Acts 9:24
But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
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(24) They watched the gates day and night to kill him.—A somewhat fuller account of this episode in the Apostle’s life is given by him in 2Corinthians 11:32. There we read that the governor—literally, ethnarch—of the city, under Aretas, King of Arabia Petræa, with Petra as his capital, the father of the wife whom Herod Antipas divorced, in order that he might marry Herodias, took an active part in the plot against Paul. On the manner in which Aretas had gained possession of a city which was properly attached to the Roman province of Syria, see Note on Acts 9:2. It is noticeable that there are coins of Damascus bearing the names of Augustus and Tiberius, and again of Nero and his successors, but none of those of Caligula and Claudius, who succeeded Tiberius. Caligula, on his accession, reversed the policy of Tiberius, who had been a friend and supporter of Antipas against Aretas, and it is probable that, as in other instances, he created a new principality, or ethnarchy, in favour of Aretas, to whose predecessors Damascus had belonged (Jos. Ant. xiii. 15, § 2). The ethnarch apparently wished to court the favour of the large Jewish population, and, looking on St. Paul as a disturber of the public peace, took measures for his arrest and condemnation. Troops were stationed at each gate of the city in order to prevent his escape.

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.But their laying await - Their counsel; their design.

Was known of Saul - Was made known to him. In what way this was communicated we do not know. This design of the Jews against Saul is referred to in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, where it is said, "In Damascus, the governor under Aretas the king kept the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me; and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands."

And they watched the gates - Cities were surrounded by high walls, and of course the gates were presumed to be the only places of escape. As they supposed that Saul, apprised of their designs, would make an attempt to escape, they stationed guards at the gates to intercept him. In 2 Corinthians 11:32, it is said that the governor kept the city for the purpose of apprehending him. It is possible that the governor might have been a Jew, and one, therefore, who would enter into their views. Or if not a Jew, the Jews who were there might easily represent Saul as an offender, and demand his being secured, and thus a garrison or guard might be furnished them for their purpose. See a similar attempt made by the Jews recorded in Matthew 28:14.

24, 25. they watched the gates night and day to kill him—The full extent of his danger appears only from his own account (2Co 11:32): "In Damascus, the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me"; the exasperated Jews having obtained from the governor a military force, the more surely to compass his destruction. Their laying await; the Jews, who stirred up Aretas the king of Damascus against Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:32,33: now began those things to be fulfilled, foretold Acts 9:16.

But their laying await was known of Saul,.... Either by divine revelation, or by some friends, who had got knowledge of it, and gave him information, as in Acts 23:16 and they watched the gates night and day to kill him; that is, the Jews, together with the governor of the city, and the garrison of soldiers in it. These all watched at the several gates of the city, night and day, that Saul might not make his escape, and that they might take him, and put him to death. But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
Acts 9:24-25. Παρετηροῦντο δὲ καί (see the critical remarks), but they watched also, etc., contains what formed a special addition to the danger mentioned in Acts 9:23. The subject is the Jews; they did it—and thereby the apparent difference with 2 Corinthians 11:33 is removed—on the obtained permission or order of the Arabian ethnarch. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:33. More artificial attempts at reconciliation are quite unnecessary. Comp. Wieseler, p. 142.

οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ (see the critical remarks), opposed to the Ἰουδαῖοι, Acts 9:23. Saul had already gained scholars among the Jews of Damascus; they rescued him from the plot of their fellow Jews (in opposition to de Wette’s opinion, that disciples of the apostle were out of the question).

διὰ τοῦ τείχους] through the wall: whether an opening found in it, or the window of a building abutting on the city-wall, may have facilitated the passage. The former is most suited to the mode of expression.

ἐν σπυρίδι] see on Matthew 15:37. On the spelling σφυρίδι, attested by C א, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 113.

Acts 9:24. ἐπιβουλὴ: “plot”; N.T. only used in Acts; in three other passages, Acts 20:3; Acts 20:19, Acts 23:30. It is used in the same sense in LXX, Esther 2:22 (for other instances of the word see H. and R.), and frequently in classical Greek.—παρετήρουν: if we follow R.V., see critical notes, we have the middle for the active, cf. Luke 14:1; Luke 6:7, Galatians 4:10. There is no contradiction involved with 2 Corinthians 11:32. The ethnarch acted as the instrument of the Jews, at their instigation, or they acted by his permission, or possibly as the Jews were the actual originators of the persecution of Saul, St. Luke for brevity speaks of them as carrying it out, cf. Acts 2:23, Acts 28:27. See to this effect, Blass, Zöckler, Felten, Wendt.—τε: if we add καὶ R.V., see critical notes, the two words τε καὶ signify that they not only laid wait for him, but also watched the city gates day and night, to secure the success of their design; “and they watched the gates also,” R.V. In 2 Corinthians 11:32, according to Paul’s own statement, the ethnarch under Aretas the king guarded the walls to prevent his escape. But this seems strange, as Damascus was part of the Roman province of Syria. The difficulty is met by a large number of modern writers by the assumption that Caligula, whose reign began in 37 A.D., gave Damascus to Aretas, to whose predecessors it had belonged (Jos., Ant., xiii., 5, 2). On the accession of Caligula a great change of policy occurred—Antipas, the old foe of Aretas, who was indignant with him for the divorce of his daughter, was shortly after deposed, and his kingdom was added to that of Herod Agrippa, who had already received from the emperor the tetrarchy of Philip and Lysanias (Jos., Ant., xviii., 6, 10). But this latter grant was one of the first acts of Caligula’s reign, and there is nothing improbable in the supposition that the new ruler should also bestow some gift of territory on the great foe of the Herodian house, who apparently reigned until 40 A.D. Added to this there is the fact that we have no coins of Damascus with the imperial superscription from 34–62 A.D. In 62–63 the image of Nero begins, but there are no coins marked with that of Caligula or Claudius. The latter emperor died in 54 A.D., and in a few years Damascus must have passed again into Roman hands, if the above theory is correct. Certainly this theory is more feasible than that which supposes that Aretas had actually seized Damascus himself in 37 A.D., when upon the death of Tiberius (who had supported Antipas), Vitellius, the governor of Syria, had withdrawn his troops and the expedition which the emperor had despatched against Aretas. But whether this forcible taking possession of the city is placed before, during, or after the expedition of Vitellius, we should expect that it would have met with energetic punishment at the hands of the governor of Syria, but of this there is nontion or trace (P. Ewald), McGiffert, who favours an earlier chronology, and dates Paul’s conversion in 31 or 32 A.D., contends that the flight from Damascus may have occurred as well in the year 35, i.e., in the reign of Tiberius, as in 38, when no change had taken place in the status of Damascus; the city was subject to Rome, but Aretas may have had control over it, just as Herod had control over Jerusalem. There is at all events no ground for supposing that the term ethnarch denotes that Aretas was only head of the Arabian colony in Damascus (so O. Holtzmann, following Keim, Nösgen, etc.), or that he was only a chance visitor who exercised his authority to the detriment of Paul (Anger); any such suggestion utterly fails to account for the fact that he is represented as guarding Damascus. It has been suggested that the wife of Aretas may well have been a proselyte, but the fact that the Jews of Damascus were both numerous and powerful is quite sufficient to explain the attitude of the governor, Jos., B. J., ii., 20, 2; vii., 8, 7. See “Aretas” in Hastings’ B.D., and B.D.2. McGiffert, Apostolic Age, pp. 164, 165; G. A. Smith, Hist. Geog., pp. 619, 620; O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, p. 97; Schürer, Jewish People, div. i., vol. ii., p. 356, and div. ii., vol. i., p. 98, E.T.; Real-Encyclopädie für protestant. Theol. (Hauck), i., pp. 795–797, by P. Ewald. See further on the title ἐθνάρχης Schürer, Studien und Kritiken, 1899 (1), which he explains by the conditions of the Nabatean kingdom, in which tribes not cities were concerned—the head of such a tribe being actually so called in more than one inscription.

24. but their laying await [plot] was known of Saul] Perhaps from the information of some of the Christian disciples, who would be well disposed to Saul by what they had heard of him from Ananias, and who played the part of friends in aiding his escape from Damascus.

And they watched the gates day and night to kill him] The gates were the places to which one fleeing from death would naturally make his way. St Paul says (2 Corinthians 11:32) of the circumstances under which this plot was made against his life, that “In Damascus the governor [Ethnarch] of King Aretas kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me.” Hence it appears that it was no mere attack made by the Jews resident in Damascus, but they had gained the support of the authorities for the time being. We do not know enough of the history of Syria and Arabia at this period to be able to explain with certainty how an Ethnarch of Aretas, who was king of Arabia Petræa, came to be holding Damascus. But we do know (Joseph. Antiq. xviii. 3. 1–4) that Aretas had been at war with Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee, who in consequence of his attachment to his brother Philip’s wife, had forsaken his own wife, who was the daughter of Aretas. Herod had appealed to Rome, and been promised the help of the Roman power, but the death of Tiberius (a.d. 37) checked the march of Vitellius, the Roman governor of Syria, into Arabia, and he thereupon returned to Antioch. It may have been that Aretas, encouraged by this withdrawal, had advanced, and in the general confusion had taken possession of Damascus. He had, in a former stage of the war, destroyed the army of Herod; and some of the Jews, who hated Herod, spoke of this destruction of his troops as a Divine judgement for his murder of John the Baptist. We can understand then that the Jews in Damascus might under such circumstances favour Aretas, and in return for their support be aided by his Ethnarch in an attempt on the life of Saul.

Or the occupation of Damascus by Aretas may have been (as Dean Howson suggests) in consequence of the change of policy which took place so widely at the death of Tiberius; and Caligula, in contradiction of what his predecessor had been designing, to crush Aretas, may have put the Arabian king in command of the city of Damascus for a time.

Acts 9:24. Παρετήρουν, they kept watching) by the assistance of the governor. Comp. 2 Corinthians 11:32.

Verse 24. - Their plot (ἐπιβουλή) became known for their laying await was known, A.V.; to Saul for of Saul, A.V.; the gates also for the gates, A.V. and T.R.; that they might for to, A.V.; a colon instead of full point at end of verse. Acts 9:24Laying await (ἐπιβουλὴ)

So rendered by A. V. wherever it occurs, viz., Acts 20:3, Acts 20:19; Acts 23:30; but properly changed by Rev., in every case, to plot. "Laying await" refers rather to the execution of the plot than to the plot itself.


See on Mark 3:2. Imperfect: they were or kept watching, day and night.

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