Acts 16:19
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace to the rulers,
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(19) That the hope of their gains was gone.—Better, of their occupation. The word for “gains” is the same as that translated “gain” and “craft” in Acts 19:24-25. There is something like a prophetic significance in the use, at this stage, of the word which was the key to nearly all the persecutions to which the early believers were exposed. Men could tolerate varieties of worship or the speculations of philosophers: they were roused to madness by that which threatened their business. The use in the Greek of the same verb for “was gone,” as had been used in the previous verse for “come out,” gives an emphasis which the English does not reproduce. Their business and the spirit of divination “passed away” together.

Paul and Silas.—Luke and Timotheus escaped, probably, as less conspicuous.

Drew them into the marketplace.—The marketplace, or Agora, was, in all Greek cities, the centre of social life. In Philippi, as a colonia, reproducing the arrangements of Rome, it would answer to the Forum, where the magistrates habitually sat. What had taken place would naturally cause excitement and attract a crowd.



Acts 16:19 - Acts 16:34

This incident gives us the Apostle’s first experience of purely Gentile opposition. The whole scene has a different stamp from that of former antagonisms, and reminds us that we have passed into Europe. The accusers and the grounds of accusation are new. Formerly Jews had led the attack; now Gentiles do so. Crimes against religion were charged before; now crimes against law and order. Hence the narrative is more extended, in accordance with the prevailing habit of the book, to dilate on the first of a series and to summarise subsequent members of it. We may note the unfounded charge and unjust sentence; the joyful confessors and the answer to their trust; the great light that shone on the jailer’s darkness.

I. This was a rough beginning of the work undertaken at the call of Christ.

Less courageous and faithful men might have thought, ‘Were we right in “assuredly gathering” that His hand pointed us hither, since this is the reception we find?’ But though the wind meets us as soon as we clear the harbour, the salt spray dashing in our faces is no sign that we should not have left shelter. A difficult beginning often means a prosperous course; and hardships are not tokens of having made a mistake.

The root of the first antagonism to the Gospel in Europe was purely mercenary. The pythoness’s masters had no horror of Paul’s doctrines. They were animated by no zeal for Apollo. They only saw a source of profit drying up. Infinitely more respectable was Jewish opposition, which was, at all events, the perverted working of noble sentiments. Zeal for religion, even when the zeal is impure and the notions of religion imperfect, is higher than mere anger at pecuniary loss. How much of the opposition since and to-day comes from the same mean source! Lust and appetite organise profitable trades, in which ‘the money has no smell,’ however foul the cesspool from which it has been brought. And when Christian people set themselves against these abominations, capital takes the command of the mob of drink-sellers and consumers, or of those from haunts of fleshly sin, and shrieks about interfering with honest industry, and seeking to enforce sour-faced Puritanism on society. The Church may be very sure that it is failing in some part of its duty, if there is no class of those who fatten on providing for sin howling at its heels, because it is interfering with the hope of their gains.

The charge against the little group took no heed of the real character of their message. It artfully put prominent their nationality. These early anti-Semitic agitators knew the value of a good solid prejudice, and of a nickname. ‘Jews’-that was enough. The rioters were ‘Romans’-of a sort, no doubt, but it was poor pride for a Macedonian to plume himself on having lost his nationality. The great crime laid to Paul’s charge was-troubling the city. So it always is. Whether it be George Fox, or John Wesley, or the Salvation Army, the disorderly elements of every community attack the preachers of the Gospel in the name of order, and break the peace in their eagerness to have it kept. There was no ‘trouble’ in Philippi, but the uproar which they themselves were making. The quiet praying-place by the riverside, and the silencing of the maiden’s shout in the streets, were not exactly the signs of disturbers of civic tranquillity.

The accuracy of the charge may be measured by the ignorance of the accusers that Paul and his friends were in any way different from the run of Jews. No doubt they were supposed to be teaching Jewish practices, which were supposed to be inconsistent with Roman citizenship. But if the magistrates had said, ‘What customs?’ the charge would have collapsed. Thank God, the Gospel has a witness to bear against many ‘customs’; but it does not begin by attacking even these, much less by prescribing illegalities. Its errand was and is to the individual first. It sets the inner man right with God, and then the new life works itself out, and will war against evils which the old life deemed good; but the conception of Christianity as a code regulating actions is superficial, whether it is held by friends or foes.

There is always a mob ready to follow any leader, especially if there is the prospect of hurting somebody. The lovers of tranquillity showed how they loved it by dragging Paul and Silas into the forum, and bellowing untrue charges against them. The mob seconded them; ‘they rose up together [with the slave-owners] against Paul and Silas.’ The magistrates, knowing the ticklish material that they had to deal with, and seeing only a couple of Jews from nobody knew where, did not think it worth while to inquire or remonstrate. They were either cowed or indifferent; and so, to show how zealous they and the mob were for Roman law, they drove a coach-and-six clean through it, and without the show of investigation, scourged and threw into prison the silent Apostles. It was a specimen of what has happened too often since. How many saints have been martyred to keep popular feeling in good tune! And how many politicians will strain conscience to-day, because they are afraid of what Luke here unpolitely calls ‘the multitude,’ or as we might render it, ‘the mob,’ but which we now fit with a much more respectful appellation!

The jailer, on his part, in the true spirit of small officials, was ready to better his instructions. It is dangerous to give vague directions to such people. When the judge has ordered unlawful scourging, the turnkey is not likely to interpret the requirement of safe keeping too leniently. One would not look for much human kindness in a Philippian jail. So it was natural that the deepest, darkest, most foul-smelling den should he chosen for the two, and that they should he thrust, bleeding backs and all, into the stocks, to sleep if they could.

II. These birds could sing in a darkened cage.

The jailer’s treatment of them after his conversion shows what he had neglected to do at first. They had no food; their bloody backs were unsponged; they were thrust into a filthy hole, and put in a posture of torture. No wonder that they could not sleep! But what hindered sleep would, with most men, have sorely dimmed trust and checked praise. Not so with them. God gave them ‘songs in the night.’ We can hear the strains through all the centuries, and they bid us be cheerful and trustful, whatever befalls. Surely Christian faith never is more noble than when it triumphs over circumstances, and brings praises from lips which, if sense had its way, would wail and groan. ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world.’ The true anaesthetic is trust in God. No wonder that the baser sort of prisoners-and base enough they probably were-’were listening to them,’ for such sounds had never been heard there before. In how many a prison have they been heard since!

We are not told that the Apostles prayed for deliverance. Such deliverance had not been always granted. Peter indeed had been set free, but Stephen and James had been martyred, and these two heroes had no ground to expect a miracle to free them. But thankful trust is always an appeal to God. And it is always answered, whether by deliverance from or support in trial.

This time deliverance came. The tremor of the earth was the token of God’s answer. It does not seem likely that an earthquake could loosen fetters in a jail full of prisoners, but more probably the opening of the doors and the falling off of the chains were due to a separate act of divine power, the earthquake being but the audible token thereof. At all events, here again, the first of a series has distinguishing features, and may stand as type of all its successors. God will never leave trusting hearts to the fury of enemies. He sometimes will stretch out a hand and set them free, He sometimes will leave them to bear the utmost that the world can do, but He will always hear their cry and save them. Paul had learned the lesson which Philippi was meant to teach, when he said, though anticipating a speedy death by martyrdom, ‘The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me into His heavenly Kingdom.’

III. The jailer behaves as such a man in his position would do.

He apparently slept in a place that commanded a view of the doors; and he lay dressed, with his sword beside him, in case of riot or attempted escape. His first impulse on awaking is to look at the gates. They are open; then some of his charge have broken them. His immediate thought of suicide not only shows the savage severity of punishment which he knew would fall on him, but tells a dreary tale of the desperate sense of the worthlessness of life and blank ignorance of anything beyond which then infected the Roman world. Suicide, the refuge of cowards or of pessimists, sometimes becomes epidemic. Faith must have died and hope vanished before a man can say, ‘I will take the leap into the dark.’

Paul’s words freed the man from one fear, but woke a less selfish and profounder awe. What did all this succession of strange things mean? Here are doors open; how came that? Here are prisoners with the possibility of escape refusing it; how came that? Here is one of his victims tenderly careful of his life and peacefulness, and taking the upper hand of him; how came that? A nameless awe begins to creep over him; and when he gets lights, and sees the two whom he had made fast in the stocks standing there free, and yet not caring to go forth, his rough nature is broken down. He recognises his superiors. He remembers the pythoness’s testimony, that they told ‘the way of salvation.’

His question seems ‘psychologically impossible’ to critics, who have probably never asked it themselves. Wonderful results follow from the judicious use of that imposing word ‘psychologically’; but while we are not to suppose that this man knew all that ‘salvation’ meant, there is no improbability in his asking such a question, if due regard is paid to the whole preceding events, beginning with the maiden’s words, and including the impression of Paul’s personality and the mysterious freeing of the prisoners.

His dread was the natural fear that springs when a man is brought face to face with God; and his question, vague and ignorant as it was, is the cry of the dim consciousness that lies dormant in all men-the consciousness of needing deliverance and healing. It erred in supposing that he had to ‘do’ anything; but it was absolutely right in supposing that he needed salvation, and that Paul could tell him how to get it. How many of us, knowing far more than he, have never asked the same wise question, or have never gone to Paul for an answer? It is a question which we should all ask; for we all need salvation, which is deliverance from danger and healing for soul-sickness.

Paul’s answer is blessedly short and clear. Its brevity and decisive plainness are the glory of the Gospel. It crystallises into a short sentence the essential directory for all men.

See how little it takes to secure salvation. But see how much it takes; for the hardest thing of all is to be content to accept it as a gift, ‘without money and without price.’ Many people have listened to sermons all their lives, and still have no clear understanding of the way of salvation. Alas that so often the divine simplicity and brevity of Paul’s answer are darkened by a multitude of irrelevant words and explanations which explain nothing!

The passage ends with the blessing which we may all receive. Of course the career begun then had to be continued by repeated acts of faith, and by growing knowledge and obedience. The incipient salvation is very incomplete, but very real. There is no reason to doubt that, for some characters, the only way of becoming Christians is to become so by one dead-lift of resolution. Some things are best done slowly; some things best quickly. One swift blow makes a cleaner fracture than filing or sawing. The light comes into some lives like sunshine in northern latitudes, with long dawn and slowly growing brightness; but in some the sun leaps into the sky in a moment, as in the tropics. What matter how long it takes to rise, if it does rise, and climb to the zenith?Acts 16:19-21. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone — Was vanished with the evil spirit that was cast out. See here of how much evil the love of money is the root! If the preaching of the gospel ruin the craft of the silversmiths, (Acts 19:24,) much more will it ruin that of the soothsayers and fortune-tellers. Hence here is a mighty outcry raised when Satan’s power is broken. The power of Christ, which appeared in dispossessing the woman, and the great kindness done to her, in delivering her out of Satan’s hand, made no impression upon them when they apprehended that they should lose money by it. They caught Paul and Silas — Timothy and Luke, it seems, not being so obnoxious to them; and drew them into the market-place — With a view to accuse them; unto the rulers — Or inferior magistrates, (as the word αρχοντας here means,)

who held their court there. And brought them Τοις στρατηγοις, to the pretors, or commanders of the army, who, it is probable, as this was a Roman colony, possessed the supreme authority in the city: saying, These men, being Jews — A nation peculiarly despised by the Romans; do exceedingly trouble our city — Disturb it in an insufferable manner; and teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive — Being such as would lead us to renounce the gods of our country, and abstain from many things which the Roman laws require. The world has received all the rules and doctrines of all the philosophers that ever were; but gospel truth has something in it peculiarly intolerable to the world; neither to observe, being Romans — “Though there was, as yet, no express law of the senate, or of the emperor, against Christians, as such, yet there was an old law of the Romans forbidding them, ‘aut novos deos, aut alienigenas colere,’ either to worship new gods, or the gods of other nations; and requiring them to worship the gods of their country; from which Christianity dissuaded men, not suffering any to worship the gods of their fathers, but requiring them to turn from these dumb idols to the living God, 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Acts 14:15.” — Whitby. Perhaps, also, they alluded to something said by the apostle relating to the kingship of Christ, concerning which we know he preached afterward, at Thessalonica, chap. Acts 17:7.16:16-24 Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers. Those who do good by drawing men from sin, may expect to be reviled as troublers of the city. While they teach men to fear God, to believe in Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives, they will be accused of teaching bad customs.The hope of their gains was gone - It was this that troubled and enraged them. Instead of regarding the act as proof of divine power, they were intent only on their profits. Their indignation furnishes a remarkable illustration of the fixedness with which people will regard wealth; of the fact that the love of it will blind them to all the truths of religion, and all the proofs of the power and presence of God; and of the fact that any interposition of divine power that destroys their hopes of gain, fills them with wrath, and hatred, and complaining. Many a man has been opposed to God and his gospel because, if religion should be extensively prevalent, his hopes of gain would be gone. Many a slave-dealer, and many a trafficker in ardent spirits, and many a man engaged in other unlawful modes of gain, has been unwilling to abandon his employments simply because his hopes of gain would be destroyed. No small part of the opposition to the gospel arises from the fact that, if embraced, it would strike at so much of the dishonorable employments of people, and make them honest and conscientious.

The market-place - The court or forum. The market-place was a place of concourse, and the courts were often held in or near those places.

The rulers - The term used here refers commonly to civil magistrates.

19. when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas—as the leading persons.

and drew them into the market-place—or Forum, where the courts were.

to the magistrates, saying, &c.—We have here a full and independent confirmation of the reality of this supernatural cure, since on any other supposition such conduct would be senseless.

Her masters; for she was a servant, or slave; and being very advantageous, might have many that had a share in her.

Their gains; the profit could not but be considerable, for they were to come with the rewards of divination in their hands, as they did to Balaam, Numbers 22:7.

Rulers: See Poole on "Matthew 16:20". And when her masters saw,.... As they might by her sedateness and composure; she not being wild and frantic, and not having such motions and agitations she had whilst under the possession of the evil spirit:

that the hope of their gains was gone; the Syriac version adds, "out of her"; namely, the evil spirit which was the ground and foundation of all their hope of gains, they expected to acquire for themselves; that being gone, they had no more work to do, nor tricks to play, nor profit to expect from the maid: wherefore

they caught Paul and Silas; they being the chief speakers, and principally concerned in the ejection of the evil spirit; they laid hold on them, took them by the collar, or held them by their clothes,

and drew them into the market place: or rather into the court of judicature, as the word also signifies; there to accuse them, and to have them tried, condemned, and punished:

unto the rulers; the judges of the court, it may be the Decuriones; for in a Roman colony as Philippi was, they chose out every tenth man, that was of capacity and ability, to make and establish a public council, and who therefore were called by this name.

{11} And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

(11) Covetousness of evil gain and of profit is an occasion for persecuting the truth. In the meanwhile, God sparing Timothy, calls Paul and Silas as the stronger to battle.

Acts 16:19-21. The first persecution which is reported to us as stirred up on the part of the Gentiles. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:2.

ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄρχονταςτοῖς στρατηγοῖς] When they saw that with the departure of the god from the slave their hope of further gain had departed (ἐξῆλθεν), they dragged Paul and Silas (not Timothy and Luke along with them, but only the two principal persons) to the market (where, according to the custom of the Greeks, the courts of justice were erected) to the archons.[58] But these, the city-judges (comp. Luke 12:58, and the archons in Athens in Hermann’s Staatsalterth. § 138), must have referred the matter to the στρατηγοί; and therefore the narrative proceeds: Κ. ΠΡΟΣΑΓΆΓΟΝΤΕς ΑὐΤΟῪς Κ.Τ.Λ. The accusation amounted to revolt against the Roman political authority.

The στρατηγοί are the praetores, as the two chief Roman magistrates (the duumviri, Cic. de leg. agr. 35) in towns which were colonies called themselves. Diod. Sic. T. X. p. 146, ed. Bip.; Arrian, Epict. ii. 1. 26; Polyb. xxxiii. 1. 5; Spanheim, ad Julian. Orat. I. p. 76, de usu et praest. num. I. p. 697, II. p. 601; Alberti, Obss. p. 253. The name has its origin from the position of the old Greek strategoi. Dem. 400, 26; Aristot. Polit. vii. 8, ed. Becker, II. p. 1322; Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 153; Dorville, ad Char. p. 447.

ἐκταράσσ.] to bring into utter disorder. See on ἐκπεπλήρωκε, Acts 13:33; Plut. Coriol. 19 : “Suberat utilitas privata; publica obtenditur” (Bengel).

ἡμῶν τ. πόλ.] ἩΜῶΝ prefixed with haughty emphasis, and answering to the following “though they are Jews.

Ῥωμαίοις οὐσι] proud contrast to the odious ἸΟΥΔΑῖΟΙ ὙΠΆΡΧΟΝΤΕς. Calvin aptly says: “Versute composita fuit haec criminatio ad gravandos Christi servos; nam ab una parte obtendunt Romanum nomen, quo nihil erat magis favorabile: rursum ex nomine Judaico, quod tunc infame erat, conflant illis invidiam; nam quantum ad religionem, plus habebant Romani affinitatis cum aliis quibuslibet, quam cum gente Judaica.”

The introduction of strange religious customs and usages (ἜΘΗ), in opposition to the native religion, was strictly interdicted by the Romans. See Wetstein in loc. Possibly here also the yet fresh impression of the edict of Claudius (see on Acts 18:2) co-operated.

[58] Not different from πολιτάρχαι, Acts 17:6.Acts 16:19. ὅτι ἐξ. ἡ ἐλπὶς κ.τ.λ.: “The most sensitive part of ‘civilised’ man is his pocket,” Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 237, and we can see how bitter was the hostility excited both here and at Ephesus when the new faith threatened existing pecuniary profits.—ἐπιλαβ.: here with hostile intent, see above on Acts 9:27 and further on Acts 17:19.—εἵλκυσαν: with violence, so ἕλκω in Jam 2:4 (Acts 21:30), cf. Saul before his conversion, Acts 8:3, σύρων. “Everywhere money the cause of evils: O that heathen cruelty! they wished the girl to be still a demoniac, that they might make money by her!” Chrys., Hom., xxx., 5.—εἰς τὴν ἀγ.: where the magistrates would sit, as in the Roman forum.ἄρχονταςστρατηγοῖς: it is of course possible that the two clauses mean the same thing, and that the expressions halt, as Lightfoot and Ramsay maintain, between the Greek form and the Latin, between the ordinary Greek term for the supreme board of magistrates in any city ἄρχοντες, and the popular Latin designation στρατηγοί, prætores (“non licet distinguere inter ἀρχ. et στρατ.,” Blass, so O. Holtzmann, Weiss, Wendt). But the former may mean the magistrates who happened to be presiding at the time in the forum, whereas the milder verb προσαγαγόντες may imply that there was another stage in the case, and that it was referred to the στρατηγοί, the prætors (as they called themselves), because they were the chief magisterial authorities, and the accusation assumed a political form. Meyer and Zöckler, H. Holtzmann distinguish between the two, as if ἄρχ. were the local magistrates of the town, cf. πολιτάρχης, Acts 17:6. In the municipia and coloniæ the chief governing power was in the hands of duoviri who apparently in many places assumed the title of prætors, cf. Cicero, De Leg. Agr., ii., 34, where he speaks with amusement of the duoviri at Capua who showed their ambition in this way, cf. Horace, Sat., i., 5, 34. A duumvir of Philippi is a title borne out by inscriptions, Lightfoot, Phil., p. 51, note; Felten, p. 315.19. that the hope of their gains was gone] The verb is exactly the same as in the last clause of the previous verse. When the evil spirit came out, there came out also the chance of more gain. What the damsel herself may have thought of her own power we cannot tell, but probably, for their end of money-making, the masters had persuaded her that her ravings were prophetic.

they caught Paul and Silas] As being the two most prominent members of the mission party.

into the market-place] The great place of concourse, and where, as in the Roman forum, would be the seat of the authorities.

unto the rulers] The Greek word is the general one for rulers, and signifies “the authorities,” the special members thereof being indicated by the next verse.Acts 16:19. Ἴδοντες, having seen) But they ought to have thought thus: The Pythoness’ spirit either with truth praised Paul, or not with truth. If not with truth, it is a false spirit; if with truth, why should we oppose Paul?Verse 19. - But for and, A.V.; gain for gains, A.V. (ἐργασία, as ver. 16); bald hold on for caught, A.V.; dragged for drew, A.V.; before for unto, A.V. The rulers (οἱ ἄρχοντες); the archons. Meyer thinks these were the city judges, or magistrates (who always had their court in the ἀγορά, or forum), by whom Paul and Silas were sent to the praetors (στρατηγοί) for judgment. So in Luke 12:58, the litigants go to the ἀρχών, first, and he sends them on to the κριτής, or judge, who orders them for punishment. This seems a more probable explanation than that commonly adopted (Howson, Alford, Renan, Lewin, etc.), that the ἄρχοντες and the στρατηγοί mean the same officers. No reason can be conceived for Luke's calling them ἄρχοντες if he meant στρατηγοί, or for naming the office's twice over when once was sufficient. Nor is it likely that officers of such high rank as the duumviri, or proctors, as they had come to be called, should be always in the forum, to try every petty case (see articles "Colonia, Duumviri," and "Praetor," in 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities'). It seems, therefore, that Meyer's explanation is right. At Athens the general term ἄρχοντες was applied to inferior magistrates, as well as to the nine archons ('Dict. of Greek and Roman Antiquities' "Archon"). Ver. 20. - When they had brought for brought, A.V.; unto for to, A.V.; they said for saying, A.V. The magistrates; στρατηγοί, i.e. the praetors. Philippi, being a colony, was governed by Roman magistrates called duumviri, corresponding to the two consuls at Rome. But we learn from Cicero that in his time the duuraviri in the colonies were beginning to be called praetors, a little previously used only at Rome ('De Leg. Agrar.,' 34), and to be preceded by lictors (ῤάβδουχαοι of ver. 35). Two inscriptions have been found in which the duumviri of Philippi are mentioned (Lewin, p. 26). Was gone (ἐξῆλθεν)

Went out with the evil spirit.

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