Of the prophets and teachers in the Church of Antioch, Acts 13:1. By command of the Holy Spirit the Church appoints Saul and Barnabas to a particular work, Acts 13:2, Acts 13:3. They depart, and travel to Seleucia, Cyprus, and Salamis, preaching in the Jewish synagogues, Acts 13:4, Acts 13:5. At Paphos they meet with Bar-Jesus or Elymas, a Jewish sorcerer, who endeavored to prevent the deputy of the island from receiving the Christian faith, Acts 13:6-8. Saul, for the first time called Paul, denounces the judgments of God upon him, and he is struck blind, Acts 13:9-11. The deputy, seeing this, is confirmed in the faith, Acts 13:12. Paul and his company leave Paphos, and come to Pamphylia, where John Mark leaves them, and returns to Jerusalem, Acts 13:13. Paul and Barnabas proceed to Antioch; and, coming into a synagogue of the Jews, are requested by the rulers of it to preach to the people, Acts 13:14, Acts 13:15. Paul preaches, and proves that Jesus is the Christ, vv. 16-41. The Gentiles desire the sermon to be preached to them the next Sabbath, and many of the Jews and proselytes receive the Christian faith, Acts 13:42, Acts 13:43. The next Sabbath the whole city attend; and the Jews, filled with envy, contradict and blaspheme, Acts 13:44, Acts 13:45. Paul and Barnabas with great boldness show that, by the order of God, the Gospel was to be preached first to them; but, seeing they had rejected it, it should now be taken from them, and sent to the Gentiles, Acts 13:46, Acts 13:47. The Gentiles rejoice and receive the truth, Acts 13:48, Acts 13:49. The Jews raise a persecution against the apostles, and expel them, Acts 13:50. They come to Iconium, full of joy and the Holy Ghost, Acts 13:51, Acts 13:52.
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.Certain prophets and teachers - Προφηται και διδασκαλοι. It is probable that these were not distinct offices; both might be vested in the same persons. By prophets we are to understand, when the word is taken simply, persons who were frequently inspired to predict future events, and by teachers, persons whose ordinary office was to instruct the people in the Christian doctrine. These also, to be properly qualified for the office, must have been endued with the influence of the Holy Spirit; for, as but a very small portion of the Scriptures of the New Testament could have as yet been given, it was necessary that the teachers should derive much of their own teaching by immediate revelation from God. On prophets and teachers, see the note on Acts 11:27.
Barnabas - Of whom see before, Acts 11:22-24.
Simeon-Niger - Or Simeon the Black, either because of his complexion, or his hair. It was on reasons of this kind that surnames, surnoms, name upon name were first imposed. Of this Simeon nothing farther is known.
Lucius of Cyrene - See Acts 11:20.
Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod - Our margin has given the proper meaning of the original word συντροφος, a foster-brother; i.e. Manaen was the son of the woman who nursed Herod Antipas; and the son, also, whose milk the young Herod shared. Of a person whose name was Manaen or Menahem, and who was in the court of Herod, we read several things in the Jewish writers. They say that this man had the gift of prophecy, and that he told Herod, when he was but a child, that he would be king. When Herod became king he sent for him to his court, and held him in great estimation. It might have been the son of this Menahem of whom St. Luke here speaks. Dr. Lightfoot has shown this to be at least possible.
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted - On Mondays and Thursdays it was usual with the more pious Jews to attend the public service in their synagogues, and to fast: the former is what we are to understand by ministering to the Lord. On the Sabbaths they attended the service in the synagogue, but did not fast. The Greek word, λειτουργουντων, signifies performing the office of praying, supplicating, rendering thanks, etc.: hence the word λειτουργια, liturgy, the work of prayer, etc., from λιτη, supplication, according to some; or rather from λειτος, common, and εργον, work, the common or public work, in which all the people were engaged.
The Holy Ghost said - A revelation of the Divine will was made to some person then present; probably to either Simeon, or Lucius, or Manaen, mentioned before.
Separate me Barnabas and Saul - Consecrate, or set them apart, for the particular work whereunto I have called them. How this was done, we find in the next verse.
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them -
1. They fasted: this was probably done by the whole Church.
2. They prayed, that God would bless and prosper them in their work.
3. They land hands upon them; thus solemnly appointing them to that particular work.
But was it by this fasting, praying, and imposition of hands that these men were qualified for this work? No. God had already called them to it, Acts 13:2, and he who called them had qualified them. Both their call and their qualification came from God; but he chose that they should have also the sanction of that Church of which they had been members; and therefore he said, Separate me, etc. The ordination of elders among the Jews was by three persons; and here we find three, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen, ordaining two others, Barnabas and Saul. But how did the Jews ordain? Not by imposition of hands: this is strictly forbidden, see Maimon. Sanh. chap. 4. "After what manner is the ordaining of elders for ever? Not that they should lay their hands on the head of an elder; but only that they should call him Rabbi, and say to him, Behold, thou art ordained, and hast power of judging, etc." It is remarkable that the imposition of hands in the ordaining of elders was not used among the ancient Jews, probably never under the first temple; and rarely, if ever, under the second. See Lightfoot on this place. The Church at Antioch, however, did depart from this custom: they put their hands on the heads of Barnabas and Saul; thus designating them to be the persons whom they, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, sent to preach the Gospel of Christ to the heathen.
When the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them, and the elders of the Church, in consequence, prayed, fasted, and laid their hands upon them, they certainly understood that by acting thus they fulfilled the mind of the Spirit. Hence, is it not evident that, when the elders of the Church of God have good reason to believe that He has called certain persons to the work of the ministry, and qualified them for that work, they should proceed as the elders of the Church of Antioch did; and by fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands, separate those persons for the work whereunto God has called them. Such persons will consider themselves accountable to God and his Church, and should take care how they use the gift and authority received from both. Is it not being wise above what is written to say, "When God has called and given authority, there is no need of ordination or appointment from man?" I would just ask the objector, Why, then, when God had called Barnabas and Saul to the work, did he command the Church to separate them to him for that very work? And why did they, in obedience, fast, pray, and lay hands upon them? I shall dispute with no man about the superior excellence of the episcopal or presbyterian form in ordination: if all the preliminaries be right, they may be both equally good, for all that I have ever been able to learn to the contrary; but that there should be some proper scriptural form attended to, I am fully satisfied. Besides, if the plan of the Church at Antioch were regularly and faithfully followed, in sending forth the ministers of the Gospel, no man can prove that God would not own them in an especial manner, and more particularly prosper their work. But, O ye rulers of the Church! be careful, as ye shall answer it to God, never to lay hands on the head of a man whom ye have not just reason to believe God has called to the work; and whose eye is single, and whose heart is pure. Let none be sent to teach Christianity, who have not experienced it to be the power of God to the salvation of their own souls. If ye do, though they have your authority, they never can have the blessing nor the approbation of God. "I sent them not: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord." Jeremiah 23:32.
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.Being sent forth by the Holy Ghost - By his influence, authority, and under his continual direction. Without the first, they were not qualified to go; without the second, they had no authority to go; and without the third, they could not know where to go.
Departed, unto Seleucia - This is generally understood to be Seleucia of Pieria, the first city on the coast of Syria, coming from Cilicia; near the place where the river Orontes pours itself into the sea.
They sailed to Cyprus - A well known island in the Mediterranean Sea. See on Acts 4:36 (note).
And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.Salamis - The capital of the island of Cyprus; afterwards called Constantia, and now Salina, situated on the eastern part of the island.
They preached the word of God - Τον λογον, The doctrine of God, the Christian religion, emphatically so called.
They had also John to their minister - This was John Mark, of whom we heard, Acts 12:25; for their minister, ὑπηρετην, to assist them in minor offices, as deacon or servant, that they might give themselves wholly to the doctrine of the Lord.
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus:Gone through the isle - Ὁλην, The Whole isle, is added here by ABCDE, several others, both the Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala; and also by several of the Greek fathers; and this must be the true reading, for it is evident they ran through the whole island from east to west.
Unto Paphos - This town, next in importance to Salamis, was situated on the western part of the isle; and having gone from Salamis to this place is a proof that they had gone through the whole island from east to west, according to the reading noticed above. There was probably no town in the universe more dissolute than Papas. Here Venus had a superb temple: here she was worshipped with all her rites; and from this place she was named the Paphian Venus, the queen of Paphos, etc. This temple and whole city were destroyed by an earthquake; so that a vestige of either does not now remain. There are two islands which go by this name, both adjoining, and on the west side of the island of Cyprus. One is called Old Paphos, the other New Paphos; the latter is probably the island here mentioned, though they are often confounded. On this island there is a Christian Church, dedicated to St. George, in which service is performed by the Greek ministers. It is a bishop's see, suffragan to the Abp. of Nicosia.
A certain sorcerer - Τινα μαγον, A magician, one who used magical arts, and pretended to have commerce with supernatural agents. A person who dealt in sleight of hand, or leger-de-main. Such as I have supposed Simon Magus to be. See the note on Acts 8:9.
A false prophet - A deceiver, one who pretended to have a Divine commission, a fortune teller.
Bar-Jesus - That is, the son of Jesus or Joshua; as Bar-jona is the son of Jonah; Bar-tholomew, the son of Thalmi, etc.
Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.The deputy of the country - Ανθυπατῳ, The proconsul. Rosenmuller and others remark, that in those days the Romans sent two different kinds of governors into the provinces. Some of the provinces were Caesarean or imperial, and into those they sent propretors; others belonged to the senate and people of Rome, and into those they sent proconsuls. Cyprus had formerly been an imperial province; but Augustus, who made the distinction, had given it to the people, whence it was governed by a proconsul. See Dion Cass. Hist. Rom. lib. iv. p. 523. (Edit. Leunclav.)
Sergius Paulus - This proconsul is not mentioned any where else: he became a Christian, had his name written in the book of life, and, probably on that very account, blotted out of the Fasti Consulares.
A prudent man - Ανδρι συνετῳ, A man of good sense, of a sound understanding, and therefore wished to hear the doctrine taught by these apostles; he did not persecute the men for their preaching, but sent for them that he might hear for himself.
But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith.But Elymas, the sorcerer, (for so is his name by interpretation) - That is, Elymas is the interpretation of the word μαγος, or sorcerer; not of the word Bar-Jesus as some have imagined; and to support which they have been led into strange etymologies on the word βαρ-Ιησους, Bar-Jesus. But how is Elymas, Ελυμας, the interpretation of the word μαγος, magician or sorcerer? Ans. Both names are Asiatic; but neither Hebrew nor Greek. I have already observed, in the note on Matthew 2:1, that mogh in Persian means an idolater, a worshipper of fire, and sometimes what we term a magician. Elymas is from the Arabic ilm, knowledge, science, doctrine, art; from alama, he was wise, skilled, etc.; hence aleem or alymon, a doctor or learned man, and, with the Greek termination, ελυμας, Elymas, the interpretation of mogh, Greek μαγος, magos, a magician, a wise man, doctor, etc.
Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him,Saul, who also is - Paul - This is the first time the name Paul occurs, and the last time in which this apostle is called Saul, as his common or general name.
Saul, שאול Shaul, was the name of the first Israelitish king, and signifies asked, sought; from שאל shaal, he asked, inquired, etc.
Paul, Paulus, if derived from the Latin, signifies little, dwarfish: but if from the Hebrew, פלא pala, it signifies extraordinary, wonderful; and this appears to have been the derivation assigned to it by St. Jerome, com. in Ep. Pauli ad Philem., who translates it mirabilis, wonderful, and Hesychius must have had the same in view, for he defines it thus, Παυλος, θαυμαϚος, η εκλεκτος, συμβουλος, Paul, wonderful, or elect, counsellor. The lexicographer had probably here in view, Isaiah 9:6 : his name shall be called (פלא יועיץ pelé yoêts) wonderful, counsellor; which he might corrupt into paulus, and thus make his θαυμαϚος συμβουλος out of it by way of explanation. Triller, however, supposes the συμβουλος of Hesychius to be corrupted from συνδουλος fellow servant, which is a term not unfrequently applied to apostles, etc., in the New Testament, who are called the servants of God; and it is used by Paul himself, Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:7. The Latin original is the most probable. It is well known that the Jews in the apostolic age had frequently two names, one Hebrew, the other Greek or Roman. Saul was born of Jewish parents, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; he had therefore his first name from that language, שאול Shaul, asked or begged; as it is possible he might have been a child for whom his parents had addressed their fervent petitions to God. The case of Samuel is one in point. See 1 Samuel 1:9-18. As he was born in Tarsus, in Cilicia, he was consequently born a free Roman citizen; and hence his parents would naturally give him, for cognomen, some name borrowed from the Latin tongue, and Paulus, which signifies little, might indicate that he was at his birth a small or diminutive child. And it is very likely that he was low in stature all his days; and that it is to this he refers himself, 2 Corinthians 10:10, for his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. If he were small in stature, his voice would be naturally low and feeble; and the Greeks, who were fond of a thundering eloquence, would despise him on this very account.
Filled with the Holy Ghost - Therefore the sentence he pronounced was not from himself, but from God. And indeed, had he not been under a Divine influence, it is not likely he would have ventured thus to accost this sorcerer in the presence of the governor, who, no doubt, had greatly admired him.
And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?O full of all subtilty - Δολου, Deceit, pretending to supernatural powers without possessing any, and having only cunning and deceit as their substitutes.
And - mischief - Ῥᾳδιουργιας, from ῥᾳδιος, easy, and εργον, a work; one who is ready at his work; a word which excellently well defines a juggler, one who is expert at sleight of hand; though it is often employed to signify an abandoned and accomplished villain.
Child of the devil - Υἱε διαβολου, Son of the devil, possessing his nature; filled with his cunning; and, in consequence, practising deceit.
Enemy of all righteousness - Εχθρεπασης δικαιοσυνης; Opposed in thy heart to all that is just, true, and good.
Wilt thou not cease to pervert, etc. - Ου παυσῃ διαϚρεφων. Wilt thou not cease perverting? He had probably labored in this bad work from the beginning of Paul's ministry in the place; and God in his mercy had borne with him; and no doubt the apostle had warned him, for thus much seems implied in the reproof. What a terrible character is given of this bad man! He no doubt passed among the people for what we call a clever fellow; and he was so clever as to hide himself under a pretty dense mask; but God, who searches the heart, plucked it off, and tells him, and those who were perverted by him, what an accomplished deceiver and knave he was.
The right ways of the Lord - Τας ὁδους Κυριου τας ευθειας, The ways of the Lord, the straight ways. This saying is very emphatical. The ways of Elymas were crooked and perverse; the ways of the Lord, the doctrine taught by him, plain and straight. What is here said of the conduct and teaching of Elymas, for he was a false prophet, is true of all false doctrine: it is complex, devious, and tortuous: while the doctrine of God is simple, plain, and straight; directing in the way, the sure way, that leads to present peace and everlasting happiness. From the phraseology which the apostle employs in this terrible address to Elymas, we may learn, as well as from his name Bar-Jesus, that he was by birth and education a Jew. On this account he was the greater enemy to Christianity; and on this same account he was the less excusable.
And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.The hand of the Lord is upon thee - The power of God is now about to deal with thee in the way of justice.
Thou shalt be blind - Every word here proves the immediate inspiration of Paul. He was full of the Holy Ghost when he began this address: by the light of that Spirit he discerned the state of Elymas, and exposed his real character; and, by the prophetic influence of that same Spirit, he predicted the calamity that was about to fall upon him, while as yet there was no sign of his blindness! Mark this!
Not seeing the sun for a season - In the midst of judgment God remembers mercy. This blindness was not to be perpetual: it was intended to be the means of awakening and softening the hard heart of this poor sinner. There is an ancient tradition, and it is mentioned both by Origen and Chrysostom, that Elymas, in consequence of this became a sincere convert to the religion of Christ. Origen says: "And Paul by a word striking him blind, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paul, δια των πονων επιϚρεφει αυτον εις θεοσεβειαν, by anguish converted him to godliness." And, commenting on - Thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun, αχρι καιρου, for a season, asks, "And why for a season? That, being smitten on account of his transgressions, and brought to repentance, he might at last be deemed worthy to see the sun, not only with his body, but with his mind; that the Divine virtue might be proclaimed in restoring him to sight, and his soul, believing, might receive godliness." Com. in Exod., vol. i. p. 117, edit. de la Rue, Par. 1733.
There fell on him a mist and darkness - Αχλυς, achlus, is a disordered state of the eye, in which the patient sees through a thick mist. This thick mist, or perturbed state of the eye, took place first: it increased, and σκοτος, thick, positive darkness, was the issue.
He went about - Πεπιαγων. Not knowing how to take a right step, he groped about in great uncertainty; and, not being able to find his way, he sought for some persons to lead him by the hand. This state of Elymas is inimitably expressed in one of the cartoons of Raphael, now at Hampton-court, (and lately engraved, in the true spirit of the original, by Mr. Thomas Holloway), in which his whole figure expresses the depth of distress, concern, uncertainty, and confusion; and, to use a word common in exhibiting this matchless piece of painting, he is blind from head to foot. In this manner the text authorizes the painter to express the state of this miserable culprit.
Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.The deputy - believed - This was a proof that the doctrine was true; and that the power of God, from which nothing could be concealed, and which nothing could resist, was with these preachers.
Being astonished - Εκπλησσομενος, Being struck with astonishment, as Elymas was struck with blindness. Thus the word of God is a two-edged sword: it smites the sinner with judgment or compunction; and the sincere inquirer after truth, with conviction of its own worth and excellence.
Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.Paul and his company loosed from Paphos - They sailed away from this island, leaving, it may be presumed, Elymas a sincere and deeply humbled penitent; and Sergius Paul, a thorough and happy believer in the doctrine of Christ.
Previously to this time, St. Luke always mentions Barnabas before Paul; but after this he mentions Paul always first; probably after seeing how God had distinguished him in the late proceedings at Cyprus; as much of the Holy Spirit now rested upon him.
They came to Perga in Pamphylia - As Perga was not a maritime town, it is conjectured that the apostles sailed up the river Cestrus, in order to come to this place, which, according to Strabo, was situated about sixty leagues up this river, and near to which was a famous temple dedicated to Diana. For Pamphylia, see Acts 2:10.
And John departing from them - Why John Mark left his brethren at this place we are not informed; probably he went to visit his pious mother Mary at Jerusalem, and to see Peter, to whom he is supposed to have been much attached. It certainly was not with the approbation of Paul that he left them at this place, as we learn from Acts 15:38; yet his departure does not seem to have merited the displeasure of Barnabas; for John Mark having met these apostles at Antioch, when Paul purposed to revisit the various places where they had planted the word of God, Barnabas was willing to take him with them; but Paul would not consent, because he had departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work, Acts 15:35-39, and this occasioned a separation between Barnabas and Paul. It does not appear that John Mark was under any obligation to accompany them any longer or any farther than he pleased. He seems to have been little else than their servant, and certainly was not divinely appointed to this work, as they were; and consequently might leave them innocently, though not kindly, if they could not readily supply his place. In this respect John Mark might be to blame; but Barnabas, whose nephew he was, could look over this fault more easily than Paul, who could not find those motives to pass by what was reprehensible in his conduct which natural affection might furnish to his brother apostle.
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.They came to Antioch in Pisidia - This place is mentioned thus to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria, with which it had nothing in common but the name. There were several cities and towns in various districts of these countries called Antioch: some have reckoned up not less than twelve. Pisidia, in which this was situated, was a province of Asia Minor, near to Pamphylia, having Phrygia on the north, and Pamphylia on the south. The position of all these places may be seen on the map.
Into the synagogue on the Sabbath day - Though Paul was now on a special mission to the Gentiles, yet he availed himself of every opportunity, in every place, of making the first offer of salvation to the Jews.
And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.After the reading of the law and the prophets - A certain portion of the law and another of the prophets, was read every Sabbath; and the law was so divided as to be read over once every year. In the notes at the conclusion of Deuteronomy, I have considered this subject at large, and given a complete table of the Parashoth, sections of the law, and Haphtaroth, sections of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath in the year in the Jewish synagogues. To have an exact view of every part of the Jewish ecclesiastical economy, the reader will do well to consult the above mentioned table, and those which follow it: they have been drawn up with great care, attention, and indescribable labor.
It has been a question, in what language were the law and prophets read in a synagogue of Pisidia, for in that district Strabo informs us that four languages were spoken, viz. the Pisidian, the Solyman, the Greek, and the Lydian. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, with great probability, that the Scriptures were read in the original Hebrew; and that an interpreter tendered the reading to the people in their mother tongue. There is no doubt that the Jews and proselytes understood the Greek tongue well; and they certainly had the Septuagint version among them.
The rulers of the synagogue - These were the persons whose business it was to read the appointed sections, and to take care of the synagogue and its concerns; and to see that all was done decently and in order.
Sent unto them - Seeing them to be Jews, they wished them to give some suitable address to the people, i.e. to the Jews who were then engaged in Divine worship; for the whole of the following discourse, which greatly resembles that of St. Stephen, Acts 7:1-53, is directed to the Jews alone; and this was probably spoken either in Hebrew or Greek.
Ye men and brethren - Ανδρες αδελφοι, Men brethren, a Hebraism for, "Ye men who are our brethren," i.e. Jews, as we ourselves are; but ανδρες is often an expletive, as we have already seen. See the note on Acts 7:2.
If ye have any word of exhortation - Ει εϚι λογος εν ὑμιν παρακλησεως· If ye have any subject of consolation, any word of comfort to us, who are sojourners in this strange land, speak it. The Consolation of Israel was an epithet of the Messiah among the Jews; and it is probable that it was in reference to him that the rulers of the synagogue spoke. That παρακλησις is to be understood here as meaning consolation, and this in reference to the Messiah, the whole of the following discourse will prove to the attentive reader; in which Paul shows the care and protection of God towards his people Israel, and the abundant provision he had made for their salvation by Jesus Christ. They wished for consolation, and he declared unto them glad tidings, and many felt the power and comfort of the doctrine of the cross.
Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.Men of Israel - Ye that are Jews by birth; and ye that fear God - ye that are proselytes to the Jewish religion. In this discourse Paul proves that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, sent from God, not only for the salvation of the Jews, but of the whole human race. And this he does, not with the rhetorician's arts, but in a plain, simple detail of the history of Christ, and the most remarkable transactions of the people of God, which referred to his manifestation in the flesh. Rosenmuller.
The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.The God of - our fathers - The apostle begins his discourse with the Egyptian bondage, and their deliverance from it, as points the most remarkable and striking in their history; in which the providence and mighty power of God, exerted so frequently in their behalf, were peculiarly conspicuous.
Exalted the people - Even when they were strangers in the land, and greatly oppressed, God exalted them; made them a terror to their enemies, and multiplied them greatly.
With a high arm - A literal translation of the Hebrew phrase, בזרוע רמה bezeroa ramah, with a lifted-up arm, to protect them and destroy their enemies. The meaning of the phrase is, a manifest display of the Divine power.
And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.About the time of forty years - The space of time between their coming out of Egypt, and going into the promised land.
Suffered he their manners - Ετροποφορησεν αυτους; He dealt indulgently with them: howsoever they behaved towards him, he mercifully bore with, and kindly treated them. But instead of ετροποφορησεν, ACE, some others, with the Syriac, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, and some of the fathers, read ετροφοφορησεν, which signifies, he nourished and fed them, or bore them about in his arms as a tender nurse does her child. This reading confirms the marginal conjecture, and agrees excellently with the scope of the place, and is a reading at least of equal value with that in the commonly received text. Griesbach has admitted it, and excluded the other. Both, when rightly understood, speak nearly the same sense; but the latter is the most expressive, and agrees best with Paul's discourse, and the history to which he alludes. See the same form of expression, Numbers 11:12; Exodus 19:4; Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 46:4; Isaiah 63:9.
And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot.Destroyed seven nations - The Canaanites, Hittites, Girgasites, Amorites, Hivites, Peresites, and Jebusites. The rabbins frequently call them שבעה אומות Shebaah Omoth, the Seven Nations.
And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years - This is a most difficult passage, and has been termed by Scaliger, Crux Chronologorum. The apostle seems here to contradict the account in 1 Kings 6:1 : And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign, he began to build the house of the Lord.
Sir Norton Knatchbull, in his annotations upon difficult texts, has considered the various solutions proposed by learned men of the difficulty before us; and concludes that the words of the apostle should not be understood as meaning how long God gave them judges, but when he gave them; and therefore proposes that the first words of this verse, Και μετα ταυτα, ὡς ετεσι τετρακοσιοις και πεντηκοντα, should be referred to the words going before, Acts 13:17, that is, to the time When the God of the children of Israel chose their fathers.
"Now this time wherein God may properly be said to have chosen their fathers, about 450 years before he gave them judges, is to be computed from the birth of Isaac, in whom God may properly be said to have chosen their fathers; for God, who had chosen Abraham out of all the people of the earth, chose Isaac at this time out of the children of Abraham, in whose family the covenant was to rest. To make this computation evident, let us observe that from the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jacob are 60 years; from thence to their going into Egypt, 130; from thence to the exodus, 210; from thence to their entrance into Canaan, 40; from that to the division of the land (about which time it is probable they began to settle their government by judges) 7 years; which sums make 447: viz. 60 + 130 + 210 + 40 + 7 equals 447. And should this be reckoned from the year before the birth of Isaac, when God established his covenant between himself and Abraham, and all his seed after him, Genesis 17:19, at which time God properly chose their fathers, then there will be 448 years, which brings it to within two years of the 450, which is sufficiently exact to bring it within the apostle's ὡς, about, or nearly.
"Some have made the period 452 years; which, though two years more than the apostle's round number, is still sufficiently reconcilable with his qualifying particle ὡς, about. And it may be added that the most correct writers often express a sum totally, but not exactly: so, with Demosthenes and Plautus, we find that called a talent where some drachms were either wanting or abounding." The sacred writers often express themselves in the same way: e.g. He made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about. Now we know that the circumference of any circle is only in round numbers to its diameter as three to one; but, correctly, is considerably more, nearly as 22 to 7. But even the Spirit of God does not see it necessary to enter into such niceties, which would only puzzle, and not instruct the common reader.
Calmet has paraphrased these passages nearly to the same sense: the text may be thus connected; Acts 13:19. And having destroyed; seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot, about one hundred and fifty years after. And afterwards he gave them judges, to the time of Samuel the prophet. The paraphrase of Calmet is the following: "The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers in the person of Abraham; he promised him the land of Canaan; and four hundred and fifty years after this promise, and the birth of Isaac, who was the son and heir of the promise, he put them in possession of that land which he had promised so long before." As this view of the subject removes all the principal difficulties, I shall not trouble my reader with other modes of interpretation.
And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.Saul the son of Cis - In all proper names quoted from the Old Testament, we should undoubtedly follow, as nearly as possible, the same orthography: קיש Kish, was the name of this king's father, and so we spell it in the Old Testament, and yet have transformed it into Cis in the New, where the orthography is almost entirely lost.
The space of forty years - Reckoning from the time of his anointing by Samuel to the time of his death, from a.m. 2909 to 2949.
And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.David - a man after mine own heart - That is, a man who would rule the kingdom according to God's will. Dr. Benson's observation on this point is very judicious: "When it is said that David was a man after God's own heart, it should be understood, not of his private, but of his public, character. He was a man after God's own heart, because he ruled the people according to the Divine will. He did not allow of idolatry; he did not set up for absolute power. He was guided in the government of the nation by the law of Moses, as the standing rule of government, and by the prophet, or the Divine oracle, whereby God gave directions upon particular emergencies. Whatever Saul's private character was, he was not a good king in Israel. He did not follow the law, the oracle, and the prophet; but attempted to be absolute, and thereby to subvert the constitution of the kingdom. That this was the meaning of David's being a man after God's own heart will easily appear by comparing 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Samuel 28:17, 1 Samuel 28:18; 1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14; Psalm 78:70, etc.; Psalm 89:20, etc."
Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:Of this man's seed hath God - raised - a Savior - That Jesus Christ came in a direct and indisputable line from David, according to both promise and prophecy, may be seen in the notes on Matthew 1:1, etc., and particularly in the notes at the end of Luke And that the Messiah was promised to come from the family of David, see Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 11:2, and Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 23:6.
When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.John - preached - the baptism of repentance - On the nature and effects of John's preaching, see the notes on Matthew 3:1, etc., and Luke 3:10-15 (note).
And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not he. But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.As John fulfilled his course - As John was fulfilling his race, he said, etc. It has been supposed that the word δρομον, course, or race, is used here to point out the short duration of the Baptist's ministry, and the fervent zeal with which he performed it. It signifies properly his ministry, or life. A man's work, employment, function, etc., is his race, course, or way of life. John had a ministry from God; and he discharged the duties of it with zeal and diligence; bore the fatigues of it with patience and resignation; and was gloriously successful in it, because the hand of the Lord was with him.
Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.Men and brethren - This should have been translated brethren simply. See the note on Acts 7:2.
Children of the stock of Abraham - All ye that are Jews.
And whosoever among you feared God - That is, all ye who are Gentiles, and are now proselytes to the Jewish religion.
The word of this salvation - The doctrine that contains the promise of deliverance from sin, and the means by which it is brought about; all which is founded on Jesus, of the stock of David, dying and rising again for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles.
For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.Because they knew him not - A gentle excuse for the persecuting high priests, etc. They did not know that Jesus was the Christ, because they did not know the prophets: and why did they not know the prophets, which were read every Sabbath day? Because they did not desire to know his will; and therefore they knew not the doctrine of God: nor did they know that, in condemning Christ, they fulfilled those very Scriptures which were read every Sabbath day in their synagogues.
And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.They found no cause of death in him - No reason why he should be condemned. Though they accused him of several things, yet they could not substantiate the most trifling charge against him; and yet, in opposition to all justice and equity, desired Pilate to put him to death! This points their perfidy in the strongest light.
And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.They took him down from the tree - The apostle passes rapidly over several circumstances of his death, that he might establish the fact of his resurrection.
But God raised him from the dead:But God raised him from the dead - And thus gave the fullest proof of his innocence. God alone can raise the dead; and he would not work a miracle so very extraordinary, but on some extraordinary occasion.
And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.He was seen many days, etc. - The thing was done but a very short time since; and many of the witnesses are still alive, and ready to attest the fact of this resurrection in the most unequivocal manner.
And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,We declare unto you glad tidings - We proclaim that Gospel to you which is the fulfillment of the promise made unto the fathers.
God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.Written in the second Psalm - Instead of τῳ ψαλμῳ τῳ δευτερῳ the second Psalm, πρωτῳ ψαλμῳ, the first Psalm, is the reading of D, and its Itala version, and several of the primitive fathers. Griesbach has received it into the text; but not, in my opinion, on sufficient evidence. The reason of these various readings is sufficiently evident to those who are acquainted with Hebrew MSS. In many of these, two Psalms are often written as one; and the first and second Psalms are written as one in seven of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. Those who possessed such MSS. would say, as it is written in the First Psalm; those who referred to MSS. where the two Psalms were separate, would say, in the Second Psalm, as they would find the quotation in question in the first verse of the second Psalm. There is, therefore, neither contradiction nor difficulty here; and it is no matter which reading we prefer, as it depends on the simple circumstance, whether we consider these two Psalms as parts of one and the same, or whether we consider them as two distinct Psalms.
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee - It has been disputed whether this text should be understood of the incarnation or of the resurrection of our Lord. If understood of his incarnation, it can mean no more than this, that the human nature of our blessed Lord was begotten by the energy of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the blessed virgin; for as to his Divine nature, which is allotted to be God, it could neither be created nor begotten. See some reasons offered for this on Luke 1:35 (note); and, if those be deemed insufficient, a thousand more may be added. But in the above reasons it is demonstrated that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is absolutely irreconcilable to reason, and contradictory to itself. Eternity is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in any reference to time: Son supposes time, generation, and father; and time also antecedent to such generation: therefore the rational conjunction of these two terms, Son and eternity, is absolutely impossible, as they imply essentially different and opposite ideas.
If the passage in question be understood of the resurrection of Christ, it points out that the human nature, which was produced by the power of God in the womb of the virgin, and which was the Son of God, could see no corruption; and therefore, though it died for sin, must be raised from the dead before it saw corruption. Thus God owned that human nature to be peculiarly his own; and therefore Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4.
And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.No more to return to corruption - To the grave, to death, the place and state of corruption; for so we should understand the word διαφθοραν in the text.
The sure mercies of David - Τα ὁσια Δαβιδ τα πιϚα. These words are quoted literatim from the Septuagint version of Isaiah 55:3; where the Hebrew is חסדי דוד הנאמנים chasdey David ha-neemanim, of which the Greek is a faithful translation; and which sure mercies of David St. Paul considers as being fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ. From this application of the words, it is evident that the apostle considered the word David as signifying the Messiah; and then the sure or faithful mercies, being such as relate to the new covenant, and the various blessings promised in it, are evidently those which are sealed and confirmed to mankind by the resurrection of Christ; and it is in this way that the apostle applies them. Had there not been the fullest proof of the resurrection of Christ, not one of the promises of the new covenant could have been considered as sure or faithful. If he did not rise from the dead, then, as said the apostle, your faith and our preaching are vain, 1 Corinthians 15:14.
The following observations of Bp. Pearce are judicious: "For the sense of these words, we must have recourse to what God said to David in 2 Samuel 7:11, 2 Samuel 7:12, etc., explained by what is said in Psalm 89:3, Psalm 89:4, Psalm 89:28, Psalm 89:29, Psalm 89:36, where frequent mention is made of a covenant established by God with David, and sworn to by God, that David's seed should endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven, and as the sun, to all generations. This covenant and this oath are the sure and sacred things of which Isaiah, Isaiah 55:3, speaks; and Luke in this place. And Paul understood them as relating to the kingdom of Jesus, (the Son of David), which was to be an everlasting kingdom; and if an everlasting one, then it was necessary that Jesus should have been (as he was) raised from the dead; and, to support this argument, Paul, in the next verse, strengthens it with another, drawn from Psalm 16:10."
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:David - fell on sleep - and saw corruption - David died, was buried, and never rose again; therefore, David cannot be the person spoken of here: the words are true of some other person; and they can be applied to Jesus Christ only; and in him they are most exactly fulfilled. See the notes on Acts 2:29, Acts 2:30, etc.
But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:Be it known unto you, therefore - This is the legitimate conclusion: seeing the word of God is true, and he has promised an endless succession to the seed of David; seeing David and all his family have failed in reference to the political kingdom, a spiritual kingdom and a spiritual succession must be intended, that the sure covenant and all its blessings may be continued. Again: seeing the person by whom this is to be done is to see no corruption; - seeing David has died, and has seen (fallen under the power of) corruption; - seeing Jesus the Christ has wrought all the miracles which the prophets said he should work; - seeing he has suffered all the indignities which your prophets said he must suffer; - seeing after his death he has most incontestably risen again from the dead, and has not fallen under the power of corruption, - then he must be the very person in whom all the predictions are fulfilled, and the person through whom all the blessings of the covenant must come.
Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins - See the notes on Acts 5:30, Acts 5:31. Remission of sins, the removal of the power, guilt, and pollution of sin comes alone through this man, whom ye crucified, and who is risen from the dead.
And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.And by him - On his account, and through him, all that believe in his Divine mission, and the end for which he has been manifested, namely, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, are justified from all things, from the guilt of all transgressions committed against God; from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses; because it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, or any other rite or service of this kind, could take away sin from the soul, cancel its guilt in the conscience, or make an atonement to the Divine justice; but this is the sacrifice which God has required; this is every way suited to the end for which it has been instituted; and this is the sacrifice alone which God can accept. Your law says, "Do this, and ye shall live;" and, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Ye have not done these things required; ye have not continued in any good thing; ye have not only not done all things commanded, but ye have done none, none as they ought to be done; and therefore ye are under the curse. The Gospel says, Believe on the Lord Jesus; credit his Divine mission; consider his death an atonement for sin; believe in his resurrection, as a proof that the atonement is made, believe that he suffered, died, and rose again for your justification; and that for his sake God, though he be infinitely just, can be the justifier of all who believe in him. By the law of Moses there is neither justification nor salvation: in Jesus Christ there are both, and all the sure mercies of David. Therefore, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets;Beware - lest that come upon you, etc. - If you reject these benefits, now freely offered to you in this preaching of Christ crucified, you may expect such judgment from the hand of God as your forefathers experienced, when, for their rebellion and their contempt of his benefits, their city was taken, their temple destroyed, and themselves either slain by the sword, or carried into captivity. It is evident that St. Paul refers to Habakkuk 1:5-10; and in those verses the desolation by the Chaldeans is foretold. Never was there a prophecy more correctly and pointedly applied. These Jews did continue to slight the benefits offered to them by the Lord; and they persevered in their rebellion: what was the consequence? The Romans came, took their city, burnt their temple, slew upwards of a million of them, and either carried or sold the rest into captivity. How exactly was the prophecy in both cases fulfilled!
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.Behold, ye despisers - There is a remarkable difference here between the Hebrew text in Habakkuk, and that in the Septuagint, which is a little abridged here by St. Paul. I shall exhibit the three texts. Heb: -
ראו בגוים והביטו והתמהו תמהו כי פעל פעל בימיכם לא תאמינו כי יספר
Reu bagoyim vehabitu vehitammehu; temehu; ki poal poel bimeycem, lo teaminu hi yesupar.
Behold, ye among the heathen, (nations), and regard, and be astonished; be astonished, for I am working a work in your days, which; when it shall be told, ye will not credit.
Ιδετε οἱ καταφρονηται, και επιβλεψατε, και θαυμασατε θαυμασια, και αφανισθητε· διοτι εργον εγω εργαζομαι εν ταις ἡμεραις ὑμων, ὁ ου μη πιϚευσητε, εαν τις εκδιηγηται ὑμιν.
See, ye despisers, and look attentively, and be astonished, (or hide yourselves), for I work a work in your days, which, if any one will tell to you, ye will not believe.
Ιδετε οἱ καταφρονηται, [και επιβλεψατε], και θαυμασατε, [θαυμασια], και αφανισθητε· ὁτι εργον εγω εργαζομαι εν ταις ἡμεραις ὑμων, εργον ᾡ ου μη πιϚευσητε, εαν τις εκδιηγηται ὑμιν.
Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and be astonished, (or hide yourselves), for I work a work in your days, which, if any one will tell unto you, ye will not believe.
I have taken Luke's quotation from the best MSS., and I have quoted the Septuagint according to the Codex Alexandrinus; and the quotations are exactly the same, not only in words, but almost in letters, with the exception of επιβλεψατε and θαυμασια which the evangelist omits, and which I have included in crotchets in the text of St. Luke, merely that the place of the omission may be the better seen. It may now be necessary to inquire how St. Luke and the Septuagint should substitute ye despisers, for ye among the heathen, in the Hebrew text?
Without troubling myself or my readers with laborious criticisms on these words, with which many learned men have loaded the text, I will simply state my opinion, that the prophet, instead of בגוים bagoyim, among the heathen, wrote בגדים bogadim, despisers, or transgressors: a word which differs only in a single letter, ד daleth, for ו vau; the latter of which might easily be mistaken by a transcriber for the other, especially if the horizontal stroke of the ד daleth happened to be a little faint towards the left; as, in that case, it would wear the appearance of a ו vau; and this is not unfrequently the case, not only in MSS., but even in printed books. It seems as evident as it can well be that this gives the word which the Septuagint found in the copy from which they translated: their evidence, and that of the apostle, joined to the consideration that the interchange of the two letters mentioned above might have been easily made, is quite sufficient to legitimate the reading for which I contend. Houbigant and several others are of the same mind.
The word αφανισθητε, which we translate perish, signifies more properly disappear, or hide yourselves; as people, astonished and alarmed at some coming evil, betake themselves to flight, and hide themselves in order to avoid it.
And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.When the Jews were gone out - That part of them in whom the words of the prophet were fulfilled, viz. those who, though they had the clearest relation of so interesting a history, would not believe it: they shut their eyes against the light, and hardened their hearts against the truth. There were other Jews in the assembly that did believe, and were saved.
The Gentiles besought - There is some doubt whether the original, παρεκαλουν τα εθνη, should be translated the Gentiles besought; or they besought the Gentiles: for the words will bear either, but the latter sense more naturally. When the Jews retired, determining not to credit what was spoken, the apostle, seeing the Gentiles of a better mind, requested them to come and hear those words, or doctrines, the next Sabbath. But, the next, το μεταξυ, as Hesychius defines it, μετ' ολιγον, ανα μεσον, shortly, or betwixt, may mean the after part of the same Sabbath, or the course of the ensuing week, between the two Sabbaths; for Mondays and Thursdays, or the second and fifth days of the week, were times in which those who feared God usually met together in the synagogue; for it is a maxim with the rabbins, that no three days should elapse without reading of the law.
On this verse there is a great number of various readings: instead of, when the Jews were going out of the synagogue, ABCDE, several others of great repute, with all the Syriac, the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, and Itala, read, As they were going out, they entreated that these words should be preached unto them in the course of the week, or the next Sabbath. So that, according to this well accredited reading, the words, εκ της συναγωγης των Ιουδαιων, are left out in the first clause, αυτων being put in their place; and τα εθνη, the Gentiles, is wholly omitted in the second clause. The most eminent critics approve of this reading; indeed it stands on such authority as to render it almost indubitable. Of the αυτων, them, which is substituted for the first clause, Professor White says, lectio indubie genuina: this reading is undoubtedly genuine; and of the τα εθνη εις, he says, certissime delenda: they should certainly be expunged. We are therefore to understand the words thus: that, "as they were going out on the breaking up of the assembly, some of them desired that they might have these doctrines preached to them on the ensuing week or Sabbath." And thus all the ambiguity of the verse vanishes.
Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.Many of the Jews - Direct descendants from some of the twelve tribes; and religious proselytes, heathens who had been converted to Judaism, and, having submitted to circumcision, had become proselytes of the covenant: though some think that the expression means proselytes of the gate - persons who believed in one God, like the Jews, but who had not received circumcision.
Persuaded them to continue in the grace of God - That is, that they should continue to credit the Gospel; to receive the spirit and influence of it; to bring forth the fruits of that spirit; and thus continue under the favor and approbation of God.
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.The next Sabbath day - The good news had spread far and wide, by means of the converted Jews and proselytes.
Almost the whole city - Jews, proselytes, and Gentiles, came together to hear τον λογον του Θεου, this doctrine of God, this Divine teaching, by which so many of their kindred and acquaintance had become so wise and happy. It is not by public discourses merely that people are converted to God; but by the private teaching and godly conduct of those who have received the truth; for, as these are scattered throughout society, they are a leaven in every place.
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.The Jews - were filled with envy - See on Acts 5:17 (note). These could not bear the Gentiles, who believed in Christ, to be equal with them; and yet; according to the Gospel, it was really the case.
Contradicting - The arguments and statements brought forward by the disciples; and blaspheming, speaking impiously and injuriously of Jesus Christ. This is probably what is meant.
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.Waxed bold - Παρῥησιασαμενοι; Having great liberty of speech; a strong, persuasive, and overpowering eloquence. They had eternal truth for the basis of this discourse; a multitude of incontestable facts to support it; an all-persuading eloquence to illustrate and maintain what they had asserted.
Should first have been spoken to you - When our Lord gave his apostles their commission to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, he told them they must begin first at Jerusalem, Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47. In obedience therefore to this command, the apostles (in every place where they preached) made their first offers of the Gospel to the Jews.
Ye put it from you - Απωθεισθε αυτον, Ye disdain this doctrine, and consider it contemptible: so the word is frequently used.
And judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life - Was this meant as a strong irony? "Ye have such humbling thoughts of yourselves, that ye think the blessings of the Gospel too good to be bestowed on such worthless wretches as ye are." Or did the apostle mean that, by their words and conduct on this occasion, they had passed sentence on themselves, and, in effect, had decided that they were unworthy of the grace of the Gospel; and God now ratifies that judgment by removing those blessings from them, and sending them to the Gentiles?
For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.For so the Lord commanded us - The apostles could quote a pertinent scripture for every thing they did; because the outlines of the whole Gospel dispensation are founded in the law and the prophets; and they were now building the Church of God according to the pattern shown them in the Mount. In the things of God, no man nor minister should go farther than he can say, Thus it is written, and thus it behoves me to do; and let him see that his quotations are fairly made, and not a detached passage or member of a sentence produced, because it seems to look like the system he wishes to establish.
I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles - This quotation is from Isaiah 49:6, and was most fully in point. The Jews could not resist the testimony of their own prophet; and the Gentiles rejoiced to find that the offers of salvation were to be made so specifically to them.
For salvation unto the ends of the earth - The very name of the Messiah, viz Jesus, announced the design and end of his mission. He is the Savior, and is to be proclaimed as such to the ends of the earth; to all mankind; to every nation, and people, and tongue; and, wherever the Gospel is preached, there is a free, full, and sincere offer of salvation to every soul that hears it. And the offer is proof sufficient, in itself, that there is a power to receive its blessings given to those to whom the offer is made; as it would be of no use to offer them a salvation which it was designed they either should not or could not receive. A son of Satan might be capable of such dissimulation and bad faith; but the holy God cannot.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.As many as were ordained to eternal life believed - This text has been most pitifully misunderstood. Many suppose that it simply means that those in that assembly who were fore-ordained; or predestinated by God's decree, to eternal life, believed under the influence of that decree. Now, we should be careful to examine what a word means, before we attempt to fix its meaning. Whatever τεταγμενοι may mean, which is the word we translate ordained, it is neither προτεταγμενοι nor προορισμενοι which the apostle uses, but simply τεταγμενοι, which includes no idea of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind. And if it even did, it would be rather hazardous to say that all those who believed at this time were such as actually persevered unto the end, and were saved unto eternal life. But, leaving all these precarious matters, what does the word τεταγμενος mean? The verb ταττω or τασσω signifies to place, set, order, appoint, dispose; hence it has been considered here as implying the disposition or readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation, such as the religious proselytes mentioned Acts 13:43, who possessed the reverse of the disposition of those Jews who spake against those things, contradicting and blaspheming, Acts 13:45. Though the word in this place has been variously translated, yet, of all the meanings ever put on it, none agrees worse with its nature and known signification than that which represents it as intending those who were predestinated to eternal life: this is no meaning of the term, and should never be applied to it. Let us, without prejudice, consider the scope of the place: the Jews contradicted and blasphemed; the religious proselytes heard attentively, and received the word of life: the one party were utterly indisposed, through their own stubbornness, to receive the Gospel; the others, destitute of prejudice and prepossession, were glad to hear that, in the order of God, the Gentiles were included in the covenant of salvation through Christ Jesus; they, therefore, in this good state and order of mind, believed. Those who seek for the plain meaning of the word will find it here: those who wish to make out a sense, not from the Greek word, its use among the best Greek writers, and the obvious sense of the evangelist, but from their own creed, may continue to puzzle themselves and others; kindle their own fire, compass themselves with sparks, and walk in the light of their own fire, and of the sparks which they have kindled; and, in consequence, lie down in sorrow, having bidden adieu to the true meaning of a passage so very simple, taken in its connection, that one must wonder how it ever came to be misunderstood and misapplied. Those who wish to see more on this verse may consult Hammond, Whitby, Schoettgen, Rosenmuller, Pearce, Sir Norton Knatchbull, and Dodd.
And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.The word of the Lord was published, etc. - Those who had come from different parts, and were converted, carried the glad tidings to their respective neighbourhoods; and thus the doctrine was published throughout all the region of Pisidia, where they then were. See on Acts 13:44 (note).
But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.Devout and honorable women - It is likely that these were heathen matrons, who had become proselytes to the Jewish religion; and, as they were persons of affluence and respectability, they had considerable influence with the civil magistracy of the place, and probably their husbands were of this order; and it is likely that they used that influence, at the instigation of the Jews, to get the apostles expelled from the place.
But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium.They shook off the dust of their feet against them - This was a very significant rite; by it, they in effect said: Ye are worse than the heathen: even your very land is accursed for your opposition to God, and we dare not permit even its dust to cleave to the soles of our feet; and we shake it off, in departing from your country, according to our Lord's command, (Matthew 10:14), for a testimony against you, that we offered you salvation, but ye rejected it and persecuted us. The Jews, when travelling in heathen countries, took care, when they came to the borders of their own, to shake off the dust of their feet, lest any of the unhallowed ground should defile the sacred land of Israel.
Came unto Iconium - According to Strabo, Iconium was a small fortified town, the capital of Lycaonia, at present called Cogni. "Lycaonia was a province at the back of Pamphylia, higher up in Asia Minor, and to the northeast of Pamphylia." Pearce.
And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost - Though in the world they had tribulation, yet in Christ they had peace; and, while engaged in their Master's work, they always had their Master's wages. The happiness of a genuine Christian lies far beyond the reach of earthly disturbances, and is not affected by the changes and chances to which mortal things are exposed. The martyrs were more happy in the flames than their persecutors could be on their beds of down.
St. Paul's sermon at Antioch has been thus analyzed.
1. His prologue, Acts 13:16, addressed to those who fear God.
2. His narrative of God's goodness to Israel:
1. In their deliverance from Egypt.
2. In their support in the wilderness.
3. In his giving them the land of Canaan.
4. In the judges and kings which he had given for their governors, Acts 13:7-22.
3. His proposition, that Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of the world, Acts 13:23.
4. The illustration of this proposition, proving its truth:
1. From Christ's stock and family, Acts 13:23.
2. From the testimony of his forerunner, Acts 13:24.
5. He anticipates objections, relative to the unjust condemnation, death and burial of Christ, Acts 13:27-29.
6. His epilogue, in which he excites his audience to embrace the Gospel on two considerations: