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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Acts 9

Verse 1

1 .] The narrative is taken up from ch. Acts 8:3 , but probably with some interval, sufficient perhaps to cover the events of ch. 8.

ἐμπνέων ] Meyer charges the ordinary interpretation, ‘ breathing ,’ i.e. as in E. V., ‘ breathing out ,’ with an arbitrary neglect of the composition of the word. He would render it ‘ in haling,’ with the partitive genitives signifying the element. But the sense would thus be flat; and there seems to be no need for pressing the sense of the compound verb. We should perhaps hardly render it breathing out , but breathing ; his ‘spiritus,’ inhaled or exhaled, being ἀπειλὴ κ . φόνος . So ἔθ ʼ αἱματόεντος ἀναπνείων ὀρυμαγδοῦ , Q. Calaber, xiv. 72, and πνέων θυμοῦ , Aristæn. I. Ephesians 5 (Kuin.).

ἐμπνέων, προσελθών ] As σοὶ πιστεύσας , μεταναστάς , Œd. Col. 172, where Hermann remarks, ‘Si recte observavi, ea est hujus constructionis ratio, ut præcedat illud participium, quod, separatim enunciata sententia, indicativus esse verbi debet: ut hoc loco sensus sit, ὅτι σοὶ ἐπίστευσα , μεταναστάς .’

τῷ ἀρχιερεῖ ] See table in Prolegg, to Acts; it would be Theophilus, brother and successor to Jonathan, who succeeded Caiaphas, Jos. Antt. xviii. 5. 3.

Verses 1-30


Verse 2

2. ἐπιστολάς ] of authorization; written by the high priest (in this case, but not always, president of the Sanhedrim) in the name of πᾶν τὸ πρεσβυτέριον , ch. Acts 22:5 .

εἰς Δαμασκόν ] DAMASCUS is probably the oldest existing city in the world. We read of it in Abraham’s time (Genesis 14:15 ; Gen 15:2 ): then no more till David subdued it ( 2Sa 8:6 ): it became independent again under Solomon (1 Kings 11:24 ff.), and from that time was the residence of the kings of Syria (1 Kings 15:18 ; 1 Kings 20:1 ff.), who were long at war with Israel and Judah, and at last were permitted to prevail considerably over Israel (2 Kings 10:32 ; Amo 1:3-4 ) and to exact tribute from Judah (2 Kings 12:17-18 , see also 2 Kings 13:3 ; 2Ki 13:22 ; 2Ki 13:25 ). Damascus was recovered to Israel by Jeroboam II. (cir. 825 A.C. 2Ki 14:28 ). Not long after we find Rezin, king of Syria, in league with Pekah, king of Israel, against Ahaz ( 2Ki 15:37 ). Ahaz invited to his assistance Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, who took Damascus and slew Rezin, and led the people captive (2 Kings 16:5-9 ; Isa 8:4 ). From this time we find it subject to Assyria (Isaiah 9:11 ; Isaiah 10:9 ; Isa 17:1 ), then to Babylon (2 Kings 24:2 ; Jer 35:11 ), Persia (Arrian. Alex. ii. 11, Δαρεῖος τῶν χρημ . τὰ πολλὰπεπόμφει εἰς Δαμασκόν , Strabo, xvi. 756; Q. Curt. iii. 12. 27), the Syrian Seleucidæ ( 1Ma 11:62 ; 1Ma 12:32 ), and from the time of Pompey (64 A.C.), to the Romans, and attached to the province of Syria (Jos. Antt. xiv. 4. 5; 9. 5). Many Jews were settled there, and the majority of the wives of the citizens were proselytes, Jos. B. J. ii. 20. 2.

On its subjection to Aretas, see below, Acts 9:24 , note. It was later the residence of the Ommiad Caliphs, and the metropolis of the Mahommedan world. (Conybeare and Howson, edn. 2, vol. i. p. 106.)

At present it is a large city, with (Burckhardt) 250,000 inhabitants, nearly 70,000 of whom are Christians.

It is situated most beautifully, in a large and well-watered plain, on the river Chrysorrhoas (Barrada), which divides into many streams (see 2Ki 5:12 ), and fertilizes the plain (Strabo, xvi. 756, ἡ Δαμασκηνὴ χώρα διαφερόντως ἐπαινουμένη ), bounded on all sides by the desert. See Winer, Realw., from which the above is mainly taken: Vitringa in Jesaiam, p. 650 ff. (Notitia Damasci et Regni Damasceni), and a vivid description in C. and H., pp. 104 108.

πρὸς τ . συν . ] i.e. to the presidents of the synagogues, who would acknowledge the orders of the Sanhedrim, and could, under the authority of the Ethnarch, carry them out.

τῆς ὁδοῦ ] Not ‘ this way ,’ E. V., which rendering should be kept for the places where the pronoun is expressed , as ch. Acts 22:4 , but the way , viz. of ‘salvation,’ ch. Acts 16:17 , or ‘of the Lord,’ ch. Acts 18:25 . (The genitive, as τῆς γνώμης εἶναι , see 1 Corinthians 1:12 .) The expression ‘THE WAY’ had evidently become a well-known one among Christians (see reff.); and it only was necessary to prefix the pronoun when strangers were addressed.

The special journey to Damascus presupposes the existence of Christians there, and in some numbers. This would be accounted for by the return of many who may have been converted at the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, and perhaps also by some of the fugitives from the persecution having settled there. This latter is rendered probable by Ananias’s ἤκουσα ἀπὸ πολλῶν περὶ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς τούτου , Acts 9:13 .

Verse 3

3 .] The journey from Jerusalem was probably made on the Roman road, i.e. that of the Itineraries, by Neapolis (Sichem) and Scythopolis, crossing the Jordan S. of the lake Tiberias, Gadara, and so to Damascus. Or he might have joined, either the Petra road, by Jericho and Heshbon, and so by Botsrah to D., or the Egyptian caravan-track, which passes to the north of the lake of Tiberias, and near Cæsarea Philippi. In either case the journey would occupy from five to six days, the distance being 130 to 150 miles.

περιήστρ . κ . τ . λ . ] It was (ch. Act 22:6 ) περὶ μεσημβρίαν , and from ch. Acts 26:13 , the light was ὑπὲρ τὴν λαμπρότητα τοῦ ἡλίου . These details at once cut away all ground from the absurd rationalistic attempt to explain away the appearance as having been lightning . Unquestionably, the inference is, that it was a bright noon, and the full splendour of the oriental sun was shining.

His companions saw the light, and were also cast to the ground, ch. Acts 26:13-14 ; Acts 22:9 , see below on Acts 9:7 .

Verse 4

4. λεγουσαν αὐτ . ] τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ , ch. Acts 26:14 . And it is a remarkable undesigned coincidence, that the form Σαούλ should have been preserved in this account, and rendered in Greek in the translation of Paul’s speech in ch. 22. In ch. 26, where he was speaking in Griek before Festus, he inserts the words τῇ Ἑβρ . διαλ ., to account for the use of the form Σαούλ : or perhaps he spoke the solemn words, ineffaceable from his memory, as they were uttered, in Hebrew , for King Agrippa. (See note on Σαούλ , Acts 9:17 .)

τί με διώκεις ;] A remarkable illustration of Matthew 25:45 . The με is not emphatic (agst Wordsw.); but the very lack of emphasis, assuming the awful fact, gives more solemnity to the question.

Verse 5

5. δέ ] That Saul saw , as well as heard, Him who spoke with him, is certain from Ananias’s speech, Acts 9:17 , and ch. Acts 22:14 , that of Barnabas, Acts 9:27 , from ch. Acts 26:16 ( ὤφθην σοι ), and from the references by Paul himself to his having seen the Lord, 1Co 9:1 ; 1 Corinthians 15:8 . These last I unhesitatingly refer to this occasion, and not to any subsequent one, when he saw the Lord ἐν ἐκστάσει , ch. Acts 22:17 . Such appearances could hardly form the subject of autoptic testimony which should rank with that of the other apostles: this, on the contrary, was no ἔκστασις , but the real bodily appearance of the risen Jesus : so that it might be adduced as the ground of testimony to His Resurrection.

On the words excluded from our text, as having been interpolated from ch. Acts 26:14 , and Acts 22:10 , see note at Acts 26:14 . It is natural that the account of the historian should be less precise than that of the person concerned, relating his own history . In ch. Acts 26:15-18 , very much more is related to have been said by the Lord: but perhaps he there, as he omits the subsequent particulars, includes the revelations made to him during the three days, and in the message of Ananias.

Verse 7

7 .] In ch. Acts 22:9 , οἱ δὲ σὺν ἐμοὶ ὄντες τὸ μὲν φῶς ἐθεάσαντο [ κ . ἔμφοβοι ἐγένοντο ], τὴν δὲ φωνὴν οὐκ ἤκουσαν τοῦ λαλοῦντός μοι . Two accounts seemingly (and certainly, in the letter ) discrepant; but exceedingly instructive when their spirit is compared, the fact being this: that the companions of Saul saw and were struck to the ground by the light, but saw οὐδ ένα , no person : that they stood (or ‘were fixed:’ but I should acknowledge the discrepancy here, and recognize the more accurate detail of ch. Acts 26:14 , that they fell to the ground ) mute, hearing τῆς φωνῆς , the sound of the voice, but not τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ λαλοῦντός μοι , the words spoken and their meaning. Compare John 12:29 , note. (Only no stress must be laid on the difference between the gen. and acc. government of φωνή , nor indeed on the mere verbal difference of the two expressions; but their spirit considered, in the possible reference which they might have to one and the same fact.)

Two classes of readers only will stumble at this difference of the forms of narration; those who from enmity to the faith are striving to create or magnify discrepancies, and those who, by the suicidal theory of verbal inspiration, are effectually doing the work of the former. The devout and intelligent student of Scripture will see in such examples a convincing proof of the simple truth of the narrative, the absence of all endeavour to pare away apparent inconsistencies or revise them into conformity, the bonâ fide work of holy truthful men, bearing each his testimony to things seen and heard under the guidance, not of the spirit of bondage, but of that Spirit of whom it is said, οὗ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου , ἐλευθερία .

I should not too hastily determine that this account has not come from Saul himself , on account of the above differences: they are no more than might arise in narrations at different times by the same person.

εἱστήκεισαν ] It will be well to warn younger readers against an error often found in English Commentators (e.g. Dr. Burton here), that ἕστηκα is past , and εἱστήκειν pluperfect in signification, ἕστηκα , ‘I have been standing,’ and εἱστήκεισαν , ‘had been standing.’ This error arises from forgetting the peculiar character of the verb ἵστημι with regard to transitive and intransitive meanings. ἕστηκα is strictly present , εἱστήκειν imperfect : as much so as sto and stabam . See Matthiæ, § 206. And this accuracy is important here: they had not ‘been standing,’ but had fallen. See ch. Acts 26:14 , πάντων τε καταπεσόντων ἡμῶν εἰς τὴν γῆν . Wordsw.’s explanation, that εἱστήκεισαν refers to the standing still of the cavalcade, not to the standing of Saul’s companions, is untenable: for 1) the ἐνεοί , which qualifies the εἱστήκεισαν , forbids it: and 2) his justifying instances are all aorists, Luke 7:14 ; Luke 8:44 ; ch. Acts 8:38 , not perfect, which surely will not bear this sense of mere arrestation in a course.

Verse 8

8. ] On his eyes being opened (it would seem that he had closed them on the first disappearance of the vision), he saw no one . He explains it, ch. Acts 22:11 , ὡς δὲ οὐκ ἐνέβλεπον ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τοῦ φωτὸς ἐκείνου . He had seen, what those with him had not seen, the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus. See below on Acts 9:18 .

Verse 9

9 .] Obs. μὴ βλέπων , his personal subjective state: οὐκ ἔφ ., the historical fact.

οὐκ ἔφ . οὐδὲ ἔπ .] There is no occasion to soften these words: the effect produced on him by the οὐράνιος ὀπτασία (ch. Act 26:19 ), aided by his own deeply penitent and remorseful state of mind, rendered him indifferent to all sustenance whatever.

Verse 10

10 .] Paul adds, ch. Acts 22:12 , with particularity, as defending himself before the Jews , that Ananias was ἀνὴρ εὐλαβὴς κατὰ τὸν νόμον μαρτυρούμενος ὑπὸ πάντων τῶν κατοικούντων Ἰουδαίων : saying nothing of the command received by him, nor that he was a disciple . In ch. 26, speaking before the Roman governor, he does not mention him .

Mr. Howson (edn. 2, vol. i. p. 114) remarks on the close analogy between the divine procedure by visions here, and in ch. 10. Here, Ananias is prepared for his work, and Saul for the reception of him as a messenger, each by a vision: and similarly Peter and Cornelius in ch. 10. I may add, that in ch. 8, where the preparation of heart was already found in the eunuch, Philip only was supernaturally prepared for the interview.

Verse 11

11. ] “We are allowed to bear in mind that the thoroughfares of Eastern cities do not change, and to believe that the ‘straight street,’ which still extends through Damascus in long perspective from the eastern gate, is the street where Ananias spoke to Saul.” (C. and H., p. 115.)

οἰκίᾳ Ἰούδα ] The houses of Ananias and Judas are still shewn to travellers. Doubtless they (or at least the former) would long be remembered and pointed out by Christians; but, in the long degradation of Christianity in the East, most such identities must have been lost; and imposture is so easy, that it is hardly possible to cherish the thought that the spots now pointed out can be the true ones. And so of all cases, where we have not unalterable or unaltered data to go on. Still, true as this is, we have sometimes proofs and illustrations unexpectedly appearing, as research goes on, which identify as authentic, sites long pointed out by tradition. So that our way seems to be, to seek for all such elucidations, and meantime to suspend our judgment: but never to lose sight of, nor to treat contemptuously a priori, a local belief.

Ταρσέα ] The first place where he is so specified.

TARSUS was the capital of the province of Cilicia, a large and populous city ( τῆς Κιλ . πόλιν μεγάλην κ . εὐδαίμονα , Xen. Anab. i. 2. 23) in a fruitful plain on the river Cydnus, which flowed through the midst of it (‘Cydnos, Tarsum liberam urbem procul a mari secans.’ Plin. Acts 9:27 . Strabo, xiv. 673. Q. Curt. iii. 5. 1), with a swift stream of remarkably cold water. Strabo speaks most highly of its eminence in schools of philosophy: τοσαύτη τοῖς ἐνθάδε ἀνθρώποις σπουδὴ πρός τε φιλοσοφίαν καὶ τὴν ἄλλην ἐγκύκλιον ἅπασαν παιδείαν γέγονεν , ὥσθ ʼ ὑπερβέβληνται καὶ Ἀθήνας καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρειαν καὶ εἴ τινα ἄλλον τόπον δυνατὸν εἰπεῖν , ἐνσχολαὶ καὶ διατριβαὶ τῶν φιλοσόφων καὶ τῶν λόγων γεγόνασι . διαφέρει δὲ τοσοῦτον , ὅτι ἐνταῦθα μὲν οἱ φιλομαθοῦντες ἐπιχώριοι πάντες εἰσί , xiv. 674. He enumerates many learned men who had sprung from it. It was (see Plin. above) an “urbs libera,” i.e. one which, though under Rome, lived under its own laws and chose its own magistrates. This ‘libertas’ was granted to it by Antony (Appian. Civ. Act 9:7 ): and much later we find it a Roman colony . As a free city , it had neither the ‘jus coloniarum,’ nor the ‘jus civitatis:’ see ch. Acts 21:39 , also Acts 22:28 , and note. It is now a town with about 20,000 inhabitants, and is described as being a den of poverty, filth, and ruins. There are many remains of the old town (Winer, Realw.).

Verse 12

12. προσεύχεται ] This word would set before Ananias more powerfully than any other, the state of Saul.

ἄνδρα Ἀν . ὀν . ] A man, whose name in the same vision he knew to be Ananias. The sight of the man and the knowledge of his name were both granted him in his vision.

Verse 13

13. τοῖς ἁγίοις σου ] This is the first time that this afterwards well-known appellation occurs as applied to the believers in Christ.

Verse 14

14 .] It could hardly fail to have been notified to the Christians at Damascus by their brethren at Jerusalem, that Saul was on his way to persecute them.

Verse 15

15. σκ . ἐκλογῆς ] A genit. of quality: as we say, ‘the man of his choice.’ See Winer, edn. 6, § 34. 3, b.

Paul often uses this word σκεῦος in a similar meaning, see reff., especially Romans 9:0 , &c., where it is in illustrating God’s sovereign power in election.

βαστάσαι , perhaps in reference to the metaphor in σκεῦος .

ἐθνῶν ] This would hardly be understood at the time: it was afterwards on a remarkable occasion repeated to Paul by the Lord in a vision (see ch. Act 22:21 ), and was regarded by him as the specific command which gave the direction to his ministry, see Galatians 2:7-8 .

βασιλ .] Agrippa, and probably Nero.

Verse 16

16. ὑποδείξω ] The fulfilment of this is testified by Paul himself, ch. Acts 20:23 ; Acts 20:25 ; see also Acts 21:11 .

Verse 17

17. Σαούλ ] The Hebrew form of Saul’s name is only found here, and in the report of our Lord’s previous address to him.

κ . πλησθῇς πν . ἁγ . ] I can hardly think, with De W. and Meyer, that these words imply that the Lord had said to Ananias more than is above related: I would rather view them as a natural inference from what was said in Acts 9:15 .

In ch. Acts 22:14 , where the command to Ananias is omitted, his speech contains much of the reason given in the command here. It is remarkable again how Paul, speaking there to an infuriated Jewish mob, gives the words spoken just that form which would best gain him a favourable hearing with them e.g. ὁ θεὸς τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν , ἰδεῖν τὸν δίκαιον , πάντας ἀνθρώπους , avoiding as yet the hateful word ἔθνη . He there too gives ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου , ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ as part of the exhortation of Ananias.

Verse 18

18. ὡσεὶ λεπίδες ] The recovery of sight is plainly related as miraculous, the consequence of the divinely appointed laying on of the hands of Ananias. And this scaly substance which fell from his eyes was thrown off in the process of the instantaneous healing.

ἐβαπτίσθη ] It has been well remarked (Olsh.) that great honour was here placed upon the sacrament of baptism, inasmuch as not even Saul, who had seen the Lord in special revelation and was an elect vessel, was permitted to dispense with this, the Lord’s appointed way of admission into His Church.

Verse 19

19. ἐνίσχ .] intrans. see reff.

ἡμ . τινάς ] A few days; of quiet, and becoming acquainted with those as brethren, whom he came to persecute as infidels: but not to learn from them the gospel ( οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτό , οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην , Gal 1:12 ), nor was the time longer than to admit of εὐθέως being used, Acts 9:20 , and indeed the same εὐθέως of the whole space (including his preaching in our Act 9:20-21 ) preceding the journey to Arabia, in Galatians 1:16 .

Pearson places that journey before our ἐγένετο δέ , which however is manifestly against the sense of the text: Michaelis and Heinrichs, between Acts 9:19-20 , to which there is the same objection: Kuinoel and Olsh., after Acts 9:25 , which the εὐθέως of Gal 1:16 will not allow: Neander and Meyer, in the ἡμέραι ἱκαναί of Acts 9:23 , which time however in our text is certainly allotted to the progress of his preaching in Damascus, and the increase of the hostility of the Jews in consequence. See below.

Verse 20

20. Ἰησοῦν ] The alteration to χριστόν has probably, as Meyer suggests, been made from doctrinal considerations, to fix on ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ the theological sense, that Christ is the Son of God instead of that which it now bears, that Jesus is the Son of God , i.e. that Jesus of Nazareth as a matter of fact , is the Son of God, i.e. the Messiah expected under that appellation. Be this as it may, the following τὸ ὄνομα τοῦτο ( Act 9:21 ) is decisive for the reading Ἰησοῦν , and οὗτός ἐστινχριστός Act 9:22 still more so.

Verse 21

21. πορθήσας ] ‘Militari verbo usus est,’ Erasm. So Æsch. Choeph. 680, οΐ ʼ γώ , κατ ʼ ἄκρας ἐνθάδ ʼ ὡς πορθούμεθα . See also Sept. c. Theb. 176 (194 Dind.).

ἐληλύθει ] had come here, implying the abandonment of the purpose.

Verse 22

22 .] I regard the μᾶλλον ἐνεδυναμοῦτο , as the only words beneath which can lie concealed the journey to Arabia . Paul mentions this journey ( Gal 1:17 ) with no obscure hint that to it was to be assigned the reception by him, in full measure, of the Gospel which he preached. And such a reception would certainly give rise to the great accession of power here recorded. I am the more disposed to allot that journey this place, from the following considerations. The omission of any mention of it here can arise only from one of two causes: (1) whether Paul himself were the source of the narrative, or some other narrator, the intentional passing over of it, as belonging more to his personal history (which it was his express purpose to relate in Galatians 1:0 ) than to that of his ministry : (2) on the supposition of Paul not having been the source of the narrative, the narrator having not been aware of it . In either case, this expression seems to me one very likely to have been used: (1) if the omission was intentional , to record a remarkable accession of power to Saul’s ministry, without particularizing whence or how it came: (2) if it was unintentional , as a simple record of that which was observed in him, but of which the source was to the narrator unknown.

συνέχυννεν ] Chrysostom strikingly says, ἅτε νομομαθὴς ὢν ἐπεστόμιζεν αὐτοὺς καὶ οὐκ εἴα φθέγγεσθαι · ἐνόμισαν ἀπηλλάχθαι τῆς ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις διαλέξεως ἀπαλλαγέντες Στεφάνου , καὶ Στεφάνου σφοδρότερον εὗρον ἕτερον . (Cramer’s Catena.)

Verse 23

23. ἡμέραι ἱκαναί ] In Damascus, see above on Acts 9:19 . The whole time, from his conversion to his journey to Jerusalem, was three years, Galatians 1:18 .

ἀνελεῖν αὐτ . ] ἐπὶ τὸν ἰσχυρὸν συλλογισμὸν ἔρχονται πάλιν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι . ουκετι γὰρ συκοφάντας κ . κατηγόρους κ . ψευδομάρτυρας ἐπιζητοῦσιν , Chrys. Hom. xx.

Verse 24

24 .] In 2 Corinthians 11:32 , Paul writes, ἐν Δαμασκῷἐθνάρχης Ἀρέτα τοῦ βασιλέως ἐφρούρει τὴν πόλιν Δαμασκηνῶν , πιάσαι με [ θέλων ]. A somewhat difficult chronological question arises respecting the subordination of Damascus to this Aretas. The city, under Augustus and Tiberius, was attached to the province of Syria: and we have coins of Damascus of both these emperors, and again of Nero and his successors. But we have none of Caligula and Claudius; and the following circumstances seem to point to a change in the rulership of Damascus at the death of Tiberius. There had been for some time war between Aretas, king of Arabia Nabatæa (whose capital was Petra), and Herod Antipas, on account of the divorce by Herod of Aretas’ daughter at the instance of Herodias, and on account of some disputes about their frontiers. A battle was fought, and Herod’s army entirely destroyed (Jos. Antt. xviii. 5. 1). On this Antipas, who was a favourite with Tiberius, sent to Rome for help: and Vitellius, the governor of Syria, was commissioned to march against Aretas, and take him, dead or alive. While on his march, he heard at Jerusalem of the death of Tiberius (March 16, A.D. 37), and πόλεμον ἐκφέρειν οὐκέθ ʼ ὁμοίως δυνάμενος διὰ τὸ εἰς Γάϊον μεταπεπτωκέναι τὰ πράγματα (Antt. xviii. 5. 3), abandoned his march, and sent his army into their winter quarters, himself returning to Antioch: Antt. ibid. This μεταπεπτωκέναι τὰ πρ . brought about a great change in the situation of Antipas and his enemy. Antipas was soon (A.D. 39) banished to Lyons, and his kingdom given to Agrippa, his foe (Antt. xviii. 7. 2), who had been living in habits of intimacy with the new emperor (xviii. 6. 5). It would be natural that Aretas, who had been grossly injured by Antipas, should, by this change of affairs, be received into favour; and the more so, as there was an old grudge between Vitellius and Antipas, of which Jos. says (Antt. xviii. 4. 5), ἔκρυπτεν ὀργήν , μέχρι δὴ καὶ μετῆλθε , Γαΐου τὴν ἀρχὴν παρειληφότος .

Now in the year 38 Caligula made several changes in the East, granting Ituræa to Soæmus, Lesser Armenia and parts of Arabia to Cotys, the territory of Cotys to Rhæmetalces, and to Polemon, the son of Polemon, his father’s governments. These facts, coupled with that of no Damascene coins of Caligula and Claudius existing (which might be fortuitous, but acquires force when thus combined), make it probable that about this time Damascus, which belonged to the predecessors of Aretas (Jos. Antt. xiii. 5. 2), was granted to Aretas by Caligula. This would at once solve the difficulty. The other suppositions, that the Ethnarch (see on 2Co 11:32 ) was only visiting the city (as if he could then have guarded the city to prevent Paul’s escape), or that Aretas had seized Damascus on Vitellius giving up the expedition against him (as if a Roman governor or a province would, while waiting for orders from a new emperor, quietly allow one of its chief cities to taken from him), are in the highest degree improbable. The above is taken in substance from Wieseler, Chron. des Apost. Zeitalters, pp. 167 175. His argument from a coin βασιλέως Ἀρέτα φιλέλληνος does not seem conclusive, as it leaves the latter title altogether unaccounted for. It probably (C. and H. i. pp. 101 and 132) belongs to a former Aretas.

Verse 25

25 .] The reading in the text, λαβ . οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ , is ambiguous, Chrys. (see in var. readd.), al. take it as if Saul had disciples of his own who did this. The only escape from this inference is by supposing an unusual government of a gen. by λαβόντες , such as we sometimes find in Homer, e.g. ἀγκὰς λαβέτην ἀλλήλων , Il. ψ . 711; Ὀδυσῆος λάβε γούνων , Od. χ . 310: see also Il. γ . 369, θ . 371; Od. ε . 428, τ . 480. So we have κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς , Luke 8:54 . But whether this is justified in a case where the whole person is concerned, as here, may be a question. If it is, it must be because not the taking and bringing him to the spot, but the act of laying hold of him to put him into the basket, is intended.

διὰ τ . τείχους ] Further particularized by the addition of διὰ θυρίδος , 2 Corinthians 11:33 . Such windows in the walls of cities are common in the East: see Joshua 2:15 , 1 Samuel 19:12 ; and an engraving of part of the present wall of Damascus in C. and H. i. p. 124.

σπυρίδι ] σαργάνη , 2 Corinthians 11:33 . See note there, and on Matthew 15:37 .

Verse 26

26. παραγ . ] Immediately: the purpose of this journey was to become acquainted with Peter, Galatians 1:18 ; a resolution probably taken during the conspiracy of the Jews against him at Damascus, and in furtherance of his announced mission to the Gentiles: that, by conference with the Apostles, his sphere of work might be agreed on. And this purpose his escape enabled him to effect.

καί ] Not but : the δέ follows.

Verse 27

27 .] It is very probable that Barnabas and Saul may have been personally known to each other in youth. ‘Cyprus is only a few hours’ sail from Cilicia. The schools of Tarsus may naturally have attracted one who, though a Levite, was a Hellenist: and there the friendship may have begun, which lasted through many vicissitudes, till it was rudely interrupted in the dispute at Antioch (ch. Act 15:39 ).’ (C. and H., edn. 2, i. p. 127.)

τοὺς ἀποστ .] Only Peter, and James the Lord’s brother, Galatians 1:18-19 . Probably there were no other Apostles there at the time: if there were, it is hardly conceivable that Saul should not have seen them. On his second visit, he saw John also ( Gal 2:9 ). Perhaps he never saw in the flesh any other of the Apostles after his conversion.

διηγήσατο ] viz. Barnabas, not Saul.

Verse 29

29. Ἑλληνιστάς ] See ch. Act 6:1 and note. This he did, partly, we may infer, to avoid the extreme and violent opposition which he would immediately encounter from the Jews themselves, but partly also, it may well be believed, because he himself in the synagogues of the Hellenists had opposed Stephen formerly.

Verse 30

30. ἐπιγνόντες δὲ ] There was also another reason. He was praying in the temple, and saw the Lord in a vision, who commanded him to depart, for they would not receive his testimony: and sent him from thence to the Gentiles: see ch. Act 22:17-21 and notes. His stay in Jerusalem at this visit was fifteen days, Galatians 1:18 .

εἰς Καισάρειαν ] From the whole cast of the sentence, the κατήγαγον and ἐξαπέστειλαν , we should infer this to be Cæsarea Stratonis [see on ch. Act 10:1 ], even if this were not determined by the word Καισάρεια used absolutely, which always applies to this city, and not to Cæsarea Philippi (which De Dieu, Olsh., and others believe to be meant [see Mat 16:13 and note]). From Galatians 1:21 , it would appear that Saul about this time traversed Syria (on his way to Tarsus?). If so, he probably went by sea to Selencia, and thence to Antioch. The ἐξαπέστειλαν looks more like a ‘sending off’ by sea, than a mere ‘sending forward’ by land.

εἰς Ταρσόν ] towards , ‘for,’ Tarsus. He was not idle there, but certainly preached the Gospel, and in all probability was the founder of the churches alluded to ch. Acts 15:23 ; Acts 15:41 .

Verse 31

31 .] FLOURISHING STATE OF THE CHURCH IN PALESTINE AT THIS TIME. Commencement of new section: compare μὲν οὖν , and note, ch. Acts 11:19 . The reading ἐκκλησία can hardly (as Meyer) be an alteration to suit the idea of the unity of the church , as in that case we should have similar alterations in ch. Acts 15:41 ; Acts 16:5 , where no variations are found in the chief MSS. More probably, it has been altered here to conform it to those places. This description probably embraces most of the time since the conversion of Saul. De Wette observes, that the attention of the Jews was, during much of this time, distracted from the Christians, by the attempt of Caligula to set up his image in the temple at Jerusalem, Jos. Antt. xviii. 8. 2 9.

οἰκοδομουμένη ] See Matthew 16:18 . It probably refers to both external and internal strength and accession of grace. Paul commonly uses it of spiritual building up: see reff.

πορ . τῷ φόβ . ] walking in the fear : for construction see reff.: not ‘ following after the fear ’ (Winer, edn. 2, § 31. 1; not in edn. 6, see § 31. 9), nor ‘walking according to the fear’ as their rule (Meyer), nor ‘ advancing in the fear’ (Beza, Wolf).

κ. τ. παρακλ. τ. ἁγ. πν. ἐπληθ. ] And was multiplied (reff.) by the exhortation of (i.e. inspired by) the Holy Spirit . This is the only rendering which suits the usage of the words. Those of the Vulg. ‘consolatione replebantur,’ of Kuin., ‘adjumento abundabant,’ are unexampled, see reff.

Neither must τῇ παρακλ . be coupled with τῷ φόβῳ , as in E. V., and by Beza and Rosenmüller, which would leave οἰκοδομ . standing by itself, and render the sentence totally unlike Luke’s usual manner of writing.

Verse 32

32. διερχόμ . δ . π . ] These words are aptly introduced by the notice in Acts 9:31 , which shews that Peter’s journey was not an escape from persecution, but undertaken at a time of peace, and for the purpose of visiting the churches.

πάντων may be neuter, ‘all parts:’ but it is probably masc. and ἁγίων understood. Wieseler (p. 145, note) doubts whether we can say διέρχεσθαι διὰ πάντων τ . ἁγίων , but see reff. The καί makes the masc. more likely, as it presupposes some ἅγιοι in the mind of the writer before.

As I have implied on Acts 9:31 , this journey of Peter’s is not necessarily consecutive on the events of Acts 9:1-30 . But an alternative presents itself here; either it took place before the arrival of Saul in Jerusalem, or after his departure : for Peter was there during his visit ( Gal 1:18 ). It seems most likely that it was before his arrival . For (1) it is Luke’s manner in this first part of the Acts, where he is carrying on several histories together, to follow the one in hand as far as some resting-point, and then go back and take up another: see ch. Act 8:2 thus taken up from ἀναιρέσει αὐτοῦ , Acts 8:1 ; Act 8:4 going back to the διασπαρέντες : ch. Act 9:1 taken up from Act 8:3 to Acts 11:19 , from Act 8:4 again: and (2) the journey of Peter to visit the churches which were now resting after the persecution would hardly be delayed so long as three whole years. So that it is most natural to place this section, viz. ch. Act 9:32 to Acts 11:18 (for all this is continuous), before the visit of Saul to Jerusalem , and during his stay at Damascus or in Arabia. See further on Acts 11:19 .

Λύδδα ] Lod, Nehemiah 7:37 . A large village near Joppa ( Act 9:38 ), on the Mediterranean (Jos. Antt. xx. 6. 2, κώμην τινὰ Λύδδαν λεγομ ., πόλεως τὸ μέγεθος οὐκ ἀποδέουσαν ), just one day’s journey from Jerusalem (Lightf., Cent. Chor. Matth. præm. cxvi.). It afterwards became the important town of Diospolis.

Verses 32-35

32 35 .] HEALING OF ÆNEAS AT LYDDA BY PETER. This and the following miracle form the introduction to the very important portion of Peter’s history which follows in ch. 10, by bringing him and his work before us again.

Verse 33

33. Αἰνέαν ] Whether a believer or not, does not appear; from Peter’s visit being to the saints , it would seem that he was: but perhaps the indefinite ἄνθρωπόν τινα may imply the contrary, as also Peter’s words, announcing a free and unexpected gift from One whom he knew not.

Verse 34

34. στρῶς . σεαυτ . ] Not ‘ for the future :’ but ‘ immediately ,’ as a proof of his soundness.

Verse 35

35. πάντες .… οἵτινες ] Not ‘ all, who had turned to the Lord ,’ as Kuin.: this would make the mention of the fact unmeaning, and surely more would see him than the believers merely. The similar use of οἵτινες in the ref. shews its meaning to be commensurate with the preceding πάντες , and to gather them into a class, of which that which follows is predicated. All that dwelt in L. and S. saw him; which also (i.e. and they) turned to the Lord . A general conversion of the inhabitants to the faith followed.

τὸν Σάρωνα ] Perhaps not a village, but (and the art. makes this probable) the celebrated plain of that name, extending along the coast from Cæsarea to Joppa, see Isaiah 33:9 ; Isaiah 35:2 ; Isaiah 65:10 ; Song of Solomon 2:1 ; 1 Chronicles 27:29 ; and Jerome on Isaiah 33, 65, vol. iv., pp. 436, 780.

Mariti (Travels, p. 350) mentions a village Saren between Lydda and Arsuf (see Joshua 12:18 , marg. E. V.): but more recent travellers do not notice it. See Winer, Realw., where other places of the same name are mentioned.

Verse 36

36. ἐν Ἰόππ ] Joppa was a very ancient Philistian city, on the frontier of Dan, but not belonging to that tribe, Joshua 19:46 ; on the coast (ch. Act 10:6 ), with a celebrated but not very secure harbour (Jos. B. J. iii. 9. 3: see 2 Chronicles 2:16 ; Ezra 3:7 ; Jonah 1:3 ; 1Ma 14:5 ; 2Ma 12:3 ), situated in a plain ( 1Ma 10:75-77 ) near Lydda ( Act 9:38 ), at the end of the mountain road connecting Jerusalem with the sea. The Maccabean generals, Jonathan and Simon, took it from the Syrians and fortified it ( 1Ma 10:74-76 ; 1Ma 14:5 ; 1Ma 14:34 . Jos. Antt. xiii. 9. 2). Pompey joined it to the province of Syria (Antt. xiv. 4. 4), but Cæsar restored it to Hyrcanus (xiv. 10. 6), and it afterwards formed part of the kingdom ot Herod (xv. 7. 3) and of Archelaus (xvii. 11. 4), after whose deposition it reverted to the province of Syria, to which it belonged at the time of our narrative. It was destroyed by C. Cestius (Jos. B. J. ii. 18.10); but rebuilt, and became a nest of Jewish pirates (Strabo, xvi. 759), in consequence of which Vespasian levelled it with the ground, and built a fort there (B. J. iii. 9. 3, 4), which soon became the nucleus of a new town. It is now called Jaffa ( Ἰάφα , Anna Comnena, Alex. ii. p. 328), and has about 7000 inhabitants, half of whom are Christians. (Winer, Realw.)

Ταβιθά ] טְבִיתָא , in Aramaic, answering to צְבִי Heb., δορκάς (Æl. Hist. An. xiv. 14), a gazelle. It appears also in the Rabbinical books as a female name (Lightf.): the gazelle being in the East a favourite type of beauty. See Song of Solomon 2:9 ; Song of Solomon 2:17 ; Song of Solomon 4:5 ; Song of Solomon 7:3 . Lightf. remarks, that she was probably a Hellenist, and thus was known by both names.

Verses 36-43


Verse 37

37. ἐν ὑπερῴῳ ] No art., as in the expressions εἰς οἶκον , ‘on deck,’ &c., which usually occur after prepositions, cf. Middl. ch. vi. § 1.

See 1 Kings 17:19 .

Verse 39

39. πᾶσαι αἱ χ . ] The widows of the place, for whom she made these garments.

ἐποίει ] ‘ was making ,’ i.e. used to make (i.e. weave): not ‘ had made .’

Verse 40

40. ἐκβαλών ] After the example of his divine Master, see ref. Mark.

Verse 43

43. βυρσεῖ ] From the extracts in Wetstein and Schöttgen, it appears that the Jews regarded the occupation of a tanner as a half-unclean one. In this case it would shew, as De W. observes, that the stricter Jewish practices were already disregarded by the Apostle. It also would shew, in how little honour he and his office were held by the Jews at Cæsarea.

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Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Acts 9". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.