Acts 13:10
And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) Full of all subtilty and all mischief.—The Greek of the second noun is found here only in the New Testament. Its primary meaning expresses simply “ease in working;” but this passed through the several stages of “versatility,” “shiftiness,” and “trickery.” A kindred word is translated in Acts 18:14 as “lewdness.”

Thou child of the devil.—There is, perhaps, an intentional contrast between the meaning of the name Bar-jesus (= son of the Lord who saves) and the character of the man, which led him to oppose righteousness in every form, and to turn “the straight paths of God’s making” into the crooked ones of man’s subtlety. There is a manifest reference to the words in which Isaiah describes the true preparation of the way of the Lord as consisting in making the crooked straight (Isaiah 40:4).

Acts

TO THE REGIONS BEYOND

Acts 13:1 - Acts 13:13
.

We stand in this passage at the beginning of a great step forward. Philip and Peter had each played a part in the gradual expansion of the church beyond the limits of Judaism; but it was from the church at Antioch that the messengers went forth who completed the process. Both its locality and its composition made that natural.

I. The solemn designation of the missionaries is the first point in the narrative.

The church at Antioch was not left without signs of Christ’s grace and presence. It had its band of ‘prophets and teachers.’ As might be expected, four of the five named are Hellenists,-that is, Jews born in Gentile lands, and speaking Gentile languages. Barnabas was a Cypriote, Simeon’s byname of Niger {‘Black’} was probably given because of his dark complexion, which was probably caused by his birth in warmer lands. He may have been a North African, as Lucius of Cyrene was. Saul was from Tarsus, and only Manaen remains to represent the pure Palestinian Jew. His had been a strange course, from being foster-brother of the Herod who killed John to becoming a teacher in the church at Antioch. Barnabas was the leader of the little group, and the younger Pharisee from Tarsus, who had all along been Barnabas’s protege, brought up the rear.

The order observed in the list is a little window which shows a great deal. The first and last names all the world knows; the other three are never heard of again. Immortality falls on the two, oblivion swallows up the three. But it matters little whether our names are sounded in men’s ears, if they are in the Lamb’s book of life.

These five brethren were waiting on the Lord by fasting and prayer. Apparently they had reason to expect some divine communication, for which they were thus preparing themselves. Light will come to those who thus seek it. They were commanded to set apart two of their number for ‘the work whereunto I have called them.’ That work is not specified, and yet the two, like carrier pigeons on being let loose, make straight for their line of flight, and know exactly whither they are to go.

If we strictly interpret Luke’s words {‘I have called them’}, a previous intimation from the Spirit had revealed to them the sphere of their work. In that case, the separation was only the recognition by the brethren of the divine appointment. The inward call must come first, and no ecclesiastical designation can do more than confirm that. But the solemn designation by the Church identifies those who remain behind with the work of those who go forth; it throws responsibility for sympathy and support on the former, and it ministers strength and the sense of companionship to the latter, besides checking that tendency to isolation which accompanies earnestness. To go forth on even Christian service, unrecognised by the brethren, is not good for even a Paul.

But although Luke speaks of the Church sending them away, he takes care immediately to add that it was the Holy Ghost who ‘sent them forth.’ Ramsay suggests that ‘sent them away’ is not the meaning of the phrase in Acts 13:3, but that it should be rendered ‘gave them leave to depart.’ In any case, a clear distinction is drawn between the action of the Church and that of the Spirit, which constituted Paul’s real commission as an Apostle. He himself says that he was an Apostle, ‘not from men, neither through man.’

II. The events in the first stage of the journey are next summarily presented.

Note the local colouring in ‘went down to Seleucia,’ the seaport of Antioch, at the mouth of the river. The missionaries were naturally led to begin at Cyprus, as Barnabas’s birthplace, and that of some of the founders of the church at Antioch.

So, for the first time, the Gospel went to sea, the precursor of so many voyages. It was an ‘epoch-making moment’ when that ship dropped down with the tide and put out to sea. Salamis was the nearest port on the south-eastern coast of Cyprus, and there they landed,- Barnabas, no doubt, familiar with all he saw; Saul probably a stranger to it all. Their plan of action was that to which Paul adhered in all his after work,-to carry the Gospel to the Jew first, a proceeding for which the manner of worship in the synagogues gave facilities. No doubt, many such were scattered through Cyprus, and Barnabas would be well known in most.

They thus traversed the island from east to west. It is noteworthy that only now is John Mark’s name brought in as their attendant. He had come with them from Antioch, but Luke will not mention him, when he is telling of the sending forth of the other two, because Mark was not sent by the Spirit, but only chosen by his uncle, and his subsequent defection did not affect the completeness of their embassy. His entirely subordinate place is made obvious by the point at which he appears.

Nothing of moment happened on the tour till Paphos was reached. That was the capital, the residence of the pro-consul, and the seat of the foul worship of Venus. There the first antagonist was met. It is not Sergius Paulus, pro-consul though he was, who is the central figure of interest to Luke, but the sorcerer who was attached to his train. His character is drawn in Luke’s description, and in Paul’s fiery exclamation. Each has three clauses, which fall ‘like the beats of a hammer.’ ‘Sorcerer, false prophet, Jew,’ make a climax of wickedness. That a Jew should descend to dabble in the black art of magic, and play tricks on the credulity of ignorant people by his knowledge of some simple secrets of chemistry; that he should pretend to prophetic gifts which in his heart he knew to be fraud, and should be recreant to his ancestral faith, proved him to deserve the penetrating sentence which Paul passed on him. He was a trickster, and knew that he was: his inspiration came from an evil source; he had come to hate righteousness of every sort.

Paul was not flinging bitter words at random, or yielding to passion, but was laying the black heart bare to the man’s own eyes, that the seeing himself as God saw him might startle him into penitence. ‘The corruption of the best is the worst.’ The bitterest enemies of God’s ways are those who have cast aside their early faith. A Jew who had stooped to be a juggler was indeed causing God’s ‘name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles.’

He and Paul each recognised in the other his most formidable foe. Elymas instinctively felt that the pro-consul must be kept from listening to the teaching of these two fellow-countrymen, and ‘sought to pervert him from the faith,’ therein perverting {the same word is used in both cases} ‘the right ways of the Lord’; that is, opposing the divine purpose. He was a specimen of a class who attained influence in that epoch of unrest, when the more cultivated and nobler part of Roman society had lost faith in the old gods, and was turning wistfully and with widespread expectation to the mysterious East for enlightenment.

So, like a ship which plunges into the storm as soon as it clears the pier-head, the missionaries felt the first dash of the spray and blast of the wind directly they began their work. Since this was their first encounter with a foe which they would often have to meet, the duel assumes importance, and we understand not only the fulness of the narrative, but the miracle which assured Paul and Barnabas of Christ’s help, and was meant to diffuse its encouragement along the line of their future work. For Elymas it was chastisement, which might lead him to cease to pervert the ways of the Lord, and himself begin to walk in them. Perhaps, after a season, he did see ‘the better Sun.’

Saul’s part in the incident is noteworthy. We observe the vivid touch, he ‘fastened his eyes on him.’ There must have been something very piercing in the fixed gaze of these flashing eyes. But Luke takes pains to prevent our thinking that Paul spoke from his own insight or was moved by human passion. He was ‘filled with the Holy Ghost,’ and, as His organ, poured out the scorching words that revealed the cowering apostate to himself, and announced the merciful punishment that was to fall. We need to be very sure that we are similarly filled before venturing to imitate the Apostle’s tone.

III. The shifting of the scene to the mainland presents some noteworthy points.

It is singular that there is no preaching mentioned as having been attempted in Perga, or anywhere along the coast, but that the two evangelists seem to have gone at once across the great mountain range of Taurus to Antioch of Pisidia.

A striking suggestion is made by Ramsay to the effect that the reason was a sudden attack of the malarial fever which is endemic in the low-lying coast plains, and for which the natural remedy is to get up among the mountains. If so, the journey to Antioch of Pisidia may not have been in the programme to which John Mark had agreed, and his return to Jerusalem may have been due to this departure from the original intention. Be that as it may, he stands for us as a beacon, warning against hasty entrance on great undertakings of which we have not counted the cost, no less than against cowardly flight from work, as soon as it begins to involve more danger or discomfort than we had reckoned on.

John Mark was willing to go a-missionarying as long as he was in Cyprus, where he was somebody and much at home, by his relationship to Barnabas; but when Perga and the climb over Taurus into strange lands came to be called for, his zeal and courage oozed out at his finger-ends, and he skulked back to his mother’s house at Jerusalem. No wonder that Paul ‘thought not good to take with them him who withdrew from them.’ But even such faint hearts as Mark’s may take courage from the fact that he nobly retrieved his youthful error, and won back Paul’s confidence, and proved himself ‘profitable to him for the ministry.’13:4-13 Satan is in a special manner busy with great men and men in power, to keep them from being religious, for their example will influence many. Saul is here for the first time called Paul, and never after Saul. Saul was his name as he was a Hebrew; Paul was his name as he was a citizen of Rome. Under the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, he gave Elymas his true character, but not in passion. A fulness of deceit and mischief together, make a man indeed a child of the devil. And those who are enemies to the doctrine of Jesus, are enemies to all righteousness; for in it all righteousness is fulfilled. The ways of the Lord Jesus are the only right ways to heaven and happiness. There are many who not only wander from these ways themselves, but set others against these ways. They commonly are so hardened, that they will not cease to do evil. The proconsul was astonished at the force of the doctrine upon his own heart and conscience, and at the power of God by which it was confirmed. The doctrine of Christ astonishes; and the more we know of it, the more reason we shall see to wonder at it. Those who put their hand to the plough and look back, are not fit for the kingdom of God. Those who are not prepared to face opposition, and to endure hardship, are not fitted for the work of the ministry.O full of all subtilty and all mischief - The word "subtilty" denotes "deceit and fraud," and implies that he was practicing an imposition, and that he knew it. The word rendered "mischief" ῥᾳδιουργίας radiourgias denotes properly "facility of acting," and then "sleight of hand; sly;, cunning arts, by which one imposes on another, and deceives him with a fraudulent intention." It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. The art of Elymas consisted probably in sleight of hand, legerdemain, or trick, aided by skill in the abstruse sciences, by which the ignorant might be easily imposed on. See the notes on Acts 8:9.

Child of the devil - Under his influence; practicing his arts; promoting his designs by deceit and imposture, so that he may be called your father. See the notes on John 8:44. Satan is represented here as the author of deceit and the father of lies.

Enemy of all righteousness - Practicing deceit and iniquity, and thus opposed to righteousness and honesty. A man who lives by wickedness will, of course, be the foe of every form of integrity. A man who lives by fraud will be opposed to the truth; a panderer to the vices of people will hate the rules of chastity and purity; a manufacturer or vendor of ardent spirits will be the enemy of temperance societies.

Wilt thou not cease to pervert - In what way he had opposed Paul and Barnabas is not known. It may have been either by misrepresenting their doctrines, or by representing them as apostate Jews thus retarding or hindering the progress of the gospel. The expression "wilt thou not cease." implies that he had been engaged sedulously in doing this, probably from the commencement of their work in the city.

The right ways of the Lord - The straight paths or doctrines of the Christian religion, in opposition to the crooked and perverse arts of deceivers and impostors. Straight paths denote "integrity, sincerity, truth," Jeremiah 31:9; Hebrews 12:13; compare Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 42:16; Luke 3:5. Crooked ways denote "the ways of the sinner, the deceiver, the impostor," Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalm 125:1-5; Proverbs 2:15; Isaiah 59:8; Philippians 2:15.

10. full of all subtlety—referring to his magic arts.

and all malice—The word signifies "readiness for anything," knavish dexterity.

thou child of the devil … enemy of all righteousness—These were not words of passion, for immediately before uttering them, it is said he was "filled with the Holy Ghost" [Chrysostom].

wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord—referring to his having to that hour made a trade of leading his fellow creatures astray.

Mischief; radiourgia signifies a facility or readiness in doing mischief, and that such who are given to sorcery are easily drawn to commit any kind of sin whatsoever.

Thou child of the devil; because he did his work who is the destroyer, in hindering what he could the salvation of Sergius Paulus and his family.

To pervert the right ways of the Lord; to make the way of God crooked, which is straight; and rugged, when indeed it is smooth: that is, to lay what rubs he could to keep any from coming unto, or continuing in, the ways of God. And said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief,.... Which may have regard both to his general character as a sorcerer, and a false prophet; in acting up to which he used much deceit and cunning among the people, and did much mischief to them; to which there was a promptness and readiness in him, as the word used signifies; and also to the sophistry he used, and the mischief he endeavoured to do in seeking to turn the deputy from the faith. The minds of carnal men are vain and empty, and destitute of all that is good, and full of all that is evil: their character is,

filled with all unrighteousness, Romans 1:29. They have many of them a great deal of wit, but it is wicked wit, and they employ it in an evil and mischievous way, both to the hurt of themselves and others; they are like the old serpent, whose seed they are, who was more subtle than any beast of the field; they are wiser in their generation than the children of light; they are wise to do evil, though they have no knowledge of what is spiritually good; they are able to form very cunning and artful schemes, to commit sin, and do mischief; for all their craft and subtlety are used in such a way; nor can they sleep, or be easy in their minds, unless they are doing mischief.

Thou child of the devil; perhaps alluding to his name, that instead of Bar-Jesus, the son of a saviour, he should have been called Bar-Satan, the son of Satan, or Ben-Belial, a son of Belial. The phrase , "the firstborn of Satan", is used by the Jews, sometimes in a good sense, for one that is acute, sharp, and subtle, and that abides by his doctrine, and does his work (s): but here a child of the devil is used in an ill sense, for being like him in wicked cunning and subtlety; in like sense as the other phrase was used by Polycarp, whom Marcion the heretic met, and said unto him, know us; to whom Polycarp replied, I know thee, the firstborn of Satan (t): thou enemy of all righteousness; a wicked man is an enemy to all righteousness in every branch of it, in whatsoever light it may be considered: he is an enemy, yea, enmity itself against God the righteous being, and who is the fountain of all righteousness; he is an enemy to Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the Lord our righteousness; he is an enemy to that righteousness which he has wrought out; he is an enemy to all righteous persons, and hates their holy and righteous conversation; he is an enemy to the law, and cannot be subject to it, which is the rule of righteousness; and he is an enemy to the Gospel, which reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith, and teaches men to live soberly, righteously, and godly; in short he is an enemy to all righteousness, moral and evangelical.

Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? the doctrines and ordinances of Christ, in which he has directed his people to walk; which this man, through his sophistry and wickedness, in which he was industrious and indefatigable, endeavoured to render intricate and obscure, when they were plain, and straight, and easy. "For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them", Hosea 14:9 they are right, and it is becoming such to walk in them; they are plain to them that have a true knowledge of them, even wayfaring men, though fools shall not err in them; they are entirely consistent with the righteousness and holiness of God, and lead right on to eternal glory and happiness. Christ himself is the true way to eternal life, which is plainly pointed, and clearly directed to in the word of God, and by the ministers of the Gospel, who show unto men the way of salvation; the path of truth is fully described, and such things said of it as are very inviting to walk in it; and good men cannot but choose and delight to walk in it, when led into it by the Spirit of truth: Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths of peace; even all the paths of duty and worship, the ways of righteousness and holiness; but wicked men seek to pervert these ways, to give a false account of them, to set them in a wrong light, and represent them not only as rough and troublesome, but as dangerous, and leading to ruin; and do all they can to hinder persons from entering into them, and to cause those to stumble who are in them; nor will they cease acting this wicked part; they are continually at work to make the ways of Christ odious, to set people against them, to discourage from walking in them by their opposition to them, the false glosses they put upon them, and by their scoffs and jeers at those that walk in them, and by their violent persecutions of them, when it is in their power.

(s) T. Hieros. Yebamot, fol. 3. 1. & T. Rab. Yebamot, fol. 16, 1. & Juchasin, fol. 14. 1. & 55. 1.((t) Irenaeus adv. Haeres. l. 3. c. 3.

{5} And said, O full of all subtilty and all {e} mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

(5) The sorcerer, who was stricken by Paul with a physical punishment (although extraordinarily), shows an example to lawful magistrates how they ought to punish those who wickedly and obstinately hinder the course of the Gospel.

(e) He points out a fault of those who run eagerly and with great desire into all types of wickedness with the least bit of prompting from the world.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 13:10. Ῥᾳδιουργίας] knavery, roguery. Polyb. xii. 10. 5, iv. 29. 4; Plut. Cat. m. 16. Comp. ῥᾳδιούργημα, Acts 18:14.

υἱὲ διαβόλου] i.e. a man whose condition of mind proceeds from the influence of the devil (the arch-enemy of the kingdom of the Messiah). Comp. on John 8:44. An indignant contrast to the name Barjesus. διαβόλου is treated as a proper name, therefore without the article; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 20:2.

πάσης δικαιοσύνης] of all, that is right, Acts 10:35.

διαστρέφων τὰς ὁδοὺς κυρ. τ. εὐθείας] Wilt thou not cease to pervert the straight (leading directly to the goal) ways of the Lord (to give them a perverted direction)? i.e. applying this general reproach to the present case: Wilt thou, by thy opposition to us, and by thy endeavour to turn the proconsul from the faith (Acts 13:8), persist in so working that God’s measures (Romans 11:33; Revelation 15:3), instead of attaining their aim according to the divine intention, may be frustrated? The straight way of God aimed here at the winning of Sergius for the salvation in Christ, by means of Barnabas and Paul; but Elymas set himself in opposition to this, and was engaged in diverting from its mark this straight way which God had entered on, so that the divinely-desired conversion of Sergius was to remain unrealized. De Wette takes it incorrectly: to set forth erroneously the ways in which men should walk before God. On διαστρέφων, comp. in fact, Proverbs 10:10; Isaiah 59:8; Micah 3:9; and notice that the διαστρέφειν κ.τ.λ. was really that which the sorcerer strove to do, although without attaining the desired success. Observe, also, the thrice repeated emphatic παντόςπάσηςπάσης, and that Κυρίου is not to be referred to Christ, but to God (whom the son of the devil resists), as is proved from Acts 13:11.Acts 13:10. πλήρης: for an interesting parallel in Plato cf. Wetstein, in loco, Plato, Legg., 908 D.—ῥᾳδιουργίας: only here in N.T., cf. Acts 18:14, hellenistic, R.V. “villainy,” A.V. “mischief” (so Genevan), but other E. V. “deceit”; the idea of deceit, however, is more properly contained in δόλου R.V., “guile”. ῥᾳδ., lit[258], ease in doing, so easiness, laziness, and hence fraud, wickedness, cf. πανουργία, frequently used, although not necessarily so, in a bad sense.—υἱὲ διαβόλου, John 8:44, the expression may be used in marked and indignant contrast to the name “Son of Jesus,” cf. Acts 3:25, Acts 4:36. But without any reference to Acts 13:6 the expression would describe him as the natural enemy of the messengers of God. On the phrase and its use here see Deissmann, Bibelstudien, p. 163. Note the thrice παντὸςπάσηςπάσης, “ter repetitur emphatice” Wetstein.—διαστρέφων, cf. LXX, Proverbs 10:9, and Isaiah 59:8, Micah 3:9.—τὰς ὁδοὺςτὰς εὐθείας: similar expressions frequent in LXX, so of the ways of the Lord in contrast to the ways of men, Ezekiel 33:17, Sir 39:24, Song of the Three Children, Acts 13:3.

[258] literal, literally.10. enemy of all righteousness] We may judge from this expression that St Paul recognized an earnest zeal for truth in the enquiries of the proconsul, and that his wrath against Elymas was not only for what he was doing at the present time, but for his long-continued leading astray of those who were desirous to know the ways of the Lord.Acts 13:10. ) The interjection, O, properly coheres with the substantives, Son (Child) and enemy: but as these signify the severest rebuke, the Ætiology (reason assigned) is prefixed, full, etc.—δόλου, of subtilty) Hereby he is stigmatised as a false prophet.—ῥᾳδιουργίας, craft [versutia]) Hereby he is stigmatised as a sorcerer.—υἱὲ διαβόλου, Song of Solomon of the devil) This too is applicable to a sorcerer, and such a man as is not only himself bad, but also forbids others from becoming better.—ἐχθρὲ πάσης δικαιοσύνης, enemy of all righteousness) This also applies to a false prophet: a true prophet teaches righteousness, and that in Christ.—οὐ παύσῃ, thou wilt not cease, or wilt thou not cease) Now at least it had been time to have ceased from the wickedness which he had even heretofore practised. Not to cease is devilish. Many read this with an interrogation.—τὰς εὐθείας, the right ways) Rectitude and simplicity are characteristic of Divine doctrine.Verse 10. - All guile and all villainy for all subtlety and all mischief, A.V.; son for child, A.V. The word ῤᾳδιουργία, reckless conduct, villainy, wickedness, is only found here in the New Testament. The kindred form (ῤᾳδιούργημα) occurs in Acts 18:14. Thou son of the devil (comp. John 8:38, 44; 1 John 3:10). Elymas showed himself a child of the devil in his endeavors to resist the truth of the gospel, and substitute his own falsehoods and imposture. Compare the severity of Peter's language in rebuking Simon Magas (Acts 8:20-23). Probably, too, he accused (διέβαλεν) Paul and Barnabas, and traduced their motives before the proconsul, when he saw his own influence being undermined, and his gains likely to be stopped. Mischief (ῥᾳδιουργίας)

Only here in New Testament. Originally, ease or facility in doing; hence readiness in turning the hand to anything, bad or good; and so recklessness, unscrupulousness, wickedness. A kindred word (ῥᾳδιούργημα, lewdness, Rev., villany) occurs at Acts 18:14.

Right ways

Or straight, possibly with an allusion to Elymas' crooked ways.

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