Acts 8:33
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
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(33) In his humiliation his judgment was taken away.—The Hebrew runs, as in the English version of Isaiah 53:8, which fairly represents its natural construction, “He was taken from prison (or oppression) and from judgment,” i.e., was delivered from His sufferings just when they seemed to culminate. A different meaning has, however, been given to the Hebrew preposition by many scholars, who render the words, “Through oppression and [unjust] judgment He was taken away”—i.e., He was the victim of a judicial murder. The LXX., which is here followed, seems to have adopted a different construction, “By His humiliation, by His low estate, His judgment (i.e., the righteous judgment which was His due) was taken away.” Here also, however, the word “judgment” has been taken in a different sense, and the words have been interpreted as meaning, “His condemnation was taken away, or cancelled”—i.e., because He humbled Himself He was afterwards exalted. Assuming Philip to have explained the words as they stand in the LXX., the first of these two latter interpretations has most to commend itself. The story of the Passion, the unrighteous sentence passed on the Lord Jesus because He stood before the Council and the Governor as poor and friendless, would be dwelt on as filling in the outlines of the prophetic picture.

Who shall declare his generation?—The Hebrew noun may mean, as in Psalm 14:5, the men of a given period, or those sharing a common character. The words have, however, been very variously taken: (1) “Who shall declare the number of those who share His life, and are, as it were, sprung from Him”—i.e., Who can count His faithful disciples? (2) “Who shall declare the wickedness of the crooked and perverse generation in which He lived?” (3) “Who, as far as His generation went, were wise enough to consider?” Assuming, as before, that it was the LXX. that Philip explained, the second of these seems preferable, as corresponding with the frequent use of the word “generation” with condemnatory epithets attached to it both by our Lord Himself (Matthew 12:39-42; Matthew 16:4; Matthew 17:17) and His Apostles (Acts 2:40; Philippians 2:15). The sense which some commentators have affixed to it, “Who shall declare His duration?” “Who shall set limits to the life of Him who is One with the Eternal?” or, as others, “Who shall declare the mystery of His mode of birth?”—i.e., of the Incarnation—are, it is believed, untenable as regards the Hebrew, and yet more so as regards the Greek.

For his life is taken from the earth.—The Hebrew admits of no other meaning than that the Sufferer was hurried to a violent death. The fact that in being thus taken from the earth the Sufferer was exalted to heaven, though true in itself, cannot be found in the words.

We are not concerned here with a detailed explanation, either of the words that precede, or those that follow, the passage quoted in Isaiah 53, but it is difficult to think of Philip as not taking in context as well as text, and unfolding in full, not only the fact of the Passion, but its atoning and redeeming power, as set forth in the prophet’s marvellous prediction.

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.In his humiliation - This varies from the Hebrew, but is copied exactly from the Septuagint, showing that he was reading the Septuagint. The Hebrew text is: "He was taken from prison and from judgment." The word rendered "prison" denotes any kind of "detention," or even "oppression." It does not mean, as with us, to be confined "in" a prison or jail, but may mean "custody," and be applied to the detention or custody of the Saviour when his hands were bound, and he was led to be tried. See the notes on Matthew 27:2. It is not known why the Septuagint thus translated the expression "he was taken from prison," etc., by "in his humiliation," etc. The word "from prison" may mean, as has been remarked, however, from "oppression," and this does not differ materially from "humiliation"; and in this sense the Septuagint understood it. The "meaning" of the expression in the Septuagint and the Acts is clear. It denotes that in his state of oppression and calamity; when he was destitute of protectors and friends; when at the lowest state of humiliation, and therefore most the object of pity, "in addition to that," justice was denied him; his judgment - a just sentence - was taken away, or withheld, and he was delivered to be put to death. His deep humiliation and friendless state was "followed" by an unjust and cruel condemnation, when no one would stand forth to plead his cause. Every circumstance thus goes to deepen the view of his sufferings.

His judgment - Justice, a just sentence, was denied him, and he was cruelly condemned.

And who shall declare his generation? - The word "generation" used here properly denotes "posterity"; then "an age" of mankind, comprehending about 30 years, as we speak of this and the next generation; then it denotes "the men" of a particular age or time. Very various interpretations have been given of this expression. Lowth translates it, "His manner of life who would declare?" referring, as he supposes, to the fact that when a prisoner was condemned and led to execution, it was customary for a proclamation to be made by a crier in these words, "Whoever knows anything about his innocence, let him come and declare it." This passage is taken from the Gemara of Babylon (Kennicott, as quoted by Lowth). The same Gemara of Babylon on this passage adds, "that before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made 40 days; but no defense could be found" - a manifest falsehood, and a story strikingly illustrative of the character of the Jewish writings.

The Gemara was written some time after Christ, perhaps not far from the year 180 (Lardner), and is a collection of commentaries on the traditional laws of the Jews. That this custom existed is very probable; but it is certain that no such thing was done on the trial of the Saviour. The Chaldee paraphrase translates the passage in Isaiah, "He shall collect our captivity from infirmities and vengeance; and who can declare what wonderful things shall be done for us in his days?" Others have referred this question to his Deity, or his divine "generation"; intimating that no one could explain the mystery of his eternal generation. But the word in the Scriptures has no such signification; and such a sense would not suit the connection (see Calvin in loco.) Others have referred it to "his own spiritual posterity," his disciples, his family; "the number of his friends and followers who could enumerate?" (Calvin, Beza, etc.) Another sense which the word has is to denote the "people" of any particular age or time (Matthew 11:16; Matthew 23:36; Luke 16:8, etc.); and it has been supposed that the question here means, "Who can describe the character and wickedness of the generation when he shall live - the enormous crime of that age, in putting him to death?" On this passage, see the notes on Isaiah 53:8. Perhaps, after all that has been written on this passage, the simple idea is, "Who shall stand up for him, declaring who he is? Who will appear for him? Who will vindicate him?" meaning that all would forsake him, and that there would be none to "declare really who he was."

For his life ... - The Hebrew is, "For he was cut off from the land of the living"; that is he was put to death. The expression used in the Acts was taken from the Septuagint, and means substantially the same as the Hebrew.

32, 33. The place … was this, He was led as a sheep, &c.—One cannot but wonder that this, of all predictions of Messiah's sufferings in the Old Testament the most striking, should have been that which the eunuch was reading before Philip joined him. He could hardly miss to have heard at Jerusalem of the sufferings and death of Jesus, and of the existence of a continually increasing party who acknowledged Him to be the Messiah. But his question to Philip, whether the prophet in this passage meant himself or some other man, clearly shows that he had not the least idea of any connection between this prediction and those facts. In his humiliation; when our blessed Saviour was in his lowest condition, and the utmost degree of his exinanition; his soul being made a sacrifice for us, and suffering that desertion for a time we had merited for ever, and his body laid in the grave as in a prison; then

his judgment, the punishment which was inflicted upon him in our stead,

was taken away; for he brake the bonds of death, and opened the prison door: this was foretold, although in somewhat differing expressions, by the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 53:7,8.

Who shall declare his generation? Those that shall be brought forth by this travail of his soul are innumerable, or his own eternal generation (who could do such great things as overcame death itself for us) is inexpressible: but by generation others (more to the scope of this place) understand Christ’s duration, or abiding, notwithstanding that he died; genea, does often signify duration; and thus it is an ordinary expression with the prophet, Isaiah 34:10,17, from generation to generation: now none can comprehend that eternal duration of Christ, who dies no more, Romans 6:9, and of whose kingdom there is no end, Luke 1:33.

For his life is taken from the earth; Christ aquired his glory by his suffering; his very exceeding great weight of glory was indeed wrought for him by his afflictions, (as for us, 2 Corinthians 4:17), his becoming obedient unto the death was the cause why he was so highly exalted, Philippians 2:8,9.

In his humiliation his judgment was taken away,.... The humiliation, or low estate of Christ, lay in his assumption of human nature, with the weaknesses and imperfections of it; in the meanness of his parentage and education; in the sorrows he endured from his cradle to his cross; in his last conflict with Satan in the garden; in his being apprehended, bound, scourged, and condemned, both by the sanhedrim, and the Roman governor; and in being enclosed with the assembly of the wicked soldiers, who put on him their own clothes, and a crown of thorns on his head, and a reed in his hand, and then in a mock manner bowed to him as king of the Jews; and last of all in his obedience to death, even the death of the cross, and in his being laid in the grave. Now in this his low estate, "his judgment was taken away"; in the text in Isaiah 53:8 the words are, "he was taken from prison and from judgment"; which some understand of his sufferings, and render the words thus, "by an assembly, and by judgment he was taken away"; that is, by the Jewish sanhedrim, and by the judgment or sentence of Pontius Pilate, his life was taken away: and others interpret it of his resurrection from the dead, when he was taken or delivered from the prison of the grave, and could not be held any longer by the cords and pains of death; and from the judgment or condemnation under which he lay, being justified in the Spirit, when he was raised from the dead. The words, as here cited, differ from the original text; which have caused some to think, that there was a different reading of these words, which the Septuagint followed, and Luke after them. Dr. Pocock (u) has proposed a translation of the Hebrew text, as agreeable to this citation, without supposing a various reading, thus, "because of affliction, even from judgment he is taken; or when he was humbled, he was taken from judgment"; it being all one whether he was taken from judgment condemnation, and punishment, as at his resurrection, or whether his punishment was taken from him: though the sense of the words, as they are here cited, rather seems to be this; when he was taken and bound by the Jews, and detained by them a prisoner, and arraigned before the high priest, and at Pilate's bar, and false witnesses suborned, which was his time of humiliation and affliction; when he was reproached, blasphemed, buffeted, and spit, upon, justice was not done him, right did not take place, but was removed from him, and he was treated in a most unjust and unrighteous manner:

and who shall declare his generation? not his divine or human generation; nor the sorrows of his life; or the duration of his life since his resurrection; nor the numbers of his spiritual seed and offspring; senses put upon the words they will by no means bear; but the generation or age in which Christ lived, which for its wickedness among themselves, and their barbarity to him, and ill usage of him, cannot be sufficiently described and declared; and a great deal of it they themselves own; See Gill on Matthew 10:36, Matthew 12:39.

for his life is taken from the earth, not in a common, but in a judicial way; in the most cruel, barbarous, and unjust manner, in a violent way; though not without his Father's will, and his own consent; and though his life was taken from the earth, he now lives in heaven, and that for evermore.

(u) Not. Miscell. c. 4. p. 72.

In his {l} humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his {m} generation? for his life is taken from the earth.

(l) The Hebrew text reads it in this way, out of a narrow strait, and out of judgment was he taken: and by the narrow strait he means the grave and the very bonds of death, and by judgment he means the punishment which was laid upon him, and the miserable state which Christ took upon himself for our sakes, in bearing his Father's wrath.

(m) How long he will endure: for Christ, having once risen from the dead, dies no more; Ro 6:9.

Acts 8:33. ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει κ.τ.λ., cf. Isaiah 53:7-8, “in his humiliation his judgment was taken away” (LXX), so A. and R.V., generally taken to mean by his humbling himself his judgment was cancelled, cf. Php 2:6-7, so Wendt in seventh and eighth editions: cf. Grimm-Thayer, sub v., κρίσις, the punishment appointed for him was taken away, i.e., ended, and so sub v., αἴρω = to cause to cease, Colossians 2:14. But the words “in his humiliation” etc., may also fairly mean that in the violence and injustice done to him his judgment, i.e., the fair trial due to him, was withheld, and thus they conform more closely to the Hebrew “by oppression and by (unjust) judgment he was taken away,” so Hitzig, Ewald, Cheyne and R.V. So to the same effect Delitzsch takes the words to mean that hostile oppression and judicial persecution befel him, and out of them he was removed by death (cf. R.V. margin). (The words have been taken to mean that by oppression and judgment he was hurried off and punished, raptus est ad supplicium.)—τὴν (δὲ) γενεὰν αὐτοῦ τίς διηγήσεται; (LXX), “his generation who shall declare?” R.V., the words may mean “who shall declare the wickedness of the generation in which he lived?” (see Grimm-Thayer, sub v., γενεά)—their wickedness, i.e., in their treatment of him; so De Wette (and Meyer in early editions), and to the same effect, Lumby, Rendall, cf. our Lord’s own words, Matthew 12:39-42, etc. In Meyer-Wendt (seventh and eighth edition) the words are taken to mean “who can fitly declare the number of those who share his life?” i.e., his posterity, his disciples, so Felten (but see on the other hand, Delitzsch, in loco). The Hebrew seems to mean, as in R.V. text, “and as for his generation who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living? for the transgression of my people” etc., see Cheyne, in loco; Briggs, Messianic Prophecy, p. 358, and Delitzsch, Jesaia, pp. 523, 524, fourth edition (see also Page’s note, and Wendt, edition 1899). The references by the Fathers (cf. Bede and Wordsworth) to the eternal generation of the Son, and the mystery of His Incarnation, do not seem to find support in the Hebrew or in the Greek rendering. On the oldest Jewish interpretations of Isaiah 53, see Dalman’s Der leidende und der sterbende Messias, pp. 21–23, 27–35, 89, 91; and see also in connection with the passage before us, Athanasius, Four Discourses against the Arians, i., 13, 54, and Dr. Robertson’s note; see also above on St. Peter’s Discourses in chap. 3, and below on Acts 26:23.—αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς: “is taken,” i.e., with violence (here = Hebrew גָזַר), cf. use of αἴρω, LXX, Acts 22:22; Acts 21:36, Matthew 24:39, Luke 23:18, John 19:15.

33. in his humiliation, &c.] The Hebrew text signifies “Through oppression and through judgement (i.e. punishment) he was taken away.”

who shall declare his generation?] i.e. who shall describe his contemporaries, men who under a form of judicial punishment oppressed the sufferer, and put him to death?

for his life is taken from the earth] The Hebrew has “for he was cut off out of the land of the living.” It will be seen from a comparison of the Hebrew and the LXX. that the latter is in some parts rather a paraphrase than a translation.

Some of the Jews interpreted this passage of the Messiah and some of the congregation of Israel. In the Targum of Jonathan these two interpretations run side by side.

Acts 8:33. Ἐν, in) when He was humbled, immediately His judgment was taken away [was set aside by God]. “He was justified in the Spirit:” 1 Timothy 3:16.—γενεὰν) age, and thence progeny. Both are joined in Isaiah 53:10, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days; and Acts 8:11, He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied. The sense is, “The age of other men is, say, Seventy years,” but the age of Messiah is inexpressible.—ὅτι) כי, because. The connecting link between His humiliation and exaltation.—αἴρεται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς, is taken away from the earth) The life of Jesus Christ, as compared with the fathers, Luke 3, was very short on the earth: He was cut off, Daniel 9:26, which serves as a most lucid argument that His generation is fixed elsewhere.

Verse 33. - His generation who shall declare? for and who shall declare his generation? A.V. and T.R. The preceding quotation is taken verbatim from the LXX., which, however, varies somewhat from the Hebrew. In this verse, for the Hebrew as rendered in the A.V., "He was taken from prison and from judgment," the LXX. has, "In his humiliation his judgment was taken away," having evidently read in their copy מֵעֹצְרו מִשְׁפָטו, or perhaps בְעצְרו, "Through [or, 'in'] his oppression [humiliation] his judgment was taken away." Mr. Cheyne translates the Hebrew, "Through oppression and through a judgment [sentence] he was taken "away [to death]." For the Hebrew of the A.V., "He was cut off out of the land of the living," the LXX. has, "His life is taken from the earth," where they must have read חַיו, "his life," as the subject of the verb, instead of חַיִּים, the living, taken in construction with אֶרֶץ , the earth. The differences, however, are not material in regard to the general meaning of the passage. His generation who shall declare? The explanation of this difficult expression belongs tea commentary on Isaiah. Here it must suffice to say that the explanation most in accordance with the meaning of the Hebrew words (יְשׂחֵחַ and דורו), with the context, and with the turn of thought in Isaiah 38:10-12 and Jeremiah 11:19, is that given in the 'Speaker's Commentary:' "Who will consider, give serious thought to, his life or age, seeing it is so prematurely cut off?" which is merely another way of saying that Messiah should "be cut off" (Daniel 9:26)" from the land of the living, that his Name be no more remembered" (Jeremiah, as above). It was the frustration of this hope of Jesus being forgotten in consequence of his death that so troubled the Sanhedrim (Acts 5:28). Acts 8:33Humiliation

See on Matthew 11:29.


His contemporaries. Who shall declare their wickedness?

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