Acts 5:19
But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
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(19) But the angel of the Lord.—Better, an angel. The fact is obviously recorded by St. Luke as supernatural. Those who do not accept that view of it, and yet wish to maintain the general historical character of the narrative, are driven to the hypothesis that the “angel” was some jealous and courageous disciple; and that the Apostle, in the darkness of the night and the excitement of his liberation, ascribed his rescue to the intervention of an angel. Acts 12:7 may be noted as another instance of a like interposition. It has sometimes been urged, with something of a sneer, what was the use of such a deliverance as this, when the Apostles were again arrested on the very next day. The answer to such a question is not far to seek. (1) The marvellous deliverance was a sign, not without its influence on the subsequent decision of the Council, and on the courage of the two Apostles. (2) It was no small boon for them to be delivered even for a few hours from the vile companionship to which they had been condemned.

Acts 5:19-23. But the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors — In spite of all the locks and bars that were upon them, and without giving any alarm to the keepers, or any of the other prisoners; and brought them forth — Hereby God evidently showed how impotent the rage of the priests and rulers was against those whom he determined to support. And said, Go, stand and speak to the people — They must not think they were thus miraculously delivered, in order that they might save their lives by making their escape out of the hands of their enemies; no, it was that they might go on with their work, with so much the more courage and diligence. Thus recoveries from sickness, deliverances out of trouble, &c, are granted us, not that we may enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honoured with our services. All the words of this life — Of the life which God had commissioned them to preach, and which the Sadducees denied; or, the whole doctrine of the gospel, which brings life and immortality to light, and shows the way that leads thereto. This they must preach in the temple. We may be ready to think, though they might not quit their work, yet it would have been prudent to proceed with it in a more private place, where it would have given less offence to the priests than in the temple; and so would have the less exposed them. But this was not permitted: they must speak in the temple: for that was the place of concourse, where they would have the greatest number of hearers, and do the greatest good. It is not for the preachers of the gospel to retire into corners, as long as they can have an opportunity of preaching in the great congregations. And when they heard that — When they heard that it was the will of God they should continue to preach in the temple, they took the first opportunity of doing it; for very early the next morning, as soon as the gates were open, they entered into the temple, and taught with the same freedom as before, no way discouraged by the fear of persecution. Doubtless it was a great satisfaction to them to receive these fresh orders from Heaven; for if they had not received them, they might have questioned whether, since they had now received their liberty, they should preach as publicly in the temple as they had done, Christ having said, When they persecute you in one city, flee to another. But while they were prosecuting their blessed work in obedience to the divine command: the high-priest came — Into the room where the council was usually held; and called together all the senate of Israel — All the members of the sanhedrim, being solicitous that there should be as full a house as possible on so important an occasion; and sent proper officers to the prison, to have the apostles brought before them, that the court might proceed to their examination and punishment. But when the officers came — To their great surprise, they found them not in the prison, and yet could discover no way whereby they could have made their escape, considering the circumstances that appeared on inquiry. Returning, therefore, to the council, they made their report accordingly.

5:17-25 There is no prison so dark, so strong, but God can visit his people in it, and, if he pleases, fetch them out. Recoveries from sickness, releases out of trouble, are granted, not that we may enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honoured with the services of our life. It is not for the preachers of Christ's gospel to retire into corners, as long as they can have any opportunity of preaching in the great congregation. They must preach to the lowest, whose souls are as precious to Christ as the souls of the greatest. Speak to all, for all are concerned. Speak as those who resolve to stand to it, to live and die by it. Speak all the words of this heavenly, divine life, in comparison with which the present earthly life does not deserve the name. These words of life, which the Holy Ghost puts into your mouth. The words of the gospel are the words of life; words whereby we may be saved. How wretched are those who are vexed at the success of the gospel! They cannot but see that the word and power of the Lord are against them; and they tremble for the consequences, yet they will go on.But the angel of the Lord - This does not denote any "particular" angel, but simply an angel. The "article" is not used in the original. The word "angel" denotes properly a "messenger," and particularly it is applied to the pure spirits that are sent to this world on errands of mercy. See the notes on Matthew 1:20. The case here was evidently "a miracle." An angel was employed for this special purpose, and the design might have been:

(1) To reprove the Jewish rulers, and to convince them of their guilt in resisting the gospel of God;

(2) To convince the apostles more firmly of the protection and approbation of God;

(3) To encourage them more and more in their work, and in the faithful discharge of their high duty; and,

(4) To give the people a new and impressive proof of the truth of the message which they bore. That they were "imprisoned" would be known to the people. That they were made as secure as possible was also known. When, therefore, the next morning, before they could have been tried or acquitted, they were found again in the temple, delivering the same message still, it was a new and striking proof that they were sent by God.

19. by night—the same night. God useth the ministry of angels, though he might otherwise do what pleaseth him. An angel rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre. Angels ministered to Christ, Matthew 4:11; and are all ministering spirits, sent forth to master for them who shall be heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14; and encamp round about them that fear God, Psalm 34:7.

Opened the prison doors; and shut them again, after that the apostles were gone out, as appears Acts 5:23.

But the angel of the Lord,.... Or "of God", as the Arabic and Ethiopic versions read, whether Michael, as some have thought, or Gabriel, or what particular angel, is not material to know. However, it was a good angel, an elect angel, one of those ministering spirits sent by God to minister to the heirs of promise; one of those angels that excel in strength, as appears by what he did: for he

by night opened the prison doors; where the apostles were put, and which had more doors than one, and these strong and close shut, and guarded by keepers; but were easily opened by the angel. It was very likely at, or towards the evening, when the apostles were taken, and therefore they were committed to prison, there to lie all night, till next morning, when the sanhedrim would meet together to consult what to do with them:

and brought them forth; out of the prison, leading them out at the doors he had opened for them:

and said; the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions add, "to them"; that is, to the apostles, as follows.

{4} But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,

(4) Angels are made servants of the servants of God.

Acts 5:19-20. The historical state of the case as to the miraculous mode of this liberation,—the process of which, perhaps, remained mysterious to the apostles themselves,—cannot be ascertained. Luke narrates the fact in a legendary[169] interpretation of the mystery (comp. Neander, p. 726); but every attempt to refer the miraculous circumstances to a merely natural process (a stroke of lightning, or an earthquake, or, as Thiess, Eck, Eichhorn, Eckermann, and Heinrichs suggest, that a friend, perhaps the jailor himself, or a zealous Christian, may have opened the prison) utterly offends against the design and the nature of the text. It remains matter for surprise, that in the proceedings afterwards (Acts 5:27 ff.) nothing is brought forward as to this liberation and its circumstances. This shows the incompleteness of the narrative, but not the unhistorical character of the fact itself (Baur, Zeller), which, if it were an intentional invention, would certainly also have been referred to in the trial. Nor is the apparent uselessness of the deliverance (for the apostles are again arrested) evidence against its reality, as it had a sufficient ethical purpose in the very fact of its confirming and increasing the courage in faith of the apostles themselves. On the other hand, the hypothesis that Christ, by His angel, had wished to demonstrate to the Sanhedrim their weakness (Baumgarten), would only have sufficient foundation, provided the sequel of the narrative purported that the judges had really recognised the interposition of heavenly power in the mode of the deliverance. Lange, apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 68, refers the phenomenon to a visionary condition: the apostles were liberated “in the condition of genius-life, of second consciousness.” This is extravagant fancy introducing its own ideas.

ἄγγελος] not the angel, but an angel; Winer, p. 118 [E. T. 155].

διὰ τῆς νυκτός] per noctem, i.e. during the night; so that the opening, the bringing out of the prisoners, and the address of the angel, occurred during the course of the night, and toward morning-dawn the apostles repaired to the temple. Comp. Acts 16:9, and see on Galatians 2:1. The expression is thus more significant than διὰ τὴν νύκτα (Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 222, ed. 3) would be, and stands in relation with ὑπὸ τὸν ὄρθρον, Acts 5:21. Hence there is no deviation from Greek usage (Winer, Fritzsche).

ἘΞΑΓΑΓ.] But on the next day the doors were again found closed (Acts 5:23), according to which even the keepers had not become aware of the occurrence.

Acts 5:20. σταθέντες] take your stand and speak; in which is implied a summons to boldness. Comp. Acts 2:14.

τὰ ῥήματα τῆς ζωῆς ταύτης] the words of this life. What life it was, was self-evident to the apostles, namely, the life, which was the aim of all their effort and working. Hence: the words, which lead to the eternal Messianic life, bring about its attainment. Comp. John 6:68. See on ταύτης, Winer, p. 223 [E. T. 297 f.]. We are not to think here of a hypallage, according to which ταύτης refers in sense to Τ. ῬΉΜΑΤΑ (Bengel, Kuinoel, and many others). Comp. Acts 13:26; Romans 7:24.

[169] Ewald also discovers here a legendary form (perhaps a duplication of the history in ch. 12).

Acts 5:19. ἄγγελος δὲ Κ.: the narrative must be accepted or rejected as it stands. As Wendt, following Zeller in earlier days, candidly admits, every attempt to explain the narrative by referring the release of the prisoners to some natural event, such as an earthquake or lightning, or to some friendly disposed person, who with the assistance of the gaoler opened the prison doors, and who was mistaken by the Apostles for an angel in the darkness and excitement of the night, is shattered at once against the plain meaning of the text. Nor can it be deemed satisfactory to believe that St. Luke has unconsciously given us two narratives of the liberation of St. Peter, here and in 12, and that the former is merely an echo of the later deliverance transferred to an earlier date (Weiss, Sorof, Holtzmann). But St. Luke had the best means of knowing accurately the events narrated in 12 from John Mark (see below on chap. 12, and Ramsay, St. Paul, etc., p. 385), Introd., p. 17, and there is no ground whatever for supposing that 12 is simply an embellished version of this former incident. Attempts have been made to show that St. Luke introduces the same doubling of narratives in his Gospel (Wendt, Holtzmann), e.g., the sending forth of the disciples in Acts 9:3 and Acts 10:1, but the former chapter is concerned with the mission of the Twelve, and the latter with that of the Seventy. Further objections have been made as to the uselessness of the miracle—the disciples are found, to be imprisoned again! But not only was the miracle a source of fresh strength and faith to the disciples, but—as Hilgenfeld notes—their release can scarcely be described as purposeless, since it called forth a public transgression of the command of silence imposed upon the two chief Apostles, Acts 4:17-21. Moreover, the deliverance was another indication to the Sadducees, if they would have accepted it, that it was useless for them to attempt to stay the movement. “Quis ergo usus angeli?” asks Blass; and he answers: “Sed est aliquis: augetur enim apostolorum audacia (Acts 5:21), tum ira adversariorum magis accenditur; nihilominus Deus suos perire non patitur”. That the Sadducees should ignore the miracle (Acts 5:28) is surely not strange, although it may well have influenced their subsequent deliberations; that the action of the Sadducees should now be more coercive than on the former occasion was only natural on the part of men who feared that vengeance would be taken on them for the death of Jesus by an uprising of the people (Acts 5:28; Acts 5:26).—διὰ νυκτὸς = νυκτός, νύκτωρ (cf. Luke 2:8) in classical Greek. The phrase is used four times by St. Luke in Acts, cf. Acts 16:19; Acts 17:10; Acts 23:31, and cf. Luke 5:5 (and Acts 9:37, , διὰ τῆς ἡμέρας): nowhere else in N.T. In all the passages Meyer thinks that the expression means throughout the night, but such a meaning would be inconsistent with the context at all events here and in Acts 16:19; and Acts 17:10 is doubtful.—See Blass, Grammatik des N. G., p. 129, “by night” (nachts). Simcox speaks of this expression in Acts as an “almost adverbial phrase,” Language of N. T., p. 140.

19. But the angel of the Lord] Better, an angel by night opened the prison-doors. As if for a protest against the actions of those who taught that “there was neither angel nor spirit.” There is no possibility of explaining St Luke’s words into anything but a miraculous deliverance. He gives no word that can be twisted into any other meaning. It was not an earthquake, it was not a friendly human being who interposed to procure the release of the Apostles. The writer readily acknowledges in this very chapter the intervention of Gamaliel and its effect, but he is here speaking of supernatural aid. If it be remarked that the Apostles make no mention of their miraculous deliverance when they are called upon for their defence, it may be answered that they in no case dwell on the miracles either wrought by or for them, except where they have been wrought under the eyes of men and are to be used as signs of the Divine power which was working in and for the Church. To enter on a description of a miracle which had been wrought as this deliverance had been, and to ground their claims to be beard upon circumstances of which the eyes of those to whom they spoke did not bear testimony, is foreign to the whole character of the Apostolic ministry.

Acts 5:19. Ἄγγελος, the angel) “You will in all cases find that these great consolations were not vouchsafed except to those much afflicted:” Justus Jonas.—τὰς θύρας, the doors) ch. Acts 12:10, Peter, released similarly from Herod’s imprisonment; Acts 16:26, Paul, in the gaol of Philippi.

Verse 19. - An angel for the angel, A.V.; out for forth, A.V. An angel, etc. The phrase is a translation of the Old Testament phrase מַלְאַך יְהוָה. But in Hebrew it is impossible to insert the definite article before יְהוָה, and therefore the phrase is properly rendered, "the angel of the Lord." In the passage before us and other similar passages, Κύριος seems to stand for יְוָה, and therefore the rendering of the A.V. would seem to be right, in spite of what is said by eminent grammarians to the contrary. Compare, too, the phrases ὁδὸν εἰρήνηνς (Luke 1:19); ῤῆμα Θεοῦ (Luke 3:2); φωνὴ βοῶντος (Luke 3:4); and see especially Luke 2:9, where, ἄγγελος Κυρίου ("the angel of the Lord,) and δόξα Κυρίου ("the glory of the Lord") stand in parallel clauses. The R.V. inconsistently renders the first "an angel," and the second" the glory." In like manner φωνὴ Κυρίου (Acts 7:31) is "the voice of the Lord;" and in Psalm 29. (28, Septuagint) 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, the LXX. have uniformly φωνὴ Κυρίου for קול יְהוָה (see Acts 8:26, note). Out (comp. Acts 12:7, etc.). Acts 5:19By night (διὰ τῆς νυκτὸς)

More correctly, during the night: διά, in the course of. Compare Acts 16:9.

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