|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:13-20 It was common, especially among the Jews, for persons to profess or to try to cast out evil spirits. If we resist the devil by faith in Christ, he will flee from us; but if we think to resist him by the using of Christ's name, or his works, as a spell or charm, Satan will prevail against us. Where there is true sorrow for sin, there will be free confession of sin to God in every prayer and to man whom we have offended, when the case requires it. Surely if the word of God prevailed among us, many lewd, infidel, and wicked books would be burned by their possessors. Will not these Ephesian converts rise up in judgement against professors, who traffic in such works for the sake of gain, or allow themselves to possess them? If we desire to be in earnest in the great work of salvation, every pursuit and enjoyment must be given up which hinders the effect of the gospel upon the mind, or loosens its hold upon the heart.
Verse 19. - And not a few for many... also, A.V.; that practiced for which used A.V.; in the sight of all for before all men, A.V. That practiced curious arts (τῶν τὰ περίεργα πραξάντων). The adjective περίεργος applied to persons means "a busybody" (1 Timothy 5:13), one who does what it is not his business to do, and pries into matters with which he has no concern (comp. 2 Thessalonians 3:11); applied to things, it means that which it is not anybody's business to attend to, that which is vain and superfluous; and then, by a further extension of meaning, that which is forbidden, and specially magic arts and occult sciences. Fifty thousand pieces of silver. There is a difference of opinion as to what coin or weight is meant. If Greek coinage, which is perhaps natural in a Greek city, fifty thousand drachmae of silver would be meant, equal to £1875, If Jewish shekels are meant, the sum would amount to £7000 ('Speaker's Commentary'). It is in favor of drachmae being meant that, with the exception of Joshua 7:21 and Judges 17:2, the LXX. always express the word "shekel" or "didrachm" after the numeral and before the word "silver." If St. Luke, therefore, had meant shekels, he would have written δίδραχμα ἀργυρίου But it was the Greek usage to omit the word δραχμή before ἀργυρίου when the reckoning was by drachmae (Meyer).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Many also of them which used curious arts..... Magic arts, soothsaying, necromancy, conjuration, and the like, being convinced of the folly and wickedness of them:
brought their books together; by which they had learned these arts; Ephesus was famous for this sort of learning; here Apollonius Tyaneus, in the beginning of Nero's reign, opened a school and taught magic, and such like things: frequent mention is made of the Ephesian letters, which were no other than enchantments; and even Diana, the goddess of the Ephesians, is said to be a magician (k):
and burned them before all men; to show their detestation of them, and the truth and genuineness of their repentance for their former sins; and that these books might not be a snare to them for the future, nor be made use of by others:
and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver; which is thought to answer to one thousand five hundred sixty two pounds and ten shillings of our money; reckoning a piece of silver, an Attic drachma; for such might be the silver pieces at Ephesus, a city of Greece, and which was of the value of our money seven pence halfpenny; but if Luke meant by pieces of silver, shekels, according to the Jewish way; see Gill on Matthew 26:15 then the sum is much larger, for a shekel was about two shillings and six pence of our money; so that fifty thousand pieces of silver, amount to six thousand two hundred and fifty pounds; a large sum indeed for magic books! some manuscripts read "gold" instead of "silver", which must greatly increase the value.
(k) Tatian. contr. Graecos, p. 147.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. Many of them … which used curious arts—The word signifies things "overdone"; significantly applied to arts in which laborious but senseless incantations are practiced.
brought their books—containing the mystic formularies.
and burned them before all—The tense, here used graphically, expresses progress and continuance of the conflagration.
counted the price … and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver—about £2000 (presuming it to be the drachma, the current coin of the Levant, of about 10d. value). From their nature they would be costly, and books then bore a value above any standard we are familiar with. The scene must have been long remembered at Ephesus, as a strong proof of honest conviction on the part of the sorcerers and a striking triumph of Jesus Christ over the powers of darkness. The workers of evil were put to scorn, like Baal's priests on Carmel, and the word of God mightily grew and prevailed [Howson].
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