Acts 9
People's New Testament
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
9:1 The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus


Saul's Journey to Damascus. The Lord Meets Him on the Way. Called to Be a Witness to the Gentiles. Baptized by Ananias. Preaches Christ to the Jews in Damascus. They Seek His Death. His Escape to Jerusalem and Meeting with the Apostles. Departure to Tarsus. Peter Heals Aeneas at Lydda. Raises Dorcas at Joppa.

Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter. See Ac 8:3, from which the narrative is now resumed. As the great change in the life of Saul is now recorded, it is proper to state what can be known of him before his conversion. Probably about a year before he appears in the history at the death of Stephen. He was of the tribe of Benjamin (Php 3:5); his father, though a Jew, had been admitted to Roman citizenship, and Paul was therefore a Roman (Ac 22:26,28); he was born at Tarsus (Ac 22:3), a Grecian city, the capital of Cilicia; there he had become familiar with Grecian literature, as well as educated in the law; at what time we know not, but while still young he went to Jerusalem to study in the great Rabbinical schools, and had the celebrated Gamaliel for his teacher (Ac 22:3); he had, according to Jewish custom, learned a trade, being a tent-maker (Ac 18:3); he was a Pharisee after the strictest manner of the sect (Ac 23:6). How long he had been in Jerusalem when he appears in this history, whether he was there for the second time, or had not returned after his attendance at the school of Gamaliel, is uncertain, but when we first behold him he is a young man (Ac 7:58), prominent and influential, active in his opposition to the church, and a trusted leader of its enemies.

Went unto the high priest. Probably Theophilus, the son of Annas, who was made high priest by the Romans in A.D. 37 He was a Sadducee.

And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
9:2 Desired of him letters. A commission and letter addressed to the rulers of synagogues. The sway of the high priest was recognized in the synagogues of all the East. He was a sort of pope with the Sanhedrin for his cardinals.

To Damascus. Situated about 140 miles northeast of Jerusalem, east of Mt. Hermon, in Syria, a beautiful city in a fertile spot redeemed from the desert by the mountain streams, Abana and Pharpar. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, existed in the time of Abraham, and now has about 150,000 inhabitants.

Of this way. The Way (Revised Version). The way of Christ, a phrase applied to Christianity. Paul's commission, while given in the name of the high priest, was from the Sanhedrin (Ac 26:10).

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
9:3 And as he journeyed. It would require six or seven days to make the journey. It was probably made on foot.

There shined around about him a light from heaven. Brighter than the sun (Ac 26:13). It was the splendor of the glorified Savior as seen at the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2 Mr 9:3 Lu 9:29), or by John at Patmos (Re 1:16). In order to get the full history of this revelation of Christ and Paul's conversion, we must compare the accounts given by Paul himself in Ac 22:3-21 26:10-20 with Luke's account here.

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
9:4 Heard a voice. After he had fallen. Not a sound merely, but words that he could understand.

Why persecutest thou me? Observe how Christ sympathizes with his persecuted followers. The blows that fall upon them, fall upon him. If Saul strikes the disciples in Damascus, Christ feels the blows in heaven.

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
9:5 Who art thou, Lord? Sure that it was a supernatural communication, though he might possibly suspect its source, he did not yet know that it came from Christ. Perhaps at times he had had misgivings that he might be wrong, but he was sincere.

I am Jesus. It is not said, the Christ, but Jesus, the crucified one against whom Saul was raging. Had the answer been the Christ, or the Son of God, Saul might still have doubted whether this was Jesus.

It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. Omitted here by the Revised Version, but found in Ac 26:14. The idea is that he is injuring himself, like the ox that kicks back on the goads used to urge him forward.

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
9:6 And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, What wilt thou have me to do? The question, to which the remainder of the verse seems to be the answer, is omitted in the Revised Version and the oldest MSS.

Arise, and go into the city, etc. He must enter the church just as others. The Lord had appeared to him in order that he might be qualified for apostleship by having seen Christ, but he must learn the way of the gospel from one of its preachers. Christ never told a mortal how to be saved after he gave the Great Commission to the church.

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
9:7 And the men... hearing a voice, but seeing no man. They were dumb with amazement, but did not see Christ, who was only revealed to Saul. They heard the sound but the words were for Saul and only understood by him. Compare with Ac 22:9. The two passages taken together mean that they heard a sound, but no words.
And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9:8 He saw no man. His eyes were blinded by the brightness of the Lord. He who had come with such power to Damascus had to be led helpless into the city.
And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
9:10 A certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. He is named nowhere but in connection with the conversion of Saul.

To him said the Lord in a vision. As in the case of Philip sent by the angel to the eunuch (Ac 8:26), so he is sent by revelation to Saul. A revelation was needful from the fact that Saul was a terror to the church and all would avoid him.

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
9:11 Go into the street which is called Straight. This street ran in a direct line from gate to gate, east and west, and was anciently 100 feet wide and celebrated for its magnificence. It is now contracted and mean.

Enquire in the house of Judas. Nothing more is known of this Judas.

Saul of Tarsus. As the name was not uncommon, he is designated by his native city, no mean city (Ac 21:39), a place of 30,000 inhabitants, 20,000 at present, then celebrated for its schools. It was the Cilician capital.

He prayeth. An assurance that Ananias would be favorably received. Besides, in his prayer, the vision came that Ananias would come.

And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
9:13,14 Ananias answered. In view of the terrible record of Saul the fears of Ananias were not unreasonable.
And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
9:13,14 Ananias answered. In view of the terrible record of Saul the fears of Ananias were not unreasonable.
But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
9:15 He is a chosen vessel to me. On this account the Lord appeared to him, for this purpose to make him a minister and a 'witness' (Ac 26:16). Unless a man is called like Saul to be an apostle he need not expect such a vision.

To bear my name before the Gentiles. His mission as the apostle to the Gentiles is pointed out. See Ac 13:46.

And kings. He not only bore witness before the Roman rulers, but before King Agrippa (Ac 26:1) and the emperor Nero (Ac 28:19 Php 1:13 4:22).

For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
9:17 Ananias... putting his hands on him. Not to convey a gift, but as a friendly act, significant of God's blessing.

That thou mightest receive thy sight. His sight returned immediately after (Ac 9:18).

And be filled with the Holy Ghost. There is no proof whatever that any spiritual gifts were imparted, nor that any but apostles could confer these gifts (see PNT Ac 6:8 ), and Paul always asserted that he received his signs of apostleship, not of men, but of Christ. See Ga 1:1,11,12. The being filled with the Holy Spirit took place after the baptism at the hands of Ananias.

And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
9:18 He... arose, and was baptized. The account is more fully given by Paul himself (Ac 22:13-16). Ananias said, Receive thy sight, and in the same hour I looked upon him (Ac 22:13). Then, after saying why the Lord had called him, he added: Why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Ac 22:16). Note (1) that tarrying for weeks or months before baptism was then unknown; (2) that there would be no necessity of arising, if water was applied in baptism, but there would be if he had to go to a place suitable for immersion; (3) that the term wash (Greek, apolouo, bathe ) implies more than a sprinkling or pouring; (4) that neither Ananias nor Paul (Ac 22:16) understood that his sins were remitted before baptism. Compare Ac 2:38 and Ac 22:16.
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
9:19 Then was Saul certain days with the disciples. In worship and intercourse with them. He must learn more experimentally of the church before preaching.
And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
9:20 Straightway. Following this he began to preach

Christ in the synagogues. Jesus in the Revised Version. He preached that the Crucified Jesus is the Son of God.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
9:21 All that heard him were amazed. They had heard of his former zeal against the church and of his being sent to Damascus but as yet had not learned of his conversion.
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
9:22 Saul increased the more in strength. Grew continually in power to preach Christ.
And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
9:23 After that many days were fulfilled. A long period, probably at least three years. Luke's narrative is very condensed. He is not writing a history of Saul, but of the founding of the church. We learn from Paul that he spent at this time a long period in Arabia, and after this returned to Damascus (Ga 1:16-18). It was at his return that this persecution broke out.

The Jews took counsel to kill him. For additional information, see 2Co 11:32. At this time Damascus was in the temporary possession of Aretas, an Arabian potentate. Less scrupulous than the Roman rulers, he was willing to please Saul's Jewish enemies, who were numerous and influential, by putting him to death.

But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
9:24 They watched the gates. The governor, under Aretas the king, kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me (2Co 11:32).
Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
9:25 Let him down by the wall. As the gates were guarded, there was no escape that way. Houses built against or on the wall, would afford an opportunity of letting him down on the outside. And through a window, in a basket, was I let down by the wall and escaped his hands (2Co 11:33).
And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
9:26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem. Three years had passed since he left the city, a proud, talented young Pharisee, with brilliant worldly prospects, the honored agent of the Sanhedrin, commissioned to stamp out Christianity at Damascus. He now returns a disciple of him whom he sought to destroy, his bright worldly prospects all forfeited, an outcast from his own nation, persecuted and hated. Why this change? No explanation is possible, save that given in this history and by himself.

They were all afraid of him. Little was known in the church of the change. A great part of the three years were spent in Arabia, probably in study and preparation of his great work. They had known so much of his fury in the past that they feared him still. His appearance in the church would be much like that of Robert G. Ingersoll, the great agnostic, in a Christian convention.

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
9:27 Barnabas took him. Barnabas was a Hellenist (Ac 4:36), like Saul. When he vouched for him to the apostles, their distrust ended. Paul gives an account of this visit to the apostles in Ga 1:18.
And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
9:29 He... disputed against the Grecians. The Jews in Jerusalem who had been born in foreign countries and spoke the Greek language. See PNT Ac 6:1.
Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
9:30 They brought him down to Caesarea. The same class of Jews who had raised the persecution against Stephen now sought the death of Saul. By the aid of the brethren he was taken to the seaport of Caesarea and sailed for his old home at Tarsus. Some think, however, from Ga 1:21, that the journey was made by land through Syria. It is more likely that he sailed from Caesarea to Seleucia in Syria, and from thence made his way to Tarsus.

Sent him forth to Tarsus. Four or five years pass before the next mention of Saul in Ac 12:25, an interval passed in preaching Christ (Ga 1:22,23), and resulting in the planting of churches in Cilicia (Ac 15:23,41).

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
9:31 Then had the churches rest. After the departure of Saul there was a cessation of persecution for several years. The reason is found in the history of the times. The Roman emperor, Caligula, had ordered his statute to be placed in the temple at Jerusalem for worship, a desecration of the temple, and the Jews were too much engaged in their efforts to prevent this to persecute the church.

Edified. Built up.

Were multiplied. The result, always, of walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
9:32-34 As Peter passed throughout all quarters. Visiting the churches of Judea.

At Lydda. A town in the seacoast plain, now called Ludd, not far from Joppa. Here he healed a cripple of eight years.

And there he found a certain man named AEneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
9:32-34 As Peter passed throughout all quarters. Visiting the churches of Judea.

At Lydda. A town in the seacoast plain, now called Ludd, not far from Joppa. Here he healed a cripple of eight years.

And Peter said unto him, AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
9:34 Eneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole. Observe that he ascribes the power to Christ.
And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
9:35 All that dwelt at Lydda and Saron. In the plain of Sharon, a term often applied to the seacoast plain between Joppa and Caesarea. See So 2:1.

And turned to the Lord. The passage means, not that every soul turned, but that there was a general turning as the result of the miracle.

Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
9:36 There was at Joppa. The seaport of Jerusalem from the times of David (2Ch 2:16) to the present day, situated in a fertile plain now celebrated for its fine oranges, of which vast quantities are shipped from the port. Here named as the home of

Tabitha, or Dorcas in the Greek (meaning gazelle ), a saintly Christian noted for her deeds of love.

And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.
9:37 Washed... laid her in an upper chamber. Prepared for burial. The place was the large upper room on the upper floor of Eastern houses, usually used as a guest chamber.
And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.
9:38 They sent unto him two men. The fame of his miracles was so well known that they probably hoped that he might restore her to life.
Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
9:39 The widows stood by him weeping. They had been the objects of her benevolence.
But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
9:40 Peter put them all forth. Compare 1Ki 17:19-23 2Ki 4:32-36 Mt 9:25. Perhaps that his whole soul might be fixed on the Lord in prayer.

And kneeled down and prayed. It was on his knees that he was made to feel that the Lord had given him power. In his prayer he called on the name of Christ, was answered, and only needed to say, Tabitha, arise, and she opened her eyes. It was the first miracle in which death was overcome at the hands of an apostle.

And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
9:42 Many believed in the Lord. The knowledge of the miracle worked this result.
And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
9:43 Tarried many days. Perhaps a year.

In Joppa with one Simon the tanner. Joppa was a large city and a favorable field of work. Here Peter was found, at the house of Simon the tanner (Ac 10:6) when called to Caesarea by the messengers of Cornelius. It was by the seaside (Ac 10:32) and a house is still pointed out, close to the seashore, as that of Simon, which Dean Stanley believes to be on the original site.

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

Bible Hub
Acts 8
Top of Page
Top of Page