Acts 26:7
Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
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(7) Our twelve tribes.—The noun is strictly a neuter adjective: our twelve-tribed nation. It will be noted that St. Paul, like St. James (James 1:1), assumes the twelve tribes to be all alike sharers in the same hope of Israel, and ignores the legend, so often repeated and revived, that the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel, after they had been carried away by Salmaneser, had wandered far away, and were to be found, under some strange disguise, in far-off regions of the world. The earliest appearance of the fable is in the apocryphal. 2 Esdras 13:40-46, where they are said to have gone to “a country where never man kind dwelt, that they might there keep the statutes which they never kept in their own land.” The Apostle, on the contrary, represents the whole body of the twelve tribes as alike serving God (with the special service of worship) day and night, and speaks as accused because he had announced that the promise of God to their fathers had been fulfilled to them.

26:1-11 Christianity teaches us to give a reason of the hope that is in us, and also to give honour to whom honour is due, without flattery or fear of man. Agrippa was well versed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, therefore could the better judge as to the controversy about Jesus being the Messiah. Surely ministers may expect, when they preach the faith of Christ, to be heard patiently. Paul professes that he still kept to all the good in which he was first educated and trained up. See here what his religion was. He was a moralist, a man of virtue, and had not learned the arts of the crafty, covetous Pharisees; he was not chargeable with any open vice and profaneness. He was sound in the faith. He always had a holy regard for the ancient promise made of God unto the fathers, and built his hope upon it. The apostle knew very well that all this would not justify him before God, yet he knew it was for his reputation among the Jews, and an argument that he was not such a man as they represented him to be. Though he counted this but loss, that he might win Christ, yet he mentioned it when it might serve to honour Christ. See here what Paul's religion is; he has not such zeal for the ceremonial law as he had in his youth; the sacrifices and offerings appointed by that, are done away by the great Sacrifice which they typified. Of the ceremonial cleansings he makes no conscience, and thinks the Levitical priesthood is done away in the priesthood of Christ; but, as to the main principles of his religion, he is as zealous as ever. Christ and heaven, are the two great doctrines of the gospel; that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. These are the matter of the promise made unto the fathers. The temple service, or continual course of religious duties, day and night, was kept up as the profession of faith in the promise of eternal life, and in expectation of it. The prospect of eternal life should engage us to be diligent and stedfast in all religious exercises. Yet the Sadducees hated Paul for preaching the resurrection; and the other Jews joined them, because he testified that Jesus was risen, and was the promised Redeemer of Israel. Many things are thought to be beyond belief, only because the infinite nature and perfections of Him that has revealed, performed, or promised them, are overlooked. Paul acknowledged, that while he continued a Pharisee, he was a bitter enemy to Christianity. This was his character and manner of life in the beginning of his time; and there was every thing to hinder his being a Christian. Those who have been most strict in their conduct before conversion, will afterwards see abundant reason for humbling themselves, even on account of things which they then thought ought to have been done.Unto which promise - To the fulfillment of which promise they hope to come; that is, they hope and believe that the promise will be fulfilled, and that they will partake of its benefits.

Our twelve tribes - This was the name by which the Jews were designated. The ancient Jewish nation had hoped to come to that promise; it had been the hope and expectation of the nation. Long before the coming of the Messiah, ten of the twelve tribes had been carried captive to Assyria, and had not returned, leaving but the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah. But the name, "the twelve tribes," as used to designate the Jewish people, would be still retained. Compare James 1:1. Paul here says that the hope referred to had been that of the Jewish nation. Except the comparatively small portion of the nation, the Sadducees, the great mass of the nation had held to the doctrine of a future state. This Agrippa would know well.

Instantly - Constantly; with intensity ἐν en ἐκτένεια ekteneia; with zeal. This was true, for, amidst all the sins of the nation, they observed with punctuality and zeal the outward forms of the worship of God.

Serving God - In the ordinances and observances of the temple. As a nation they did not serve him in their hearts, but they kept up the outward forms of religious worship.

Day and night - With unwearied zeal; with constancy and ardor, Luke 2:37. The ordinary Jewish services and sacrifices were in the morning and evening, and might be said to be performed day and night. Some of their services, as the Paschal supper, were prolonged usually until late at night. The main idea is, that they kept up the worship of God with constant and untiring zeal and devotion.

For which hope's sake - On account of my cherishing this hope in common with the great mass of my countrymen. See Acts 23:6. If Paul could convince Agrippa that the main point of his offence was what had been the common belief of his countrymen, it would show to his satisfaction that he was innocent. And on this ground he put his defense - that he held only what the mass of the nation had believed, and that he maintained this in the only consistent and defensible manner that God had, in fact, raised up the Messiah, and had thus given assurance that the dead would rise.

7. Unto which promise—the fulfilment of it.

our twelve tribes—(Jas 1:1; and see on [2116]Lu 2:36).

instantly—"intently"; see on [2117]Ac 12:5.

serving God—in the sense of religious worship; on "ministered," see on [2118]Ac 13:2.

day and night, hope to come—The apostle rises into language as catholic as the thought—representing his despised nation, all scattered thought it now was, as twelve great branches of one ancient stem, in all places of their dispersion offering to the God of their fathers one unbroken worship, reposing on one great "promise" made of old unto their fathers, and sustained by one "hope" of "coming" to its fulfilment; the single point of difference between him and his countrymen, and the one cause of all their virulence against him, being, that his hope had found rest in One already come, while theirs still pointed to the future.

For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews—"I am accused of Jews, O king" (so the true reading appears to be); of all quarters the most surprising for such a charge to come from. The charge of sedition is not so much as alluded to throughout this speech. It was indeed a mere pretext.

Twelve tribes; so St. Paul still reckons them, notwithstanding that ten tribes had been led captive, without returning again to this day. Yet,

1. There were many left by the king of Assyria in their own land; and though for a while they joined themselves unto the Samaritans rather than to the Jews, yet a century or two before our Saviour’s time they returned to the Jewish religion and worship, at least very many of them.

2. Though the ten tribes never returned (as tribes) entirely back again, yet many of them doubtless had that love for their religion and country, as they took all opportunities of coming back.

3. At their first defection in Jeroboam’s time, God touched the hearts of a great many, who rather changed their habitation than their religion.

So that St. James might well dedicate his Epistle to the twelve tribes, for there were some who at the dispersion were scattered out of every tribe.

Instantly serving God day and night; now these, with great intention and earnestness of desire, (as when any stretcheth himself to his utmost length to take hold of aught), endeavoured to obtain that very salvation which God had promised, and the gospel revealed.

Unto which promise,.... Of the Messiah, and salvation by him; and of the resurrection of the dead and eternal glory, as following upon it:

our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night hope to come; and enjoy the Messiah, and all blessings along with him; and the happy state of the resurrection and eternal life: the people of Israel were distinguished into twelve tribes, according to the names of the twelve patriarchs, the sons of Jacob; and though ten of the tribes had been carried captive, and had not returned as tribes, yet there were many of the several tribes, who either were left in the land, or returned along with the two tribes, and were mixed with them: and this way of speaking here used by Paul, and also by James, James 1:1 is justified by Jewish writers: the Misnic doctors say (c),

"the twelve tribes bring twelve heifers, and for idolatry they bring twelve heifers and twelve goats:''

compare with this Ezra 6:17, yea, they say (d).

""twelve tribes" are called, "a congregation", eleven tribes are not called a congregation.''

This suggests a reason of the apostle's use of this phrase, for he here represents the Israelites as a worshipping assembly, serving God continually, night and day, as they were by their representatives, the priests and stationary men in the temple; and that with intenseness, ardour, and fervency, as the word rendered "instantly" signifies being in a longing and earnest expectation of the coming of the Messiah, and of his world to come, and of the resurrection of the dead, and a future state of happiness.

For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews: for preaching that the Messiah, the twelve tribes hope for, is already come and that there is salvation in him, and in no other, and that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both just and unjust; and that there is another world and state after this, in which men will be happy and miserable; and these were the charges and accusations, or the sum of what were exhibited against him.

(c) Misn. Horayot, c. 1. sect. 5. (d) T. Bab. Horayot, fol. 5. 2.

Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
Acts 26:7. εἰς ἣν: unto which promise, not spem (Grotius, Bengel), καταντῆσαι εἰς, cf. the same construction with the same verb, Php 3:11, Ephesians 4:13, only in Luke and Paul, but never by the former elsewhere in metaphorical sense; in classical Greek after verbs of hoping we should have had a future, but in N.T. generally aorist infinitive, Viteau, Le Grec du N.T., p. 154 (1893).—τὸ δωδεκάφυλον: here only in biblical Greek; perhaps used after the mention of the fathers, as the heads of the tribes; for the word cf. Prot. Jac., i., 3, Clem. Rom., Cor[399], Leviticus , 6 (cf. xxxi. 4), and Orac. Syb., λαὸς ὁ δωδεκάφυλος; the expression was full of hope, and pointed to a national reunion under the Messiah; for the intensity of this hope, and of the restoration of the tribes of Israel, see on Acts 3:21 (p. 115), and references in Acts 26:6, Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 67, and especially Psalms of Solomon, 17:28, 30, 50.—ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ, cf. Acts 12:5, 2Ma 14:38, 3Ma 6:41, Jdg 4:9 (twice?); Cic., Ad Att., x., 17, 1. See Hatch, u. s., p. 12.—νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, cf. Acts 20:31, also used by Paul; elsewhere in his Epistles five times, and once in Mark 5 in genitive, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Timothy 5:5; 2 Timothy 1:3; Mark 5:5. The precise phrase in the accusative also occurs in Luke 2:37, Mark 4:25.—λατρεῦον, cf. Luke 2:37, joined with νύκτα καὶ ἡμ. as here, and in both places of the earnest prayer for the Messiah’s coming; same phrase elsewhere in N.T. only in Revelation 7:15. For the force of the expression here and its relation to the Temple worship see Blass, in loco, and Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. ii., p. 174, E.T.—ὑπὸ Ἰουδ.: by Jews, O King! Agrippa knew that this hope, nowever misdirected, was the hope of every Israelite, and the Apostle lays stress upon the strange fact that Jews should thus persecute one who identified himself with their deepest and most enduring hopes.

[399] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

7. unto which promise] This makes it clear that the promise was the sending of Him in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed.

our twelve tribes] For the Jews regarded themselves as representing the whole race, and not merely the two tribes of the kingdom of Judah. And this no doubt was true. For tribal names continued to be preserved and with the people of Judah there came back many of the members of the previous captivity of Israel. Thus in the N. T. we find (Luke 2:36) that Anna was of the tribe of Aser, and St James addresses his Epistle (Acts 1:1.) “to the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad” and Paul himself knew that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. Cp. also 2 Chronicles 31:1. for evidence of the existence of some of the ten tribes after the Captivity. In T. B. Berachoth 20a Rabbi Jochanan says “I am from the root of Joseph.”

instantly serving God] i.e. earnestly serving God (as R. V.). The old use of the word “instantly” has disappeared, and is not very common in any writings but such as are marked by the use of Scripture phraseology, e. g. Latimer’s Sermons, Bishop Pilkington’s Works, &c.

For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa] The two last words are omitted in many MSS., in some only the last one.

I am accused of the Jews] Emphatically placed to mark the inconsistency of the position. The Jews accuse Paul because he looks for the promise which was made to the forefathers of the Jewish race.

Acts 26:7. Εἰς ἣν, unto which) hope.—τὸ δωδεκάφυλον the twelve tribes) Even the Ten tribes had in considerable numbers (a good part of them) returned from the East, but they had passed from that διασπορὰ into the διασπορὰ, of which Jam 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:1 speak. For the Ten tribes had not been in the first instance carried away into those localities which James and Peter, in the passages quoted, refer to (“Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia”). All had the hope of the resurrection.—καταντῆσαι, to attain) A verb frequently used by Paul: Ephesians 4:13, “Till we all come (καταντήσωμεν) to the unity of the faith;” Php 3:11. The whole of our religion tends towards the future.

Verse 7. - Earnestly for instantly, A.V.; might and day for day and night, A.V.; attain for come, A.V.; and concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O King! for for which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews, A.V. and T.R. Our twelve tribes. Δωδεκάφυλον only occurs here, in the Sibylline oracles, and in the prot-evangel. Jacob., 3, and in Clement's 1 Corinthians 55, but is formed, after the analogy of such words as δωδεκαετής δωδεκάμοιρος δωδεκάμηνος τετράφυλος δεκάφυλος (Herod., 5:66), and the like. The idea of the twelve tribes of Israel is part of the essential conception of the Israel of God. So our Lord (Matthew 19:28; James 1:1; Revelation 7:4, etc.). St. Paul felt and spoke like a thorough Israelite. Earnestly; ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ, only here and in 2 Macc. 14:38 (where Razis is said to have risked his body and his life for the religion of the Jews, μετᾶ πάσης ἐκτενίας, "with all vehemence," A.V.), and Jud. 4:9, where the phrase, ἐν ἐκτενίᾳ μεγάλῃ, "with great vehemency," "with great fervency," A.V., occurs twice, applied to prayer and to self-humiliation. The adjective ἐκτενής occurs in Acts 12:5; Luke 22:44; 1 Peter 4:8; and ἐκτενῶς in 1 Peter 1:22. Serving (λατρεῦον); i.e. serving with worship, prayers, sacrifices and the like. The allusion is to the temple service, with its worship by night and by day (comp. Psalm 134:1; 1 Chronicles 9:33). Acts 26:7Twelve tribes (δωδεκάφυλον)

Only here in New Testament. A collective term, embracing the tribes as a whole. Meyer renders our twelve-tribe-stock.

Instantly (ἐν ἐκτενείᾳ)

Only here in New Testament. Lit., in intensity. See on fervently, 1 Peter 1:22. Compare more earnestly, Luke 22:44; without ceasing, Acts 12:5; fervent, 1 Peter 4:8. See, also, on instantly and instant, Luke 7:4; Luke 23:23.


Compare Acts 24:14; and see on Luke 1:74.

Come (καταντῆσαι)

Lit., to arrive at, as if at a goal. Compare Acts 16:1; Acts 18:19; Acts 25:13, etc. Rev. attain.

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