Acts 21
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:

CHAPTER 21:1–16

1And it came to pass, that after we were gotten [had torn ourselves away] from them, and had launched [set sail], we came with a straight course [after a quick voyage] unto Coos1 [Cos], and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: 2And finding [there] a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth [set sail]. 3Now when we had discovered [come in sight of] Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into [to] Syria, and landed2 at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden [its cargo]. 4And finding [And having found the3 ] disciples, we tarried there seven days: who [these, οἵτινες] said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to [go to4 ] Jerusalem. 5And when we had accomplished those [spent the (τὰς)] days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with [all accompanied us, with their] wives and children, till we were out of the city: and [then] we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. 6And when we had taken our leave [(Acts 21:5) prayed, (Acts 21:6) And took leave5 ] one of another, [;] we took ship; and they returned home again [but they returned to their homes]. 7And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came [But we finished the sea-voyage, and came from Tyre] to Ptolemais, and [om. and] saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. 8And the next day we that were of Paul’s company [And the next day we6 ] departed, and came unto Cesarea; and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which [who7 ] was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9And the same [This, τούτῳ δὲ] man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy [who prophesied]. 10And [But] as we tarried there many [several] days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11And when he was come [He came] unto us, he [om. he] took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own8 hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall [Thus, οὕτω, will] the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall [will] deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12And [But] when we heard these things [this, ταῦτα], both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then [But] Paul answered9 , What mean ye to weep and to [What are ye doing (ποιεῖτε), that ye weep and] break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14And [But] when he would not be persuaded, we ceased [we forbore], saying, The will of the Lord be done. 15And after those [these, ταύτας] days we took up our carriages [we prepared ourselves10 ], and went up to Jerusalem. 16[But, δὲ] There went with us also certain of the disciples of Cesarea, and brought with them [in order to bring us to] one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.


ACTS 21:1–3. And it came to pass, that after we were gotten [had torn ourselves away] from them.Ἀποσπαςθέντες indicates that the apostle’s final separation from his Ephesian friends must have been excessively painful. [“Pass. 1 aor. avellor, divellor.” (Wahl.).—TR.]. Cos was the first island which the party reached, on proceeding to the south. [“The distance is about forty nautical miles.” (Conyb. and H. Vol. II. 226.—TR.]. After sailing somewhat more than fifty miles beyond it, they reached the well known island of Rhodes, opposite to the south-western corner of Asia Minor (Caria). Patara, the next station, was an important sea-port on the extreme southern projection of the province of Lycia. The vessel which brought the company from Troas to this place, appears to have been hired by them. They left it at Patara, and embarked as passengers in a merchantship, which was going to Phenicia. [“It seems evident from the mode of expression, that they sailed the very day of their arrival; this is shown not only by the participle ἐπιβάντες, but by the omission of any such phrase as τῇ ἐπίοίση, or τῇ ἐχομένη; comp. 20:15.” [Conyb. etc. II. 233, and note 1).—TR.]. They then came in sight of Cyprus, but passed it on the left hand, that is, to the north, as they were proceeding in a south-eastern direction to Syria; (ἀναφαίνεσθαι frequently occurs as a nautical term, referring to land which comes into view). [“Αναφανéντες τὴν Κύπρον, when it became visible to them, i.e., ἀναφνεῖσαν ἔχοντες τὴν Κ.” (WINER: Gr. § 39. l).—TR.]. The geographical name Syria is here employed in the Roman sense, according to which Phenicia and Palestine were considered parts of the province of Syria. Γόμος (φορτίον) is the freight, the cargo of the vessel; ἐκεῖσε, that is, the vessel was to deposit the cargo at Tyre (ἦν ἀποφορτιζόμενον). [See WINER: Gr. § 45. 5.—“The distance between these two points (Patara and Tyre) is three hundred and forty geographical miles.” (Conyb. etc. I. 233.).—TR.]

ACTS 21:4–6. And finding disciples [And having found the disciples].—The verb ἀνευρεῖν presupposes that a search had been made; hence they knew, or at least conjectured, that they would find Christians there, without, however, being acquainted with their names and residences. [“Observe the article in τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς” (Conyb. I. 236. n. 3).—TR.]. This delay of a whole week, although the apostle had exhibited such haste in Asia Minor, was doubtless occasioned by the circumstance that the vessel occupied this time in discharging the cargo [“it may have brought grain from the Black Sea, or wine from the Archipelago” (Conyb. I. 235.—TR.], and getting ready to sail again. Ἐξαρτίζειν τὰς ἡμ. is explere, absolvere; see STEPH. Thes.

ACTS 21:7–9. And when we had finished our course.—The words τὸν πλοῦν διανύσαντες are not to be connected with ἀπὸ Τύρου, since the former refer to the actual termination of the entire sea-voyage from Macedonia. The last part of the voyage extended only from Tyre to Ptolemais, or Acco (Acre) the best harbor on the Syrian coast, at the mouth of the small stream called Belus, in sight of Carmel. [Ptolemais, the ancient Accho (Judg. 1:31), Akre or Acre, is thirty miles below Tyre, and eight miles north of Mount Carmel. It is now called St. Jean d’Acre by Europeans.—TR.]. From this point the travellers proceeded by land, as it seems, and at length reached Cesarea which was only thirty-six Roman miles distant, that is, not more than a day’s journey. [“This is the third time that Paul has been at Cæsarea. He was there on his journey from Jerusalem to Tarsus (9:30), and again on his return to Antioch from his second missionary progress (18:22); see on 8:40.” (Hackett).—TR.]. Here they met with Philip, who is already known from Acts 6:5, to which passage Luke refers in the words ὄντος ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά. We were informed in Acts 8:40 that he travelled from Philistäa northward as an evangelist, until he came to Cesarea, and here we now find him as a resident, and described as an εὐαγγελιστής. The latter title immediately follows his name, since he continued to labor as a herald of the Gospel, without being confined to a particular congregation, and his office in Jerusalem, as one of the Seven, had ceased in point of fact after the death of Stephen. The interpretation according to which εὐαγγελιστοῦ is connected with ὄντος, in the sense: “He was the evangelist among the Seven,” is forced, and not well sustained. [For the omission of τοῦ before ὄντος, see note 7 above, appended to the text.—TR.].—The fact that he had four daughters who were virgins, and who had received from the Spirit the gift of pronouncing edifying discourses, is quite incidentally introduced, in connection with the name of their father; it stands in no immediate connection with the events which are here related, and no intimation whatever is given that they uttered in the presence of Paul any prediction respecting his future lot. From this circumstance, however, and from the fact that Eusebius [erroneously] relates, on the authority of Papias (Hist. Eccl. III. 39 [and III. 31; V. 24]), that the apostle Philip had four daughters who prophesied, Gieseler concluded (Stud. und Krit. 1829. p. 140), that Acts 21:9 is an interpolation, which originated with some one who confounded the evangelist Philip with the apostle of the same name. But he is entirely in error; for who can prove that it was not Papias himself who confounded the two persons? Indeed, it is not here that we find the first historical notice which is not essentially connected with the events related by the historian.

ACTS 21:10, 11. A certain prophet, named Agabus.—It is, on the other hand, somewhat singular that Agabus is here introduced as if he had hitherto been entirely unknown to the reader, whereas he is already mentioned in Acts 11:28, and there too described as a prophet. That passage appears to have passed unnoticed, when the present words were written.—Agabus fully conforms to the manner of the prophets of the old covenant by setting forth the matter of his prediction not only in words, but also in a symbolical action, which he performs on his own person. [Comp. 1 Kings 22:11; Isai. 20:2; Jerem. 13:1 if.; Ezek. 4:1 ff.; 5:1, etc. (Alf.).—TR.]. He took the girdle which confined the upper garment of Paul, bound his own hands and feet with it in the presence of the apostle and of the other Christians, and then made the following statement, which he declared to be a prophecy of the Spirit (corresponding with the formula נְאֻם יְהוָֹה in the Old Testament [see ROB. Lex. p. 637.—TR.]): that the Jews in Jerusalem would bind the owner of the girdle in like manner as he (Agabus) was now bound, and would deliver him to the Gentiles. The words παραδώσουσιν εἰς χ. ἐθν. bear a close analogy to those which Christ employs when he predicts his own sufferings. Matth. 17:22; 20:19.

ACTS 21:12–16. And when we heard these things.—The prediction, partly, because it proceeded from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and, partly, because it was set forth in such an impressive manner, so powerfully affected the attendants of the apostle and the Christians of Cesarea, that they united in entreating him not to attempt to proceed to Jerusalem. [Τοῦ μὴ ἀναβαίνειν, the infinitive of exhortation; comp. 15:20 (de Wette) and 27:1; see WINER: Gr. § 44. 4.—TR.]. Their weeping was heart-rending; συνθρύπτω means to soften, to render effeminate, to crush the strength of the soul. [“They wept, and implored him not to go to Jerusalem. But the apostle himself could not so interpret the supernatural intimation. He was placed in a position of peculiar trial. A voice of authentic prophecy had been so uttered, that, had he been timid and wavering, it might easily have been construed into a warning to deter him. … But the mind of the Spirit had been so revealed to him in his own inward convictions, that he could see the Divine counsel through apparent hinderances, etc.” (Conyb. and H. II. 240).—See below, DOCTR. and ETH.TR.]. The question: τι ποιεὶτε κλαι, etc., implies that the apostle declines to comply, and wishes them to refrain from urging him. “Forbear,” he says, “for I am willing and ready not only, etc.” [WINER, § 65. 4. ult.—TR.]. The reply: “The will of the Lord be done!”, while it expresses submission, refers to the Redeemer in the word κυρίου, for Paul had just mentioned the name of Christ [τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ]; hence κυρίου does not stand here for θεοῦ (de Wette). Ἐπισκευασ. means: to make the necessary preparations [see note 10 above, appended to the text; Vulg. præparati.—TR.]. Τινες is of course to be supplied by the reader before τῶν μαθητῶν [WINER: Gr. § 64. 4.—TR.]. The attraction in the construction: ἄγοντες παρʼ ᾦ, may be thus resolved in the most simple manner: ἄγοντες παρὰ Μνάσωνα, παρ ᾧ ξεν. [See on the passage WINER: Gr. N. T. § 24. 2, and § 31. 5.—TR.]. The chief object of these disciples in accompanying Paul and his travelling companions, accordingly, was to introduce them to Mnason, with whom they, the Christians of Cesarea, were acquainted, and to conduct them to him as his guests. Ἀρχαῖος μαθ. is equivalent to ἀπ̓ ἀρχῆς μαθ. He was undoubtedly a Hellenist by birth. [“He was possibly converted during the life of our Lord Himself, and may have been one of those Cyprian Jews(“of Cyprus”) who first made the Gospel known to the Greeks at Antioch, Acts 11:20.” (Conyb. and H. II. 241.—TR.]


1. The Christians at Tyre desired that the Apostle should not go to Jerusalem, Acts 21:4; they spoke διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, by the inspiration and the illumination of the Spirit. It is here, however, necessary to make a distinction. That Paul would be exposed to severe sufferings in Jerusalem, they knew by the illumination of the Spirit. The prophecy of Agabus, Acts 21:11, and the language of the apostle himself in Acts 20:23, show that it was simply the knowledge of such an issue, in case Paul went to the city, which was conveyed to them by the illumination of the Spirit. The entreaty itself, that Paul should not visit Jerusalem, where such dangers awaited him, was not dictated by the Holy Ghost, but was prompted solely by human opinions and affections. That which was human here at once connected itself with that which was divine, error with the truth, the flesh with the Spirit. So, too, the well meant, but unholy, dissuasion of Peter, connected itself with the Redeemer’s first prophecy of his sufferings, Matt. 16:21–23. Nothing is more apt to lead us astray, or is more dangerous, than that mixtela carnis et Spiritus which may so easily and so insidiously occur in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

2. The prophecy of Agabus is also remarkable, in so far as we can by means of it, measure, as it were, the degree in which the revelations which Paul received respecting his impending sufferings, became clearer and more definite, the nearer he came to Jerusalem, and the more rapidly the time of the fulfilment of that prophecy approached. Such, indeed, was the course of revelation, both under the old and under the new covenant; for prophecy corresponded in the degree of its fullness and distinctness to those normal forms or processes of development in time, to which the counsel and the work of God always adapt themselves.

3. The obscurity which attends the circumstances that occurred at Tyre (Acts 21:3, 4), is removed at Cesarea (Acts 21:8, 11 ff.). Agabus, as the organ of the Holy Ghost, predicts that the apostle will be arrested and delivered up at Jerusalem. For this reason, the travelling companions of the latter, together with the Christians who resided in Cesarea, urgently and with tears implore the apostle to make no attempt to proceed to Jerusalem. And yet the united request of an entire assembly of Christians, comprising enlightened men, who labored faithfully and successfully for the kingdom of God, such as Philip, Timotheus, and others, exercised no decisive influence on the apostle. The will of the people, and even the unanimous wish and will of genuine Christians, cannot always be regarded as the will of God. The servant of the Lord does not exhibit a stoical indifference; the earnest entreaties and hot tears of his friends melt his heart. Still, he does not change his purpose; his resolution to suffer imprisonment and even death for the sake of Jesus, is unaltered; he speaks and acts with a calm and resolute spirit.


ACTS 21:1. After we were gotten [had torn ourselves away] from them, and had launched [set sail]. True friends do not separate without sorrow; still, he who cleaves to God rather than to men, is willing to depart, when he receives a divine intimation.—It is our duty to yield submissively to the guidance of God, and to believe that he will execute his will through us as his instruments, whether the path before us be easy, or be encumbered with difficulties.—Our whole life is like a voyage; fair winds at times attend us, but they may be succeeded by storms and tempests. (Starke).—The words which the Master spoke: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem,” etc. (Lu. 18:31 ff.), might now be repeated by his disciple.

ACTS 21:2. And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, etc.—“Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.” Isai. 60:9. The allusion is doubtless to merchant ships. The traders in that ship little thought that the freight which their Jewish fellow-traveller brought on board, was more precious than the purple of Tyre, the spices of Arabia, and the amber of the Hyperboreans—the precious pearl of the Gospel that saves men.

ACTS 21:3, 4. And landed at Tyre.—And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days.—The discovery of disciples was one of the principal topics which the journals of the travelling apostles introduced. While learned men, naturalists, and lovers of the arts, inquire, when they travel, after rare objects in nature, or those which belong to art and science, the servant of Jesus, on the other hand, inquires after rare objects belonging to the kingdom of Jesus, and he is never happier than when he meets with God’s children. (Ap. Past.).—Detentions which we experience on our journeys, are often specially ordered by divine Providence for our own salvation, or for that of others. (Starke).—As the duties of the crew of the vessel detained them for some time at that spot, Paul found a favorable opportunity for strengthening the disciples at Tyre. Trade and commerce induced men to search for America, and God thus conveyed the Gospel of His Son to that country. (Rieger).—Why did he remain precisely seven days? Without doubt, because it gave him pleasure to observe a sabbath and partake of the Lord’s Supper in company with the disciples. A servant of God is far better pleased when he can spend his time among the disciples of Jesus, than when he is with the people of the world. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:5. They all brought us on our way, with wives and children.—Parents ought to conduct their children to those places where they may be encouraged to pray and to do good in general, but not to those where they may be corrupted.—The meeting and the parting of Christians should not take place without prayer and good wishes. (Starke).—It is worthy of notice that this is the first occasion on which children are expressly mentioned in THE ACTS. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength.” PS. 8:2. These little worshippers on the Tyrian shore remind us of Luther’s remark concerning the auxiliary army “consisting entirely of heroes,” from whom he and his associates derived aid in their conflict with the enemy. (Besser).

ACTS 21:6. And when we had taken our leave, etc.—Our intercourse in this world, even with those who are most dear to us, is but of short duration; the hour of parting soon comes. But in that blessed world, in which the children of God will meet with joy, they will never be separated from one another. 1 Thess. 4:17. (Starke).

ACTS 21:7. We … saluted the brethren, etc.—The religious conversations of Christians strengthen their faith, increase their love, confirm their hopes, and cheer the hearts of those who have been bowed down by afflictions, 1 Thes. 5:11. It is an unusually great pleasure, when we meet on a journey with devout persons. (Starke).

ACTS 21:8. Philip the evangelist, etc.—It is indeed an appropriate title which this faithful teacher here receives. When we examine the historical statements which are made respecting him in Acts 6:5, and Acts 8:5, 26, 40, namely, how impressively he preached the name of Jesus, and how admirably he explained the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, we readily perceive that his fitness to be an evangelist was demonstrated by the gift which he had received of proving distinctly to men, from the revelations of the old and new covenant, that Jesus was the central point of the Gospel. May Jesus qualify us more and more perfectly to be such evangelists. (Ap. Past.). Which was one of the seven.—Here observe that Philip, an officer of the church at Jerusalem, who fled when Saul made havoc of it (8:3–5), is now the host of Paul and of the seven who accompanied him, and who were bringing to the poor saints at Jerusalem the gifts of love which their brethren of the Gentiles had contributed. What devout conversations were held in the house of Philip, in which Paul and the seven who accompanied him, abode! What praises they offered to the Lord, when they considered his wonderful ways! (Besser).

ACTS 21:9. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.—The house of the evangelist Philip, whose office as a deacon expired after the persecution (Acts 8:1 ff.), became, in consequence of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel, Acts 2:28, the honored central point of the Christian congregation of Cesarea. His four daughters, who had received the gift of prophecy and of interpretation, and who, as pure virgins, represent the chastity of the daughter of Zion, furnish new and clear evidence that all believers alike enjoy the privileges of children; and even the earlier instances of the prophetesses Miriam, Deborah, etc., prove that there is no difference in the kingdom of grace between male and female, Gal. 3:28. (From Leonh. and Sp.).

ACTS 21:10, 11. Agabus … took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, etc.—The knowledge of the facts which the Spirit had withheld from the daughters of Philip, is imparted by revelation to Agabus, who is probably the same person, who, on a former occasion, Acts 11:28, was appointed to bring tidings of evils that were approaching.—The man that owneth this girdle, that is, who has devoted himself entirely to the service of the Lord Jesus and of His Gospel. The prophet purposely selects this image in order to represent the duty which the servants of Jesus are bound [comp. Jerem. 13:1–11] to fulfil, namely, to crown the beginning of their course by a glorious termination. May the Lord daily remind us, that, as we have now assumed the girdle of His service, we may always be found with our loins girt, and ready to fulfil all His good pleasure. (Ap. Past.).—And shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.—The nearer the apostle approached the city of Jerusalem, the clearer were the prophecies which announced the sufferings that awaited him, even as Jesus spoke most clearly of his death on the cross during his last journey to the city in which he suffered. Our Lord is very faithful, for he does not conduct us to the scenes of our sufferings with blindfolded, but with open, eyes, and with hearts strengthened by faith. We are thus fully assured that all that befalls us, is in accordance with the holy will of the Saviour, and is intended for our own good. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:12. Besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.—Christians are required to contend not only with the infirmities, deceitfulness, and fears of their own hearts, but also with the tender feelings of their friends, Gen. 43:3, 4. The purpose may be kind and affectionate, but does not always accord with the thoughts of God, John 20:17. (Starke).—When Luther was on his way to the city of Worms, he met with friends in every place, who warned him; and when he was near the city, his beloved friend Spalatin sent him a message, entreating him not to enter and expose himself to such dangers. His answer is well known: “Although there were as many devils in Worms, as there are tiles on the house-tops, I will still go thither.” (Besser).

ACTS 21:13. What mean ye to weep and to break my heart?—The Lord, who wept at the grave of Lazarus, does not demand that his disciples should extirpate all natural feeling; but it is his will that grief, however natural and just, should yield to the power of a childlike faith and of victorious hope; and He Himself is mighty in the weak. (Leonh. and Sp.).—I am ready not to be bound only, etc.—The best means for dispelling all doubts and extricating ourselves from difficulties of any kind, is an honest and sincere purpose of the heart to submit with uncomplaining willingness to Jesus, and to obey, whatever our lot may be. (Ap. Past.).—The guiding principle of the apostle Paul is expressed in the words: “Being made conformable unto his death,” Phil. 3:10. He desires to know “the power of His resurrection,” only through the means of “the fellowship of His sufferings.” In his view, the only path which conducted to glory, was that of the cross. He lived only to suffer.—In this respect, the Christianity of our times should not only be improved, but be entirely changed. Where do men in our day seek after this conformity to the death of Jesus? Where is it known or understood?—Not the cross for the sake of the cross, but the cross for the sake of the Lord! He who desires the Crucified One without the cross, grasps at His shadow. A Christianity without the cross is a Christianity without Christ. (A. Monod).

ACTS 21:14. The will of the Lord be done.—The love of believers to their shepherd must yield to the love of that shepherd to Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 11:1.—Whenever we can accomplish nothing by our own counsel and plans, we should submit the whole matter to God and His will, since He always knows better than we do, whether any course which we may desire to pursue will be profitable or injurious. (Starke).—The chief virtue of the Christian, and the source of all other virtues, is his readiness in all cases to do the will of God, even in opposition to his own will and desires, whether he is called to act or to suffer. (Rieger).—Blessed is he who submits to the will of God; he can never be unhappy. Men may deal with him as they will; they may expose him to death by fire or by water, may confine him in a dungeon or release him. He is without care; he knows that all things work together for good to him, Rom. 8:28. (Luther).—The time will come when we shall rejoice not so much because we had been comforted in sorrow, and met with great prosperity, as because the will of God had been fulfilled alike in us and through us. Hence, we daily say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” O how pure and serene is our life, when that will alone directs us, and when not a trace of our own will remains behind. With such a frame of mind we become like unto God. (St. Bernard).

ACTS 21:15. And after those days, etc.—There is something emphatic in the word ἀποσκευασαμένους, which Luke applies to Paul and his travelling companions [but see note 10 above, appended to the text.—TR.]. They are, namely, released from all enjoyments, from all that is earthly, from all attachment to mere creatures. The term is specially suited to Paul. In this spirit he went to Jerusalem, and illustrated by his example all that he taught in 2 Tim. 2:20, 21. May God impress those words on our hearts, so that we too may fulfil the duties of our office as men who are ἀποσκευασάμενοι. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:16. Mnason … an old disciple.—We have reason to rejoice when aged disciples still survive, or men who have already, at a former period, found rich treasures in the word of God. (Rieger).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, ACTS 21:1–16.—The power of love to Jesus Christ: I. It unites those who had been strangers to one another, Acts 21:4: II. It forewarns of possible dangers, Acts 21:4; III. It maintains Christian fellowship, Acts 21:5; IV. It humbles men before God in united prayer, Acts 21:5. (Lisco).

Paul’s readiness to suffer for the cause of the Redeemer, an instructive example, Acts 21:7—16. (id.).

The Christian’s pilgrimage to his home: I. Faith reveals to him its happy end; II. Love enables him to overcome the difficulties of the road. (id).

On fidelity to the Lord, (Acts 21:8–14): I. Its nature; II. Its source; III. Its reward. (Langbein).

The will of the Lord be done”the Christian’s watchword on his journey through life, (Acts 21:14): I. He is the Lord: II. His will is righteous and benevolent; III. It will be done, whether we obey or resist it. (id.).

The will of the Lord be done: I. The vow of an obedient spirit; II. The confession of a believing spirit; III. The testimony of a sanctified spirit. (Leonh. and Sp.).

What imparts true joy in seasons of affliction? I. Faith in the grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus; II. Love to Him who suffered on the cross for us; III. The hope of a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. (id.).

Faith, Love, and Hope, the three attending angels of the Christian during his pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem: I. A childlike faith, which, even when its path is dark, acts and suffers in submission to the will of God, Acts 21:13–15; II. Brotherly love, which imparts and receives consolation amid the toils of the pilgrimage, Acts 21:4–6, 12, 13; III. Victorious hope, which in joy and in sorrow unfalteringly surveys the heavenly goal, Acts 21:13–15.

The hour in which the children of God part on earth, (Acts 21:1, 5, 15): I. It is an hour of deep mourning, admonishing us that here we have no continuing city; II. It is an hour of salutary trial, teaching us to sacrifice all to the Lord, in the obedience of faith; III. It is an hour of holy devotion, raising the soul above the influence of time and the grave, and animating our hope of a heavenly home, in which love perpetually endures.

The only bonds which the faithful servant of God recognizes as indissoluble: I. Not the bonds of his own flesh and blood—these he has already severed by the power of the Spirit; II. Not the bonds of human force and enmity (Paul bound at Jerusalem) —these cannot harm him in opposition to the will of God; III. Not the bonds of brotherly love and fellowship (Acts 21:4, 13) —he that loveth brother or sister more than the Lord, is not worthy of him; but, IV. Only the bonds of love to his Lord, to whom he is bound in gratitude and childlike fidelity, even unto death, Acts 21:13.

What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?” (Acts 21:13) —the impressive address of a Christian sufferer to those who surround him: I. Do not murmur against the Lord and his holy ways; II. Do not add to the severity of the conflict appointed unto the children of God; III. Do not deprive yourselves of the blessing which their example can convey.

The will of the Lord be done!” —the saying which most effectually silences all our objections to the ways of God: I. Our wisdom (the predictions, Acts 21:4, 11) must be silent before the thoughts of Him who alone is wise; II. Our power must submit to Him who alone is omnipotent, Acts 21:14; III. Our love must yield to the claims of Him, to whom we, with all that we are and have, belong, Acts 21:13.

[Acts 21:8. Lessons taught by Paul’s visit to Philip at Cesarea (their earlier history—Saul the persecutor, Philip the fugitive, Acts 8:4, 6.): I. The changes which time witnesses in our external condition (Paul, with his Christian companions—Philip, with his family—both in a different city). II. The power of divine grace in changing the character (Isai. 11:6). III. The happy influence of religion on our domestic relations (Philip’s devout family). IV. The irresistible progress of the Gospel (which Paul had once expected to extirpate). V. The intercourse of Christian friends (abroad—at home—hospitality). VI. The course of events independent of the will of man.—TR.]


[1]Acts 21:1. [The text. rec. has Κῶν, with G. H.; the reading found in A. B. C. D. E. and Cod. Sin. is Κῶ; the latter is adopted by recent editors generally. Both forms of the accusative occur, although the former is the more usual; see WINER: Gram. N. T., § 8. 2.—TR.]

[2]Acts 21:3. [Instead of κατήχθημεν of text. rec. before εἰς T., from C. D. G. H., Lach. reads κατήλθομεν with A. B. E., and also Cod. Sin.; Vulg. venimus. Alf. retains the reading of the text. rec.—TR.]

[3]Acts 21:4. a. τοὺς [of text. rec.] before μαθητὰς, [although rejected by Bengel, Matthæi and Rinck], is very decidedly sustained by the authorities [by A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin.], and is omitted only in some of the later manuscripts. [G. H.]

[4]Acts 21:4. b. ἐπιβαίνειν is sufficiently attested [by A. B. C. Cod. Sin.] to sanction the adoption of it as the genuine reading, rather than the more usual, and therefore easier word ἀναβαίνειν [which latter (inserted in text. rec.) is found in E. G. H.; Vulg. ascenderet. Lach. Tisch. and Alf. adopt ἐπιβ.—TR.]

[5]Acts 21:6. The reading [at the end of Acts 21:5, and the beginning of Acts 21:6, namely] προςευξάμενοι ἀπησπασάμεθα ἀλλήλους, καὶ ἀνέβ. is decidedly attested [(excepting ἀνεβ.), by A. B. C. E., with minor orthographical variations, and it is adopted by Lach. and Tisch.], whereas the reading προςἠυξάμεθα, και ἀσπασάμενοι ἀλλήλους ἐπέβ. [of text. rec.] is sustained by comparatively feeble testimony [by G. H.; Alf. retains the reading of text. rec.—Vulg. oravimus. Et cum valefecissemus.—For ἐπέβημεν, of text. rec., as in G. H., Tisch. and Alf. read ἀνέβημεν with A. C.; Lach. ἐνέβημεν with B. E.—Tisch. exhibits the following as the reading of Cod. Sin.: γονατα ‘προςευξαμενοιʼ επι τ. αιγ. προςευξαμενοι απησπασαμεθα αλληλους και ανεβημεν. He remarks on the first προςευξ. which he prints with inverted commas: “notarunt ipse scriptor (ut videtur) et C.” He adds that C substituted ενεβ. for ανεβ.—TR.]

[6]Acts 21:8. a. The words οἱ περὶ τὸν Παῦλον after ἐξελθόντες, were inserted in the text, as an ecclesiastical reading lesson began at this place [with ἐξελθόντες]; they are undoubtedly spurious. [They occur in G. H., but are omitted in. A. B. C. E. Cod. Sin. Vulg., etc., and are dropped by recent editors generally.—TR.]

[7]Acts 21:8. b. τοῦ before ὄντος [of text. rec.] is not found in a single uncial manuscript. [It occurs only in some minuscules, but is omitted in A. B. C. E. G. H. Cod. Sin., and is dropped by recent editors; see WINER: Gram. N. T. § 20.1.c.—TR.]

[8]Acts 21:11. [The ambiguity in the text. rec. (αὐτοῦ, i. e., Paul’s, or αὑτοῦ, i. e., his own), is found in G. H.; the other uncial manuscripts, A. B. C. D. E. and Cod. Sin. read ἑαυτοῦ; recent editors adopt the latter.—On the general subject, see WINER: Gram. § 22. 5.—TR.]

[9]Acts 21:13. [Instead of Ἀπεκρίθη δὲ ὁ Παῦλος· Τί, as the text. rec. reads with C (original)., and, instead of τε for δὲ, with G. H., Lach., Tisch. and Alf. read: Τότε ἀπεκρίθη ὁ II. with A. B. C (corrected)., omitting δὲ. Lachmann also inserts καὶ εἶπεν Παῦλος, from A. E.—Cod. Sin. gives here, as well as very often elsewhere, precisely the reading of Lachmann, who died in 1851, before the publication of that text; the Vulg. also has: Tunc respondit Paulus et dixit.—TR.]

[10]Acts 21:15. ἐπισκευασάμενοι is undoubtedly the genuine reading [instead of ἀποσκευ. of text. rec. from some minuscules]; for some of the many conflicting readings sustain επι—[ἐπισκεψάμενοι in H.; παρασκευ. in C.; ἀποταξάμενοι in D. (adopted by Born.)], and others the simple form σκευασ., while a sufficient number of weighty authorities support the reading ἐπισκευ. [namely, A. B. E. G., and also Cod. Sin.—Mill, Bengel, Griesb., Matthæi, Knapp, Rinck, Lach. Tisch. and Alf. adopt ἐπισκευ.—Alford says: “The remarkable variety of reading in this word shows that much difficulty has been found in it. The rec. ἀποσκ. (which may perhaps have arisen from the mixture of ἀποταξάμενοι (D) with ἐπισκευ.) would mean, not, ‘having deposited our (useless) baggage, ’ but,‘having discharged our baggage,’ that is, unpacked the matters necessary for our journey to Jerusalem, from our coffers.—But ἐπισκευ. is the better supported reading, and suits the passage better: ‘having packed up,’ that is, made ourselves ready for the journey.—Carriages, in the Engl. version, is used as at Judg. 18:21, (where it answers to to τὸ βάρος LXX.) for baggage,—things carried.”—But the reading of the LXX. in the verse here quoted by Alf., is uncertain.—TR.]

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

The arrest of the apostle Paul, the result of which is, that he not only finds an opportunity, in the providence of God, to deliver his testimony concerning Jesus before his people, the Great Council, rulers, and princes, but is also conducted to Rome, the capital of the world, and the residence of the emperor, in order to bear witness there concerning Jesus Christ, in the presence of Jews and Gentiles.





CHAPTER 21:17–40


CHAPTER 21:17–26

17And [Now, δὲ] when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received11 us gladly. 18And [But] the day following Paul went in [om. in] with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things [related in detail all that] God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20And [But] when they heard it, they glorified the Lord [glorified God12 ], and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of [among the13 ] Jews there are which [who] believe; and they are all zealous [zealots in behalf] of the law: 21And [But] they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all14 the Jews which [who] are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying [and sayest] that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22What is it therefore [then]? the [a] multitude must needs [will necessarily] come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which [who] have a vow on them; 24Them take [Take these (τούτους) to thyself], and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them [and pay the expenses for them], that they may shave their heads: and all may know15 that [there is nothing in] those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing [om. are nothing]; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law [walkest in keeping the law]. 24[But] As touching the Gentiles which [who] believe [have become believers], we have written16 and concluded [given directions and resolved] that they [need] observe no such thing,17 save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols [from every idol-sacrifice], and from blood, and from [every thing] strangled, and from fornication. 26Then Paul took the men [to himself], and the next day purifying himself with them, entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of [temple, and announced that he would fulfil] the days of purification, until that an [the, ] offering should be offered for every one of them.


ACTS 21:17, 18. And when we were come to Jerusalem.—[“The apostle arrives now at Jerusalem for the fifth time since he left it on his persecuting errand to Damascus. It is the last recorded visit that he ever made to the Jewish capital.” (Hackett).—TR.]. Οἱ ἀδελφοί are not the apostles and elders (Kuinoel), but those Christians with whom Paul and his companions came first in contact, that is, Mnason and others, who were well acquainted with Paul or with those who accompanied him from Cesarea. For the elders are not mentioned until Acts 21:18, and it can scarcely be supposed that any one of the apostles was at that time in Jerusalem, as he would otherwise have undoubtedly been expressly mentioned. The elders alone of the mother-church now preside over it, with James, the brother of the Lord (Acts 12:17; 15:13), as their central point. In his house all the elders assembled, and held a session of great importance and solemnity, which had, as it is apparent, been specially appointed on account of the apostle of the Gentiles. Paul was accompanied by his fellow-travellers from the Gentile congregations, who, with him, brought the collections offered by the latter; these gifts were, without doubt, formally placed in the hands of the elders on this occasion.

ACTS 21:19. And when he had saluted them.—Paul first saluted (ἀσπασάμενος) the elders in an impressive and cordial manner, and, at the same time, presented the salutations of the Gentile-Christian congregations. He then gave a full and detailed account of his apostolical labors in pagan lands, and of the success and the blessing which God had granted. The word διακονία (comp. 20:24), exhibits the conception which Paul had formed of his important vocation as the apostle of the Gentiles.

ACTS 21:20, 21. a. And when they heard it.—This address, which doubtless gave all the details, made such a deep impression on the college of the elders of the mother-church, that, full of joy and gratitude, they fervently proclaimed the praises of God. Nevertheless, they did not conceal a certain difficulty which existed; they candidly informed the apostle of the prejudice which large numbers of the converted Jews entertained against him. The expression “many thousands of converted persons in Judea,” cannot create surprise, unless we should suppose that the congregation in Jerusalem alone is meant; but the language before us does not sustain this supposition, and, indeed, Judea is expressly mentioned. [But Lechler adopts in his translation of the text above, the reading ἐν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις, rather than that of ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ; see note 3, appended to the text.—TR.]. Now if we assume that the whole province is meant, what should prevent us from believing that the number of the Christians in the many cities and villages of Judea, including the capital itself (in which the congregation, twenty or twenty-five years previously, counted 5000 men as members, Acts 4:4), now amounted to several tens of thousands? [μυριάδες. “How many myriads (or tens of thousands,) is not a mathematical, but an indefinite and popular expression … the definite idea of ten thousand is entirely posterior to Homer. It is also a favorite hyperbole of Paul himself—1 Cor. 4:15; 14:19, in both which cases he can only mean what we mean when we say “innumerable,” “numberless,” or “endless,” not to define or specify a number, but to convey the vague idea of a multitude. … It is not the statistics of the Jewish Church that we have now before us, but a strong, yet natural, expression of the fact that they were very numerous, etc.” (Alexander).—TR.]. Baur has therefore no ground, in this respect, for doubting the genuineness of πεπιστευκότων (Paulus, p. 200), or, with Zeller, for accusing the historian of an unhistorical exaggeration.

b. And they are all zealous [zealots in behalf] of the law.—These Christians in Judea are described as far as their sentiments are concerned, as strict and zealous respecting the law (ζηλωταὶ τ. νόμου), that is, so strict in their personal observance of the law, that their zeal and passions were aroused whenever the Mosaic institutions were undervalued or assailed. The same term is employed [ζηλωτής] which became the name of a party during the Jewish War. [JOSEPHUS: Jewish War, iv. 3. 8, ult, 13; Acts 8. 1.—TR.]. It is indeed quite possible that the uneasy feelings with which the Jewish people, as a whole, regarded the dominion of the Romans, and paganism generally, may have exercised a certain influence also on the Judæo-Christians. James himself was a man whose views and feelings inclined him to a strict observance of the law (whence he was called צַדִּיק), and the elders at Jerusalem doubtless entertained the same sentiments. Still, it is obvious that they were not prejudiced against the apostle Paul, like the great mass of the Judæo-Christians. The latter had been induced by the malicious and incessant representations of Judaistic teachers (κατηχήθησαν) to believe, with respect to the labors of Paul, that he urged the Jews of the Diaspora (τοὺς κ. τ. ἔθνη π. Ἰουδαίους) [of the Dispersion, Jam. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:1.—TR.], to apostatize from the institutions of Moses, and that he taught them, first, that they should no longer circumcise their children, in consequence of which the rite of circumcision would cease to be observed in the next generation, and, secondly, that they should no longer observe in their own conduct the Mosaic customs (ἔθεσιπεριπατεῖν). [Λέγων μή περιτέμνειν etc.—the infinitive after verbs expressing: to say, to believe etc., when the latter refer, not to that which actually exists, but to that which ought to be, involving the conception of advising, demanding, commanding. (WINER: Gr. § 44. 3.).—“This opinion respecting. Paul was undoubtedly erroneous, as the principles which he expressed in his Epistles (see Rom.; Gal.; 1 Cor.), and his wisdom as a teacher, sufficiently demonstrate. But it could be easily entertained by those anti-Pauline Judaists, who exaggerated the value of Mosaism, when they learned that he taught that the acquisition of Messianic salvation depended, not on circumcision and the works of the law, but solely on faith in Christ.” (Meyer).—TR.]

ACTS 21:22. What is it therefore?—This question (τί οὐν ἔστι) is often proposed when men deliberate on the course of conduct which they should pursue [see 1 Cor. 14:15, 26.—TR.]. The συνελθεῖν of a multitude [πλῆθος is not preceded by the article.—TR.], is to be understood as referring neither to a regular meeting of the congregation (Calvin, Grotius, Bengel), nor, specially, to a tumultuous assemblage (Kuinoel), but to a gathering together of inquisitive persons.

ACTS 21:23–25. We have four men which have a vow on them.—[The vow mentioned in Acts 18:18, is of an entirely different nature.—TR.]. These men are clearly described as Christians by εἰσιν ἡμῖν. The vow was the well-known vow of the Nazarites [see Numb. Acts 6.—TR.]. The elders [“we say”, not James alone, TR.] advise the apostle to unite in some manner in the vow with the men, or associate himself with them (παραλαβὼν), by defraying the expenses of the sacrifices which they were obliged to offer at the termination of the vow. (Such an act was regarded as a particular mark of devout zeal; Herod Agrippa, for instance, provided in this manner for a number of poor Nazarites; Jos. Antiq. xix. 6.1.). The apostle was also requested to perform certain Levitical rites of purification in conjunction with the men (ἁγν. οὐν αὐτοῖς). [They could not legally shave their heads, until they had complied with their obligations.—TR.].—Interpreters are not agreed whether Paul himself assumed the Nazariteship, or not; it has been usually supposed that he, too, took the vow, and Meyer, for instance, has recently adopted this view. It is, however, erroneous. It is undoubtedly true that ἁγνίζεσθαι is employed in reference to the Nazariteship (LXX. [e. g., Numb 6:3]), but it is also applied to every other Levitical purificatory rite [e. g., Numb. 19:12]. And even if the phrase ἁγνίσθητι σὺν αὐτοῖς, Acts 21:24, might be easily so understood, as if Paul was only now to enter into an ἁγισμός, which those four men were already bound to perform, still the expression σὐν αὐτοῖς ἁγνισθεὶς, Acts 21:26, by no means admits of this interpretation; those words can only mean that Paul, in company with the Nazarites, and they in company with him, had purified themselves on the same day, and in one and the same act. The reference is simply to an appearance in the temple, and to the prayers and sacrifices which were to be offered there, and for which, in particular, the Jews prepared and sanctified themselves by ablutions and bathing. (“Some understand the verb (ἁγνίζομαι) as signifying, not the Nazaritic vow itself, but those preliminary rites of purification which preceded every solemn act of ceremonial worship, as required by the law (see Exod. 19:10, 14) and still practised in the time of Christ (see John 11:55). The exhortation (of the elders), thus explained, is not that he should make himself a Nazarite, but merely that he should perform such preparatory rites as would enable him to take part with these Nazarites in the conclusion of their solemn service.” (Alexander). The same view is advocated in Conyb. and Howson’s Life of St. Paul, etc. II. 251; others (Meyer, de Wette, Alford, Hackett, etc. believe that Paul also took the Nazaritic vow.—TR.]. And, indeed, the opinion that those who paid the expenses when Nazarites completed their vow, also took the vow for some days upon themselves, derives support from no other known source, and has been advanced only with a view to account for the transaction described in the passage before us. Comp. WIESELER: Chronol. d. apost. Zeitalters, p. 105 ff. [In this work—“Chronology of the Apostolic Age”—Wieseler also rejects the opinion that Paul assumed the vow. See also KEIL: Bibl. Archæol I. § 67. note 2. ult.—TR.].

ACTS 21:26. Then Paul took, etc.—The apostle acceded to the proposal, and after having made that Levitical preparation, appeared in the temple for the purpose of informing the priests that those four men would complete the period of their Nazariteship; it terminated legally when the appointed offering (ἡ προςφορά, the offering required by the law [Numb. 6:13–17]) had been made for each individual. This conduct of Paul was intended to convince all Judæo-Christians who entertained strictly legal principles, that the prejudices which they had been led to entertain, were totally unfounded (ὦν οὐδὲν ἔστι, that not one of them had any real ground), and that, on the contrary, he was so far from inducing the Jews to apostatize from the law, that he himself, in his own person (καὶ αὐτός), also observed the Mosaic law in his walk and conduct.—At the same time, the elders, who wished to obviate any scruples which their proposal might produce in the mind of Paul, as if it were their ultimate purpose to restrict the liberty of the Gentile-Christians, made the additional remark that that liberty had already been secured and recognized, and was permanently established. Μηδὲν τοιοῦτον, i.e., none of the observances that were peculiar to Mosaic law.


1. It was doubtless either in consequence of a misunderstanding of the facts, or from a disposition to circulate a calumny, that the apostle Paul was accused of teaching the Jews of the dispersion to apostatize from Moses. His doctrine was the Gospel of grace in Christ Jesus; it is, at the same time, unquestionably true, that he preached the doctrine of salvation in Christ alone, and not the doctrine of righteousness by the law. But he did not in any case assail the law or the Mosaic institutions themselves; he only combated the doctrine that the observance of the law was absolutely necessary to salvation, and opposed no other tendency except that which refused to recognize any form of the Church of Christ, besides the Jewish. But that evangelical liberty which constituted the very centre of his life, qualified him alike for tolerating the observance of the Mosaic law on the part of those who were Jews by birth, and for contending, in behalf of Gentile-Christians, for their freedom from the law. Comp. 1 Cor. 7:18 ff.

2. What opinion should we form of the conduct of Paul, from a moral point of view? It has been asserted that he is here represented as guilty of great hypocrisy, and hence the whole narrative has been rejected by some as unhistorical (ZELLER: Apgsch., p. 277 ff.). But was his conduct really a practical denial of his own sacred convictions, when he resolved to perform a Levitical act, in order to furnish a visible demonstration that neither was he unfaithful to the law himself, nor did he induce others to apostatize from it? Now such was solely the meaning and object of the whole transaction. If he had, by his course, declared that a Christian who had been born under the law, was obliged to observe the Levitical laws, in order to be assured of his salvation and to become just before God, then indeed would he have denied his most holy convictions, and have been guilty of such hypocrisy as would have exposed him to severe censure. Such was, however, far from being the case; it was solely love that prompted him to subject himself to the law on this occasion, in order to remove an unfounded prejudice from the minds of the Judæo-Christians, which had led them to take offence at him. This view strictly corresponds to his own declaration respecting himself: “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law,” etc. 1 Cor. 9:19–22.


ACTS 21:17. The brethren received us gladly.—The causes which had formerly prevented the believers at Jerusalem from receiving Paul with confidence and friendship (Acts 9:26), had long ago ceased to operate. (Rieger).

ACTS 21:18. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James.—This visit demonstrates alike the honesty and candor, and the modesty and humility of Paul. For, with his views of evangelical liberty, he might have found himself repelled by the Judæo-Christian legal strictness of James, and, on comparing the many trials and difficulties which he had encountered, with the comparatively easy and undisturbed labors of the presiding officer of the congregation at Jerusalem, he might have claimed the precedence. But the first obstacle was removed by their common evangelical faith, and the second by his apostolical humility and brotherly love.

ACTS 21:19. What things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.—With what humility Paul speaks of his own labors! God—he says—has wrought all. He claims nothing for himself save the joy which he experiences on seeing the divine name glorified. (Ap. Past.).—When we hear of the works which God is even now performing among pagans, let us not survey them with indifference, but give that glory to God which belongs to him. (Starke).

ACTS 21:20. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord.—They praised the Lord, and not Paul, even as he did not praise himself. But while they praised the Lord for all that He had wrought through Paul, they recognized him, at the same time, as a blessed instrument of God.—Thou seest, brother, how many thousands, etc.—Although Paul and James fraternally salute each other, and although the brethren are greatly encouraged by the narrative of Paul, and give praise to God, they nevertheless do not conceal the information which they had received concerning the fault which he was accused of having committed. The very sincere and ardent brotherly love which they entertain, makes them not blind and dumb, but rather honest and candid, in uttering their sentiments. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:21. And they are informed of thee, etc.—How can any thing be so well said or done, that the world will not censure or pervert it? (Starke).—Let him who hears this charge which was made against Paul, and who asks for the proof of his innocence, examine Acts 14. and Acts 15. of the Epistle to the Romans, (Rieger).—And yet, language like that which occurs, for instance, in the second chapter of Romans, might doubtless awaken such suspicions in the minds of men who were “zealous of the law.” (Williger).

ACTS 21:22. The [A] multitude must needs [will necessarily] come together.—The opinion has sometimes been expressed that, in the apostolical congregations, no distinction existed between the teachers or presiding officers, on the one hand, and other members of the church, on the other. But what a carefully arranged order we here find in the congregation at Jerusalem! To James, the first place is assigned; the elders come in a body to him. In this college of presiding officers the case of Paul was first discussed, and it was only afterwards that the congregation was consulted. [But see Lechler’s note on Acts 21:22, above EXEG., etc.—TR.]. From this circumstance our own age may derive many lessons, in reference both to an ecclesiastical democracy, and to an over-estimate of the ministerial office. (Williger).

ACTS 21:23, 24. Do therefore this, etc.—The best refutation which can be furnished, consists in actions rather than in words.—At times it is well to incur expense, for the sake of calming the excited minds of others.—In matters in which no principle is involved, a Christian may readily accommodate himself to others; but let him take heed that neither hypocrisy nor the fear of man furnishes the motive.—Let us so use our Christion liberty as to gain, and not to offend those that are weak in faith.—To act the hypocrite, is one thing, but it is a different thing, when, in a spirit of love, we become all things to all men, for the encouragement of the weak, that is, in matters in which liberty of choice is allowed, and in which the means employed, while they are lawful in themselves, may even be sanctified by the end in view. (Starke).—If we desire to form an impartial judgment respecting this occurrence, we will arrive at the following results: first, that James and the elders acted in accordance with their knowledge of the circumstances of the times; secondly, that Paul was desirous of showing that he was controlled, not by self-will and sectarian animosity, but solely by the power of the Gospel, and that he consequently yielded, and conformed to the “beggarly elements” [Gal. 4:9] of the Jews, in order to gain some of them; and, thirdly, that this course, which proceeded from honest motives, was permitted by the Lord, in order that Paul might appear in the eyes even of his most imbittered foes, not as a disturber of their religion, but as a true friend of the Jewish church, and that they might thus learn that their persecution of him was the more unjust. Those interpreters are unjust, who accuse the apostle of hypocrisy, and represent the sufferings which soon followed, as a divine chastisement; for these sufferings had, at a much earlier period, been already revealed to him, and constituted, indeed, the goal which he was steadfastly approaching. (Ap. Past.).—The counsel which the elders gave to Paul was not carnal, intended to secure him or them from suffering affliction, but was spiritual, intended to spare the weak, and thus to gain them.—The circumstances are often embarrassing, when love apparently requires us to submit to bondage, even though we are free in the faith. In such cases Christianity is involved in difficulties; some demand more exactness and rigor, others, more liberality and freedom from restraint. Truth takes the middle course. (Rieger).—The Gentile church, which the apostle had founded, had just been cordially saluted by the Judæo-Christian church with united praises which were offered to God. That hour foreshadowed the great consummation, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in [Rom. 11:25], and when Israel shall acknowledge its God and King in His work among the Gentiles. To that hour and its holy and significant character, the conduct of the apostle now corresponds. For while he had always recognized the law, and steadily adhered to its fundamental principles, (although he could usually obey it only in the domain of the spirit,) he now gives a visible form to that recognition; and thus he opens the prospect of the final disappearance of the exceptional position which he held, that is, the thirteenth apostolate. Could he have possibly chosen a more appropriate method of applying a part of the gifts which the Gentiles had sent, than that of contributing to the expenses incurred by the solemn sacrifices, which the four poor Nazarites from the congregation of the saints were required to offer, on completing their vow? Had he not reason to regard the gifts of the Gentiles, which were offered through his instrumentality, as the beginning of those offerings with which the Gentiles would, at a future period, beautify the sanctuary of Israel, and render glorious the worship of the people of God? Isa. 60:5–13; Zech. 14:16, and elsewhere. (Baumgarten).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, ACTS 21:17–26.—On Christian forbearance: I. It is necessary: (a) it was exercised by the Lord Himself; (b) it was observed by the apostles; (c) it is indispensable in our own case. II. It is salutary: (c) without the forbearance of God, the world would be lost; (b) by the forbearance of the apostles, many who were weak in the faith, were gained; (c) we, too, may, by Christian forbearance, gain, not indeed all men, but at least peace, and thus promote the general interests of the kingdom of God. (From Lisco).

How far may an experienced Christian yield to the prejudices of those who are weak in the faith? I. He may participate in all things, which are matters of indifference, when the object is good—the service of God. II. He is not at liberty to do anything which would sanction the opinion that such acts are necessary to salvation. (Lisco).

The conduct of the Christian towards his honest but weak brethren, (id.).

The cordiality of Paul and James, on meeting in Jerusalem, Acts 21:18–20: it was, I. A victory of that love which seeketh not its own, over a carnal narrowness of heart, and self-will: II. A token of the future union of Israel and the Gentile world under the cross of Christ; III. A. triumph of the wonderful ways of God in extending His kingdom, and executing his plan of salvation, Acts 21:19, 20.

Paul among the Nazarites: I. Not as the slave of human ordinances, but acting in the power of evangelical liberty, to which all things are lawful that promote the interests of the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. 6:12; II. Not as a hypocrite before men, but acting in the service of brotherly love, which bears the infirmities of the weak, Rom. 15:1; III. Not as a fugitive from the cross, but acting in the power of apostolic obedience, which, supported by love to the Lord, is enabled to practise self-denial, Luke 9:23.

In what sense may a servant of Christ be made all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22)? I. When, in the case of all men whom he hopes to benefit, he never flatters the flesh, but aids and encourages the spirit; II. When, in all things which he does in order to benefit others, he never surrenders the one thing needful, but preaches Christ, even as He is set forth in the Word of God, and received by faith in the heart.

Paul among the brethren at Jerusalem, or, What will enable us to bear the infirmities of the weak? I. Christian love, which is willing to bear them; (a) it has a tender regard for the wants of the weak, and (b) and nobly practises self-denial, in adapting itself to for them in word and deed. II. Christian strength, which is able to bear them; it possesses (a) the liberty of the spirit, by which it distinguishes between the form and the essence, the shell and the kernel; and (b) firmness of character; for even in subordinate matters it never surrenders principle, or denies the Lord for the sake of pleasing men.


[11]Acts 21:17. ἀπεδέξαντο is far better attested [by A. B. C. E. and Cod. Sin.] than ἐδέξαντο [of text. rec., and found in G. H.]. Luke is the only writer in the New Test. who employs the compound ἀποδέχομαι, and he introduces it several times [once in his Gospel, ch: 8:40, and five times in THE ACTS. Lach. Tisch. and Alf. read ἀπεσέξαντο.—TR.]

[12]Acts 21:20. a. According to external testimony, the reading θεόν is undoubtedly preferable to κύριον. [The latter, adopted in text. rec., is found in D. H., while A. B. C. E. G. Cod. Sin. and Vulg. (Deum) exhibit θεόν, which reading is recognized by Lach. Tisch. Alf., and several other recent editors.—TR.]

[13]Acts 21:20. b. The words ἐν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις are found in the uncial manuscripts A. B. C. E., and in several versions [Vulg. in Judaeis], and this reading is supported by that of Cod. Cantab. [D. and also by the Syr. vers.], namely, ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ, while the genitive τῶν Ἰουδαίων was inserted to suit τῶν πεπιστευκοτων. The latter reading is sustained only by the two latest uncial manuscripts [G. H., but without τῶν before Ιουδ.], and by several versions. [Lach. and Tisch. read ἐν τοῖς Ιουδ. Alf. reads, with text. rec. simply Ἰουδαίων, and, with Meyer and de Wette, regards the other reading as an adaptation to ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσι in Acts 21:19.—Cod. Sin. omits both readings, without furnishing a substitute.—TR.]

[14]Acts 21:21. πάντας [of text. rec.] is so strongly attested [by B. C. D (corrected). G. H. and Cod. Sin.], that the omission of the word must be regarded as unauthorized. [A. and E. omit the word; D (original), has εἰσίν for πάντας . Lach. and Tisch. drop the word, but Alf. retains it.—Vulg. eorum … Judaeorum.—TR.]

[15]Acts 21:24. [Instead of γνῶσι, of text. rec., from G. H., the reading γνώσονται is found in A. B. C. D. E. and Cod. Sin. Recent editors generally insert the latter. Alford, who adopts the view of Meyer and de Wette, says: “γνῶσι is a grammatical correction after ἵνα.”—TR.]

[16]Acts 21:25. a. ἐπεστείλαμεν is very decidedly sustained [by A. C. E. G. H. and Cod. Sin.], and should be preferred to ἀπεστ., which Lachmann has adopted on the authority of two uncial manuscripts [namely, B. D. Alf. reads, with text. rec. ἐπεστ.; Vulg. scripsimus.—TR.]

[17]Acts 21:25. b. Lachmann has cancelled the words: μηδὲν τοιοῦτον τηρεῖν αὐτοὺς, εἰ μή, on the authority of A. B., of three minuscules, and of some versions [Vulg. etc.]; but they were probably dropped in all these cases [by copyists], for the reason that they do not occur in the parallel passage, Acts 15:28, 29 [where other verbal variations occur.—TR.]. Five uncial manuscripts, on the other hand [C. D. E. G. H.], and numerous minuscules exhibit these intermediate words, which should be retained as genuine. [Alf. retains them, but Cod. Sin. omits the whole, without any apparent correction by a later hand.—TR.]

And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

CHAPTER 21:27–40

27     And [But] when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which [who] were of Asia, when they saw [looked at] him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man that teacheth all men every where18 against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks [Gentiles (̔́ Ελληνας)] also into the temple, and hath polluted [defiled] this holy place. 29[Om. the parenth. marks]. (For they had seen before [previously seen] with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.). 30And all the [the whole] city was moved, and the people ran together [and there was a concourse of the people]: and they took [hold of] Paul, and drew [dragged] him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors [gates] were shut. 31And as [while] they went about [sought] to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band [came up (ὰνέβη) to the tribune of the cohort], that all Jerusalem was in an uproar19: 32Who immediately took soldiers and centurions20, and ran down unto them: and [but] when they saw the chief captain [tribune] and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul [they ceased to beat Paul]. 33Then the chief captain [tribune] came near, and took [hold of] him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was21, and what he had done. 34And some cried [called to him22] one thing, some another, among the multitude: and [but] when he could not23 know the certainty for [on account of] the tumult, he commanded him to be carried [led] into the castle [barracks]. 35And when he came upon [to] the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for [stairs, it became necessary (συνἐβη) that the soldiers should carry him on account of] the violence of the people [populace]. 36For the multitude of the people [ὄχλου· ἠχ. γὰρ τὸ πλῆθος τοῦ λαοῦ] followed after, crying24, Away with him. 37And as Paul was [about] to be led into the castle [barracks], he said unto the chief captain [tribune], May I speak [say something (τι)25] unto thee? Who [But he] said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38Art not thou [Art thou then (ἄρα) not] that [the, ()] Egyptian, which [who] before these days madest [made] an uproar, and leddest [led] out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers [bandits]? 39But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew [I am a Jewish man], of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city [Tarsus, a citizen of no inconsiderable city in Cilicia]: and, I beseech thee, suffer [permit] me to speak unto the people. 40And [But] when he had given him license [had permitted him], Paul stood [stepped] on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence [But when all had become entirely quiet], he spake unto [addressed] them in the Hebrew tongue [dialect], saying, [:]


ACTS 21:27. And when the seven days, etc.—The words αἱ ἑπτὰ ἡμέραι are usually, and, no doubt, very correctly, explained as indicating those days which are called in Acts 21:26 ἡμέραι τοῦ ἁγνισμοῦ. They are the days to which that Levitical purification referred which was connected with the sacrifices offered at the completion of the vow. [“In all probability the seven days announced to the priests (Acts 21:26) as the limit to which the vow of the Nazarites would extend, and as the period also of the apostle’s partnership in that consecration.” (Hackett).—TR.]. Wieseler has attempted another interpretation in his “Apostolical Chronology,” p. 109 ff.; viz., that the seven days were the week, or the days of consecration that preceded the festival of Pentecost. But this festival is not mentioned in the context, and, indeed, is never referred to, after Acts 20:16; moreover, the assumption that a week of preparation preceded the great festivals of Israel, is by no means sustained by satisfactory evidence.—These seven days were drawing to a close (ἔμελλον συντελ.), but had not yet elapsed, when Paul was seen in the temple, and seized.

ACTS 21:28, 29. This is the man.—Certain Jews from Asia Minor, particularly those from Ephesus and its vicinity, who had there known Paul, and who hated him, now perceived, and, on a closer inspection (θεᾶσθαι), recognized him. The very circumstance that this supposed despiser of the temple should be seen in the temple [“the inner court which was forbidden to Gentiles” (Alf.).—TR.], so greatly provoked them, that they stirred up the multitude against him. They seized him, with loud cries for help, as if he were the assailant, and as if it were necessary to protect the sanctuary against him (βοηθεῖτε). This accusation of the apostle on the part of the unconverted Jews, differs from that to which the Judæo-Christians had listened, in one point, which is usually overlooked. The fanatics from Asia Minor here charge him with assailing not only the law and the temple, but also the people of Israel (τοῦ λαοῦ). Now this specific charge had been brought neither by the Judæo-Christians against Paul, nor, at an earlier period, by the Jews against Stephen. It was doubtless connected with his active labors among the Gentiles (πάντας πανταχοῦ διδασκ.), which were maliciously so represented, as if they were intended to excite the latter against Israel. They alleged, moreover (ἔτι τε καὶ), as a second charge, that Paul had introduced pagans into the temple, and thus defiled the sanctuary. [“Greeks, not in the national or local sense, but in the wider one of Gentiles, so called from the general and almost universal use of the Greek language among all known nations. Hence the perpetual antithesis of Jews and Greeks in the New Testament.” (Alexander).—TR.]. The word ̔́Ελληνας [plural] represents a single occurrence as a common one; the accusers employ it with a hostile purpose, in order the more effectually to excite the people, although only one man, Trophimus, could be meant, and he, moreover, had not entered the temple. They acted on a mere supposition, a groundless suspicion, that Paul had brought the latter with him into the temple, which word here designates the court of Israel.—The words προεωρακότες ῆ̓σαν signify; “they had seen him previously,” although Meyer objects to this interpretation [“προορᾶν never occurs in this sense; the words mean; they had seen before them; comp. Acts 2:25, and see STURZ: Lex. Xen. III. p. 690 f.” (Meyer).—TR.]. The philological correction by Otto (Gesch. Verhaeltnisse der Pastoralbriefe, 1860, p. 285), satisfactorily establishes the correctness of our interpretation.

ACTS 21:30. And all the city was moved.—The multitude, after having quickly and tumultuously assembled, dragged Paul out of the court of the temple, probably because they were conscious that such acts of violence as they contemplated, would in truth pollute the sanctuary. The act of closing the gates of the temple, which was. performed by the Levites, was certainly not intended to prevent Paul from availing himself of the right of claiming an asylum, and from finding a place of refuge in the temple (Bengel, Baumgarten), for the multitude had already, effectually prevented him from enjoying such an advantage. It is more probable that the gates were closed in order to prevent the courts of the temple from being defiled by the shedding of blood (de Wette, Meyer), and, possibly, too, because it was supposed that the court of the temple had already been polluted by the entrance of a heathen, and needed purificatory rites before it could be reopened.

ACTS 21:31–33. And as they went about to kill him.—The fact that a disturbance had arisen was soon known at the military posts that were established at various points in the city during the festivals; the intelligence was at once conveyed to the commander of the Roman garrison in the tower of Antonia, which was situated to the north of the temple, and rose above it (ἀνέβη φάσις). [See JOSEPH. Jewish W. i. 5. 4, and especially v. 5. 8.—TR.]. The name of the commander—a military tribune of the cohort (σπεῖρα)—was Claudius Lysias, as we learn from Acts 23:26. When he received tidings of the tumult, he proceeded without delay to the temple, accompanied by officers and soldiers. As soon as he was seen at a distance, the maltreatment to which the apostle was exposed, ceased. When the Roman reached the spot, he commanded his people to conduct the apostle away, as well as to bind him with chains. [Two chains, “See Acts 12:6. He would thus be in the custody of two soldiers. (Alf.).—TR.]. Claudius assumed that Paul was a criminal, and expected to ascertain at once both his name, and the nature of the crime committed by him. Τί ἂν εἴη, oratio obliqua; τί έστι πεποι., oratio recta. [For ἀν before εἴη, see note 4, above, appended to the text.—“That the accused had committed some crime, was certain, or was at least assumed to be certain by the speaker. Τί ἐστι πεποιηκώς refers to the fact, which is admitted—to the object of πεποι.; but who the man might be, τίς ἂν εἲη, he could not yet clearly perceive.” (WINER, § 41. 4. c).—TR.]

ACTS 21:34–36. Commanded him to be carried [led] into the castle [barracks].—The παρεμβολή is not the tower [castle] of Antonia itself, but only a certain part of it, namely, the permanent quarters [“barracks” (Alf., Alex.).—TR.] of the Roman garrison stationed at the tower of Antonia. The ἀναβαθμοί, Acts 21:35, 40 (Jos. Bell. Jud. v. 5. 3., ἀναβάσεις), are stairs or steps, [leading from the temple-area to the tower.—TR.]. The fortress communicated with the northern and western porticos of the temple area, and had flights of stairs [“descending into both; by which the garrison could at any time enter the court of the temple and prevent tumults.”] ROBINSON: Bibl. Res. II. 71 ff. [Germ, ed.; I. 432. Amer. ed.—Away with him!—“The same shouts which, nearly thirty years before, surrounded the prætorium of Pilate. Comp. Luke 23:18; John 19:15.” (CONYB. etc. II. 262.).—TR.]

ACTS 21:37, 38. May I speak [say something] unto thee?—The apostle is desirous of addressing the people before he enters through the gate into the tower, and is withdrawn from their sight, and hence, in courteous terms, asks a question of the commander (εἰ ἔξέστι etc.). The latter, surprised at being addressed in Greek, asks in his turn: Ἑλληνιστὶ γινώσκεις;—he inquires whether his prisoner is not then [ὰρα] the Egyptian insurgent, as he had obviously hitherto supposed; he formed a different opinion on hearing Paul speak Greek. [“It was notorious (it would seem) that the Egyptian was unable to speak that language.” (Hackett).—TR.]. The Roman commander could the more easily confound Paul with that Egyptian, as those Sicarii (so called from sica, a dagger [or short sword, worn beneath their clothing.—TR.], and known as professional murderers and insurgents) were accustomed to mingle with the multitude at the festival, as now at Pentecost [Acts 20:16], and then commit the crimes with which they were familiar (μάλιστα ἐν ταῖς ἑορταῖς μισγόμενοι τῷ πλήθει, etc. Jos. Jewish War. ΙΙ. 13. 3). That Egyptian was, according to the account given by Josephus (Jew. War. ΙΙ. 13. 5) a sorcerer, who pretended that he was a prophet. He gained many adherents during the reign of Nero, whom he led from the wilderness to the Mount of Olives; he promised his followers that, at his word, the walls of Jerusalem should fall, and that they should enter the city over the ruins (comp. Jos. Antiq. xx. 8. 6). The procurator Felix, however, attacked them with great success; he defeated the insurgents, of whom 400 were slain, and 200 made prisoners; but the Egyptian himself escaped (διαδράσας ἐκ τῆς μάχης ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο, loc. cit.).—The Roman commander here speaks of 4000 Sicarii, whom that insurgent led into the wilderness. Josephus, on the other hand, relates that about 30,000 men, who put faith in his false pretensions, gathered around him. This latter statement, however, obviously refers to the whole number of the adherents of the man; Luke, on the other hand, speaks only of his armed followers, and Josephus himself distinguishes (loc. cit.) between these and the aggregate of the adherents of the Egyptian. Hence the two accounts [of Luke and Josephus] may be easily reconciled, and, in other points, the several statements of Josephus strikingly agree with the passage before us. [Alford, who adopts the view of Meyer, de Wette, and especially of Tholuck (Glaubwuerdigkeit, p. 169), says: “It is obvious that the numerical accounts in Josephus are inconsistent with our text, and with one another (Ant. xx. 8. 6, and Bell. Jud. ii. 13. 5.). This latter being the case, we may well leave them out of the question. At different times of his (the Egyptian’s) rebellion, his number of followers would be variously estimated, etc.”—TR.].

ACTS 21:39, 40. I beseech thee, suffer me.—The apostle describes himself to the tribune as a totally different person from the criminal with whom he had been confounded, and then asks for permission to address the people. In view of the explanation which he gave, and also of the fact that no person came forward who in the least degree confirmed the original suspicion of the Roman, it is by no means strange that the latter, who possessed full authority to decide, should grant the request; (the opposite opinion of Baur, paulus, p. 208 f., is untenable). It is, further, by no means incredible, that when Paul indicated to the multitude by a gesture that he desired to address them, they should become silent, and listen to him. [“The silence was probably occasioned by the presence of Roman officers and soldiers; by the sight, if not the hearing, of what passed between the Tribune and his prisoner; by Paul’s unexpected presentation of himself upon the stairs and offer to address them; but above all by the circumstance recorded in the last clause, that he spake in Hebrew, etc.” (Alex.).—TR.]. The Hebrew dialect [τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ] of course means here the living language, the Aramæan dialect [Syro-Chaldaic] spoken at that time in Judea.


1. The counsel of God is executed in a wonderful manner. In order to correct a mistake which the Judæo-Christians had made, Paul resolves to perform a certain Levitical act in the temple. Now it is precisely his appearance in the sanctuary, that exposes him to a new danger, proceeding from an entirely different quarter—from the unconverted Israelites. And thus it is precisely the devout reverence with which he regards the law and the sanctuary, and his love to his people, whom it is his great object to win for Christ, that seem to add weight to the false charges made against him.

2. It is an evidence that Paul possessed a holy disposition, and was filled, with the Spirit of Christ, if, at a time when ho had been most unmercifully treated, by the Jews, and had barely escaped with his life, he still possessed such composure, such moral strength, and such love to his people, that he could address the latter without the least bitterness of feeling. His heart is humbled under a sense of his own guilt, for he had once dealt with others as the Jews now dealt with him, and it was solely the grace of Him, who on the cross prayed for the forgiveness of his murderers, that had changed him (Lu. 23:34).


ACTS 21:27. And when the seven days were almost ended, etc.—God often punishes foolish counsels by an unhappy issue, but it does not necessarily follow that when the issue is unhappy, the beginning had been unrighteous. When good advice produces unfavorable results, we should not on that account look with anger on him who gave it, for “man proposes, but God disposes.” (Starke).—No doubt Paul now remembered all that the Spirit of God had so often intimated to him concerning the things which awaited him in Jerusalem. (Rieger).

ACTS 21:28. This is the man.—An upright servant of Christ is made so well known by the blessing which attends his official labors, that the enemies of Jesus can easily distinguish him among a thousand false and unfaithful zealots, and say: “This is he! Seize him !”—And hath polluted this holy place.—Here the apostle had the honor of being assailed, in the same tumultuous manner, by the same false accusation, and with being treated with the same animosity and severity, with which Jesus Christ had formerly been treated. When the servant finds that he thus resembles his Lord, and is walking in His footsteps, how easy and welcome the yoke becomes! (Ap. Past.).—And Paul, no doubt, thought of Stephen, too, who was once exposed to a similar storm.

ACTS 21:29. For they had seen, etc.—When God has appointed a season of suffering for us, the slightest circumstance may introduce it.—How closely the servants of Christ are watched, and what reason they have to be circumspect in their walk! The world notices also the company which we keep, and even decides respecting the personal merit of the pastor in accordance with the character of his intimate friends. The Lord grant that we may be without blame in all points! (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:30. And all the city was moved.—Men who can scarcely creep forward, when a good cause claims their aid, eagerly hasten forward to defend one that is bad, Jerem. 4:22. (Starke).—Drew him out of the temple, etc.—They wished to murder him, and yet not pollute the temple; they strained at gnats, and swallowed camels, as they had indeed done in the the case of the Lord Himself, John 18:28. (Williger).

ACTS 21:31. Tidings came unto the chief captain.—When a servant of Jesus is in great distress, he need not seek for patrons, nor need he implore men to be his advocates; God sends him aid at the proper time, without waiting for his prayers. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:32. And when they saw the chief captain, etc.—It is one of the wonderful ways of God in governing the world, that those who do not belong to His kingdom, are often controlled by opposite interests, views and purposes, and thus either one sword forbids the other to leave its scabbard, or the children of His kingdom obtain aid from one of the parties, which did not design to furnish it. (Rieger).

ACTS 21:33. Commanded him to be bound with two chains.—Let not the servant of Christ depend with too much confidence on the aid which the world affords. Here the tribune rescues the apostle from the hands of murderous Jews, but nevertheless commands him, without hearing his plea, to be bound with two chains. (Ap. Past.).—But the prophecy of Agabus must needs be fulfilled.

ACTS 21:34. And when he could not know the certainty.—The man will always be disappointed, who expects to receive any trustworthy and valuable information from false teachers, and, indeed, in general, from the world. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:35. And when he came upon the stairs … borne of the soldiers.—We have here an illustration of the manner in which God employs even enemies as the means for exalting his servants; the world, by its scorn and contempt, promotes us to honor. Many teachers would have remained in obscurity, if the envy and hatred of the world had not brought them forward, and given them celebrity. (Ap. Past.).

ACTS 21:36. Away with him!—Christ had heard the same cry, Lu. 23:18; John 19:15.

ACTS 21:38. Art not thou that Egyptian …?—A striking instance of the false and absurd views which the deluded world entertains respecting the children and servants of God. We are regarded as idiots, madmen, deceivers, enemies of mankind, and, as if we were such, we are exposed to contempt and hatred. So, too, Christ was numbered with the transgressors [Isai. 53:12]. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” [Lu. 23:34]. (Ap. Past.).—Paul sustains the same relation to that Egyptian, which Luther does to Thomas Münzer [one of the “prophets of Zwickau.”—TR.]. (Besser).

ACTS 21:40. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, etc.—How little it was once thought that the steps which led to the Roman quarters would be the pulpit from which God would cause the Gospel of His Son to be proclaimed! (Rieger).—Beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, be spake, etc.—What a man he was! Able to beckon with calmness to this excited multitude! And, behold, there was a great calm, as when Jesus rebuked the stormy sea (Mt. 8:26). We are never better prepared to proclaim the word of God, than when we bear in our bodies the marks of the cross and sufferings of the Lord Jesus [Gal. 6:17], for then only does the Spirit of God supply us both with boldness to speak, and with words suited to the occasion. (Gossner).

ON THE WHOLE SECTION, ACTS 21:27–40.—The Lord delivers his servants from death: I. Paul is unjustly accused (a) as an enemy of the law, Acts 21:27, 28; (b) as a man who polluted the temple, Acts 21:28, 29. II. His own people reject him; (a) they cast him out of the temple, Acts 21:30; (b) intend to slay him, Acts 21:31. III. Heathens are obliged to protect him; (a) the tribune quells the tumult, Acts 21:31, 32; (b) saves the apostle’s life, Acts 21:33. IV. The innocence of the persecuted man becomes apparent; (a) the charges against him are shown to be unfounded, Acts 21:34–39; (b) he is allowed to defend himself, Acts 21:40. (Lisco.)

The advantages of a well organized government, illustrated in the narrative of the arrest of the apostle Paul at Jerusalem.

The arrest of Paul at Jerusalem
: I. A dark picture of human passions; (a) of folly and self-delusion; (b) of malice and hatred—on the part of the Jews, Acts 21:28, 30, 31, 36. II. A bright picture of Christian heroism; (a) of calmness and self-command; (b) of gentleness and patience—on the part of the apostle, Acts 21:37, 39, 40. III. An impressive illustration of the guidance of God; (a) of that omnipotence which protects His servants; (b) of the wisdom which employs even enemies as means of executing His counsels, Acts 21:32–35, 37–40.

Paul in the temple of Jerusalem, or, Man proposes, but God disposes: I. God often conducts the well-meant counsels of his servants to an issue which differs from that which they had proposed, Acts 21:27 ff., and comp. Acts 21:22 ff. II. He also often conducts the malicious counsels of His enemies to an issue which differs from that which they had proposed, Acts 21:30–40.

Paul, in the storm which raged at Jerusalem. It was so ordered that the apostle should subsequently encounter a fierce storm at sea, Acts 27, but it was scarcely more dangerous than the one which he here experiences on land, within the strong walls of Jerusalem, in the midst of his own people. But in each case the mighty hand of God protects and rescues him. Let us consider, I. The outbreak of the storm. Like many a storm in nature, this storm suddenly arises in the minds of men. Paul had apprehended such a tempest, when he was at Miletus (20:22 ff.); on his way, its approach was announced to him with increasing solemnity (21:4–11); it burst forth at a time when it might have been least expected, and in a spot where none would have looked for it

in the sacred enclosure of the temple, while Paul was seeking to satisfy the zealots of the law (Acts 21:27). II. The raging of the storm. The madness of this storm of human passions increases every moment; the popular fury rages like the stormy ocean, and threatens to ingulf the servant of God (Acts 21:28–31, 36). III. The calming of the storm. He who on the lake of Gennesaret rebuked the winds and the sea, so that there was a great calm, now says to this raging sea: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further” [Job 38:11]. The Roman tribune is the agent who guides the apostle to a harbour, in which he is saved, and he himself, with great calmness beckons to the people, and they listen in silence (Acts 21:31–40).

Paul’s memorable sermon at Jerusalem: I. The preacher—in chains, Acts 21:33. II. The pulpit—the stairs conducting to the Roman quarters, Acts 21:40. III. The deacons who attend him—soldiers, Acts 21:35. IV. The psalms which precede his sermon—malignant cries for his death, Acts 21:36. V. The congregation which he addresses—an infuriated multitude, Acts 21:30–34. VI. The unction with which he nevertheless speaks—the Spirit of the Lord, as a Spirit of faith, of love, of wisdom, and of power, Acts 21:13, 37, 39, 40.

The weapons of the man of God in perilous times: I. Justice and the law, which should protect him, as long as they have power themselves, Acts 21:32, 33. II. The peace of a good conscience, which remains undisturbed amid the storm of passions, Acts 21:37–39. III. The power of a sanctified character, which never fails to make an impression even on a rude multitude, Acts 21:40. IV. The presence of God, to whom he belongs, whether he labors or suffers, whether he lives or dies, Acts 21:13.


[18]Acts 21:28. [πανταχοῦ, of text. rec., occurs in G. H.; the less usual form, πανταχῆ, in A. B. C. D. E. Cod. Sin., is adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—TR.]

[19]Acts 21:31. [συγκέχυται, of text. rec. in E. (συνκέχ.) G. H.; συνχύννεται in A. D. and Cod. Sin.; in the last, a later hand (C) corrected to συνκεχυται; συγχύνεται in B. The first is adopted by Alf.; the third by Lach., Tisch. and Born.—C. omits Acts 21:31—22:20. Vulg. confunditur.TR.]

[20]Acts 21:32. [ἑκατοντάρχους. of text. rec., in G. H.; ἑκατοντάρχας (from the nom.—ης), in A. B. D (orig.). E. Cod. Sin. The latter form is adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf.—TR.]

[21]Acts 21:33. [ἂν before εἴη, of text. rec., with E. G. H., is retained by Alf., but dropped by Lach. and Tisch., in accordance with A. B. D., and also Cod. Sin.—TR.]

[22]Acts 21:34. a. Four uncial manuscripts [A. B. D. E., and also Cod. Sin.] exhibit ἐπέφώνουν, while ἐβόων [of text. rec.] is more feebly supported [by G. H. The former is adopted by Lach., Tisch., Born., and Alf.—TR.]

[23]Acts 21:34. b. [μὴ δυνάμενος δέ γ. of text. rec., is the reading of G. H.; that of A. B. D., adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf., is: μὴ δυναμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ γ. The latter is found also in Cod. Sin.—TR.]

[24]Acts 21:36. [κρᾶζον, the reading of text. rec., is found in D. G. H. “It is a grammatical correction.” (Alf.). Κράζοντες, in A. B. E., is adopted by Lach., Tisch., and Alf., and is found also in Cod. Sin.—TR.]

[25]Acts 21:37. [τι after εἰπεῖν, of text. rec., is found in A. B. E. Cod. Sin. and Vulg. (aliquid); it is omitted in D. G. H. Syr.—Lach. retains it.—TR.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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