Acts 21
Vincent's Word Studies
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:
Gotten from (ἀποσπασθέντας)

Withdrawn. Some see in the word an expression of the grief and reluctance with which they parted, and render having torn ourselves away. See on Luke 22:41.

With a straight course

See on Luke 16:11.

And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.
Set forth (ἀνήχθημεν)

Or set sail. See on Luke 8:22; and Luke 5:3.

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.
Discovered (ἀναφάναντες)

Better, sighted. A nautical phrase. The verb literally means to bring to light: and its use here is analogous to the English marine phrase, to raise the land.

And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
Finding disciples (ἀνευρόντες τοὺς μαθητὰς)

The verb means to discover after search; and the article, the disciples, refers to the disciples who lived and were recognized members of the church there. The A. V. overlooks both the preposition and the article. The verb might be rendered strictly by our common phrase, "having looked up the disciples." See on Luke 2:16. A small number of disciples is implied in Acts 21:5.

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.
Accomplished (ἐξαρτίσαι)

Only here and 2 Timothy 3:17, where it is used in the sense of equip or furnish.


The first time that children are mentioned in the notice of a Christian church.

Shore (αἰγιαλὸν)

Rev., beach. See on Matthew 13:2.

And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.
Taken leave

See on Acts 20:1.

And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
Finished (διανύσαντες)

Only here in New Testament.


The word rendered take leave in Acts 21:6. See on Acts 20:1.

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.
We that were of Paul's company

The best texts omit.


See ch. 8.

The seven

The first deacons. See Acts 6:5.

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
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.
Bound his own feet and hands

Imitating the symbolical acts of the Old Testament prophets. See 1 Kings 22:11; Isaiah 20:1-3; Jeremiah 13:1-7; Ezekiel 4:1-6. Compare John 21:18.

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Besought him not to go up

This suggests the case of Luther when on his journey to the Diet of Worms, and the story of Regulus the Roman, who, being permitted to return to Rome with an embassy from the Carthaginians, urged his countrymen to reject the terms of peace, and to continue the war, and then, against the remonstrances of his friends, insisted on fulfilling his promise to the Carthaginians to return in the event of the failure of negotiations, and went back to certain torture and death.

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.
l am ready (ἑτοίμως ἔχω)

Lit., I hold myself in readiness.

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.
Took up our carriages (ἀποσκευασάμενοι)

The verb means to pack up and carry off, or simply to pack or store away. Hence, some explain that Paul packed and stored the greater part of his luggage in Caesarea. The best texts, however, read ἐπισκευασάμενοι, having equipped ourselves. Carriages is used in the old English sense, now obsolete, of that which is carried, baggage. See 1 Samuel 17:22, A. V.

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.
Bringing with them, etc

This would imply that Mnason was at Caesarea, and accompanied Paul and his companions to Jerusalem. It seems better to suppose that the disciples accompanied the apostle in order to introduce him to Mnason, whom they knew. Render, conducting us to Mnason, with whom we should lodge.

Old (ἀρχαίῳ)

Better, as Rev., early. The rendering old might be taken to mean aged; whereas the word means of long standing.

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders 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:
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.
They are informed (κατηχήθησαν)

More than informed. They had been carefully instructed, probably by the Judaizing teachers. See on instructed, Luke 1:4.

To forsake Moses (ἀποστασίαν ἀπὸ Μωσέως)

Lit., apostasy from Moses. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
What is it therefore?

How does the matter lie? What is to be done?

The multitude must needs come together

Some texts omit. So Rev. If retained, we should read a multitude.

Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
A vow

The Nazarite vow. See Numbers 6:1-21.

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.
Be at charges with them (δαπάνησον ἐπ' αὐτοῖς)

Lit., spend upon them. Pay the necessary charges on their account. Hence Rev., rightly, "for them." The person who thus paid the expenses of poor devotees who could not afford the necessary charges shared the vow so far that he was required to stay with the Nazarites until the time of the vow had expired. "For a week, then, St. Paul, if he accepted the advice of James and the presbyters, would have to live with four paupers in the chamber of the temple which was set apart for this purpose; and then to pay for sixteen sacrificial animals and the accompanying meat-offerings" (Farrar, "Life and Work of Paul"). He must also stand among the Nazarites during the offering of the sacrifices, and look on while their heads were shaved, and while they took their hair to burn it under the caldron of the peace-offerings, "and while the priest took four sodden shoulders of rams, and four unleavened cakes out of the four baskets, and four unleavened wafers anointed with oils and put them on the hands of the Nazarites, and waved them for a wave-offering before the Lord" (Farrar).

Walkest orderly (στοιχεῖς)

See on elements, 2 Peter 3:10.

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.

See on Acts 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.
Purifying himself (ἁγνισθεὶς).

See on 1 Peter 1:22; and James 4:8.

Declaring (διαγγέλλων)

To the priests who directed the sacrifices and pronounced release from the vow.

Fulfilment - until, etc

There is some dispute and confusion here as to the precise meaning. The general sense is that, having entered the temple toward the close of the period required for the fulfilment of these men's vow, he gave notice that the vowed number of Nazarite days had expired, after which only the concluding offering was required

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,

See on Acts 2:9.

Stirred up (συνέχεον)

Only here in New Testament. Lit., poured together, threw into confusion. See on confounded, Acts 2:6; and confusion, Acts 19:40.

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.
This place

The temple. Compare the charge against Stephen, Acts 6:13.


See on Acts 6:1.

Temple (ἱερὸν)

See on Matthew 4:5. The Jews evidently meant to create the impression that Paul had introduced Gentiles into the inner court, which was restricted to the Jews. The temple proper was on the highest of a series of terraces which rose from the outer court, or Court of the Gentiles. In this outer court any stranger might worship. Between this and the terraces was a balustrade of stone, with columns at intervals, on which Greek and Latin inscriptions warned all Gentiles against advancing farther on pain of death. Beyond this balustrade rose a flight of fourteen steps to the first platform, on which was the Court of the Women, surrounded by a wall. In this court were the treasury, and various chambers, in one of which the Nazarites performed their vows. It was here that the Asiatic Jews discovered Paul.

(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

See on Acts 20:4. As an Ephesian he would be known to the Asiatic Jews.

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.
Drew him out of the temple

Better, as Rev., dragged (εἷλκον). Out of the sacred enclosure and down the steps to the outer court, as they would not defile the temple proper with blood.

The doors were shut

Between the inner and outer courts.

And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
Chief captain (χιλιάρχῳ)

A commander of a thousand men. See on Mark 6:21; and on centurion, Luke 7:2.

Band (σπείρης)

Or cohort. See on Mark 15:16. These troops were quartered in the tower of Antonia, which was at the northwestern corner of the temple-area, and communicated with the temple-cloisters by staircases.

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.

See on Luke 7:2.

Unto them ( ἐπ' αὐτούς)

Better, upon them.

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.
Chains (ἁλύσεσι)

See on Mark 5:4.

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.
Castle (παρευβολήν)

Better, barracks. The main tower had a smaller tower at each corner, the one at the southeastern corner being the largest and overlooking the temple. In this tower were the quarters of the soldiers. The word is derived from the verb παρεμβάλλω, to put in beside, used in military language of distributing auxiliaries among regular troops and, generally, of drawing up in battle-order. Hence the noun means, a body drawn up in battle-array, and passes thence into the meaning of an encampment, soldiers' quarters, barracks. In Hebrews 11:34, it occurs in the earlier sense of an army; and in Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:13; Revelation 20:9, in the sense of an encampment. In grammatical phraseology it signifies a parenthesis, according to its original sense of insertion or interpolation.

And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

Leading from the temple-court to the tower. There were two flights, one to the northern and the other to the western cloister, so that the guard could go different ways among the cloisters in order to watch the people at the Jewish festivals.

So it was (συνέβη)

Lit., it happened. The verb means, literally, to come together; hence, of a coincidence of events. It is designedly introduced here to express more vividly the fact of the peculiar emergency and the peril of Paul's situation. Things came to such a pass that he had to be carried up the stairs.

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?
Canst thou speak (γινώσκεις)

Lit., dost thou know? So Rev.

Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
Art thou not (οὐκ ἄρα οὺ εἶ)

Indicating the officer's surprised recognition of his own mistake. "Thou art not, then, as I supposed." Rev. properly adds then (ἄρα).

The Egyptian

A false prophet, who, in the reign of Nero, when Felix was governor of Judaea, collected a multitude of thirty thousand, whom he led from the wilderness to the Mount of Olives, saying that the walls of Jerusalem would fall down at his command and give them free entrance to the city. Felix with an army dispersed the multitude, and the Egyptian himself escaped. There is a discrepancy in the number of followers as stated by Josephus (80,000) and as stated by the commandant here (4,000). It is quite possible, however, that Josephus alludes to the whole rabble, while Lysias is referring only to the armed followers.

Madest an uproar

Better, as Rev., stirred up to sedition. The rendering of the A. V. is too vague. The verb means to unsettle or upset, and the true idea is given in the A. V. of Acts 17:6, have turned the world upside down. Compare Galatians 5:12, and kindred words in Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19.

That were murderers (τῶν σικαρίων)

The A. V. is too general, and overlooks the force of the article, which shows that the word refers to a class. Rev., rightly, the assassins. The word, which occurs only here, and notably on the lips of a Roman officer, is one of those Latin words which "followed the Roman domination even into those Eastern provinces of the empire which, unlike those of the West, had refused to be Latinized, but still retained their own language" (Trench, "Synonyms"). The Sicarii were so called from the weapon which they used - the sica, or short, curved dagger. Josephus says: "There sprang up in Jerusalem another description of robbers called Sikars, who, under the broad light of day, and in the very heart of the city, assassinated men; chiefly at the festivals, however, when, mixing among the crowd, with daggers concealed under their cloaks, they stabbed those with whom they were at variance. When they fell, the murderers joined in the general expressions of indignation, and by this plausible proceeding remained undetected" ("Jewish War," c. xiii.). The general New Testament term for murderer is φονεύς (see Matthew 22:7; Acts 3:14; Acts 28:4, etc.).

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.
Mean (ἀσήμου)

Lit., without a mark or token (σῆμα). Hence used of uncoined gold or silver: of oracles which give no intelligible response: of inarticulate voices: of disease without distinctive symptoms. Generally, as here, undistinguished, mean. There is a conscious feeling of patriotism in Paul's expression.

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,
Beckoned with the hand

Compare Acts 26:1.

Tongue (διαλέκτῳ)

Lit., dialect: the language spoken by the Palestinian Jews - a mixture of Syriac and Chaldaic.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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