Acts 10:11
And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending on him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
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(11) A certain vessel descending . . .—The form of the vision corresponded, as has just been said, with the bodily condition of the Apostle. Its inward meaning may fairly be thought of as corresponding to his prayer. One who looked out from Joppa upon the waters of the Great Sea towards the far-off Isles of the Gentiles, might well seek to know by what process and under what conditions those who dwelt in them would be brought within the fold of which he was one of the chief appointed shepherds. The place, we may add, could not fail to recall the memory of the great prophet who had taken ship from thence, and who was conspicuous alike as a preacher of a gospel of repentance to the Gentiles, and, in our Lord’s own teaching, as a type of the Resurrection (Matthew 12:40-41). The Apostle was to be taught, as the prophet had been of old, that the thoughts of God were not as his thoughts (Jonah 4:10-11).

A great sheet knit at the four corners.—Better, bound by four ends—i.e., those of the ropes by which it seemed to Peter’s gaze to be let down from the opened firmament. The Greek word, literally beginnings, is used as we use “ends.”

Acts 10:11-14. And saw heaven opened — While he lay in a trance, the heaven appeared to be opened above him, to signify the opening of a mystery that had been hid. And a certain vessel — Or utensil; (for the word σκευος, here used, extends to all sorts of instruments, and every part of household furniture, of which see on Acts 9:15;) descending unto him as it had been a great sheet — Οθονην μεγαλην, a great linen cloth, or wrapper, an emblem of the gospel, extending to all nations of men; knitΔεδεμενον, tied; at the four corners — Not all in one knot, but each fastened, as it were, up to heaven; and let down to earth — To receive from all parts of the world those that were willing to be admitted into it. Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts — The net of the gospel was to enclose persons of all countries, nations, and languages, without any distinction of Greek or Jew, or any disadvantage attaching to barbarian or Scythian, Colossians 3:11. And there came a voice, Rise, Peter, kill and eat — Of what thou seest, without any exception, or putting any difference between clean and unclean; the Lord thus showing him that he might now converse with Jews and Gentiles indifferently, and preach unto the latter, as well as unto the former, the word of life; and, at the same time intimating, that the Jewish Christians were, by the gospel, absolved from the ceremonial law, in which the distinction between clean and unclean meats made so considerable a part. But Peter said, Not so, Lord — I would rather continue fasting a great while longer, than satisfy my hunger on such terms; for I see only unclean animals here; and I have never

From my childhood to this hour, defiled my conscience by eating any thing common or unclean — Hitherto I have kept my integrity in this matter, and am determined still to keep it. Peter’s words speak his resolution still to adhere to God’s law, though he has a counter command by a voice from heaven; for he knew not, at first, but the words, kill and eat, might be a command of trial, whether he would abide by the sure word, the written law; and if so, his answer, Not so, Lord, had been very proper. Temptations to eat forbidden fruit must not be parleyed with, but peremptorily rejected. Reader, if God by his grace has preserved us from gross sin unto this day, we should use that as an argument with ourselves to continue to abstain from all appearance of evil.10:9-18 The prejudices of Peter against the Gentiles, would have prevented his going to Cornelius, unless the Lord had prepared him for this service. To tell a Jew that God had directed those animals to be reckoned clean which were hitherto deemed unclean, was in effect saying, that the law of Moses was done away. Peter was soon made to know the meaning of it. God knows what services are before us, and how to prepare us; and we know the meaning of what he has taught us, when we find what occasion we have to make use of it.And saw heaven opened - Acts 7:56. See the notes on Matthew 3:16. This language is derived from a common mode of speaking in the Hebrew Scriptures, as if the sky above us was a solid, vast expanse, and as if it were opened to present an opportunity for anything to descend. It is language that is highly figurative.

And a certain vessel - See the notes on Acts 9:15.

As it had been - It is important to mark this expression. The sacred writer does not say that Peter literally saw such an object descending; but he uses this as an imperfect description of the vision. It was not a literal descent of a vessel, but it was such a kind of representation to him, producing the same impression, and the same effect, as if such a vessel had descended.

Knit at the four corners - Bound, united, or tied. The corners were collected, as would be natural in putting anything into a great sheet.

10. a trance—differing from the "vision" of Cornelius, in so far as the things seen had not the same objective reality, though both were supernatural. And saw heaven; either visibly to his corporal eyes, as to St. Stephen’s; or rather mentally, more suitably to the rapture mentioned in the former verse.

Opened; which might signify, that heaven, that was shut to the children of men by the first Adam, was now by Christ, the Second Adam, opened to all believers.

Vessel; this word is taken for any utensil commonly used about the house; and, with the

sheet here spoken of, bears an analogy to a table and table cloth amongst us.

Knit at the four corners; so gathered up or knit, that the viands, Acts 10:12, might not fall down. And this Peter saw to come from heaven, to show that the liberty of taking Cornelius and other Gentiles into the church, did come from thence only. And saw heaven opened,.... Not literally, as at the baptism of Christ, and the stoning of Stephen; but in a visionary way, and which was an emblem of the opening and revealing the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles, which in other ages was not made known, as it now and afterwards was:

and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet: which seems to represent the church of God, whose original is from heaven, and consists of persons born from above, who have their conversation in heaven, and were designed for it; and especially as under the Gospel dispensation, which Peter had a vision of in this emblematic way; the doctrines and ordinances of which are from heaven: and which may be compared to a linen sheet for its purity and holiness; through the blood and righteousness of Christ, and the grace of his Spirit, and with respect to its discipline and conversation; and so to a great one for its largeness; for though the number of its members, when compared with the world, are few, yet in themselves are a number which no man can number; and though it was but small at first, yet the Gospel being carried among the Gentiles it increased, and in the last times will be large:

knit at the four corners; which may denote the preaching of the Gospel, and the spread of it, and the planting of churches by it in the four parts of the world; and also the church being knit to Christ, and the members of it one to another:

and let down to the earth; for Peter to see it, and where it was to continue for a while, even to the second coming of Christ, and when the whole church of the firstborn will be let down to earth again; see Revelation 21:2.

And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the {g} four corners, and let down to the earth:

(g) So that it seemed to be a square sheet.

Acts 10:11-13. Observe the vividly introduced historical present θεωρεῖ.

τέσσαρσιν ἀρχαῖς δεδεμ.] attached with four ends, namely, to the edges of the opening which had taken place in heaven. Chap. Acts 11:5 requires this explanation, not the usual one: “bound together at the four corners.” Nor does the text mention anything of ropes, bound to which it was let down. The visionary appearance has something marvellous even in the way of its occurrence. We are to imagine the vessel (whose four corners, moreover, are without warrant explained by Augustine, Wetstein, Bengel, Lange, and others as pointing to the four quarters of the world), looking like a colossal four-cornered linen-cloth (ὀθόνη), letting itself down, while the corners attached to heaven support the whole. On ἀρχαί, extremitates, see Jacobs, ad Anthol. XI. p. 50.

πάντα τὰ τετράποδα] The formerly usual interpretation: “four-footed beasts of all sorts, i.e. of very many kinds” is linguistically erroneous. The phenomenon in its supernatural visionary character exhibits as present in the σκεῦος (ἐν ᾡ ὕπηρχε) all four-footed beasts, reptiles, and birds (all kinds of them) without exception.[256] In a strangely arbitrary manner Kuinoel, after Calovius and others, holds that these were only unclean animals. See on Acts 10:14.

τοῦ οὐρανοῦ] See on Matthew 6:26.

ἈΝΑΣΤΆς] Perhaps Peter lay during the trance. Yet it may also be the mere call to action: arise (Acts 9:11; Acts 9:39, Acts 8:26, and frequently; comp. on Acts 8:26).

θῦσον] occide (Vulg.), slay, not: sacrifice, as 1Ma 1:47 (Thiersch), see Acts 10:10.

[256] That fishes (those without fins and scales were forbidden) are not included in the vision, is explained from the fact that the σκεῦος was like a cloth. Fishes would have been unsuitable for this, especially as the animals were presented as living (θῦσον). According to Lange, it is “perhaps a prophetic omission, wherein there is already floating before the mind the image of fishes as the souls to be gathered.” A fanciful notion.Acts 10:11. θεωρεῖ: “beholdeth,” historic present, giving vividness.—ὡς ὀθόν. μεγ. Both words, ὀθόνη and ἀρχή (in this sense), are peculiar to St. Luke in N.T.—the phrase ἀρχαὶ ὀθόνης is medical, so that the expression here rendered ends or corners of a sheet is really technical medical phraseology, see Hobart, p. 218, Plummer, Introd. to St. Luke, lxv., Zahn, Einleitung, ii., 436. ἀρχαί is also used in LXX, Exodus 36:24 (Exodus 39:17), ὀθόνη not at all in LXX, but both words are found in classical writers in senses approaching their meaning here; but here as elsewhere in St. Luke it is the combination which arrests attention, for ἀρχή and ἀρχαί are found again and again in medical language with ὀθόνη or ὀθόνιον.—τέσσαρσιν ἀρχαῖς: “by four corners,” R.V. No article; there might have been many ends or corners. It is doubtful how far we can therefore press the imagery as referring to the four regions of the world, or that men would come from the north, south, etc., to share the kingdom.11. and saw [beholdeth] heaven opened] To shew him that the teaching of the vision was sent to him from God.

and a certain vessel descending unto him] The oldest MSS. omit the two last words.

as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth] The oldest MSS. only give “a great sheet let down by four corners upon the earth.” The word rendered “corners” is used of the “end of a cord” in Herod. 4:60, but it seems that for such a sense there must be added either a noun or adjective for explanation. What the Apostle saw was an extended sheet, the four corners of which were held up as it were by cords let down from the four extremities of the opened sky. The significance of the outstretched sheet, as a figure of the wide world, and the four corners as the directions into which the gospel was now to be borne forth into all the world, has often been dwelt upon.Acts 10:11. Τὸν οὐρανὸν, the heaven) The vessel was not only lifted up from the earth into heaven, but was first let down from heaven. Therefore the reception of the Gentiles into heaven presupposes the first origin of man to be heavenly (from heaven). And in heaven first are the types of the things which are afterwards made on earth for the salvation of men: comp. Hebrews 8:5.—σκεῦος, a vessel) a napkin.—τέσσαρσιν, at the four) corresponding to the same number of quarters of the world.—ἀρχαῖς, corners or extremities) These were not tied together in one knot, but were severally (separately) let down from heaven: ch. Acts 11:5.Verse 11. - He beholdeth the for saw, A.V. ; descending for descending unto him, A.V. and T.R.; were for had been, A.V.; let down by four corners upon the earth for knit at the four corners and let down to the earth, A.V. and T.R. The vessel coming down from the open heavens implied that the command to eat what was contained in it was given by revelation. The things sent were from God, and the command to eat was from God. Peter's hunger had prepared the way for the particular form of the vision. Saw (θεωρεῖ)

Rev., better, and more literally, beholdeth. See on Luke 10:18. The present tense is graphically introduced into the narrative.

Unto him

The best texts omit.

Sheet (ὀθόνην)

Only here and Acts 11:5. Originally fine linen; later, sail-cloth or a sail. Dr. J. Rawson Lumby suggests that the word, "applied to loose, bellying sails of ships," may indicate that the form of vessel which appeared to Peter "recalled an image most familiar to his previous life - the wind-stretched canvas of the craft on the Lake of Galilee" ("Expositor," iii., 272).

Knit (δεδεμένον)

If this is retained, we must render bound, or attached; but the best texts omit, together with the following and. Render, as Rev., let down by four corners. Compare Acts 11:5.

Corners (ἀρχαῖς)

Lit., beginnings; the extremity or corner, marking a beginning of the sheet. "We are to imagine the vessel, looking like a colossal four-cornered linen cloth letting itself down, while the corners attached to heaven to support the whole." The word is used in this sense by Herodotus, describing the sacrifices of the Scythians. The victim's forefeet are bound with a cord, "and the person who is about to offer, taking his station behind the victim, pulls the end (ἀρχὴν)of the rope, and thereby throws the animal down" (iv., 60). The suggestion of ropes holding the corners of the sheet (Alford, and, cautiously, Farrar) is unwarranted by the usage of the word. It was the technical expression in medical language for the ends of bandages. The word for sheet in this passage was also the technical term for a bandage, as was the kindred word ὀθόνιον, used of the linen bandages in which the Lord's body was swathed. See Luke 24:12; John 19:40; John 20:5, John 20:6, John 20:7. Mr. Hobart says: "We have thus in this passage a technical medical phrase - the ends of a bandage - used for the ends of a sheet, which hardly any one except a medical man would think of employing" ("Medical Language of St. Luke").

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