Acts 11:28
And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) There stood up one of them named Agabus.—The same prophet appears again in Acts 21:10 as coming down from Jerusalem to Cæsarea. Nothing more is known of him. The prophecy of the “dearth” or “famine” was in part an echo of Matthew 24:7.

Throughout all the world.—Literally, the inhabited earth, used, as in Luke 2:1; Luke 4:5, and elsewhere in the New Testament, for the Roman empire.

Which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar.—The reign of Caligula lasted from A.D. 37-41, that of Claudius from A.D. 41-54. The whole reign of the latter emperor was memorable for frequent famines (Suetonius, Claud. 28; Tacitus, Ann. xii. 43). Josephus (Ant. xx. 5) speaks of one as specially affecting Judæa and Syria, under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus, A.D. 45. The population of Jerusalem were reduced to great distress, and were chiefly relieved by the bounty of Helena, Queen of Adiabene, who sent in large supplies of corn, figs, and other articles of food. She was herself a proselyte to Judaism, and was the mother of Izates, whose probable conversion to the faith of Christ by Ananias of Damascus is mentioned in the Note on Acts 9:10. The title of “Cæsar” is omitted in the better MSS.

11:25-30 Hitherto the followers of Christ were called disciples, that is, learners, scholars; but from that time they were called Christians. The proper meaning of this name is, a follower of Christ; it denotes one who, from serious thought, embraces the religion of Christ, believes his promises, and makes it his chief care to shape his life by Christ's precepts and example. Hence it is plain that multitudes take the name of Christian to whom it does not rightly belong. But the name without the reality will only add to our guilt. While the bare profession will bestow neither profit nor delight, the possession of it will give both the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Grant, Lord, that Christians may forget other names and distinctions, and love one another as the followers of Christ ought to do. True Christians will feel for their brethren under afflictions. Thus will fruit be brought forth to the praise and glory of God. If all mankind were true Christians, how cheerfully would they help one another! The whole earth would be like one large family, every member of which would strive to be dutiful and kind.Named Agabus - This man is mentioned but in one other place in the New Testament. In Acts 21:10-11, he is referred to as having foretold that Paul would be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. It is not expressly said that he was a Christian, but the connection seems to imply that he was.

And signified - See John 12:33. The word usually denotes "to indicate by signs, or with a degree of obscurity and uncertainty, not to declare in explicit language." But here it seems to denote simply "to foretell, to predict."

By the Spirit - Under the influence of the Spirit. He was inspired.

Great dearth - A great famine.

Throughout all the world - The word used here οἰκουμένην oikoumenēn usually denotes "the inhabitable world, the parts of the earth which are cultivated and occupied." It is sometimes used, however, to denote "an entire land or country," in contradistinction from the parts of it: thus, to denote "the whole of the land of Palestine" in distinction from its parts; or to denote that an event would have reference to all the land, and not be confined to one or more parts, as Galilee, Samaria, etc. See the notes on Luke 2:1. The meaning of this prophecy evidently is, that the famine would be extensive; that it would not be confined to a single province or region, but that it would extend so far as that it might be called "general." In fact, though the famine was particularly severe in Judea, it extended much further. This prediction was uttered not long after the conversion of Saul, and probably, therefore, about the year, 38 a.d. or 40 a.d. Dr. Lardner has attempted to show that the prophecy had reference only to the land of Judea, though in fact there were famines in other places (Lardher's Works, vol. 1, pp. 253, 254, edit. London, 1829).

Which came to pass ... - This is one of the few instances in which the sacred writers in the New Testament affirm the fulfillment of a prophecy. The history having been written after the event, it was natural to give a passing notice of the fulfillment.

In the days of Claudius Caesar - The Roman emperor. He began his reign in 41 a.d., and he reigned for 13 years. He was at last poisoned by one of his wives, Agrippina, who wished to raise her son Nero to the throne. During his reign no less than four different famines are mentioned by ancient writers, one of which was particularly severe in Judea, and was the one, doubtless, to which the sacred writer here refers:

(1) The first happened at Rome, and occurred in the first or second year of the reign of Claudius. It arose from the difficulties of importing provisions from abroad. It is mentioned by Dio, whose words are these: "There being a great famine, he (Claudius) not only took care for a present supply, but provided also for the time to come." He then proceeds to state the great expense which Claudius was at in making a good port at the mouth of the Tiber, and a convenient passage from thence up to the city (did, lib. Ix. p. 671, 672; see also Suetonius, Claudius, cap. 20).

(2) a second famine is mentioned as having been particularly severe in Greece. Of this famine Eusebius speaks in his Chronicon, p. 204: "There was a great famine in Greece, in which a modius of wheat (about half a bushel) was sold for six drachmas." This famine is said by Eusebius to have occurred in the ninth year of the reign of Claudius.

(3) in the latter part of his reign, 51 a.d., there was another famine at Rome, mentioned by Suetonius (Claudius, cap. 18), and by Tacitus (Ann., John 12:43). Of this, Tacitus says that it was so severe that it was deemed to be a divine judgment.

(4) a fourth famine is mentioned as having occurred particularly in Judea. This is described by Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 2, section 5). "A famine," says he, "did oppress them at the time (in the time of Claudius); and many people died for the lack of what was necessary to procure food withal. Queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of grain, and others of them to Cyprus to bring a cargo of dried figs." This famine is described as having continued under the two procurators of Judea, Tiberius Alexander and Cassius Fadus. Fadus was sent into Judea, on the death of Agrippa, about the fourth year of the reign of Claudius, and the famine, therefore, continued probably during the fifth, sixth, and seventh years of the reign of Claudius. See the note in Whiston's Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 2, section 5; also Lardner as quoted above. Of this famine, or of the want consequent on the famine, repeated mention is made in the New Testament.

28. that there should be great dearth throughout all the world—the whole Roman empire.

which came to pass in the days of Claudius Cæsar—Four famines occurred during his reign. This one in Judea and the adjacent countries took place, A.D. 41 [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.2,5]. An important date for tracing out the chronology of the Acts. (But this subject is too difficult and extensive to admit of being handled here).

By the Spirit; by a resolution from the Spirit, as one of his gifts, and not by judicial astrology, or any other means real or pretended; for it is a prerogative of God only to foretell things to come, as Isaiah 41:22,23.

Which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar: this famine Suetonius and other heathen writers make mention of, though some place it in one year, and some in another year, of Claudius’s reign. It may be there were divers famines, or one might continue divers years; but thus God, who provided for the patriarchs by means of Joseph’s foreseeing of the scarcity in Egypt and elsewhere, provides for his church now also by a like prediction. God’s omniscience is exerted for his church’s preservation. And there stood up one of them named Agabus,.... The same name with Hagaba in Nehemiah 7:48 and with Hagabah, or Hagab in Ezra 2:45 and which the Septuagint there call Agaba and Agab. The name signifies a "grasshopper", Leviticus 11:22 or "a locust", 2 Chronicles 7:13. In a book that goes under the name of Jerom (r), it is interpreted, "a messenger of tribulation"; respecting, it may be, not the true signification of the word, as the things which Agabus predicted, as the general dearth here, and the binding of the Apostle Paul, Acts 21:10. And the same writer observes, that this interpretation is a violent, or a forced one. Some take it to be the same with "Agab", which signifies "to love"; and so may be the same with the Greek name "Agapetus", which may be interpreted "beloved". This Agabus is said to be one of the seventy disciples that Christ sent forth: he seems to have been an itinerant prophet, who went from place to place delivering out his prophecies; we hear of him again at Caesarea, in Acts 21:10. Some say he was a native of Antioch; but this does not follow from his being here, any more than that he was a native of Caesarea from his being there also; it seems most likely that he was a native of Judea, and perhaps of Jerusalem, since in both places he is said to come from thence: it is reported that he died at Antioch; and he is placed in the Roman martyrology on the third of February.

And signified by the Spirit; not by the position of the stars, or by any natural causes, or by mere conjecture, but by the Spirit of God:

that there should be great dearth throughout all the world; not only throughout all the land of Judea, but at least throughout the whole Roman empire; see Luke 2:1 since other writers speak of it in other parts: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar; in the second year of his reign, as Dion Cassius (s), the Roman historian, says: and (t) Eusebius seems to speak of it, as in the beginning of his reign; for he says, Caius, who scarce reigned four years, Claudius the emperor succeeded, in whose time a famine afflicted the whole world; for this some writers, different from our religion, have made mention of in their histories: though he elsewhere affirms (u), that it was in the fourth year of his reign; both may be true, it might last so long: and indeed, according to what this writer (w) cites from Josephus, it must be after this time that the famine raged in Judea; for having observed the defeat of Theudas by Cuspius Fadus, the Roman governor, he observes, that at the same time a very great famine happened in Judea: now Fadus was sent into Judea, after the death of king Agrippa, towards the end of the fourth year of Claudius; so that it must be in the fifth or sixth year of Claudius that this famine was (x). The Magdeburgensian Centuriators say (y), it was about the ninth and tenth years of Claudius that this famine raged in Greece, Rome, and other parts of the world. Suetonius (z) makes mention of it, and ascribes it to a constant sterility or barrenness: and that it particularly affected Judea appears from hence, that Helena, queen of the Adiabeni, was at this time at Jerusalem, who sent for, and brought corn out of Egypt, and distributed it to the poor (a); of which Josephus (b) gives this account:

"her coming was very seasonable to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for a famine at that time much afflicted their city, and many perished through want of food. Helena, the queen, sent of her own people some to Alexandria, who bought a great quantity of corn, and some to Cyprus, who brought loads of dry figs; who, as soon they came back, distributed the food to the needy.--And her son Izates, hearing of the famine, sent much money to the chief men of Jerusalem.''

The Misnic doctors (c) speak of various gifts which Helena, and her son Monbaz, as they call him, gave to the Jews for the use of the temple, but make no mention of this bounty; though they represent the son as very liberal to the poor, and giving all his goods unto them (d).

(r) De nominibus Hebraicis, fol. 101. H. (s) L. 60. (t) Eccl. Hist. 1. 2. c. 8. (u) In Chronicon. (w) Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 11, 12. (x) Vales. not. in Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 11, 12. (y) Cent. 1. l. 2. c. 13. p. 501. (z) In Vit. Claud. c. 18. & Victor. Aurel. de Caesaribus in Claud. (a) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 12. (b) Antiqu. l. 20. c. 2. sect. 6. (c) Misn. Yoma, c. 3. sect. 10. (d) T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 15. 2.

And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 11:28. Ἄγαβος: on derivation see W.H[245], ii., 313, from עגב “to love”; or from חגב “a locust,” Ezra 2:45, Nehemiah 7:48, with rough breathing Ἅγ. W.H[246] follow Syriac and read the former as in T.R., so Weiss; Blass doubtful; Klostermann would connect it with Ἀγαυός, Probleme im Aposteltexte, p. 10. As a Jewish prophet he would naturally use the symbolic methods of a Jeremiah or an Ezekiel, see on Acts 21:10-11. On insertion in [247] see critical notes.—μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι: future infinitive only used in N.T. with μέλλειν in this one phrase, and only so in Acts, cf. Acts 24:15; Acts 27:10. In Acts 23:30 μέλλειν omitted (although in T.R.), and in Acts 24:25 ἔσεσθαι omitted (although in T.R.). Klostermann, Vindiciæ Lucanæ, p. 51, Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 120, and Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 158 (1893).—λιμὸν: masculine in Luke 4:25, and so in common usage, but in Doric usage, as it is called, feminine, and so also in later Greek; feminine in Luke 15:14 and here; see critical notes; Blass, Gram., p. 26.—ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν οἰκ.—the civilised world, i.e., the Roman Empire. Cf. Acts 24:5, and Luke 2:1, see Plummer’s note on Luke 4:5 (and Hackett’s attempt, in loco, to limit the expression), and Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? p. 118. We have ample evidence as to a widespread dearth over various parts of the Roman Empire, to which Suetonius, Dion Cassius, Tacitus, and Eusebius all bear witness, in the reign of Claudius; and in no other reign do we find such varied allusions to periodical famines, “assiduae sterilitates,” Suetonius, Claudius, xviii., cf. Dion Cassius, lx., 11; Tac., Ann., xii., 43, etc. These and other references are given by Schürer, Jewish People, div. i., vol. ii., p. 170, E.T. (so also by O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 124), but instead of drawing from these varied references the inference that the author of Acts had ample justification for his statement as to the prevalence of famine over the Roman Empire, he takes him to task for speaking of a famine “over the whole world”. See Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 48, 49, and also Was Christ Born at Bethlehem? pp. 251, 252, cf. Acts 11:29-30. At least there is no ground to suppose, with Clemen and others, that the writer of Acts was here dependent on Josephus for the mention of the famine which that historian confined to Judæa, but which the writer of Acts, or rather Clemen’s Redactor Antijudaicus, magnified according to his usual custom.

[245] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[246] Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek: Critical Text and Notes.

[247] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.28. one of them named Agabus] He is mentioned again Acts 21:10, where by a significant action, as well as by his words, he foretells the imprisonment of St Paul at Jerusalem.

and signified by the Spirit] So too Acts 21:11, the words of Agabus are, “Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle.”

great dearth] This famine is mentioned by Josephus (Antiq. xx. 2. 5), who tells how Helena, queen of Adiabene, being at Jerusalem, succoured the people by procuring for them corn from Alexandria and a cargo of figs from Cyprus. The date of this severe famine was a.d. 45.

throughout all the world] Though one region might be specially afflicted by the failure of its crops, all the rest of the Roman empire would be sure to suffer in some degree at the same time, and especially when famines were, as at this time, of frequent recurrence.

in the days of Claudius Cesar] The oldest MSS. omit “Cæsar.” The reign of Claudius (a.d. 41–54) was remarkable for the famines with which various parts of the empire were afflicted. The first, second, fourth, ninth and eleventh years of this Emperor’s reign are recorded as years of famine in some district or other. See Suetonius, Claudius, 28; Tacitus, Ann. xii. 43; Josephus, Antiq. xx. 2. 5, Dio Cassius ix. p. 949, Euseb. H. E. ii. 8.Acts 11:28. Ἀναστὰς, having stood up) in the assembly.—ἐσήμαινε, signified) What, in the case of all other men, natural or political sagacity may foresee, that the Spirit foresees in the case of believers. [This prophecy was a great gain to the brethren in Judea. Never is the indication of things future unattended with its use, where it is laid out to good account.—V. g.]—μέλλειν ἔσεσθαι, that there was about to be) A double future.Verse 28. - A great famine for great dearth, A.V.; over for throughout, A.V.; Claudius for Claudius Caesar, A.V. and T.R. The world; ἡ οἰκουμένη, the inhabited earth, the common expression for the whole Roman empire. But the expression must be taken bore as hyperbolical, just as Josephus says that Ahab sent messengers to search for Elijah, κατὰ πᾶσαν τὴν οικουμένην, where, of course, only the neighboring countries to Judaea can be meant, strictly speaking ('Ant. Jud.,'8. 13:4). But there is no evidence to show that ἡ οικουμένη, is ever a technical term for Judaea. See the use of the word by Luke (Luke 2:1; Luke 4:5; Luke 21:26; Acts 17:6, 31; Acts 19:27; Acts 24:5). In point of fact, the predicted famine, which began in the fourth year of Claudius Caesar (A.D. 44) and lasted till A.D. , fell upon Judea exclusively, as far as appears from Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' lit. 15:3; 20. 2:5, 5:2), and was very severe there. Ishmael was high priest at the time; and Helena, Queen of Adiahene, fetched large supplies of corn from Egypt and of figs from Cyprus to Jerusalem, to supply the wants of the people. Eusebius ('Eccl. Hist.,' 2:8) speaks of this famine as having prevailed "over the world," and as being recorded by authors hostile to Christianity, but mentions no names and gives no particulars ('Eccl. Hist.,' 2:8), but in the twelfth chapter of the same book he limits it to τὴν Ιουδαίαν, Judaea. There were several other historical famines in the reign of Claudius, but they can hardly be included in the prophecy of Agabus. The prophet Agabus is mentioned again in Acts 21:10, and again as coming from Judaea. Renan ascribes the poverty-stricken condition of the Jerusalem Christians to their communistic institutions. The world

See on Luke 2:1.

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