Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.Acts 8:1. And Saul was consenting unto his death] i.e. approving of all that was done. We have the same word, Luke 11:48, “Ye allow (i.e. praise and approve of) the deeds of your fathers.” St Paul says of himself (Acts 22:20), “When the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed I also was standing by and consenting unto his death.”
Acts 8:1-4. Persecution after Stephen’s Death
1. And at that time there was a great persecution] Better, And there arose on that day, &c. The persecution was in immediate succession to the death of Stephen. Having once proceeded to such a length, the rage of the people turned upon the whole Christian body.
against the church which was at Jerusalem] i.e. the congregation which had grown up since the day of Pentecost.
and they were all scattered abroad] Thus the rage of their enemies brought about the dispersion which Christ had foretold (Acts 1:8). By the word all we need not understand every member of the Christian body, but only those who had been most active and so were in special danger from the persecution. We find (Acts 8:3) that there were many left, both men and women, in the city, whom Saul seized upon as “disciples of the Lord” and carried to prison. Perhaps Ananias who visited Paul at Damascus (Acts 9:19; Acts 9:25) may have been among those now scattered abroad, but see Acts 9:2 note.
throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria] According to the order of extension indicated by Jesus. The teaching of the Apostles must have been with great power to break through the long-standing prejudices of their Jewish converts against the Samaritans.
except the apostles] Jerusalem would of necessity be looked upon as the headquarters of the Christian band. Thither all the wanderers would refer for guidance and help. The twelve therefore must remain at their post, in spite of all the persecution.
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.2. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial] On devout, see Acts 2:5 note.
The verb often means “to prepare a dead body for burial,” but in Thuc. vi. 72 it is found exactly as used here.
The Jews paid great attention to funeral rites. Cp. Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 47:29 (par. 96), “Deal kindly and truly with me,” literally, “Do with me kindness and truth.” Is there then a kindness of falsehood, that he says, kindness and truth? How is this? There is a common proverb which says, “Is the son of thy friend dead?” Put on the load (i.e. bear the burden with him). Is thy friend himself dead? Put off the load (his survivors will not requite you for your sympathy). Therefore he says to him, “If thou wilt do me a kindness after my death, that is a kindness of truth.” And in all Ashkenazic prayer-books it is said: “These are the works of which a man reaps the interest in this world, and the capital endures in the world to come; the honouring of father and mother, the doing of acts of mercy, … the bearing forth the dead, the reconciliation of a man to his neighbour, but the study of the Torah is above them all.” Cp. Mishna Peah i. 1 for a part of this.
and made great lamentation over him] The word expresses the beating on the breast which is one of the outward expressions of great sorrow. The Hebrew word for mourning (Genesis 23:2; 2 Samuel 3:31, &c.) has the same sense. It must have needed no little courage at such a time to perform the funeral rites for one who had fallen as Stephen had, by the fury of the whole people.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.3. As for [But] Saul, he made havock of the church] His own words will best describe his action (Acts 22:4), “I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.” The same word is used by the LXX. (Psalm 80:13) of the ravages of wild beasts.
entering into every house] i.e. making his search everywhere that none should escape.
and haling men and women] i.e. dragging them forth. We have the word still in the form “to haul,” and the halyards of a ship.
committed them to prison] Because the number of arrests made it impossible that they should all be brought to trial at once.
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.4. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where [went about] preaching the word] In these words we have the general effect of the persecution. One particular history of such preaching is given immediately.
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.5–13. Philip’s Preaching in Samaria and its effects
5. Then [And] Philip] The second named in the list of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5). He is only mentioned in this chapter and Acts 21:8 where he is called Philip the Evangelist.
went down to the city of Samaria] i.e. the capital city of the district of Samaria. It was at this time called Sebaste = Augusta, in honour of Augustus Cæsar (Joseph. Antiq. xv. 8. 5).
and preached [proclaimed] Christ unto them] Better, the Christ. His preaching was that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The verb is not the same as that rendered “preaching” in the previous verse, but is used (Matthew 3:1; Matthew 4:17) of the commencement of John the Baptist’s preaching, and of Christ’s. In like manner, Philip goes forth uttering his voice in the new fields of labour.
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.6. And the people [multitudes] with one accord gave heed] The original words imply that crowds of the people gave their faith and consent to the new teaching.
hearing and seeing the miracles which he did] Better, when they heard and saw the signs which he wrought. They heard what had been done in other places and saw what was done each under his own observation. The miracles are described by that characteristic which they were specially intended to have in this instance. They were to be signs that the message which Philip was bringing was from God. The signs here enumerated are such as could leave no doubt in the minds of those who witnessed the cures.
For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.7. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them] There are some variations in the Gk. Text of this clause, but the most authoritative text would give; For from many of them which had unclean spirits they came out crying with a loud voice. On unclean spirits cp. Acts 8:16 note.
And there was great joy in that city.
But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one:9. a certain man, called Simon] From the Gk. word magos=sorcerer or magician, this man is usually spoken of as Simon Magus. According to Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 26) he was born at Gitton, a village of Samaria. The history which is given of him after the events mentioned in this chapter describes him as persistently hostile to St Peter and as following that Apostle to Rome to oppose his teaching. But much that is related is of very doubtful authority. He is said to have been deified at Rome, but it seems probable that Justin mistook a tablet, which was discovered in the sixteenth century with an inscription “Semoni Sanco deo fidio” which was erected in honour of the Sabine Hercules, for a record of Divine honours paid to this Simon Magus.
which beforetime in the same city used sorcery] There is no word for “same” in the original. The sorcery which Simon, and men like him, used was probably no more than a greater knowledge of some of the facts of chemistry by which they at first attracted attention and then traded on the credulity of those who came to consult them. From the time of their sojourn in Egypt the Jews had known of such impostors, and in their traditional literature some of the “wisdom” of Moses partakes of this character.
and bewitched [amazed] the people of Samaria] The same verb is used (Acts 8:13) of the feeling produced in Simon himself by the sight of Philip’s miracles, and is there rendered “wondered.”
giving out that himself was some great one] The general expectation that some great person was to arise among the Jews dictated the form in which impostors would proclaim themselves and aided them in procuring credence for what they said.
To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.10. This man is the great power of God] The A. V. translates the Tex. Rec., but the best MSS. give, This man is the power of God that is called great. We can see from the language of the N. T. that “powers” was a word current to express angelic or heavenly influences (Romans 8:38; 1 Peter 3:22); and without assuming such a partition of the celestial host as is seen in the later Alexandrine writings we can understand the thought of these Samaritans that in Simon they had an incarnation of Divine power, which deserved the title of great preeminently.
And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.11. And to him they had regard] Read, And they gave heed to him. This is an instance of that fondness for change of expression which is so marked a feature of the A. V. The word in the original is exactly the same as in the preceding verse.
of long time he had bewitched [amazed] them with sorceries] His birthplace was in Samaria, and it is most probable that he had lived there a great part of his life. Tradition (Clement. Hom. ii. 22) makes him to have been educated in Alexandria, but he is also said to have been a pupil of Dositheus a Gnostic teacher in Samaria, so that he had probably been but a short time away from his native country.
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.12. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God] The oldest MSS. omit the things. The verb “preaching” is the same as in Acts 8:4, and contains the notion of “gospel” or “glad tidings.” Now that the field of the preachers’ labour is being extended we have a further definition of the character of the message which they carried everywhere. “The kingdom of God” was the subject of Christ’s converse with the disciples during the forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3).
and the name of Jesus Christ] i.e. that He was the Messiah of whom there was knowledge and perhaps some expectation among the Samaritans (John 4:25; John 4:42). The question of the woman of Samaria “Is not this the Christ?” was answered by Philip’s preaching.
Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.13. Then [And] Simon himself believed also] We can see from the history which follows that the belief here described was of a very imperfect nature. It perhaps amounted to no more than the conviction that in Philip was some power greater than his own. We have an example of a like imperfect belief described in like words in St John’s Gospel (Acts 8:31), “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him,” and all that follows in the chapter shews that the belief which they professed was not enough to prevent them from plotting for Christ’s death.
and when he was baptized, he continued with Philips and wondered [was amazed] St Luke’s words imply that Simon was only wonder-struck at the sight of the works wrought by Philip, just as his own works had made the Samaritans to wonder.
beholding the miracles and signs which were done] Better, beholding the signs and great miracles wrought. There is apparently a distinction intended by St Luke between the belief of the Samaritans and that of Simon. When they believed, it was the preaching and the glad tidings to which they most gave heed, but the verb used in this verse seems to paint Simon as one who gazed with wonder only on a sight which was beyond him to explain.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:14–25. Peter and John sent down to Samaria. Conduct of Simon Magus
14. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem] The whole twelve still abiding there (Acts 8:1) and evidently all taking their part in the administration of the affairs of the Church, though it does not fall within St Luke’s purpose to notice what each did or said.
heard that Samaria had received the word of God] There was a communication kept up between the fugitives from Jerusalem and the twelve even from the first. Samaria here means the district, for although Philip’s preaching was in one city, the newly-baptized would spread abroad in every part, and carry the teaching forth as the woman of Samaria did her “new learning” (John 4:28). They had received the word of God as their countrymen before, so as “to know that this is indeed the Christ the Saviour of the world.”
they sent unto them Peter and John] We gather from this passage that there was no special preeminence assigned to any among the twelve in these earliest days. Peter and John were sent forth on their mission by the decision of the whole body. These two were probably chosen for such a work, as they had taken the most active part and in concert (Acts 3:1) in establishing the Church in Jerusalem.
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:15. who, when they were come down, &c.] It is clear from the whole history that the special gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed at this period on the Christian converts in various places, was not given except through the Apostles. The case of Ananias, sent by God’s special command to Saul, differs from all others. Peter could promise it (Acts 2:38) to those who should repent and be baptized, but the Samaritan converts whom Philip had made received no share of such powers till the arrival of Peter and John. But the Apostles make it manifest by their prayer that the gift was not theirs either to impart or withhold, but was “of God,” as Peter calls it (Acts 8:20).
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)16. they were baptized in [into] the name, &c.] The preposition, which is the same that is used by Christ (Matthew 28:19) at the institution of the Sacrament, implies the tie by which the new converts are in baptism bound to Christ as His followers, servants, worshippers.
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.17. Then laid they their hands on them] That there might be some outward sign of this imparted grace. So Ananias (Acts 9:17) laid his hands on Saul, and he received the Holy Ghost. But on Cornelius and his companions (Acts 10:44) the same gift was bestowed while Peter spake unto them.
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,18. And when Simon saw, &c.] Simon’s conduct now makes it clear how limited his faith had been. As he offered to buy the power, so we may be sure he meant to sell it. His faith, such as it was, had only sprung from his amazement.
he offered them money] From his name, all trafficking in sacred things has since been called Simony.
Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.19. saying, Give me also this power] The character of the man is shewn by what he asks for. He does not desire the Holy Ghost for himself as a spiritual gift to seal his baptism, but that he may be able to bestow, what he looks upon as a higher power than his own magic, upon others. We can learn from this narrative that the gift of the Holy Ghost had been made apparent by the new powers conferred on those who received it. Their works and words Simon had seen and heard, and hence his application to the Apostles.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.20. But Peter said unto him, Thy money [silver] perish with thee] It is clear from what follows that this terrible invocation of doom upon this offender is to be qualified by the condition supplied from Acts 8:22, where repentance and prayer are pointed out as means whereby even so great a sinner may find forgiveness. And St Peter may have thus joined Simon in the same destruction as his money, because he foresaw that there was little or no hope that such a man could be brought to repentance unless the consequence of his sin were set before him in all its terror.
because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money] Better, because thou thoughtest to purchase, &c. Simon had given no heed to the prayer of the Apostles that the gift of the Spirit should be sent down. He thought not of it as a “gift of God,” but by the language which St Peter here employs of him, he considered that if it could be once secured by him it would be his own at all times and for ever.
Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.21. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter (or word)] By the word “lot” the thought is carried back to the election of Matthias (Acts 1:26). In that case the choice had been left to the “Lord who knows the hearts of all men,” but Simon’s character is patent to all; “his heart was not right with God.” If the literal rendering, “in this word,” be adopted, the reference is to Acts 8:14, where it is said, “Samaria had received the word of God.”
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.22. Repent therefore, &c.] On this condition not only could the stern wish of Peter be averted, but the anger of God also. We see therefore that the words of the Apostle in Acts 8:20 must have been coupled in his mind with such condition, but the further language of this verse seems to imply that to Peter’s mind there was not much hope of such repentance.
and pray God] The oldest MSS. read “the Lord,” and this is what was to be expected, for the offence was specially against Christ. Simon, with corrupt motives, was seeking to be enrolled among those who were called by Christ’s name.
if perhaps the thought of thine heart may [shall] be forgiven thee] The word rendered “thought” is found in the N. T. only here, and gives the idea of a matured plan. The Apostle sees how full the mind of Simon has been of the scheme which he has conceived, and the knowledge of this seems expressed in the “if perhaps” with which this clause begins. He will not declare that there is not hope even for such an offender, but the covetousness, which is idolatry, makes repentance almost impossible.
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.23. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity] The preposition in makes a great difficulty in this verse. The word in the original means into or for. The construction has been compared with that of the Hebrew preposition ל = for after the verb “to be” in passages such as Ezekiel 37:22, “I will make them one nation,” literally, “unto one nation.” But instances of this construction are not common enough in the O.T. for an imitation of it in the N. T. to be probable. It seems better therefore not to take “gall of bitterness” and “bond of iniquity” as thus in apposition with the subject of the sentence, but rather to regard the preposition as used with the sense of motion towards a place or state and subsequent rest there. So it is found in Luke 11:7, “My children are with me in (εἰς) bed,” where the meaning is “They have come into and are remaining in bed.” For the expression “gall of bitterness,” cp. Deuteronomy 29:18, where those who serve false gods are spoken of as “a root that beareth gall and wormwood.” See also the “root of bitterness,” Hebrews 12:15. The second expression is found as “bands of wickedness” (Isaiah 58:6). The whole sentence would thus imply that Simon had gone from one evil to another till he had reached and was remaining in a stage which deserved the reprobation spoken against idolatry in the O.T., and had allowed evil to make him its prisoner.
Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.24. that none of these [the] things which ye have spoken come upon me] Simon shews by the character of his petition that he is not moved by a true spirit of repentance. He utters no word of sorrow for the evil of his thought, but only petitions that he may suffer no punishment. Yet we can see that he had not taken the expression of St Peter in Acts 8:20 as a curse invoked upon him by the Apostle, but only as a declaration of the anger of God, and of the certainty of a penalty upon wilful continuance in such sin. His entreaty may be compared with that oft-repeated petition of Pharaoh to Moses (Exodus 8:8; Exodus 8:28; Exodus 9:28; Exodus 10:17) “Intreat the Lord for me,” extorted by fear and followed by no change of conduct.
And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.25. And they [They therefore], when they had testified and preached [spoken] the word of the Lord, returned to [towards] Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in [to] many villages of the Samaritans] Peter and John had not been sent forth to make an extended missionary journey, but only to confirm the work of the Evangelists who had first preached and baptized in Samaria, by laying their hands upon the converts. This done they returned to their place in Jerusalem, but by the way preached in such villages of Samaria as lay in their road.
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.26–40. Philip baptizes an Ethiopian Eunuch
26. And the angel of the Lord] The Gk. has an angel. While Peter and John were carrying on the work of Philip in Samaria, God directs the Evangelist to a new scene of labour.
spake unto Philip] Most probably in a vision as to Cornelius (Acts 10:3) and to Peter (Acts 11:5).
saying, Arise, and go toward the south] Gaza was the southernmost of the five great cities which the Philistines had formerly occupied, and was on the route which a traveller from Jerusalem to Egypt would follow. In 96 b.c. the city of Gaza had been destroyed and its inhabitants massacred by Alexander Jannæus (Joseph. Ant. xiii. 13. 3), but it had been rebuilt by Gabinius (Antiq. xiv. 5. 3), though it is said that the restored city was nearer the sea than the ancient one. It continued to be a city of importance (see Antiq. xv. 7. 3 and xvii. 11. 4), and it could not therefore be to the city that the word “desert” which follows must be referred. From Samaria Philip would come directly south, and leaving Jerusalem on the east strike the road at some distance from that city.
unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza] There was more than one road from Jerusalem to Gaza, the more northern route went first to Ascalon and then by the coast to Gaza, another road was by Hebron and through the more desert country which lay to the west of it, and this is most likely the road intended in the narrative.
which is desert] The Greek puts these words in a separate clause, “this is desert,” as is common in Hebrew. This disjunction has raised the question whether they belong to the direction which the angel was giving to Philip, or are an insertion by St Luke to mark the scene of the interview more clearly. If they had been inserted as an explanation it is not likely they would have been so brief, whereas if we regard them as a portion of the speech of the angel they contain all that was needed for Philip’s instruction. That road toward Gaza which passed through the desert explains exactly the place to which he was to go.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,27. behold, a man of Ethiopia] It is better to supply the substantive verb here, “behold there was, &c.” otherwise the conjunction at the commencement of the next verse is left untranslated.
Ethiopia, like Cush in the O. T., is a general name given to the country which is now called Nubia and Abyssinia. Its northern portion was the great kingdom of Meroe, which we know was ruled over by queens for a long period (Plin. H. N. vi. 29), and it is from this kingdom, most probably, that the eunuch had come. Jews were abundant in Egypt, and this man had become a proselyte to their religion.
under Candace queen of the Ethiopians] We are told by Pliny (l. c.) that this was the name of a series of queens of Meroe, just as Pharaoh at an early period and Ptolemy subsequently were general names for the kings of Egypt, and Cæsar for the Roman emperors.
and had come to Jerusalem for to worship] As proselytes did, as well as Jews. This we learn from the enumeration of those who were present at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:10), among whom proselytes are expressly named. So (John 12:20) we find Greeks coming up to the feasts at Jerusalem.
Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.28. was returning] The original has a conjunction, “and was returning,” i.e. at the termination of the feast.
read Esaias [Isaiah] the prophet] He was evidently reading aloud (see Acts 8:30), and this was common among Orientals and was specially the practice of the Jews, who accompanied the reading with a good deal of bodily motion and considered this helpful to study. Thus T. B. Erubin 53 b ad fin. “Beruriah found a student who was reading, but not aloud; she pushed him and said to him, Is it not written ‘Only when it is well ordered then it is kept’? If it is put in order by all thy two hundred and forty-eight limbs [thy study] will abide, but if not it will not abide. We have heard of a pupil of Rabbi Eliezer who studied but not aloud; and after three years he had forgotten his learning.” And a little afterwards we read “Shemuel said to Rab Jehudah, Clever fellow! Open thy mouth when thou readest the Bible, and open thy mouth when thou studiest the Mishna, in order that the reading may abide, and that thy life may be prolonged. For it says (Proverbs 4:22), For life are they to them that find them” (or as the Rabbis preferred to interpret it, “to them that utter them forth”).
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.29. Then [And] the Spirit said unto Philip] i.e. by a prompting from within.
Go near, and join thyself to this chariot] No doubt this royal treasurer had a numerous retinue, and a single traveller on a desert road would be doing what was natural in attaching himself to a train of people who were journeying in the same direction. Philip would therefore be able to approach and hear what was read without being deemed an intruder.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?30. And Philip ran thither to him] Better, ran up. There is only the verb in the Greek.
Understandest thou, &c.] Philip’s question refers to the application of the words. Of their reference to Jesus the eunuch could of course know nothing, but he might have heard some of the Jewish expositions of the passage. There is a play on the words in the original which it is impossible to reproduce in a translation.
And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.31. except some man [one] should [shall] guide me] The eunuch, living far away from the received expounders of the Scriptures, feels that in a dark passage like that which he was reading he has need of trained instruction. He uses therefore the word which is employed for the guidance given by teacher to pupil. Our Lord uses it [Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39] reproachfully of the blind guidance which the scribes and Pharisees in His day were giving to the people who came to them for instruction. He uses the same word for the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). It was a marked feature in the teaching of the Jews that explanations of Scripture were received from generation to generation, and that only was highly valued by them which a man had received from his teachers. Such a system accounts for the permanence of all their traditions.
And he desired [besought] Philip that he would come up and sit with him] The verb implies a very earnest request, and betokens the great desire which the eunuch had for more enlightenment.
The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:32. The place of the scripture] The A. V. omits the conjunction at the beginning of this verse. Read, Now the place, &c. The word rendered “place” signifies the whole context of the passage. The eunuch was studying the whole account of the sufferer whom the prophet here describes. The verses quoted here are Isaiah 53:7-8, and are given word for word from the LXX. which it is most probable that the eunuch was reading, as being made in Egypt that version was most likely to be circulated among those Jews with whom this man would be brought into communication. Philip also belonging to the Grecians (Acts 6:5) would be most familiar with the Greek translation. It will be seen that the translation differs in some points from the original, but yet it is sufficiently close in sense to express the intention of the prophet or rather the “mind of the Spirit” in the prophecy, and on this translation therefore Philip founds his teaching.
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.33. in his humiliation, &c.] The Hebrew text signifies “Through oppression and through judgement (i.e. punishment) he was taken away.”
who shall declare his generation?] i.e. who shall describe his contemporaries, men who under a form of judicial punishment oppressed the sufferer, and put him to death?
for his life is taken from the earth] The Hebrew has “for he was cut off out of the land of the living.” It will be seen from a comparison of the Hebrew and the LXX. that the latter is in some parts rather a paraphrase than a translation.
Some of the Jews interpreted this passage of the Messiah and some of the congregation of Israel. In the Targum of Jonathan these two interpretations run side by side.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?34. of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?] As Isaiah 61. was held by the Jews to relate to Isaiah himself, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, &c.,” so the eunuch enquires whether the words he has been reading have the same reference.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.35. and began at the same [this] scripture, and preached unto him Jesus] It can hardly be doubted that during his sojourn in Jerusalem the eunuch had heard the history of the new teachers who had created such an excitement in the city, and so he would have had some story told him of the founder of the new community, but his informants would have been Jews, and he would only have heard from them such a version of what had been done as represented Jesus as one of the many deceivers who abounded in those times.
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?36. And as they went on their [the] way] We must suppose that Philip travelled for some time with the eunuch, for not only has he explained that in Jesus was fulfilled all that the prophets had spoken concerning the sufferings of the Messiah, but has taught him that believers in Jesus are to be admitted into the Christian Church by baptism, of which sacrament he desires to be a partaker at once.
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.37. And Philip said. If thou believest with all thine hearty thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God] The whole of this verse is omitted in the oldest MSS. It probably found its way into the text of those MSS. where it does exist from the margin. Such a margin would be formulated by those who, when the Church had become more extended, and formal professions of faith were the rule before baptism, felt that there was a want of completeness in the narrative unless some such confession were supposed to have been made. Thus the margin became a kind of exposition, and in the end found acceptance in the text.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.38. And he commanded the chariot to stand still] i.e. he ordered the chariot-driver to stop, and of course the whole retinue would see what took place, and they may certainly be regarded as the nucleus of a congregation to be established in Ethiopia. Tradition tells us that the eunuch laboured to evangelize his countrymen, and none were more likely to be influenced by his teaching than those who were present at his baptism and were, with him, witnesses of the way in which Philip was taken from them.
and they went down both into the water] As was the custom among the Jews. Thus John baptized his followers in the Jordan.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.39. the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip] Just as Obadiah expected Elijah would be caught away while he himself went on his errand to Ahab (1 Kings 18:12). Compare the language of Ezekiel (Acts 3:12; Acts 3:14, Acts 8:3, &c.), “So the spirit lifted me up and took me away.”
that [and] the eunuch saw him no more] This marvellous removal of Philip would confirm the eunuch and his companions in their faith. They would recognize that he who had been sent unto them was a man of God.
and he went on his way rejoicing] The Greek says “for he went, &c.,” and thus gives the reason why Philip was seen no more of the eunuch. He did not go back, like the sons of the prophets at Jericho, who went to seek Elijah, but being filled with joy at the new light which God had sent to him, felt no anxiety for the messenger by whom God had sent it, but an assurance that he was cared for by the hand which had sent him forth.
But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.40. But Philip was found at Azotus] That is, he appeared again and continued the work of his ministry. The expression is a translation of a Hebrew verb which is often rendered in A.V. “to be present.” Cp. Esther 1:5, “that were present,” and in the margin, Heb. “found.”
Azotus is the ancient Ashdod (1 Samuel 5:1-7), one of the five chief cities of the Philistines when the Israelites settled in Canaan.
till he came to Cesarea] This was Cæsarea Sebaste, so called in honour of Augustus (Greek, Sebastos) Cæsar (Joseph. Antiq. xvi. 5. 1). It was the chief city of Palestine under the Roman rule, and lay at the extreme north of the plain of Sharon. It is mentioned in the Acts as the place at which Cornelius was stationed (Acts 10:1), and it seems that Philip made his home there (Acts 21:8).