Acts 4:37
Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
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(37) Having land, sold it.—Better, perhaps, having a farm. (See Notes on Mark 5:14; Mark 6:36; Mark 6:56.) In the original polity of Israel the Levites had cities and land in common, but no private property (Numbers 18:20-21; Deuteronomy 10:8-9, et al.), and depended for their support upon the tithes paid by the people. The case of Jeremiah, however (Jeremiah 32:7-12), shows that there was nothing to hinder priest or Levite from becoming the possessor of land by purchase or inheritance. The position of Barnabas’s sister Mary shows that she, also, was wealthy, and, though she did not sell her house, she, too, did not call it her own, but gave it up for the public use of the community. The self-chosen poverty of Barnabas led him afterwards to act as St. Paul did in working for his livelihood (1Corinthians 9:6). It will not be out of place on this first mention of the name of a new disciple to note a few others whose membership of the Church dated probably from this period; Mnason, the “old disciple” of Acts 21:16, of Cyprus, and probably, therefore, a friend of Barnabas; Andronicus and Junia (or, more probably, Junias, as a man’s name), in some sense kinsmen of St. Paul, who were “in Christ” before him (Romans 16:7), and whom we find afterwards at Rome; the seven who in Acts 6:5 are prominent enough to be chosen as representatives of the Hellenistic members of the Church; Agabus (Acts 11:28), Judas, and Silas (Acts 15:32). The last three, however, as being “prophets,” may have been among the number of the Seventy; and, possibly, if we follow a fairly early tradition, Stephen and Philip among the Seven. (See Note on Luke 10:1.) We again note the absence of any measure of the interval between the events of this chapter and the history that follows. The picture of the peaceful expansion of the Church’s life implies, probably, as in Acts 2:41-47, one of several months.

4:32-37 The disciples loved one another. This was the blessed fruit of Christ's dying precept to his disciples, and his dying prayer for them. Thus it was then, and it will be so again, when the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high. The doctrine preached was the resurrection of Christ; a matter of fact, which being duly explained, was a summary of all the duties, privileges, and comforts of Christians. There were evident fruits of Christ's grace in all they said and did. They were dead to this world. This was a great evidence of the grace of God in them. They did not take away others' property, but they were indifferent to it. They did not call it their own; because they had, in affection, forsaken all for Christ, and were expecting to be stripped of all for cleaving to him. No marvel that they were of one heart and soul, when they sat so loose to the wealth of this world. In effect, they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply. The money was laid at the apostles' feet. Great care ought to be taken in the distribution of public charity, that it be given to such as have need, such as are not able to procure a maintenance for themselves; those who are reduced to want for well-doing, and for the testimony of a good conscience, ought to be provided for. Here is one in particular mentioned, remarkable for this generous charity; it was Barnabas. As one designed to be a preacher of the gospel, he disentangled himself from the affairs of this life. When such dispositions prevail, and are exercised according to the circumstances of the times, the testimony will have very great power upon others.And Joses - Many manuscripts, instead of "Joses," here read "Joseph." The reasons why this individual is selected and specified particularly were, doubtless, because he was a foreigner; because it was a remarkable instance of liberality; and because he subsequently distinguished himself in the work of the ministry. He gave himself, his property, his all, to the service of the Lord Jesus, and went forth to the self-denying labors of the gospel. He is mentioned elsewhere with honor in the New Testament Acts 11:24, Acts 11:30, and usually as the companion of the apostle Paul. The occasion on which he became connected with Paul in the ministry was when he himself was sent forth by the church at Jerusalem to Antioch. There, it seems, he heard of the fame of Paul and went to Tarsus to seek him, and brought him with him to Antioch, Acts 11:22-26. Before this he had been acquainted with him, and had introduced him to the other apostles at a time when they were afraid of Paul, and unwilling to acknowledge him as an apostle, Acts 9:26-27. At Antioch, Barnabas was led into dissimulation by Peter in regard to the Gentiles, and was reproved by his friend and companion, Paul, Galatians 2:13. He and Paul continued to travel in fellowship until a dispute arose at Antioch about Mark, and they separated, Paul going with Silas through Syria and Cilicia, and Barnabas, with Mark, sailing for his native place, Cyprus, Acts 15:35-41. See the following places for particulars of his history: Acts 11:22, Acts 11:25, Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:1-2, Acts 13:50; Acts 14:12; Acts 15:12; 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1, Galatians 2:9.

Who by the apostles was surnamed ... - The practice of giving surnames, as expressive of character, was not uncommon. Thus, Simon was called Peter, or Cephas, John 1:44; and thus James and John were surnamed Boanerges, Mark 3:17.

Barnabas, which is ... - This word properly denotes "the son of prophecy." It is compounded of two Syriac words, the one meaning "son," and the other "prophecy." The Greek word which is used to interpret this παράκλησις paraklēsis, translated "consolation," means properly exhortation, entreaty, petition, or advocacy. It also means "consolation or solace"; and from this meaning the interpretation has been given to the word "Barnabas," but with evident impropriety. It does not appear that the name was bestowed on account of this, though it is probable that he possessed the qualification for administering comfort or consolation in an eminent degree, but on account of his talent for "speaking," or "exhorting" the people to holiness, and his success in preaching. Compare Acts 11:23.

A Levite - One of the descendants of Levi employed in the lower services of the temple. The whole tribe of Levi was set apart to the service of religion. It was divided into priests and Levites. The three sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Of the family of "Kohath" Aaron was descended, who was the first high priest. His oldest son succeeded him, and the remainder of his sons were "priests." All the others of the tribe of Levi were called "Levites," and were employed in the work of the temple, in assisting the priests in performing sacred music, etc., Numbers 3; Deuteronomy 12:18-19; Deuteronomy 18:6-8; 1 Chronicles 23:24.

Of the country of Cyprus - Cyprus is the largest island in the Mediterranean; an island extremely fertile, abounding in wine, honey, oil, wool, etc. It is mentioned in Acts 13:4; Acts 15:39. The island is near to Cicilia, and is not far from the Jewish coast. It is said by Dion Caccius (lib. 68, 69) that the Jews were very numerous in that island - Clark. Barnabas afterward became, with Paul, a distinguished preacher to the Gentiles. It is worthy of remark, that "both" were born in pagan countries, though by descent Jews; and as they were trained in pagan lands, they were better suited for their special work. The case of Barnabas is that of a man who had property when he entered the ministry, and who gave up all for the Lord Jesus. The great mass of ministers, like very many who have been distinguished in other professions, have been taken from among the poor, and from humble ranks in life. But all have not been. Many have been wealthy, and have devoted all to Christ; and in regard to others, it is to be remarked, that a very considerable proportion of them could have gained more "wealth" in some other profession than they do in the ministry. The ministry is a work of self-denial, and none should enter it who are not prepared to devote all to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

36. Joses, &c.—This is specified merely as an eminent example of that spirit of generous sacrifice which pervaded all.

son of consolation—no doubt so surnamed from the character of his ministry.

a Levite—who, though as a tribe having no inheritance, might and did acquire property as individuals (De 18:8).

Cyprus—a well-known island in the Mediterranean.

This is an instance of what was said Acts 4:34,35; and Joses probably is instanced in it, either because he sold a greater quantity of land, as having large possessions, or as being one of the first that was remarkable in this kind of charity.

Laid it at the apostles’ feet: see Acts 4:35.

Having land, sold it,.... Whether this was in Cyprus, or in Judea, is not certain; nor how he came by it, whether he had bought it, as the priests and Levites might, and as Jeremiah, who was of the priests, bought a field at Anathoth, Jeremiah 32:9 or, whether it was his wife's dowry; for the Levites had nothing by inheritance: they had forty two cities, and the six cities of refuge to dwell in, and the field of the suburbs of these cities; which field or land was never to be sold, but to be a perpetual possession, Leviticus 25:34 but now the ceremonial law was abolished, and this precept was not attended to, if the land was of this sort. Moreover, the Jewish doctors interpret the above law otherwise; and understand it only of changing, and not of selling, which they allow of; one of their canons runs thus (y),

"the priests and Levites, "sell" always, and redeem always, as it is said, Leviticus 25:32, "the Levites may redeem at any time".''

Upon which canon, one of their commentators (z) says,

"they sell always; and not as an Israelite, who cannot sell less than two years before the jubilee;--but these "sell" even near the jubilee; "and they redeem always": if they sell houses in walled towns, they are not confirmed at the end of the year, as the houses in the walled towns of Israelites; and if "they sell fields", it is not necessary that they should remain in the hands of the buyer two years, but they may redeem them immediately, if they will.''

And another of them (a) has this observation,

"all agree that the Levites may not change a city, or suburb, or field, which are theirs, because it is said, Leviticus 25:34 "but the field of the suburbs of their cities may not be sold"; and the wise men of blessed memory say, the meaning of it is, it shall not be changed, for they do not change anything from what it was before.''

And agreeably to this is what Maimonides (b) elsewhere says,

"they do not make in the cities of the Levites a city a suburb, or a suburb a city, or a suburb a field, or a field a suburb, as it is said, Leviticus 25:34 "but the field of the suburbs of their cities shall not be sold"; from report (or tradition) we learn, that that is said, "shall not be sold", means, shall not be changed; but the field, suburbs, and city, everyone of these three shall be as they are for ever. Priests and Levites who "sell" a field, of the fields of their cities, or an house of any of the houses of their walled towns, do not redeem according to this order (i.e. as the other Israelites), but "they sell fields"; and even near to the jubilee, and redeem them immediately.''

So that if this land of Barnabas lay in Judea, as is most likely, it might be sold, and much more, if in Cyprus. But, be it what and where it will, he sold it:

and brought the money; from Cyprus or Judea, or that part of the land of Canaan where it lay, and where he had sold it:

and laid it at the apostles' feet; perhaps he might be the first person that did so, and set an example which was universally followed; however, he is particularly mentioned, being a man of note among the apostles, and of great usefulness in after times, and of whom frequent mention is made in other places.

(y) Misn. Eracin, c. 9. sect. 8. (z) Bartenora in Misn. Eracin. (a) Mainton. in ib. (b) Hilchot Shemitta Veyobel, c. 13. sect. 4, 5, 7.

Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Acts 4:37. ἀγροῦ, better “a field” R.V.; the possession was not great, but if the field lay in the rich and productive island of Cyprus, its value may have been considerable.—τὸ χρῆμα: rarely in this sense in the singular, only here in the N.T., and never in Attic Greek, but cf. Herod., iii., 38, and instances in Wetstein, and see Blass, in loco. The money, i.e., the proceeds, the money got (German Erlös). Lumby suggests that the word may be used here to indicate the entirety, the sum without deduction, in contrast to the action of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:2. The same unselfish spirit manifested itself in Barnabas at a later date, when he was content to live from the produce of his hands, 1 Corinthians 9:6. Possibly at Tarsus, so near his own home, he may have learnt with Saul in earlier days the craft of tent-making, for which the city was famous (Plumptre). In connection with this passage, and Acts 9:26, see Renan’s eulogy on the character of Barnabas. In him Renan sees the patron of all good and liberal ideas, and considers that Christianity has done him an injustice in not placing him in the first rank of her founders, Apostles, p. 191, E.T.

37. having land] Lit. a field. It seems likely that Joses is chosen as an example of the primitive liberality of the Christian body, because there was something remarkable in the kind of gift or the nature of the sacrifice which he made.

Acts 4:37. Ὑπάρχοντος αὐτῷ ἀγροῦ, having land) This must have been outside of the land of Israel, in which the Levites had no portion.

Verse 37. - A field for land, A.V.

Acts 4:37The money (τὸ χρῆμα)

The sum of money.

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