1 Thessalonians 2:18
Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) We would.—Not merely a conditional tense, but “we were ready to come—meant to come.”

Even I Paul.—Rather, that is to say, I; Paul, not as if it were a great thing that one like him should have such a wish, but showing that Silas and Timothy had not shared his intention. Why had they not? The answer shows the minute truthfulness of the Acts. Timothy, apparently, did not at first leave Thessalonica with St. Paul (Acts 17:10, where the Greek seems definitely to exclude him). Both Silas and Timothy were left at Berœa (Acts 17:14). It was during this period that St. Paul felt so eager a desire to return to his persecuted children. We cannot tell on what two definite occasions the desire was almost taking shape; but possibly his longing may have been stimulated by seeing his messengers start for the north, first when he sent for his two companions (Acts 17:15), and secondly when he despatched Timothy himself to Thessalonica (1Thessalonians 3:2).

But Satan hindered.—How, cannot be decided; but St. Paul has no doubt that his disappointment was a direct manifestation of the work of evil, not a leading of God to stay where he was. Elsewhere he is quite as clear that the obstruction of his own plans is owing to God. (See Acts 16:6-7; 1Corinthians 16:12, where the will spoken of is not Apollos’ will, but God’s.) The difficulty is to tell in each case whether God is directly saving us from a worse course, in spite of ourselves, or permitting a momentary, and yet if rightly used a disciplinary, triumph of evil.

Satan.—The Thessalonians, though originally Gentiles, had doubtless been taught enough at their conversion to recognise the word. Though it is quite clear from other passages (e.g., 1Corinthians 7:5; 2Thessalonians 2:9; 1Timothy 3:7) that St. Paul believed in the existence of personal fallen spirits, it cannot be positively affirmed that he here means anything more than a personification of all that is opposed to God—the hostility of wicked men, &c.

2:17-20 This world is not a place where we are to be always, or long together. In heaven holy souls shall meet, and never part more. And though the apostle could not come to them yet, and thought he might never be able to come, yet our Lord Jesus Christ will come; nothing shall hinder that. May God give faithful ministers to all who serve him with their spirit in the gospel of his Son, and send them to all who are in darknessWherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul - The phrase "even I Paul," seems to be used by way of emphasis. He had a special desire to go himself. He had sent Timothy to them 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, and perhaps, some might have been disposed to allege that Paul was afraid to go himself, or that he did not feel interest enough in them to go, though he was willing to send one to visit them. Paul, therefore, is at much pains to assure them that his long separation from them was unavoidable.

But Satan hindered us - Compare the notes on 2 Corinthians 12:7. In what way this was done is unknown, and conjecture would be useless. The apostle recognized the hand of Satan in frustrating his attempt to do good, and preventing the accomplishment of his strong desire to see his Christian friends. In the obstacles, therefore, to the performance of our duty, and in the hindrances of our enjoyment, it is not improper to trace the hand of the great enemy of good. The agency of Satan may, for aught we can tell, often be employed in the embarrassments that we meet with in life. The hindrances which we meet with in our efforts to do good, when the providence of God seems to favor us, and his word and Spirit seem to call us to a particular duty, often look very much like the work of Satan. They are just such obstructions as a very wicked being would be glad to throw in our way.

18. Wherefore—The oldest manuscripts read, "Because," or "Inasmuch as."

we would—Greek, "we wished to come"; we intended to come.

even I Paul—My fellow missionaries as well as myself wished to come; I can answer for myself that I intended it more than once. His slightly distinguishing himself here from his fellow missionaries, whom throughout this Epistle he associates with himself in the plural, accords with the fact that Silvanus and Timothy stayed at Berea when Paul went on to Athens; where subsequently Timothy joined him, and was thence sent by Paul alone to Thessalonica (1Th 3:1).

Satan hindered us—On a different occasion "the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Jesus" (so the oldest manuscripts read), Ac 16:6, 7, forbad or hindered them in a missionary design; here it is Satan, acting perhaps by wicked men, some of whom had already driven him out of Thessalonica (Ac 17:13, 14; compare Joh 13:27), or else by some more direct "messenger of Satan—a thorn in the flesh" (2Co 12:7; compare 2Co 11:14). In any event, the Holy Ghost and the providence of God overruled Satan's opposition to further His own purpose. We cannot, in each case, define whence hindrances in good undertakings arise; Paul in this case, by inspiration, was enabled to say; the hindrance was from Satan. Grotius thinks Satan's mode of hindering Paul's journey to Thessalonica was by instigating the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers to cavil, which entailed on Paul the necessity of replying, and so detained him; but he seems to have left Athens leisurely (Ac 17:33, 34; 18:1). The Greek for "hindered" is literally, "to cut a trench between one's self and an advancing foe, to prevent his progress"; so Satan opposing the progress of the missionaries.

This he adds further to satisfy them of his real affection to them, that he attempted to come to them

once and again, that is, often, as Nehemiah 13:20 Philippians 4:16. And that they might be assured it was not his fellow ministers’ desire only to come, therefore he expresseth his own name particularly in a parenthesis (even I Paul). Or by his saying, even I Paul, he assures them concerning his own desire to come to them; at least I Paul, though others did not so; as the French Bible reads it. And he had come to them had not

Satan hindered him, either by raising up disputes against the gospel at Athens by the philosophers there, which he was concerned to stay and answer, Acts 17:18; or else by stirring up wicked men to lie in wait for him in the way: or by raising tumults, as the Jews did at Berea, whereby he was constrained to go as it were to the sea, Acts 17:14; or by sowing dissensions in other churches, which detained him to end them. Or by what way it was, is somewhat uncertain; but being thus hindered it made his desire the more fervent by the opposition. And hereby we see Satan’s enmity to the gospel, especially to churches newly planted, that they might not take rooting.

Wherefore we would have come unto you,.... They not only had a will, and purposed in themselves, and entered into some resolutions to come unto them, but endeavoured to put them into execution:

even I:Paul: as well as Silas and Timothy; the latter of which had been with them, and the others had as good a will, and especially Paul: and that

once and again: or "once and twice" so the Jews used (h) to speak , "one time and a second"; that is, several times:

but Satan hindered us. The Syriac and Ethiopic versions read, "hindered me"; by moving the mob which rose at Thessalonica, to go to Berea, and disturb the apostle there; which obliged him, contrary to his will, to go to Athens instead of returning to Thessalonica, as he intended; and when at Athens, from whence also he might purpose to return thither, he was hindered by the disputes the Jews and the Stoics, and Epicurean philosophers, had with him; and after that, might be prevented by the lying in wait of the Jews for him, of which he might be informed; or by disturbances raised in the church, or churches where he was, by the false teachers; which required his stay with them, to oppose and refute error and heresy and to make up differences that arose among true Christians, fomented by Satan and his emissaries; see Romans 1:13. Satan does all he can to hinder the preaching of the Gospel, the hearing of the word, the profession of religion, and the saints coming together, and having spiritual conversation with each other; being, as his name "Satan" signifies, an enemy to Christ and his interest, and to the souls of men: indeed he can do nothing but by divine permission, nor can he hinder the will of God, and the execution of that, though he often hinders the will of man, or man from doing his will; he hindered the apostle from doing what he willed and purposed, but he did not hinder the will of God, which was that Paul should be employed in other work elsewhere.

(h) Maimon. in Hilch. Chobel, c. 5. sect. 10.

Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 2:18. Διότι] on which account, that is, on account of this great longing for you (διὰ τὸ ἐν πολλῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ σπουδάζειν τὸ πρόσωπον ὑμ. ἰδεῖν).

ἠθελήσαμεν] Paul uses θέλειν in agreement with ἐσπουδάσαμεν (1 Thessalonians 2:17), not βούλεσθαι, as the latter word expresses only the wish, the inclination to something; but the former the active will, the definite purpose. See Meyer on Philemon 1:13 f., and Tittm. Synon. p. 124 ff. But whether this purpose was already formed at Berea (Fromond., Baumgarten-Crusius), or elsewhere, cannot be determined.

ἐγὼ μὲν Παῦλος] a restriction of the subject contained in ἠθελήσαμεν, as the apostle in this section intends only to speak of himself. But that he considered the addition ἐγὼ μὲν Παῦλος here necessary, whilst he omitted it in what preceded, is a proof that he there regarded what was said as spoken likewise in the name of his two associates. Moreover, ἐγὼ μὲν Παῦλος is an actual parenthesis, and is not to be connected with καὶ ἅπαξ καὶ δίς, as Hofmann thinks, from the insufficient reason, because otherwise ἐγὼ μὲν Παῦλος must have stood after ἠθελήσαμεν (!); and as we find also with Grotius, who makes a suppressed δέ correspond to the μέν, in the sense: “nempe Timotheus et Silas semel.”[41]

ΜΈΝ] serves only to bring the subject into prominence. See Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 413.

καὶ ἅπαξ καὶ δίς] both once and twice, a definite expression for twice (comp. Php 4:16); not in the general sense of saepius (Grotius, Joachim Lange, Turretin, Koppe, Pelt), for then ἅπαξ καὶ δίς would have been written. Calvin: “Quum dicit semel et bis voluimus, testatur non subitum fuisse fervorem, qui statim refrixerit, sed hujus propositi se fuisse tenacem.” A longer continuance of the church (Baur) is not to be assumed from this expression, as the interval of probably half a year, which is to be assumed between the departure of Paul from Thessalonica and the composition of this Epistle (see Introd. § 3), was a period sufficiently long to give rise to the twice formed resolution to return.

καὶ ἐνέκοψεν ἡμᾶς ὁ σατανᾶς] and Satan hindered us. καί, not equivalent with ΔΈ, by which certainly this new sentence might have been introduced (Vorstius, Grotius, Benson, Koppe, Schott, Olshausen, de Wette, Koch, Bloomfield), mentions simply the result of the apostle’s resolution in the form of juxtaposition. In an unnatural and forced manner Hofmann subordinates ἨΘΕΛΉΣΑΜΕΝ ἘΛΘΕῖΝ ΠΡῸς ὙΜᾶς as the antecedent to ΚΑῚ ἘΝΈΚΟΨΕΝ ἩΜᾶς Ὁ ΣΑΤΑΝᾶς as the principal sentence, whilst ΔΙΌΤΙ denotes while, and ἐν πολλῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ (1 Thessalonians 2:17) is “in intention added to the sentence introduced by ΔΙΌΤΙ.” Accordingly the sense would be: Therefore the anxiety to visit the church became so strong, that when it came to the intention to go to Thessalonica, Satan hindering prevented it (!).

On ἘΓΚΌΠΤΕΙΝ, comp. Romans 15:22; Galatians 5:7; 1 Peter 3:7.

Ὁ ΣΑΤΑΝᾶς] denotes not “the opponents of Christianity, the enemies of God and men” (Schrader), but, according to the Pauline view, the personal author of evil, the devil, who, as he is the author of all hindrances in the kingdom of God, has brought about the circumstances which prevented the apostle from carrying out his purpose. But whether, under these preventive circumstances occasioned by the devil, are to be understood the wickedness of the Thessalonian Jews (Fromond., Schott, de Wette, Bisping), “qui insidias apostolo in itinere struebant” (Quistorp and, though wavering, Zanchius), or the contentions of the church where Paul was, and which prevented his leaving them (Musculus), or even the “injecta ei necessitas disputandi saepius cum Stoicis et Epicureis, qui Athenis erant” (Grotius), or what else, must be left unexplained, as Paul himself has given no explanation.

[41] Comp. also Wurm, Tüb. Zeitschr. 1833, 1, p. 75 f., ἐγὼ καὶ Παῦλος is to be united directly with καὶ ἅπαξ καὶ δίς. All three had resolved to visit the Thessalonians, but Paul particularly more than once.

1 Thessalonians 2:18. “We did crave to reach you,” διότι (= because) not being required with the English stress on did. The whole verse is parenthetical, syntactically.—καὶΣατανᾶς. The mysterious obstacle, which Paul traced back to the ultimate malice of Satan, may have been either (a) an illness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7, so Simon, die Psychologie des Apostels Paulus, 63, 64), (b) local troubles, (c) the exigencies of his mission at the time being (Grotius), or (d) a move on the part of the Thessalonian politarchs who may have bound over Jason and other leading Christians to keep the peace by pledging themselves to prevent Paul’s return (Ramsay’s St. Paul the Traveller, 230 f., Woodhouse, E. Bi[32], 5047, Findlay). Early Christian thought referred all such hindrances to the devil as the opponent of God and of God’s cause. The words ἐν Ἀθήναις (1 Thessalonians 3:1) rule out Zimmer’s application of (b) to the emergency at Corinth, while the silence of Acts makes any of the other hypotheses quite possible, though (d) hardly fits in with the ordinary view of the Empire in II. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 f. and renders it difficult to see why the Thessalonians did not understand at once how Paul could not return. The choice really lies between (a) and (c). Kabisch (27–29), by a forced exegesis, takes 1 Thessalonians 2:20 as the explanation of this satanic manœuvre. Satan prevented us from coming, in order to rob us of our glory and praise on the last day, by wrecking your Christian faith; he was jealous of our success among you.

[32] Encyclopædia Biblica

18. Wherefore we would have come unto you] The true reading is because—not “wherefore,” due probably to a misunderstanding of the following verb, which is not removed by the rendering of the R. V., “because we would fain have come.” This but repeats the “great desire” just expressed; whereas the Greek verb implies resolution rather than inclination. The Apostle, as we understand him, is giving the explanation of his strenuous endeavours (1 Thessalonians 2:17), lying behind them in his determined willbecause we had resolved to come to you: “we had set our minds upon it.”

even I Paul] Better, I Paul, for my part. He speaks for himself: Timothy did return after a time (ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2); and Silas had been left behind in Macedonia (Acts 17:14; Acts 18:5). Paul had not come at all; but it was not for want of will.

And the Apostle had made up his mind to this more than once—both once and twice. Silas had, no doubt, shared in the wish and endeavour to return from Berœa; the second attempt, likewise frustrated, was made by the Apostle alone, from Athens (ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:1). The expression recurs in Php 4:16. Compare with the whole statement Romans 1:13 : “Many times I purposed to come to you, and have been hindered hitherto.” The Apostle’s prophetic gift did not save him from the discipline of disappointment.

but Satan hindered us] Properly, and Satan, &c.: “but” would be the regular conjunction here; there is a slight dislocation of structure in the sentence, due to excited feeling. We may paraphrase the sentence thus: We strove eagerly to find means of coming to see you; indeed, for my part, I had made up my mind to do it more than once; and our way was blocked, by Satan! What form the hindrance took we can only guess. Jewish malice doubtless had much to do with it. But behind this baffling and unforeseen combination of circumstances the Apostle discerned the craft of the Arch-enemy.

Satan] i.e. “the Adversary,” is the O.T. name of the Leader of evil spirits, the great enemy of God and man—called also “the Devil” (Slanderer), “the Evil One” (2 Thessalonians 3:3), and “the Tempter” (ch. 1 Thessalonians 3:5). Satan is, throughout the New Testament, a real personality, and no figure of speech. See note on 2 Thessalonians 2:9; and comp. Revelation 12:9.

To account for his intense longing to see the Thessalonians, St Paul describes his interest in them in the glowing terms that follow:—

1 Thessalonians 2:18. Ἅπαξ καὶ δὶς) So the LXX. Nehemiah 13:20.—ὁ Σατανᾶς, Satan) Paul wisely considered that there lurked beneath this the first cause of evil—a cause, of which we should have had no suspicion otherwise, when reading the history in Acts 17:13-14. Satan acted by means of wicked men.

Verse 18. - Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul. Paul distinguishes himself, because in all probability his companions, Silas and Timothy, had been at Thessalonica after he had left it. Once and again. Not used indefinitely, but referring to two separate attempts which Paul made to revisit the Thessalonians. But Satan hindered us; denoting, not the enemies of Christianity, but the devil, the author of all the hindrances in the kingdom of God. Paul here recognizes the personality of Satan, as the author of all evil, the great opponent of God and Christ. We are not informed by what instrumentality this hindrance of Satan took place. It may refer to the various persecutions against Paul, which prevented him returning to Thessalonica, and especially to that persecution raised against him in Beraea by the Jews of Thessalonica (Acts 17:13). In one sense, indeed, the hindrances arose in the way of God's providence, for under its direction all the journeys of Paul were placed, and Satan could not have hindered him from preaching the gospel in any quarter, unless by the Divine permission (comp. Acts 16:7; Romans 1:13). 1 Thessalonians 2:18We would (ἠθελήσαμεν)

Implying more than a mere inclination or desire. It was our will to come. See on Matthew 1:19.

IPaul

Not implying any less desire on the part of his associates, but emphasizing his own. See on the use of the epistolary plural, 1 Thessalonians 1:2.

Satan (Σατανᾶς)

From the Aramaic Satana, adversary. In the canonical lxx the name appears only three times, 1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23, 1 Kings 11:25, and in each case is applied to a man. In lxx διάβολος is used, almost without exception, as the translation of the Hebrew Satan. Of 22 instances of διάβολος only 9 are outside of the book of Job. From the more general conception of an adversary, there is, in the O.T., a gradual development toward that of an evil personality. For instance, in 2 Samuel 24:1, the numbering of the people is ascribed to the anger of the Lord. The later historian, in 1 Chronicles 21:1, ascribes the act to Satan. See also Job, Wisd. 2:24; Zechariah 3:1. The specialising of the conception was due, in part, to the contact of the Jews with the religions of Babylon and Persia. In N.T. Satan appears as the personal spirit of evil - the same who is called the devil, the wicked one, the prince of the power of the air, the prince of this world, the serpent, the God of this world, the tempter. He tempts to evil, opposes God's work, inspires evil dispositions, torments God's people. The word Satan occurs only once in the Fourth Gospel, not in the Epistles, but often in Revelation. Mark never uses διάβολος, Matthew never Satan. Paul seldom διάβολος, often Satan. Satan alone in Pastorals. Luke uses both. It is clear that Paul here as elsewhere employs the word in a personal sense; but any attempt to base the doctrine of a personal devil on this and similar passages is unsafe.

Hindered (ἐνέκοψεν)

See on 1 Peter 3:7.

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