Acts 8:23
For I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
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(23) In the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.—On “gall,” in its literal sense, see Note on Matthew 27:34. This is the only passage in the New Testament in which it is used figuratively. “Bitterness” meets us, as expressing extreme moral depravity, in Romans 3:14, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15. The latter phrase implies that the iniquity of Simon bound him as with the iron chains of a habit from which he could not free himself.

8:14-25 The Holy Ghost was as yet fallen upon none of these coverts, in the extraordinary powers conveyed by the descent of the Spirit upon the day of Pentecost. We may take encouragement from this example, in praying to God to give the renewing graces of the Holy Ghost to all for whose spiritual welfare we are concerned; for that includes all blessings. No man can give the Holy Spirit by the laying on of his hands; but we should use our best endeavours to instruct those for whom we pray. Simon Magus was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but cared not at all to have the spirit and disposition of a Christian. He was more desirous to gain honour to himself, than to do good to others. Peter shows him his crime. He esteemed the wealth of this world, as if it would answer for things relating to the other life, and would purchase the pardon of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal life. This was such a condemning error as could by no means consist with a state of grace. Our hearts are what they are in the sight of God, who cannot be deceived. And if they are not right in his sight, our religion is vain, and will stand us in no stead. A proud and covetous heart cannot be right with God. It is possible for a man to continue under the power of sin, yet to put on a form of godliness. When tempted with money to do evil, see what a perishing thing money is, and scorn it. Think not that Christianity is a trade to live by in this world. There is much wickedness in the thought of the heart, its false notions, and corrupt affections, and wicked projects, which must be repented of, or we are undone. But it shall be forgiven, upon our repentance. The doubt here is of the sincerity of Simon's repentance, not of his pardon, if his repentance was sincere. Grant us, Lord, another sort of faith than that which made Simon wonder only, and did not sanctify his heart. May we abhor all thoughts of making religion serve the purposes of pride or ambition. And keep us from that subtle poison of spiritual pride, which seeks glory to itself even from humility. May we seek only the honour which cometh from God.For I perceive - That is, by the act which he had done. His offer had shown a state of mind that was wholly inconsistent with true religion. One single sin "may" as certainly show that there is no true piety as many acts of iniquity. It may be so decided, so malignant, so utterly inconsistent with just views as at once to determine what the character is. The sin of Simon was of this character. Peter here does not appear to have claimed the power of judging the "heart"; but he judged, as all other people would, by the act.

In the gall - This word denotes properly "bile," or "that bitter, yellowish-green fluid that is secreted in the liver." Hence, it means anything very bitter; and also any bad passion of the mind, as anger, malice, etc. We speak of "bitterness" of mind, etc.

Of bitterness - This is a Hebraism; the usual mode of expressing the "superlative," and means "excessive bitterness." The phrase is used respecting idolatry Deuteronomy 29:18, "Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood." A similar expression occurs in Hebrews 12:15, "Lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble you." "Sin" is thus represented as a "bitter" or poisonous thing; a tiring not only "unpleasant" in its consequences, but ruinous in its character, as a poisonous plant would be in the midst of other plants, Jeremiah 2:19, "It is an evil and bitter thing that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God"; Jeremiah 4:18; Romans 3:14, "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness"; Ephesians 4:31. The meaning here is, that the heart of Simon was full of dreadful, malignant sin.

Bond of iniquity - Or, that thou art "bound by" iniquity. That is, that it has the rule over you, and "binds" you as a captive. Sin is often thus represented as "bondage" and "captivity," Psalm 116:16; Proverbs 5:22, "He shall be holden with the cords of his sins"; Romans 7:23-24. These expressions prove conclusively that Simon was a stranger to religion.

23. in the gall of bitterness and … bond of iniquity—expressing both the awfulness of his condition and the captivity to it in which he was held. The gall of bitterness; the same with gall and wormwood, Deu 29:18: or gall and bitterness; signifying a very bad constitution and disposition of soul or mind, such as may be compared unto that meat which the gall of any creature hath corrupted. And for Simon Magus to be in the gall of bitterness, is yet worse than to have the gall of bitterness in him; as to be born in sin, which the Pharisees upbraided the blind man with, John 11:34, denotes more intended thereby than that he had sin from his birth in him: thus David bewails that he was shapen in iniquity, Psalm 51:5 and thus may those expressions of St. Paul be understood, of being in the flesh, and being in the Spirit, Romans 8:9. This also shows (if any sensible or outward thing could show it) what a bitter and poison my thing sin is, no gall so bitter, no poison so deadly.

The bond of iniquity; either the judgment St. Peter had threatened to deter him from sin was this bond, or his sin itself might be rather so called: the we read of the bands of wickedness, Isaiah 58:6. One sin is twisted with another, hard to be severed or broken, and draws on judgment powerfully. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness,.... Alluding to Deuteronomy 29:18 with which compare Hebrews 12:15 and signifying, that he was in a state of nature and unregeneracy; under the power and dominion of covetousness, ambition, and hypocrisy; and in a way pernicious to himself, infectious to others, and ungrateful to God, and to good men; and that instead of the root of the matter, the truth of grace being in him, there was nothing in him but the bitter root of sin; which bore gall and wormwood, and everything that was nauseous and disagreeable:

and in the bond of iniquity; referring to Proverbs 5:22 and suggesting, that he was held fast bound in the bonds of sin, and with the cords of iniquity, or was entirely under the government of his lusts: the preposition which we render "in", may retain here, as is by some observed, its proper sense of "for", or "into"; and have the same signification it has in Hebrews 1:5 "I will be to him for a father", or "a father", and "he shall be to me for a son", or "a son": and then the sense of Peter is, I plainly perceive and clearly see by thy words and actions, that thou art nothing else but a lump of bitter gall, and a bundle of sin and wickedness.

For I perceive that thou art in the {g} gall of bitterness, and in the {h} bond of iniquity.

(g) He calls the inward malice of the heart and the venomous and demonic wickedness with which the magician was wholly filled with the gall of bitterness: and he is said to be in the gall, as though he were wholly overwhelmed with gall, and buried in it.

(h) Entangled in the bonds of iniquity.

Acts 8:23. εἰς γὰρ χολὴν: The passages in LXX generally referred to as containing somewhat similar phraseology are Deuteronomy 29:18; Deuteronomy 32:32, Lamentations 3:15. But the word χολή is found in LXX several times, and not always as the equivalent of the same Hebrew. In Deuteronomy 29:18; Deuteronomy 32:32, Psalm 69:21, Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 9:15, Lamentations 3:19, it is used to translate ראֹשׁ (רוֹשׁ, Deuteronomy 32:32), a poisonous plant of intense bitterness and of quick growth (coupled with wormwood, cf. Deuteronomy 29:18, Lamentations 3:19, Jeremiah 9:15). In Job 16:14 (where, however, AS2 read ζωήν for χολήν) it is used to translate מְרֵרָה, bile, gall in Acts 20:14 of the same book it is the equivalent of מְרֹרָה in the sense of the gall of vipers, i.e., the poison of vipers, which the ancients supposed to lie in the gall. In Proverbs 5:4 and Lamentations 3:15 it is the rendering of לַעֲנָה, wormwood; and in the former passage we have πικρότερον χολῆς. If we take the most usual signification of χολή in the LXX, viz., that of the gall plant (see R.V., margin, in loco, gall, or a gall root), the thought of bitterness would naturally be associated with it (in the passage which presents the closest parallel to the verse before us, Deuteronomy 29:18, ἐν χολῇ καὶ πικρίᾳ, πικρία is a translation of the Hebrew word for wormwood); ἐν χολῇ πικρίας might therefore denote the intefnse malignity which filled the heart ο Simon. (On the word χολή its sense here, and in Matthew 27:34, see Meyer-Weiss, Matth., p. 546.) The preposition εἰς is generally taken as = ἐν in this passage; but Rendall suggests that here, as is sometimes elsewhere, it = ὡς, and he therefore renders: “I see that thou art as gall of bitterness,” denoting the evil function which Simon would fulfil in the Church if he continued what he was. Westcott’s note on Hebrews 12:15 should also be consulted.—σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας: R.V. translates “thou art … in the bond of iniquity”. But if the passage means that Simon “will become … a bond of iniquity,” R.V., margin, or that he is now as a bond of iniquity (Rendall), the expression denotes, not that Simon is bound, but that he binds others in iniquity. Blass refers to Isaiah 58:6, where a similar phrase occurs, σύνδ. ἀδικ., and explains: “improbitate quasi vinctus es”; so Grimm, while pointing out that the phrase in Isaiah 58:6 is used in a different sense from here, explains “vinculum improbitatis, i.e., quod ab improbitate nectitur ad constringendos animos”. Others again take the expression to denote a bundle, fasciculus (Wetstein) (cf. Hdian., iv., 12, 11), Simon being regarded “quasi ex improbitate concretum,” cf. especially Cicero, in Pison., ix., 21; but such a rendering is rejected by Grimm, as no examples can be adduced of this tropical use of the noun, and by Wendt, on the ground that ἀδικία is not in the plural, but in the singular. Combinations with ἀδικία are characteristic of St. Luke; cf. Luke 13:27; Luke 16:8-9; Luke 18:6; cf. Acts 1:18; the word only occurs once elsewhere in the Gospels, John 7:18; Friedrich, Das Lucasevangelium, p. 23.23. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity] The preposition in makes a great difficulty in this verse. The word in the original means into or for. The construction has been compared with that of the Hebrew preposition ל = for after the verb “to be” in passages such as Ezekiel 37:22, “I will make them one nation,” literally, “unto one nation.” But instances of this construction are not common enough in the O.T. for an imitation of it in the N. T. to be probable. It seems better therefore not to take “gall of bitterness” and “bond of iniquity” as thus in apposition with the subject of the sentence, but rather to regard the preposition as used with the sense of motion towards a place or state and subsequent rest there. So it is found in Luke 11:7, “My children are with me in (εἰς) bed,” where the meaning is “They have come into and are remaining in bed.” For the expression “gall of bitterness,” cp. Deuteronomy 29:18, where those who serve false gods are spoken of as “a root that beareth gall and wormwood.” See also the “root of bitterness,” Hebrews 12:15. The second expression is found as “bands of wickedness” (Isaiah 58:6). The whole sentence would thus imply that Simon had gone from one evil to another till he had reached and was remaining in a stage which deserved the reprobation spoken against idolatry in the O.T., and had allowed evil to make him its prisoner.Acts 8:23. Εἰς, in) [in the light of, as one who is the gall, etc.: not as Engl. Vers. in the gall, etc.] He calls Simon himself the bitter gall, etc.; and signifies that both he is such already, and that soon he may injure others. Comp. εἰς, Acts 8:20 [May thy money be as destruction], ch. Acts 4:11, “He who is become the head (εἰς κεφαλὴν) of the corner;” Acts 5:36, Acts 7:5; Acts 7:21, Acts 13:47.—πικρίας, of bitterness) Hebrews 12:15.—σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας) So the LXX., Isaiah 58:6.—ὁρῶ, I perceive) even from thy deeds.Verse 23. - See for perceive, A.V. In the gall of bitterness, etc. The passage from which both this expression and the similar one in Hebrews 12:15 are taken is manifestly Deuteronomy 29:18, where the Greek of the LXX. has, ῤίζα ἄνω φύουσα ἐν χολῇ καὶ πικρίᾳ. The context there also shows conclusively that the "gall and bitterness" ("wormwood," A.V.) of which Moses speaks is the spirit of idolatry or defection from God springing up in some professing member of the Church, and defiling and corrupting others, as it is expounded in Hebrews 12:15, 16. This, as St. Peter saw, was exactly the case with Simon, whose heart was not straight with God, but "had turned away from him," as it is said in Deuteronomy. Though baptized, he was still an idolater in heart, and likely to trouble many. "The gall of bitterness" is the same as "gall and wormwood," or "bitterness." "Gall," or "bile," is in classical Greek and other languages a synonym for "bitterness," especially in a figurative sense (see Lamentations 3:15, 19 - πικρία καὶ χολή, LXX.). The uncommon phrase, the bond of iniquity, seems to be borrowed from Isaiah 58:6, where the LXX. have the same words, λύε πὰντα σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας, "loose the bands of wickedness," A.V. Simon was still bound in these bands. In the gall (εἰς χολὴν)

Lit., into. Thou hast fallen into and continuest in. Gall, only here and Matthew 27:34. Gall of bitterness is bitter enmity against the Gospel.

Bond of iniquity (σύνδεσμον ἀδικίας)

Thou hast fallen into iniquity as into fetters. The word σύνδεσμον denotes a close, firm bond (σύν, together). It is used of the bond of Christian peace (Ephesians 4:3); of the close compacting of the church represented as a body (Colossians 2:19); and of love as the bond of perfectness (Colossians 3:14 :). See Isaiah 58:6.

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