Acts 16:27
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27) He drew out his sword, and would have killed himself.—We have seen in Acts 12:19 what was to be expected by a gaoler who, under any circumstances, allowed a prisoner to escape. (See also Note on Acts 27:42.) Here the man sought to anticipate his fate. Suicide was a natural resource under such conditions everywhere, but here there was a local predisposing influence. Philippi, after the great battle in which Brutus and Cassius had been defeated by Antonius, had been conspicuous for the number of those who had thus preferred death to the abandonment of the Republic and the loss of freedom. This act had been looked on as heroic (Plutarch, Brutus, c. 52), and was naturally enough contagious.

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.Would have killed himself - This was done in the midst of agitation and alarm. He supposed that the prisoners had fled. He presumed that their escape would be charged on him. It was customary to hold a jailor responsible for the safe keeping of prisoners, and to subject him to the punishment due them if he suffered them to escape. See Acts 12:19. It should be added that it was common and approved among the Greeks and Romans for a man to commit suicide when he was encompassed with dangers from which he could not escape. Thus, Cato was guilty of self-murder in Utica; and thus, at this very place - Philippi - Brutus and Cassius, and many of their friends, fell on their own swords, and ended their lives by suicide. The custom was thus sanctioned by the authority and example of the great; and we are not to wonder that the jailor, in a moment of alarm, should also attempt to destroy his own life. It is not one of the least benefits of Christianity that it has proclaimed the evil of self-murder, and has done so much to drive it from the world. 27. the keeper … awaking … drew … his sword, and would have killed himself, &c.—knowing that his life was forfeited in that case (Ac 12:19; and compare Ac 27:42). Awaking out of his sleep, by the earthquake, which being upon an extraordinary occasion, could not fail to do all that God intended by it.

Would have killed himself, for fear of suffering a more cruel death; for all jailers, who let any prisoner escape, were to suffer the same punishment that the prisoners were thought to have deserved; and self-murder was very ordinary amongst both the Romans and Grecians. But whatsoever their philosophers have said of it, it must needs have been a very great provocation against God, to show so great an aversion from God’s will, disposing of them and their concerns in this world, and challenging or daring of him to do worse by them in the world to come. Men must have sad comforts, and take desperate resolutions, that come to this at once. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep,.... Not so much by the loud voices of Paul and Silas, as by the uncommon motion of the earth, which so shook him, as thoroughly to awake him:

and seeing the prison doors open; which was the first thing in his fright he was looking after, and careful of, and which he might perceive, though it was midnight, and though as yet he had no light:

he drew out his sword; from its scabbard, which was girt about him; for it may be he had slept with his clothes on, and his sword girt to him; or if he had put on his clothes upon awaking, he had also girt himself with his sword:

and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled; especially Paul and Silas, concerning whom he had received such a strict charge from the magistrates; and he knew that according to law, he must suffer the same punishment that was designed for them; and therefore in fear of the magistrates, and what they would inflict upon him, he was just going to destroy himself.

{16} And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

(16) The merciful Lord, as often as he desires, draws men to life even through the midst of death, and whereas they justly deserved great punishment, he shows them great mercy.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 16:27-28. The jailor, aroused by the shock and the noise, hastens to the prison, and when he sees the doors which (one behind another) led to it open, and so takes it for granted that the prisoners have escaped, he wishes, from fear of the vengeance of the praetors, to kill himself—which (in opposition to Zeller’s objection) he may have sufficiently indicated by expressions of his despair. Then Paul calls, etc.

μάχαιραν] a sword, which he got just at hand (Mark 14:47); with the article it would denote the sword which he was then wearing, his sword.

ἅπαντες] Thus the rest of the prisoners, involuntarily detained by the whole miraculous event, and certainly also in part by the imposing example of Paul and Silas, had not used their release from chains (Acts 16:26) and the opening of the prison for their own liberation. The ἐνθάδε does not affirm that they had all come together into the prison of Paul, but only stands opposed to ἐκπεφευγέναι. None is away; we are, all and every one, here!

The loosening of the chains, moreover, and that without any injury to the limbs of the enchained, is, in view of the miraculous character of the event, not to be judged according to the laws of mechanics (in opposition to Gfrörer, Zeller), any more than the omission of flight on the part of the other prisoners is to be judged according to the usual practice of criminals. The prisoners were arrested, and felt themselves sympathetically detained by the miracle which had happened; and therefore the suggestion to which Chrysostom has recourse, that they had not seen the opening of the doors, is inappropriate.Acts 16:27. ἔξυπνος: only here in N.T., once in LXX, 1Es 3:3, of Darius waking from sleep.—μάχαιραν: article omitted in T.R., see critical note. Weiss thinks that the omission occurs since in Acts 12:2, and five times in Luke, no article is found with μάχαιρα. τὴν = his sword, cf. Mark 14:47.—ἤμελλεν, cf. Acts 3:3, Acts 5:35, Acts 12:6, etc., characteristic Lucan word, see Friedrich, p. 12. The act was quite natural, the act of a man who had lost in his terror his self-control (Weiss).—ἑαυτὸν ἀναιρεῖν: to avoid the disgraceful fate which would be allotted to him by Roman law, according to which the jailor was subjected to the same death as the escaped prisoners would have suffered (Wetstein, in loco), cf. Acts 12:19, Acts 27:42.—νομίζων, see on Acts 7:25. It seems hypercritical to ask, How could Paul have seen that the jailor was about to kill himself? That there must have been some kind of light in the outer prison is evident, otherwise the jailor could not have even seen that the doors were open, nor is there any difficulty in supposing that Paul out of the darkness of the inner prison would see through the opened doors any one in the outer doorway, whilst to the jailor the inner prison would be lost in darkness. Moreover, as Blass notes, Paul may have heard from the jailor’s utterances what he meant to do: “neque enim tacuisse putandus est” (see also Ramsay, Felten, Hackett, Lumby, in loco).27. And the keeper of the prison] The word is rendered jailor in 23, and might well be so here (as R. V.), otherwise the English reader supposes the Greek to be varied from this variation of translation.

awaking out of his sleep] The word is only found here in N. T., and has the sense of a startled rousing.

drew out his sword] We now say rather “drew his sword.” He probably slept in such a place that on rising he could observe at a glance whether the prison doors were secure, and had his weapon close at hand so that he might seize and use it on any emergency. He must also have been so near to the open doors before he manifested any design of suicide that the prisoners within could see what he was doing. St Paul out of the dark could observe him before the jailor could see farther than the opened doors.

would have killed himself] He knew what his fate would be. See Acts 12:19; and compare Acts 27:42, for the way in which Roman officials must answer with their lives for the escape of prisoners. Suicide under such circumstances would to the jailor’s mind present the easiest way out of his difficulties, and the teaching of even the greatest minds both of Greece and Rome was that it was justifiable and under some circumstances praiseworthy. The suicide of Cato (Catonis nobile letum) furnished a constant text for such teaching. (Cp. Cic. Tusc. 1. §§ 9–119, Plat. Apol. 40.)Acts 16:27. Ἔξυπνος, awaking out of sleep) suddenly.Verse 27. - The jailor being roused for the keeper of the prison awaking, A.V.; sleep for his sleep, A.V.; drew for he drew out, A.V.; was about to kill for would have killed, A.V.; escaped for been fled, A.V. This readiness to kill himself rather than incur the disgrace of failure in his charge is characteristic of the Roman soldier (comp. Acts 27:43). Would have killed (ἔμελλεν ἀναιρεῖν)

Rev., more correctly, was about to kill. Knowing that he must suffer death for the escape of his prisoners.

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