Acts 21:23
Do therefore this that we say to you: We have four men which have a vow on them;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) We have four men which have a vow on them.—The advice was eminently characteristic. (1) It came from one who himself lived as bound by the Nazarite vow. “No razor came upon his head, and he drank neither wine nor strong drink” (Hegesippus in Euseb. Hist. ii. 23). By connecting himself with such a vow St. Paul would show that he was content in these matters to follow in the footsteps of St. James, that he looked upon the observance of the Nazarite vow, if not as binding, at any rate as right and praise worthy. (2) It is obvious that St. Paul’s conduct on his last visit to Jerusalem had furnished a precedent for the line of action now recommended. He had then come as a Nazarite himself; had in that character burnt the hair which he had cut off at Cenchreæ (see Note on Acts 18:18), and had offered the accustomed sacrifices. Why should he not repeat the process now? There was, however, this difficulty: the minimum period of the Nazarite vow was for thirty days, and as St. Paul had not taken the vow previous to the advice, and probably wished to leave Jerusalem soon after the feast was over (Acts 19:21), it was out of his power to fulfil it now in its completeness. Jewish usage, however, made an intermediate course feasible. A man might attach himself to a Nazarite, or company of Nazarites, join in the final process of purification, which lasted, probably, for seven days (Numbers 6:9), shaving his head, and offering sacrifices with them. This was considered in itself a devout act, especially if the new comer defrayed the cost of the sacrifices. Agrippa I., for instance, had in this way gained credit with the Jews, as showing his reverence for the Law (Jos. Wars, ii. 15, § 1). It is clear that the four men were members of the Church of Jerusalem, and the fact is interesting as showing how intensely Jewish that church still was in its observances.

21:19-26 Paul ascribed all his success to God, and to God they gave the praise. God had honoured him more than any of the apostles, yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary, glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to go on cheerfully in his work. James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem, asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond of the shadows, when the substance was come. The religion Paul preached, tended not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear, when we consider how many, even of the disciples of Christ, had not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not the excellence of his character, nor the success with which God blessed his labours, could gain their esteem and affection, seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to mere ceremonial observances. How watchful should we be against prejudices! The apostles were not free from blame in all they did; and it would be hard to defend Paul from the charge of giving way too much in this matter. It is vain to attempt to court the favour of zealots, or bigots to a party. This compliance of Paul did not answer, for the very thing by which he hoped to pacify the Jews, provoked them, and brought him into trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and Paul's compliance with it, to serve a better purpose than was intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be pleased with nothing but the rooting out of Christianity. Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige us.We have four men - There are with us four men. It is evident that James and the elders meant to say that these men were connected with them in the Christian church; and the fact shows that the Christians at Jerusalem did not disregard the institutions of Moses, and had not been so far enlightened in the doctrines of Christianity as to forsake yet the ceremonial rites of the Jews.

Which have a vow on them - Which have made a vow. See the notes on Acts 18:18. From the mention of shaving the head (in Acts 21:24), it is evident that the vow which they had taken was that of the Nazarite; and that as the time of their vow was about expiring, they were about to be shaven, in accordance with the custom usual on such occasions. See the notes on Acts 18:18. These persons Paul could join, and thus show decisively that he did not intend to undervalue or disparage the laws of Moses when those laws were understood as mere ceremonial observances.

23. we have four men—Christian Jews, no doubt.

which have a vow—perhaps kept ready on purpose.

Vows were either, first, such as men did make in gratitude for any deliverance they had received, as from sickness, storms, or any imminent dangers: or, secondly, to enable them the better to serve God on any occasion; and then they were bound to keep themselves from all those things which were forbidden to the Nazarite, as wine and strong drink, and to nourish their hair, as the Nazarites were bound to do. This vow they made for a certain time, and not perpetual: the law concerning it you may see, in Numbers 6:2-5. Do therefore this that we say to thee,.... This is said not as commanding, but as advising; and not to what was a duty, and necessary to be done as such, but as a point of prudence:

we have four men which have a vow on them; that is, there were four men who were of the church at Jerusalem, believers in Christ, but weak ones, who were zealous of the law, and bigots to it, and who had voluntarily vowed a vow of the Nazarites; see Numbers 6:2.

Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 21:23. εἰσὶν ἡμῖν, cf. Acts 18:10. The four men certainly seem to have been members of the Church at Jerusalem, i.e., Jewish Christians.—εὐχὴν ἔχοντες: a temporary Nazirite vow, Numbers 6:1 ff. The length of time was optional, but thirty days seems to have been the shortest time, Jos., B.J., ii., 15, 1.—ἐφʼ ἑαυτῶν, see critical note, the Nazirite vow lies upon them as an unfulfilled obligation. If we read ἀφʼ it would mean him to affirm that the vow had been taken by them of their own will, on their own initiation, cf. Luke 12:57, 2 Corinthians 3:5, John 5:19; John 5:30, etc., see further Grimm-Thayer, sub v. ἀπό, ii., 2 d, aa; and Rendall, in loco. Blass however renders ἐφʼ “quia votum in se receperunt,” so that it is difficult to distinguish very definitely.23. Do therefore … vow on them] They advise St Paul to take a part in the ceremonies of a Nazarite vow. He could not go through the whole course of the observance, for these men had already for some time had the vow upon them, but it was permitted among the Jews for anyone who wished, to join in the final purification ceremonies of this vow; and this was the more readily permitted, if the person wishing to take a share, only in this concluding portion, bore the charges of the person or persons to whom he joined himself. It is significant of the intense clinging to the older ceremonial in the Jewish Church that among the Christian congregation there were men found who had taken this vow upon them. If the authorities knew of St Paul’s previous observance of a like vow (Acts 18:18) they would have no scruple in urging him to take part in a similar service again. For an account of the Nazarite’s vow, see Numbers 6:1-21. It is not there specified how long the observance of the vow lasted, and the time may have varied in different cases, but the final ceremonies appear to have lasted seven days.Acts 21:23. Λέγομεν, we say This counsel originated from spiritual prudence, not from carnal policy. Paul himself had adopted a somewhat similar course already: ch. Acts 18:18.—ἡμῖν, there are with us) Those four men therefore were Christians.Verse 23. - Which have a vow; meaning emphatically the vow of a Nazarite. A vow

The Nazarite vow. See Numbers 6:1-21.

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