Acts 9:23
And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) After that many days were fulfilled.—We learn from the more definite statement in Galatians 1:18 that these few words cover a period of otherwise unrecorded work, extending over a period of three years. That period must have witnessed the growth of a Christian society at Damascus, with an order of discipline and worship based on the outlines of that at Jerusalem. It follows, however, from the subsequent history that, as yet, Gentile converts were not admitted to the Church as such. The special mission to them came later on (comp. Acts 22:21), and it was natural that one, with the intense affection for his brethren according to the flesh which characterised St. Paul (Romans 10:1), should, till that mission came, have given himself mainly, or even exclusively, to the work of labouring for their conversion. It is probable, however, from the bitter antagonism of the Jews, that his teaching had already pointed to the breaking down of “the middle wall of partition” (Ephesians 2:14), and the passing away of all on which they had prided themselves as being their exclusive privileges. From the first it might almost seem as if Stephen had risen from the dead, and was living again in the spirit and power of his persecutor.

Acts 9:23-25. And after many days were fulfilled — In which several events took place, which are elsewhere hinted at; and particularly after he had made an excursion into Arabia, as is mentioned Galatians 1:16-18, probably to spread the gospel there, or, as some suppose, that he might have opportunity, in privacy and retirement, for studying the Jewish Scriptures more carefully than he had done, by the help of the new light which had been bestowed on him, and for prayer and meditation, and attending to such further revelations as Christ should be pleased to make to him; and after he had returned again to Damascus, the Jews took counsel to kill him — Finding it impossible to answer his arguments, or to damp his zeal, they resolved to silence him by putting an end to his life. Here we cannot but reflect on the astonishing malignity and obstinacy of these blinded Jews! How amazing it is, that when so great a persecutor of the Christians was, by a voice and appearance from heaven, converted to Christianity, they should be so far from following his example, that they should attempt even to take away his life! In this design they were assisted by the governor of the city, under Aretas, king of Arabia, who, after having been conquered by the Romans under Pompey, had by some means got possession of it. This governor guarded the city night and day with the greatest strictness, persons being appointed to keep watch at all the gates to prevent his escaping; and the Jews, in the mean time, lying in wait to seize and murder him. Their designs, however, were known to Saul, God graciously discovering them to him, so that he kept himself concealed, and gave them no opportunity of executing their purpose. Then the disciples — Who were in Damascus, anxious to preserve a life of so much value; took him by night — When they were not observed, either by the Jews or the governor’s garrison; and let him down by the wall in a basket — As Rahab did the spies, Joshua 2:15; and Michal did David, 1 Samuel 19:12; the providence of God directing and assisting them in this undertaking, so that, as he himself says, (2 Corinthians 11:32-33,) he escaped out of their hands.9:23-31 When we enter into the way of God, we must look for trials; but the Lord knows how to deliver the godly, and will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape. Though Saul's conversion was and is a proof of the truth of Christianity, yet it could not, of itself, convert one soul at enmity with the truth; for nothing can produce true faith, but that power which new-creates the heart. Believers are apt to be too suspicious of those against whom they have prejudices. The world is full of deceit, and it is necessary to be cautious, but we must exercise charity, 1Co 13:5. The Lord will clear up the characters of true believers; and he will bring them to his people, and often gives them opportunities of bearing testimony to his truth, before those who once witnessed their hatred to it. Christ now appeared to Saul, and ordered him to go quickly out of Jerusalem, for he must be sent to the Gentiles: see ch. 22:21. Christ's witnesses cannot be slain till they have finished their testimony. The persecutions were stayed. The professors of the gospel walked uprightly, and enjoyed much comfort from the Holy Ghost, in the hope and peace of the gospel, and others were won over to them. They lived upon the comfort of the Holy Ghost, not only in the days of trouble and affliction, but in days of rest and prosperity. Those are most likely to walk cheerfully, who walk circumspectly.And after that many days ... - How long a time elapsed before this is not recorded in this place, but it is evident that the writer means to signify that a considerable time intervened. There is, therefore, an interval here which Luke has not filled up; and if this were the only narrative which we had, we should be at a loss how to understand this. From all that we know now of the usual conduct of the Jews toward the apostles, and especially toward Paul, it would seem highly improbable that this interval would be passed peaceably or quietly. Nay, it would be highly improbable that he would be allowed to remain in Damascus many days without violent persecution. Now it so happens that by turning to another part of the New Testament, we are enabled to ascertain the manner in which this interval was filled up. Turn then to Galatians 1:17, and we learn from Paul himself that he went into Arabia, and spent some time there, and then returned again to Damascus. The precise time which would be occupied in such a journey is not specified, but it would not be performed under a period of some months.

In Galatians 1:18, we are informed that he did not go to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion; and as there is reason to believe that he went up to Jerusalem directly after escaping from Damascus the second time Acts 9:25-26, it seems probable that the three years were spent chiefly in Arabia. We have thus an account of the "many days" here referred to by Luke. And in this instance we have a striking example of the truth and honesty of the sacred writers. By comparing these two accounts together, we arrive at the whole state of the case. Neither seems to be complete without the other. Luke has left a chasm which he has nowhere else supplied. But that chasm we are enabled to fill up from the apostle himself, in a letter written long after, and without any design to amend or complete the history of Luke - for the introduction of this history into the Epistle to the Galatians was for a very different purpose - to show that he received his commission directly from the Lord Jesus, and in a manner independent of the other apostles.

The two accounts, therefore, are like the two parts of a tally; neither is complete without the other; and yet, being brought together, they so exactly fit as to show that the one is precisely adjusted to the other. And as the two parts were made by different individuals, and without design of adapting them to each other, they show that the writers had formed no collusion or agreement to impose on the world; that they are separate and independent witnesses; that they are honest men; that their narratives are true records of what actually occurred; and the two narratives constitute, therefore, a strong and very valuable proof of the correctness of the sacred narrative. If asked why Luke has not reherded a full account of this in the Acts , it may be replied that there are many circumstances and facts omitted in all histories from the necessity of the case. Compare John 21:25. It is remarkable here, not that he has not recorded this, but that he has left a chasm in his own history which can he so readily filled up.

Were fulfilled - Had elapsed.

Took counsel ... - Laid a scheme, or designed to kilt him. Compare Acts 23:12; Acts 25:3. His zeal and success would enrage them, and they knew of no other way in which they could free themselves from the effects of his arguments and influence.

23. And after many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him—Had we no other record than this, we should have supposed that what is here related took place while Saul continued at Damascus after his baptism. But in Ga 1:17, 18 we learn from Paul himself that he "went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus," and that from the time of his first visit to the close of his second, both of which appear to have been short, a period of three years elapsed; either three full years, or one full year and part of two others. (See on [1974]Ga 1:16-18). That such a blank should occur in the Acts, and be filled up in Galatians, is not more remarkable than that the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, their stay there, and their return thence, recorded only by Matthew, should be so entirely passed over by Luke, that if we had only his Gospel, we should have supposed that they returned to Nazareth immediately after the presentation in the temple. (Indeed in one of his narratives, Ac 22:16, 17, Paul himself takes no notice of this period). But wherefore this journey? Perhaps (1) because he felt a period of repose and partial seclusion to be needful to his spirit, after the violence of the change and the excitement of his new occupation. (2) To prevent the rising storm which was gathering against him from coming too soon to a head. (3) To exercise his ministry in the Jewish synagogues, as opportunity afforded. On his return, refreshed and strengthened in spirit, he immediately resumed his ministry, but soon to the imminent hazard of his life. Many days; God would not presently expose him to conflicts, but inure him to suffer by degrees; as also it pleased God to spare him so long nigh unto that place where he had wrought so great a miracle for him, the sense of which might the more be upon himself and others also; for he continued here three years, excepting only a journey into Arabia, as may be seen, Galatians 1:17,18. And after that many days were fulfilled,.... This phrase is used by the Septuagint on Exodus 2:11 for a considerable length of time, for many years. The Jewish writers observe (t), that the phrase, "many days", signify at least three days; for by "days", in the plural number, two must be designed, and many signifies a third, or that one at least is added to them; but here it signifies three years, as it also does, 1 Kings 18:1 where it is said, "and it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year"; and such a space of time is designed by the many days here; for when the apostle had stayed a little while at Damascus, and preached Christ in the synagogues, he went into Arabia, where he continued about three years, and then returned to Damascus, where what is related happened to him; Galatians 1:17.

the Jews took counsel to kill him; being filled with indignation at him, that he had changed his religion, and from a persecutor was become a preacher of the Gospel; this they had meditated some time, and now upon his return to Damascus attempted to put their counsel into execution.

(t) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Zavim, c. 1. sect. 1.

{4} And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

(4) Paul, who was before a persecutor, now has persecution planned against himself, though it will not happen for a long time.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 9:23. ἡμέρας ἱκανάς: whether the period thus described was meant to cover the definite period in Galatians 1:16, i.e., as including St. Paul’s visit to Arabia, it is difficult to decide. Lightfoot holds that ἱκανός in St. Luke’s language is connected rather with largeness than with smallness, Luke 7:12, Acts 20:37, and that the Hebrew phrase ימים which St. Luke is copying admits of almost any extension of time (Galatians, p. 89, note). Paley, Horæ Paulinæ, v., 2, pointed out in the Hebrew of 1 Kings 2:38-39, an instance of the use of the phrase “many days” = a period of three years (so Lewin, Felten). It is therefore possible that St. Luke might employ an indefinite, vague expression, an expression which at all events is characteristic of him. On the other hand, Wendt (1899), whilst seeing here a longer period than in Acts 9:19, compares Acts 9:43, Acts 18:18, Acts 27:7, and decides that the phrase cannot denote time measured by years (so Blass). A reason for St. Luke’s indefiniteness may perhaps be that St. Paul’s visit to Arabia was not within the scope and purpose of his narrative; or Belser, Beiträge (p. 55), and others may be right in maintaining that the visit may lie between Acts 9:22-23, and that, as such intervals are not wanting in Luke’s Gospel, it is not strange that they should occur in Acts, but that it does not at all follow that the historian was unacquainted with St. Luke’s Arabian journey, as Wendt maintains: “sed aliquid omittere non est idem atque illud negare” Knabenbauer, in loco. But if we take the expression, Acts 9:19, certain days to indicate the first visit to Damascus, and the expression, Acts 9:23, many days to indicate a second visit, the visit to Arabia, Galatians 1:19, may lie between these two (Knabenbauer), and if we accept the reading Ἰησοῦν in Acts 9:20, it may be that Saul first preached that Jesus was the Son of God, and then after his first retirement in Arabia he was prepared to prove on his return to Damascus that He was also the Christ, Acts 9:22 (see Mr. Barnard’s article, Expositor, April, 1899).23–25. A Plot against Saul’s Life. His Flight from Damascus

23. And after that [when] many days were fulfilled] As the visit to Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 9:26 seems to follow closely upon the events narrated in Acts 9:25, and as that visit was not made till after the retirement into Arabia of which St Paul speaks (Galatians 1:17-18) thus: “Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were Apostles before me, but I went into Arabia and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter,” we must place the visit to Arabia between the events recorded in Acts 9:22 and the fresh narration which commences in this verse. St Luke has marked, as it seems, the two periods as distinct by calling one time of residence “certain days,” and the other “many days.” The following seems to have been the order of events. Saul preached for “certain days” in Damascus immediately after his conversion. He then made his journey into Arabia, either for preaching or for retirement and spiritual communion, after which he made a second visit to Damascus, on which latter occasion his enemies sought to take his life. This latter visit is here spoken of as lasting “many days.” The words thus translated are used in several places of the Acts; as in this chapter, Acts 9:43, of the stay made by Peter at Joppa after the raising of Dorcas; also Acts 18:18, of the time, “a good while,” which St Paul spent in Corinth after he had been brought before Gallio; and in Acts 27:7 of the “many days” of slow sailing during the Apostle’s voyage to Rome. It is clear from these examples that the period covered by the words is very indefinite, but if we reckon the “three years” (Galatians 1:18) from Saul’s conversion, then the first and last times of residence in Damascus would be included in that period, and we need not then extend either the stay in Arabia or the duration of this later visit to Damascus over a great while, especially if we remember that, to a Jew, one whole year with the end of the preceding and the beginning of the succeeding one was counted for three years.

the Jews took counsel to kill him] The deliberation and previous preparation implied in this expression are such as would take place, not among the people who were “confounded” by Saul’s first preaching, but when they had become enraged against him after his second visit, when his words would be even more full of power than before, by reason of the time spent in preaching in Arabia, or more probably in spiritual communion to prepare himself for the labours which God had set before him.Verse 23. - When for after that, A.V.; took counsel together for took counsel, A.V. The phrase many days is quite elastic enough to comprehend whatever time remained to make up the three years (Galatians 1:18) which St. Paul tells us intervened between his conversion and his visit to Jerusalem (see ver. 43; Acts 18:18; 37:7; 14:3). Luke frequently uses ἱκανός for "many" (Luke 7:11; Luke 8:27; Luke 23:8). So in Hebrew, יָמִים רַבַּים, many days, is applied to considerable portions of time. In 1 Kings 2:38, 39, it is applied to three years. To kill

See on Luke 23:32.

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