Acts 21
People's New Testament
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:
21:1 Paul Seized in the Temple


The Voyage to Tyre. The Prayer-Meeting on the Seashore. Abiding with Philip the Evangelist in Caesarea. The Prophecy of Agabus. The Importunity of the Disciples That Paul Should Not Go to. Jerusalem. The Meeting of Paul with James and the Elders at Jerusalem. Their Request That He Should Disarm Prejudice by a Nazarite Vow. The Attempt to Kill Him in the Temple. The Rescue by the Chief Captain.

After we were gotten from them. Chrysostom, himself, a Greek, says the Greek word apospao means had torn away.

Coos. A small island, famous for its wines, forty miles south of Miletus. Hippocrates, the great physician, and Apelles, the painter, were born here.

Rhodes. Fifty miles further south, one of the most famous islands of the world, noted for its beauty, its Colossus, its defense by the Knights of St. John against the Turks, and for giving its name to one of the American states.

Patara. On the coast of Lydia. Here he took another ship, this probably being the destination of the first.

And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.
21:2 Sailing over unto Phoenicia. Tyre, where he landed, was a Phoenician city.
Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.
21:3 When we had discovered of Cyprus. This would arouse the memories of Paul's first missionary labors here about fourteen years before. See Ac 13:4-13.

Sailed into Syria. Syria embraced Phoenicia, Palestine and Antioch, in the Roman use of the term.

Landed at Tyre. Still a considerable city, though its ancient glories had faded on account of the growth of Alexandria and Antioch, which had become the commercial centers of the East. Its most important ruins now lie beneath the sea and can be seen through its waters.

And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
21:4 Finding disciples. Preachers of the word came to Phoenicia, of which Tyre was the capital, and probably planted the church (Ac 11:19).

Tarried there seven days. As this statement is made three times where Paul found brethren (Ac 20:6 21:04 28:14), it evidently implies that he tarried at each place to have one solemn meeting on the first day of the week, as at Troas (Ac 20:7), and to celebrate the Lord's Supper with the church.

Said to Paul through the Spirit. Predicted the sufferings that would befall him, and endeavored to dissuade him.

And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.
21:5 We kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. This was an affecting sight. The whole church, men, women and children, gathered around the great apostle and his companions, and the voice of prayer arose above the ceaseless roar of the waves.
And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.
And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
21:7 Came to Ptolemais. Here the journey by sea ended. This city, now called Acre, and having 15,000 population, is one of the oldest cities in the world, and called Accho in Jud 1:31, from which term its modern name is derived. It had the name Ptolemais for a few centuries from Ptolemy Soter, an Egyptian king who rebuilt it.
And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
21:8 Came to Caesarea. By land, a distance of thirty to forty miles. Paul had been here twice before (Ac 9:30 18:22). The place is memorable for the conversion of the first Gentiles.

Entered into the house of Philip. The evangelist of whose work we have an account in Ac 8:4-12,26-40, nearly a quarter of a century before. The last account of him shows him preaching in the cities of the seacoast (Ac 8:40). In one of these we now find him settled.

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
21:9 Had four daughters... which did prophesy. Compare Ac 2:17. The prophetic spirit in either the Old or New Testament is not confined to a single sex. Miriam (Ex 15:20), Deborah (Jud 4:4), and Huldah (2Ki 22:14 2Ch 34:22) are Old Testament examples, and in the New Testament, Elizabeth (Lu 1:41,42, Mary (Lu 1:46-55), Anna (Lu 2:36), and the daughters of Philip are instances.
And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
21:10 A certain prophet, named Agabus. He is named earlier as a prophet (Ac 11:28). He had probably come down to meet Paul.
And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
21:11 Took Paul's girdle. The belt or sash that bound the loose, flowing robe worn. In the style of the Old Testament prophets, he impressed his lesson in a dramatic manner. Compare 1Ki 22:11 Isa 20:2,3 Jer 13:4-9 Eze 4:1-3.
And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
21:12-14 Besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. The striking manner of Agabus, and perhaps his statements of the dark plots among the Jews against Paul, had such an effect that all sought, more earnestly than ever before, to dissuade him from going on.
Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to 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.
21:13 I am ready not to be bound only. Why should the apostle, with these certain dangers revealed, press on right into the stronghold of enemies thirsting for his blood, infuriated by the accounts that came up from Asia and Europe of his success in converting Jews to Christ? Had not a deep sense of duty impelled him, we may be certain that he would have done this. There can be no doubt that he braved the danger in order to prevent a schism that threatened the church. False reports were circulated at Jerusalem concerning his teaching to Jewish Christians; the church there was filled with prejudice against him; from thence Judaizing teachers went forth to interfere with his work. Hence, in a loving spirit, filled with that charity that suffers all things, and carrying large offerings gathered in the Gentile churches for the poor at Jerusalem, he came to disarm prejudice and show the falsehood of the stories alleged about his teachings.

But also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. There are times when duty calls the man of God to face the danger; so went the Lord to Jerusalem in spite of the protests of his disciples; so went Luther to Worms, though warned of his danger; so went Paul to Jerusalem.

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.
21:15 Took up our carriages. Took up our baggage (Revised Version). Carriages once meant the things carried.
There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.
21:16 Went with us also certain disciples of Caesarea. Paul was often thus attended.

And brought with them one Mnason. They seem to have gone in order to find a place for him with an old disciple, a native of Cyprus, now dwelling in Jerusalem, named Mnason.

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
21:17 Had come to Jerusalem. This is the fifth time Paul entered the Holy City since his departure on that memorable journey to Damascus about twenty-two years before. The present probable date is near Pentecost (the latter part of May), A.D. 58.
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
21:18 Paul went in with us unto James. For the identification and position of James, see PNT Ac 15:13. This James was not one of the twelve, but was the brother of the Lord, a witness of the risen Savior (1Co 15:7). James the brother of John had been slain (Ac 12:2); of James the son of Alphaeus, little is known; but James the brother of the Lord (Ga 1:19) was now the leader of the church at Jerusalem. No mention is made of any of the twelve, and it is probable that those still living in A.D. 58, were in other fields of labor.

And all the elders were present. The elders are mentioned, but not the apostles, a proof that none of the latter were present.

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
21:20-22 When they heard it. Paul's report of the wonderful success of the gospel. They evidently approved of and sympathized with his work.

Thou seest, brother, now many thousands... believe. The Greek reads: How many tens thousands. There were not only many thousands of Christians in the Jerusalem church, but many thousands of Jewish Christians who had come up to the feast of Pentecost. Twenty-seven years before there were five thousand men who believed in Jerusalem (Ac 4:4).

They are all zealous for the law. Zealots for the law in the Greek. They believed upon Christ as the Messiah, but did not understand that the Old Covenant had passed away to give place to the New (Heb 8:13). Hence, while they observed the Christian rites, they still kept up the forms of Judaism. It took a direct interposition of the Spirit to teach that Gentiles were entitled to baptism without circumcision (Ac 10:46-48). It required a council in Jerusalem to settle the question that Gentile Christians were not to keep the Jewish law (Ac 15:19-21). God taught the church, lesson by lesson, but up to this time that at Jerusalem had not yet learned that they were freed from the obligation to keep the law of Moses.

And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
21:21 That thou teachest, etc. Paul, in advance of the rest, had learned that the Jewish forms were not to be imposed upon Gentiles, were not an obligation upon Jewish Christians, but he still observed them, at least in part, himself, and so far from bidding Jewish brethren to forsake Moses, he circumcised Timothy (Ac 16:3), and said, Let every man abide in the same calling (whether Jew or Gentile) in which he is called. Read the whole connection of 1Co 7:18-20. He had not, therefore, taught Jews to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
21:23 Do therefore this. This counsel is given that the multitude of Jewish Christians may see that Paul still kept the Jewish customs. As he did keep them, not as a matter of obligation, but as a Jew, in order that he might reach his own race, it involved no sacrifice of principles.

We have four men which have a vow. These were Jewish Christians. The vow was a Nazaritish vow. For a description, see Nu 6:14-18. This vow involved living an ascetic life for a certain period, sometimes thirty days, and was terminated by shaving the head, burning the hair as an offering, and offering a sacrifice.

Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
21:24 Pay their expenses. The advice to Paul is to associate himself in this vow, for the necessary expenses, and thus show that he kept the time-honored customs of the Jewish race.
As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
21:25 As touching the Gentiles. The duties of the Gentiles had been settled in the council described in 15:23-29. The advice of James was no doubt given from the best of motives. His position was a difficult one. The fanaticism of the Jewish nation, which broke out in war a few years later, was growing intense. The national feeling in the church had to be handled with great care. It would not do for the church to believe that Paul had become a renegade from their race. Paul, aware of all these difficulties, generously complied for the sake of peace and unity. We cannot be certain that the advice was just right, or that Paul did just right to comply, but these grand men acted according to their knowledge, and the record of Acts portrays both the shortcomings and the perfection of its great worthies. Concerning this advice of James and compliance of Paul, Pres. Milligan says:

Three different view have been taken: (1) that Paul in this case acted ignorantly, not being aware of the fact that the law of Moses was no longer binding; (2) that, like Peter, he acted from fear of the Jewish brethren (Ga 2:11); (3) that he acted in conformity with the law of Christian benevolence which requires us to respect even the weaknesses and prejudices of our brethren, so far as this can be done without in any way neglecting the requirements of the Gospel.''

The third hypothesis is the best, but some explanations are needful. The Jewish Christians were slowly emancipated from Judaism, and they did not reach the clear conviction, until after the temple was destroyed, that its sacrifices were obsolete. Gentiles were forbidden to sacrifice idols, but there was no such prohibition with regard to the altar of Jehovah. Even Paul evidently at this time thought of the sacrifices as, like circumcision, a matter of indifference. It was left for the next generation to learn that the inspired writings of Paul himself lead to the conclusion that all the sacrifices of the temple altar pointed to the Lamb of God, and that, from the time he was offered, they became obsolete.

Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
21:26 Entered into the temple. Purifying himself, he entered the temple, gave notice that the sacrifices would be offered at a definite time, and the period of the vows be closed.
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,
21:27 When the seven days were almost ended. Seven days was an ordinary period of purification. For example, see Ex 29:37 Le 12:2 13:06 Nu 12:14.

The Jews... of Asia. From the Roman province called Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital. As Paul had spent three years in that city, they knew him well. These Jews were watching Paul, had seen him in company with Trophimus, an Ephesian Greek, and when they saw Paul in the temple keeping the Nazarite vow, seized him and raised an outcry.

Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
21:28 Hath polluted this holy place. They not only charge him with teaching against Judaism, but with bringing Greeks into the part of the temple where all Gentiles were forbidden to come. The Palestine Exploration Society found in their excavations an inscription that must have been over the passage between the court of the Gentiles and the interior court, where the chambers for Nazarites were, forbidding aliens to pass the balustrade on the penalty of death. Nothing could arouse a greater outburst of fanaticism than the belief that Paul had taken Gentiles within the sacred precincts.
(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
21:30 They took Paul, and drew him out of the temple. He was, no doubt, within the inner courts, and was hurried without, and the gates shut, to prevent the pollution of the sacred courts by the shedding of blood. They proposed to slay him when they had dragged him where it could be done without profanation. They were willing to murder, but not to profane the temple.
And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
21:31 They went about to kill him. Had Trophimus been within, their customs might have permitted them to kill him, but to slay Paul could only be a murder.

Tidings came unto the chief captain. The commander of the garrison in the castle of Antonia, overlooking the temple. The watch could see the uproar from their elevated outlook, and the soldiers in a moment would rush down the staircase that led into the temple area, and appear upon the scene. The fortress joined the temple wall and had two flights of stairs leading into the temple courts.

Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.
21:33 Took him, and commanded him to be bound. The first thought of the commander was that the man seized was some great criminal. From Ac 21:38 we learned that he supposed Paul was an Egyptian rebel. Hence he ordered him bound.
And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.
And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.
For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?
21:37 Paul... said unto the chief captain. When Paul reached the head of the stairs, as he was carried by the soldiers into he fortress, he addressed the officer in Greek.

Canst thou speak Greek? The chief captain was surprised that he should use that language.

Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
21:38 Art not thou that Egyptian? Surprised that Paul should use Greek, the chief captain asked if he was not that Egyptian. Josephus twice mentions this notorious Egyptian, a pretended prophet, and leader of the Sicarii, or Assassins. This Egyptian brigand was probably illiterate and did not speak Greek.
But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
21:39 I am... a Jew of Tarsus. As Tarsus was no mean city, a free city, he was entitled to some consideration.
And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
21:40 When he had given him license. Permission to address the people.

Paul stood on the stairs, etc. He stood at the head of the stairs, with the vast throng in the court below. Beckoning with the hand to call attention, he addressed them in their beloved Hebrew tongue. There is no excitement, no resentment, but an earnest purpose to benefit them by preaching Christ.

The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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