And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And suddenly there was a great earth quake.—Both the region and the time were, it will be remembered, conspicuous for convulsions of this kind. Cities in Asia, such as Sardis, Apamea and Laodicea, and in Campania, suffered severely under Tiberius. (See Note on Matthew 24:7.) St. Luke apparently reads the fact not as in itself miraculous, but as leading to a display of supernatural calmness and courage on the part of the Apostles, and so to the conversion of the gaoler.
Every one’s bands were loosed.—This seems, at first, beyond the range of the usual effects of an earthquake, but the chains of the prisoners were fastened, we must remember, to rings or staples in the wall, and the effect of a great shock would be to loosen the stones and so make it easy to escape. The fact that the “foundations of the prison were shaken” agrees with what has been said above (Note on Acts 16:24), as to the dungeon into which the prisoners had been thrust.
A great earthquake - Matthew 28:2. An earthquake, in such circumstances, was regarded as a symbol of the presence of God, and as an answer to prayer. See the notes on Acts 4:31. The design of this was, doubtless, to furnish them proof of the presence and protection of God, and to provide a way for them to escape. It was one among the series of wonders by which the gospel was established, and the early Christians protected amidst their dangers.
And immediately all the doors were opened - An effect that would naturally follow from the violent concussion of the earthquake. Compare Acts 5:19.
Everyone's bands were loosed - This was evidently a miracle. Some have supposed that their chains were dissolved by electric fluid; but the narrative gives no account of any such fluid, even supposing such an effect to be possible. It was evidently a direct interposition of divine power. But for what purpose it was done is not recorded. Grotius supposes that it was that they might know that the apostles might be useful to them and to others, and that by them their spiritual bonds might be loosed. Probably the design was to impress all the prisoners with the conviction of the presence and power of God, and thus to prepare them to receive the message of life from the lips of his servants Paul and Silas. They had just before heard them singing and praying; they were aware, doubtless, of the cause for which they were imprisoned; they saw evident tokens that they were the servants of the Most High, and under his protection; and their own minds were impressed and awed by the terrors of the earthquake, and by the fact of their own liberation. It renders this scene the more remarkable, that though the doors were opened, and the prisoners loosed, yet no one made any attempt to escape.
every one's bands—that is, the bands of all the prisoners.
were loosed—not by the earthquake, of course, but by a miraculous energy accompanying it. By this and the joyous strains which they had heard from the sufferers, not to speak of the change wrought on the jailer, these prisoners could hardly fail to have their hearts in some measure opened to the truth; and this part of the narrative seems the result of information afterwards communicated by one or more of these men.Suddenly; how soon is prayer answered, when the fulness of time is come! So nigh is God unto all that call upon him, Psalm 34:17 145:18.
There was a great earthquake; an earthquake did usually precede some wonderful matter, as Matthew 28:2. And although God could have delivered these his servants without an earthquake, yet, to show the more that their deliverance was his work, and it was no artifice or force of their own, he manifested his power after this manner.
Every one’s bands were loosed; either by the earthquake, or some secret power of an angel, or by God himself immediately, that the apostles and others might know that the souls of men should be loosed and set free by them, whose bodies for that purpose were now freed by God.
so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; not the roof and walls only, as is common in earthquakes, but the very foundation also; and yet the edifice was not thrown down, as is usual when the foundation is shaken:
and immediately all the doors were opened; both of the outer and inner prisons, which is another unusual effect of earthquakes:
and everyone's bands were loosed; not only the bands of Paul and Silas, but of the rest of the prisoners; though the Arabic version reads, "all the fetters and bands of both were loosed", referring it only to Paul and Silas; this circumstance shows also, that the earthquake was miraculous, for when was it ever known that such an effect ever followed one?And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 16:26. ἄφνω, see on Acts 2:2.—σεισμὸς, cf. Acts 4:31, where the divine nearness and presence were manifested in a similar manner; the neighbourhood and the period were conspicuous for such convulsions of nature, cf. Plumptre on Matthew 24:7, and Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 221.—παραχρῆμα, see critical notes.—ἀνεῴχθησάν τε … αἱ θύραι πᾶσαι: any one who has seen a Turkish prison, says Prof. Ramsay, will not wonder at this; “each door was merely closed by a bar, and the earthquake, as it passed along the ground, forced the door-posts apart from each other, so that the bar slipped from its hold, and the door swung open,” and see further description on same page.—ἀνέθη, cf. Acts 27:40, nowhere else in N.T. in same sense; in LXX we have the same collocation of words in Malachi 4:2. See also for the phrase, Plut., Alex., 73; see Winer-Schmiedel, p. 101. If we ask, Why did not the prisoners escape? the answer is that a semi-Oriental mob would be panic-stricken by the earthquake, and there is nothing strange in the fact that they made no dash for safety; moreover, the opportunity must have been very quickly lost, for the jailor was not only roused himself, but evidently called at once to the guard for lights; see Ramsay’s description, u. s., and the comments of Blass, in loco, and Felten, note, p. 318, to the same effect as Ramsay, that the prisoners were panic-stricken, and had no time to collect their thoughts for flight.26. And suddenly there was a great earthquake] Just as the place wherein the Apostles prayed (Acts 4:31) was shaken, so here God testifies that He is near at hand.
and every one’s bands were loosed] The sense in which these words are to be taken may be gathered from the rest of the description. The chains (δεσμὰ) were made fast to the wall, and the shock which burst asunder the bolts of the doors also released the fastenings which held the chains in the masonry.Acts 16:26. Πάντων, of all) even of the prisoners, in whose minds a great change (conversion) ensued.Verse 26. - Prison-house for prison, A.V., as Acts 5:21, 23. All the doors were opened. This would be the natural effect of the earthquake. Bands (δεσμά). St. Luke always follows the Attic usage of δεσμόν, in the neuter (romp. Acts 20:23; Luke 8:29). St. Paul follows the Hellenistic usage of δεσμός, in the masculine (Philippians 1:13; see Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 5:5; Habakkuk 3:13). In many instances (genitive and dative) it is, of course, impossible to determine whether the word is masculine or neuter.
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