|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:21-31 Persons who came from afar to pay their devotions at the temple of Ephesus, bought little silver shrines, or models of the temple, to carry home with them. See how craftsmen make advantage to themselves of people's superstition, and serve their worldly ends by it. Men are jealous for that by which they get their wealth; and many set themselves against the gospel of Christ, because it calls men from all unlawful crafts, however much wealth is to be gotten by them. There are persons who will stickle for what is most grossly absurd, unreasonable, and false; as this, that those are gods which are made with hands, if it has but worldly interest on its side. The whole city was full of confusion, the common and natural effect of zeal for false religion. Zeal for the honour of Christ, and love to the brethren, encourage zealous believers to venture into danger. Friends will often be raised up among those who are strangers to true religion, but have observed the honest and consistent behaviour of Christians.
Verse 31. - Certain also for certain, A.V. (the more natural order would be, and certain of the chief officers of Asia also); chief officers for chief, A.V.; being for which were, A.V.; and besought him not to for desiring him that he would not, A.V. Chief Officers of Asia. The Greek word is Asiarchs (Ἀσιάρχαι). The Asiarchs, ten in number, were officers annually chosen from all the cities of Proconsular Asia, to preside over all sacred rites, and to provide at their own expense the pub-lie games in honor of the gods and of the deity of the emperor. This necessitated their being men of high rank and great wealth, and Schleusner adds that they were priests. The name Asiarch is formed like Luciarchai, Syriarchai, Phoenicharchai, etc. We have here another striking proof of the enormous influence of Paul's preaching in Asia, that some of these very officers who were chosen to preside over the sacred rites of the gods, and to advance their honor by public games, were now on Paul's side.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And certain of the chief of Asia,.... Or the Asiarchs; these were not princes of Asia, rulers or governors of provinces, or cities, or civil magistrates; but priests who presided over the games and diversions at the theatre, and had the management and command of things there. Such an one was Philip the Asiarch, the church of Smyrna makes mention of in their account of the sufferings and martyrdom of Polycarp (z), whom the people entreated that he would send out the lion to Polycarp; that is, out of the theatre which he had the command of; but he replied he could not do it, because he had finished the theatrical exercises: from whence it appears that he was the governor of the theatre, and had his title of Asiarch from thence, as these men had, wherefore this word should not be rendered, the "princes of Asia", as by the Vulgate Latin; nor the "chief of Asia", as by the Syriac and Arabic versions, and by ours, but rather the "Asian priests". The Ethiopic version not knowing who should be meant by them, only reads, "and some of Asia".
Which were his friends; they had a good opinion of the apostle, and a good liking of his doctrines, and wished well to his person, and were concerned for his safety; though they might not have been really converted, and truly disciples, as those in the preceding verse; for otherwise one would think they would have relinquished their office and place. These
sent unto him, messengers or letters,
desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre; they observed to him the danger he would expose himself to, and entreated he would show a greater regard to his life than to risk it in such a manner, a life might be so useful to many; and though they were the governors at the theatre, yet such was the rage and fury of the mob, that it was not in their power to restrain them from doing mischief, till such time as they were appeased.
(z) Apud Euseb. Eccl, Hist. l. 4. c. 15.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
31. And certain of the chief of Asia—literally, "And certain also of the Asiarchs." These were wealthy and distinguished citizens of the principal towns of the Asian province, chosen annually, and ten of whom were selected by the proconsul to preside over the games celebrated in the month of May (the same month which Romanism dedicates to the Virgin). It was an office of the highest honor and greatly coveted. Certain of these, it seems, were favorably inclined to the Gospel, at least were Paul's "friends," and knowing the passions of a mob, excited during the festivals, "sent (a message) to him desiring him not to adventure himself into the theater."
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