And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray you, of whom speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Of himself, or of some other man?—Later interpreters, some of them ascribing the whole of the second half of Isaiah’s prophecies (Acts 40-66) to a great unknown writer living towards the close of the Babylonian Exile, have given very different answers to the question which the eunuch asked. They have seen in the righteous sufferer of Isaiah 53 either the delineation of the character of Jeremiah as the greatest sufferer of all the prophets, or of the righteous few who were sharers in his sufferings. This is not the place to discuss either the authenticity of this part of the writings that bear Isaiah’s name, or the primary historical application of this passage. It is enough to remember that here, as with well nigh every other Messianic prophecy cited in the New Testament, there may well have been “springing and germinant accomplishments,” end that a primary reference to persons or facts in nearly contemporary history does not exclude a more complete fulfilment in Him who gathered up in Himself all that belonged to the ideal sufferer, as well as to the ideal King, of whom the prophets had spoken, with special reference, we may believe, to the atoning power of His sufferings (Isaiah 53:4-6), and to His silent patience under them (Isaiah 53:7. Comp. 1Peter 2:22-25.)Acts 8:34-35. The eunuch said, Of whom speaketh the prophet this — He asks a very important question, a question necessary to be resolved, in order to the understanding of the prophecy; of himself — Does the prophet speak this of himself, in expectation of being treated as the other prophets were? or, does he speak it of some other man — In his own age, or in some age to come? Though the modern Jews will not allow it to be spoken of the Messiah, yet their ancient doctors interpreted it of him; and, perhaps, the eunuch knew this, and did partly understand the prophecy, and only proposed this question to draw on discourse with Philip. Then Philip — Doubtless, secretly adoring the divine providence, in giving him so fair an opportunity; opened his mouth — With an air of solemnity, proportionable to the importance of what he had to say; and began at the same scripture — In which Christ was so plainly described; and preached to him Jesus — ευηγγελισατο αυτω τον Ιησουν, preached to him glad tidings of Jesus, of whom, not Isaiah alone, but so many of the other prophets had spoken. And after he had laid before him the predictions recorded in Scripture concerning the Messiah, he, doubtless, bore witness to the glorious accomplishment of them in Jesus of Nazareth, and gave him the history of those extraordinary facts which had lately happened, in confirmation of the gospel he taught. His noble hearer, in the mean time, we have reason to believe, hearkened attentively; and, it appears, not in vain. For though he saw no miracle performed, in evidence of the truth of Philip’s doctrine, he found such a light breaking in upon his mind from the view given him of the prophecies, and such an inward conviction wrought in his spirit by the divine influence, that he became a sincere convert to the gospel.
Of himself ... - This was a natural inquiry, for there was nothing in the text itself that would determine to whom the reference was. The ancient Jews expressly applied the passage to the Messiah. Thus, the Targum of Jonathan on Isaiah 52:13, "Behold my servant shall deal prudently," etc., renders it, "Behold, my servant, the Messiah, shall be prospered," etc. But we should remember that the eunuch was probably not deeply versed in the Scriptures. We should remember, further, that he had just been at Jerusalem, and that the public mind was agitated about the proceedings of the Sanhedrin in putting Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Messiah, to death. It is by no means improbable that This passage had been urged as a proof that he was the Messiah; and that the Jews, to evade the force of it, had maintained that it referred to Isaiah or Jeremiah - as they have done since. Yet the subject was so important and so difficult that it had occupied the attention of the traveler during his journey; and his question shows that he had been deeply pondering the inquiry whether it could refer to Isaiah himself or any of the prophets, or whether it must have reference to the Messiah. In this state of suspense and agitation, when his mind was just suited to receive instruction, God sent a messenger to guide him. He often thus prepares, by His Providence, or by a train of affecting and solemn events, the minds of people for a reception of the truth; and then He sends his messengers to guide the thoughtful and the anxious in the way of peace and salvation.Of whom speaketh the prophet this? The modestly inquisitive man does get understanding; this question (God so ordering it) brings in the discourse concerning our Saviour.
Of himself, or of some other man? This the eunuch might well make a question, because Isaiah himself suffered much under Manasseh.
I pray thee, of whom speakest the prophet this? being desirous of knowing who was the subject of this famous prophecy: which to know was very useful and edifying, and was not a matter of mere indifference and speculation, but of great moment and concern. A like way of speaking, in order to know the sense of a passage, is used by the Jews (w): thus upon reading Proverbs 31:2, it is asked,
"of whom does Solomon say this Scripture? he does not say it but of his father David.''
Does he speak
of himself or of some other man? which is very properly and pertinently put; since there might be some appearance of its application to Isaiah, who suffered under Manasseh; and it might be applied to different persons, as it has been since by the Jews; as to Josiah, Jeremiah in particular, and to the people of Israel in general, though very wrongly: Josiah could never be intended, as one of their noted commentators (x) expounds the paragraph; since it was not the sins of the people that were the cause of his death, but his own, and his vanity in meddling with what he had nothing to do with, and had no real call unto; nor can it be said of him that he did no violence, or that he bore the sins of others, and died for them, and made his soul an offering for sin; nor were his days prolonged; nor did the pleasure of the Lord prosper in his hand: nor is the passage applicable to Jeremiah, as another of their writers (y) would have it; he was not free from sin; nor was he wounded for the sins of his people; nor did he undergo his sufferings with patience; nor had he a large number of disciples; nor was he extolled and exalted, as this person is said to be: much less, as others (z) say, is the whole body of the people of Israel in captivity intended; since one single individual as spoken of throughout the whole; and is manifestly distinguished from the people of Israel, whose sins and sorrows he was to bear, and for whose transgressions he was to be stricken and wounded. In all which they go contrary to their Targum (a), Talmud (b), and other ancient writings (c), which interpret many things in this section or paragraph of the Messiah (d): however, as it might be differently understood, or difficult to be understood, the eunuch very appropriately puts this question.
(w) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 10. 1.((x) Abarbinel in Isaiah 53.(y) Sandiah Gaon in Aben Ezra in ib. (z) Jarchi, Aben Ezra, & Kimchi in ib. (a) In Isaiah 52.13. and liii. 10. (b) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.((c) Zohar in Exod. fol. 85. 2. Midrash Ruth, fol. 33. 2.((d) See my Book of the Prophecies of the Messiah, p. 161. &c.And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 8:34-38. Ἀποκριθείς] for Philip had placed himself beside him in the chariot, Acts 8:31; and this induced the eunuch, desirous of knowledge and longing for salvation, to make his request, in which, therefore, there was so far involved a reply to the fact of Philip having at his solicitation joined him.
The question is one of utter unconcealed ignorance, in which, however, it is intelligently clear to him on what doubtful point he requires instruction.
ἀνοίξας κ.τ.λ.] a pictorial trait, in which there is here implied something solemn in reference to the following weighty announcement. See on Matthew 5:2; 2 Corinthians 6:11. Comp. Acts 10:34.
κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν] along the way; see Winer, p. 374 [E. T. 499].
τί κωλύει] σφόδρα ψυχῆς τοῦτο ἐκκαιομένης, Chrysostom.
βαπτισθῆναι] Certainly in the εὐηγγελίσατο αὐτῷ τὸν Ἰησοῦν there was comprehended also instruction concerning baptism.
Acts 8:38. Observe the simply emphatic character of the circumstantial description.
ἐκέλευσε] to the charioteer.
Beza erroneously supposes that the water in which the baptism took place was the river Eleutherus. According to Jerome, de locis Hebr., it was at the village Bethsoron. Robinson, II. p. 749, believes that he has discovered it on the road from Beit Jibrîn to Gaza. For other opinions and traditions, see Hackett, p. 157; Sepp, p. 34.Acts 8:34. ἀποκ., see above Acts 3:12, Acts 5:8. It has been sometimes supposed that the eunuch was acquainted with the tradition that Isaiah had been sawn asunder by Manasseh—Felten, see Wetstein on Hebrews 11:37.34. of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?] As Isaiah 61. was held by the Jews to relate to Isaiah himself, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, &c.,” so the eunuch enquires whether the words he has been reading have the same reference.Acts 8:34. Δέομαί σου, I pray thee) A simple and candid question.—περὶ τίνος, concerning whom) To every text this question may be applied, Concerning whom? and, For what end?—περὶ ἑαυτοῦ, concerning himself) It is the duty of a prophet not to speak much concerning himself, but concerning Christ.—ἢ, or) By dividing rightly, one comes nearer to a decision.—ἑτέρου, another) Who is that other, save Christ? concerning whom all the prophets testify.—τινὸς, some) The Eunuch asks very indefinitely as yet.Verse 34. - Other for other man, A.V. The eunuch's intelligent question gave Philip exactly the opening he required for preaching to him Jesus, the Messiah of whom all the prophets spake by the Holy Ghost (1 Peter 1:10, 11).
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