Acts 16:13
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
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(13) By a river side, where prayer was wont to be made.—Better, where an oratory (i.e., a place of prayer) was established. The word, which was the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13), is used in this sense by Josephus (Vit. p. 54), (see Note on Luke 6:12), and was current among the Jews at Rome. Where they had no synagogue, and in a military station like Philippi there was not likely to be one, the Jews frequented the river-banks, which made ablutions easy, and often succeeded in getting a piece of ground assigned for that purpose outside the walls of the city. Juvenal (Sat. iii. 11-13) notes this as one of the instances of the decay of the old faith of Rome:

“The groves and streams which once were sacred ground

Are now let out td Jews.”

The local meaning is seen in another line from the same writer (Sat. iii. 296):

“Ede, ubi consistas, in quâ te quæro, proseuchâ?”

[“Say where thou dwell’st, and in what place of prayer

I am to seek thee?”]

The oratories, or proseuchæ, thus formed, were commonly circular, and without a roof. The practice continued in the time of Tertullian, who speaks of the “orationes litorales” of the Jews (ad Nat. i. 13). The river, in this instance, was the Gangites. Finding no synagogue in the city, and hearing of the oratory, the company of preachers went out to it to take their part in the Sabbath services, and to preach Christ to any Jews they might find there.

We sat down, and spake unto the women.—The fact that there were only women shows the almost entire absence of a Jewish population. Possibly, too, the decree of Claudius, expelling the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2), was enforced, as stated above, in the colonia, which was as a part of Rome, and as Jewesses would not be likely to have settled there without their husbands or brothers, it is probable that the women whom St. Paul found assembled were, like Lydia, proselytes who desired to remain faithful to their new faith, even in the absence of any settled provision for their instruction. Women thus placed would naturally welcome the presence of strangers who, probably, wore the garb of a Rabbi, and who showed when they sat down (see Note on Acts 13:14) that they were about to preach. We note that here also the narrator speaks of himself as teaching. (See Note on Acts 16:10.)



Acts 16:13

This is the first record of the preaching of the Gospel in Europe, and probably the first instance of it. The fact that the vision of the man of Macedonia was needed in order to draw the Apostle across the straits into Macedonia, and the great length at which the incidents at Philippi are recorded, make this probable. If so, we are here standing, as it were, at the wellhead of a mighty river, and the thin stream of water assumes importance when we remember the thousand miles of its course, and the league-broad estuary in which it pours itself into the ocean. Here is the beginning; the Europe of to-day is what came out of it. There is no sign whatever that the Apostle was conscious of an epoch in this transference of the sphere of his operations, but we can scarcely help being conscious of such.

And so, looking at the words of my text, and seeing here how unobtrusively there stole into the progressive part of the world the power which was to shatter and remould all its institutions, to guide and inform the onward march of its peoples, to be the basis of their liberties, and the starting-point of their literature, we can scarcely avoid drawing lessons of importance.

The first point which I would suggest, as picturesquely enforced for us by this incident, is-

I. The apparent insignificance and real greatness of Christian work.

There did not seem in the whole of that great city that morning a more completely insignificant knot of people than the little weather-beaten Jew, travel-stained, of weak bodily presence, and of contemptible speech, with the handful of his attendants, who slipped out in the early morning and wended their way to the quiet little oratory, beneath the blue sky, by the side of the rushing stream, and there talked informally and familiarly to the handful of women. The great men of Philippi would have stared if any one had said to them, ‘You will be forgotten, but two of these women will have their names embalmed in the memory of the world for ever. Everybody will know Euodia and Syntyche. Your city will be forgotten, although a battle that settled the fate of the civilised world was fought outside your gates. But that little Jew and the letter that he will write to that handful of believers that are to be gathered by his preaching will last for ever.’ The mightiest thing done in Europe that morning was when the Apostle sat down by the riverside, ‘and spake to the women which resorted thither.’

The very same vulgar mistake as to what is great and as to what is small is being repeated over and over again; and we are all tempted to it by that which is worldly and vulgar in ourselves, to the enormous detriment of the best part of our natures. So it is worth while to stop for a moment and ask what is the criterion of greatness in our deeds? I answer, three things-their motive, their sphere, their consequences. What is done for God is always great. You take a pebble and drop it into a brook, and immediately the dull colouring upon it flashes up into beauty when the sunlight strikes through the ripples, and the magnitude of the little stone is enlarged. If I may make use of such a violent expression, drop your deeds into God, and they will all be great, however small they are. Keep them apart from Him, and they will be small, though all the drums of the world beat in celebration, and all the vulgar people on the earth extol their magnitude. This altar magnifies and sanctifies the giver and the gift. The great things are the things that are done for God.

A deed is great according to its sphere. What bears on and is confined to material things is smaller than what affects the understanding. The teacher is more than the man who promotes material good. And on the very same principle, above both the one and the other, is the doer of deeds which touch the diviner part of a man’s nature, his will, his conscience, his affections, his relations to God. Thus the deeds that impinge upon these are the highest and the greatest; and far above the scientific inventor, and far above the mere teacher, as I believe, and as I hope you believe, stands the humblest work of the poorest Christian who seeks to draw any other soul into the light and liberty which he himself possesses. The greatest thing in the world is charity, and the purest charity in the world is that which helps a man to possess the basis and mother-tincture of all love, the love towards God who has first loved us, in the person and the work of His dear Son.

That which being done has consequences that roll through souls, ‘and grow for ever and for ever,’ is a greater work than the deed whose issues are more short-lived. And so the man who speaks a word which may deflect a soul into the paths which have no end until they are swallowed up in the light of the God who ‘is a Sun,’ is a worker whose work is truly great. Brethren, it concerns the nobleness of the life of us Christian people far more closely than we sometimes suppose, that we should purge our souls from the false estimate of magnitudes which prevails so extensively in the world’s judgment of men and their doings. And though it is no worthy motive for a man to seek to live so that he may do great things, it is a part of the discipline of the Christian mind, as well as heart, that we should be able to reduce the swollen bladders to their true flaccidity and insignificance, and that we should understand that things done for God, things done on men’s souls, things done with consequences which time will not exhaust, nor eternity put a period to, are, after all, the great things of human life.

Ah, there will be a wonderful reversal of judgments one day! Names that now fill the trumpet of fame will fall silent. Pages that now are read as if they were leaves of the ‘Book of Life’ will be obliterated and unknown, and when all the flashing cressets in Vanity Fair have smoked and stunk themselves out, ‘They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’ The great things are the Christian things, and there was no greater deed done that day, on this round earth, than when that Jewish wayfarer, travel-stained and insignificant, sat himself down in the place of prayer, and ‘spake unto the women which resorted thither.’ Do not be over-cowed by the loud talk of the world, but understand that Christian work is the mightiest work that a man can do.

Let us take from this incident a hint as to-

II. The law of growth in Christ’s Kingdom.

Here, as I have said, is the thin thread of water at the source. We to-day are on the broad bosom of the expanded stream. Here is the little beginning; the world that we see around us has come from this, and there is a great deal more to be done yet before all the power that was transported into Europe, on that Sabbath morning, has wrought its legitimate effects. That is to say, ‘the Kingdom of God cometh not by observation.’ Let me say a word, and only a word, based on this incident, about the law of small beginnings and the law of slow, inconspicuous development.

We have here an instance of the law of small, silent beginnings. Let us go back to the highest example of everything that is good; the life of Jesus Christ. A cradle at Bethlehem, a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, thirty years buried in a village, two or three years, at most, going up and down quietly in a remote nook of the earth, and then He passed away silently and the world did not know Him. ‘He shall not strive nor cry, nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets.’ And as the Christ so His Church, and so His Gospel, and so all good movements that begin from Him. Destructive preparations may be noisy; they generally are. Constructive beginnings are silent and small. If a thing is launched with a great beating of drums and blowing of trumpets, you may be pretty sure there is very little in it. Drums are hollow, or they would not make such a noise. Trumpets only catch and give forth wind. They say-I know not whether it is true-that the Wellingtonia gigantea, the greatest of forest trees, has a smaller seed than any of its congeners. It may be so, at any rate it does for an illustration. The germ-cell is always microscopic. A little beginning is a prophecy of a great ending.

In like manner there is another large principle suggested here which, in these days of impatient haste and rushing to and fro, and religious as well as secular advertising and standing at street corners, we are very apt to forget, but which we need to remember, and that is that the rate of growth is swift when the duration of existence is short. A reed springs up in a night. How long does an oak take before it gets too high for a sheep to crop at? The moth lives its full life in a day. There is no creature that has helpless infancy so long as a man. We have the slow work of mining; the dynamite will be put into the hole one day, and the spark applied- and then? So ‘an inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end thereof shall not be blessed.’

Let us apply that to our own personal life and work, and to the growth of Christianity in the world, and let us not be staggered because either are so slow. ‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ How long will that day be of which a thousand years are but as the morning twilight? Brethren, you have need of patience. You Christian workers, and I hope I am speaking to a great many such now; how long does it take before we can say that we are making any impression at all on the vast masses of evil and sin that are round about us? God waited, nobody knows how many millenniums and more than millenniums, before He had the world ready for man. He waited for more years than we can tell before He had the world ready for the Incarnation. His march is very slow because it is ever onwards. Let us be thankful if we forge ahead the least little bit; and let us not be impatient for swift results which are the fool’s paradise, and which the man who knows that he is working towards God’s own end can well afford to do without.

And now, lastly, let me ask you to notice, still further as drawn from this incident-

III. The simplicity of the forces to which God entrusts the growth of His Kingdom.

It is almost ludicrous to think, if it were not pathetic and sublime, of the disproportion between the end that was aimed at and the way that was taken to reach it, which the text opens before us. ‘We went out to the riverside, and we spake unto the women which resorted thither.’ That was all. Think of Europe as it was at that time. There was Greece over the hills, there was Rome ubiquitous and ready to exchange its contemptuous toleration for active hostility. There was the unknown barbarism of the vague lands beyond. Think of the established idolatries which these men had to meet, around which had gathered, by the superstitious awe of untold ages, everything that was obstinate, everything that was menacing, everything that was venerable. Think of the subtleties to which they had to oppose their unlettered message. Think of the moral corruption that was eating like an ulcer into the very heart of society. Did ever a Cortez on the beach, with his ships in flames behind him, and a continent in arms before, cast himself on a more desperate venture? And they conquered! How? What were the small stones from the brook that slew Goliath? Have we got them? Here they are, the message that they spoke, the white heat of earnestness with which they spoke it, and the divine Helper who backed them up. And we have this message. Brethren, that old word, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself,’ is as much needed, as potent, as truly adapted to the complicated civilisation of this generation, as surely reaching the deepest wants of the human soul, as it was in the days when first the message poured, like a red-hot lava flood, from the utterances of Paul. Like lava it has gone cold to-day, and stiff in many places, and all the heat is out of it. That is the fault of the speaker, never of the message. It is as mighty as ever it was, and if the Christian Church would keep more closely to it, and would realise more fully that the Cross does not need to be propped up so much as to be proclaimed, I think we should see that it is so. That sword has not lost its temper, and modern modes of warfare have not antiquated it. As David said to the high priests at Nob, when he was told that Goliath’s sword was hid behind the ephod, ‘Give me that. There is none like it.’ It was not miracles, it was the Gospel that was preached, which was ‘the power of God unto salvation.’

And that message was preached with earnestness. There is one point in which every successful servant of Jesus Christ who has done work for Him, winning men to Him, has been like every other successful servant, and there is only one point. Some of them have been wise men, some of them have been foolish. Some of them have been clad with many puerile notions and much rubbish of ceremonial and sacerdotal theories. Some of them have been high Calvinists, some of them low Arminians; some of them have been scholars, some of them could hardly read. But they have all had this one thing: they believed with all their hearts what they spake. They fulfilled the Horatian principle, ‘If you wish me to weep, your own eyes must overflow’-and if you wish me to believe, you must speak, not ‘with bated breath and whispering humbleness,’ but as if you yourself believed it, and were dead set on getting other people to believe it, too.

And then the third thing that Paul had we have, and that is the presence of the Christ. Note what it says in the context about one convert who was made that morning, Lydia, ‘whose heart the Lord opened.’ Now I am not going to deduce Calvinism or any other ‘ism’ from these words, but I pray you to note that there is emerging on the surface here what runs all through this book of Acts, and animates the whole of it, viz., that Jesus Christ Himself is working, doing all the work that is done through His servants. Wherever there are men aflame with that with which every Christian man and woman should be aflame, the consciousness of the preciousness of their Master, and their own responsibility for the spreading of His Name, there, depend upon it, will be the Christ to aid them. The picture with which one of the Evangelists closes his Gospel will be repeated: ‘They went everywhere preaching the word, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.’

Dear brethren, the vision of the man of Macedonia which drew Paul across the water from Troas to Philippi speaks to us. ‘Come over and help us,’ comes from many voices. And if we, in however humble and obscure, and as the foolish purblind world calls it, ‘small,’ way, yield to the invitation, and try to do what in us lies, then we shall find that, like Paul by the riverside in that oratory, we are building better than we know, and planting a little seed, the springing whereof God will bless. ‘Thou sowest not that which shall be, but bare grain . . . and God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him.’

Acts 16:13-15. On the sabbath we went out of the city — The Jews usually held their religious assemblies (either by choice or constraint) at a distance from the heathen; by a river side — The river Strymon, which ran between Philippi and Neapolis; where prayer was wont to be made — That is, where the Jews and their proselytes were wont to assemble for prayer. The original expression, which is peculiar and much controverted, ου ενομιζετο προσευχη ειναι, may be rendered, Where a proseucha (or place for prayer) was by law allowed. And we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither — At first in a familiar manner; for Paul did not immediately begin to preach. It appears that most or all of the congregation were women; among whom there was one Lydia, a seller of purple, who worshipped the true God — After the Jewish manner; a native of Thyatira — Who had fixed her residence in Philippi, for the sake of commerce; whose heart the Lord opened — The word διηνοιξε, here used, properly refers to the opening of the eyes; and the heart, or mind, has its eyes, Ephesians 1:18. These are closed by nature; and to open them is the peculiar work of God. Lydia, it seems, was so strongly affected with what Paul said, that she embraced the gospel with the full assurance of faith, and with all her heart. And she was baptized — It seems, immediately upon her believing, and making a profession of her faith; and her household — Those of them that were infants (if any were such) in her right, as her children, the children of believing parents having a right to be admitted to that ordinance; and those that were grown up, through her influence and authority. She and her household were baptized, by the same rule whereby Abraham and his household were circumcised, because the zeal of the covenant belongs to the covenanters and their seed. As it is not probable, that in so many households and families as are said in the New Testament to have been baptized, there was no infant; so, neither is it likely that the Jews, who had so long been accustomed to circumcise their children, would not, when they embraced the gospel, devote them to God by baptism. She besought us — Earnestly entreated us. See how the souls of the faithful cleave to those by whom they are gained to God! saying, If ye have judged me faithful to the Lord — If you have considered me as being sincere in the profession I have made of believing in the Lord Jesus, and really regard me as a true Christian; come into my house and abide there — As long as you stay in this city. This she desired, 1st, To testify her gratitude to them, who had been God’s messengers, and the instruments of his grace to her; imparting the knowledge of salvation, and producing a blessed change in her heart and life. 2d, She desired an opportunity of receiving further instruction. If she could but have them a while in her family, she might hear their heavenly discourse daily, and not only at the place of prayer on sabbath days; in her own house, also, she might not only hear them, but might make inquiries, and receive satisfaction, on many important subjects; and might have them to pray with and for her and her family daily, and thereby bring down the divine blessing upon herself and them. And she constrained us — By her importunity. The expression implies that they were reluctant to accept her invitation, being unwilling to be, in any respect, burdensome to the families of their friends, and studying to make the gospel without charge, in order that the unbelievers might have no occasion given them of reproaching the preachers of it as designing, self-seeking men; and that the Christians might have no reason to complain of the expenses of their religion. Lydia’s pressing invitations, however, overcame their reluctancy, and they at last consented to her request, and abode at her house as long as they continued at Philippi, which was many days: see Acts 16:12; Acts 16:18. During this time they laid the foundation of a numerous church, gathered both from among the Jews and the Gentiles; a church which, after the apostle’s departure, increased so exceedingly, that, when he wrote his epistle to the Philippians, they had several bishops, or presbyters, and deacons, Php 1:1.

16:6-15 The removals of ministers, and the dispensing the means of grace by them, are in particular under Divine conduct and direction. We must follow Providence: and whatever we seek to do, if that suffer us not, we ought to submit and believe to be for the best. People greatly need help for their souls, it is their duty to look out for it, and to invite those among them who can help them. And God's calls must be complied with readily. A solemn assembly the worshippers of God must have, if possible, upon the sabbath day. If we have not synagogues, we must be thankful for more private places, and resort to them; not forsaking the assembling together, as our opportunities are. Among the hearers of Paul was a woman, named Lydia. She had an honest calling, which the historian notices to her praise. Yet though she had a calling to mind, she found time to improve advantages for her soul. It will not excuse us from religious duties, to say, We have a trade to mind; for have not we also a God to serve, and souls to look after? Religion does not call us from our business in the world, but directs us in it. Pride, prejudice, and sin shut out the truths of God, till his grace makes way for them into the understanding and affections; and the Lord alone can open the heart to receive and believe his word. We must believe in Jesus Christ; there is no coming to God as a Father, but by the Son as Mediator.And on the sabbath - There is no doubt that in this city there were Jews; In the time of the apostles they were scattered extensively throughout the known world.

By a river side - What river this was is not known. It is known, however, that the Jews were accustomed to provide water, or to build their synagogues and oratories near water, for the convenience of the numerous washings before and during their religious services.

Where prayer - Where there was a place of prayer, or where prayer was commonly offered. The Greek will bear either, but the sense is the same. Places for prayer were erected by the Jews in the vicinity of cities and towns, and particularly where there were not Jewish families enough, or where they were forbidden by the magistrate to erect a synagogue. These proseuchoe, or places of prayer, were simple enclosures made of stones, in a grove or under a tree, where there would be a retired and convenient place for worship.

Was wont - Was accustomed to be offered, or where it was established by custom.

And spake unto the women ... - This was probably before the regular service of the place commenced.

13. on the sabbath day—the first after their arrival, as the words imply.

we went out of the city—rather, as the true reading is, "outside of the (city) gate."

by a river-side—one of the small streams which gave name to the place ere the city was founded by Philip of Macedon.

where prayer was wont to be made—or a prayer-meeting held. It is plain there was no synagogue at Philippi (contrast Ac 17:1), the number of the Jews being small. The meeting appears to have consisted wholly of women, and these not all Jewish. The neighborhood of streams was preferred, on account of the ceremonial washings used on such occasions.

we sat down and spake unto the women, &c.—a humble congregation, and simple manner of preaching. But here and thus were gathered the first-fruits of Europe unto Christ, and they were of the female sex, of whose accession and services honorable mention will again and again be made.

In those places where there were not enough to build a synagogue, or could not obtain leave to do it, the Jews in those countries chose more private places to meet in, which usually were near rivers, or by the seaside, removed from the noise and observance of the multitude; and these places were called proseucai, from the prayers which were usually made there; and to one of these Paul and the rest went, taking that occasion to meet with them whom they might preach the word of life unto. The women are here named, as being more numerous in those oratories, or such as most willingly heard and attended unto what was spoken.

And on the sabbath,.... That is, as the Syriac version renders it, "on the sabbath day"; the Jewish sabbath, the seventh day of the week; though the words may be rendered, "on a certain day of the week" agreeably to Acts 20:7 where the first of the sabbath means the first day of the week; but be this as it will, on this day,

we went out of the city by a river side; perhaps the river Strymon, which was near; the Alexandrian copy and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version read,

without the gate; and the Syriac version, "without the gates of the city"; all to the same sense: it looks as if there was no synagogue of the Jews in this place, or otherwise the apostle and his companions would have gone into that, according to their custom; and this the rather seems to be the case, since it is so particularly remarked, that at Thessalonica, the next place they stayed at there was one, Acts 17:1 and the reason might be, because that Philippi being a Roman colony, the Jews were not suffered to have one in it; wherefore Paul and his company, whether on the Jewish sabbath, or on any other day of the week, took a walk out of the city; either for the sake of a walk, or rather to converse together, and consider what was to be done, or to look out for an opportunity to preach the Gospel; and they came to a place,

where prayer was wont to be made; or as the words may be rendered, "where was thought to be a place of prayer"; a "proseucha", an oratory, or a place built and made use of for prayer; that is, as they walked along, they saw a place, which in their opinion looked like a religious house, or a place for prayer, and so made up to it, where they found some persons assembled together on that account: this sense is confirmed by several versions; the Vulgate Latin version reads, "where there seemed to be prayer", and so reads Beza's most ancient copy; and the Syriac version is very express, "for there was seen" , "an house of prayer"; to which agrees the Arabic version, "we went out to a certain place, which was thought to be a place of prayer"; to which may be added the Ethiopic version, "and we thought there was prayer there"; and that the Jews had their oratories, or prayer houses, is certain; See Gill on Luke 6:12 and that these were without the cities, and in the fields, appears from a passage of Epiphanius (f), who says,

"there were anciently places of prayer, both among the Jews, "without the city", and among the Samaritans, there was a place of prayer at Sichem, which is now called Neapolis, "without the city", in the field, about two stones distance, in form of a theatre, open to the air, and without covering, built by the Samaritans, who in all things imitated the Jews:''

and if these were commonly built by fountains and rivers, and as some think, in imitation of Isaac, who went out into the field, "to meditate"; which the Chaldee paraphrase renders, "to pray"; and is also in the same place said to come, as the Jerusalem paraphrase renders it, "to a well", or "fountain", Genesis 24:62 then this clause may be rendered, "where it was usual for a prayer house to be": and then the sense is, there being no synagogue in the city, the apostle and those with him went out of it, to the river side, to look out for a prayer house; where such places were wont to be built, and they accordingly found one:

and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither; who seem to have been Jewish women, who met here to attend public prayer, there being no religious worship of the true God in the city; and among these worshippers of God was Lydia, hereafter mentioned; and worship not being begun, the apostle and his companions sat down among them, and entered into some religious conversation with them, and took the opportunity of preaching the Gospel, which was what they wanted, and were seeking after.

(f) Contr. Haeres. Tom. 2. l. 3. Haeres. 80.

{7} And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where {e} prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

(7) God begins his kingdom in Macedonia by the conversion of a woman, and so shows that there is no exception of persons in the Gospel.

(e) Where they customarily assembled themselves.

Acts 16:13. Ποταμόν] i.e. not, as Bornemann and Bleek suppose, the Strymon, which is distant more than a day’s journey, but possibly the rivulet Gangas (so Zeller, Hackett), or some other stream in the neighbourhood which abounded with springs.

οὗ ἐνομίζετο προσευχὴ εἶναι] where a place of prayer was accustomed to be, i.e. where, according to custom, a place of prayer was. On νομίζεσθαι, in more esse, to be wont, see Hermann, ad Lucian. de hist. conscr. p. 244; Schweighäuser, Lex. Herod. II. p. 126 f.; from Philo, in Loesner, p. 208. Not: where, as was supposed, there was a place of prayer (Ewald), in which case we should have to supply the thought that the place did not look like a synagogue, which, however, is as arbitrary as it is historically unimportant. The προσευχαί were places of prayer, sometimes buildings, and at other times open spaces (so most probably here, as may be inferred from οὗ ἐνομίζετο εἶναι) near to streams (on account of the custom of washing the hands before prayer), to be met with in cities where synagogues did not exist or were not permitted, serving the purposes of a synagogue (Juvenal, iii. 295). See Joseph. Antt. xiv. 10. 23; Corp. inscript. II. p. 1005; Vitringa, Synag. p. 119 ff.; Rosenmüller, Morgenl. VI. p. 26 f.

ταῖς συνελθ. γυναιξί] the women who came together (to prayer). Probably the number of Jewish men in the city was extremely small, and the whole unimportant Jewish population consisted chiefly of women, some of them doubtless married to Gentiles (Acts 16:1); hence there is no mention of men being present. More arbitrary is the explanation of Calvin: “Vel ad coetus tantum muliebres destinatus erat locus ille, vel apud viros frigebat religio, ut saltem tardius adessent;” and of Schrader: the Jews had been expelled from the city.

Acts 16:13. πόλεως, see critical notes, and C. and H., p. 226, note.—παρὰ ποταμόν: “by a river side,” A. and R.V., see critical notes; here Ramsay sees in the omission of the article a touch of local familiarity and renders “by the river side”. On the other hand Weiss holds that the absence of the article merely denotes that they supposed they should find a place of prayer, since a river provided the means for the necessary purifications.—οὗ ἐνομ. προσευχὴ εἶναι, see critical notes: “where there was wont to be held a meeting for prayer” (Ramsay); on the nominative see above. A further difficulty lies in the word ἐνομίζετο. Can it bear the above rendering? Rendall, p. 103, thinks that it hardly admits of it; on the other hand Wendt and Grimm compare 2Ma 14:4, and see instances of the use of the passive voice in L. and ., Herod., vi., 138. Thuc., iv., 32. Wendt renders “where there was according to custom a place for prayer”. The R.V. reads οὗ ἐνομίζομεν προσευχὴν εἶναι, “where we supposed there was a place of prayer”. There is very good authority for rendering προσευχή, “a place of prayer,” cf. 3Ma 7:20; Philo, In Flacc., 6; Jos., Vita, 54, cf. also Juvenal, iii., 295, and Tertullian, Adv. Nat., i., 13, etc. To these instances we may add a striking use of the word in an Egyptian inscription, possibly of the third century B.C., Deissmann, Neue Bibelstudien, pp. 49, 50, see also Curtius, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii. 542. No doubt the word occurs also in heathen worship for a place of prayer, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 69, E.T., cf. also Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 214. Where there were no synagogues, owing perhaps to the smallness of the Jewish believers or proselytes, there may well have been a προσευχή, and St. Luke may have wished to mark this by the expression he chooses (in Acts 17:1 he speaks of a συναγωγή at Thessalonica), although on the other hand it must not be forgotten that προσευχή might be used of a large building capable of holding a considerable crowd (Jos., u. s.), and we cannot with certainty distinguish between the two buildings, Schürer, u. s., pp. 72, 73. That the river side (not the Strymon, but a stream, the Gangas or Gangites, which flows into the larger river) should be chosen as the place of resort was very natural for the purpose of the Levitical washings, cf. also Juvenal, Sat., iii., 11, and long before Tertullian’s day the Decree of Halicarnassus, Jos., Ant., xiv., 10, 23, cf. Psalm 137:1, Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:21, cf. Plumptre’s note on Luke 6:12.—ταῖς συνελθαύσαις γυν: “which were come together,” R.V., i.e., on this particular occasion; A. V. “resorted”. It is noticeable that in the three Macedonian towns, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berœa, women are specially mentioned as influenced by the Apostle’s labours, and, as in the case of Lydia, it is evident that the women of Philippi occupied a position of considerable freedom and social influence. See this picture fully borne out by extant Macedonian inscriptions, which assign to women a higher social position in Macedonia than was the case for instance in Athens, Lightfoot, Philippians, pp. 55, 56; Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 224, 227, 252. In this lies an answer to the strictures of Hilgenfeld, who regards the whole of Acts 16:13 as an interpolation of the “author to Theophilus,” and so also the expression πορ. ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν προσευχήν, whereas it was quite natural that Paul should go frequently to the Jewish house of prayer.

13–34. Preaching on the Sabbath at Philippi. Conversion and baptism of Lydia. A spirit of divination cast out by Paul. Anger of those who made gain thereby. Paul and Silas are seized, brought before the authorities, scourged and imprisoned, but the prison doors are opened by a miracle. Conversion and baptism of the jailor and his household

13. where prayer was wont to be made] Proseuche here and in Acts 16:16 is the place of prayer, and, adopting the reading now most accepted, the English would be “where we supposed there was a place of prayer.” (So R. V.) The Jews had such proseuchai sometimes in buildings, sometimes in the open air, as was the case in this instance. The word is found in this sense in Josephus, De vita sua, 54. They are described by Philo (ed. Mang.) ii. 282. They were very numerous in Rome (see Mayor, Juvenal, iii. 296). Because of Jewish ceremonial washings they were, when in the open air, as often as might be, near a river-side or on the sea-shore. Cp. Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:21. And no doubt the language of Psalm 137:1, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat down” applies to a similar state of things.

we sat down] The attitude adopted by Jewish teachers.

unto the women which resorted thither] Better (as R. V.), “which were come together.” The Greek refers to those gathered together on this particular occasion only. Considering the little regard which the Jews had for women as persons to be conversed with and taught, it is noteworthy how large a part women play both in the Gospel History and in the Acts. It was one effect of Christianity to place woman in her true position.

Acts 16:13. Ἔξω, outside) The Jews, either by their own wish or that of others (the nations among whom they sojourned), used to hold their meetings removed away from the Gentiles.—παρὰ ποταμὸν, by a river side) Often sacred rites were performed, and temples were built, near waters. This was convenient for purification of the body. Even independently of this cause, a shore, or land near water, is more suitable and pleasant as a place of meeting, than the middle of an open plain.—ἐνομίζετο) That νομίζεται, which is a matter of law, right, or custom.—προσευχὴ, prayer) Neither the house, nor the act of praying, is here signified, but the ordinance: Acts 16:16. There a meeting used to be held for the sake of prayer; whether there was a building there, or not. As to the house of the synagogue meeting, it is not said, οὗ ἐιομίζετο συιαγωγὴ εἶναι.—καθίσαντες, having sat down) They did not at once betake themselves to teaching.—γυναιξὶ, unto the women) If other men had been present to address them, Paul would not immediately have begun to speak: ch. Acts 13:14-15 [In the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, he waited until he was called on by the rulers of the synagogue].

Verse 13. - Sabbath day for sabbath, A.V.; we went forth without the gate for we went out of the city, A.V. and T.R. (πύλης for πολέως); we supposed there Was a place of prayer for prayer was wont to be made, A.V.; were come together for resorted thither, A.V. By a river side. By the river side is the natural way of expressing it in English. The river is not the Strymon, which is a day's journey distant from Philippi, but probably a small stream called the Gangas or Gangites, which is crossed by the Via Eguatia, about a mile out of Philippi. The neighborhood of water, either near a stream or on the seashore, was usually preferred by the Jews as a place for prayer, as affording facility for ablutions (see Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 14:10, 23; and other passages quoted by Alford). The phrase, οϋ ἐνομίζετο προσευχὴ εῖναι, should be rendered, not as in the R.V., but more nearly as the A.V., where a prayer-meeting(of the Jews) was accustomed to be held; i.e. this particular spot was the usual place where such Jews or proselytes as happened to be at Philippi met for prayer. It also appears from Epiphanius (' Hear.,' 80, § 1, quoted by Alford) that the Jews usually had their προσευχαί, whether buildings, or open spaces, ἔξω πολέως, outside the city. The wayside crosses are of the nature of προσευχαί. Acts 16:13Out of the city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως)

The best texts read τύλης, the gate.


Probably the Gangas or Gangites.

Where prayer was wont to be made (οὗ ἐνομίζετο προσευχὴ εἶναι)

The best texts read ἐνομίζομεν προσευχὴν, where we supposed there was a place of prayer. The number of Jews in Philippi was small, since it was a military and not a mercantile city; consequently there was no synagogue, but only a proseucha, or praying-place, a slight structure, and often open to the sky. It was outside the gate, for the sake of retirement, and near a stream, because of the ablutions connected with the worship.

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