Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Ac 8:1-4. Persecution Continued, in Which Saul Takes a Prominent Part—How Overruled for Good.
1. Saul was consenting unto his death—The word expresses hearty approval.
they were all scattered abroad—all the leading Christians, particularly the preachers, agreeably to their Lord's injunctions (Mt 10:23), though many doubtless remained, and others (as appears by Ac 9:26-30) soon returned.
except the apostles—who remained, not certainly as being less exposed to danger, but, at whatever risk, to watch over the infant cause where it was most needful to cherish it.
And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
2. and devout men—pious Jews, probably, impressed with admiration for Stephen and secretly inclined to Christianity, but not yet openly declared.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
3. Saul … entering into every house—like as inquisitor [Bengel].
haling men and women, &c.—See his own affecting confessions afterwards (Ac 22:4; 26:9, 10; 1Co 15:9; Ga 1:13; Php 3:6; 1Ti 1:13).
Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.
4. they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching—Though solemnly enjoined to do this (Lu 24:47; Ac 1:8), they would probably have lingered at Jerusalem, but for this besom of persecution which swept them out. How often has the rage of Christ's enemies thus "turned out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel" (see Php 1:12, 13).
Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.
Ac 8:5-25. Success of Philip's Preaching in Samaria—Case of Simon Magus.
5. Then Philip—not the apostle of that name, as was by some of the Fathers supposed; for besides that the apostles remained at Jerusalem, they would in that case have had no occasion to send a deputation of their own number to lay their hands on the baptized disciples [Grotius]. It was the deacon of that name, who comes next after Stephen in the catalogue of the seven, probably as being the next most prominent. The persecution may have been directed especially against Stephen's colleagues [Meyer].
the city of Samaria—or "a city of Samaria"; but the former seems more likely. "It furnished the bridge between Jerusalem and the world" [Baumgarten].
And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
6-8. the people with one accord gave heed to … Philip—the way being prepared perhaps by the fruits of our Lord's sojourn, as He Himself seems to intimate (see on Joh 4:31-38). But "we may mark the providence of God in sending a Grecian, or a Hellenistic Jew, to a people who from national antipathy would have been unlikely to attend to a native of Judea" [Webster and Wilkinson].
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.
And there was great joy in that city.
8. great joy in that city—over the change wrought on it by the Gospel, as well as the cures which attested its divine character.
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:
9-13. used sorcery—magical arts.
some great one … the great power of God—a sort of incarnation of divinity.
To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God.
10. To whom all gave heed … because of long time he had bewitched them—This, coupled with the rapidity with which they deserted him and attached themselves to Philip, shows the ripeness of Samaria for some religious change.
And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
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. were baptized, both men and women—the detection of Simon's frauds helping to extend and deepen the effects of 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 Simon himself believed also—Left without followers, he thinks it best to join the man who had fairly outstripped him, not without a touch of real conviction.
and … was baptized—What a light does this throw on what is called Baptismal Regeneration!
he continued with Philip—"was in constant attendance upon" him.
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
14-17. the apostles … sent Peter and John—showing that they regarded Peter as no more than their own equal.
Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
15, 16. prayed … they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus)—As the baptism of adults presupposed "the renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Tit 3:5-7; 1Co 12:13), of which the profession of faith had to be taken for evidence, this communication of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the apostles' hands was clearly a superadded thing; and as it was only occasional, so it was invariably attended with miraculous manifestations (see Ac 10:44, where it followed Peter's preaching; and Ac 19:1-7, where, as here, it followed the laying on of hands). In the present case an important object was served by it—"the sudden appearance of a body of baptized disciples in Samaria, by the agency of one who was not an apostle, requiring the presence and power of apostles to perform their special part as the divinely appointed founders of the Church" [Alford]. Beautiful, too, was the spectacle exhibited of Jew and Samaritan, one in Christ.
(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
18-24. offered them money—Hence the term simony, to denote trafficking in sacred things, but chiefly the purchase of ecclesiastical offices.
Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
19. that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost—Spiritual ambition here shows itself the key to this wretched man's character.
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. Thy money perish with thee—that is, "Accursed be thou and thy money with thee." It is the language of mingled horror and indignation, not unlike our Lord's rebuke of Peter himself (Mt 16:23).
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 … thy heart is not fight, &c.—This is the fidelity of a minister of Christ to one deceiving himself in a very awful manner.
Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
22. Repent … pray … if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven—this expression of doubt being designed to impress upon him the greatness of his sin, and the need of alarm on his part.
For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
23. in the gall of bitterness and … bond of iniquity—expressing both the awfulness of his condition and the captivity to it in which he was held.
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. Pray ye to the Lord for me—Peter had urged him to pray for himself: he asks those wonder-working men to do it for him; having no confidence in the prayer of faith, but thinking that those men possessed some peculiar interest with heaven.
that none of these things dome upon me—not that the thought of his wicked heart might be forgiven him, but only that the evils threatened might be averted from him. While this throws great light on Peter's view of his melancholy case, it shows that Christianity, as something divine, still retained its hold of him. (Tradition represents him as turning out a great heresiarch, mingling Oriental or Grecian philosophy with some elements of Christianity.)
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—Peter and John.
when they had … preached—in the city where Philip's labors had been so richly blessed.
returned … and preached … in many villages of the Samaritans—embracing the opportunity of their journey back to Jerusalem to fulfil their Lord's commission to the whole region of Samaria (Ac 1:8).
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.
Ac 8:26-40. The Ethiopian Eunuch.
"With this narrative of the progress of the Gospel among the Samaritans is connected another which points to the diffusion of the doctrine of the Cross among the remotest nations. The simplicity of the chamberlain of Meroe forms a remarkable contrast with the craft of the magician just described" [Olshausen].
26-28. the angel of the Lord—rather, "an angel."
go … south, the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza—There was such a road, across Mount Hebron, which Philip might take without going to Jerusalem (as Von Raumer's'S Palæstina shows).
which is desert—that is, the way; not Gaza itself, which was the southernmost city of Palestine, in the territory of the ancient Philistines. To go from a city, where his hands had been full of work, so far away on a desert road, could not but be staggering to the faith of Philip, especially as he was kept in ignorance of the object of the journey. But like Paul, he "was not disobedient to the heavenly vision"; and like Abram, "he went out not knowing whither he went" (Ac 26:19; Heb 11:8).
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. a man of Ethiopia—Upper Egypt, Meroe.
an eunuch of great authority—Eunuchs were generally employed for confidential offices in the East, and to some extent are still.
Candace—the family name of the queens of Upper Egypt, like Pharaoh, Cæsar, &c. (as appears from classic authors).
had come to Jerusalem to worship—that is, to keep the recent feast of Pentecost, as a Gentile proselyte to the Jewish faith. (See Isa 56:3-8, and Joh 12:20).
Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
28. Was returning—Having come so far, he not only stayed out the days of the festival, but prolonged his stay till now. It says much for his fidelity and value to his royal mistress that he had such liberty. But the faith in Jehovah and love of His worship and word, with which he was imbued, sufficiently explain this.
and sitting in his chariot, read Esaias—Not contented with the statutory services in which he had joined, he beguiles the tedium of the journey homeward by reading the Scriptures. But this is not all; for as Philip "heard him read the prophet Esaias," he must have been reading aloud and not (as is customary still in the East) so as merely to be audible, but in a louder voice than he would naturally have used if intent on his own benefit only: evidently therefore he was reading to his charioteer.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
29-31. the Spirit said—by an unmistakable voice within, as in Ac 10:19; 16:6, 7.
go near and join this chariot—This would reveal to Philip the hitherto unknown object of his journey, and encourage him to expect something.
And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
30. Understandest thou what thou readest?—To one so engaged this would be deemed no rude question, while the eager appearance of the speaker, and the question itself, would indicate a readiness to supply any want of insight that might be felt.
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. How can I, except some man guide me?—Beautiful expression at once of humility and docility; the invitation to Philip which immediately followed, to "come up and sit with him," being but the natural expression of this.
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, 33. The place … was this, He was led as a sheep, &c.—One cannot but wonder that this, of all predictions of Messiah's sufferings in the Old Testament the most striking, should have been that which the eunuch was reading before Philip joined him. He could hardly miss to have heard at Jerusalem of the sufferings and death of Jesus, and of the existence of a continually increasing party who acknowledged Him to be the Messiah. But his question to Philip, whether the prophet in this passage meant himself or some other man, clearly shows that he had not the least idea of any connection between this prediction and those facts.
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
34-38. And the eunuch answered, I pray thee, &c.—The respect with which he here addresses Philip was prompted by his reverence for one whom he perceived to be his superior in divine things; his own worldly position sinking before this.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
35. Then Philip opened his mouth—(See on Mt 5:2).
began at the same scripture—founding on it as his text.
preached unto him Jesus—showing Him to be the glorious Burden of this wonderful prediction, and interpreting it in the light of the facts of His history.
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. See, here is water—more simply, "Behold water!" as if already his mind filled with light and his soul set free, he was eagerly looking out for the first water in which he might seal his reception of the truth and be enrolled among the visible disciples of the Lord Jesus.
what doth hinder me to be baptized?—Philip had probably told him that this was the ordained sign and seal of discipleship, but the eunuch's question was likely the first proposal of its application in this case. (Ac 8:37 is wanting in the principal manuscripts and most venerable versions of the New Testament. It seems to have been added from the formularies for baptism which came into current use).
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.
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. they went down both into the water, and he baptized him, &c.—probably laving the water upon him, though the precise mode is neither certain nor of any consequence.
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, 40. the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip—To deny [as Meyer, Olshausen, Bloomfield] the miraculous nature of Philip's disappearance, is vain. It stands out on the face of the words, as just a repetition of what we read of the ancient prophets, in 1Ki 18:12; 2Ki 2:16. And the same word (as Bengel remarks) is employed to express a similar idea in 2Co 12:2, 4; 1Th 4:17.
the eunuch saw him no more—nor, perhaps, for very joy, cared to see him [Bengel].
and he went on his way rejoicing—He had found Christ, and the key to the Scriptures; his soul was set free, and his discipleship sealed; he had lost his teacher, but gained what was infinitely better: He felt himself a new man, and "his joy was full." Tradition says he was the first preacher of the Gospel in Ethiopia; and how, indeed, could he choose but "tell what the Lord had done for his soul?" Yet there is no certainty as to any historical connection between his labors and the introduction of Christianity into that country.
But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
40. Philip was found—that is, "found himself," "made his appearance": an expression confirming the miraculous manner of his transportation.
at Azotus—the ancient Ashdod.
preached in all the cities—along the coast, proceeding northward.
till he came to Cæsarea—fifty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem, on the Mediterranean, just south of Mount Carmel; and so named by Herod, who rebuilt it, in honor of Cæsar Augustus. Henceforth we lose sight of zealous and honored Philip, as by and by we shall lose sight even of Peter. As the chariot of the Gospel rolls on, other agents are raised up, each suited to his work. But "he that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together." (See on Joh 4:31-38).