Acts 13:41
Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it to you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(41) Behold, ye despisers.—The quotation is from the LXX. version, the Hebrew giving “Behold, ye among the heathen.” So, in the next clause, “wonder, and perish” takes the place of “wonder marvellously.” The fact that St. Paul quotes from the prophet (Habakkuk 1:5) whose teaching (Habakkuk 2:4) that “the just by faith shall live” becomes henceforth the axiom of his life, is not without a special interest. The “work” of which the prophet spoke was defined in the following verse as the raising up the Chaldeans, “that bitter and hasty nation,” to execute God’s judgment. St. Paul may have had in his thoughts the like judgment about to be executed by the Romans, and already known as foretold by Christ (Matthew 24:2-28), or may have thus dimly indicated that which was so closely connected with it—the rejection of Israel, because they, as a nation, had rejected Christ. The sharp tone of warning, as in St. Stephen’s speech (see Note on Acts 7:51), suggests the thought that signs of anger and impatience had already begun to show themselves.

13:38-41 Let all that hear the gospel of Christ, know these two things: 1. That through this Man, who died and rose again, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. Your sins, though many and great, may be forgiven, and they may be so without any injury to God's honour. 2. It is by Christ only that those who believe in him, and none else, are justified from all things; from all the guilt and stain of sin, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. The great concern of convinced sinners is, to be justified, to be acquitted from all their guilt, and accepted as righteous in God's sight, for if any is left charged upon the sinner, he is undone. By Jesus Christ we obtain a complete justification; for by him a complete atonement was made for sin. We are justified, not only by him as our Judge but by him as the Lord our Righteousness. What the law could not do for us, in that it was weak, the gospel of Christ does. This is the most needful blessing, bringing in every other. The threatenings are warnings; what we are told will come upon impenitent sinners, is designed to awaken us to beware lest it come upon us. It ruins many, that they despise religion. Those that will not wonder and be saved, shall wonder and perish.Behold, ye despisers - Hebrew, "Behold, ye among the pagan." The change from this expression to "ye despisers" was made by the Septuagint translators by a very slight alteration in the Hebrew word - probably from a variation in the copy which they used. It arose from reading בּוגדים bowgadiym instead of בגּוים bagowyim. The Syriac, the Arabic, as well as the Septuagint, follow this reading.

And wonder - Hebrew, "And regard, and wonder marvelously."

And perish - Thin is not in the Hebrew, but is in the Septuagint and the Arabic. The word means literally "to be removed from the sight; to disappear; and then to corrupt, defile, destroy," Matthew 6:16, Matthew 6:19. The word, however, may mean "to be suffused with shame; to be overwhelmed and confounded" (Schleusner); and it may perhaps have this meaning here, corresponding to the Hebrew. The word used here is not what is commonly employed to denote "eternal perdition," though Paul seems to use it with reference to their destruction for rejecting the gospel.

For I work a work - I do a thing. The thing to which the prophet Habakkuk referred was, that God would bring upon them the Chaldeans, that would destroy the temple and nation. In like manner Paul says that God in that time might bring upon the nation similar calamities. By rejecting the Messiah and his gospel, and by persevering in wickedness, they would bring upon themselves the destruction of the temple, the city, and the nation. It was this threatened destruction doubtless to which the apostle referred.

Which ye shall in no wise believe - Which you will not believe. So remarkable, so unusual, so surpassing anything which had occurred. The original reference in Habakkuk is to the destruction of the temple by the Chaldeans; a thing which the Jews would not suppose could happen. The temple was so splendid; it had been so manifestly built by the direction of God; it had been so long under his protection, that they would suppose that it could not be given into the hands of their enemies to be demolished; and even though it were predicted by a prophet of God, still they would not believe it. The same feelings the Jews would have respecting the temple and city in the time of Paul. Though it was foretold by the Messiah, yet they were so confident that it was protected by God, that they would not believe that it could possibly be destroyed. The same infatuation seems to have possessed them during the siege of the city by the Romans.

Though a man ... - Though it be plainly predicted. We may learn:

(1) That people may be greatly amazed and impressed by the doings or works of God, and yet be destroyed.

(2) there may be a prejudice so obstinate that even a divine revelation will not remove it.

(3) the fancied security of sinners will not save them.

(4) there are people who will not believe in the possibility of their being lost, though it be declared by prophets, by apostles, by the Saviour, and by God. They will still remain in fancied security, and suffer nothing to alarm or rouse them. But,

(5) As the fancied security of the Jew furnished no safety against the Babylonians or the Romans, so it is true that the indifference and unconcern of sinners will not furnish any security against the dreadful wrath of God. Yet there are multitudes who live amidst the displays of God's power and mercy in the redemption of sinners, and who witness the effects of his goodness and truth in revivals of religion, who live to despise it all; who are amazed and confounded by it; and who perish.

41. ye will not believe though a man declare it unto you—that is, even on unexceptionable testimony. The words, from Hab 1:5, were originally a merciful but fruitless warning against the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and the Babylonish captivity. As such nothing could more fitly describe the more awful calamity impending over the generation which the apostle addressed. These words are cited from that place in Habakkuk, according to the reading of the Septuagint, St. Paul not being willing to alter the words, the Jews that were dispersed being so, used to that translation, especially the sense being the same with the original Hebrew. This quotation of the apostle might also be taken from Isaiah 28:14,16.

Ye despisers; for which cause, in that place of Habakkuk they are commanded to consider the heathen, and are sent to school unto them they contemned so much, who had had God for their teacher, had they not despised his word.

And wonder; grow pale for shame and fear.

And perish; ye shall be destroyed by the Romans your enemies, as your ancestors were by their enemies.

A work in your days; this work was a work of God’s just revenge on them then, by the Chaldeans; but threatened to come on these (without repentance) by the Romans.

Which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you; which destruction should be so great, that it was incredible to them now, though it should have been told them. Behold, ye despisers,.... In Habakkuk 1:5 from whence these words are taken: we render it with others, "behold ye among the Heathen"; as if the word was compounded of "in", and "nations" or "Heathens"; and so reads the Chaldee paraphrase, "look among the people"; but the Septuagint version renders it, "behold, ye despisers"; which the apostle is thought to follow; wherefore some have imagined a different reading, and that the Septuagint, instead of reads the singular of which is used in Habakkuk 2:5 and there rendered a "despiser" in the same version: but it should be observed, that the Septuagint is not the only version that so renders the word; for the Syriac version renders it, "behold, ye impudent"; and the Arabic version, "behold, ye negligent"; and Dr. Pocock (r) has shown that this word comes from the root which though not to be found in the Bible, yet in the Arabic language, among other things, signifies to behave proudly, or insolently, and so is very properly rendered "despisers", without supposing any different reading or corruption in the text: and as in Habakkuk the proud and haughty Jews are there spoke to, who neglected and despised the law; this is accommodated by the apostle to the Jews in his time, who were very much disposed to despise the Gospel, as they generally did. It follows, "and wonder, and perish"; or disappear, or change countenance, through shame for their sins, and amazement at the judgments of God upon them:

for I work a work in your days, which you shall in no wise believe though a man declare it unto you; which, in Habakkuk, refers to the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; and here it is suggested, by the citation and application of it, that in a short time a like work would be done in their days; the city and temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans, which when told to the Jews in foreign parts, as here in Pisidia, would not be believed by them, though it should be told them by men of probity and credit.

(r) Not. Misc. in Porta Mosis, c. 3. p. 31, 32. &c.

Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 13:41. Habakkuk 1:5, but here slightly different from the Hebrew “behold, ye among the nations,” in LXX through the possible mistake of reading the Hebrew noun as if = deceitful ones (with the idea perhaps of impudence, shamelessness). On βλέπ. μὴ ἐπέλ. see Burton, pp. 85, 89; Viteau, p. 83 (1893).—ἀφανίσθητε: added by LXX to the “wonder marvellously” of Heb. and LXX: “perish,” “vanish away,” R.V. margin, an idea involved in Heb. though not expressed: verb frequent in LXX, in N.T. three times, in Matthew 6, and nowhere else except Jam 4:14, see Mayor’s note, in loco. The Apostle here transfers the prophecies of the temporal judgments following on the Chaldean invasion to the judgment of the nation by the Romans, or to the punishment which would fall upon the Jews by the election of the Gentiles into their place. Perhaps the latter is more probable before his present audience. The πᾶς ὁ πιστ. naturally leads him to the warning for those who disbelieved (ἔργον ᾧ οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε). It is tempting to regard the words with Ramsay (Expositor, December, 1898), as insisting upon the marvellous and mysterious nature of God’s action in the sending forth of His Son, but the context (cf. ἐπέλθῃ) here, and the O.T. prophecy, both point to the imminence of judgment and penalty.—ἐργάζομαι: the present (so in LXX), because the result was so certain that it was regarded as actually in process. With true rhetorical force St. Paul concludes his speech, as at Athens, by an appeal to awaken all consciences, cf. St. Peter’s closing words, Acts 2:36, Acts 3:26—possibly, as at the close perhaps of St. Stephen’s speech, signs of impatience had begun to manifest themselves in his audience (Plumptre).41. Behold ye despisers] This is the rendering of the LXX. and some other versions. The Hebrew text gives, as A. V., “Behold, ye among the heathen.” The LXX. either had, or thought they had, a different text.

a work which you shall in no wise believe] It is the result of long-continued evil-doing that those who live in it grow incredulous and proof against all warnings. Their hearts are allowed to wax gross and their ears to become dull of hearing.Acts 13:41. Ἴδετε οἱ καταφρονηταὶ) So the LXX. for the Hebrew ראו בגוים, Behold ye among the heathen. There may seem to have been read בגדים, ye violent or perfidious, as also by the Syr[81] translator, who has transgressors. They derive it from the Arabic בגא, he bore himself in an elated manner, inflicting injury. See Gebhard, on the Twelve Lesser Prophets, p. 1017, from Pocock.—καταφρονηταὶ despisers) The sum and source of destruction is slothfulness [which leads men to despise Christ].—καὶ θαυμάσατε) LXX. have καὶ ἐπιβλέψατε, καὶ θαυμάσατε θαυμάσια.—ἀφανίσθητε, lose your colour) the colour of your countenance; through excess of wonder, which in the Hebrew והתמהו תמהו is signified either by the verb or by the doubled termination of the verb. The imperative has this force, that the despisers should be left to their own astounded surprise.—ὍΤΙ) The LXX. ΔΙΌΤΙ.—ἜΡΓΟΝ) The LXX. have only .—, which) There is hereby expressed in general terms the judgment on the Jews: then in Acts 13:46 it is most openly indicated.—οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε, ye shall in no wise believe) “Habakkuk 1 was written in opposition to the incredulity of those, who did not credit the word which promised deliverance out of the power of the Chaldeans. Those words of the prophet were undoubtedly then used among the pious as a general proverb against all unbelievers, whoever they might be.”—Justus Jonas.—ὙΜῖΝ) The LXX. have not this word.

[81] yr. the Peschito Syriac Version: second cent.: publ. and corrected by Cureton, from MS. of fifth cent.Verse 41. - If one for though a man, A.V. "Though" best expresses the ἐὰν and the כּי of the Hebrew. The passage is quoted nearly verbatim from the LXX. of Hebrews 1:5. The difference from the Hebrew arises from the LXX. having read in their copy בֹּגדְיִם, proud, arrogant men (καταφρονητάι), for בַגּוים, among the heathen, as is clear from their rendering the Hebrew בוגֵד, in Habakkuk 1:13 and Habakkuk 2:5, by the same word (καταφρονοῦντας and καταφρονητής). The rendering καὶ ἀφανίσθητε, and perish, for the Hebrew תְּמָהוּ (another form of the preceding verb הִתַּמְהוּ, which in the A.V. is construed with it, and the two together rendered "wonder marvelously"), is not so easily explained. The two best explanations seem to be

(1) that the LXX. read תְּמָהוּ וְהתַּמְהוּ instead of the present order of the words, and so rendered the first word θαυμάσατε, wonder, and, taking the next word from another root, תָמַם, rendered it ἀφανίσθητε, perish;

(2) that, reading the words in the same order in which they now stand in the Hebrew text, they rendered the first θαυμάσατε, or, with the intensive addition, θαυμασίᾳ, and took the second in the sense it has in Arabic, "to be altered" or "changed for the worse," and expressed it by ἀφανίσθητε, meaning" change countenance from fear and astonishment." And in favor of this explanation the use of ἀφανίζουσι τὰ πρόσωπα in Matthew 6:16 ("they disfigure their faces") is quoted (see Rosenmüller on Habakkuk 1:5). St. Paul took the LXX. as he found it. Perhaps he saw signs in some of that unbelief and perverse opposition which afterwards broke out (ver. 45), and so was led to close his sermon with words of awful warning. Perish (ἀφανίσθητε)

Lit., vanish.

Declare (ἐκδιηγῆται)

Only here and Acts 15:3. See on shew, Luke 8:39. The word is a very strong expression for the fullest and clearest declaration: declare throughout.

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