Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:Acts 16:1-8 Paul having circumcised Timothy, and taken him for
his companion, passeth through divers countries,
Acts 16:9-13 and is directed by a vision to go into Macedonia.
Acts 16:14,15 He converteth Lydia,
Acts 16:16-18 and casteth out a spirit of divination.
Acts 16:19-24 He and Silas are whipped and imprisoned.
Acts 16:25-34 The prison doors are thrown open by an earthquake at
midnight: the jailer, prevented by Paul from killing
himself, is converted.
Acts 16:35-40 They are released by the magistrates.
Derbe and Lystra; of these cities see Acts 14:6.
Timotheus; who was known unto Paul from his childhood, 2 Timothy 1:5, and accompanied him in many journeys, 2 Timothy 3:10,11, and is called by him, his work-fellow, Romans 16:21.
A certain woman, called Eunice; being one of them that had believed in Christ in Judea, and had a holy woman to her mother, named Lois.
His father was a Greek: although it was not lawful for a Jew to marry a woman of another nation, yet some think that a Jewess might marry to a stranger, as Esther married to Ahasuerus.
A Greek; of Gentile extraction, and therefore not circumcised; yet he is accounted to have been a proselyte.
Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.Though Timothy was well known unto Paul, yet he would not ordain him without the testimony of others concerning him, of his holy life, and knowledge in the Scripture, 2 Timothy 3:15, which he did excel in.
Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.Circumcised him because of the Jews, who could not yet be persuaded that the law of circumcision was abrogated. Paul, who became all things to all men, that he might save some, circumcised Timothy that he might not offend the Jewish converts, 1 Corinthians 9:22, but would not circumcise Titus, Galatians 2:3, lest that he should harden them, and offend the Gentiles. These indifferent things require a single eye, to the edifying of the church, and the salvation of souls. Timothy was uncircumcised, although his mother was a Jewess; for according to their Talmudists, the mother could not cause her child to be circumcised against the mind of the father.
And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.The decrees; the determination of the council, mentioned Acts 15:20,29.
Ordained of the apostles and elders; by common consent, and not of one only, whosoever he were.
And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.Established in the faith; being rightly persuaded in the nature and use of things indifferent; and, in general, of things necessary to be believed.
And increased in number daily; so that this visitation of the churches had a double benefit. First, it strengthened them that were already converted. Secondly, it added more unto their number.
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,Phrygia and
Galatia were parts of Asia Minor. They
were forbidden of the Holy Ghost by some revelation, though the manner is not known,
to preach the word in Asia, for that time; though afterwards Paul preached there about two years together, Acts 19:10. Thus God (the great Householder) orders the candle to be removed from one room unto another; sends, or takes away, the light of the gospel, to whom, and as often, as he pleaseth. Our calling, as well as our election, is free; and we may say with our Saviour, Matthew 11:26, Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.Mysia; a little country near Troas.
Bithynia; another province nigh unto the same place, over against Thracia, bordering upon the Black Sea.
The Spirit; the Spirit of Jesus, or of God, as some copies read.
Suffered them not; the journeyings of them that preached the gospel, as well as their words, were directed by God; they might not say, Do, or Go, but according to the will of God.
And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.Either the relics of the famous city of Troy, or the country thereabouts, in which the city of Antigonia was built.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.A man; an angel in the appearance and likeness (in habit and demeanour) of one of that country.
Macedonia; a Grecian province in Europe, extending to the Archipelago.
Help us; as to our souls, with the saving light of the gospel: God sends the ministers of the gospel to help such as would otherwise perish: with the gospel, salvation comes.
And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.Immediately; as soon as God’s will was manifested, they make no delay, not objecting against the journey.
We endeavoured to go; St. Luke, the penman of this book was one of them that went, (the others were Paul, Silas, and Timotheus), and therefore speaks in the plural number.
Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;Samothracia; an island so called, because the inhabitants came partly out of Thrace, and partly from Samos. This
Neapolis was a city in the confines of Thrace and Macedonia.
And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.Philippi; a city so called from Philip, the father of Alexander the Great, who repaired a ruined town, and caused it to be called by his name. The chief city of that part of Macedonia; or the first city in the passage from Samothracia unto Macedonia.
A colony; where many Roman citizens went to inhabit, and whose inhabitants had the freedom of the city of Rome. To the church in this city Paul wrote an Epistle.
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.In those places where there were not enough to build a synagogue, or could not obtain leave to do it, the Jews in those countries chose more private places to meet in, which usually were near rivers, or by the seaside, removed from the noise and observance of the multitude; and these places were called proseucai, from the prayers which were usually made there; and to one of these Paul and the rest went, taking that occasion to meet with them whom they might preach the word of life unto. The women are here named, as being more numerous in those oratories, or such as most willingly heard and attended unto what was spoken.
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.Lydia; so called from the country of that name, she being born at
Thyatira, a city therein, and now lived with her family at Philippi.
Worshipped God; being a proselyte, and one of them who had left the heathenish idolatry, and owned the one only and true God; but as yet unacquainted with the gospel of his Son our Saviour.
Heart, in Scripture sense, signifies both the understanding and the will: thus, With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, Romans 10:10. Her understanding was enlightened, her heart changed; she now loved what she before hated, and hated what before she loved.
The Lord opened; this was the Lord’s work; according unto what our Saviour himself had said, John 6:44, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. And yet we may in a sense open our hearts, by using such means as God hath promised to succeed for that purpose, Revelation 3:20; and especially when, in a sense of our inability and necessity, we implore the free grace of God, and engage him to work in us according unto all his good pleasure. Otherwise creating a clean heart within us, as it is called, Psalm 51:10, is beyond the power of nature.
She attended: hearing is an instructive sense, and faith cometh by it, Romans 10:17, but it must then be accompanied with attention.
And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.And her household; when Lydia had right to baptism, by reason of her faith in Jesus Christ, all her family, whom she could undertake to bring up in the knowledge of Christ, were admitted to that ordinance also; as all the servants, and such others as were born in his house, or bought with his money, were circumcised with Abraham, Genesis 17:12,13. Now the gospel does not contract in any respect, but enlarges, the privileges of believers in all things. And if they might under the law have their children and servants admitted into a covenant with God, (which could not but rejoice religious parents and masters, who value the relation they and theirs have to God, above all earthly things), surely under the gospel none of our families are excluded, unless they wilfully exclude themselves.
She constrained us; as the two disciples that were going to Emmaus constrained our Saviour, Luke 24:29, with all earnest entreaties and loving violence.
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:Went to prayer; went towards the place where their public prayers were usually made.
Of divination; or, of Python, the name of Apollo, from the place where he was worshipped, (which was afterwards called Delphi), and from whom all evil spirits, that pretended to divination, were called Pythons; as that the woman made use of to delude Saul by, 1 Samuel 28:7.
The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.The devil might be forced by God to confess this; or, he might do it voluntarily by God’s permission: First, To draw men on to believe him in other things, being he commended the servants of God, and spake the truth in this. Secondly, That, by flattering St. Paul, he might puff him up, and occasion him to sin. But an evil spirit, (or an evil man), when he dissembles as it he were good, is then worst of all.
And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.St. Paul was grieved, either for the maid’s sake, who suffered so much by her being possessed with this spirit, or, for their sakes who were seduced by him. St. Paul (as our Saviour had done, Mark 1:25) refuseth the testimony of the devil; for he being the father of lies, John 8:44, makes every thing he says to be suspected; as it is a usual punishment of liars, that they are not believed when they speak the truth; and the devil never speaks any truth but with an intention to deceive.
In the name of Jesus Christ; by the authority and power of Christ.
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,Her masters; for she was a servant, or slave; and being very advantageous, might have many that had a share in her.
Their gains; the profit could not but be considerable, for they were to come with the rewards of divination in their hands, as they did to Balaam, Numbers 22:7.
Rulers: See Poole on "Matthew 16:20".
And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,Magistrates, the same who are called rulers; and the word here shows, that they were under the power of the sword, and ruled by the Romans; though the rulers spoken of in the former verse might be the civil magistrates of the city, and the magistrates here mentioned might be the commanders of the forces therein. They carried them, as they did our Saviour, from one to the other, the more to disgrace them, and to obtain the greater punishment for them. They mention their
being Jews, because it was a most odious name unto all men, by reason of their different opinions in religion, and diversity of manners in conversation from all.
And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.There was at Philippi, as appears Acts 16:12, a colony of the Romans, and they were governed by their laws, by which they might make no innovation in religion without the consent of the senate, and afterwards of their emperors; which here these persecutors allege.
And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.The multitude; generality and unanimity alone cannot authorize opinions or practices.
Rent off their clothes; Paul’s and Silas’s clothes, to disgrace them the more, or in order unto their being scourged; though some think that the magistrates rent their own clolhes, in detestation of the pretended blasphemy which was laid to Paul’s charge, as the high priest did, Mark 14:63.
And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:Laid many stripes upon them; partly by the lictors or executioners, and partly by the furious rabble.
The jailer; this jailer’s name (of whose conversion we read hereafter) was Stephanas, as may appear if you compare 1 Corinthians 1:16 with what follows by St. Luke in this story. Of him also we read, 1 Corinthians 16:15,17.
Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.Thus they dealt with Joseph, Genesis 39:20, compared with Psalm 105:18, and with Jeremiah, and with John Baptist.
Sanctorum sors est, et non moleste ferenda.
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.No time or place where prayer is not acceptable unto God, and prevalent with him; nay, it sounds the sweeter when on the waters of affliction a good man pours it forth unto God.
Sang praises unto God, that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ: and being all things are overruled for the good, and conduce to the advantage, of them that love God, Romans 8:28, they owe unto God thanks for all things through Jesus Christ, which is also required of them, Ephesians 5:20.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.Suddenly; how soon is prayer answered, when the fulness of time is come! So nigh is God unto all that call upon him, Psalm 34:17 145:18.
There was a great earthquake; an earthquake did usually precede some wonderful matter, as Matthew 28:2. And although God could have delivered these his servants without an earthquake, yet, to show the more that their deliverance was his work, and it was no artifice or force of their own, he manifested his power after this manner.
Every one’s bands were loosed; either by the earthquake, or some secret power of an angel, or by God himself immediately, that the apostles and others might know that the souls of men should be loosed and set free by them, whose bodies for that purpose were now freed by God.
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.Awaking out of his sleep, by the earthquake, which being upon an extraordinary occasion, could not fail to do all that God intended by it.
Would have killed himself, for fear of suffering a more cruel death; for all jailers, who let any prisoner escape, were to suffer the same punishment that the prisoners were thought to have deserved; and self-murder was very ordinary amongst both the Romans and Grecians. But whatsoever their philosophers have said of it, it must needs have been a very great provocation against God, to show so great an aversion from God’s will, disposing of them and their concerns in this world, and challenging or daring of him to do worse by them in the world to come. Men must have sad comforts, and take desperate resolutions, that come to this at once.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.The other prisoners were smitten with amazement; neither did they mind (or it might have been kept from them) that the doors were opened, and their chains loosed: but as for the apostles, the same God who wrought this deliverance for them, might inform them of the intent of it; that by this means the conversion of the jailer and his family was intended; and that their doctrine might be magnified, which had been so much vilified.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,He called for a light, or lights, which prisons are not usually without.
Came trembling: what a sudden and great change can God make! he comes trembling to those feet which he had put into the stocks so lately.
Fell down before Paul and Silas; by which he would give a civil respect unto them, it being an ordinary rite amongst the Eastern nations (as endless examples in Scripture witness) to pay their respects; and from them it spread itself into Greece: which respect Paul and Silas do not refuse, because it was barely civil, and did show the humility aud brokenness of the jailer’s heart. Yet Peter would not accept of the like from Cornelius, Acts 10:25,26, because it was more than a bare civil respect which Cornelius would have given him.
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?Brought them out, into his own apartment in the prison, or to some more open and free place.
Sirs; a term of respect given by the Romans and Grecians to such whom they honoured, as now the jailer did these seemingly most contemptible men.
What must I do to be saved? He might have some knowledge of a future state, which he here inquires after:
1. By the very light of nature.
2. By tradition.
3. By the doctrine of the philosophers.
4. By his frequenting with Jews and proselytes.
Men under fears, and in dangers, as to the things of this world, are brought to look after another world (as every one prays in a storm): but this is only when God is pleased to sanctify such fears and disasters; otherwise all the plagues of Egypt do but harden them the more, Exodus 7:3.
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; this is the sum of the gospel. Christ, apprehended by faith, serves for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, as 1 Corinthians 1:30. But then this precious faith must be such as works by love, as purifies the heart, Acts 15:9, as overcometh the world, 1Jo 5:4, as quenches the fiery darts of the devil, Ephesians 6:16, and is deservedly called, a most holy faith, Judges 1:20.
Thou shalt be saved, and thy house; thou shalt by this means come to obtain that life thou dost so much desire after; and not only thyself, but (God gives more than we ask) thy children and family shall be saved; inasmuch as the covenant, where it is entered into, is not only with them, but with their children.
And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.Expounding more at large that which they had briefly propounded in the foregoing verse, as concerning the natures and offices of Christ; especially his suffering for our sins, and rising again for our justification.
To all that were in his house; their fellow prisoners not exempted, unto whom it was a joyful confinement, being by this means made God’s freemen.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.The same hour of the night; he did not delay to show forth the fruits of his faith, and real conversion.
And washed their stripes; which his stripes had made, using such means as might assuage their pain, and heal their wounds.
He and all his: See Poole on "Acts 16:15", See Poole on "Acts 16:32". Of baptism administered without any delay, upon their profession of faith in Christ, we have had examples, Acts 8:38,10:47, and in Acts 16:15.
And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.Into his house; which was close unto, or a separate part of, the prison, into which they did ascend, being before in a low dungeon.
He set meat before them; Paul and Silas had been long fasting, and in any season of the night it was a mercy to them to have a table spread for them.
Rejoiced; finding the effects of his faith, peace with God, and joy in the Holy Ghost; which was not a little augmented, in that he had his family admitted into the covenant of God’s grace, they also believing, and being baptized.
And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.The serjeants; their messengers, or officers, which did carry a mace, or a rod, from whence they had their name.
Saying, Let those men go; probably being terrified with the earthquake, which if it had not been general, they could not yet have heard of. Their consciences might also accuse them for having unjustly punished them for a good deed which they had done, only to gratify the rage of the multitude; as also because they had acted against the custom of the Romans, (though they did not yet know that they had the privilege of Roman citizens), and had beaten strangers without any legal trial, or form of law.
And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.Told this saying to Paul; being glad that he might release them. Neither does he bid them go, as desirous to be rid of them; but, not requiring any fees, he lets them go to preach the gospel, and fulfill their ministry, with his prayers and good wishes.
But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.Paul said unto them, the officers who were sent to the prison with the message about their liberty.
They have beaten us; the magistrates, who commanded them to be beaten, are justly charged with the beating of them, as if they had themselves done it.
Openly; it was no small aggravation of their injustice, and these holy men’s sufferings, that they had, for the greater spite unto them, openly scourged them.
Uncondemned; for they were not tried, or permitted to speak for themselves.
Being Romans; having the privilege of Roman citizens, which was sometimes given to whole communities. Now such by their laws might not be bound, much less beaten, (and least of all uncondemned), without the consent of the Romans.
Let them come themselves and fetch us out; this the apostle stands upon, not so much for his own, as for the gospel’s sake, that it might not be noised abroad, that the preachers of it were wicked and vile men, and did deserve such ignominious punishment. Though they were as innocent as doves, it became them also to be as wise as serpents.
And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.For the Romans (under whom these magistrates were) made it by their laws to be treason thus to abuse any of their citizens. God overruled their fear of man for the deliverance of his servants.
And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.Two things the magistrates had to desire of them:
1. That they would excuse the wrong done unto them, which they feared lest the Romans might revenge.
2. That, to avoid further mischiefs, (as they thought), they would leave the city. But the words here used do signify, also, that they comforted them, as well as besought, or exhorted them: both by word and deed they sought to make amends for the injury they had offered unto them; and desired them to depart for their own safety, lest the people should express their rage and madness against them.
And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.Entered into the house of Lydia; of whom, Acts 16:14. They do not shun dangers, so as to neglect their duty. They comforted them, in respect of the tribulation they had endured, and were still to endure; or exhorted them to prepare for suffering, and to submit unto God in it, and to make a holy use of it.