Acts 16:25
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God: and the prisoners heard them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises.—Better, praying, they Were singing hymns, the Greek expressing one act rather than two. The act was, we may believe, habitual, and they would not intermit it even in the dungeon, and fastened as they were, so that they could not kneel. The hymn may have been one of the prayer-psalms of David, or possibly one of those, of which Pliny speaks in his letters, and which may well have been in use half a century earlier, in which men offered adoration to Christ as God (Epist. x. 96). The words of Tertullian to the martyrs of his time may well be quoted: Nihil crus sentit in nervo quum animus in cælo est; Etsi corpus detinetur, omnia spiritui patent—“The leg feels not the stocks when the mind is in heaven. Though the body is held fast, all things lie open in the spirit” (ad Mart. c. 2).

And the prisoners heard them.—Better, were listening eagerly, the kind of listening which men give to a musical performance. Never before, we may be sure, had those outcasts and criminals heard such sounds in such a place. For the most part those vaults echoed only with wild curses and foul jests.

Acts 16:25-28. At midnight Paul and Silas prayed — Doubtless, for their persecutors as well as for themselves; and sang praises unto God — Notwithstanding weariness, hunger, stripes, and blood; and the prisoners heard them — Heard a song to which they had not been accustomed, and such as had never been heard in that prison before. And suddenly — While they were thus engaged; there was a great earthquake — A token of God’s favour toward them, and threatening vengeance to their persecutors; so that the foundations of the prison were shaken — And probably of the neighbouring buildings also; and immediately — By the force of the earthquake; all the doors were opened, and, in the same moment, every one’s bands were miraculously loosed — Yet the spirits of the prisoners were impressed with such astonishment, that none of them attempted to escape. And the keeper of the prison — Who, it seems, resided in a part of it, not far from the ward where Paul and Silas lay; awaking out of sleep — Upon this violent concussion of the earth; and seeing the prison-doors open — Was in such consternation, that he drew his sword and would have killed himself — If he had not been prevented by the apostle, to avoid a more severe punishment, supposing that all the prisoners had escaped. For by the Roman laws, in that case, the keeper was liable to the same punishment that awaited the criminals who had escaped. But Paul cried, &c. — As they were all then in the dark, it is not easy to say how Paul knew of the jailer’s purpose, unless it were by hearing same desperate words that declared it, or by some immediate suggestion from God, which is by no means incredible; with a loud voice — Through earnestness, and because he was at some distance; Do thyself no harm — Although the Christian faith opens a bright prospect into another life, yet it absolutely forbids, and effectually prevents, a man’s discharging himself from this. For we are all here — And none of us will take the opportunity of escaping, while the hand of God is working thus awfully around us. 16:25-34 The consolations of God to his suffering servants are neither few nor small. How much more happy are true Christians than their prosperous enemies! As in the dark, so out of the depths, we may cry unto God. No place, no time is amiss for prayer, if the heart be lifted up to God. No trouble, however grievous, should hinder us from praise. Christianity proves itself to be of God, in that it obliges us to be just to our own lives. Paul cried aloud to make the jailer hear, and to make him heed, saying, Do thyself no harm. All the cautions of the word of God against sin, and all appearances of it, and approaches to it, have this tendency. Man, woman, do not ruin thyself; hurt not thyself, and then none else can hurt thee; do not sin, for nothing but that can hurt thee. Even as to the body, we are cautioned against the sins which do harm to that. Converting grace changes people's language of and to good people and good ministers. How serious the jailer's inquiry! His salvation becomes his great concern; that lies nearest his heart, which before was furthest from his thoughts. It is his own precious soul that he is concerned about. Those who are thoroughly convinced of sin, and truly concerned about their salvation, will give themselves up to Christ. Here is the sum of the whole gospel, the covenant of grace in a few words; Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The Lord so blessed the word, that the jailer was at once softened and humbled. He treated them with kindness and compassion, and, professing faith in Christ, was baptized in that name, with his family. The Spirit of grace worked such a strong faith in them, as did away further doubt; and Paul and Silas knew by the Spirit, that a work of God was wrought in them. When sinners are thus converted, they will love and honour those whom they before despised and hated, and will seek to lessen the suffering they before desired to increase. When the fruits of faith begin to appear, terrors will be followed by confidence and joy in God.And at midnight - Probably their painful posture, and the sufferings of their recent scourging, prevented their. sleeping. Yet, though they had no repose, they had a quiet conscience, and the supports of religion.

Prayed - Though they had suffered much, yet they had reason to apprehend more. They sought, therefore, the sustaining grace of God.

And sang praises - Compare the notes on Job 35:10. Nothing but religion would have enabled them to do this. They had endured much, but they had cause still for gratitude. The Christian may find more true joy in a prison than the monarch on his throne.

And the prisoners heard them - And doubtless with astonishment. Prayer and praise are not common in a prison. The song of rejoicing and the language of praise is not usual among men lying bound in a dungeon. From this narrative we may learn:

(1) That the Christian has the sources of his happiness within him. External circumstances cannot destroy his peace and joy. In a dungeon he may find as real happiness as on a throne. On the cold earth, beaten and bruised, he may be as truly happy as on a bed of down.

(2) the enemies of Christians cannot destroy their peace. They may incarcerate the body, but they cannot bind the spirit, They may exclude from earthly comforts, but they cannot shut them out from the presence and sustaining grace of God.

(3) we see the value of a good conscience. Nothing else can give peace; and amidst the wakeful hours of the night, whether in a dungeon or on a bed of sickness, it is of more value than all the wealth of the world.

(4) we see the inestimable worth of the religion of Christ. It fits for all scenes; supports in all trials; upholds by day or by night; inspires the soul with confidence in God; and puts into the lips the songs of praise and thanksgiving.

(5) we have here a sublime and holy scene which sin and infidelity could never furnish. What more sublime spectacle has the earth witnessed than that of scourged and incarcerated men, suffering from unjust and cruel inflictions, and anticipating still greater sorrows; yet, with a calm mind, a pure conscience, a holy joy, pouring forth their desires and praises at midnight, into the ear of the God who always hears prayer! The darkness, the stillness, the loneliness, all gave sublimity to the scene, and teach us how invaluable is the privilege of access to the throne of mercy in this suffering world.

25. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises—literally, "praying, were singing praises"; that is, while engaged in pouring out their hearts in prayer, had broken forth into singing, and were hymning loud their joy. As the word here employed is that used to denote the Paschal hymn sung by our Lord and His disciples after their last Passover (Mt 26:30), and which we know to have consisted of Ps 113:1-118:29, which was chanted at that festival, it is probable that it was portions of the Psalms, so rich in such matter, which our joyous sufferers chanted forth; nor could any be more seasonable and inspiring to them than those very six Psalms, which every devout Jew would no doubt know by heart. "He giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10). Though their bodies were still bleeding and tortured in the stocks, their spirits, under "the expulsive power of a new affection," rose above suffering, and made the prison wails resound with their song. "In these midnight hymns, by the imprisoned witnesses for Jesus Christ, the whole might of Roman injustice and violence against the Church is not only set at naught, but converted into a foil to set forth more completely the majesty and spiritual power of the Church, which as yet the world knew nothing of. And if the sufferings of these two witnesses of Christ are the beginning and the type of numberless martyrdoms which were to flow upon the Church from the same source, in like manner the unparalleled triumph of the Spirit over suffering was the beginning and the pledge of a spiritual power which we afterwards see shining forth so triumphantly and irresistibly in the many martyrs of Christ who were given up as a prey to the same imperial might of Rome" [Neander in Baumgarten].

and the prisoners heard them—literally, "were listening to them," that is, when the astounding events immediately to be related took place; not asleep, but wide awake and rapt (no doubt) in wonder at what they heard.

No time or place where prayer is not acceptable unto God, and prevalent with him; nay, it sounds the sweeter when on the waters of affliction a good man pours it forth unto God.

Sang praises unto God, that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ: and being all things are overruled for the good, and conduce to the advantage, of them that love God, Romans 8:28, they owe unto God thanks for all things through Jesus Christ, which is also required of them, Ephesians 5:20. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, When others were asleep, and all things were still and quiet; See Gill on Psalm 119:62, and they prayed doubtless for themselves, for their deliverance in God's time and way, and for support under their present afflictions; and for supplies of grace, to enable them to bear with patience and cheerfulness, until an issue was put to them; and for their enemies, and, particularly it may be for the jailer, who had used them so ill; and for the churches of Christ, for all the saints, and for the spread and success of the Gospel:

and sang praises unto God; or "sang an hymn to God", very likely one of David's psalms, or hymns: for the book of Psalms is a book, of hymns, and several of the psalms are particularly called hymns; this showed not only that they were cheerful, notwithstanding the stripes that were laid upon them, and though their feet were made fast in the stocks, and they were in the innermost prison, in a most loathsome and uncomfortable condition; and though they might be in expectation of greater punishment, and of death itself; but also that they were thankful and glorified God, who had counted them worthy to suffer for his name's sake:

and the prisoners heard them; for it seems there were other prisoners besides them, and who were in the outer prison: and from hence it appears, that their prayer was not merely mental; nor was their singing praises only a making melody in their hearts, but were both vocal; and it might be chiefly for the sake of the prisoners, that they both prayed and praised in this manner, that they might hear and be converted; or at least be convicted of the goodness of the cause, for which the apostles suffered.

{15} And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

(15) The prayers of the godly do shake both heaven and earth.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 16:25-26. In joyful consciousness of suffering for the glorification of Christ (Acts 5:41), they sing in the solemn stillness of the night prayers of praise to God,[59] and thereby keep their fellow-prisoners awake, so that they listened to them (ἐπηκροῶντο). Whether these are to be conceived as confined in the same ἐσωτέραν φυλακήν, or possibly near to it but more to the front, or whether they were in both localities, cannot be determined. Then suddenly there arises an earthquake, etc. God at once rewards—this is the significant relation of Acts 16:25-26—the joy of faith and of suffering on the part of Paul and Silas by miraculous interposition. The objection, which Baur and Zeller (comp. Gfrörer, heil. Sage, I. p. 446) take to the truth of this narrative, turns on the presupposed inconceivableness of miracles in general. In connection with the fiction assumed by them, even the ἐπηκροῶντοδέσμιοι is supposed only to have for its object “to make good the causal connection between the earthquake and the prayer” (Zeller).

πάντων] thus also of those possibly to be found in other parts of the prison. On ἀνέθη, comp. Plut. Alex. 73: τοὺς δεσμοὺς ἀνεῖναι, Eustath. ad Od. viii. p. 313. 17. The reading ἀνελύθη (Bornemann) is a correct gloss.

[59] “Nihil crus sentit in nervo, quum animus in coelo est,” Tertull.Acts 16:25. κατὰ δὲ τὸ μεσονύκτιον: neuter of the adjective μεσονύκτιος, cf. Acts 20:7, Luke 11:5, elsewhere only in Mark 13:35, often in medical writers, also in Arist., Strabo, Plutarch; in LXX, Jdg 16:3 A, Ruth 3:8, Ps. 118:62 (Isaiah 59:10).—προσευχόμενοι, see on chap. Acts 12:12.—ὕμνουν with accusative Hebrews 2:12 only, cf. Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Trench, Syn[297], ii., 129. “Hoc erat gaudium in Spiritu sancto: in carcere ubi nec genua flectere, nec manus tollere poterant” Wetstein, cf. too the often-quoted words of Tertullian Ad Martyres, ii.: “Nihil crus sentit in nervo quum animus in cœlo est,” and Chrys., Hom., xxxvi., “This let us also do, and we shall open for ourselves—not a prison, but heaven. If we pray, we shall be able even to open heaven. Elias both shut and opened heaven by prayer.”—ἐπηκροῶντο: used by Plato (Comicus), and referred to by Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, p. 73, as one of the rare words mainly colloquial common to N.T. and the comic poets; it occurs also in Lucian, and in Test., xii., Patr. Not found in LXX (but the cognate noun of hearing so as to obey in 1 Samuel 15:22). But it is peculiar to St. Luke in N.T., and it was the technical word in medical language for auscultation; the word might therefore naturally be employed by him to denote attentive hearing as God “gave songs in the night”. Both verbs ὕμν. and ἐπηκ. are in the imperfect; they were singing, and the prisoners were listening, when the earthquake happened.

[297] synonym, synonymous.25. And at midnight] Sleep being out of the question, they passed the night in devotions. The imperfect tenses of the verbs in this verse imply that the prayers and singing were continued. But it is unnecessary to render (as R. V.) “Paul and Silas were praying … and the prisoners were listening, &c.”

unto God] Whose bondservants the damsel had called them (Acts 16:17). Now they are in bonds for His name, and He gives them His comfort and refreshing in a manner strange to those who are not His servants.

and the prisoners heard them] The inner prison appears to have held more than Paul and Silas, or it may be that bars in the inner walls allowed the sound to pass into other cells. The verb is not the common one for “hearing,” and is rarely found anywhere. It indicates attentive hearkening.Acts 16:25. Μεσονύκτιον, at midnight) a customary hour with them for singing hymns and praying, as is probable. This is the night occupation of the saints in their waking moments.—προσευχόμενοι, praying) macerated (worn) as they were with scourging, with loss of blood, and with hunger.—ἐπηκροῶντο, were listening) with delight.—οἱ δέσμιοι, the prisoners) To them it was a novel entertainment to hear (acroama).Verse 25. - But about for and at, A.V.; were praying and singing hymns for prayed and sang praises, A.V.; were listening to(imperfect) for heard, A.V. Prayed, etc. Their proseuche was now the dungeon and the sleeks. But, though they were but two, the Lord was in the midst of them, according to his promise, and manifested his gracious presence in the striking deliverance which follows. Were listening to them; ἐπακροάομαι, found only here in the New Testament. But the substantive, ἐπακρόασις, hearkening ("to hearken," A.V.), occurs in the LXX. of 1 Samuel 15:22. What a scene I The dark inner dungeon; the prisoners fast in the stocks, their backs still bleeding and smarting from the stripes; the companionship of criminals and outcasts of society; the midnight hour; and not groans, or curses, or complaints, but joyous trustful songs of praise ringing through the vault! while their companions in the jail listened with astonishment to the heavenly sound in that place of shame wad sorrow. Prayed and sang praises (προσευχόμενοι ὕμνουν)

Lit., praying, they sang hymns. The praying and the praise are not described as distinct acts. Their singing of hymns was their prayer, probably Psalms.

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