from a low and depressed state of bondage, to freedom, and to special privileges as a nation.
When they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt - ἐν τῇ παροικίᾳ en tē paroikia. This properly refers to their dwelling there as foreigners. They were always strangers there in a strange land. It was not their home. They never mingled with the people; never became constituent parts of the government; never used their language; never united with their usages and laws. They were a strange, separate, depressed people there; not less so than Africans are strangers and foreigners a depressed and degraded people in this land (America), Genesis 36:7; Exodus 6:4; Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:19.
And with an high arm - This expression denotes "great power." The arm denotes "strength," as that by which we perform anything. A high arm, an arm lifted up, or stretched out, denotes that "strength exerted to the utmost." The children of Israel are represented as having been delivered with an "outstretched arm," Deuteronomy 26:8; Exodus 6:6. "With a strong hand," Exodus 6:1. Reference is made in these places to the plagues inflicted on Egypt, by which the Israelites were delivered; to their passage through the Red Sea; to their victories over their enemies, etc.
18And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
And about the time of forty years - They were this time going from Egypt to the land of Canaan. Exodus 16:35; Numbers 33:38.
Suffered he their manners - This passage has been very variously rendered. See the margin. Syriac, "He nourished them," etc. Arabic, "He blessed them, and nourished them," etc. The Greek word is not elsewhere used in the New Testament. It properly means to tolerate, or endure the conduct of anyone, implying that that conduct is evil, and tends to provoke to punishment. This is doubtless its meaning here. Probably Paul referred to the passage in Deuteronomy 1:31, "The Lord thy God bare thee." But instead of this word, ἐτροποφόρησεν etropophorēsen to bear with, many mss. read ἐτροφοφόρησεν etrofoforēsen), "he sustained or nourished." This reading was followed by the Syriac, Arabic, and has been admitted by Griesbach into the text. This is also found in the Septuagint, in Deuteronomy 1:31, which place Paul doubtless referred to. This would well suit the connection of the passage; and a change of a single letter might easily have occurred in a ms. It adds to the probability that this is the true reading, that it accords with Deuteronomy 1:31; Numbers 11:12; Deuteronomy 32:10. It is furthermore not probable that Paul would have commenced a discourse by reminding them of the obstinacy and wickedness of the nation. Such a course would rather tend to exasperate than to conciliate; but by reminding them of the mercies of God to them, and showing them that He had been their protector, he was better fitting them for his main purpose - that of showing them the kindness of the God of their fathers in sending to them a Saviour.
In the wilderness - The desert through which they passed in going from Egypt to Canaan.
19And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
And when he had destroyed - Subdued, cast out, or extirpated them as nations. It does not mean that all were put to death, for many of them were left in the land; but that they were subdued as nations, they were broken up and overcome, Deuteronomy 7:1, "And hath cast out many nations before them," etc.
Seven nations - The Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 3:10; Nehemiah 9:8.
In the land of Canaan - The whole land Was called by the name of one of the principal nations. This was the promised land; the holy land, etc.
He divided ... - See an account of this in Joshua 14-15: The lot was often used among the Jews to determine important questions. See the note at Acts 1:26.
20And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
He gave unto them judges - Men who were raised up in an extraordinary manner to administer the affairs of the nation, to defend it from enemies, etc. See Judges 2:16.
About the space of four hundred and fifty years - This is a most difficult passage, and has exercised all the ingenuity of chronologists. The ancient versions agree with the present Greek text. The difficulty has been to reconcile it with what is said in 1 Kings 6:1, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel ...he began to build the house of the Lord." Now if to the 40 years that the children of Israel were in the wilderness there be added the 450 said in Acts to have been passed under the administration of the judges, and about 17 years of the time of Joshua, 40 years for Samuel and the reign of Saul together, and 40 years for the reign of David, and three years of Solomon before he began to build the temple, the sum will be 590 years, a period greater by 110 years than that mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1. Various ways have been proposed to meet the difficulty. Doddridge renders it, "After these transactions, (which lasted) 450 years, he gave them a series of judges," etc., reckoning from the birth of Isaac, and supposing that Paul meant to refer to this whole time. But to this there are serious objections:
(1) It is a forced and constrained interpretation, and one manifestly made to meet a difficulty.
(2) there is no propriety in commencing this period at the birth of Isaac. That was in no manner remarkable, so far as Paul's narrative was concerned; and Paul had not even referred to it. This same solution is offered also by Calovius, Mill, and DeDieu. Luther and Beza think it should be read 300 instead of 400. But this is a mere conjecture, without any authority from mss. Vitringa and some others suppose that the text has been corrupted by some transcriber, who has inserted this without authority. But there is no evidence of this; and the mss. and ancient versions are uniform. None of these explanations are satisfactory. In the solution of the difficulty we may remark:
(1) That nothing is more perplexing than the chronology of ancient facts. The difficulty is found in all writings; in profane as well as sacred. Mistakes are so easily made in transcribing numbers, where letters are used instead of writing the words at length, that we are not to wonder at such errors.
(2) Paul would naturally use the chronology which was in current, common use among the Jews. It was not his business to settle such points; but he would speak of them as they were usually spoken of, and refer to them as others did.
(3) there is reason to believe that what is mentioned here was the common chronology of his time. It accords remarkably with that which is used by Josephus. Thus, (Antiq., book 7, chapter 3, section 1), Josephus says expressly that Solomon "began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign, 592 years after the exodus out of Egypt," etc. This would allow 40 years for their being in the wilderness, 17 years for Joshua, 40 for Samuel and Saul, 40 for the reign of David, and 452 years for the time of the judges and the times of anarchy that intervened. This remarkable coincidence shows that this was the chronology which was then used, and which Paul had in view.
(4) this chronology has the authority, also, of many eminent names. See Lightfoot and Boyle's Lectures, Acts 20. In what way this computation of Josephus and the Jews originated it is not necessary here to inquire. It is a sufficient solution of the difficulty that Paul spake in their usual manner, without departing from his regular object by settling a point of chronology.
21And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
And afterward they desired a king - See 1 Samuel 8:5; Hosea 13:10. It was predicted that they would have a king, Deuteronomy 17:14-15.
Saul, the son of Cis - is the Greek mode of writing the Hebrew name Kish. In the Old Testament it is uniformly written as "Kish," and it is to be regretted that this has not been retained in the New Testament. See 1 Samuel 9:1.
By the space of forty years - During forty years. The Old Testament has not mentioned the time during which Saul reigned. Josephus says (Antiq., book 6, chapter 14, section 9) that he reigned for 18 years while Samuel was alive, and 22 years after his death. But Dr. Doddridge (note in loco) has shown that this cannot be correct, and that he probably reigned, as some copies of Josephus have it, but two years after the death of Samuel. Many critics suppose that the term of 40 years mentioned here includes also the time in which Samuel judged the people. This supposition does not violate the text in this place, and may be probable. See Doddridge and Grotius on the place.
22And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
And when he had removed him - This was done because he rebelled against God in sparing the sheep and oxen and valuable property of Amalek, together with Agag the king, when he was commanded to destroy all, 1 Samuel 15:8-23. He was put to death in a battle with the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31:1-6. The phrase "when he removed him" refers probably to his rejection as a king, and not to his death; for David was anointed king before the death of Saul, and almost immediately after the rejection of Saul on account of his rebellion in the business of Amalek. See 1 Samuel 16:12-13.
He gave testimony - He bore witness, 1 Samuel 13:14.
I have found David ... - This is not quoted literally, but contains the substance of what is expressed in various places. Compare 1 Samuel 13:14, with Psalm 89:20, and 1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:12.
A man after mine own heart - This expression is found in 1 Samuel 13:14. The connection shows that it means simply a man who would not be rebellious and disobedient as Saul was, but would do the will of God and keep his commandments. This refers, doubtless, rather to the public than to the private character of David; to his character as a king. It means that he would make the will of God the great rule and law of his reign, in contradistinction from Saul, who, as a king, had disobeyed God. At the same time it is true that the prevailing character of David, as a pious, humble, devoted man, was that he was a man after God's own heart, and was beloved by him as a holy man. He had faults; he committed sin; but who is free from it? He was guilty of great offences; but he also evinced, in a degree equally eminent, repentance (see Psalm 51); and not less in his private than his public character did he evince those traits which were prevailingly such as accorded with the heart, that is, the earnest desires, of God.
Which shall fulfill all my will - Saul had not done it. He had disobeyed God in a case where he had received an express command. The characteristic of David would be that he would obey the commands of God. That David did this - that he maintained the worship of God, opposed idolatry, and sought to promote universal obedience to God among the people is expressly recorded of him, 1 Kings 14:8-9, "And thou Jeroboam hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes," etc., 1 Kings 15:3, 1 Kings 15:5.
23Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:
Of this man's seed - Of his posterity.
According to his promise - See the notes on Acts 2:30.
Raised unto Israel - See the notes on Acts 2:30.
A Saviour, Jesus - See the notes on Matthew 1:21.
24When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
When John had first preached ... - After John had preached and prepared the way, Matthew 3:
25And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.
And as John fulfilled his course - As he was engaged in completing his work. His ministry is called a course or race, that which was to be run, or completed.
He said ... - These are not the precise words which the evangelists have recorded, but the sense is the same. See the John 1:20 note; Matthew 3:11 note.
26Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
Men and brethren - Paul now exhorts them to embrace the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. He uses, therefore, the most respectful and fraternal language.
Children of the stock of Abraham - Descendants of Abraham; you who regard Abraham as your ancestor. He means here to address particularly the native-born Jews; and this appellation is used because they valued themselves highly on account of their descent from Abraham (see the notes on Matthew 3:9); and because the promise of the Messiah had been specially given to him.
And whosoever ... - Proselytes. See the notes on Acts 13:16.
Is the word of this salvation sent - This message of salvation. It was sent particularly to the Jewish people. The Saviour was sent to that nation Matthew 15:24; and the design was to offer to them first the message of life. See the notes on Acts 13:46.
27For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
Because they knew him not - The statement in this verse is designed, not to reproach the Jews at Jerusalem, but to introduce the fact that Jesus had died, and had risen again. With great wisdom and tenderness, Paul speaks of the murderers of the Saviour in such a manner as not to exasperate, but, as far as possible, to mitigate their crime. There was sufficient guilt in the murder of the Son of God to fill the nation with alarm, even after all that could be said to mitigate the deed. See Acts 2:23, Acts 2:36-37. When Paul says, "They knew him not," he means that they did not know him to be the Messiah (see 1 Corinthians 2:8); they were ignorant of the true meaning of the prophecies of the Old Testament; they regarded him as an impostor. See the notes on Acts 3:17.
Nor yet the voices of the prophets - The meaning of the predictions of the Old Testament respecting the Messiah. They expected a prince and a conqueror, but did not expect a Messiah that was poor and despised; that was a man of sorrows and that was to die on a cross.
Which are read every sabbath-day - In the synagogues. Though the Scriptures were read so constantly, yet they were ignorant of their true meaning. They were blinded by pride, and prejudice, and preconceived opinions. People may often in this way read the Bible a good part of their lives and never understand it.
They have fulfilled them ... - By putting him to death they have accomplished what was foretold.
28And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
And though they found ... - They found no crime which deserved death. This is conclusively shown by the trial itself. After all their efforts; after the treason of Judas; after their employing false witnesses; still no crime was laid to his charge. The Sanhedrin condemned him for blasphemy; and yet they knew that they could not substantiate the charge before Pilate, and they therefore endeavored to procure his condemnation on the ground of sedition. Compare Luke 22:70-71, with Luke 23:1-2.
Yet desired they Pilate ... - Matthew 27:1-2; Luke 23:4-5.
29And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
They took him down ... - That is, it was done by the Jews. Not that it was done by those who put him to death, but by Joseph of Arimathea, and by Nicodemus, who were Jews. Paul is speaking of what was done to Jesus by the Jews at Jerusalem; and he does not affirm that the same persons put him to death and laid him in a tomb, but that all this was done by Jews. See John 19:38-39.
30But God raised him from the dead:
But God raised him ... - See the notes on Acts 2:23-24.
31And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.
And he was seen - See the notes at the end of Matthew.
Many days - Forty days, Acts 1:3.
Of them which came up - By the apostles particularly. He was seen by others; but they are especially mentioned as having been chosen for this object, to bear witness to him, and as having been particularly qualified for it.
32And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,
And we - We who are here present. Paul and Barnabas.
Declare unto you glad tidings - We preach the gospel the good news. To a Jew, nothing could be more grateful intelligence than that the Messiah had come; to a sinner convinced of his sins nothing can be more cheering than to hear of a Saviour.
The promise ... - The promise here refers to all that had been spoken in the Old Testament respecting the advent, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ.
33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
God hath fulfilled - God has completed or carried into effect by the resurrection of Jesus. He does not say that every part of the promise had reference to his resurrection; but his being raised up completed or perfected the fulfillment of the promises which had been made respecting him.
In the second psalm - Acts 13:7.
Thou art my Son - This psalm has been usually understood as referring to the Messiah. See the notes on Acts 4:25.
This day have I begotten thee - It is evident that Paul uses the expression here as implying that the Lord Jesus is called the Son of God because he raised him up from the dead, and that he means to imply that it was for this reason that he is so called. This interpretation of an inspired apostle fixes the meaning of this passage in the psalm, and proves that it is not there used with reference to the doctrine of eternal generation, or to his incarnation, but that he is called his Son because he was raised from the dead. And this interpretation accords with the scope of the psalm. In Acts 13:1-3 the psalmist records the combination of the rulers of the earth against the Messiah, and their efforts to cast off his reign. This was done, and the Messiah was rejected. All this pertains, not to his previous existence, but to the Messiah on the earth. In Acts 13:4-5, the psalmist shows that their efforts would not be successful; that God would laugh at their designs; that is, that their plans should not succeed.
In Acts 13:6-7, he shows that the Messiah would be established as a king; that this was the fixed decree, and that he had been begotten for this. All this is represented as subsequent to the raging of the pagan, and to the counsel of the kings against him, and must, therefore, refer, not to his eternal generation or his incarnation, but to something succeeding his death; that is, to his resurrection, and his establishment as King at the right hand of God. This interpretation by the apostle Paul proves, therefore, that this passage is not to be used to establish the doctrine of the eternal generation of Christ. Christ is called the Son of God for various reasons. In Luke 1:35, because he was begotten by the Holy Spirit. In this place, on account of his resurrection. In Romans 1:4 it is also said that he was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. See the notes on that place. The resurrection from the dead is represented as in some sense the beginning of life, and it is with reference to this that the terms "Son," and "begotten from the dead," are used, as the birth of a child is the beginning of life. Thus, Christ is said, Colossians 1:18, to be "the first-born from the dead"; and thus, in Revelation 1:5; he is called "the firsthegotten of the dead"; and with reference to this renewal or beginning of life he is called a Son. In whatever other senses he is called a Son in the New Testament, yet it is here proved:
(1) That he is called a Son from his resurrection; and,
(2) That this is the sense in which the expression in the psalm is to be used.
This day - The words "this day" would naturally, in the connection in which they are found, refer to the time when the "decree" was made. The purpose was formed before Christ came into the world; it was executed or carried into effect by the resurrection from the dead. See the notes on Psalm 2:7.
Have I begotten thee - This evidently cannot be understood in a literal sense. It literally refers to the relation of an earthly father to his children; but in no such sense can it be applied to the relation of God the Father to the Son. It must, therefore, be figurative. The word sometimes figuratively means "to produce, to cause to exist in any way"; 2 Timothy 2:23, "Unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender (beget) strifes." It refers also to the labors of the apostles in securing the conversion of sinners to the gospel: 1 Corinthians 4:15, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel"; Plm 1:10, Whom (Onesimus) I have begotten in my bonds. It is applied to Christians: John 1:13, "Which were born (begotten), not of blood, etc., but of God"; John 3:3, Except a man be born (begotten) again," etc. In all these places it is used in a figurative sense to denote "the commencement of spiritual life by the power of God; so raising up stoners from the death of sin, or so producing spiritual life that they should sustain to him the relation of sons." Thus, he raised up Christ from the dead, and imparted life to his body; and hence, he is said figuratively to have begotten him from the dead, and thus sustains toward the risen Saviour the relation of father. Compare Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 1:5.
34And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
And as concerning - In further proof of this. To show that he actually did it, he proceeds to quote another passage of Scripture.
No more to return to corruption - The word "corruption" is usually employed to denote "putrefaction, or the mouldering away of a body in the grave; its returning to its native dust." But it is certain (Acts 13:35. See the notes on Acts 2:27) that the body of Christ never in this sense saw corruption. The word is therefore used to denote "death, or the grave, the cause and place of corruption." The word is thus used in the Septuagint. It means here simply that he should not die again.
He said on this wise - He said thus ὅυτως houtōs.
I will give you - This quotation is made from Isaiah 55:3. It is quoted from the Septuagint, with a change of but one word, not affecting the sense. In Isaiah the passage does not refer particularly to the resurrection of the Messiah, nor is it the design of Paul to affirm that it does. His object in this verse is not to prove that he would rise from the dead, but that, being risen, he would not again die. That the passage in Isaiah refers to the Messiah there can be no doubt, Acts 13:1, Acts 13:4. The passage here quoted is an address to the people, an assurance to them that the promise made to David would be performed, a solemn declaration that he would make an everlasting covenant with them through the Messiah, the promised descendant of David.
The sure mercies of David - The word "mercies" here refers to the promise made to David; the mercy or favor shown to him by promising to him a successor that should not fail to sit on his throne, 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:4-5; Psalm 132:11-12. These mercies and promises are called "sure," as being true or unfailing; they would certainly be accomplished. Compare 2 Corinthians 1:20. The word "David" here does not refer, as many have supposed, to the Messiah, but to the King of Israel. God made to David a promise, a certain pledge; he bestowed on him this special mercy, in promising that he should have a successor who should sit forever on his throne. This promise was understood by the Jews, and is often referred to in the New Testament, as relating to the Messiah. Paul here says that that promise is fulfilled. The only question is how it refers to the subject on which he was discoursing. The point was not mainly to prove his resurrection, but to show particularly that he would never die again, or that he would forever live and reign. And the argument is, that as God had promised that David should have a successor who should sit forever on his throne, and as this prediction now terminated in the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, it followed that, as that promise was sure and certain, he would never die again. He must live if the promise was fulfilled. And though he had been put to death, yet under that general promise there was a certainty that he would live again. It was impossible, the meaning is, that the Messiah, the promised successor of David, the perpetual occupier of his throne, should remain under the power of death. Under this assurance the church now reposes its hopes. Zion's King now lives, ever able to vindicate and save his people.
35Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Wherefore - Διὸ Dio. To the same intent or end. In proof of the same thing - that he must rise and live forever.
He saith - God says by David, or David spake the promises made by God.
In another psalm - Psalm 16:10.
Thou wilt not suffer ... - See this explained in the notes on Acts 2:27.
36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
For David ... - This verse is designed to show that the passage in Psalm 16:1-11; could not refer to David, and must therefore relate to some other person. In Acts 13:37 it is affirmed that this could refer to no one, in fact, but to the Lord Jesus.
After he had served his own generation - See the margin. Syriac, "David in his own generation having served the will of God, and slept," etc. Arabic, "David served in his own age, and saw God." The margin probably most correctly expresses the sense of the passage. To serve a generation, or an age, is an unusual and almost unintelligible expression.
Fell on sleep - Greek: "slept," that is, "died." This is the usual word to denote "the death of saints." It is used of David in 1 Kings 2:10. See notes on Matthew 27:52.
And was laid unto ... - And was buried with his fathers, etc., 1 Kings 2:10.
And saw corruption - Remained in the grave, and returned to his native dust. See this point argued more at length by Peter in Acts 2:29-31, and explained in the notes on that place.
37But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
But he, whom God raised again - The Lord Jesus.
Saw no corruption - Was raised without undergoing the usual change that succeeds death. As David had returned to corruption, and the Lord Jesus had not, it followed that this passage in Psalm 16:1-11 referred to the Messiah.
38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
Be it known ... - Paul, having proved his resurrection, and shown that he was the Messiah, now states the benefits that were to be derived from his death.
Through this man - See the notes on Luke 24:47.
39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
And by him - By means of him; by his sufferings and death.
All that believe - See the notes on Mark 16:16.
Are justified - Are regarded and treated as if they were righteous. They are pardoned, and admitted to the favor of God, and treated as if they had not offended. See this point explained in the notes on Romans 1:17; Romans 3:24-25; Romans 4:1-8.
From all things - From the guilt of all offences.
From which ye could not ... - The Law of Moses commanded what was to be done. It appointed sacrifices and offerings as typical of a greater sacrifice. But those sacrifices could not take away sin. See the notes on Hebrews 9:7-14; Hebrews 10:1-4, Hebrews 10:11. The design of the Law was not to reveal a way of pardon. That was reserved to be the unique purpose of the gospel.
The law of Moses - The commands and institutions which he, under the direction of God, established.
40Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;
Beware, therefore - Avoid what is threatened. It will come on some; and Paul exhorted his hearers to beware lest it should come on them. It was the more important to caution them against this danger, as the Jews held that they were safe.
Lest that come - That calamity; that threatened punishment.
In the prophets - In that part of the Scriptures called "the Prophets." The Jews divided the Old Testament into three parts, of which "the Book of the Prophets" was one. See the notes on Luke 24:44. The place where this is recorded is Habakkuk 1:5. It is not taken from the Hebrew, but substantially from the Septuagint. The original design of the threatening was to announce the destruction that would come upon the nation by the Chaldeans. The original threatening was fulfilled. But it was as applicable to the Jews in the time of Paul as in the time of Habakkuk. The principle of the passage is, that if they held in contempt the doings of God, they would perish. The work which God was to do by means of the Chaldeans was so fearful, so unusual, and so remarkable, that they would not believe it in time to avoid the calamity. In the same way, the manner in which God gave the Messiah was so little in accordance with their expectation, that they might see it, yet disbelieve it; that they might have the fullest proof, and yet despise it; that they might wonder, and be amazed and astonished, and yet refuse to believe it, and be destroyed.
41Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
Behold, ye despisers - Hebrew, "Behold, ye among the pagan." The change from this expression to "ye despisers" was made by the Septuagint translators by a very slight alteration in the Hebrew word - probably from a variation in the copy which they used. It arose from reading בּוגדים bowgadiym instead of בגּוים bagowyim. The Syriac, the Arabic, as well as the Septuagint, follow this reading.
And wonder - Hebrew, "And regard, and wonder marvelously."
And perish - Thin is not in the Hebrew, but is in the Septuagint and the Arabic. The word means literally "to be removed from the sight; to disappear; and then to corrupt, defile, destroy," Matthew 6:16, Matthew 6:19. The word, however, may mean "to be suffused with shame; to be overwhelmed and confounded" (Schleusner); and it may perhaps have this meaning here, corresponding to the Hebrew. The word used here is not what is commonly employed to denote "eternal perdition," though Paul seems to use it with reference to their destruction for rejecting the gospel.
For I work a work - I do a thing. The thing to which the prophet Habakkuk referred was, that God would bring upon them the Chaldeans, that would destroy the temple and nation. In like manner Paul says that God in that time might bring upon the nation similar calamities. By rejecting the Messiah and his gospel, and by persevering in wickedness, they would bring upon themselves the destruction of the temple, the city, and the nation. It was this threatened destruction doubtless to which the apostle referred.
Which ye shall in no wise believe - Which you will not believe. So remarkable, so unusual, so surpassing anything which had occurred. The original reference in Habakkuk is to the destruction of the temple by the Chaldeans; a thing which the Jews would not suppose could happen. The temple was so splendid; it had been so manifestly built by the direction of God; it had been so long under his protection, that they would suppose that it could not be given into the hands of their enemies to be demolished; and even though it were predicted by a prophet of God, still they would not believe it. The same feelings the Jews would have respecting the temple and city in the time of Paul. Though it was foretold by the Messiah, yet they were so confident that it was protected by God, that they would not believe that it could possibly be destroyed. The same infatuation seems to have possessed them during the siege of the city by the Romans.
Though a man ... - Though it be plainly predicted. We may learn:
(1) That people may be greatly amazed and impressed by the doings or works of God, and yet be destroyed.
(2) there may be a prejudice so obstinate that even a divine revelation will not remove it.
(3) the fancied security of sinners will not save them.
(4) there are people who will not believe in the possibility of their being lost, though it be declared by prophets, by apostles, by the Saviour, and by God. They will still remain in fancied security, and suffer nothing to alarm or rouse them. But,
(5) As the fancied security of the Jew furnished no safety against the Babylonians or the Romans, so it is true that the indifference and unconcern of sinners will not furnish any security against the dreadful wrath of God. Yet there are multitudes who live amidst the displays of God's power and mercy in the redemption of sinners, and who witness the effects of his goodness and truth in revivals of religion, who live to despise it all; who are amazed and confounded by it; and who perish.
42And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
And when the Jews ... - There is a great variety in the mss. on this verse, and in the ancient versions. Griesbach and Knapp read it, "And when they were gone out, they besought them that these words might be spoken, etc." The Syriac reads it, "When they departed from them, they sought from them that these words might be spoken to them on another Sabbath." The Arabic, "Some of the synagogue of the Jews asked of them that they would exhort the Gentiles with them, etc." If these readings be correct, then the meaning is, that some of the Jews exhorted the apostles to proclaim these truths at some other time, particularly to the Gentiles. The mss. greatly vary in regard to the passage, and it is, perhaps, impossible to determine the true reading. If the present reading in the English translation is to be regarded as genuine of which, however, there is very little evidence the meaning is, that a part of the Jews, perhaps a majority of them, rejected the message, and went out, though many of them followed Paul and Barnabas, Acts 13:43.
The Gentiles besought - This expression is missing in the Vulgate, Coptic, Arabic, and Syriac versions, and in a great many mss. (Mill). It is omitted by Griesbach, Knapp, and others, and is probably spurious. Among other reasons which may be suggested why it is not genuine, this is one, that it is not probable that the Gentiles were in the habit of attending the synagogue. Those who attended there were called "proselytes." The expression, if genuine, might mean either that the Gentiles besought, or that they besought the Gentiles. The latter would be the more probable meaning.
The next sabbath - The margin has probably the correct rendering of the passage. The meaning of the verse is, that a wish was expressed that these doctrines might be repeated to them in the intermediate time before the next Sabbath.
43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
When the congregation - Greek: when the synagogue was dissolved.
Broken up - Dismissed. It does not mean that it was broken up by violence or disorder. It was dismissed in the usual way.
Many of the Jews - Probably the majority of them rejected the message. See Acts 13:45. Still a deep impression was made on many of them.
And religious proselytes - See Acts 13:16. Compare the notes on Matthew 23:15. Greek: proselytes worshipping.
Persuaded them to continue ... - It would appear from this that they professedly received the truth and embraced the Lord Jesus. This success was remarkable, and shows the power of the gospel when it is preached faithfully to people.
In the grace of God - In his favor - in the faith, and prayer, and obedience which would be connected with his favor. The "gospel" is called the grace (favor) of God and they were exhorted to persevere in their attachment to it.
44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
And the next sabbath-day - This was the regular day for worship, and it was natural that a greater multitude should convene on that day than on the other days of the week.
Came almost the whole city - Whether this was in the synagogue is not affirmed; but it is probable that that was the place where the multitude convened. The news of the presence of the apostles, and of their doctrines, had been circulated, doubtless, by the Gentiles who had heard them, and curiosity attracted the multitude to hear them. Compare the notes on Acts 13:7.
45But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
They were filled with envy - Greek: "zeal." The word here denotes "wrath in dignation," that such multitudes should be disposed to hear a message which they rejected, and which threatened to overthrow their religion.
Spake against - Opposed the doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah; that the Messiah would be humble, lowly, despised, and put to death.
Contradicting - Contradicting the apostles. This was evidently done in their presence, Acts 13:46, and would cause great tumult and disorder.
And blaspheming - See the notes on Matthew 9:3. The sense evidently is, that they reproached and vilified Jesus of Nazareth; they spake of him with contempt and scorn. To speak thus of him is denominated blasphemy, Luke 22:65. When people are enraged, they have little regard for the words which they utter, and care little how they may be regarded by God. When people attached themselves to a sect or a party, in religion or politics, and they have no good arguments to employ, they attempt to overwhelm their adversaries by bitter and reproachful words. People in the heat of strife, and in professed zeal for special doctrines, more frequently utter blasphemy than they are aware. Precious and pure doctrines are often thus vilified fled because we do not believe them; and the heart of the Saviour is pierced anew, and his cause bleeds, by the wrath and wickedness of his professed friends. Compare Acts 18:6.
46Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
Waxed bold - Became bold; spake boldly and openly. They were not terrified by their strife, or alarmed by their opposition. The contradictions and blasphemies of sinners often show that their consciences are alarmed; that the truth has taken effect; and then is not the time to shrink, but to declare more fearlessly the truth.
It was necessary - It was so designed; so commanded. They regarded it as their duty to offer the gospel first to their own countrymen. See the notes on Luke 24:47.
Ye put it from you - You reject it.
And judge yourselves - By your conduct, by your rejecting it, you declare this. The word "judge" here does not mean they "expressed such an opinion," or that "they regarded themselves" as unworthy of eternal life - for they thought just the reverse; but that by their conduct they condemned themselves. By such conduct they did, in fact, pass sentence on themselves, and show that they were unworthy of eternal life, and of having the offer of salvation any further made to them. Sinners by their conduct do, in fact, condemn themselves, and show that they are not only unfit to be saved, but that they have advanced so far in wickedness that there is no hope of their salvation, and no propriety in offering them, any further, eternal life. See the notes on Matthew 7:6.
Unworthy ... - Unfit to be saved. They had deliberately and solemnly rejected the gospel, and thus shown that they were not suited to enter into everlasting life. We may remark here:
(1) When people, even but once, deliberately and solemnly reject the offers of God's mercy, it greatly endangers their salvation. The probability is, that they then put the cup of salvation forever away from themselves.
(2) the gospel produces an effect wherever it is preached.
(3) when sinners are hardened, and spurn the gospel, it may often be the duty of ministers to turn their efforts toward others where they may have more prospect of success. A man will not long labor on a rocky, batten, sterile soil, when there is near him a rich and fertile valley that will abundantly reward the pains of cultivation.
Lo, we turn ... - We shall offer the gospel to them, and devote ourselves to seeking their salvation.
47For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
For so ... - Paul, as usual, appeals to the Scriptures to justify his course. Here he appeals to the Old Testament rather than to the command of the Saviour, because the Jews recognized the authority of their own Scriptures, while they would have turned in scorn from the command of Jesus of Nazareth.
I have set thee ... - I have constituted or appointed thee. This passage is found in Isaiah 49:6. See the notes on Isaiah 49:1-6.
To be a light - See the notes on John 1:4.
Of the Gentiles - This was in accordance with the uniform doctrines of Isaiah, Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 60:3, Isaiah 60:5,Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 61:6, Isaiah 61:9; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 66:12; compare Romans 15:9-12.
For salvation - To save sinners.
Unto the ends of the earth - To all lands; in all nations. See the notes on Acts 1:8.
48And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
When the Gentiles heard this - Heard that the gospel was to be preached to them. The doctrine of the Jews had been that salvation was confined to themselves. The Gentiles rejoiced that from the mouths of Jews themselves they now heard a different doctrine.
They glorified the word of the Lord - They honored it as a message from God; they recognized and received it as the Word of God. The expression conveys the idea of praise on account of it, and of reverence for the message as the Word of God.
And as many as were ordained - ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι hosoi ēsan tetagmenoi. Syriac, "Who were destined," or constituted. Vulgate, "As many as were foreordained (quotquot erant praeordinati) to eternal life believed." There has been much difference of opinion in regard to this expression. One class of commentators has supposed that it refers to the doctrine of election - to God's ordaining people to eternal life, and another class to their being disposed themselves to embrace the gospel - to those among them who did not reject and despise the gospel, but who were disposed and inclined to embrace it. The main inquiry is, what is the meaning of the word rendered "ordained"? The word is used only eight times in the New Testament: Matthew 28:16, "Into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them"; that is, previously appointed - before his death; Luke 7:8, "For I also am a man set under authority"; appointed, or designated as a soldier, to be under the authority of another; Acts 15:2, "They determined that Paul and Barnabas, etc., should go to Jerusalem"; Acts 22:10, "It shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do"; Acts 23:23, "And when they appointed him a day," etc.: Romans 13:1, "the powers that be are ordained of God; 1 Corinthians 16:15, They have addicted themselves to the ministry of saints." The word τάσσω tassō, properly means "to place" - that is, to place in a certain rank or order. Its meaning is derived from arranging or disposing a body of soldiers in regular military order. In the places which have been mentioned above, the word is used to denote the following things:
(1) To command, or to designate, Matthew 28:16; Acts 22:10; Acts 28:23.
(2) to institute, constitute, or appoint, Romans 13:1; compare 2 Samuel 8:11; 1 Samuel 22:7.
(3) to determine, to take counsel, to resolve, Acts 15:2.
(4) to subject to the authority of another, Luke 7:8.
(5) to addict to; to devote to, 1 Corinthians 16:15. The meaning may be thus expressed:
(1) The word is never used to denote an internal disposition or inclination arising from one's own self. It does not mean that they disposed themselves to embrace eternal life.
(2) it has uniformly the notion of an ordering, disposing, or arranging from without; that is, from some other source than the individual himself; as of a soldier, who is arranged or classified according to the will of the proper officer. In relation to these persons it means, therefore, that they were disposed or inclined to this from some other source than themselves.
(3) it does not properly refer to an eternal decree, or directly to the doctrine of election - though that may be inferred from it; but it refers to their being then in fact disposed to embrace eternal life. They were then inclined by an influence from without themselves, or so disposed as to embrace eternal life. That this was done by the influence of the Holy Spirit is clear from all parts of the New Testament, Titus 3:5-6; John 1:13. It was not a disposition or arrangement originating with themselves, but with God.
(4) this implies the doctrine of election. It was, in fact, that doctrine expressed in an act. It was nothing but God's disposing them to embrace eternal life. And that he does this according to a plan in his own mind a plan which is unchangeable as he himself is unchangeable is clear from the Scriptures. Compare Acts 18:10; Romans 8:28-30; Romans 9:15-16, Romans 9:21, Romans 9:23; Ephesians 1:4-5, Ephesians 1:11. The meaning may be expressed in few words - who were then disposed, and in good earnest determined, to embrace eternal life, by the operation of the grace of God upon their hearts.
Eternal life - Salvation. See the notes on John 3:36.
49And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
50But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.
But the Jews stirred up - Excited opposition.
Honourable women - See the notes on Mark 15:43. Women of influence, and connected with families of rank. Perhaps they were proselytes, and were connected with the magistrates of the city.
And raised persecution - Probably on the ground that they produced disorder. The aid of "chief men" has often been called into oppose revivals of religion, and to put a period, if possible, to the spread of the gospel.
Out of their coasts - Out of the regions of their country; out of their province.
51But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.
But they shook off the dust ... - See the notes on Matthew 10:14.
And came unto Iconium - This was the capital of Lycaonia. It is now called Konieh, and is the capital of Caramania. "Konieh extends to the east and south over the plain far beyond the walls, which are about two miles in circumference ... Mountains covered with snow rise on every side, excepting toward the east, where a plain, as flat as the desert of Arabia, extends far beyond the reach of the eye" (Capt. Kinnear). "Little, if anything, remains of Greek or Roman Iconium, if we except the ancient inscriptions and the fragments of sculptures which are built into the Turkish walls." "The city wall is said to have been erected by the Seljukian sultans: it seems to have been built from the ruins of more ancient buildings, as broken columns, capitals, pedestals, bas-reliefs, and other pieces of sculpture contribute toward its construction. It has 80 gates, of a square form, each known by a separate name, and, as well as most of the towers, embellished with Arabic inscriptions ... I observed a few Greek characters on the walls, but they were in so elevated a situation that I could not decipher them" (Capt. Kinneir). See Colonel Leake's description; and also the work of Col. Chesney (1850) on the Euphrates Expedition, vol. i, p. 348, 349.
52And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.
And the disciples - The disciples in Antioch.
Were filled with joy - This happened even in the midst of persecution, and is one of the many evidences that the gospel is able to fill the soul with joy even in the severest trials.