Acts 9:11
And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) The street which is called Straight.—A street answering to this description still runs from the Eastern Gate to the palace of the Pacha, and is known locally as the “Street of Bazaars.” Somewhat curiously, the house shown by guides as that of Judas is not in it. A piece of ground surrounded by trees, and used as a Christian burial-place, is pointed out as the scene of the Conversion; but this is on the east side of the city, and St. Paul must have approached from the south or south-west.

Saul, of Tarsus.—The passage is memorable as the first mention of the Apostle’s birth-place. For an account of the city, see Notes on Acts 7:58 and Acts 9:30.

Behold, he prayeth.—The thoughts which the words suggest belong to the preacher rather than the commentator. We can but think of the contrast between the present and the recent past—between the threatening and slaughter which the persecutor breathed out as he drew near to Damascus, and the prayer of humble penitence in which he was now living. Estimating that prayer by that which came as the answer to it, we may think of it as including pardon for the past, light and wisdom for the future, strength to do the work to which he was now called, intercession for those whom he had before persecuted unto the death.

9:10-22 A good work was begun in Saul, when he was brought to Christ's feet with those words, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And never did Christ leave any who were brought to that. Behold, the proud Pharisee, the unmerciful oppressor, the daring blasphemer, prayeth! And thus it is even now, and with the proud infidel, or the abandoned sinner. What happy tidings are these to all who understand the nature and power of prayer, of such prayer as the humbled sinner presents for the blessings of free salvation! Now he began to pray after another manner than he had done; before, he said his prayers, now, he prayed them. Regenerating grace sets people on praying; you may as well find a living man without breath, as a living Christian without prayer. Yet even eminent disciples, like Ananias, sometimes stagger at the commands of the Lord. But it is the Lord's glory to surpass our scanty expectations, and show that those are vessels of his mercy whom we are apt to consider as objects of his vengeance. The teaching of the Holy Spirit takes away the scales of ignorance and pride from the understanding; then the sinner becomes a new creature, and endeavours to recommend the anointed Saviour, the Son of God, to his former companions.Into the street which is called Straight - This street extends now from the eastern to the western gate, about three miles, crossing the whole city and suburbs in a direct line. Near the eastern gate is a house, said to be that of Judah, in which Paul lodged. There is in it a very small closet, where tradition reports that the apostle passed three days without food, until Ananias restored him to sight. Tradition also says that he had here the vision recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:2. There is also in this street a fountain whose water is drunk by Christians, in remembrance of what, they suppose, the same fountain produced for the baptism of Paul (Robinson, Calmet).

Of Tarsus - This city was the capital of Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor. It was situated on the hanks of the Cydnus River. It was distinguished for the culture of Greek philosophy and literature, so that at one time in its schools, and in the number of its learned men, it was the rival of Athens and Alexandria. In allusion to this, perhaps, Paul says that he was "born in Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city," Acts 21:39. In reward for its exertions and sacrifices during the civil wars of Rome, Tarsus was made a free city by Augustus. See notes on Acts 16:37; Acts 21:39; Acts 22:28. It still exists as "Tersous," with a population of about 20,000, but is described as "filthy and ruinous."

Behold, he prayeth - This gives us a full indication of the manner in which Saul passed the three days mentioned in Acts 9:9. It is plain, from what follows, that Ananias regarded Saul as an enemy to Christianity, and that he would have been apprehensive of danger if he were with him, Acts 9:13-14. This remark, "Behold, he prayeth," is made to him to silence his fears, and to indicate the change in the feelings and views of Saul. Before, he was a persecutor; now, his change is indicated by his giving himself to prayer. That Saul did not pray before is not implied by this; for he fully accorded with the customs of the Jews, Philippians 3:4-6. But his prayers were not the prayers of a saint. They were the prayers of a Pharisee (compare Luke 18:10, etc.), now they were the prayers of a broken-hearted sinner; then he prayed depending on his own righteousness, now depending on the mercy of God in the Messiah. We may learn here:

(1) That one indication of conversion to God is real prayer. A Christian may as well be characterized by that as by any single appellation - "a man of prayer."

(2) it is always the attendant of true conviction for sin that we pray. The convicted Sinner feels his danger, and his need of forgiveness. Conscious that he has no righteousness himself, he now seeks that of another, and depends on the mercy of God. Before, he was too proud to pray; now, he is willing to humble himself and to ask for mercy.

(3) it is a sufficient indication of the character of any man to say, "Behold, he prays." It at once tells us, better than volumes would without this, what is his real character. Knowing this, we know all about him. We at once confide in his piety, his honesty, his humility, his willingness to do good. It is at the same time the indication of his state with God, and the pledge that he will do his duty to people. We mean, of course, real prayer. Knowing that a man is sincere, and humble, and faithful in his private devotions, and in the devotions of his family, we confide in him; and are willing to trust to his readiness to do all that he is convinced that he ought to do. Ananias, apprised of this in Saul, had full evidence of the change of his character, and was convinced that he ought to lay aside all his former prejudices, and to seek him, and to acknowledge him as a brother.

11. go into the street … called Straight—There is still a street of this name in Damascus, about half a mile in length, running from east to west through the city [Maundrell].

and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus—There is something touching in the minuteness of these directions. Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, lying along the northeast coast of the Mediterranean. It was situated on the river Cydnus, was a "large and populous city" (says Xenophon, and see Ac 21:39), and under the Romans had the privilege of self-government.

behold, he prayeth—"breathing out" no longer "threatenings and slaughter," but struggling desires after light and life in the Persecuted One. Beautiful note of encouragement as to the frame in which Ananias would find the persecutor.

Inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul: God telleth our wanderings, and knoweth our abode, and mindeth his, especially in their sorrows, which was Saul’s case.

For, behold, he prayeth; he spent those three days, spoken of Acts 9:9, in acts of great humiliation, in which he would also not taste any food; this is revealed to Ananias, that he might not fear to go unto him. A great change! Is Saul also amongst them that pray? A greater wonder than that the other Saul was formerly amongst the prophets. And the Lord said unto him, arise,.... Quickly, directly, immediately, from off thy bed; the case required haste and dispatch:

and go into the street which is called Straight; a street in the city of Damascus so called; the streets of cities were called by different names, to distinguish them as ours now are. So in Jerusalem there was the street of the house of God, which led to the temple, Ezra 10:9 and the upper street, in which idolatrous Gentiles, and such as were fullers by trade, dwelt (i); and the street of the butchers; and the street of the wool staplers (k): and this street in Damascus might be called "Straight"; because it might be a long straight street, without any windings and turnings, which might go through the city. Whether or no this was one of the streets which Benhadad allowed Ahab to make in Damascus, 1 Kings 20:34 cannot be said;

and inquire in the house of Judas; which was in that street: who this Judas was is not certain, that he was a Jew appears by his name, but whether a believing, or an unbelieving Jew, is not known; however, he was Saul's host, and if this was the house he was recommended to from Jerusalem, or designed to go to when he set out from thence, it is very probable he was an unbeliever; but if it was an house he pitched on after his conversion, it is likely this Judas was a believer, and whether the same with Judas surnamed Barsabas may be considered, who is mentioned in Acts 15:22 however, at this man's house Ananias was to inquire

for one called Saul of Tarsus; or Saul "by name the Tarsian". So it is said (l) of Bigthan and Teresh, Esther 6:2 that they were , "two Tarsians", perhaps citizens of Tarsus, as Saul was. Tarsus was a city in Cilicia, and which Solinus (m) calls the mother of cities, and is the same with the Tarshish of the Old Testament; here Saul was born, and of it he was a citizen; Acts 21:39 and therefore is here called Saul of Tarsus, or Saul the Tarsian:

for behold he prayeth: so as he had never prayed before; now he prayed with the Spirit, and with the understanding, from a feeling sense of his wants, for spiritual blessings, such as he had no knowledge of, nor desire after before. God has no stillborn children; as soon as any are quickened by his grace, they cry unto him; prayer is the breath of a regenerate man, and shows him to be alive. He who before was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ, now breathes after communion with Christ and them. This is said, no doubt, to encourage Ananias to go to him. The Syriac and Arabic versions place this clause at the beginning of the next verse, "for behold, whilst he prayed he saw", &c. the Ethiopic version has it not.

(i) Misn. Shekalim, c. 8. sect. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (k) Misn. Eruvim, c. 10. sect. 9. (l) T. Bab. Megilla, fol. 7. 1. & 13. 2. & Targum in Esther ii. 21. (m) Polyhistor, c. 51.

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of {f} Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

(f) Tarsus was a city of Cilicia near to Anchiala. It is said that Sardanapalus built these two cities in one day.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 9:11-12. There is a “straight street,” according to Wilson, still in Damascus.[241] Comp. Hackett in loc., and Petermann, Reisen im Orient, I. p. 98.

Σαῦλον ὀνόματι] Saul by name, Saul, as he is called. Comp. Xen. Anab. i. 4. 11 : πόλιςΘΆΨΑΚΟς ὈΝΌΜΑΤΙ. Tob 6:10; 4Ma 5:3.

ἸΔΟῪ ΓᾺΡἈΝΑΒΛΈΨῌ] contains the reason of the intimation given: for, behold, he prays, is now therefore in the spiritual frame which is requisite for what thou art to do to him, and—he is prepared for thy very arrival to help him—he has seen in a vision a man, who came in and, etc.

Imposition of hands (comp. on Acts 8:15) is here also the medium of communication of divine grace.

ἄνδρα ὀνόμ. ʼΑνανίαν] This is put, and not the simple ΣΈ, to indicate that the person who appeared to Saul had been previously entirely unknown to him, and that only on occasion of this vision had he learned his name, Ananias.

[241] The house in which Paul is said to have dwelt is still pointed out. See also the Ausland, 1866, No. 24, p. 564.Acts 9:11. ἀναστὰς: the word as has been previously remarked is characteristic of Luke (cf. its use in O.T.), and does not in the least support the idea that the vision was a dream of the night, cf. Acts 8:26.—ἐπὶ τὴν ῥύμην τ. κ. Εὐθεῖαν: ῥύμη, cf. Acts 12:10, Matthew 6:2. In Luke 14:21 it seems to be used in contrast to πλατεῖα, but in LXX at least in one passage it is used as its equivalent, Isaiah 15:3, cf. R.V., “broad places,” רְחֹב. It is found also in Sir 9:7 (perhaps twice) and in Tob 13:18, where in the previous ver., 17, we have πλατεῖαι, although it is very doubtful whether we can press a contrast here, and ὁύμη, Acts 9:18, might perhaps be taken as meaning a city-quarter, Latin vicus, see Speaker’s Commentary, in loco. On the stages in the history of the word, and its occurrence in Attic Greek, e.g., in the comic writers Antiphanes (380 B.C.) and Philippides (323 B.C.), see Kennedy, Sources of N. T. Greek, pp. 15, 16; Rutherford, New Phrynichus, p. 488.—Εὐθεῖαν: “the street called Straight” may be traced from the eastern to the western gate, and it still bears the name, Derb el-Mustakîm, Schneller, Apostelfahrten, pp. 254, 255, “Damascus,” Hastings’ B.D. The “house of Judas,” also that of Ananias, are still pointed out, but considerable uncertainty attaches to the attempts at identification, see “Damascus,” u. s., also Felten, in loco.Ταρσέα: Tarsus was the capital of the Roman Province of Cilicia. Curtius has called it the Athens of Asia Minor, and Strabo emphasises its celebrity for the production of men famous in all branches of science and art. As a celebrated university town it may have ranked amongst its students not only St. Paul but his companion St. Luke, attracted it may be by the renown of its medical school; and if this be so, the acquaintance of the two men may date from their student days. To Tarsus, moreover, and to a country where Stoicism was cradled, St. Paul may have been indebted for his evident familiarity with the ideas and tenets of the Stoic philosophy. From Cyprus came Zeno and Persæus, from Soli, Chrysippus and Aratus, whilst Anazarba in Cilicia was the birthplace of the physician Dioscorides, contemporary of St. Luke as of St. Paul. It is indeed possible to enumerate at least six Stoic teachers whose home was Tarsus. See notes on St. Paul at Athens and at Ephesus, and see J. Lightfoot, Hor. Heb., on Acts 6:9; Curtius, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, ii., p. 538 ff.; Zahn, Einleitung i., pp. 37, 50; Lightfoot, Philippians, p. 303 ff.; Salmon, Introd., p. 317.—ἰδοὺ γὰρ προσεύχεται: “orantes yidet Jesus” Bengel; present tense, continuous prayer, 1 Thessalonians 5:17.11. into the street which is called Straight] A long straight street still runs through Damascus, and is probably (so persistent is every feature of Oriental life) the same in which Ananias found Saul in the house of Judas.Acts 9:11. Πορεύθητι, go) So to Saul, ch. Acts 22:10; and so again, Acts 9:15, to Ananias, πορεύου, go.—ἰδοὺ, behold) Saul was shown to Ananias, praying. Jesus sees those who are praying.—γὰρ, for) The force of the Ætiology (assigning of the reason) appertains to the words, He hath seen—Ananias.—προσεύχεται, he prayeth) All spiritual motions flow together, and are exercised, in the act of praying.Verse 11. - To for into, A.V., named for called, A.V.; a man of Tarsus for of Tarsus, A.V. The street; ῤύμη, usually the narrower lanes in a town as distinguished from the πλατεῖαι, or wide streets. So Luke 14:21, "The streets and lanes of the city," and the LXX. in Isaiah 15:3, couple πλατεῖαι and ρύμαι. Here, however, the term applies to the principal street of the city, which runs quite straight from the east to the west gate, and is a mile long. It still exists, and is called the Sultany Street; but instead of being the wide and splendid street it was in the apostolic age, a hundred feet wide, with colonnades separating the two footways on the side from the central read, and adorned with a triumphal arch, it is contracted into a narrow mean passage (see Lewin, vol. 1. p. 69). Street (ῥύμην)

See on Luke 14:21. A narrow street or lane.

Straight

So called from its running in a direct line from the eastern to the western gate of the city.

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