Acts 8:26
And the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is desert.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) And the angel of the Lord . . .—Better, an angel. The tense of the verbs in the preceding verse, in the better MSS., implies that the events that follow synchronised with the journey of Peter and John through Samaria. The journey which Philip was commanded to take led him by a quicker route across country into the main road from Jerusalem to Gaza. The history of the city so named (appearing at times in the English version—Deuteronomy 2:23; 1Kings 4:24; Jeremiah 25:20—as Azzah) goes even as far back as that of Damascus, in the early records of Israel. It was the southernmost or border-city of the early Canaanites (Genesis 10:19), and was occupied first by the Avim, and then by the Caphtorim (Deuteronomy 2:23). Joshua was unable to conquer it (Joshua 10:41; Joshua 11:22). The tribe of Judah held it for a short time (Judges 1:18), but it soon fell into the hands of the Philistines (Judges 3:3; Judges 13:1), and though attacked by Samson, was held by them during the times of Samuel, Saul, and David (1Samuel 6:17; 1Samuel 14:52; 2Samuel 21:15). Solomon (1Kings 4:24), and later on Hezekiah (2Kings 18:8), attacked it. It resisted Alexander the Great during a siege of five months, and was an important military position, the very key of the country, during the struggles between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, and in the wars of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 11:61). Its name, it may be noted, meant the “strong.”

Which is desert.—Literally, as in a separate sentence, This (or It) is desert. There is nothing to show whether this was intended to appear as part of the angel’s bidding, or as a parenthetical note added by St. Luke, nor whether the pronoun refers to the “way” or to the “city.” If we assume the latter, we may think of it as written after the city had been laid waste during the Jewish war (A.D. 65). On the former hypothesis, it points to a less frequented route than that from Jerusalem through Ramleh to Gaza, which led through Hebron and then through the Southern or Negeb country. On the whole, the latter seems most to commend itself, and on this view we may see in it part of the instruction which Philip reported as coming, whether in dream or vision or voice we are not told, from the angel of the Lord. He was to go in faith to the less frequented, less promising route from Jerusalem to Gaza, apparently without passing himself through the Holy City, and so to intercept the traveller whose history was to become so memorable.

Acts

A MEETING IN THE DESERT

Acts 8:26 - Acts 8:40
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Philip had no special divine command either to flee to, or to preach in, Samaria, but ‘an angel of the Lord’ and afterwards ‘the Spirit,’ directed him to the Ethiopian statesman. God rewards faithful work with more work. Samaria was a borderland between Jew and Gentile, but in preaching to the eunuch Philip was on entirely Gentile ground. So great a step in advance needed clear command from God to impel to it and to justify it.

I. We have, then, first, the new commission.

Philip might well wonder why he should be taken away from successful work in a populous city, and despatched to the lonely road to Gaza. But he obeyed at once. He knew not for what he was sent there, but that ignorance did not trouble or retard him. It should be enough for us to see the next step. ‘We walk by faith, not by sight,’ for we none of us know what comes of our actions, and we get light as we go. Do to-day’s plain duty, and when to-morrow is to-day its duty will be plain too. The river on which we sail winds, and not till we round the nearest bend do we see the course beyond. So we are kept in the peaceful posture of dependent obedience, and need to hold our communications with God open, that we may be sure of His guidance.

No doubt, as Philip trudged along till he reached the Gaza road, he would have many a thought as to what he was to find there, and, when he came at last to the solitary track, would look eagerly over the uninhabited land for an explanation of his strange and vague instructions. But an obedient heart is not long left perplexed, and he who looks for duty to disclose itself will see it in due time.

II. So we have next the explanation of the errand.

Luke’s ‘Behold!’ suggests the sudden sight of the great man’s cortege in the distance. No doubt, he travelled with a train of attendants, as became his dignity, and would be conspicuous from afar. Philip, of course, did not know who he was when he caught sight of him, but Luke tells his rank at once, in order to lay stress on it, as well as to bring out the significance of his occupation and subsequent conversion. Here was a full-blooded Gentile, an eunuch, a courtier, who had been drawn to Israel’s God, and was studying Israel’s prophets as he rode. Perhaps he had chosen that road to Egypt for its quietness. At any rate, his occupation revealed the bent of his mind.

Philip felt that the mystery of his errand was solved now, and he recognised the impulse to break through conventional barriers and address the evidently dignified stranger, as the voice of God’s Spirit, and not his own. How he was sure of that we do not know, but the distinction drawn between the former communication by an angel and this from the Spirit points to a clear difference in his experiences, and to careful discrimination in the narrator. The variation is not made at random. Philip did not mistake a buzzing in his ears from the heating of his own heart for a divine voice. We have here no hallucinations of an enthusiast, but plain fact.

How manifestly the meeting of these two, starting so far apart, and so ignorant of each other and of the purpose of their being thrown together, reveals the unseen hand that moved each on his own line, and brought about the intersection of the two at that exact spot and hour! How came it that at that moment the Ethiopian was reading, of all places in his roll, the very words which make the kernel of the gospel of the evangelical prophet? Surely such ‘coincidences’ are a hard nut to crack for deniers of a Providence that shapes our ends!

It is further to be noticed that the eunuch’s conversion does not appear to have been of importance for the expansion of the Church. It exercised no recorded influence, and was apparently not communicated to the Apostles, as, if it had been, it could scarcely have failed to have been referred to when the analogous case of Cornelius was under discussion. So, divine intervention and human journeying and work were brought into play simply for the sake of one soul which God’s eye saw to be ripe for the Gospel. He cares for the individual, and one sheep that can be reclaimed is precious enough in the Shepherd’s estimate to move His hand to action and His heart to love. Not because he was a man of great authority at Candace’s court, but because he was yearning for light, and ready to follow it when it shone, did the eunuch meet Philip on that quiet road.

III. The two men being thus strangely brought together, we have next the conversation for the sake of which they were brought together.

The eunuch was reading aloud, as people not very much used to books, or who have some difficult passage in hand, often do. Philip must have been struck with astonishment when he caught the, to him, familiar words, and must have seen at once the open door for his preaching. His abrupt question wastes no time with apologies or polite, gradual approaches to his object. Probably the very absence of the signs of deference to which he was accustomed impressed the eunuch with a dim sense of the stranger’s authority, which would be deepened by the home-thrust of his question.

The wistful answer not only shows no resentment at the brusque stranger’s thrusting himself in, but acknowledges bewilderment, and responds to the undertone of proffered guidance in the question. A teacher has often to teach a pupil his ignorance, to begin with; but it should be so done as to create desire for instruction, and to kindle confidence in him as instructor. It is insolent to ask, ‘Understandest thou?’ unless the questioner is ready and able to help to understand.

The invitation to a seat in the great man’s chariot showed how eagerness to learn had obliterated distinctions of rank, and swiftly knit a new bond between these two, who had never heard of each other five minutes before. A true heart will hail as its best and closest friend him who leads it to know God’s mind more clearly. How earthly dignities dwindle when God’s messenger lays hold of a soul!

So the chariot rolls on, and through the silence of the desert the voices of these two reach the wondering attendants, as they plod along. The Ethiopian was reading the Septuagint translation of Isaiah, which, though it missed part of the force of the original, brought clearly before him the great figure of a Sufferer, meek and dumb, swept from the earth by unjust judgment. He understood so much, but what he did not understand was who this great, tragic Figure represented. His question goes to the root of the matter, and is a burning question to-day, as it was all these centuries ago on the road to Gaza. Philip had no doubt of the answer. Jesus was the ‘lamb dumb before its shearers.’ This is not the place to enter on such wide questions, but we may at least affirm that, whatever advance modern schools have made in the criticism and interpretation of the Old Testament, the very spirit of the whole earlier Revelation is missed if Jesus is not discerned as the Person to whom prophet and ritual pointed, in whom law was fulfilled and history reached its goal.

No doubt much instruction followed. How long they had rode together before they came to ‘a certain water’ we know not, but it cannot have been more than a few hours. Time is elastic, and when the soil is prepared, and rain and sunlight are poured down, the seed springs up quickly. People who deny the possibility of ‘sudden conversions’ are blind to facts, because they wear the blinkers of a theory. Not always have they who ‘anon with joy receive’ the word ‘no root in themselves.’

As is well known, the answer to the eunuch’s question {Acts 8:37} is wanting in authoritative manuscripts. The insertion may have been due to the creeping into the text of a marginal note. A recent and most original commentator on the Acts {Blass} considers that this, like other remarkable readings found in one set of manuscripts, was written by Luke in a draft of the book, which he afterwards revised and somewhat abbreviated into the form which most of the manuscripts present. However that may be, the required conditions in the doubtful verse are those which the practice of the rest of the Acts shows to have been required. Faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God was the qualification for the baptisms there recorded.

And there was no other qualification. Philip asked nothing about the eunuch’s proselytism, or whether he had been circumcised or not. He did not, like Peter with Cornelius, need the evidence of the gift of the Spirit before he baptized; but, notwithstanding his experience of an unworthy candidate in Simon the sorcerer, he unhesitatingly administered baptism. There was no Church present to witness the rite. We do not read that the Holy Ghost fell on the eunuch.

That baptism in the quiet wady by the side of the solitary road, while the swarthy attendants stood in wonder, was a mighty step in advance; and it was taken, not by an Apostle, nor with ecclesiastical sanction, but at the bidding of Christian instinct, which recognised a brother in any man who had faith in Jesus, the Son of God. The new faith is bursting old bonds. The universality of the Gospel is overflowing the banks of Jewish narrowness. Probably Philip was quite unconscious of the revolutionary nature of his act, but it was done, and in it was the seed of many more.

The eunuch had said that he could not understand unless some man guided him. But when Philip is caught away, he does not bewail the loss of his guide. He went on his road with joy, though his new faith might have craved longer support from the crutch of a teacher, and fuller enlightenment. What made him able to do without the guide that a few hours before had been so indispensable? The presence in his heart of a better one, even of Him whom Jesus promised, to guide His servants into all truth. If those who believe that Scripture without an authorised interpreter is insufficient to lead men aright, would consider the end of this story, they might find that a man’s dependence on outward teachers ceases when he has God’s Spirit to teach him, and that for such a man the Word of God in his hand and the Spirit of God in his spirit will give him light enough to walk by, so that, in the absence of all outward instructors, he may still be filled with true wisdom, and in absolute solitude may go ‘on his way rejoicing.’Acts 8:26-28. And — After the important affairs above mentioned were despatched at Samaria, and a church was established there, and supplied with proper pastors and teachers; the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip — Probably in a dream or vision by night; saying, Arise, and go toward the south — Though angels were not employed to preach the gospel, they were often employed in carrying messages to those that preached it, for advice, direction, and encouragement. And it gives us a very high idea of the gospel, to see the ministers of it receiving such immediate direction from celestial spirits, in the particular discharge of their office. Unto the way from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert — There were two ways from Jerusalem unto Gaza; one desert, the other through a more populous country. And Philip is directed in these words to go to some part of the former, because there he would find work to do. And he arose and went — Without objection, or presuming to inquire into the errand on which he was sent; and behold, a man of Ethiopia — Greek, Αιθιοψ ευνουχος, an Ethiopian eunuch. The Hebrew word סריס, which answers to that here rendered eunuch, is sometimes very properly translated an officer: and chief officers were often anciently called eunuchs, though not always literally such; because such used to be chief ministers in the eastern courts. Of great authority Δυναστης, a grandee; under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians — It appears that Candace was a name common to several of the queens who reigned in Meroe, a part of Ethiopia to the south of Egypt; who had the charge of all her treasure — So great a trust did she repose in him; and had come to Jerusalem to worship — Being a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and as such having renounced idolatry, and being brought over to the worship of the God of Israel. This man was then returning home, and sitting in his chariot, read Esaias — It is probable his mind was deeply impressed with devout and religious sentiments, in consequence of his having attended the solemnities of divine worship at one of the festivals at Jerusalem, and that he was therefore thus employed in reading the writings of this prophet, that he might learn the will of God and his duty. God meets those that remember him in his ways. It is good to read, hear, and seek information even on a journey. Why should we not redeem all our time?8:26-40 Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely places. We should study to do good to those we come into company with by travelling. We should not be so shy of all strangers as some affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, we know this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men of business to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minute with something which will turn to a good account. In reading the word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of what the sacred writers spake; but especially our thoughts should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact fulfilment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature of the Messiah's kingdom and salvation, and desired to be numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will be sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must be understood as expressing simple reliance on Christ for salvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not be satisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligent study of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit of God; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principle in our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of God took Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but this tended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvation becomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on his way rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, and discharge his duties, from other motives, and in another manner than heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; then shall we go on our way rejoicing.And the angel of the Lord - The word "angel" is used in the Scriptures in a great variety of significations. See the notes on Matthew 1:20. Here it has been supposed by some to mean literally a celestial messenger sent from God; others have supposed that it means a "dream"; others a "vision," etc. The word properly means a "messenger"; and all that it can be shown to signify here is, that the Lord sent a "message" to Philip of this kind. It is most probable, I think, that the passage means that God communicated the message by his Spirit; for in Acts 8:29, Acts 8:39, it is expressly said that "the Spirit" spake to Philip, etc. Thus, in Acts 16:7, the "Spirit" is said to have forbidden Paul to preach in Bithynia; and in Acts 8:9, the message on the subject is said to have been conveyed in "a vision." There is no absurdity, however, in supposing that an "angel" literally was employed to communicate this message to Phil See Hebrews 1:14; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 22:11; Judges 6:12.

Spake unto Philip - Compare Matthew 2:13.

Arise - See the notes on Luke 15:18.

And go ... - Philip had been employed in Samaria. As God now intended to send the gospel to another place, he gave a special direction to him to go and convey it. It is evident that God designed the "conversion" of this eunuch, and the direction to Philip shows how he accomplishes his designs. It is not by miracle, but by the use of means. It is not by direct power without "truth," but it is by a message suited to the end. The salvation of a single sinner is an object worthy the attention of God. When such a sinner is converted, it is because God forms a plan or "purpose" to do it. when it is done, he inclines his servants to labor; he directs their labors; he leads his ministers; and he prepares the way Acts 8:28) for the reception of the truth.

Toward the south - That is, south of Samaria, where Philip was then laboring.

Unto Gaza - Gaza, or Azzah Genesis 10:19, was a city of the Philistines, given by Joshua to Judah Joshua 15:47; 1 Samuel 6:17. It was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines. It was formerly a large place; was situated on an eminence, and commanded a beautiful prospect. It was in this place that Samson took away the gates of the city, and bore them off, Judges 16:2-3. It was near Askelon, about 60 miles southwest from Jerusalem.

Which is desert - This may refer either to the "way" or to the "place." The natural construction is the latter. In explanation of this, it is to be observed that there were "two" towns of that name, Old and New Gaza. The prophet Zephaniah ZEphesians 2:4 said that "Gaza" should be "forsaken," that is, destroyed. "This was partly accomplished by Alexander the Great (Josephus, Antiq., book 11, chapter 8, sections 3 and 4; book 13, chapter 13, section 3). Another town was afterward built of the same name, but at some distance from the former, and Old Gaza was abandoned to desolation. Strabo mentions 'Gaza the desert,' and Diodorus Siculus speaks of 'Old Gaza'" (Robinson's Calmet). Some have supposed, however, that Luke refers here to the "road" leading to Gaza, as being desolate and uninhabited. Dr. Robinson (Biblical Res., 2:640) remarks: "There were several ways leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. The most frequented at the present day, although the longest, is the way by Ramleh. Anciently there appear to have been two more direct roads. Both these roads exist at the present day, and the one actually passes through the desert, that is, through a tract of country without villages, inhabited only by nomadic tribes." "In this place, in 1823, the American missionaries, Messrs. Fisk and King, found Gaza, a town built of stone, making a very mean appearance, and confining about five thousand inhabitants" (Hall on the Acts ).

Ac 8:26-40. The Ethiopian Eunuch.

"With this narrative of the progress of the Gospel among the Samaritans is connected another which points to the diffusion of the doctrine of the Cross among the remotest nations. The simplicity of the chamberlain of Meroe forms a remarkable contrast with the craft of the magician just described" [Olshausen].

26-28. the angel of the Lord—rather, "an angel."

go … south, the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza—There was such a road, across Mount Hebron, which Philip might take without going to Jerusalem (as Von Raumer's'S Palæstina shows).

which is desert—that is, the way; not Gaza itself, which was the southernmost city of Palestine, in the territory of the ancient Philistines. To go from a city, where his hands had been full of work, so far away on a desert road, could not but be staggering to the faith of Philip, especially as he was kept in ignorance of the object of the journey. But like Paul, he "was not disobedient to the heavenly vision"; and like Abram, "he went out not knowing whither he went" (Ac 26:19; Heb 11:8).

Some speak of two Gazas, one distinguished from the other by this epithet of

desert; but rather there were two ways unto one and the same Gaza, and that it was not the city but the way unto it, which is called desert; by which difference, here mentioned, the angel admonishes Philip not to go the ordinary road, but the more unusual road over the mountians, which was rarely travelled over, but was now necessary to be gone in to meet with the eunuch. God telleth our wanderings, and ordereth our steps. And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip,.... To inquire who this angel was, whether Michael or Gabriel, or the tutelar angel of Ethiopia, or of the eunuch, or of Philip, is too curious; it was one of the ministering spirits sent forth by Christ, to serve a gracious purpose of his, and for the good of one of the heirs of salvation:

saying, arise; at once, make haste and speed, and quick dispatch; the phrase denotes readiness, alacrity, and expedition:

and go toward the south; the southern point from the city of Samaria, where Philip now was; or to the south of Jerusalem: the parts of Gaza, Lydda, Jamnia, Joppa, &c. were called the "south": hence often mention is made of such a Rabbi and such a Rabbi, that he was "of the south" (k); so R. Joshua, who was of Lydda, is said to be of the south (l). The Ethiopic version renders it at "noon time", and so the Arabic of De Dieu; as if it respected not the place whither he was to go, but the time when he was to go; and that it might be about the middle of the day, the following narrative seems to confirm:

unto the way which goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert: this place is sometimes called Azzah, and sometimes Gaza, which is owing to the different pronunciation of the first letter of it; it was first inhabited by the Avim, or Hivites, who being destroyed by the Caphtorim, they dwelt in their stead, Deuteronomy 2:23. It fell to the lot of the tribe of Judah, but could not be held by it, because of the giants which remained in it; and was, as Jerom says (m), a famous city of Palestine in his day; and was formerly the border of the Canaanites towards Egypt; and the way to Egypt lay through it, in which the eunuch was travelling: the way from Jerusalem to this place lay through Bethlehem, as the above ancient writer observes, on Jeremiah 31:15 where he says

"some of the Jews interpret this place thus; that Jerusalem being taken by Vespasian, through this way (Bethlehem and Ephratah, of which he is speaking) to Gaza and Alexandria, a vast number of captives were led to Rome.''

And as the same writer elsewhere says (n), Bethlehem was six miles from Aella (or Jerusalem) to the south, in the way which leads to Hebron; and it is commonly believed that the way to Gaza was through Hebron, and is the way in which they go to it now; and to a hill near this place Samson, carried the gates of Gaza, Judges 16:1 And this also was to the south of Jerusalem, and two and twenty miles from it (o): and it is also said by the same author (p), that there is a village called Bethzur, and in his time Bethhoron, in the way from Jerusalem to Hebron, about twenty miles from the former, at which there was a fountain, where it was reported the eunuch was baptized by Philip. There was it seems another way from Jerusalem to Gaza, through Diospolis, or Eleutheropolis, and so to Ascalon, and from thence to Gaza (q): and this was the road the eunuch went, if their conjecture is right, that he was baptized in the river Eleutherus; but which way he went is not certain, nor where he was baptized. The situation of Gaza was, according to Arrianus (r), as follows:

"Gaza is distant from the sea at least twenty furlongs (two miles and a half), and the access unto it is sandy and deep, and the sea near the city is all muddy. Gaza was a great city, and was built on high ground, and encompassed with a strong wall: it was the last of those cities inhabited, as you go from Phoenicia into Egypt, "at the beginning of the desert".''

Which last words seem to furnish out a reason why it is here called Gaza, "which is desert"; because it was situated where the desert began: though this clause is differently understood; some apply it to Gaza; as if the sense was "Gaza the desert", to distinguish old Gaza which was destroyed by Alexander the great, and as Strabo says (s), "remained desert", from new Gaza, built at some distance from it: Jerom has (t) this distinction of old and new Gaza; there is scarce any appearance, he says, of the foundations of the ancient city; and that which is now seen is built in another place; and an unknown Greek writer makes express mention of new Gaza, which is the city itself; and speaks of another Gaza at some distance, which he calls Gaza, , "the desert" (u): but the haven, which was seven furlongs distant from Gaza, was not called new Gaza till Julian's time: it was first called Majuma, and afterwards Constantia, by Constantine; either from his son Constantius, or his sister Constantia, it having embraced the Christian religion (w): wherefore, as Beza observes, no regard could be had to this distinction in the times of Luke; and though it was besieged by Alexander and taken, yet it did not become a desolate place; it had its walls, gates, and fortifications afterwards; and was after this taken by Ptolomy, and then by Alexander Janneeus; it was repaired by Gabinius, and given to Herod by Augustus (x): so that it could not be said to be desert, in the times of Philip and the eunuch, with respect to its inhabitants and fortifications: it seems rather therefore to be so called, for the above reason, because situated at the beginning of the desert; and the whole space between the parts of Egypt next the Nile, and Palestina, is called "the desert", both by Arrianus (y) and Josephus (z): others apply this epithet to the way, and read it as do the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, "to the way of the desert which goes from Jerusalem"; meaning the wilderness, which lay in the way from Jerusalem to Gaza. This place was distant from Jerusalem about seventy five miles; for from Jerusalem to Ascalon was, as Josephus (a) says, five hundred and twenty furlongs, which make sixty five miles; and from Ascalon to Gaza were ten miles, as our countryman Mr. Sandes Says (b); though according to the Itinerary of Antoninus (c), the distance was sixteen miles. The Talmudists make mention of this place, they represent it as a very pleasant place to dwell in; they say (d), Gaza is , "a beautiful habitation"; they speak of three famous markets, and one of them was the market of Gaza (e); and very near to this city there was a beast market (f); and to which may be added, though it may not serve to strengthen the reason of its name being called Gaza the desert, there was a place on the border of the city, which was named , "the desert of the leper" (g): there were also brooks about the parts of Gaza and Azotus (h); in one of which, if the eunuch was near Gaza, to which he was going, he might be baptized; since it is uncertain whereabout Philip met him, and where the place of water was, in which the ordinance of baptism was administered to him. This city is now called Gazera, or Gazara, and is inhabited by Greeks, Turks, and Arabians.

(k) T. Hieros. Succa, fol. 53. 4. (l) Ib. Challa, fol. 57. 2.((m) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. K. (n) Ib. fol. 89. E. (o) Ib. fol. 87. E. (p) Fol. 89. G. (q) Vid. Reland. Palestina Illustrata, l. 2. p. 407. & l. 3. p. 646, 659. (r) De Expeditione Alexandri, l. 2.((s) Geograph. l. 16. (t) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. K. (u) Apud Reland. ib. l. 2. p. 509. (w) Euseb. de Vita Constantin. l. 4. c. 38. Sozomen. Hist. l. 5. c. 3.((x) Joseph. Antiqu. l. 13. c. 13. sect. 3. & 14. 5. &. 15. 7. (y) Ut supra. (De Expeditione Alexandri, l. 2.) (z) De Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 5. sect. 3.((a) Ib. l. 3. c. 2. sect. 1.((b) Travels, p. 151. (c) Apud Reland. ib. l. 2. p. 419. (d) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 37. 3.((e) Ib. Avoda Zara, fol. 39. 4. (f) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 11. 2.((g) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 71. 1.((h) Aristeas de 70 Interpret. p. 41.

{11} And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.

(11) Christ, who calls freely whom he wishes, now uses Philip, who was not thinking about any such thing, to unexpectedly instruct and baptize the eunuch, and by this means extends the limits of his kingdom even into Ethiopia.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 8:26. ἄγγελος: on the frequency of angelic appearances, another characteristic of St. Luke, see Friedrich, Das Lucasevangelium, pp. 45 and 52 (so Zeller, Acts, ii., 224, E.T.), cf. Luke 2:9 and Acts 12:7, Luke 1:38 and Acts 10:7, Luke 24:4 and Acts 1:10; Acts 10:30. There can be no doubt, as Wendt points out, that St. Luke means that the communication was made to Philip by an angel, and that therefore all attempts to explain his words as meaning that Philip felt a sudden inward impulse, or that he had a vision in a dream, are unsatisfactory.—ἀνάστηθι, as Wendt remarks, does not support the latter supposition, cf. Acts 5:17, and its frequent use in Acts and in O.T. see below.—δὲ may be taken as above, see Acts 8:25, or as simply marking the return of the narrative from the chief Apostles to the history of Philip. As in Acts 8:29; Acts 8:39, πνεῦμα and not ἄγγελος occurs; the alteration has been attributed to a reviser, but even Spitta, Apostelgeschichte, p. 153, can find no reason for this, and sees in the use of πνεῦμα and ἄγγελος here nothing more strange than their close collocation Matthew 4:1; Matthew 4:11.—ἀνάστηθι καὶ πορεύου, words often similarly joined together in LXX.—κατὰ μεσημβρίαν: towards the south, i.e., he was to proceed “with his face to the south,” cf. Acts 27:12 (Page).—ἐπὶ τὴν ὁδὸν (not πρός), on, i.e., along the road (not “unto,” A.V.). R.V. margin renders κατὰ μεσ. “at noon”; so Rendall, cf. Acts 22:6, as we have κατά not πρός; so Nestle, Studien und Kritiken, p. 335 (l892) (see Felten’s note, Apostelgeschichte, p. 177; but as he points out, the heat of the day at twelve o’clock would not be a likely time for travelling, see also Belser, Beiträge, p. 52, as against Nestle). Wendt, edition 1899, p. 177, gives in his adhesion to Nestle’s view on the ground that in LXX, cf. Genesis 18:1, etc., the word μεσημβρ. is always so used, and because the time of the day for the meeting was an important factor, whilst there would be no need to mention the direction, when the town was definitely named (see also O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 88).—αὕτη ἐστὶν ἔρημος: opinion is still divided as to whether the adjective is to be referred to the town or the road. Amongst recent writers, Wendt, edition 1899, p. 178; Zahn, Einleitung in das N. T., ii., 438 (1899); Belser, Rendall, O. Holtzmann, u. s., p. 88, Knabenbauer (so too Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 79; Conder in B.D.2 “Gaza,” and Grimm-Thayer) may be added to the large number who see a reference to the route (in Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 71, E.T., it is stated that this view is the more probable). But, on the other hand, some of the older commentators (Calvin, Grotius, etc.) take the former view, and they have recently received a strong supporter in Prof. G. A. Smith, Historical Geog. of the Holy Land, pp. 186–188. O. Holtzmann, although referring αὕτη to ὁδός, points out that both Strabo, xvi., 2, 30, and the Anonymous Geographical Fragment (Geogr. Græc. Minores, Hudson, iv., p. 39) designate Gaza as ἔρημος. Dr. Smith strengthens these references, not only by Jos., Ant., xiv., 4, 4, and Diodorus Siculus, xix., 80, but by maintaining that the New Gaza mentioned in the Anonymous Fragment was on the coast, and that if so, it lay off the road to Egypt, which still passed by the desert Gaza; the latter place need not have been absolutely deserted in Philip’s time; its site and the vicinity of the great road would soon attract people back, but it was not unlikely that the name Ἔρημος might still stick to it (see also Acts 8:36 below). If we take the adjective as referring to the road, its exact force is still doubtful; does it refer to one route, specially lonely, as distinguished from others, or to the ordinary aspect of a route leading through waste places, or to the fact that at the hour mentioned, noon-day (see above), it would be deserted? Wendt confesses himself unable to decide, and perhaps he goes as far as one can expect to go in adding that at least this characterisation of the route so far prepares us for the sequel, in that it explains the fact that the eunuch would read aloud, and that Philip could converse with him uninterruptedly. Hackett and others regard the words before us as a parenthetical remark by St. Luke himself to acquaint the reader with the region of this memorable occurrence, and αὕτη is used in a somewhat similar explanatory way in 2 Chronicles 5:2, LXX, but this does not enable us to decide as to whether the explanation is St. Luke’s or the angel’s. Hilgenfeld and Schmiedel dismiss the words as an explanatory gloss. The argument sometimes drawn for the late date of Acts by referring ἔρημος to the supposed demolition of Gaza in A.D. 66 cannot be maintained, since this destruction so called was evidently very partial, see G. A. Smith, u. s., and so Schürer, u. s.26–40. Philip baptizes an Ethiopian Eunuch

26. And the angel of the Lord] The Gk. has an angel. While Peter and John were carrying on the work of Philip in Samaria, God directs the Evangelist to a new scene of labour.

spake unto Philip] Most probably in a vision as to Cornelius (Acts 10:3) and to Peter (Acts 11:5).

saying, Arise, and go toward the south] Gaza was the southernmost of the five great cities which the Philistines had formerly occupied, and was on the route which a traveller from Jerusalem to Egypt would follow. In 96 b.c. the city of Gaza had been destroyed and its inhabitants massacred by Alexander Jannæus (Joseph. Ant. xiii. 13. 3), but it had been rebuilt by Gabinius (Antiq. xiv. 5. 3), though it is said that the restored city was nearer the sea than the ancient one. It continued to be a city of importance (see Antiq. xv. 7. 3 and xvii. 11. 4), and it could not therefore be to the city that the word “desert” which follows must be referred. From Samaria Philip would come directly south, and leaving Jerusalem on the east strike the road at some distance from that city.

unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza] There was more than one road from Jerusalem to Gaza, the more northern route went first to Ascalon and then by the coast to Gaza, another road was by Hebron and through the more desert country which lay to the west of it, and this is most likely the road intended in the narrative.

which is desert] The Greek puts these words in a separate clause, “this is desert,” as is common in Hebrew. This disjunction has raised the question whether they belong to the direction which the angel was giving to Philip, or are an insertion by St Luke to mark the scene of the interview more clearly. If they had been inserted as an explanation it is not likely they would have been so brief, whereas if we regard them as a portion of the speech of the angel they contain all that was needed for Philip’s instruction. That road toward Gaza which passed through the desert explains exactly the place to which he was to go.Acts 8:26. Ἄγγελος, the angel) The angel bids him arise; the Holy Spirit, to “go near:” Acts 8:29. Philip is hereby fortified against acting too timidly after the deceit of Simon.—κατὰ μεσημβρίαν, towards the south) This was to serve him as his guide as to his course. The Gospel soon reached all quarters of the world: ch. Acts 11:19.—ἐπὶ, unto) It is not yet told him what he is about to find. Always faith and obedience have to be exercised. So also in ch. Acts 13:2, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work” [without adding then what that work should be].—αὐτὴ) Others [Lachm. and Tisch.] have αὕτη. But הוא αὐτὸς is wont to be used to designate anything; as here, αὐτή ἐστιν ἔρημος. So Ἱεροβάαλ, αὐτός ἐστι Γεδεών, Jdg 7:1; and so 2 Kings 18:9; 1 Chronicles 7:31; 1 Chronicles 8:12; 1 Chronicles 27:6; 1 Chronicles 27:32; 2 Chronicles 5:2. Philip was directed that he should betake himself to the desert way, not to the other, which was the more frequented way. [Gaza, it seems, had lain desolate for a long time; and so it is probable that the use of the way had in the mean time, for the most part, ceased. Comp. Leviticus 26:22. On that account the direction of the angel is the more wonderful.—V. g.]Verse 26. - But an angel for and the angel, A.V.; the same is for which is, A.V. An angel. "The angel," as in A.V., is right, just as ὄνομα Κυρίου (Matthew 21:9; Matthew 23:39; Luke 19:38, etc.) and שֵׁם יְהוָה in Hebrew mean "the Name of the Lord," not "a Name" (see Acts 5:19; Acts 7:31, notes). The south, meaning that part of Judaea which was called "the south country ;" Hebrew הַנֶּגֶב (Genesis 20:1; Genesis 24:62; etc.). This is generally rendered in the LXX. by πρὸς λίβα or πρὸς νότον. But in 1 Samuel 20:41, in Symraachus, μεσηνβρία stands as the rendering of חַנֶּגֶב. As regards the words, the same is desert, it is observable that in Numbers 31:1 and Deuteronomy 34:3 ἔρημος is the LXX. rendering of חַנֶבֶם, and that part of the country is called "the wilderness of Judaea." The words of the angel, therefore, mean, not that Gaza is desert, nor that the read itself is desert, but that the country to which he was directing Philip's journey was part of that known as the desert; αὕτη does not refer to ὁδός or to Γάζα, but to χώρα, understood as contained in ἔρημος. The meaning of the whole sentence I take to be as follows: - "Take thy journey in [or, 'by'] the south [comp. Luke 15:14; Acts 5:15; Acts 11:1; Acts 13. lids far as [ἐπί, 'notans locum vel terminum ad quem' (Schleusner)] the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza, where the country is desert." Philip was to proceed from Samaria along the south country till he came to where the Jerusalem road met his road. That district, he is reminded, was desert, part, i.e., or the desert of Judaea. The spot was probably selected for that very reason, as affording the privacy necessary for the eunuch to read in his chariot, and for Philip to join him and expound the Word of God to him. Chrysostom (followed by others) takes κατὰ μεσημβρίαν in the sense of "at noonday in the most violent heat," though he also renders it "southwards" (Hem., 19.). The south (μεσημβρίαν)

A contracted form of μεσημερία, midday, noon, which is the rendering at Acts 22:6, the only other passage where it occurs. Rev. gives at noon in margin.

Desert

Referring to the route. On desert, see on Luke 15:4. There were several roads from Jerusalem to Gaza. One is mentioned by the way of Bethlehem to Hebron, and thence through a region actually called a desert.

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