2 Corinthians 11:24
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.—None of these are recorded in the Acts. It is probable that the words refer to the early period of his work in Cilicia, which is implied though not recorded in that book. (See Note on Acts 15:41). The number of the stripes in Jewish punishments of this kind rested on the rule of Deuteronomy 25:3, which fixed forty as the maximum. In practice it was thought desirable to stop short of the full number in order to avoid exceeding it. The punishment was inflicted with a leather scourge of three knotted thongs, and with a curiously elaborate distribution: thirteen strokes were given on the breast, thirteen on the right shoulder, and thirteen on the left.

Thrice was I beaten with rods.—This, as we see in Acts 16:22-23, was distinctively, though, perhaps, not exclusively, a Roman punishment. The instance at Philippi, as above, is the only one recorded in the Acts. As a Roman citizen he could claim exemption from a punishment which was essentially servile (Acts 16:37), and at Jerusalem (Acts 22:25) he asserted this claim; but it may well have happened elsewhere, as at Philippi, either that the reckless haste of Roman officials led them to order the punishment without inquiry; or that they disregarded the appeal, and took their chance of impunity; or that there were reasons which led him to prefer enduring the ignominious punishment in silence, without protest.

11:22-33 The apostle gives an account of his labours and sufferings; not out of pride or vain-glory, but to the honour of God, who enabled him to do and suffer so much for the cause of Christ; and shows wherein he excelled the false apostles, who tried to lessen his character and usefulness. It astonishes us to reflect on this account of his dangers, hardships, and sufferings, and to observe his patience, perseverance, diligence, cheerfulness, and usefulness, in the midst of all these trials. See what little reason we have to love the pomp and plenty of this world, when this blessed apostle felt so much hardship in it. Our utmost diligence and services appear unworthy of notice when compared with his, and our difficulties and trials scarcely can be perceived. It may well lead us to inquire whether or not we really are followers of Christ. Here we may study patience, courage, and firm trust in God. Here we may learn to think less of ourselves; and we should ever strictly keep to truth, as in God's presence; and should refer all to his glory, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for evermore.Of the Jews ... - On this verse and the following verse it is of importance to make a few remarks preliminary to the explanation of the phrases:

(1) It is admitted that the particulars here referred to cannot be extracted out of the Acts of the Apostles. A few can be identified, but there are many more trials referred to here than are specified there.

(2) this proves that this Epistle was not framed from the history, but that they are written independently of one another - Paley.

(3) yet they are not inconsistent one with the other. For there is no article in the enumeration here which is contradicted by the history, and the history, though silent with respect to many of these transactions, has left space enough to suppose that they may have occurred.

(a) There is no contradiction between the accounts. Where it is said by Paul that he was thrice beaten with rods, though in the Acts but one beating is mentioned, yet there is no contradiction. It is only the omission to record all that occurred to Paul. But had the history, says Paley, contained an account of four beatings with rods, while Paul mentions here but three, there would have been a contradiction. And so of the other particulars.

(b) Though the Acts of the Apostles be silent concerning many of the instances referred to, yet that silence may be accounted for on the plan and design of the history. The date of the Epistle synchronizes with the beginning of Acts 20. The part, therefore, which precedes the twentieth chapter is the only place in which can be found any notice of the transactions to which Paul here refers. And it is evident from the Acts that the author of that history was not with Paul until his departure from Troas, as related in 1 Corinthians 16:10; see the note on that place. From that time Luke attended Paul in his travels. From that period to the time when this Epistle was written occupies but four chapters of the history, and it is here if anywhere that we are to look for the minute account of the life of Paul. But here much may have occurred to Paul before Luke joined him. And as it was the design of Luke to give an account of Paul mainly after he had joined him, it is not to be wondered at that many things may have been omitted of his previous life.

(c) The period of time after the conversion of Paul to the time when Luke joined him at Troas is very succinctly given. That period embraced 16 years, and is comprised in a few chapters. Yet in that time Paul was constantly traveling. He went to Arabia, returned to Damascus, went to Jerusalem, and then to Tarsus, and from Tarsus to Antioch, and thence to Cyprus, and then through Asia Minor, etc. In this time he must have made many voyages, and been exposed to many perils. Yet all this is comprised in a few chapters, and a considerable portion of them is occupied with an account of public discourses. In that period of sixteen years, therefore, there was ample opportunity for all the occurrences which are here referred to by Paul; see Paley's Horse Paulinae on 2 Corinthians, No. 9:

(d) I may add, that from the account which follows the time when Luke joined him at Troas (from Acts 16:10), it is altogether probable that he had endured much before. After that time there is mention of just such transactions of scourging, stoning, etc., as are here specified, and it is altogether probable that he had been called to suffer them before. When Paul says "of the Jews," etc., he refers to this because this was a Jewish mode of punishment. It was usual with them to inflict but 39 blows. The Gentiles were not limited by law in the number which they inflicted.

Five times - This was doubtless in their synagogues and before their courts of justice. They had not the power of capital punishment, but they had the power of inflicting minor punishments. And though the instances are not specified by Luke in the Acts , yet the statement here by Paul has every degree of probability. We know that he often preached in their synagogues Acts 9:20; Acts 13:5, Acts 13:14-15; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:4; and nothing is more probable than that they would be enraged against him, and would vent their malice in every way possible. They regarded him as an apostate, and a ringleader of the Nazarenes, and they would not fail to inflict on him the severest punishment which they were permitted to inflict.

Forty stripes save one - The word "stripes" does not occur in the original, but is necessarily understood. The Law of Moses Deuteronomy 25:3 expressly limited the number of stripes that might be inflicted to 40. In no case might this number be exceeded. This was a humane provision, and one that was not found among the pagan, who inflicted any number of blows at discretion. Unhappily it is not observed among professedly Christian nations where the practice of whipping prevails, and particularly in slave countries, where the master inflicts any number of blows at his pleasure. In practice among the Hebrews, the number of blows inflicted was in fact limited to 39, lest by any accident in counting, the criminal should receive more than the number prescribed in the Law. There was another reason still for limiting it to 39. They usually made use of a scourge with three thongs, and this was struck 13 times. That it was usual to inflict but 39 lashes is apparent from Josephus, Ant. 4. viii, section 21.

24. De 25:3 ordained that not more than forty stripes should be inflicted To avoid exceeding this number, they gave one short of it: thirteen strokes with a treble lash [Bengel]. This is one of those minute agreements with Jewish usage, which a forger would have not been likely to observe. God, to restrain the passions of his people, which might carry them out to cruelty in the punishments of malefactors, forbade the Jewish magistrates to give any malefactor above forty stripes; (so many they might give them by the Divine law, Deu 25:3); but they had made an order, that none should receive above thirty-nine. This was amongst their constitions which they called sepimenta legis, hedges to the Divine law; which indeed was a violation of the law: for that did not oblige them to give every malefactor, that had not deserved death, so many stripes; it gave them only a liberty to go so far, but they were not to exceed. Some think, that they punished every such malefactor with thirty-nine stripes: others, more rationally, think, that they did not so, but thirty-nine was the highest number they laid upon any. And it is most probable, that, out of their hatred to the apostle, they laid as many stripes upon him as their constitution would suffer them to do. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. We have no account in the Acts of the Apostles, or elsewhere, of any one of these five scourgings, which the apostle underwent from the Jews; but there is no doubt to be made of them. The number of stripes he received at each time agrees with the traditions and customs of the Jews. The original law for scourging a delinquent is in Deuteronomy 25:2 where it is said, "forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed"; according to the nature of the case, forty stripes and no more might be inflicted, but fewer might suffice in some cases; the apostle's having but thirty nine at a time was not because the Jews thought his crime did not require full forty; or that they out of tenderness and compassion to him abated him one; but they proceeded with him to the utmost rigour of this law, according to their interpretation of it; for so runs their tradition (i),

"with how many stripes do they beat him? (a criminal,) it is answered, , "with forty save one"; as it is said, "with the number forty"; that is, which is next to forty; R. Judah says, with full forty is he to be beaten;''

but the decision is not according to R. Judah, as the commentators say (k); and this is the general sense of their (l) interpreters of that law, and what they take to be the genuine meaning of it; so that the apostle was punished according to the extremity of it, in their account. This is a settled rule and point with them, (m), "that scourging according to the law is with forty stripes save one"; Maimonides (n) observes, that

"they did not add to forty, if a man was as strong and robust as Samson, but they lessen the number to a man that is weak; for if a weak man should be beaten with many stripes, he may die; wherefore the wise men say, that if he be never so robust, they scourge him but with "thirty nine";''

so that no mercy shown to Paul, or any regard had to his weak constitution, for it was the utmost they ever inflicted; besides, according to their manner of scourging; see Gill on Matthew 10:17, they could not have given him another stroke, without giving him three stripes more, which would have made it forty two, and so have exceeded, which the law forbids; for they whipped with a scourge of three cords, and every stroke went for three; so that by thirteen strokes, thirty nine stripes were given, and if a fourteenth had been added, there would have been forty two stripes; agreeably to which they say (o),

"when they condemn a delinquent to how many stripes he is able to receive, they do not count but by stripes that are fit to be trebled; if they reckon he is able to bear twenty, they do not say he is to be beaten with twenty one, so that they may be able to treble, but he is to be beaten with eighteen; they condemn to receive forty, and after he begins to be beaten, they see he is weak, and they say he cannot receive more than these nine or "twelve" with which he is beaten, lo, this is free; they condemn him to receive twelve, and after he is scourged they see he is strong and able to receive more, lo, he is free, and is not to be beaten any more upon the estimation:''

so that you see that, according to their own canons, they could if they would have mitigated this punishment of the apostle's; but such was their cruelty and malice, that they carried it to the utmost height they could.

(i) Misn. Maccot. c. 3. sect. 10. (k) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (l) Targum Jon. & Jarchi in Deuteronomy 25.3. Zohar in Deut. fol. 119. 3. Joseph Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 23. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. Affirm. 105. (m) T. Hieros. Nazir, fol. 53. 1.((n) Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 17. 1.((o) Ib. sect. 2. Misn. Maccot, c. 3. sect. 11.

Of the Jews {p} five times received I forty stripes save one.

(p) He alludes to that which is written in De 25:3. And moreover this place shows us that Paul suffered many more things which Luke omitted in writing Acts.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 11:24-25. Parenthesis, in which definite proofs are brought forward for the ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις.

ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων] refers merely to πεντάκιςἔλαβον; for it is obvious of itself that the subsequent τρὶς ἐῤῥαβδίσθην was a Gentile maltreatment. Paul seems to have had in his mind the order: from Jews … from Gentiles, which, however, he then abandone.

τεσσαράκοντα παρὰ μίαν] sc. πληγάς. Comp. on Luke 12:47, and Ast, ad Legg. p. 433. παρά in the sense of subtraction; see Herod. i. 120; Plut. Caes 30; Wyttenb. ad Plat. VI. pp. 461, 1059; Winer, p. 377 [E. T. 503]. Deuteronomy 25:3 ordains that no one shall be beaten more than forty times. In order, therefore, not to exceed the law by possible miscounting, only nine and thirty strokes were commonly given under the later administration of Jewish law.[337] See Joseph. Antt. iv. 8. 21, 23, and the Rabbinical passages (especially from the treatise Maccoth in Surenhusius, IV. p. 269 ff.); in Wetstein, Schoettgen, Hor. p. 714 ff.; and generally, Saalschütz, M. R. p. 469. Paul rightly adduces his five scourgings (not mentioned in Acts) as proof of his ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις, for this punishment was so cruel that not unfrequently the recipients died under it; hence there is no occasion for taking into account bodily weakness in the case of Paul. See Lund, Jüd. Heiligth. ed. Wolf, p. 539 f.

τρὶς ἐῤῥαβδίσθην] One such scourging with rods by the Romans is reported in Acts 16:22; the two others are unknown to u.

ἅπαξ ἐλιθάσθ.] See Acts 14:19; Clem. 5.

τρὶς ἐναυάγ.] There is nothing of this in Acts, for the last shipwreck, Acts 27, was much later. How many voyages of the apostle may have remained quite unknown to us! and how strongly does all this list of sufferings show the incompleteness of the Book of Acts!

νυχθήμερον ἐν τῷ βυθῷ πεποίηκα] Lyra, Estius, Calovius, and others explain this of a miracle, as if Paul, actually sunk in the deep, had spent twenty-four hours without injury; but this view is at variance with the context. It is most naturally regarded as the sequel of one of these shipwrecks, namely, that he had, with the help of some floating wreck, tossed about on the sea for a day and a night, often overwhelmed by the waves, before he was rescued. On βυθός, the depth of the sea, comp. LXX. Exodus 15:5; Ps. 67:14; Psalm 106:24, al.; Bergl. ad Alciphr. i. 5, p. 10; and Wetstein in loc.

ποιεῖν of time: to spend, as in Acts 15:33; Jam 4:13; Jacobs, ad Anthol. IX. p. 449. The perfect is used because Paul, after he has simply related the previous points, looks back on this last from the present time (comp. Kühner, § 439, 1a); there lies in this change of tenses a climactic vividness of representation.

[337] This reason for omitting the last stroke is given by Maimonides (see Coccej. ad Maccoth iii. 10). Another Rabbinical view is that thirteen strokes were given with the three-thonged leathern scourge, so that the strokes amounted in all to thirty-nine. See in general, Lund, p. 540 f. According to Maccoth iii. 12, the breast, the right and the left shoulder, received each thirteen of the thirty-nine strokes. But it cannot be proved from the Rabbins that it was on this account that the fortieth was not added, as Bengel, Wetstein, and others assume.2 Corinthians 11:24. ὑπὸ Ἰουδ. κ.τ.λ.: of the Jews five times received I forty stripes (there is an ellipse of πληγάς as at Luke 12:47) save one. The Law forbad more than forty stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3); and, to be on the safe side, it was the custom in the judicial scourgings of the synagogues (Matthew 23:34, Acts 22:19) to stop short at thirty-nine. This punishment was so severe that death often ensued (cf. Josephus, Antt., iv., 8, 21); we know nothing of the circumstances under which it was inflicted on St. Paul.24. Of the Jews] Literally, Under Jews, as though it were a disgrace to them to have treated one of their brethren thus. Cf. St Matthew 10:17.

forty stripes save one] Cf. Deuteronomy 25:3. The Mishna (Makkoth, iii. 10 [9]) prescribes that one below the number there mentioned were to be given, clearly, as Maimonides (Commentary in loco and Mishneh Torah, Hilekhoth Synhedrin, xvii. 1) explains, lest by a mistake the prescribed number should be exceeded. Others refer it to the three cords of the scourges, which could only inflict stripes to the extent of some multiple of three. Josephus, Antiq. iv. 8. 21, mentions the custom.2 Corinthians 11:24. Πεντάκις, five times) It is of advantage to the servants of God accurately to remember all that they have done and suffered with a view to relate them, according as it may be afterwards necessary. Comp. Galatians 1.—τεσσαράκοντα παρὰ μίαν, forty save one) Thirteen strokes with a triple lash made thirty-nine. See Buxt. dedic. Abbrev.Verse 24. - Five times. Not one of these Jewish scourgings - which yet were so severe that the sufferer often died under them - is mentioned in the Acts. This paragraph is the most striking proof of the complete fragmentariness of that narrative, marvellous as it is. On the circumstances which probably led to these Jewish scourgings, see 'Life of St. Paul,' exc. 11; and comp. Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11; Matthew 23:34. The question arises - Was St. Luke entirely unaware of all these scenes of anguish and daily martyrdom? Had St. Paul, in his humble reticence, never cared to speak of them? or were the Acts only intended for a sketch which made no pretension to completeness, and only related certain scenes and events by way of specimen and example? Forty stripes save one (Deuteronomy 25:3). On this instance of Jewish scrupulosity, and for all that is known of the rationale of Jewish scourgings, see 'Life of St. Paul,' ubi supra.
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