Acts 9:7
And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Hearing a voice, but seeing no man.—We are told by St. Paul himself (Acts 22:9) that they “did not hear the voice.” What is meant is clearly that they did not hear the words—could attach no meaning to the sounds which for Saul himself had so profound a significance. So, in like manner, they saw the light, but did not see the form. In Acts 26:14, they also are said to have fallen on the ground in terror.

Acts

GRACE TRIUMPHANT

Acts 9:1 - Acts 9:12
; Acts 9:17 - Acts 9:20.

This chapter begins with ‘but,’ which contrasts Saul’s persistent hatred, which led him to Gentile lands to persecute, with Philip’s expansive evangelistic work. Both men were in profound earnest, both went abroad to carry on their work, but the one sought to plant what the other was eager to destroy. If the ‘but’ in Acts 9:1 contrasts, the ‘yet’ connects the verse with Acts 8:3. Saul’s fury was no passing outburst, but enduring. Like other indulged passions, it grew with exercise, and had come to be as his very life-breath, and now planned, not only imprisonment, but death, for the heretics.

Not content with carrying his hateful inquisition into the homes of the Christians in Jerusalem, he will follow the fugitives to Damascus. The extension of the persectution was his own thought. He was not the tool of the Sanhedrin, but their mover. They would probably have been content to cleanse Jerusalem, but the young zealot would not rest till he had followed the dispersed poison into every corner where it might have trickled. The high priest would not discourage such useful zeal, however he might smile at its excess.

So Saul got the letters he asked, and some attendants, apparently, to help him in his hunt, and set off for Damascus. Painters have imagined him as riding thither, but more probably he and his people went on foot. It was a journey of some five or six days. The noon of the last day had come, and the groves of Damascus were, perhaps, in sight. No doubt, the young Pharisee’s head was busy settling what he was to begin with when he entered the city, and was exulting in the thought of how he would harry the meek Christians, when the sudden light shone.

At all events, the narrative does not warrant the view, often taken now, that there had been any preparatory process in Saul’s mind, which had begun to sap his confidence that Jesus was a blasphemer, and himself a warrior for God. That view is largely adopted in order to get rid of the supernatural, and to bolster up the assumption that there are no sudden conversions; but the narrative of Luke, and Paul’s own references, are dead against it. At one moment he is ‘yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,’ and in almost the next he is prone on his face, asking, ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ It was not a case of a landslide suddenly sweeping down, but long prepared for by the gradual percolation of water to the slippery understrata, but the solid earth was shaken, and the mountain crashed down in sudden ruin.

The causes of Saul’s conversion are plain in the narrative, even though the shortened form is adopted, which is found in the Revised Version. The received text has probably been filled out by additions from Paul’s own account in Acts 26:1 - Acts 26:32 First came the blaze of light outshining the midday sun, even in that land where its beams are like swords. That blinding light ‘shone round about him,’ enveloping him in its glory. Acts 26:13 tells that his companions also were wrapped in the lustre, and that all fell to the earth, no doubt in terror.

Saul is not said, either in this or in his own accounts, to have seen Jesus, but 1 Corinthians 15:8 establishes that he did so, and Ananias {Acts 9:17} refers to Jesus as having ‘appeared.’ That appearance, whatever may have been the psychological account of it, was by Paul regarded as being equal in evidential value to the flesh-and-blood vision of the risen Lord which the other Apostles witnessed to, and as placing him in the same line as a witness.

It is to be noted also, that, while the attendants saw the light, they were not blinded, as Saul was; from which it may be inferred that he saw with his bodily eyes the glorified manhood of Jesus, as we are told that one day, when He returns as Judge, ‘every eye shall see Him.’ Be that as it may,-and we have not material for constructing a theory of the manner of Christ’s appearance to Saul,- the overwhelming conviction was flooded into his soul, that the Jesus whom he had thought of as a blasphemer, falsely alleged to have risen from the dead, lived in heavenly glory, amid celestial brightness too dazzling for human eyes.

The words of gentle remonstrance issuing from the flashing glory went still further to shake the foundations of the young Pharisee’s life; for they, as with one lightning gleam, laid hare the whole madness and sin of the crusade which he had thought acceptable to God. ‘Why persecutest thou Me?’ Then the odious heretics were knit by some mysterious bond to this glorious One, so that He bled in their wounds and felt their pains! Then Saul had been, as his old teacher dreaded they of the Sanhedrin might be, fighting against God! How the reasons for Saul’s persecution had crumbled away, till there were none left with which to answer Jesus’ question! Jesus lived, and was exalted to glory. He was identified with His servants. He had appeared to Saul, and deigned to plead with him.

No wonder that the man who had been planning fresh assaults on the disciples ten minutes before, was crushed and abject as he lay there on the road, and these tremendous new convictions rushed like a cataract over and into his soul! No wonder that the lessons burned in on him in that hour of destiny became the centre-point of all his future teaching! That vision revolutionised his thinking and his life. None can affirm that it was incompetent to do so.

Luke’s account here, like Paul’s in Acts 22:1 - Acts 22:30, represents further instructions from Jesus as postponed till Saul’s meeting with Ananias, while Paul’s other account in Acts 26:1 - Acts 26:32 omits mention of the latter, and gives the substance of what he said in Damascus as said on the road by Jesus. The one account is more detailed than the other, that is all. The gradual unfolding of the heavenly purpose which our narrative gives is in accord with the divine manner. For the moment enough had been done to convert the persecutor into the servant, to level with the ground his self-righteousness, to reveal to him the glorified Jesus, to bend his will and make it submissive. The rest would be told him in due time.

The attendants had fallen to the ground like him, but seem to have struggled to their feet again, while he lay prostrate. They saw the brightness, but not the Person: they heard the voice, but not the words. Saul staggered by their help to his feet, and then found that with open eyes he was blind. Imagination or hallucination does not play tricks of that sort with the organs of sense.

The supernatural is too closely intertwined with the story to be taken out of it without reducing it to tatters. The greatest of Christian teachers, who has probably exercised more influence than any man who ever lived, was made a Christian by a miracle. That fact is not to be got rid of. But we must remember that once when He speaks of it He points to God’s revelation of His Son ‘in Him’ as its essential character. The external appearance was the vehicle of the inward revelation. It is to be remembered, too, that the miracle did not take away Saul’s power of accepting or rejecting the Christ; for he tells Agrippa that he was ‘not disobedient to the heavenly vision.’

What a different entry he made into Damascus from what he expected, and what a different man it was that crawled up to the door of Judas, in the street that is called Straight, from the self-confident young fanatic who had left Jerusalem with the high priest’s letters in his bosom and fierce hate in his heart!

Ananias was probably not one of the fugitives, as his language about Saul implies that he knew of his doings only by hearsay. The report of Saul’s coming and authority to arrest disciples had reached Damascus before him, with the wonderful quickness with which news travels in the East, nobody knows how. Ananias’s fears being quieted, he went to the house where for three days Saul had been lying lonely in the dark, fasting, and revolving many things in his heart. No doubt his Lord had spoken many a word to him, though not by vision, but by whispering to his spirit. Silence and solitude root truth in a soul. After such a shock, absolute seclusion was best.

Ananias discharged his commission with lovely tenderness and power. How sweet and strange to speaker and hearer would that ‘Brother Saul’ sound! How strong and grateful a confirmation of his vision would Ananias’s reference to the appearance of the Lord bring! How humbly would the proud Pharisee bow to receive, laid on his head, the hands that he had thought to bind with chains! What new eyes would look out on a world in which all things had become new, when there fell from them as it had been scales, and as quickly as had come the blinding, so quickly came the restored vision!

Ananias was neither Apostle nor official, yet the laying on of his hands communicated ‘the Holy Ghost.’ Saul received that gift before baptism, not after or through the ordinance. It was important for his future relations to the Apostles that he should not have been introduced to the Church by them, or owed to them his first human Christian teaching. Therefore he could say that he was ‘an Apostle, not from men, neither through man.’ It was important for us that in that great instance that divine gift should have been bestowed without the conditions accompanying, which have too often been regarded as necessary for, its possession.Acts 9:7. And the men which journeyed with him — Who at first fell to the ground, as Saul did: upon recovering themselves and rising up; stood speechless — With astonishment and terror; hearing a voice Ακουοντες μεν της φωνης, hearing indeed the voice; namely, the sound of that voice which had spoken to Saul; but without distinctly understanding the sense of what was said. This seems the most probable way of reconciling this with Acts 22:9; and it is confirmed by John 12:29; where we learn that some present, when the voice from heaven came to Christ, took it for thunder. But seeing no man — Nor perceiving who it was that had been speaking to Saul. So it was with the men who were with Daniel, when he saw the vision, mentioned Daniel 10:7; and the heathen, however they came by the notion, thought their deities often rendered themselves visible to one only, in a company consisting of many. 9:1-9 So ill informed was Saul, that he thought he ought to do all he could against the name of Christ, and that he did God service thereby; he seemed to breathe in this as in his element. Let us not despair of renewing grace for the conversion of the greatest sinners, nor let such despair of the pardoning mercy of God for the greatest sin. It is a signal token of Divine favour, if God, by the inward working of his grace, or the outward events of his providence, stops us from prosecuting or executing sinful purposes. Saul saw that Just One, ch. 22:14; 26:13. How near to us is the unseen world! It is but for God to draw aside the veil, and objects are presented to the view, compared with which, whatever is most admired on earth is mean and contemptible. Saul submitted without reserve, desirous to know what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Christ's discoveries of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low, in mean thoughts of themselves. For three days Saul took no food, and it pleased God to leave him for that time without relief. His sins were now set in order before him; he was in the dark concerning his own spiritual state, and wounded in spirit for sin. When a sinner is brought to a proper sense of his own state and conduct, he will cast himself wholly on the mercy of the Saviour, asking what he would have him to do. God will direct the humbled sinner, and though he does not often bring transgressors to joy and peace in believing, without sorrows and distress of conscience, under which the soul is deeply engaged as to eternal things, yet happy are those who sow in tears, for they shall reap in joy.And the men which journeyed with him - Why these men attended him is unknown. They might have been appointed to aid him, or they may have been travelers with whom Saul had accidentally fallen in.

Stood speechless - In Acts 26:14, it is said that they all fell to the earth at the appearance of the light. But there is no contradiction. The narrative in that place refers to the immediate effect of the appearance of the light. They were immediately smitten to the ground together. This was before the voice spake to Saul, Acts 26:14. In this place Acts 9:7 the historian is speaking of what occurred after the first alarm. There is no improbability that they rose from the ground immediately, and surveyed the scene with silent amazement and alarm. The word "speechless" ἐννεοὶ enneoi properly denotes "those who are so astonished or stupefied as to be unable to speak." In the Greek writers it means those who are deaf-mutes.

Hearing a voice - Hearing a sound or noise. The word here rendered "voice" is thus frequently used, as in Genesis 3:8; 1 Samuel 12:18; Psalm 29:3-4; Matthew 24:31 (Greek); 1 Thessalonians 4:16. In Acts 22:9, it is said, "They which were with me (Paul) saw indeed the light, and were afraid, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." In this place, the words "heard not the voice" must be understood in the sense of "understanding the words," of hearing the address, the distinct articulation, which Paul heard. They heard a "noise"; they were amazed and alarmed, but they did not hear the distinct words addressed to Saul. A similar instance occurs in John 12:28-29, when the voice of God came from heaven to Jesus, "The people who stood by and heard it said it thundered." They heard the sound, the noise; they did not distinguish the words addressed to him. See also Daniel 10:7, and 1 Kings 19:11-13.

7. the men … stood speechless—This may mean merely that they remained so; but if the standing posture be intended, we have only to suppose that though at first they "all fell to the earth" (Ac 26:14), they arose of their own accord while Saul yet lay prostrate.

hearing a—rather "the"

voice—Paul himself says, "they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me" (Ac 22:9). But just as "the people that stood by heard" the voice that saluted our Lord with recorded words of consolation and assurance, and yet heard not the articulate words, but thought "it thundered" or that some "angel spake to Him" (Joh 12:28, 29)—so these men heard the voice that spake to Saul, but heard not the articulate words. Apparent discrepancies like these, in the different narratives of the same scene in one and the same book of Acts, furnish the strongest confirmation both of the facts themselves and of the book which records them.

Stood speechless: in Acts 26:14, these men are said to be fallen to the earth as well as Saul, which they might at first be, and now rose up; or rather, by standing still here is only meant, they, being sorely amazed, remained in the place in which they were, without going forward: thus the angel forbade Lot and his family to stay or stand in the plain, Genesis 19:17, meaning that they should hasten forward.

Hearing a voice; the greater difficulty is, to reconcile these words with Acts 22:9, where it is expressly said, that these men did not hear the voice; but it is there added, of him that spake unto Saul; so that they might hear the voice of Saul, as it is said in this place, and wonder whom he spake unto, or what he spake about, they not hearing the voice or him that spake unto him, as in Acts 22:9 it is said: and it seems very likely that they should not hear the voice of Christ, for we read not that any of them were converted; and being left in their infidelity, they were in some respects the more undeniable witnesses of a great part of that miracle. But if it be understood of the voice of Christ in both places, then they might hear it, as it is said here, inarticulately, or the noise which that voice made; but not hear it articulately, or so as to understand it, as in a parallel case, John 12:29, the people are said to hear the voice that spake nnto Christ from heaven, yet they heard so confusedly, as that they thought it had only, been thunder. To be sure, they who are converted, and they who are not converted, by the word of God, may hear the word; but after a very different manner; they that are converted by it only hearing it inwardly, spiritually, effectually.

But seeing no man; these fellow travellers with St. Paul are said to see no man, but the expression here imports their doing their utmost for to see him that spake: thus God made a difference, Daniel 10:7, in the vision we read of there. And the men which journeyed with him,.... Out of respect to him, to keep him company; or rather to assist him in his designs:

stood speechless: astonished and amazed, they had not power to speak one word, nor to rise from the ground, and move one step forward; they were as if they were thunderstruck, and fastened to the earth; for this standing is not opposed to their being fallen to the earth, but to their going forward, and only expresses the surprise and stupidity that had seized them:

hearing a voice, but seeing no man; that is, they heard the voice of Saul, saying, who art thou? and what wilt thou have me to do? but saw nobody that he spoke to, which surprised them; for it is certain they did not hear the voice of Christ, that spake to him, Acts 22:9 or if they heard the voice of Christ, it was only the sound of his voice, but did not understand what he said; but the former seems rather to be the sense, and the best way of reconciling the two passages.

And the men which journeyed with him {d} stood speechless, hearing a {e} voice, but seeing no man.

(d) Stood still and could not go one step forward, but remained amazed as stood still like statues.

(e) They heard Paul's voice: for afterwards it is plainly said in Ac 22:9 that they did not hear the voice of the one who spoke. Others, however, try to reconcile these places (which seem to contradict) by saying that the men with Saul heard the sound of a voice, but did not hear it clearly.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 9:7. Εἰστήκεισαν ἐνεοί[239]] According to Acts 26:14, they all fell to the earth with Saul. This diversity is not, with Bengel, Haselaar, Kuinoel, Baumgarten, and others, to be obviated by the purely arbitrary assumption, that the companions at the first appearance of the radiance had fallen down, but then had risen again sooner than Saul; but it is to be recognised as an unessential non-agreement of the several accounts, whereby both the main substance of the event itself, and the impartial conscientiousness of Luke in not arbitrarily harmonizing the different sources, are simply confirmed.

ἈΚΟΎΟΝΤΕς ΜῈΝ Τῆς ΦΩΝῆς] does not agree with Acts 22:9. See the note on Acts 9:3 ff. The artificial attempts at reconciliation are worthless, namely: that Τῆς ΦΩΝῆς, by which Christ’s voice is meant, applies to the words of Paul (so, against the context, Chrysostom, Ammonius, Oecumenius, Camerarius, Castalio, Beza, Vatablus, Clarius, Erasmus Schmid, Heumann, and others); or, that φωνή is here a noise (thunder), but in Acts 22:9 an articulate voice (so erroneously, in opposition to Acts 9:4, Hammond, Elsner, Fabricius, ad Cod. Apocr. N. T., p. 442, Rosenmüller, Morus, Heinrichs); or, that ἤκουσαν in Acts 22:9 denotes the understanding of the voice (so, after Grotius and many older interpreters, in Wolf, Kuinoel, and Hackett), or the definite giving ear in reference to the speaker (Bengel, Baumgarten), which is at variance with the fact, that in both places there is the simple contradistinction of seeing and hearing; hence the appeal to John 12:28-29 is not suitable, and still less the comparison of Daniel 10:7.

ΜΗΔΈΝΑ ΔῈ ΘΕΩΡ.] But seeing no one, from whom the voice might have come; μηδένα is used, because the participles contain the subjective cause of their standing perplexed and speechless. It is otherwise in Acts 9:8 : οὐδὲν ἔβλεπε.

[239] ἐνεός, dump, speechless (here, from terror), is to be written with one ν (not ἐννεός), as is done by Lachm. Tisch. Born. after A B C E H א. See on the word, Valck. ad h. I.; Bornem. ad Xen. Anab. iv. 5. 33; Ruhnk. ad Tim. p. 102.Acts 9:7. οἱ συνοδεύοντες: probably riding in company with him; not found in classical Greek, but used in the same sense as here in Plutarch—not elsewhere in N. T; but see Wis 6:23, and Tob 5:16 ([223] [224] al.), so according to in Zechariah 8:21 ([225] [226]S al.), cf. also Symm. in Genesis 33:12.—εἱστήκεισαν ἐννεοί. The form ἐννεός is incorrect, see critical notes: in LXX, cf. Proverbs 17:28, Isaiah 56:10, Epist. of Jeremiah 41 (Symm. in Hosea 9:7); see critical notes. It is frivolous to find a contradiction here with Acts 26:14. No stress is laid upon εἱστήκ., which may be used like εἶναι, and even if there is, it does not preclude a previous falling. We have merely to suppose that the sight and sound had affected Saul’s companions in a less degree than Saul, and that they rose from the ground before him, to make the narratives quite consistent (see Felten, p. 193, Hackett, in loco; B.D.1, iv., “Paul” p. 733). Or it is quite possible, as Weiss points out on Acts 26:14, that here the narrative emphasises the impression made by the hearing of the voice, and in Acts 26:14 the immediate result produced by the light, and that the narrator is quite unconscious of any contradiction in his recital (see notes below on 22, 26).—μηδένα δὲ θεωροῦντες: there is no contradiction between this statement and Acts 26:9, where it is said that they saw the light—here it is not denied that they saw a light, but only that they saw no person. Holtzmann apparently forgets this, and says that whilst in Acts 22:9 they see the light, in Acts 9:7 they see nothing; but the pronoun is not neuter, but masculine; μηδένα (see critical notes and reading in [227]). The inference is that Saul saw Jesus, but although this is not stated in so many words here, it is also to be inferred from the words of Ananias in Acts 9:17, and Acts 22:14, and from St. Paul’s own statement in 1 Corinthians 15:8; 1 Corinthians 9:1. St. Chrysostom refers ἀκούοντες μὲν τῆς φ. to the words of Saul, but this is certainly not natural, for τῆς φ. evidently refers back to ἤκουσα φωνήν in Acts 9:4.

[223] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[224] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[225] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[226] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[227] R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless] Cp. Daniel 10:7, “I Daniel alone saw the vision, for the men that were with me saw not the vision, but a great quaking fell upon them.”

Saul was not only furnished with authority, but also with men who were to carry out his intentions and bring the prisoners to Jerusalem. Painters have represented the travellers as riding on horseback, but there is no warrant for this in any form of the narrative.

stood here means “remained fixed,” “did not move.” They had been stricken down as well as Saul (Acts 26:14).

hearing a [the] voice] On the variation of case here, and the probable difference of meaning, see note on Acts 9:4.

but seeing [beholding] no man] The verb is the same that is used by Stephen (Acts 7:56), “Behold, I see the heavens opened.” In their astonishment, and guided by the sound, Saul’s companions lifted up their faces to the sky, but as with the words so with the appearance of Jesus; it was unseen by all but one, but to him was manifest enough to form a ground of his confidence in his Apostolic mission: “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1).Acts 9:7. Οἱ συνοδεύοντες, who journeyed with him) some of whom he had been about to employ as executioners.—εἱστήκεισαν, were standing) They too had fallen, ch. Acts 26:14; but they had arisen before Saul, of their own accord.—ἀκούοντες, hearing) ch. Acts 22:9, They saw indeed the bight, but heard not the voice. Therefore they must have seen the light (ch. Acts 26:13-14), but not Jesus Himself: they heard the voice alone, not the voice accompanied with the words. Comp. John 12:29.—μηδένα, no man) It is not said, They did not see Jesus, but, they saw no man: for they did not know that Jesus had been seen by Paul.Verse 7. - That journeyed for which journeyed, A.V. ; the voice for a voice, A.V. ; beholding for seeing, A.V. Speechless; ἐννεοί (or rather ἐνεοί) is found nowhere else in the New Testament, but is not uncommon in the LXX. (e.g. Isaiah 56:10) and in classical Greek. Here it means speechless from terror, struck dumb. The description here given by St. Luke seems to be contradictory in two particulars to St. Paul's own account in Acts 22:9 and Acts 26:14. For St. Paul's companions are said here to have "stood speechless;" but in Acts 26:14 they were "all fallen to the earth." Here they "hear the voice," but in Acts 22:9 they "heard not the voice of him that spake." It is obvious, however, that in such descriptions all depends upon the particular moment of the transaction described which happens to be uppermost in the mind of the speaker or writer at the time, and the particular purpose in relation to which he is giving the description. Thus at one moment the spectators might be standing dumfounded, and at the next they might be prostrate on the ground, or vice versa. Either description of their attitude would be a true one, though not true with regard to the same moment. Again, if the purpose of the speaker was to affirm that the whole company were conscious of both the vision and the sound of a voice speaking, but that only Saul saw the Divine Speaker, the description "hearing the voice, but beholding no man" would be the natural one. Whereas, if the purpose was to express that Saul alone heard the words spoken to him by the Lord, the description of his companions," They saw indeed the light... but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me," would be equally natural. Speechless (ἐνεοί)

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