Acts 8:39
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(39) The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip.—Human feeling would have naturally led the teacher to continue his work, and to accompany the convert with a view to further instruction; but an impulse so strong and irresistible that it was felt to be from the Spirit of the Lord led Philip to an abrupt and immediate departure. He was literally snatched away from his companion. So understood, the history presents a striking parallel to the Spirit hindering St. Paul from going in this or that direction in Acts 16:6-7. Many commentators have, however, taken the words in a yet more literal and material sense, as stating that Philip was caught up into the air and carried out of sight, and compare the cases of Elijah (1Kings 18:12; 2Kings 2:11), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:14), and St. Paul (2Corinthians 12:2; 2Corinthians 12:4). In the last two cases, however, the language of the writer implies a spiritual rather than a bodily transport, and the case of Elijah, in 1Kings 18:12, admits of an explanation like that which has now been offered in the case of Philip. The use of the same verb in 2Corinthians 12:2; 2Corinthians 12:4, suggests the thought that here also there was a suspension of the normal activity of consciousness. As St. Bernard walked by the Lake of Geneva, and knew not that he was near it, so Philip rushed away, as drawn on he knew not whither, as in a state of ecstasy; and so, in informing St. Luke of what passed (it is obvious that the report must, in the first instance, have come from him), could give no other account of his journeying than that he was “found” at Azotus.

Went on his way rejoicing.—A remarkable various-reading runs: “The Holy Spirit fell on the eunuch, and an angel of the Lord caught away Philip;” but it does not appear to be more than a conjectural emendation. Joy at the new-found truth prevailed, we must believe, over any sorrow at the disappearance of the preacher. Eusebius (Hist. ii. 1) speaks of him as returning to his native country, and there preaching “the knowledge of the God of the universe and the life-giving abode of the Saviour with men,” and so fulfilling the words that “Ethiopia should stretch forth her hands unto God” (Psalm 68:31); but it does not appear that he was acquainted with any historical facts. It is, perhaps, not without significance in connection with this history, that the Ethiopian Church has been throughout its history the most strongly Jewish in its worship and tone of thought ‘of all Christian communities (Stanley, Eastern Church, p. 12).

Acts 8:39. And when they were come up out of the water — Or, from the water, as εκ του υδατος may be properly rendered; the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip — Namely, in a miraculous manner, probably transporting him, part of the way at least, through the air; a thing which seems to have happened with respect to some of the prophets. See 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16; Ezekiel 3:14. That the eunuch saw him no more — This fact is as surprising as the other parts of the story. One would have expected that the eunuch should either have stayed with Philip, or have taken him along with him into his own country, especially as it seems he might have been spared in these parts of Palestine, where there were so many apostles, evangelists, and other teachers of Christianity; and his ministry was much needed in Ethiopia, where, at this time, there were none; and where, recommended by a person so high in power as the eunuch was, he might probably have been remarkably useful in converting the Ethiopians to the faith of the gospel. But God ordered it otherwise, and took away Philip so suddenly as not even to give him time to address an exhortation to the eunuch after his baptism, as it is probable he intended to do. His sudden departure, however, in so miraculous a way, was sufficient to make up the want of that exhortation, especially if we suppose that he was caught up and carried through the air in the eunuch’s sight. It may not be improper to observe here, that the Alexandrian MS., and several other old copies, read it, Πνευμα αγιον επεσεν επι τον ευνουχον, αγγελος δε Κυριου ηρπασε, The Holy Spirit fell upon the eunuch, but an angel of the Lord snatched away Philip: and certainly it is not improbable that God should communicate a large measure of his Spirit, and even some extraordinary gifts thereof, to such a person going into a country where the gospel was entirely unknown, and should thereby furnish him for the great work of preaching it there. And he went on his way rejoicing — His heart being full of thankfulness, that he had been favoured with the privilege of so important an interview with such a divinely-commissioned teacher, and highly-favoured servant of Christ, and that, after having received the gospel from his lips, he had seen such a miraculous confirmation of its truth in his sudden removal from his sight; a fact to which all his attendants were witnesses. He rejoiced also, 1st, That he himself was united to Christ, had an interest in him, and was thereby made a child of God, and an heir of eternal felicity and glory: and, 2d, That he had such good tidings to bring to his countrymen, and a prospect of bringing them also, by virtue of his interest among them, into fellowship with Christ; for he returned, not only a Christian, but a minister. And Eusebius assures us, (Ecclesiastes Hist., lib. 2. cap. 1,) that he planted a flourishing church in Ethiopia, a fact in which all the most ancient histories of that country agree.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.Out of the water - ἐκ ek. This preposition stands opposed to εἰς eis, "into"; and as that may mean to, so this may mean From; if that means into, this means here out of.

The Spirit of the Lord - See Acts 8:29. The Spirit had suggested to Philip to go to meet the eunuch, and the same Spirit, now that he had fulfilled the design of his going there, directed his departure.

Caught away - This phrase has been usually understood of a forcible or miraculous removal of Philip to some other place. Some have even supposed that he was borne through the air by an angel (see even Doddridge). To such foolish interpretations have many expositors been led. The meaning is, clearly, that the Spirit, who had directed Philip to go near the eunuch, now removed him in a similar manner. That this is the meaning is clear:

(1) Because it accounts for all that occurred. It is not wise to suppose the existence of a miracle except where the effect cannot otherwise be accounted for, and except where there is a plain statement that there was a miracle.

(2) the word "caught away" ἥρπασεν hērpasen does not imply that there was a miracle. The word properly means "to seize and bear away anything violently, without the consent of the owner," as robbers and plunderers do. Then it signifies to remove anything in a forcible manner; to make use of strength or power to remove it, Acts 23:10; Matthew 13:19; John 10:28; 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4, etc. In no case does it ever denote that a miracle is performed. And all that can be signified here is, that the Spirit strongly admonished Philip to go to some other place; that he so forcibly or vividly suggested the duty to his mind as to tear him away, as it were, from the society of the eunuch. He had been deeply interested in the case. He would have found pleasure in continuing the journey with him. But the strong convictions of duty urged by the Holy Spirit impelled him, as it were, to break off this new and interesting acquaintanceship, and to go to some other place. The purpose for which he was sent, to instruct and baptize the eunuch, was accomplished, and now he was called to some other field of labor. A similar instance of interpretation has been considered in the notes on Matthew 4:5.

And he went on his way rejoicing - His mind was enlightened on a perplexing passage of Scripture. He was satisfied respecting the Messiah. He was baptized; and he experienced what all feel who embrace the Saviour and are baptized - joy. It was joy resulting from the fact that he was reconciled to God; and a joy the natural effect of having done his duty promptly in making a profession of religion. If we wish happiness if we would avoid clouds and gloom, we should do our duty at once. If we delay until tomorrow what we ought to do today, we may expect to be troubled with melancholy thoughts. If we find peace, it will be in doing promptly just what God requires at our hands. This is the last that we hear of this man. Some have supposed that he carried the gospel to Ethiopia, and preached it there. But there is strong evidence to believe that the gospel was not preached there successfully until about the year 330 a.d., when it was introduced by Frumentius, sent to Abyssinia for that purpose by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. From this narrative we may learn:

(1) That God often prepares the mind to receive the truth.

(2) that this takes place sometimes with the great and the noble, as well as the poor and obscure.

(3) that we should study the Scriptures. This is the way in which God usually directs the mind in the truths of religion.

(4) that they who read the Bible with candor and care may expect that God will, in some mode, guide them into the truth. It will often be in a way which they least expect; but they need not be afraid of being left to darkness or error.

(5) that we should be ready at all times to speak to sinners. God often prepares their minds, as he did that of the eunuch, to receive the truth.

(6) that we should not be afraid of the great, he rich, or of strangers. God often prepares their minds to receive the truth; and we may find a man willing to hear of the Saviour where we least expected it.

(7) that we should do our duty in this respect, as Philip did, promptly. We should not delay or hesitate, but should at once do that which we believe to be in accordance with the will of God. See Psalm 119:60.

39, 40. the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip—To deny [as Meyer, Olshausen, Bloomfield] the miraculous nature of Philip's disappearance, is vain. It stands out on the face of the words, as just a repetition of what we read of the ancient prophets, in 1Ki 18:12; 2Ki 2:16. And the same word (as Bengel remarks) is employed to express a similar idea in 2Co 12:2, 4; 1Th 4:17.

the eunuch saw him no more—nor, perhaps, for very joy, cared to see him [Bengel].

and he went on his way rejoicing—He had found Christ, and the key to the Scriptures; his soul was set free, and his discipleship sealed; he had lost his teacher, but gained what was infinitely better: He felt himself a new man, and "his joy was full." Tradition says he was the first preacher of the Gospel in Ethiopia; and how, indeed, could he choose but "tell what the Lord had done for his soul?" Yet there is no certainty as to any historical connection between his labors and the introduction of Christianity into that country.

Philip was suddenly and extraordinarily taken away from the eunuch’s sight and company, that thereby the eunuch might be the more assured of the truth of those things which had been taught by him. The rejoicing was the effect of his faith; being now justified, he had peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1. And when they were come up out of the water,.... Which is another circumstance, showing that baptism was then performed by immersion; with this compare Matthew 3:16 and so it is said of the high priest, when he washed himself on the day of atonement, , "he went down and dipped, and came up" (m); and so any other person that was obliged to dipping on any account, , "went down and dipped, and came up" (n). And again it is said (o), it happened to a servant maid of Rabbi, , "that she dipped herself and came up".

The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; as soon as the ordinance was over; so that the eunuch had no opportunity of rewarding him for his instructions and labour; and this might be done on purpose to show that he had no mercenary end in joining himself to his chariot; and this sudden rapture and disappearance might be a confirmation to the eunuch that this whole affair was of God. The Spirit of the Lord took up Philip, just as he is said to lift up Ezekiel, between earth and heaven, Ezekiel 8:3 and carried him above the earth as far as Azotus. The Alexandrian copy, and one of Beza's, and some others, read the words thus, "the holy Spirit fall upon the eunuch, but the angel of the Lord caught away Philip"; the same angel, it may be, that bid him go toward the south:

that the eunuch saw him no more; neither at that time, nor perhaps ever after; for one went one way, and another way:

and he went on his way; towards Ethiopia; and, as the Ethiopic version reads, "into his own country"; which is one reason why he saw Philip no more: however, he went thither

rejoicing, as he had great reason to do; being blessed with the saving knowledge of Christ, and true faith in the Son of God, and admitted to the holy ordinance of baptism; having first received the baptism of the Spirit, or having the grace of the Spirit bestowed on him, and implanted in him: and, according to some copies just now mentioned, after his baptism the Spirit fell on him in an extraordinary manner, and that without imposition of hands; so that, upon the whole, he had great reason to rejoice.

(m) Misna Yoma, c. 3. sect. 4. 6. & 7. sect. 3. 4. (n) T. Bab. Ceritot, fol. 13. 1.((o) T. Bab. Nidda, fol. 66. 2.

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 8:39-40. Luke relates an involuntary removal[232] of Philip effected by the Spirit of God (κυρίον). Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Ezekiel 3:14; 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16; also what happened with Habakkuk in Bel and the Dragon, 33. He now had to apply himself to further work, after the design of the Spirit (Acts 8:29) had been attained in the case of the Ethiopian. The Spirit snatched him away (comp. John 6:15), in which act not only the impulse and the impelling power, but also the mode, is conceived of as miraculous—as a sudden unseen transportation as far as Ashdod, Acts 8:40. The sudden and quick hurrying away which took place on the impulse of the Spirit (Kuinoel, Olshausen, comp. also Lange, apost. Zeitalt. II. p. 113) is the historical element in the case, to which tradition (and how easily this was suggested by the O. T. conception in 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16) annexed, in addition to the miraculous operative cause, also the miraculous mode of the event. But to go even beyond this admission, and to allow merely the country and person of the converted Ethiopian to pass as historical (Zeller), is wholly without warrant with such an operation of angel and Spirit as the narrative contains, when viewed in connection with the super-sensuous causal domain of N. T. facts in general.

ἐπορεύετο γὰρ κ.τ.λ.] he obtained no further sight of Philip, for he made no halt, nor did he take another road in order to seek again him who was removed from him, but he went on his way with joy, namely, over the salvation obtained in Christ (comp. Acts 16:34). He knew that the object of his meeting with Philip was accomplished.

εἰς Ἄζωτον] He was found removed to Ashdod. Winer, pp. 387, 572 [E. T. 516, 769]; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 287 [E. T. 333]. Transported thither, he again became visible. Comp. Acts 21:13; Esther 1:5; Xen. Anab. iii. 4. 13 : εἰς τοῦτον δὲ τὸν σταθμὸν Τισσαφέρνης ἐπεφάνη, 2Ma 1:33.

ἌΖΩΤΟς (Herod. ii. 157; Diod. xix. 85; in Strabo, xvi. 29, p. 759; oxytone[233]), אַשְׂדוֹד, Joshua 13:3, 1 Samuel 5:5, was a Philistine city, the seat of a prince; after its destruction by Jonathan rebuilt by Gabinius (Joseph. Antt. xiv. 5. 3), 270 stadia to the north of Gaza, to the west of Jerusalem, now as a village named Esdud (Volney, Travels, II. p. 251; Robinson, II. p. 629). See Ruetschi in Herzog’s Encykl. II. p. 556.

ΚΑΙΣΆΡΕΙΑ is the celebrated ΚΑΙΣ. ΣΕΒΑΣΤΉ (so called in honour of Augustus), built by Herod I. on the site of the Castellum Stratonis,—the residency of the Roman procurators, on the Mediterranean, sixty-eight miles north-west of Jerusalem; it became the abode of Philip; see Acts 21:8. He thus journeyed northward from Ashdod, perhaps through Ekron, Ramah, Joppa, and the plain of Sharon. There is no reason to regard the notice ἕωςΚαισάρειαν as prophetic, and to assume that Philip, at the time of the conversion of Cornelius, Acts 10:1 ff., was not yet in Caesarea (Schleiermacher, Lekebusch, Laurent), seeing that Cornelius is by special divine revelation directed to Peter, and therefore has no occasion to betake himself to Philip.

[232] The excellent Bengel strangely remarks: that one or other of the apostles may have gone even to America “pari trajectu.”

[233] Incorrectly; see Lipsius, grammat. Unters. p. 30.Acts 8:39. Πνεῦμα Κ. ἥρπασε: although the expression is simply Πνεῦμα Κ. the reference is evidently to the same divine power as in Acts 8:29, and cannot be explained as meaning an inward impulse of the Evangelist, or as denoting a hurricane or storm of wind (as even Nösgen and Stier supposed). The article is omitted before Πνεῦμα Κ. in Luke 4:18, so also in LXX, Isaiah 61:1, and we cannot therefore conclude anything from its omission here. ἥρπασε, abripuit, the disappearance, as the context shows, was regarded as supernatural, cf. LXX, 1 Kings 18:12, 2 Kings 2:16 (Ezekiel 3:14, Hebrew only רוח). Thus Hilgen feld recognises not only a likeness here to the O.T. passages quoted, but that a miraculous transference of Philip to another place is implied. No doubt, as Hilgenfeld points out, πνεῦμα may mean wind, John 3:8, but this by no means justifies exclusion of all reference here to the Holy Spirit. No doubt we may see with Blass a likeness in the language of the narrative to the O.T. passages just cited, and St. Luke’s informants may have been the daughters of Philip, who were themselves προφήτιδες (see Blass, in loco); but there is no reason why he should not have heard the narrative from St. Philip himself, and the rendering πνεῦμα by ventus is not satisfactory, although Blass fully recognises that Philip departed by the same divine impulse as that by which he had come. Holtzmann endorses the reference to the O.T. passages above, but specially draws attention to the parallel which he supposes in Bel and the Dragon, Acts 8:34 ff. But this passage should be contrasted rather than compared with the simple narrative of the text, so free from any fantastic embellishment, while plainly implying a supernatural element; cf. for the verb ἁρπάζω, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4 (a reference to which as explaining Philip’s withdrawal is not to the point, since the narrative cannot imply that Philip was ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος), Revelation 12:5, used of a snatching or taking up due to divine agency, cf. Wis 4:11, where it is said of Enoch ἡρπάγη. Both in classical Greek and in the LXX the word implies forcible or sudden seizure (John 6:15).—καὶ οὐκ εἶδενἐπορεύετο γὰρ κ.τ.λ. If these two clauses are closely connected as by R.V., they do not simply state that the eunuch went on his own way (Rendall), (in contrast with Philip who went his way), rejoicing in the good news which he had heard, and in the baptism which he had received; and R.V. punctuation surely need not prevent the disappearance of Philip from being viewed as mysterious, even if the words καὶ οὐκ εἶδον αὐτὸν οὐκέτι do not imply this. Moreover αὐτοῦ may rather emphasise the fact that the eunuch went his way, which he would not have done had he seen Philip, but would perhaps have followed him who had thus enlightened his path (so Weiss, in loco, reading αὐτοῦ τῆν ὁδόναὐτοῦ emphatic: see also St. Chrysostom’s comment in loco).—χαίρων: “the fruit of the Spirit is … joy,” Galatians 5:22 (the word at the end of a clause is characteristic of Luke; Luke 15:5; Luke 19:6, see Vogel, p. 45). Eusebius describes the eunuch, to whom he gives the name of Indich, as the first preacher to his countrymen of the tidings of great joy, and on the possible reception in the earliest Christian times of the Gospel message in the island of Meroë at least, see “Ethiopian Church,” Dict. of Christ. Biog., ii., 234 (Smith & Wace). In the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch men have seen the first fulfilment of the ancient prophecy, Psalm 68:31 (Luckock, Footprints of the Apostles as traced by St Luke, i., 219, and C. and H., p. 66).39. the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip] Just as Obadiah expected Elijah would be caught away while he himself went on his errand to Ahab (1 Kings 18:12). Compare the language of Ezekiel (Acts 3:12; Acts 3:14, Acts 8:3, &c.), “So the spirit lifted me up and took me away.”

that [and] the eunuch saw him no more] This marvellous removal of Philip would confirm the eunuch and his companions in their faith. They would recognize that he who had been sent unto them was a man of God.

and he went on his way rejoicing] The Greek says “for he went, &c.,” and thus gives the reason why Philip was seen no more of the eunuch. He did not go back, like the sons of the prophets at Jericho, who went to seek Elijah, but being filled with joy at the new light which God had sent to him, felt no anxiety for the messenger by whom God had sent it, but an assurance that he was cared for by the hand which had sent him forth.Acts 8:39. Ἥρπασε, caught away) with miraculous velocity, without any action or exertion on the part of Philip, to a distance; as was needed in a pathless region. Such things often happened to the prophets: 1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:16. The same verb occurs, 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:17. By this very mode of departure the faith of the Eunuch was confirmed. By a like mode of transit one or two apostles might (may) have reached even America, if no other way was open to them.—γὰρ) in the strict sense, for. He did not see, nor did he anxiously care to see, Philip more, by reason of joy. He who has obtained the Scripture and Christ can now dispense with a human guide. We do not read of the imposition of hands on the Eunuch.—[χαίρων, rejoicing) To a soul disposed aright, what an amount of good can be vouchsafed at one and the same time!—V. g.]Verse 39. - Came up for were come up, A.V.; and the eunuch for that the eunuch, A.V.; for he went for and he went, A.V. The eunuch made no attempt to follow Philip, but went on his road to Egypt, his whole heart filled with the new joy of Christ's salvation. Caught away

Suddenly and miraculously.

And he went, etc. (ἐπορεύετο γὰρ)

A mistranslation. Rev., rightly, "for he went." A reason is given for the eunuch's seeing Philip no more. He did not stop nor take another road to seek him, but went on his way.

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