Acts 28:6
Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
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(6) They looked when he should have swollen . . .—Better, and they were expecting that . . . The verb for “swollen” implies literally “inflammation,” and one of the enormous serpents of Africa took its name. Prestes (“the inflamer”), from it. Lucan (ix. 790) describes the effect of its bite—

“Percussit Prestes, illi ruber igneus ora

Succendit, tenditque cutem, pereunte figurâ.”

[“ The Prestes bit him, and a fiery flush

Lit up his face, and set the skin a-stretch,

And all its comely grace had passed away.”]

They changed their minds, and said that he was a god.—The miraculous escape naturally made an even stronger impression on the minds of the Melitese than what had seemed a supernatural judgment. Their thoughts may have travelled quickly to the attributes of the deities who, like Apollo or Æsculapius, were depicted as subduing serpents. The sudden change of belief may be noted as presenting a kind of inverted parallelism with that which had come over the people of Lystra. (See Notes on Acts 14:11; Acts 14:19.)

28:1-10 God can make strangers to be friends; friends in distress. Those who are despised for homely manners, are often more friendly than the more polished; and the conduct of heathens, or persons called barbarians, condemns many in civilized nations, professing to be Christians. The people thought that Paul was a murderer, and that the viper was sent by Divine justice, to be the avenger of blood. They knew that there is a God who governs the world, so that things do not come to pass by chance, no, not the smallest event, but all by Divine direction; and that evil pursues sinners; that there are good works which God will reward, and wicked works which he will punish. Also, that murder is a dreadful crime, one which shall not long go unpunished. But they thought all wicked people were punished in this life. Though some are made examples in this world, to prove that there is a God and a Providence, yet many are left unpunished, to prove that there is a judgment to come. They also thought all who were remarkably afflicted in this life were wicked people. Divine revelation sets this matter in a true light. Good men often are greatly afflicted in this life, for the trial and increase of their faith and patience. Observe Paul's deliverance from the danger. And thus in the strength of the grace of Christ, believers shake off the temptations of Satan, with holy resolution. When we despise the censures and reproaches of men, and look upon them with holy contempt, having the testimony of our consciences for us, then, like Paul, we shake off the viper into the fire. It does us no harm, except we are kept by it from our duty. God hereby made Paul remarkable among these people, and so made way for the receiving of the gospel. The Lord raises up friends for his people in every place whither he leads them, and makes them blessings to those in affliction.When he should have swollen - When they expected that he would have swollen from the bite of the viper. The poison of the viper is rapid, and they expected that he would die soon. The word rendered "swollen" πίμπρασθαι pimprasthai means properly "to burn; to be inflamed," and then "to be swollen from inflammation." This was what they expected here, that the poison would produce a violent inflammation.

Or fallen down dead suddenly - As is sometimes the case from the bite of the serpent when a vital part is affected.

They changed their minds - They saw that he was uninjured, and miraculously preserved; and they supposed that none but a god could be thus kept from death.

That he was a god - That the Maltese were idolaters there can be no doubt; but what gods they worshipped is unknown, and conjecture would be useless. It was natural that they should attribute such a preservation to the presence of a divinity. A similar instance occurred at Lystra. See the notes on Acts 14:11.

6. they looked—"continued looking."

when he should have swollen or fallen down dead—familiar with the effects of such bites.

and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said … he was a god—from "a murderer" to "a god," as the Lycaonian greeting of Paul and Silas from "sacrificing to them" to "stoning them" (Ac 14:13, 19). What has not the Gospel done for the uncultivated portion of the human family, while its effects on the educated and refined, though very different, are not less marvellous! Verily it is God's chosen restorative for the human spirit, in all the multitudinous forms and gradations of its lapsed state.

Should have swollen; the word signifies primarily to be burnt, and then by burning or scalding to swell, which is accounted the ordinary symptom of the biting of a viper; to swell or blister, as if the part was burnt with fire.

Or fallen down dead suddenly; in those places where there is much more heat, there is more venom in these vipers. And though some are said to live several days after they are bit by them, yet others die very suddenly upon their biting; as the known story of Cleopatra testifies; and condemned persons were sometimes put to death by vipers set unto their breasts.

And said that he was a god; a strange extreme; so uncertain and unequal are men’s minds.

Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen,.... With the venomous bite of the viper; swelling is one of the symptoms following the bite of this creature; and if the bite does not issue in death, yet the swelling continues inflamed for some time. The symptoms following the bite of a viper are said to be (r) an acute pain in the place wounded; swelling, first red, afterwards livid, spreading by degrees; great faintness; a quick, low, and sometimes interrupted pulse; sickness at the stomach; bilious convulsions: vomiting; cold sweats; sometimes pains about the navel; and death itself, if the strength of the patient, or the slightness of the bite, do not overcome it: if he does overcome it, the swelling continues inflamed for some time; and the symptoms abating, from the wound runs a sanious liquor, little pustules are raised about it, and the colour of the skin is as if the patient were icterical or jaundice; or had the jaundice: the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, "that he should burn", or "burnt"; that is, inflamed, for the bite of the viper causes an inflammation, a hot swelling, which rises up in pustules or blisters:

or fallen down dead suddenly; for immediate death is sometimes the effect of such poison. Pliny (s) relates, that the Scythians dip their arrows in the sanies or corrupt matter of vipers, and in human blood, which by the least touch causes immediate death; and Pausanias (t) reports from a certain Phoenician, that a man fleeing from a viper got up into a tree, where the viper could not reach him, but it blew, or breathed out its poison on the tree, and the man immediately died: though the force of this creature's poison does not always, and in all places, and in all persons operate alike; some die within a few hours, and others live some days, some to the third day, and some to the seventh (u):

but after they had looked a great while; upon the apostle, to observe whether any inflammation or swelling arose, or death ensued, as they expected: when they had waited some time, perhaps an hour or two,

and saw no harm come to him; that he was neither inflamed, nor swelled, nor dead; that it had no manner of effect upon him, and no evil of punishment was inflicted on him hereby, from whence they could conclude that he was guilty of any notorious crime:

they changed their minds, and said that he was a god: before they took him to be a murderer, and now they even ascribe deity to him, as was usual with the Gentiles, when anything extraordinary was performed by men: so the Lystrians took Paul for Mercury, and Barnabas for Jupiter, upon the apostle's curing the cripple, Acts 14:11; but what god the inhabitants of Melita thought him to be, is not certain; some think Hercules, who was worshipped in this island. The inhabitants of this island now believe that the apostle expelled all poison and venom out of it when he was there; and it is reported, that the children born in this place fear not any snakes, neither are hurt by anything that is venomous, insomuch that they will take scorpions, and eat them without danger; although, in all other parts of the world, those kind of creatures are most pernicious, and yet do no manner of hurt to men in this island; yea, it is affirmed, that there is a sort of earth found here, which kills serpents: as for the eating of them, the viper itself may be eaten; most authors agree (w), that there is no part, humour, or excrement, not even the gall itself, of a viper, but may be swallowed without much harm; accordingly the ancients, and, as several authors assure us, the Indians at this day, both of the east and west, eat them as we do eels--viper's flesh either roasted or boiled, physicians unanimously prescribe as an excellent restorative, particularly in the elephantiasis, incurable consumptions, leprosy, &c.

(r) Chambers's Cyclopaedia, ut supra. (the word "Viper") (s) L. 11. c. 53. (t) Boeotica, vel, l. 9. p. 583. (u) Alberus de Animal. l. 25. c. ult. (w) Chambers's Cyclopaedia, ut supra. (the word "Viper")

Howbeit they looked when he should have {c} swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: {3} but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

(c) The Greek word signifies to be inflamed or to swell: moreover, Dioscorides in his sixth book, chap. 38, witnesses that the biting of a viper causes a swelling of the body, and so says Nicander, in his remedies against poisons.

(3) There are none who are more changing in every way than they who are ignorant of true religion.

Acts 28:6. But when they waited long (not: expectassent), and saw, etc. On ἄτοπον of abnormal corporeal changes, see examples in Wetstein and Kypke. Not even the expected swelling (πιμπρ.) occurred.

εἰς αὐτὸν γινόμ.] taking place on him. See on Luke 4:23; comp. Plut. Mor. p. 786 C: αἱ εἰς σάρκαγινόμεναι κινήσεις.

μεταβάλλεσθαι] to turn themselves round, to change, often used even by classical writers to express change of view or opinion (without, however, supplying τὴν γνώμην). Dem. 205. 19, 349. 25, and see Kypke.

θεὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι] The good-natured people, running immediately into extremes with the inferiority of their rational training, think that he is a god appearing in human form, because they could not reconcile the complete want of result from the poisonous bite of the viper, well known to them in its effects, with the knowledge which they had derived from experience of the constitution of an ordinary human body. Ὑπερβολὴ τιμῆς ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν ὄχλων τῶν ἐν Λυκαονίᾳ (Acts 14:11 ff.), Chrysostom. Bengel well remarks “aut latro inquiunt aut Deus …; datur tertium; homo Dei.” The people themselves do not say (θεόν) that they meant a definite, particular god (Grotius, Heinsius, Alberti conjecture Hercules ἀλεξίκακος; Wetstein, Aesculapius; Sepp, one of the two). Zeller finds in Acts 28:6 simply an unhistorical addition “in the miraculous style of our chap. 16.,” which character belongs still more decidedly to the cures in Acts 28:8-9.

Acts 28:6. οἱ δέ …: Paul shook off the viper—the natives looked for a fatal result. They knew the deadly nature of the bite, and their subsequent conduct shows that they regarded it as nothing short of miraculous that Paul escaped. So St. Luke evidently wishes to describe the action, see on μέν οὖν, Acts 28:5, and δέ, Rendall, Acts, p. 161, Appendix.—προσεδόκων, see below.—πίμπρασθαι, from the form πίμπρημι, present infinitive passive, see critical note, and Winer-Schmiedel, p. 122; cf. in LXX, Numbers 5:21-22; Numbers 5:27, πρήθειν, H. and R., of parts of the body becoming swollen. In classical Greek πίμπρασθαι means “to take fire,” and πρήθειν “to cause to swell,” and those two ideas are combined, as in the word πρηστήρ; “a venomous snake, the bite of which caused both inflammation and swelling” (Page, in loco), cf. Lucan, ix. 790. In the N.T. the verb is peculiar to St. Luke, and it is the usual medical word for inflammation (Hobart, Zahn) in Hipp., Aret., Galen.—καταπίπτειν: only in Luke in N.T., cf. Luke 8:6, Acts 26:14, it was used by medical writers of persons falling down suddenly from wounds, or in epileptic fits; Hipp., Galen (Hobart, Zahn), cf. the asp-bitten Charmian in Ant. and Cleo. (Shakespeare), Acts 5, Scene 2.—ἄφνω: only in Acts 2:2; Acts 16:26.—προσδ.… ἄτοπον: the two words are described by Hobart as exactly those which a medical man would use (so too Zahn), and he gives two instances of the latter word from Galen, in speaking of the bite of a rabid dog, or of poison, p. 289. The word is used elsewhere in N.T. of something morally amiss; cf. Luke 23:41, Acts 25:5, 2 Thessalonians 3:2, but here evidently of something amiss physically. In R.V. it is rendered in each passage “amiss”. The word in N.T. is confined to Luke and Paul, but it is found several times in LXX in an ethical sense (as in N.T., except in loco), cf. Job 4:8; Job 11:11; Job 27:6; Job 34:12; Job 35:13, Prov. 24:55 (Proverbs 30:20), cf. 2Ma 14:23; so too in Thucydides, Josephus, Plutarch, etc.; but it is used of any harm happening to a person as here, cf. Jos., Ant., viii., 14, 4; xi., 5, 2; Herodian, iv., 11. προσδοκία, peculiar to St. Luke in N.T.; cf. Luke 21:26, Acts 12:11, and προσδοκάω, in Luke six times, in Acts five, was, no doubt, frequently used in medical language (Hobart, Zahn) for the expectation of the result of a disease or paroxysm “when they were long in expectation,” R.V.), but in Jos., Ant., viii., 14, 4, we have καὶ μηδὲν τῶν ἀτόπων προσδοκᾷν, and in Herodian, iv., 11, μηδὲν ἄτοπον προσδοκοῦντες· εἰς αὐτὸν γιν., cf. Luke 4:23 (Klostermann, Weiss).—μεταβαλλόμενοι, so frequently in classics without τὴν γνώμην, cf. Jos., B. J., v., 9, 3.—θεὸν αὐτὸν εἶναι: it is perhaps fanciful to suppose with Grotius and Wetstein that they compared him to the infant Hercules, or to Æsculapius represented with the serpent, but the latter is undoubtedly right in adding, “eleganter autem hic describitur vulgi inconstantia”; we naturally compare with Chrysostom the startling change in the people of Lystra, Acts 14:11; Acts 14:19, “Aut latro inquiunt aut deus … datur tertium: homo Dei” (Bengel).

6. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen] Better (with R.V.) “But they expected that he would have swollen.” Such being the usual effect of the viper’s bite, and making itself apparent in a very short time.

but after they had looked a great while] [R. V. “but when they were long in expectation.”] The verb is the same as in the first clause of the verse, and does not express merely the gazing upon Paul, but the thought in their minds of what was to come. The pluperfect of the A.V. is the better English. So read “when they had been long in expectation.”

saw no harm] [R.V. “beheld nothing amiss.”] The adjective is the same which is used, Luke 23:41, “This man hath done nothing amiss,” and can be applied to anything abnormal, whether it be as there a breach of a law, or as here a change of condition.

and said that he was a god] Compare the conduct of the Lycaonians in Lystra (Acts 14:11 seqq.), whose behaviour afterwards shews that the opinion quickly formed was unstable, and liable to change as suddenly as it came.

Acts 28:6. Προσεδόκων, they were expecting) They knew what were wont to be the effects of such bites.—μεταβαλλόμενοι, being changed) The instability of human reasoning is herein showed. He is either an assassin, say they, or a god. So at one time bulls were about to be sacrificed to Paul at Lystra, and presently after stones were thrown at him: ch. Acts 14:13; Acts 14:19. There is a third alternative admissible: he is a man of GOD. As to no class of men do natural men commit greater errors, than as to the saints.

Verse 6. - But they expected that he would for howbeit, they looked when he should, A.V.; when they were long in expectation for after they had looked a great while, A.V.; beheld nothing amiss for stay no harm, A.V. They expected; προσεδόκων. This word is used eleven times by St. Luke, twice by St. Matthew, and three times in the Second Epistle of Peter (see Acts 3:5; Luke 1:21, etc.). It is also common in the LXX. But it is a word much employed by medical writers in speaking of the course they expect a disease to take, and the results they look for. And this is the more remarkable here because there are no fewer than three other medical phrases in this verse, τίμπρασθαι καταπίπτειν, and μηδὲν ἄτοπον, besides those immediately preceding διεξέρχεσθαι (according to several good manuscripts and editions) θέρμη καθάπτειν, and θηρίον. So that it looks as if, having once got into a medical train of thought from the subject he was writing about, medical language naturally came uppermost in his mind. Have swollen; πίμπρασθαι, only here in the Bible, and not found in this sense in older classical writers. But it is the usual medical word for "inflammation" in any part of the body. Fallen down; καταπίπτειν, only here and in Acts 26:14, and twice in the LXX.; but common in Homer and elsewhere, and especially frequent in medical writers of persons falling down in fits, or weakness, or wounded, or the like. Nothing amiss (μηδὲν ἄτοπον). Mr. Hobart quotes a remarkable parallel to this phrase from Damocrites, quoted by Galen. He says that whosoever, having been bitten by a mad dog, drinks a certain antidote (εἰς οὐδὲν ἄτοπον ἐμπεσοῦται ῤᾳδίως), "shall suffer no harm." It is used in medical writers in two senses - of" unusual symptoms," and of fatal consequences. In the New Testament it only occurs elsewhere in Luke 23:41, "Nothing amiss;" and 2 Thessalonians 3:2, Ἀτόπων καὶ πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων. It is also used in the LXX. for wickedness, doing wickedly, etc. They changed their minds; as in an opposite direction the Lycaonians did (Acts 14:11, 19). It is a graphic picture of the fickleness of an untutored mind yielding to every impulse. The impunity with which St. Paul endured the bite of the viper was a direct fulfillment of our Lord's promise in Mark 16:18 (see further note on ver. 8). Acts 28:6Swollen (πίμπρασθαι)

Only here in New Testament. The usual medical word for inflammation.

Looked (προσδοκώντων)

Occurring eleven times in Luke, and only five times in the rest of the New Testament. Frequent in medical writers, to denote expectation of the fatal result of illness.

No harm (μηδὲν ἄτοπον)

Lit., nothing out of place. The word ἄτοπος occurs three times in Luke, and only once elsewhere in the New Testament (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Used by physicians to denote something unusual in the symptoms of disease, and also something fatal or deadly as here. Rev., nothing amiss. Compare Luke 23:41; and Acts 25:5, where the best texts insert the word.

Said (ἔλεγον)

The imperfect, denoting current talk.

A god

"Observe," says Bengel, "the fickleness of human reasoning. He is either an assassin, say they, or a god. So, at one time bulls, at another stones" (Acts 14:13, Acts 14:19).

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