Acts 17:26
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
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(26) And hath made of one blood all nations of men.—Literally, every nation. The previous verses had given what we may venture to call St. Paul’s Philosophy of Religion. This gives his Philosophy of History. And the position was one which no Greek, above all, no Athenian, was likely to accept. For him the distinction between the Greek and the barbarian was radical and essential. The one was by nature meant to be the slave of the other. (Aristot. Pol. i. 2, 6.) In rising above his own prejudices of fancied superiority of race, the Apostle felt that he could attack, as from a vantage-ground, the prejudices of others. He naturally accepted the truth as it was presented to him in the Mosaic history of the Creation; but the truth itself, stated in its fullest form, would remain, even if we were to accept other theories of the origin of species and the history of man. There is a oneness of physical structure, of conditions and modes of life, of possible or actual development, which forbids any one race or nation, Hebrew, Hellenic, Latin, or Teutonic, to assume for itself that it is the cream and flower of humanity.

Hath determined the times before appointed.—The better MSS. give simply, “the appointed seasons.” Few words, even in St. Paul’s teaching, are more pregnant with significance. They justify all that the wise of heart have said as to the “manifold wisdom of God,” as seen in history and in the education of mankind. The special gifts of character of each race—Hebrew thought of God, Greek sense of beauty, Roman sense of law, Teutonic truthfulness, Keltic impulsiveness, docility—have all their work to do. All local circumstances of soil and climate that influence character come under the head of the “bounds of men’s habitation.” All conditions of time—the period at which each race has been called to play its part in the drama of the world’s history—come under the head of the “appointed seasons.”

17:22-31 Here we have a sermon to heathens, who worshipped false gods, and were without the true God in the world; and to them the scope of the discourse was different from what the apostle preached to the Jews. In the latter case, his business was to lead his hearers by prophecies and miracles to the knowledge of the Redeemer, and faith in him; in the former, it was to lead them, by the common works of providence, to know the Creator, and worship Him. The apostle spoke of an altar he had seen, with the inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. This fact is stated by many writers. After multiplying their idols to the utmost, some at Athens thought there was another god of whom they had no knowledge. And are there not many now called Christians, who are zealous in their devotions, yet the great object of their worship is to them an unknown God? Observe what glorious things Paul here says of that God whom he served, and would have them to serve. The Lord had long borne with idolatry, but the times of this ignorance were now ending, and by his servants he now commanded all men every where to repent of their idolatry. Each sect of the learned men would feel themselves powerfully affected by the apostle's discourse, which tended to show the emptiness or falsity of their doctrines.And hath made of one blood - All the families of mankind are descended from one origin or stock. However different their complexion, features, or language, yet they are derived from a common parent. The word blood is often used to denote "race, stock, kindred." This passage affirms that all the human family are descended from the same ancestor; and that, consequently, all the variety of complexion, etc., is to be traced to some other cause than that they were originally different races created. See Genesis 1; compare Malachi 2:10. The design of the apostle in this affirmation was probably to convince the Greeks that he regarded them all as brethren; that, although he was a Jew, yet he was not enslaved to any narrow notions or prejudices in reference to other people. It follows from the truth here stated that no one nation, and no individual, can claim any pre-eminence over others in virtue of birth or blood. All are in this respect equal; and the whole human family, however they may differ in complexion, customs, and laws, are to be regarded and treated as brethren. It follows, also, that no one part of the race has a right to enslave or oppress any other part, on account of difference of complexion. No one has a right because:

He finds his fellow guilty of a skin

Not colored like his own; and having power

T' enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause to

Doom and devote him as his lawful prey.

For to dwell ... - To cultivate and until the earth. This was the original command Genesis 1:28; and God, by his providence, has so ordered it that the descendants of one family have found their way to all lands, and have become adapted to the climate where he has placed them.

And hath determined - Greek: ὁρίσας horisas. Having fixed, or marked out a boundary. See the notes on Romans 1:4. The word is usually applied to a field. It means here that God "marked out," or "designated in his purpose," their future abodes.

The times before appointed - This evidently refers to the dispersion and migration of nations. And it means that God had, in his plan, fixed the times when each country should be settled, and the rise, the prosperity, and the fall of each nation. The different continents and islands have not, therefore, been settled by chance, but by a wise rule, and in accordance with God's arrangement and design.

And the bounds of their habitation - Their limits and boundaries as a people. By customs, laws, inclinations, and habits he has fixed the boundaries of their habitations, and disposed them to dwell there. We may learn:

(1) That the revolutions and changes of nations are under the direction of infinite wisdom;

(2) That people should not be restless and dissatisfied with the place where God has located them;

(3) That God has given sufficient limits to all, so that it is not needful to invade others; and,

(4) That wars of conquest are evil.

God has given to people their places of abode, and we have no right to disturb those abodes, or to attempt to displace them in a violent manner. This strain of remark by the apostle was also opposed to all the notions of the Epicurean philosophers, and yet so obviously true and just that they could not gainsay or resist it.

26, 27. and hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth—Holding with the Old Testament teaching, that in the blood is the life (Ge 9:4; Le 17:11; De 12:23), the apostle sees this life stream of the whole human race to be one, flowing from one source [Baumgarten].

and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation—The apostle here opposes both Stoical Fate and Epicurean Chance, ascribing the periods and localities in which men and nations flourish to the sovereign will and prearrangements of a living God.

Hath made of one blood:

1. To teach all charity and compassion towards one another, being so nearly allied to one another.

2. As also to admire God more in that variety that appears in men’s shapes and voices, but especially in the dispositions of their minds; whenas they all come from one stock and stem.

Hath determined the times. &c.: the apostle asserts the providence of God against these Athenian philosophers, that nothing comes by chance, or a fatuitous concourse of atoms; but that God is in every thing, though men know it not, or rather will not consider it, Job 7:1 14:5,14. This doctrine was preached by Moses, who tells the people, that God is their life, and the length of their days, that they might love him, and obey his voice, and cleave unto him, Deu 30:20.

And hath made of one blood,.... That is, of one man's blood; the Vulgate Latin version reads, "of one"; and the Arabic version of De Dieu reads, "of one man"; of Adam, the first parent of all mankind, and who had the blood of all men in his veins: hence the Jews (u) say,

"the first man was , "the blood of the world";''

and this by propagation has been derived from him, and communicated to all mankind. They also say (w), that

"the reason why man was created alone (or there was but one man created) was, on account of families, that they might not be stirred up one against another;''

that is, strive and contend with one another about pre-eminence: and they add,

"that the righteous might not say we are the sons of the righteous, and ye are the sons of the wicked.''

And it is a certain truth that follows upon this, that no man has any reason to vaunt over another, and boast of his blood and family; and as little reason have any to have any dependence upon their being the children of believers, or to distinguish themselves from others, and reject them as the children of unbelievers, when all belong to one family, and are of one man's blood, whether Adam or Noah: of whom are

all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth; for from Adam sprung a race of men, which multiplied on the face of the earth, and peopled the world before the flood; these being destroyed by the flood, and Noah and his family saved, his descendants were scattered all over the earth, and repeopled it: and this is the original of all the nations of men, and of all the inhabitants of the earth; and stands opposed to the fabulous accounts of the Heathens, which the apostle might have in his view, that men at first grew up out of the earth, or after the flood were formed of stones, which Deucalion and Prometheus threw over their heads; and particularly the Athenians boasted that they sprung out of the earth, which Diogenes ridiculed as common with mice and worms. But the apostle ascribes all to one blood:

and hath determined the times before appointed; how long the world he has made shall continue; and the several distinct periods, ages, and generations, in which such and such men should live, such and such nations should exist, and such monarchies should be in being, as the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman, and how long they should subsist; as also the several seasons of the year, as seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night; and which are so bounded, and kept so distinct in their revolutions, as not to interfere with, and encroach upon each other; and likewise the several years, months, and days of every man's life; see Job 7:1 to which may be added, the times of the law and Gospel; the time of Christ's birth and death; the time of the conversion of particular persons; and all their times of desertion, temptation, affliction, and comfort; the times of the church's sufferings, both under Rome Pagan and Rome Papal; of the holy city being trodden under foot, of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, and of their being killed, and their bodies lying unburied, and of their resurrection and ascension to heaven, Revelation 2:10 Revelation 11:12 the time of antichrist's reign and ruin, Revelation 13:5 and of Christ's personal coming, and the day of judgment, 1 Timothy 6:15 and of his reign on earth for a thousand years, Revelation 20:4. All these are appointed times, and determined by the Creator and Governor of the world:

and the bounds of their habitation; where men shall dwell, and how long they shall continue there the age or distinct period of time, in which every man was, or is to come into the world, is fixed and determined by God; nor can, nor does anyone come into the world sooner or later than that time; and also the particular country, city, town, and spot of ground where he shall dwell; and the term of time how long he shall dwell there, and then remove to another place, or be removed by death. And to this agrees the Ethiopic version, which renders the whole thus, "and hath appointed his times, and his years, how long they shall dwell"; see Deuteronomy 32:8 to which the apostle seems to refer.

(u) Caphtor, fol. 37. 2.((w) T. Hieros. Sanhedrin, fol. 22. 2.

{14} And hath made of {o} one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

(14) God is wonderful in all his works, but especially in the work of man: not that we should stand amazed at his works, but that we should lift our eyes to the workman.

(o) Of one stock and one beginning.

Acts 17:26-27. “The single origin of men and their adjusted diffusion upon the earth was also His work, in order that they should seek and find Him who is near to all.”

ἐποίσεκατοικεῖν] He has made that, from (proceeding from) one blood, every nation of men should dwell upon all the face of the earth (comp. Genesis 11:8). Castalio, Calvin, Beza, and others: “fecitque ex uno sanguine omne genus hominum, ut inhabitaret” (after ἀνθρ. a comma). Against this is the circumstance that ὁρίσας κ.τ.λ. contains the modal definition, not to the making (to the producing) of the nations, but to the making-them-to-dwell, as is evident from τῆς κατοικίας αὐτῶν; so that this interpretation is not according to the context.

ἐξ ἑνὸς αἵματος] See, respecting αἷμα as the seat of life propagating itself by generation, on John 1:13. Paul, by this remark, that all men through one heavenly Father have also one earthly father, does not specially oppose, as Stolz, Kuinoel, and others, following older interpreters, assume, the belief of the Athenians that they were αὐτόχθονες (see Wetstein in loc.); the whole discourse is elevated above so special a polemic bearing. But he speaks in the way of general and necessary contrast to the polytheistic nature-religions, which derived the different nations from different origins in their myths. Quite irrelevant is what Olshausen suggests as the design of Paul, that he wished to represent the contempt in which the Jews were held among the Greeks as absurd.

ἐπὶ πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπ. τ. γῆς] refers to the idea of the totality of the nations dwelling on the earth, which is contained in πᾶν ἔθνος (every nation).

ὁρίσας] Aorist participle contemporaneous with ἐποίησε, specifying how God proceeded in that ἐποίησε κ.τ.λ: inasmuch as He has fixed the appointed periods and the definite boundaries of their (the nations’) dwelling. τῆς κατοικ. αὐτ. belongs to both—to προστετ. καιρ., and to τὰς ὁροθ. God has determined the dwelling (κατοικία, Polyb. v. 78. 5; Strabo, v. p. 246) of the nations, according both to its duration in time and to its extension in space. Both, subject to change, run their course in a development divinely ordered. Comp. Job 12:23. Others take προστετ. καιρ. independently of τ. κατοικ. αὐτ. (so Baumgarten); but thereby the former expression presents itself in perplexing indefiniteness. The sense of the epochs of the world set forth by Daniel (Baumgarten) must have been more precisely indicated than by the simple καιρούς. Lachmann has separated προστεταγμ. into πρὸς τεταγμένους unnecessarily, contrary to all versions and Fathers, also contrary to the reading προτεταγμ. in D* Iren. interpr.

ἡ ὁροθεσία is not elsewhere preserved, but τὸ ὁροθέσιον; see Bornemann.

Acts 17:26. “And he hath made of one every nation of men for to dwell,” R.V., so also A.V. takes ἐποίησε separately from κατοικεῖν, not “caused to dwell”; ἐποίησε, cf. Acts 17:24, he made, i.e., created of one; see Hackett’s note.—κατοικεῖν: infinitive of purpose.—ἐξ ἑνὸς (αἵματος), see critical note. Rendall renders “from one father” as the substantive really understood, the idea of offspring being implied by ἐξ, cf. Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 11:12 : Ramsay, “of one nature, every race of men,” etc. Such teaching has often been supposed to be specially directed against the boast of the Athenians that they were themselves αὐτόχθονες (so recently Zöckler, and see instances in Wetstein, cf. e.g., Arist., Vesp., 1076; Cicero, Proverbs Flacco, xxvi.); but whilst the Apostle’s words were raised above any such special polemic, yet he may well have had in mind the characteristic pride of his hearers, whilst asserting a truth which cut at the root of all national pride engendered by polytheism on the one hand, by a belief in a god of this nation or of that, or of a philosophic pride engendered by a hard Stoicism on the other. When Renan and others speak of Christianity extending its hand to the philosophy of Greece in the beautiful theory which it proclaimed of the moral unity of the human race (Saint Paul, p. 197) it must not be forgotten that Rome and not Greece manifested the perfection of Pagan ethics, and that, even so, the sayings of a Seneca or an Epictetus wanted equally with those of a Zeno “a lifting power in human life”. The cosmopolitanism of a Seneca no less than that of a Zeno failed; the higher thoughts of good men of a citizenship, not of Ephesus or elsewhere, but of the world, which were stirring in the towns where St. Paul preached, all these failed, Die Heraklitischen Briefe, p. 91 (Bernays); it was not given to the Greek or to the Roman, but to the Jew, separated though he was from every other nation, to safeguard the truth of the unity of mankind, and to proclaim the realisation of that truth through the blood of a Crucified Jew (Alford). On the Stoic cosmopolitanism see amongst recent writers G. H. Rendall, Marcus Antoninus, Introd., pp.88, 118, 137 (1898).—ἐπὶ πᾶν τὸ πρόσωπον τῆς γῆς, cf. Genesis 2:6; Genesis 11:8, etc.; Winer-Moulton, xviii., 4, cf. in Latin, maris facies, Æn., v., 768, naturæ vultus, Ovid, Met., i., 6.—ὁρίσας προτεταγ. καιροὺς: if we read προστεταγ. see critical note, “having determined their appointed seasons,” R.V. καιρ. not simply seasons in the sense used in addressing the people of Lystra, Acts 14:17, as if St. Paul had in mind only the course of nature as divinely ordered, and not also a divine philosophy of history. If the word was to be taken with κατοικίας it would have the article and χρόνος would be more probably used, cf. also πρόσταγμα, Jeremiah 5:24, Sir 39:16. It is natural to think of the expression of our Lord Himself, Luke 21:24, καιροὶ ἐθνῶν, words which may well have suggested to St. Paul his argument in Romans 9-11, but the thought is a more general one. In speaking thus, before such an audience, of a Providence in the history of mankind, assigning to them their seasons and their dwellings, the thought of the Stoic πρόνοια may well have been present to his mind; but if so it was by way of contrast (“sed non a Stoicis Paulo erat discenda πρόνοια,” Blass, in loco). St. Paul owed his doctrine of Providence to no school of philosophy, but to the sacred Scriptures of his nation, which had proclaimed by the mouth of lawgiver, patriarch, psalmist, and prophet alike, that the Most High had given to the nations their inheritance, that it was He Who had spread them abroad and brought them in, that it was His to change the times and the seasons, Deuteronomy 32:8, Job 12:23, Psalm 115:16, Daniel 2:21, see further the note on πρόνοια, Wisdom of Solomon Acts 14:3 (Acts 17:2), Speaker’s Commentary (Farrar).—τὰς ὁροθεσίας τῆς κατοικίας: the first noun is not found elsewhere either in classical or biblical Greek, but cf. Blass, Gram., p. 69. κατοικία: only here in N.T., but frequent in LXX; found also in Polyb., of a dwelling; so in Strabo, of a settlement, a colony. Here, as in the former part of the verse, we need not limit the words to the assertion of the fact that God has given to various nations their different geographical bounds of mountain, river or sea; as we recognise the influence exerted upon the morale of the inhabitants of a country by their physical surroundings, St. Paul’s words teach us to see also in these conditions “the works of the Lord”—the words of the most scientific observer perhaps of Palestine, Karl Ritter, are these: “Nature and the course of history show that here, from the beginning onwards there cannot be talk of any chance”: G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, pp. 112, 113, and 302, 303 ff.; Curtius, “Paulus in Athen.,” Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., 531, 536.

26. and hath made of one blood] All the best MSS. omit the word “blood.” And this seems to bring out more fully what the Apostle desires to dwell on; the Fatherhood of God. It is not that men are all of one family and so all equal in God’s eyes, and ought to be in the eyes of one another. But when we read “they are made of One” we are carried back to the higher thought of the prophet (Malachi 2:10), “Have we not all one Father?” This was a philosophy not likely to be acceptable to the Athenians among whom the distinction between Greeks and Barbarians was as radical as that which has grown up in America between white man and “ ,” or between Europeans and natives in India.

for to dwell on all the face of the earth] For His children the Father provided a home.

and hath determined the times before appointed] The word προστεταγμένους has more authority than προτεταγμένους and gives a better sense. The times (rather seasons) are appointed unto men, but it is not so clear what “before-appointed” could mean. Read “And hath determined their appointed seasons.” (So R. V.) The “seasons” referred to are those which God has ordained for seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, day and night, which are fixed by his decree and make the earth a fitting abode for men.

and the bounds of their habitation] i.e. where they can dwell and where they cannot.

Acts 17:26. Ἐξ ἑνὸς) There is added in most copies αἵματος, which I know not whether Irenæu[98] himself read. Ἀνθρώπου [so some MSS. of Vulg. have homine for omne] might equally well be understood from what follows, πᾶν ἔθνος ἀνθρώπων.[99] At all events the antithesis is between ἑνὸς and πᾶν, of one and every (viz. race).—πᾶν ἔθνος, every race) He does not say, πάντα ἔθνη, all nations. “We all are one nation.—ὁρίσας, having determined or defined) That there is a God who gave the earth to men to dwell in, Paul proves from the order of times and of places, which indicates the consummate Wisdom of the Governor, superior to all human counsels: Deuteronomy 32:8; Deuteronomy 2:5; Deuteronomy 2:9, etc.; Psalm 74:17; Psalm 115:16.—προστεταγμένους) So the LXX., Jeremiah 5:24, κατὰ καιρὸν πληρώσεως προστάγματος θερισμοῦ, “at the time of the fulfilment of the appointment of harvest:” and Sir 39:16; Sir 39:18, πᾶν πρόσταγμα ἐν καιρῷ αὐτοῦ ἔσται· ἐν προστάγματι αὐτοῦ πᾶσα ἡ εὐδοκία.—ὁροθεσίας, the bounds) by means of mountains, rivers, etc.

[98] renæus (of Lyons, in Gaul: born about 130 A.D., and died about the end of the second century). The Editio Renati Massueti, Parisinæ, a. 1710.

[99] The margin of the Ed. 2, as also of the Germ. Vers., leaves the decision to the reader.—E. B.

AB Vulg. Memph. Theb. omit αἵματος. But DEde and both Syr. Versions support αἵματος.—E. and T.

Verse 26. - He made for hath made, A.V.; of one for of one blood, A.V. and T.R.; every nation for all nations, A.V.; having determined their appointed seasons for and hath determined the times before appointed, A.V. From the unity of God Paul deduces the unity of the human race, all created by God, all sprung from one ancestor, or one blood (whichever reading we take), and so not to have their several national gods, but all to be united in the worship of the one true and living God, the Father of them all. It may be remarked by the way that the languages of the earth, differing like the skins and the features of the different races, and corresponding to those various bounds assigned by God to their habitations, yet bear distinct and emphatic testimony to this unity. They are variations, more or less extended, of the speech of man. Bounds of their habitation; τὰς ὀροθεσίας κ.τ.λ.: the word only occurs here; elsewhere, though rarely, τὰ ὀροθέσια. Acts 17:26Before appointed (προτεταγμένους)

The Rev., properly, omits before, following the reading of the best texts, τεταγμένους assigned.

Bounds (ὀροθεσίας)

Only here in New Testament. The word, in the singular, means the fixing of boundaries, and so is transferred to the fixed boundaries themselves.

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