Acts 13:15
And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, You men and brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) After the reading of the law and the prophets.—The order of the Sabbath lessons was fixed as by a kind of calendar, the Law—i.e., the Pentateuch—being divided into fifty-three or fifty-four paraschioth, or sections. These, probably, came into use soon after the return from Babylon. To these were afterwards added special lessons, known technically as the Haphtaroth, from the prophets. We are enabled, by two curious coincidences, to fix, with very little uncertainty, the precise Sabbath on which the mission-work at Antioch opened. The opening words of St. Paul refer to Deuteronomy 1:31 (see Note on Acts 13:18) and this was the lesson for the forty-fourth Sabbath in the year, which fell in July or August; the corresponding second lesson from the prophets being Isaiah 1:1-27, from which he also quotes. He starts, as was natural, from what the people had just been listening to, as the text of his discourse.

The rulers of the synagogue sent unto them . . .—The elders apparently saw strangers taking the position of teachers, probably in the garb of Rabbis, and it belonged to their office to offer such persons an opportunity of addressing the people.

13:14-31 When we come together to worship God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The bare reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be expounded, and the people exhorted out of them. This is helping people in doing that which is necessary to make the word profitable, to apply it to themselves. Every thing is touched upon in this sermon, which might best prevail with Jews to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah. And every view, however short or faint, of the Lord's dealings with his church, reminds us of his mercy and long-suffering, and of man's ingratitude and perverseness. Paul passes from David to the Son of David, and shows that this Jesus is his promised Seed; a Saviour to do that for them, which the judges of old could not do, to save them from their sins, their worst enemies. When the apostles preached Christ as the Saviour, they were so far from concealing his death, that they always preached Christ crucified. Our complete separation from sin, is represented by our being buried with Christ. But he rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption: this was the great truth to be preached.And after the reading of the law and the prophets - See notes on Luke 4:16.

The rulers of the synagogue - Those were persons who had the general charge of the synagogue and its service, to keep everything in order, and to direct the affairs of public worship. They designated the individuals who were to read the Law; and called on those whom they pleased to address the people, and had the power also of inflicting punishment, and of excommunicating, etc. (Schleusner), Mark 5:22, Mark 5:35-36, Mark 5:38; Luke 8:49; Luke 13:14; Acts 18:8, Acts 18:17. Seeing that Paul and Barnabas were Jews, though strangers, they sent to them, supposing it probable that they would wish to address their brethren.

Men and brethren - An affectionate manner of commencing a discourse, recognizing them as their own countrymen, and as originally of the same religion.

Say on - Greek: "speak!"

15-17. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand—as was his manner on such occasions (Ac 21:40; and see Ac 26:1).

Men of Israel, and ye that fear God—by the latter expression meaning religious proselytes, who united with the Jews in all acts of ordinary worship.

and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in Egypt—by marvellous interpositions for them in their deepest depression.

The reading of the law was commanded by Moses; and they say that Ezra commanded the reading of the prophets also in their synagogues, which was used, as we may see in Acts 13:27; and so divided into several sections, that once a year they might be all read over.

The rulers of the synagogue; they were such as had the oversight of this service of God in their synagogues, that it might be performed according to the prescription.

Men and brethren; a usual compellation which the Jews gave one another, owning them to serve the same God, and professing a suitable respect for them.

If ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on; after the reading before spoken of, there followed a sermon, or exhortation; which the apostles are desired to make, the rulers of the synagogue, as it is supposed, having had some previous knowledge of them. And after the reading of the law and the prophets,.... Which was done every sabbath day, Acts 15:21 The five books of Moses, which are meant by the law, were divided into sections: Genesis was divided into twelve, Exodus into eleven, Leviticus into ten, Numbers into ten, and Deuteronomy into ten, which in all make fifty three sections: and so by reading one on each sabbath, and two on one day, they read through the whole law in the course of a year, and which they finished at the close of the feast of tabernacles; and that day was called "the rejoicing of the law"; it was a day of rejoicing, that the law was read through. Some make fifty four sections, and then two of them must be read together, on two sabbath days, to finish the whole in the year. In some synagogues the section was divided into three parts, and so they finished the law in three years; but this custom was less common (p). The custom of reading the law, the Jews say, was one hundred and seventy years before the time of Jesus Christ; though some say the division of the law, into sections, was made by Ezra; and others refer it to Moses himself: it is certain it obtained in the times of Christ and his apostles, as did also the reading of the prophets, and which was introduced in this way, and upon this account. When Antiochus Epiphanes burnt the book of the law, and forbad the reading of it, the Jews in the room of it selected some passages out of the prophets, which they thought came nearest in words and sense to the sections of the law, and read them in their stead; and when the law was restored again, they still continued the reading of the prophetic sections; and the section for the day was called "the dismission", because usually the people were dismissed upon it, unless anyone stood up, and preached or expounded the word of God unto the people: hence the following message and address to the apostles,

the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them; that is, those who were the principal men in the synagogue, the ruler of it, together with the elders; for there was but one ruler in a synagogue; See Gill on Matthew 9:18 though there were more elders; and so the Syriac version here renders it, "the elders of the synagogue"; but it may be asked, why should they send to the apostles? how did they know that they were teachers, being strangers? this they might conclude from their outward appearance, their gravity and solidity; for as for habit or dress there was no distinction; or from their sitting down when they came into the synagogue, which was the custom of teachers; or they might have had some knowledge of them, and conversation with them, before they came into the synagogue; for it cannot be reasonably thought that they admitted anyone, whether they knew him or not, to teach in their synagogues:

saying, ye men and brethren: which was the common style of the Jews, they used in addresses, and especially to their own countrymen, as they might perceive Paul and Barnabas were; see Acts 2:29.

if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on; the sense is, if they were prepared to preach, or had anything upon their minds to say to the people; or if they had, as it is in the original text, "any word of exhortation or comfort" in them, as they had indeed a rich treasure in their earthen vessels, they had leave and liberty to speak it to the people. "A word of exhortation" designs any doctrine that might be for instruction and comfort, and this was agreeably to the practice of the Jews. For it is said (q).

"on the sabbath day, , "they preach a sermon", or expound to housekeepers (or masters of families), who are employed in business all the days of the week; and in the midst of the sermon they teach them the traditions, concerning what is forbidden, and what is lawful; and it is better for them to hear than to read in the Hagiographa;''

which books they did not read publicly, as is said in the same place, only the law and the prophets; with the latter of which they dismissed the people, unless a sermon was preached; and which, when done, was chiefly for the sake of the common people, men and women: and it is said (r), that

"the women, and the people of the earth (or the common people), come to hear the sermon, and the preachers ought to draw out their hearts;''

speak out their whole mind, and deliver all they know that may be instructive and profitable.

(p) Maimon. Hilchot Tephilla, c. 13. sect. 1. Benjamin Itinerar. p. 114, 115. (q) Gloss. in T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 115. 1.((r) Ib. fol. 30. 2.

{7} And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye {h} have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

(7) In the Synagogue of the Jews (according to the pattern of which Christian congregations were instituted) the Scriptures were read first, then those who were learned were licensed by the rulers of the Synagogue to speak and expound.

(h) Literally, If there is any word in you: this is a kind of speech taken from the Hebrews, by which is meant that the gifts of God's grace are in us, as it were in treasure houses, and that they are not ours, but God's. In the same way David says, Thou hast put a new song in my mouth; Ps 40:3.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 13:15. τὴν ἀνάγ. τοῦ ν. καὶ τῶν π.: the first and second lesson, Edersheim, u. s., p. 278, History of the Jewish Nation, p. 443; Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 79 ff., E.T., the first from the Pentateuch, and the second a paragraph from the Prophets, including the older historical books. As there is no evidence that the lectionary of the Prophets existed in the time of our Lord, it is precarious to attempt to fix the particular Sabbath for St. Paul’s address. It is however significant that he uses two remarkable words from the LXX, Deuteronomy 1:31 : ἐτροφ. (see critical notes), in Acts 13:18, and from Isaiah 1:2 : ὕψωσεν in Acts 13:17, and that in the present table of Jewish lessons that from the Law for the forty-fourth Sabbath in the year is Deuteronomy 1:1 to Deuteronomy 3:22, while the corresponding lesson from the Prophets is Isaiah 1:1-22; see Bengel on Acts 13:18, and Farrar, St. Paul, i., pp. 368, 369; Plumptre, in loco. But we cannot safely go beyond the view of Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 100, who points out that the present list of Jewish lessons is of decidedly later origin, but adds that “probably it was often determined by older custom and traditional ideas of suitable accompaniment”.—ἀπέστειλαν: the words seem hardly consistent with Lumby’s view that St. Paul was himself the Haphtarist.—οἱ ἀρχισυνάγωγοι; generally only one, Luke 13:14, but cf. Mark 5:22 (Weiss, in loco), and the passage before us; the office was specially concerned with the care of public worship, and the name was given to those who conducted the assemblies for that purpose. They had to guard against anything unfitting taking place in the synagogue (Luke 13:14), and to appoint readers and preachers, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 65, E.T.; Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 281, and on the present passage, Jesus the Messiah, i. 434, and for the title in inscriptions, Grimm-Thayer, sub v.; see also below on Acts 14:2.—ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί: courteous address, Acts 2:37, “Gentlemen, brethren” (Ramsay).15. And after the reading of the law and the prophets] For the better understanding of what was here done, and also at the time when our Lord “stood up for to read” in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16), it seems worth while to give a somewhat detailed account of the manner in which the Law and the Prophets are read by the Jews[3].

[3] See Excursus at the end of the Chapter.

the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them] They having the control of the arrangements for calling up readers and preachers.

Ye men and brethren] Read “Brethren,” see Acts 1:16.

if ye have any word of exhortation for the people] Barnabas was called (Acts 4:36) “Son of exhortation,” where there is the same word in the original as here. The purport of the “word of exhortation” is well seen in Hebrews 13:22, where the writer calls his whole Epistle by that name.Acts 13:15. Τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν, the reading) the customary reading, whereby Moses’ writings used to be read through on the Sabbaths in the course of the year; and readings (lessons) in the earlier and latter prophets, consonant with the Mosaic lessons, used to be subjoined. “Elias in Thisbi, upon the word פטה [from which the lessons are called Haphtara], shows that the reading of the prophets arose after the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, and not earlier, when the reading of the law was openly and severely forbidden; but that it was retained subsequently.”—L. de Dieu.—οι ἀρχισυνάγωγοι, the rulers of the synagogue) who kept themselves (had their place) in a different part of the synagogue. The several synagogues had a ruler for each: therefore the term in this place is taken in a wider sense, as ἀρχιερεῖς in the plural. See Rhenferd. op. philol. p. 430.—εἰ ἔστι, if there be, if ye have any) It is not all who are the fit persons to speak, nor at all times. [And it is in no small degree truly conducive to edification, when the province of discussing a subject is always committed to those, to whom it is most seasonable (fit) to commit it, and that too with the understanding, that these very persons are not to proceed further than so long as their speech flows freely. When the condition of the Church at the time is poor (when there are few, if any, possessing the word of edification), it is right that God should be implored in prayer, that He would deign to come to the relief of man’s need.—V. g.] This pair of men never wanted words to speak.—ἐν ὑμῖν, among you) It may have been already made evident, by various indications, that they were fit persons to speak.—παρακλήσεως, of exhortation) from which the name Barnabas is derived [= Son of paraclesis, consolation, or exhortation, ch. Acts 4:36].Verse 15. - Brethren for ye men and brethren, A.V. The order of the synagogue service was first the prayers, read by the Sheliach, or angel of the synagogue, the people standing. Then came the reading of the Law in Hebrew by the reader, and the interpretation by the interpreter, who, outside of Judaea, generally used the version of the LXX. This reading, or lesson, was called the Parashah. Next came the reading and interpreting of the prophets, called the Haphtorah, either by the regular reader or by any one invited by the ruler of the synagogue (Luke 4:16, 17). Then came the Midrash, the exposition or sermon, which Paul undertook at the invitation of the ruler of the synagogue. Our Lord at Nazareth seems to have delivered the Midrash sitting (Luke 4:20); here St. Paul stands (ver. 16). Exhortation

See on Acts 9:31.

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