Acts 21
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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:
Acts 21:1-9 Paul, journeying to Jerusalem, calleth at the house

of Philip the evangelist, whose four daughters prophesied.

Acts 21:10-16 Agabus foretelling what should befall him at Jerusalem,

he will not be dissuaded from going thither.

Acts 21:17-26 Arriving at Jerusalem, he is persuaded to purify

himself in the temple

Acts 21:27-36 where he is set upon by the Jews of Asia, and in

danger of losing his life in an uproar, but is

rescued by the chief captain, and carried to the

castle in chains.

Acts 21:37-40 He requesteth, and is permitted, to speak to the people.

Were gotten from them; had parted with them, as dearest friends and relations do one from the other, with much difficulty and reluctance.

Coos; an island in the Mediterranean Sea, nigh unto Crete, where Hippocrates and Apelles are said to have been born.

Rhodes; another island in the same sea, of great fame for the Colossus, or vast image of brass, which was there, accounted one of the wonders of the world.

Patara; a haven town of Lycia, and its metropolis.

And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.
Sailing over unto Phenicia; whose master and mariners intended such a voyage.

Phenicia; a country in Syria, situate nigh the sea, and bordering upon Palestine, whose chief city was Tyre.

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.
Cyprus; another island in the Mediterranean.

Unlade her burden; of goods and merchandise which she had taken in at Ephesus.

And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
Seven days; they tarried the rather so long, that they might worship and serve the Lord on his day together.

Through the Spirit; by the Spirit of prophecy they foretold his sufferings at Jerusalem, which afterward accordingly befell unto him; and they, being ignorant of his undertaking that journey at God’s command, out of commiseration and pity dissuade St. Paul from going to such a place, where they foresaw that he should suffer so much: and this, it is said, they did

through the Spirit, because they had that foreknowledge of all his sufferings from the Spirit; and knowing but in part, being ignorant of that special command Paul had had to go to Jerusalem, they did, according to what they knew, dissuade Paul from that journey. But, they knowing that their prophecy about St. Paul’s sufferings must be fulfilled, and the Spirit by which they spake could not err or be mistaken, how came they to dissuade St. Paul from going to Jerusalem? It may be answered, that they might think this prediction of his sufferings to be only conditional, in case he went to Jerusalem; as David was told, that the men of Keilah would deliver him to Saul, 1 Samuel 23:11,12; that is, in case he had trusted himself amongst them.

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.
They all brought us on our way; to show their greater respect unto him, being loth to part with him so long as it was possible for them to enjoy him; so that they did not despise his temptation that was in the flesh, Galatians 4:14 but it is truly strange what follows, that he was received by them as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Kneeled down on the shore; this the Jews on extraordinary occasions were wont to do, whilst the temple itself were standing, viz. make every place a place of prayer in such a case, Acts 20:36.

And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.
Had taken our leave one of another; as Acts 20:1, embracing one another at their parting.

And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
We came to Ptolemais; so far forth as to Ptolemais, a city in Phenicia, so called from one of the Ptolemies, king of Egypt; and is thought to be the same with Accho, mentioned Judges 1:31, which ancient name is yet retained in the Syriac translation.

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.
Caesarea; that which was called Caesarea Stratonis, to distinguish it from Caesarea Philippi, at the foot of Mount Libanus, as also from another city of that name in Cappadocia; they having been all so called in honour of Caesar, to flatter and perpetuate that family. The Caesarea here spoken of was in Palestine, and is mentioned Acts 10:1 18:22.

The evangelist; whose office and charge it was to publish the gospel, which Timothy is exhorted to do, 2 Timothy 4:5. This office is placed between that of an apostle and of a pastor and teacher, Ephesians 4:11, and was not so confined to a certain place or people as the latter of these were.

One of the seven; of the seven deacons; of which see Acts 6:5. Which office of a deacon Philip having well discharged, did purchase to himself this good degree, as 1 Timothy 3:13.

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
Virgins; by their father’s and their own voluntary determination, as 1 Corinthians 7:37; neither is it said whether they continued in that state, but they were so.

Which did prophesy; not by expounding the prophecies or word of God, for no woman is suffered to teach publicly, 1 Corinthians 14:34 1 Timothy 2:12; but rather foretelling things to come, which gift God did not debar that sex from; especially it having been promised, Joel 2:28, and in part fulfilled before, in Acts 2:17; by which God would show the enlargement of his mercies, and plenty of his Spirit, reserved for the times of the gospel.

And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
Of whom mention is made, Acts 11:28; of whose prophecy they could not be ignorant, by reason of the great collection which, on that account, was made for the poor at Jerusalem.

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.
Took Paul’s girdle; it was ordinary amongst the prophets to confirm, or at least to exemplify, their prophecies by outward signs and symbols, as Isaiah 20:2 Jeremiah 13:1 Ezekiel 12:5. But that of Jeremiah 27:2, is a parallel unto this; where the prophet is commanded to make bonds and yokes, and to put them upon his neck, to foreshow the subjection of all those nations unto Nebuchadnezzar.

Thus saith the Holy Ghost; none of all the sufferings foreshown concerning St. Paul, or others of God’s children and servants, but are ordered by God, who knows them altogether; and they came not out of the dust, or by casualty, or chance, so as not to have been the matter of God’s foreknowledge and counsel, Ephesians 1:11.

The Gentiles; the Roman powers at Jerusalem, and afterwards at Rome.

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
They of that place; the converts or believers that were in Caesarea, pitying him, and having a tender affection for him: See Poole on "Acts 21:4".

Besought him with tears, so earnest were they, as in the following verse. {see Acts 21:13}

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.
What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? a strange strife, who should overcome by loving most, as in that betwixt David and Jonathan, 1 Samuel 20:41,42. This undaunted champion, who did not seem to feel any of his own afflictions and miseries, yet grieves for the grief and sympathy of others, and bears a double weight in his burdens; one directly and immediately from them, as lying upon himself; the other mediately, as recoiling from others (who suffered with him) unto him again.

But also to die; as Christ’s love for us was stronger than death, Song of Solomon 8:6, so must our love be to him again, or it is not of the same nature with his, nor begotten by it.

For the name of the Lord Jesus; his truth, and glory.

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
We ceased; as having done their utmost, and what became them.

Saying, The will of the Lord be done; they commit the event unto God: thus we pray daily, that God’s will may be done, Matthew 6:10 Luke 11:2; and thus our Saviour, not only by his precept, but by his example, hath taught us, Matthew 26:42 Luke 22:42; and when God’s will is done, our will is done also, if the mind and spirit be in us that was in Christ, Philippians 2:5, and otherwise we are none of his, Revelation 8:9.

And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.
As they do pack up that are to remove to another house or place, not intending to come thither any more again; this also did show their readiness of mind to endure and suffer all things, as loss of relations and friends, and all accommodations, for Christ.

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.
Either this Mnason was in their company, or rather they were brought by the disciples of Caesarea to the house of this Mnason, who was one of them that was converted when Paul and Barnabas were at Cyprus, Acts 13:4; and lodgings being scarce at Jerusalem, (when all the males were to appear there in those three annual solemnities), it was no small kindness to be provided for by him.

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
It is thought, that by brethren in this place, and Acts 21:7, they are meant, who, being believers, were formed into a church with its several officers, and that they are called disciples only, Acts 21:4, who, living dispersed, and in smaller numbers, could not constitute such a church; but surely whatsoever there is of privilege and happiness in this spiritual fraternity, that truly catholic charity that was in the apostles and other holy men, would not so confine it, as to exelude any from enjoying of it, who did not exclude themselves by greater crimes than their paucity in number, or the consequences of that, could amount unto.

And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
James, one of the apostles, though some think that he was a kinsman of our Saviour’s, and at this time bishop of Jerusalem.

Elders; as in Acts 15:6,23, not so called for their age, but dignity or place in the church.

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
God had so done those marvellous works, that they ought to be had in remembrance; and this was said by the apostle, that God might not lose the glory, nor the church the benefit, of any of those great things which God had wrought: otherwise, St. Paul acknowledges that he was the least of the apostles, and not meet to be called an apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:9; and all his power was ministerial, he was only an instrument in God’s hand, to be acted by him, as Acts 20:24.

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:
Glorified the Lord; acknowledging all in that great work of the conversion of the Gentiles to have been from God; and that Paul that had planted, and Apollos that had watered, were nothing, 1 Corinthians 3:6,7.

Thousands of Jews; tens of thousands, as the word does usually signify; a definite for an indefinite number, signifying very many: and considering out of what small beginnings, and by what despicable means, and all within the space of about five and twenty years, this grain of mustard seed had spread itself; and add to this, that they were Jews, that obstinate and prejudiced generation, who are here spoken of, and they were then so many, so wonderfully many, who believed.

All zealous of the law, of ceremonies, and concerning forbidden meats, &c. For the decree of the apostles, Acts 15:29, concerning these things, did only respect such as were converted from paganism to the faith of Christ; and the Jews that were converted before the dispersion by Adrian, the Roman emperor, many years after this time, did not thoroughly understand their freedom from that law, but were under the burden of it, as appears by several ecclesiastical writers.

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.
Informed of thee; instructed or catechised concerning thee; the zealots had made it their business to instil such aspersions and odious reflections against Paul, as if their accusations had been the fundamental truths of their religion.

Moses; the ceremonial law, given by his ministry.

To walk, to live, to act in their course of life,

after the customs of their fathers, or the rituals of Moses.

What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
What is it therefore? It cannot be otherwise; or, what else remains to be done?

The multitude must needs come together; all the faithful must meet; for the magistrates then being pagan, and enemies both to the church and the gospel; in matters of great moment, especially when there was any fear of a schism, the whole multitude of believers were gathered together to consult about it.

Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
Vows were either, first, such as men did make in gratitude for any deliverance they had received, as from sickness, storms, or any imminent dangers: or, secondly, to enable them the better to serve God on any occasion; and then they were bound to keep themselves from all those things which were forbidden to the Nazarite, as wine and strong drink, and to nourish their hair, as the Nazarites were bound to do. This vow they made for a certain time, and not perpetual: the law concerning it you may see, in Numbers 6:2-5.

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.
Purify thyself; they advise Paul to perform all those rites required of a Nazarite, the observation of which did legally purify him.

Be at charges with them; these charges were about the threefold sacrifice which were to be offered, two turtles or young pigeons, a lamb, unleavened bread, and cakes of fine flour, as Numbers 6:10-12,15: and the other four, spoken of Acts 21:23, being poor, they require Paul here to bear their charges also, that so he might appear to be the chief amongst them, and the more zealous in their law, to take away the scandal that was taken up by the Jews against him; these ceremonies being as yet not deadly, or evil, though they were dead and indifferent.

Shave their heads; which was done at the end of their separation, and was the accomplishment of all; and they burned the hair which they shaved off under their sacrifices, to show, that all their legal performances were only acceptable unto God through Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed for us, 1 Corinthians 5:7 Hebrews 10:12.

Walkest orderly, and keepest the law; livest according to the law of Moses, contrary unto what they reported of thee.

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.
These ceremonies (after their accomplishment in Christ) not being at all necessary, they were not imposed upon any that received the faith of Christ from amongst the Gentiles, or other nations; only suffered for a while unto the Jews that turned to Christ, for the hardness of their hearts, and inveterate zeal for them.

Things offered to idols, &c.: of these things, See Poole on "Matthew 15:29".

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.
Paul agrees to their advice, and follows it; and having set such a time for his vow as might end with the other four men’s, he, with the four mentioned, signify to the priest (who was concerned to know it, because of the sacrifices that were to be offered for them), that the time of their separation was fulfilled, which is here called

the days of purification, for the reason intimated, in Acts 21:24.

Until that an offering should be offered for every one of them: intending to abide in the temple until all those rites were performed which were required of them.

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,
The seven days; either,

1. After his coming to Jerusalem; or rather,

2. Of his vow; for it is thought that his vow of separation was but for seven days; or:

3. The seven days of that feast of Pentecost which he came unto.

The Jews which were of Asia; who were implacably set against him wheresoever he went, as Acts 14:19 17:5. These Jews dwelt at Ephesus and elsewhere, but were come to observe the feast at Jerusalem.

Laid hands on him; by violence, and against law.

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.
Men of Israel; minding them by this compellation, of their being a peculiar people unto God, and that none might be admitted with them in his worship. A charge is laid against St. Paul consisting of divers articles, but all false; for he was a most zealous lover of that people, and taught them nothing but the true use and meaning of the law: but thus they had done to our Saviour, Matthew 26:61, and to St. Stephen, Acts 6:13.

Into the temple; that is, into the court of the Jews, which is so far unlawful, that they might have killed a Roman if he had come in there; and everyone was warned by an inscription upon the pillars, Mh dein allofulon entov tou agiou parienai, That no stranger or foreigner might come into that holy place.

(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
For they had seen; the Jews of Asia, who could not but know Trophimus; and he following of Paul in this journey, either ignorantly or maliciously they accuse the apostle for taking him into the temple with him; which was only their surmise, and the issue of their enraged jealousy.

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.
And all the city was moved; there was a general concourse from all parts.

Tantum religio poterat, no such heats as such are which are moved about religion; whilst the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, Jam 3:17.

Drew him out of the temple; lest by their uproar they should occasion any of the Gentiles to come in there to quell them; or, intending to kill Paul, they drew him thence, that he might not pollute that holy place with his blood: thus they strain at a gnat, being unwilling to pollute the temple; but they would swallow a camel, not sticking to shed the blood of the innocent.

The doors were shut; either by the keeper of the doors, or by the soldiers of 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.
The chief captain; the commander-in-chief over all the soldiers there; or one that had the command over a thousand. At the three great feasts there was usually a considerable number of soldiers at Jerusalem; the confluence from all parts being then so great, and the Jews so impatient of any yoke or government, the Romans durst not trust such multitudes without some check upon them. Thus at the passover, when they took and crucified our Saviour, these soldiers were made use of, John 18:12.

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.
A wonderful providence of God for Paul’s preservation, that the chief captain should be so near, as to be able to hinder the massacring of Paul; and especially that he should be defended and preserved by one that was a stranger to him, and an enemy to his religion!

They left beating of Paul, lest they should have been set upon by the soldiers, for breaking the peace, &c. The fear of man caused them to forbear what the fear of God could not.

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.
Bound with two chains; whether as Peter was, See Poole on "Acts 12:6", or that he was bound with one upon his feet, and with the other upon his hands, it was exactly fulfilled what Agabus had prophesied concerning him, Acts 21:11. So does God provide, that not one word of his servants, which they speak from him, shall fail; and that St. Paul should be heard before he was condemned.

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.
Some cried one thing, some another; as is usual in popular commotions, they agreed in doing mischief, but not in the reason of it.

Into the castle called Antonia, because it was built in honour of Mark Antony, on the north side of the temple.

And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.
When he came upon the stairs, in the ascent to the castle,

he was borne of the soldiers; either because the press was so great, he being in the midst of them; or being taken up by them, to secure him from the fury of the enraged multitude.

For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
That is, Kill him; for that was indeed to take him out of their way. The same speech they used against our Saviour, Luke 23:18 John 19:15, when they desired his death.

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?
May I speak unto thee? A common expression in that language, whereby he craves leave, and bespeaks attention.

Canst thou speak Greek? After the Grecian empire, their language became and continued to be very common in Asia and Egypt, and very well known amongst all the Romans of any education or quality.

Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
That Egyptian; a famous ringleader of a rebellious crew, as some think, in the reign of Tiberius; but as others, in the thirteenth year of the emperor Claudius, and continued till under Nero’s reign, and came, from these four thousand mentioned here at his first setting up, to have thirty thousand followers; pretending himself to be a prophet; of whom Josephus, Antiq. lib. 20. cap. 11.

Murderers, or assassins, that did wear daggers or stilettos.

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.
No mean city; it being the metropolis, or chief city, in Cilicia, built by Perseus, as some think; howsoever, having the privilege of the Roman freedom; as Acts 22:28.

I beseech thee: St. Paul begs leave to speak unto the people, that he might not seem to affect popularity, or to be guilty of any insurrection or tumult. Thus he had leave also of Agrippa, before that he made that famous apology, Acts 26:1.

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,
Paul stood on the stairs; as he was now about to be carried into the castle Antonia, before mentioned.

And beckoned with the hand; signifying that he craved their audience; as Acts 12:17 13:16.

He spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue; the Hebrew tongue being understood by all of them, and most grateful unto them. Yet this was not the pure and ancient Hebrew, which had been corrupted ever since their captivity; but the Syriac tongue, which they there learned, was called Hebrew, it having at first been derived from the Hebrew, and being then in use by those who were, Hebrews.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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