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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 16

 

 

Verses 1-40


St. Paul in Europe

1. Timotheus] was probably of Lystra, not Derbe. His mother Eunice was perhaps a widow, and she, together with his grandmother Lois, educated the lad in the religion of Israel, though he was not circumcised (see 2 Timothy 1:6). The whole family had been converted at St. Paul's first visit.

3. See Preface to Acts 15.

4, 5. Here we have evidence that the decrees of the Council were actually promulgated in the Galatian Churches, and that they were well received.

6-40. Journey into Europe, Philippi.

6. RV 'And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia.' At Lystra (Acts 16:6) they received a divine intimation that they were not to carry out their purpose (probably their main purpose in this journey) of preaching in the Roman province of Asia. Accordingly they passed through that part of the ancient Phrygia which belonged to the Roman province of Galatia, and in which were situated Iconium and Antioch, which they doubtless revisited.

Those who, like Lightfoot, hold that the churches to which the Epistle to the Galatians is addressed, were situated in North Galatia, understand 'the region of Phrygia and Galatia' here to mean the district in N. Galatia once inhabited by Phrygians, but at this time by Gauls. Here they suppose that St. Paul was delayed by illness (Galatians 4:13), and seized the opportunity of preaching and founding numerous Celtic or Gallic churches which are nowhere mentioned in Acts.

7. RV 'And when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.' Leaving Antioch, St. Paul journeyed northward through the province of Asia till he came to the borders of Mysia (the northwestern part of the province). He then attempted to strike westward into Bithynia, but was forbidden by 'the Spirit of Jesus.' This remarkable expression, which makes the Holy Spirit the Spirit not only of the Father, but also of the Son, is an evidence that the true divinity of Jesus was firmly held when St. Luke wrote.

8. And they passing by Mysia (i.e. passing through it without preaching) came down to Troas] Troas, the chief port of Mysia, was made a Roman colony by Augustus, and received many privileges, because of the supposed Trojan origin of the Roman people. Similar privileges were given to the neighbouring city of Ilion.

9. The man of Macedonia has sometimes been supposed to be St. Luke, or even the guardian angel of Macedonia (Daniel 10:12). The man was recognised as Macedonian by his speech, or by his dress. The introduction of Christianity into that continent, where it was destined to win its chief triumphs, is fitly prepared for by a special revelation.

10. The we indicates that St. Luke was now a member of the party. Whether he joined it at Troas, or had accompanied it all along is not clear.

11. Samothracia] an island half-way between Troas and Neapolis. Neapolis] the port of Philippi.

12. Philippi] RY 'Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a Roman colony.' At Philippi, founded by Philip, father of Alexander the Great, Octavius and Antony had defeated the republican leaders, Brutus and Cassius, and the city, in honour of the victory, had been made a Roman colony with Latin rights. It lay on the great Egnatian way which united Italy and Asia, and was of great commercial importance. The chief city] lit. 'the first.' Some think that the meaning is that this was the first city reached by the Apostle in Macedonia, or in Europe.

13. Where prayer was wont to be made] RV 'where we supposed there was a place of prayer' (Gk. proseuche). Where the Jews were too few to build a synagogue, they were wont to assemble in open-air plages of prayer (proseuchæ), by the seaside, or on a river's bank, for convenience of purification.

14. Lydia] She came from Thyatira in Lydia, a district where there were many dyers. She was a proselyte to Judaism, and a woman of some wealth and position. As she is not mentioned in the Epistle to the Philippians, she was probably then dead, or had left the city. Renan has the strange fancy that she was St. Paul's wife.

15. Her household] the expression includes servants and slaves as well as children. Other examples of the baptism of households are Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16 : see on Matthew 19:13-15.

6. To prayer] rather, 'to the place of prayer.'

A spirit of divination] The girl belonged to the class of 'clairvoyants' or 'mediums,' and really believed herself to be possessed by a spirit. Her recognition of the divine mission of St. Paul indicates a considerable degree of spiritual discernment. The expulsion of the 'spirit' need not have been a miracle. The girl recognised in St. Paul a minister of 'the supreme God,' supreme, therefore, over the spirit which possessed her. Hence the command to the spirit to come forth was (in her belief) authoritative, and consequently effectual.

18. Being grieved] Although the testimony of the girl was true, St. Paul would not receive it, because it emanated, as he supposed, from an evil spirit. Similarly Jesus would not receive the testimony of demons to His Divine Sonship and Messiahship (Mark 1:26, etc.).

20. Magistrates] At Philippi there were two magistrates (duumvirs) corresponding to the consuls at Rome. Provincial duumvirs often claimed and received the courtesy title of prætors, which is the title by which St. Luke calls them here. Jews] Christianity was not yet clearly distinguished from Judaism. Judaism was a lawful religion for Jews, but not for Roman citizens.

22. Paul and Silas probably protested that they were Romans, but in the tumult their protest passed unheeded.

27. By Roman custom a gaoler who allowed a prisoner to escape suffered the same penalty as the prisoner. If the charge was a capital one he suffered death. The non-escape of the prisoners was due to terror and amazement.

30. What must I do to be saved?] The gaoler, to have asked such a question, must have been a hearer of Paul and Barnabas, and have been impressed by their teaching. The strange events of the night and the kindness shown him by Paul now bring matters to a crisis.

35. According to D, the motive of St. Paul's release was alarm at the earthquake. The Serjeants] Gk. 'the lictors,' officers who attended the magistrates, carrying axes and rods, symbols of the power to punish.

37. Being Romans] i.e. Roman citizens. In his speech against Verres Cicero says: 'to fetter a Roman citizen is a crime, to scourge him a scandal, to slay him parricide.' Roman citizenship could be acquired (1) by birth, if both parents were Romans; (2) by grant to certain cities or districts; (3) by grant to individuals for political or military services, e.g. long service in the army; (4) by purchase (Acts 22:28). As Tarsus did not come under (2), and Paul was born free, his father and mother must have been Roman citizens. The chief privileges of citizenship at this time were, (1) the right to appeal to the Emperor, (2) freedom from degrading punishments, such as bonds, scourging, and crucifixion.

39. Desired them to depart] representing that in the excited state of the city it was impossible to protect them.

40. Comforted] exhorted. And departed] Silas and Timothy accompanied St. Paul, but (since the 'we' is now dropped) St. Luke was probably left behind to take charge of the Philippian Church (see Acts 17:1). He seems to have made Philippi his headquarters for several years, rejoining St. Paul at Troas during the Third Missionary Journey (Acts 20:5).

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Acts 16:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/acts-16.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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