Acts 9:19
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) And when he had received meat.—Better, as elsewhere, food. The three days’ fast had obviously brought about a state of extreme prostration. In St. Paul’s account of his conversion in Galatians 1:17, he states that when it pleased God to reveal His Son in him, immediately he “conferred not with flesh, and blood,” but went into Arabia and returned again to Damascus. We have, it is obvious, no certain data for fixing the time, nor the extent of that journey. St. Luke does not mention it, and his “straightway” balances the “immediately” of St. Paul’s account. On the whole. it seems most probable that it was the first step taken by him after he had regained his sight and been baptised. Physically, rest and seclusion would be necessary during the period of convalescence after the great crisis of his conversion. Spiritually, that solitude was needed, we may believe, to prepare him for the continuous labour of the three years that followed. I place the journey to Arabia accordingly, with hardly any hesitation, after the “certain days” of fellowship with the disciples, and his reception at their solemn meeting to break bread in the Supper of the Lord, and before the “preaching Christ” in the synagogues. How far the journey extended we cannot say. “Arabia” was used somewhat vaguely as a geographical term; but the fact that Damascus was at this time occupied by the troops of Aretas, the king of Arabia Petræa, makes it probable that he went to that region. In St. Paul’s paronomastic reference to Hagar as a synonym for Mount Sinai in Arabia (Hagar and Sinai both admitting of an etymology which gives “rock” as the meaning of each), we may, perhaps, trace a local knowledge gained during this journey, and draw the inference that he had sought communion with God where Moses and Elijah had found it, on the heights of Sinai and Horeb. (Comp. Galatians 4:25.) He learnt, it may be, the true meaning and purpose of the Law, as arousing the fear of judgment, amid the terrors of the very rocks from which that Law had first been proclaimed to Israel.

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.Had received meat - Food. The word "meat" has undergone a change since our translation was made. It then meant, as the original does, food of all kinds.

With the disciples - With Christians, compare Acts 2:42.

Order? certain days with the disciples? - Certain days: How long is not known. It was long enough, however, to preach the gospel, Acts 9:22; Acts 26:20. It might have been for some months, as he did not go to Jerusalem under three years from that time. He remained some time at Damascus, and then went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus, and then went to Jerusalem, Galatians 1:17. This visit to Arabia Luke has omitted, but there is no contradiction. He does not affirm that he did not go to Arabia.

We have now passed through the account of one of the most remarkable conversions to Christianity that has ever occurred that of the apostle Paul. His conversion has always been justly considered as a strong proof of the Christian religion. Because:

(1) This change could not have occurred by any lack of fair prospects of honor. He was distinguished already as a Jew. He had had the best opportunities for education that the nation afforded. He had every prospect of rising to distinction and office.

(2) it could not have been produced by any prospect of wealth or fame by becoming a Christian. Christians were poor; and to be a Christian then was to be exposed to contempt, to persecution, and to death. Saul had no reason to suppose that he would escape the common lot of Christians.

(3) he was as firmly opposed to Christianity before his conversion as possible. He had already distinguished himself for his hostility. Infidels often say that Christians are prejudiced in favor of their religion. But here was a man, at first a bitter infidel, and a deadly foe to Christianity. All the prejudices of his education, all his prospects, all his former views and feelings, were opposed to the gospel of Christ. He became, however, one of its most firm advocates and friends, and it is for infidels to account for this change. There must have been some cause, some motive for it; and is there anything more rational than the supposition that Saul was convinced in a most striking and wonderful manner of the truth of Christianity?

(4) his subsequent life showed that the change was sincere and real. He encountered danger and persecution to evince his attachment to Christ; he went from land to land, and exposed himself to every peril and every form of obloquy and scorn, always rejoicing that he was a Christian, and was permitted to suffer as a Christian, and has thus given the highest proofs of his sincerity. If such sufferings and such a life were not evidences of sincerity, then it would be impossible to fix on any circumstances of a man's life that would furnish proof that he was not a deceiver.

(5) if Paul was sincere; if his conversion was genuine, the Christian religion is true. Nothing else but a religion from heaven could produce this change. There is here, therefore, the independent testimony of a man who was once a persecutor; converted in a wonderful manner; his whole life, views, and feelings revolutionized, and all his subsequent career evincing the sincerity of his feelings and the reality of the change. He is just such a witness as infidels ought to be satisfied with; a man once an enemy; a man whose testimony cannot be impeached; a man who had no interested motives, and who was willing to stand forth anywhere, and avow his change of feeling and purpose. We adduce him as such a witness; and infidels are bound to dispose of his testimony, or to embrace the religion which he embraced.

(6) the example of Saul does not stand alone. Hundreds and thousands of enemies; persecutors, and slanderers have been changed, and every such one becomes a living witness of the power and truth of the Christian religion. The scoffer becomes reverent; the profane man learns to speak the praise of God; the sullen, bitter foe of Christ becomes his friend, and lives and dies under the influence of his religion. Could better proof be asked that this religion is from God?

19. when he had received meat, he was strengthened—for the exhaustion occasioned by his three days' fast would not be the less real, though unfelt during his struggles. (See on [1973]Mt 4:2).

Then was Saul certain days with the disciples at Damascus—making their acquaintance, in another way than either he or they had anticipated, and regaining his tone by the fellowship of the saints; but not certainly in order to learn from them what he was to teach, which he expressly disavows (Ga 1:12, 16).

St. Paul could not but be much weakened with his journey, fear, grief, fasting, and constant praying; and now he takes a prudent care of his health, that he might be further enabled for the service of God, to what place soever he should be appointed.

With the disciples: Saul is no sooner changed, but he changeth his company and acquaintance; he resorts to none of the rabbies of the Jews, but to the disciples of Christ; he would love any, learn of any, that had Christ for their Master. And when he had received meat,.... Which was set before him when he had received his sight, and after he was baptized, of which he had not tasted for three days:

he was strengthened; in body, being before very weak and feeble; not so much through fatigue of his journey, as through the fear and surprise the appearance of Christ to him, and his words, threw him into; as also through his fasting so long, and his continuance and constancy in prayer all this while, and the attention he gave to the divine instructions which were communicated to him, internally and externally:

then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus; who came from Jerusalem upon the persecution raised against them there; with these Saul continued some few days after his conversion and baptism, for quickly after he went into Arabia, as appears from Galatians 1:17. These disciples, with the new converts afterwards, it is highly probable, formed a church state in Damascus; Ananias is said to be the bishop or pastor of it, and which remained in several ages. In the catalogue of the council of Nice, which was held in the beginning of the "fourth" century, Damascus is mentioned as the seat of a church; in the "fifth" century a bishop of Damascus was in the council at Ephesus; and in the same century it was reckoned a metropolitan church in Asia; in the seventh century it appears there was a church in this place; and even in the "eighth" century, though the Arabians ravaged in those parts, yet still a church continued here for some time, till Ulid, the prince of the Saracens, took away the temple from the Christians of this place, and dedicated it to Mahomet; after which we hear no more of the church at Damascus (s).

(s) Magdeburg. Hist. Eccles. cent. 4. c. 2. p. 2. cent. 5. c. 2. p. 3. & c. 7. p. 417. cent. 7. c. 2. p. 3. cent. 8. c. 2. p. 3. & c. 16. p. 514.

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 9:19-20 f. But he continued some days with the Christians there, and then he immediately preached Jesus in the synagogues (at Damascus), namely, that He was the Son of God[243]. This is closely connected, and it is only with extreme violence that Michaelis and Heinrichs have referred Acts 9:19 to the time before the journey to Arabia (Galatians 1:17), and Acts 9:20 to the time after that journey. Pearson placed the Arabian journey before Acts 9:19, which is at variance with the close historical connection of Acts 9:18-19; just as the connection of Acts 9:21-22 does not permit its being inserted before Acts 9:22 (Laurent). The εὐθέως in Gal. l.c. is decisive against Kuinoel, Olshausen, Ebrard, Sepp, p. 44 f., and others, who place this journey and the return to Damascus after Acts 9:25. The Arabian excursion, which certainly was but brief, is historically (for Luke was probably not at all aware of it, and has at least left it entirely out of account as unimportant for his object,—which has induced Hilgenfeld and Zeller to impute his silence to set purpose) most fitly referred with Neander to the period of the ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, Acts 9:23. Comp. on Galatians 1:17 and Introduction to Romans, sec. 1. The objection, that Saul would then have gone out of the way of his opponents and their plot against him would not have taken place (de Wette), is without weight, as this hostile project may be placed after the return from Arabia.[244] It is, however, to be acknowledged (comp. Baur) that the time from the conversion to the journey to Jerusalem cannot have been known to Luke as so long an interval as it actually was (three years, Galatians 1:18), seeing that for such a period the expression indefinite, no doubt, but yet measured by days (it is otherwise at Acts 8:11), ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, Acts 9:23 (comp. Acts 9:43; Acts 18:18; Acts 27:7), is not sufficient.

ἐν ταῖς συναγ.] οὐκ ᾐσχύνετο, Chrysostom.

ὁ πορθήσας] see on Galatians 1:13.

καὶ ὧδε κ.τ.λ.] and hither (to Damascus) he had come for the object, that he, etc. How contradictory to his conduct now![245] On the subjunctive ἀγάγῃ, see Winer, p. 270 [E. T. 359].

[243] ὁ υἱὸς τ. Θεοῦ occurs only here (Acts 13:33 is a quotation from the O. T.) in the narrative of the Book of Acts. The historical fact is: Paul announced that Jesus was the Messiah, see ver. 22. He naturally did not as yet enter on the metaphysical relation of the Sonship of God; but this is implied in the conception of Luke, when he from his fully formed Pauline standpoint uses this designation of the Messiah.

[244] With this agrees also the the εὐθέως, Galatians 1:16, which requires the Arabian journey to be put very soon after the conversion, consequently at the very commencement of the ἡμέραι ἱκαναί, ver. 23. If this is done, that εὐθέως is not opposed to our view given above (in opposition to Zeller, p. 202).

[245] “Quasi dicerent: At etiam Saul inter prophetas,” 1 Samuel 10:11, Grotius.Acts 9:19. ἡμέρας τινάς: used here apparently, as in Acts 10:48, Acts 16:12, Acts 24:24, etc., of a short period; see note on Acts 9:23, and cf. critical notes, Blass in [228], and see Acts 9:23.

[228] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.19. and when he had received [taken] meat, &c.] Needed after his three days fast, but (says Calvin) “he refreshed not his body with meat until his soul had received strength.”

Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus] The word Saul is not found in the oldest MSS. Read “And he was, &c.” The expression rendered “certain days” is the same which in Acts 10:48, Acts 15:36, Acts 16:12, Acts 24:24, and Acts 25:13 is used by St Luke, and in all cases the time indicated by them must have been brief. It was for this amount of time that Peter tarried with Cornelius, the words are applied to a short period spent by Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, to the time of St Paul’s stay at Philippi, to the short time which Paul was detained at Cæsarea before his hearing by Felix, and to a like period between the arrival of Festus and the visit which Agrippa made to salute him as the new Governor. In most of these instances the time intended must have been very brief, and it is important to notice this here, because in Acts 9:23 we shall find another expression which is translated “many days” and seems designed by the writer to indicate a somewhat longer period. It is clear, from the way in which “disciples” are here mentioned, that there was a numerous body of Christians in Damascus at this early period. Saul dwelt with them now not as an enemy but as a brother, by which name Ananias had been directed to greet him.Acts 9:19. Ἐνίσχυσεν) Neuter verb. So ἐνισχύσωμεν, Let us be valiant, 1 Chronicles 19:13.—ἐν Δαμασχῷ, at Damascus) What Paul had done before his conversion in a bad cause, the same afterwards he either himself did in a good cause, and in the same localities, or else suffered at the hands of the Jews.Verse 19. - He took food and for when he had received meat he, A.V.; and he was for then was Saul, A.V. and T.R. Some commentators would interpose the journey to Arabia (mentioned Galatians 1:17) between vers. 19 and 20; and this seems to be the intention of the A.V., where the clause commencing with Then (ver. 19) seems to wind up and close the preceding narrative. This too is the view strongly supported by Canon Farrar, vol. 1. Acts 11, and by Lewin. Alford places the journey to Arabia in the time comprised in ver. 22; others before ver. 22; Neander, Meyer, and others, in the time comprised in the "many days" of ver. 23. And this last is undoubtedly the easiest, were it not for the considerations urged by Farrar with great force as to the probability of St. Paul seeking a period of retirement after his conversion before commencing any public preaching, and the further countenance given to this view by Galatians 1:17, where St. Paul certainly says of himself that εὐθέως, immediately, after his conversion he "went away to Arabia." Taking all things into consideration, and supposing that either Luke was not aware of the sojourn in Arabia, or that he omitted from his notes some brief notice of it immediately preceding the description of Saul's preaching in Damascus, which explained the following εὐθέως, it seems best to understand the latter part of ver. 19 and all that follows as subsequent to his return from Arabia; and to conclude that he only stayed at Damascus ἡμέρας τίνας, a few days, after his conversion, and then retired to Arabia. It may be observed, too, that this interpretation gives a significance to the mention of the "certain days" which otherwise it has not. There is a further difference of opinion as to what is meant by Arabia. The most common view is that Auranitis, bordering upon Arabia Deserts, and reckoned as part of Arabia, not above two days' journey from Damascus, is the country meant. But others understand it in its more strictly Hebrew sense of the Peninsula of Sinai (Farrar, vol. 1. p. 212, and Exeursus 9; Dean Howson on Galatians in 'Speaker's Commentary;' Bishop Lightfoot on Galatians 1:17). This view is decidedly strengthened by the fact that, in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul clearly means by Arabia the Peninsula of Arabia, where Sinai was (Galatians 4:25). On the assumption that the Sinaitic Peninsula is meant, Bishop Lightfoot says, "He was attracted thither by a spirit akin to that which formerly had driven Elijah to the same region. Standing on the threshold of the new covenant, he was anxious to look upon the birthplace of the old; that, dwelling for a while in seclusion in the presence of the mount that burned with fire, he might ponder over the transient glories of the ministration of death, and apprehend its real purpose in relation to the more glorious covenant which was now to supplant it." His journey to Arabia need not necessarily have occupied more than two or three mouths. It seems certain that he did not preach there, because he says (Acts 26:20), "I declared to them at Damascus first," etc. (see another coincidence between the Acts and the Epistle to the Galatians in Acts 13:2, note).
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