Acts 16:20
And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
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(20) The magistrates.—The Greek word used (Stratêgi, literally, generals—the name survived in 1750 in the Italian Stradigo, used of the prefect of Messina) is used with St. Luke’s usual accuracy, for the prætors, or duumviri, who formed the executive of the Roman colonia.

These men, being Jews.—We must remember that the decree of Claudius (see Note on Acts 18:2), banishing the Jews from Rome on account of their disturbing that city, would be known, and probably acted on, at Philippi (see Notes on Acts 16:12-13), and would give a special force to the accusation. Here, also, there is something specially characteristic of the nature of many of the early persecutions. Christians were exposed, on the one hand, to the relentless enmity of the Jews, and, on the other, they were identified by heathen rulers and mobs with the Jews, and so came in, where the latter were the objects of popular antipathy, for a two-fold measure of suffering.

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.And brought them to the magistrates - To the military rulers στρατηγοῖς stratēgois or praetors. Philippi was a Roman colony, and it is probable that the officers of the army exercised the double function of civil and military rulers.

Do exceedingly trouble our city - In what way they did it they specify in the next verse. The charge which they wished to substantiate was that of being disturbers of the public peace. All at once they became conscientious. They forgot the subject of their gains, and were greatly distressed about the violation of the laws. There is nothing that will make people more hypocritically conscientious than to denounce, and detect, and destroy their unlawful and dishonest practices. People who are thus exposed become suddenly filled with reverence for the Law or for religion, and they who have heretofore cared nothing for either become greatly alarmed lest the public peace should be disturbed. People slumber quietly in sin, and pursue their wicked gains; they hate or despise all law and all forms of religion; but the moment their course of life is attacked and exposed, they become full of zeal for laws that they Would not themselves hesitate to violate, and for the customs of religion which in their hearts they thoroughly despise. Worldly-minded people often thus complain that their neighborhoods are disturbed by revivals of religion; and the preaching of the truth, and the attacking of their vices, often arouses this hypocritical conscientiousness, and makes them alarmed for the laws, and for religion, and for order, which they at other times are the first to disturb and disregard.

20. These men, being Jews—objects of dislike, contempt, and suspicion by the Romans, and at this time of more than usual prejudice.

do exceedingly trouble our city—See similar charges, Ac 17:6; 24:5; 1Ki 18:17. There is some color of truth in all such accusations, in so far as the Gospel, and generally the fear of God, as a reigning principle of human action, is in a godless world a thoroughly revolutionary principle … How far external commotion and change will in any case attend the triumph of this principle depends on the breadth and obstinacy of the resistance it meets with.

Magistrates, the same who are called rulers; and the word here shows, that they were under the power of the sword, and ruled by the Romans; though the rulers spoken of in the former verse might be the civil magistrates of the city, and the magistrates here mentioned might be the commanders of the forces therein. They carried them, as they did our Saviour, from one to the other, the more to disgrace them, and to obtain the greater punishment for them. They mention their

being Jews, because it was a most odious name unto all men, by reason of their different opinions in religion, and diversity of manners in conversation from all. And brought them to the magistrates,.... The same as before; wherefore the Syriac version omits them there, and reads them both together here, calling them the magistrates and chief men of the city; though the word here used, properly signifies military captains, captains of the Roman militia: but that they were the same with the Decuriones, or ten men before mentioned, appears from what Harpocratian says (k), that every year were chosen "ten magistrates", the word here used:

saying, these men being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city; they call Paul and Silas Jews, either because they knew them to be so, or because they attended at the Jewish oratory, or place of worship; and it was common with the Romans to call the Christians Jews; they were generally included in the same name; and this name of the Jews was become very odious with the Romans; a little after this, Claudius commanded them, the Jews, to depart from Rome, Acts 18:2 they were commonly looked upon as a troublesome and seditious sort of people, and indeed this was the old charge that was fastened upon them, Ezra 4:15. So that it was enough to say that Paul and Silas were Jews, to prove them to be disturbers of the public peace: and it is to be observed, that their accusers make no mention of the dispossessing of the maid, who was their private property, and which was a private affair; but pretend a concern for the public welfare, and bring a charge of public disturbance and detriment, to which their malice and revenge prompted them, hoping in this way the better to succeed: the Arabic version reads, "these two men trouble our city, and they are both Jews".

(k) Lexicon, p. 274.

{12} And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

(12) Covetousness pretends a desire for common peace and godliness.

Acts 16:20. οὗτοι, contemptuously Ἰουδ. ὄντες: If the decree of Claudius expelling the Jews from Rome had been enacted, it would have easily inflamed the minds of the people and the magistrates at Philippi against the Jews (cf. Acts 18:2, so Holtzmann). Of the bad odour in which the Jews were held we have also other evidences, cf. Cicero, Proverbs Flacco, xxviii.; Juvenal, xiv., 96–106. On the attitude of the Romans towards the Jews see Sanday and Headlam, Romans, p. xix. ff. It was of this intense feeling of hatred and contempt felt by Romans and Greeks alike that the masters of the maiden availed themselves: “causa autem alia atque prætextus caussæ,” Blass; the real cause was not a religious but a social and mercenary one, see above on Acts 16:19, and Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 131; where the accusation was brought on purely religious grounds, as, e.g., at Corinth, Acts 18:13, the Roman governor declined to be judge of such matters.—ἐκταράσσουσιν: “exceedingly trouble” (ἐκ), cf. LXX, Ps. 17:4, 87:16, Wis 17:3-4, see Hatch and Redpath, xviii., 7; Plut., Cor[295], 19., more often in classical Greek, συνταράσσω.

[295] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.20. and brought them to the magistrates] These strategoi were the duumviri, the two praetors specially appointed to preside over the administration of justice, in cases where there was no appeal to Rome, in the municipia and colonies of the Romans. The title in the Greek seems to indicate somewhat of a military authority, which could administer summary punishment.

being Jews] On the ways in which Roman aversion was aroused and exhibited towards the Jews, for their religious exclusiveness, see Mayor, Juvenal, xiv. 96–106 notes, with the authorities there given.

do exceedingly trouble] Only found here in the N. T. The kind of trouble is indicated Acts 17:6, “These that have turned the world upside down” is their description.Acts 16:20. Στρατηγοῖς, to the magistrates) These administered at once the civil and military power: however, they were inferior to the rulers, οἱ ἄρχοντες, Acts 16:19, with which comp. Acts 16:22, note [wherein it appears that these στρατηγοὶ, magistrates, stripped off the clothes of Paul, an act which the ἄρχοντες would not have been likely to have stooped to].—ἐκταράσσουσιν, exceedingly trouble) They mean to say, These men bring the city from (ἐκ) a state of peace into disturbances.—πόλιν, city) Their private interest was the real motive hidden beneath; the public interest is made the ostensible plea.—Ἰουδαῖοι, Jews) An invidious appellation [they employ it to excite odium against them]. The antithesis is Romans.Magistrates (στρατηγοῖς)

Their usual name was duumviri, answering to the consuls of Rome; but they took pride in calling themselves στρατηγοί, or praetors, as being a more honorable title. This is the only place in the Acts where Luke applies the term to the rulers of a city. See Introduction to Luke.


Who at this time were in special disgrace, having been lately banished from Rome by Claudius (see Acts 18:2). The Philippians do not appear to have recognized the distinction between Christians and Jews.

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