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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Acts 21

Verse 1

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:

Departure from Ephesus and Landing at Tyre-The Seven Days' Stay There-Departure, and Landing at Ptolemais (21:1-7)

And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, [apospasthentes (G645 ) ap' ( G575) autoon ( G846)] - or 'torn from them.' This word being used in Luke 22:41 in the sense of simply 'withdraw,' DeWette and Humphry would take it here in the same sense; but the majority of critics, with Chrysostom, take it to convey here the idea of 'tearing away,' expressive of the difficulty and pain with which they let their dear father in the Faith away.

And had launched, we came with a straight course , [ euthudromeesantes ( G2113)] - running before the wind, as the nautical phrase is,

Unto Coos, [Koon, but the true reading clearly is Koos (G2972)] - 'unto Cos,' as the proper spelling is; an island about 40 miles due south from Miletus, and coming close to the mainland. Here they passed the night.

And the day following unto Rhodes - another and much larger island, lying some 50 miles to the southeast, of brilliant classic memory and beauty.

And from thence unto Patara - a town on the magnificent mainland of Lycia, almost due east from Rhodes. It was devoted to the worship of Apollo, and was the seat of an oracle (called 'Apollo Pataraeus.')

Verse 2

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

And finding a ship - their former one either going no further, or being bound for a port which would not suit them,

Sailing over [diaperoon (G1276)], or 'crossing'

Unto Phoenicia (see the note at Acts 11:19 ), we went aboard, and set forth. One would almost take this to be an extract from a passenger's journal, so graphic are its details.

Verse 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.

Now when we had discovered, [anafanentes ( G398) - passive for active; not anafanantes (G398), which has next to no support] - the nautical phrase is, 'having sighted'

Cyprus, we left it on the left hand - that is, steered southeast of it, leaving it on the northwest,

And, sailed into Syria, [ eis (G1519) Surian (G4947 )] - rather, 'for Syria.' The term "Syria" is here used in its Roman acceptation, as the province to which Phoenicia and Palestine belonged.

And landed at Tyre - the celebrated ancient seat of maritime commerce for both east and west. It might be reached from Patara in about two days.

For there the ship was to unlade her burden - to discharge her cargo: it was this that gave the apostle time for what follows. Acts 21:4

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

And finding disciples, [aneurontes ( G429) tous ( G3588) matheetas (G3101 )]. The proper rendering is, 'And finding up,' or, as we say, 'finding out the disciples.' For, from what is recorded in Acts 11:19 (on which see), they probably expected to find such; and the word implies some search. Probably they were not many, but we shall see that they included some gifted persons.

We tarried there seven days - no doubt for the same reason as at Acts 20:6-7 (see there); but of course the ship's movements not only admitted of this stay, but necessitated it. And thus did outward providences minister to what was far higher-as in so many other cases.

Who said to Paul through the Spirit (that is, through prophetic utterance on the part of some of these "disciples"),

That he should not go up to Jerusalem - (see the note at Acts 20:23 , and at Acts 21:11-14.) The prophetic gift in this case (says Chrysostom) was the gift of knowledge, not the gift of wisdom; for while the knowledge of sad things to befall the apostle at Jerusalem was of the Spirit, the entreaty not to go there was of themselves.

Verse 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.

And when we had accomplished those days - completed the time of their stay allowed by the ship's company,

We departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way - or 'escorted us,'

With wives and children, until we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed - (see the note at Acts 20:36.) Observe here, that the children of these Tyrian disciples not only were taken along with their parents, But must have joined in this act of solemn worship. (See the note at Ephesians 6:1.)

Verse 6

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

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

Verse 7

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

And when we had finished our course ('And having completed the passage')

From Tyre, we came to Ptolemais - so called from one of the Ptolemies, when it belonged to Egypt; anciently called Accho ( Judges 1:31), now Acca, and by Europeans, Jean d'Acre, or Acre, the principal seaport town of Syria, lying about thirty miles south of Tyre. Its military importance has made it a coveted prize from age to age.

And saluted the brethren - disciples probably gathered, as at Tyre, on the occasion mentioned in Acts 11:19 ; "and abode with them one day."

Land Journey to Caesarea-the Stay with Philip the Evangelist-Pictureof his Family-Arrival of Agabus, and his Prediction regarding Paul -- The unsuccessful Attempt to Dissuade him from Going to Jerusalem (21:8-14)

Verse 8

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.

And the next day we [that were of Paul's company] departed. (These bracketed words are wanting in the oldest and best manuscripts, and seem to have gotten into the text as the connecting words at the head of some church lesson.)

And came unto Caesarea - a distance by land, skirting southwards along the coast, of about 30 miles.

And we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist - a term (as Howson observes) answering, perhaps, very much to our missionary. This is he by whose ministry such joy had been diffused over Samaria, (Acts 8:1-40.)

Which was one of the seven - the second named of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5), who would seem to have 'purchased to himself a good degree' (1 Timothy 3:13). He and Paul now meet for the first time, a full quarter of a century from that time.

Verse 9

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

(see And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy - in fulfillment of Joel 2:28 . (see the note at Acts 2:18 ). This fact seems to be mentioned here solely as a high distinction, which it was deemed fitting that the reader should know had been conferred on so devoted a servant of the Lord Jesus; and we may fairly regard it as indicating the high tone of religion in his family.

Verse 10

And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

And as we tarried there many days, [ epimenontoon (G1961) de (G1161) heemoon (G2257 ) heemeras (G2250) pleious ( G4119)] - 'And while we were staying some days more,' that is, 'prolonging our stay.' Finding himself in good time for Pentecost at Jerusalem, he would feel it a refreshing thing to his split to hold Christian communion for a few days with such a family.

There came down from Judea - the news of Paul's arrival having spread,

A certain prophet, named Agabus - no doubt the prophet of that name with whom we met in Acts 11:28. It may seem strange that the historian should here introduce him as if for the first time. Lechler's supposition, that 'here that earlier passage was lost sight of' (or that the historian had forgotten his having mentioned him so particularly and so shortly before), is derogatory even to any good historian. Meyers' alternative supposition, which Alford approves, seems the most probable, that different sources of information may have been drawn upon in the two cases.

Verse 11

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.

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 Spirit, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle - for though it was the Romans that did this, it was at the Jews' instigation (compare Acts 21:33 with Acts 28:17 ).

And shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Such dramatic methods of announcing important future events would bring the old prophets to remembrance (compare Isaiah 20:2, etc.; Jeremiah 13:1 ; Ezekiel 6:1). This prediction and that at Tyre ( Acts 21:4) were intended not to prohibit him from going, but to put his courage to the test, and, when he stood the test, to deepen and mature it.

Verse 12

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

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place (the Caesarean Christians) besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Verse 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.

Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? Beautiful union of manly resoluteness and womanly tenderness, alike removed from mawkishness and stoicism!

For I am ready not to be bound only - q.d., 'If that is all, let it come.'

But also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. It was well he could add this, for he had that also to do at Rome. Those who are familiar with the history of the great Reformation of the 16th century will be reminded here of the heroic answer of Luther, when warned not to go to the Diet of Worms, in 1521-`Though there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the house-tops, I will go!'

Verse 14

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done - making up their minds to the worst.

Arrival at Jerusalem, and glad reception by the brethren-At a meeting next day with James and all the elders, Paul details the work of God among the Gentiles by his ministry-The satisfaction created by these tidings, and the advice given for the purpose of conciliating the sticklers for Jewish usages among the converts of the metropolis (21:15-25)

Verse 15

And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

And after those days we took up our carriages, [ episeuasamenoi ( G1980a)] - 'we put up our And after those days we took up our carriages, [ episeuasamenoi ( G1980a)] - 'we put up our baggage,'

And went up to Jerusalem - for the fifth time since his conversion; thus concluding his third and last missionary tour (so far as recorded); for though he accomplished the fourth and last part of the plan sketched out in Acts 19:21 - "after I have been at Jerusalem I must also see Rome" - it was as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ" that he entered it. The apostle was full of anxiety about this visit to Jerusalem, from the numerous prophetic intimations of danger awaiting him, and from having reason to expect the presence at this feast of the very parties from whose virulent rage he had once and again narrowly escaped with his life. Hence, we find him asking the Roman Christians to wrestle with him in prayer, "for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that he might be delivered from them that believed not in Judea," as well as "that his service which he had for Jerusalem (the great collection for the poor saints there) might be accepted of the saints" ( Romans 15:30-31).

Verse 16

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.

There went with us also certain of the disciples of Cesarea, and brought with them, [agontes ( G71) ... Mnasooni ( G3416)] - (rather, 'and conducted us to')

One Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple - not, an aged disciple, but 'a disciple of old standing;' perhaps one of the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, if not drawn by the Saviour Himself during His earthly ministry. He had come probably with the Cypriots ( Acts 11:20) "preaching the Lord Jesus unto the Greeks," and now he appears settled at Jerusalem, and is honoured to be the host of the missionary party; for, it is added.

With whom we should (or 'were to') lodge.

Verse 17

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren - the disciples generally; as distinguished from the officials, James and all the elders, with whom he met next day ( Acts 21:18),

Received us gladly, [ apedexanto ( G588)]. This compound verb, which Luke alone uses in the New Testament, and he seven times besides this place, is here also much better supported than the simple verb [edexanto ( G1209)] of the Received Text. Acts 21:18

And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present - to report himself formally to the acknowledged head of the church at Jerusalem, with his associates in office (see the note at Acts 15:13 ), and probably to deliver over the great collection from all the Gentile churches. Had any other apostle been at Jerusalem on this occasion, it could hardly have failed to be noted.

But who was this James?-a question which Neander pronounces (and not without reason) one of the most difficult in the apostolic history. Plainly, he was the same James to whom Peter desired the news of his miraculous release from prison to be conveyed (Acts 12:17), and the same who presided at the great council on Circumcision, ( Acts 15:13, etc.) That he was the same with him whom Paul calls "James the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:19, see Mark 6:3), is equally evident. Was he, then, the same, with the apostle "James, the son of Alphaeus" ( Mark 3:18 , etc.) - commonly called James the Less, to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee, and brother of John? So thought Jerome, and after him think many modern critics. But there are, in our opinion, insuperable difficulties in this view-which we have pointed out on the words, "and with His brethren" ( Acts 1:14 ). It follows, then, that this James was not one of the Twelve, nor is he anywhere called an apostle.

Why, then, did he occupy so prominent a position among the Christians at Jerusalem, being their acknowledged head? The most obvious answer to this would be, his near relationship to our Lord. He was "the Lord's brother," in the opinion of not a few, as being His cousin-by a common mode of speech: but this appears to us improbable. The other view is, that he was our Lord's half-brother; and if so, he must either have been Joseph's son by a former marriage (this is the opinion of many, both in early times and more recently), or else the son of Joseph and Mary, after the birth of our Lord of the Virgin. To this opinion-which is that of some of the ablest critics-we incline. But however this question is decided, since there were other "brethren of the Lord's" besides James (Mark 6:3 ), there must have been some other reason for his prominence and authority in Jerusalem; and beyond doubt the esteem in which he was held by all his fellow-citizens and countrymen in general, as well as by the Christian portion of them, and the remarkable wisdom which he displayed in mediating between the Gentile and Jewish sections of the Church, which made him equally trusted by both-were the secret of that influence which, coupled with his near relationship to the common Lord of all, according to the flesh, raised him to the position which we find him occupying in the Acts.

Josephus (Ant. 20: 9. 1-though the passage has been questioned) bears testimony to the estimation in which he was held by the Jews, whose chief men deplored the murder of him by fanatical enemies of his Christian testimony; and Hegesippus, a Christian writer who flourished not long after the death of the Apostle John-whose writings are unfortunately lost, but from which, on this subject, Eusebius (H.E. 2: 23) extracts an interesting account of his martyrdom-says he was surnamed by all "James the Just." (See, in addition, Remark 3, at the close of this section.)

Verse 19

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly, [kath' (G2596 ) hen (G1520) hekaston (G1538)] - related in detail,

What things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry - taking it up probably where he had left off his narrative at the great convention (cf. Acts 15:15) and in that case relating the particulars of both his Second and his Third missionary tours (cf. Acts 14:27). In this narrative he would doubtless refer to the persevering efforts of the Judaizing party to shrivel up the Church of Christ into a Jewish sect, which he had had from time to time to meet and counterwork.

Verse 20

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 when they heard it, they glorified the Lord - `glorified God' is the much better attested reading. They were constrained to own the hand of God in his procedure, and justify his principles and his actings, notwithstanding the strong Jewish complexion of the church at Jerusalem.

And said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands, [posai ( G4214) muriades (G3461 )] - 'how many myriads;' a hyperbolical expression for an immense number, if meant of the converts of Jerusalem only, though if intended for those of Judea at large it was scarcely an exaggeration.

Of Jews - `among the Jews' [en (G1722) tois (G3588) Ioudaiois ( G2453)] is the true reading;

there are, which believe; and they are all zealous of (or 'zealots for') the law:

Verse 21

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.

And they are informed of thee, [kateecheetheesan ( G2727) de (G1161 ) peri ( G4012 ) sou (G4675 )] - 'But they have been taught to believe about thee;' it had been studiously impressed upon them,

That thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles - that is, all the Jews residing in foreign countries,

To forsake Moses , [ apostasian (G646) apo (G575 ) Moouseoos ( G3475)] - 'apostasy from Moses,'

Saying that they ought not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs This calumny of the Saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. This calumny of the unbelieving Jews would find easy credence among the Christian zealots for Judaism in the metropolis.

Verse 22

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

What is it therefore? the (rather, 'a') multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

Verse 23

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

Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men - Christian Jews, no doubt,

Which have a vow on them - the Nazarite vow apparently, (Numbers 6:1, etc.) Perhaps they had been kept ready on purpose.

Verse 24

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.

Them take, and purify thyself with them. It will not follow from this (as some critics have too hastily concluded) that Paul himself was asked, and consented to take on him, the Nazarite vow. From the nature of that vow, which plainly contemplated some lengthened duration, it seems to us extremely unlikely that it would be thought of in the present case. All that seems meant here is, that Paul should so 'purify himself' ceremonially, as to be able to present himself as a cleansed man in, the temple on the completion of these four men's vow.

And be at charges with them, [dapaneeson ( G1159) ep' ( G1909) autois (G846)] - 'pay expenses for them,' or defray the cost of the sacrifices legally required of them, along with his own; which was deemed a mark of Jewish generosity.

That they may shave their heads ( Numbers 6:9 ): 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 - not despising its ceremonial usages, but ready to comply with them.

Verse 25

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.

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we [heemeis ( G2249)] - 'we ourselves,'

Have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, except only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. This shows that, with all their conciliation to Jewish prejudice, the Church of Jerusalem was taught to adhere to the decision of the famous council held there, ( Acts 15:1-41.)

Verse 26

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.

Then Paul - at once falling in with this conciliatory and brotherly suggestion, for "to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews" ( 1 Corinthians 9:20),

Took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify - `signifying,' that is, announcing to the attendant priest,

The accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them - (see Numbers 5:13-21 .)

Uproar and seizure of Paul, who is only rescued from assassination by the commander of the garrison (21:27-32)

Verse 27

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,

And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia. The Jews here mentioned were in all likelihood Ephesian Jews, since they recognized the Ephesian Trophimus; and if so, we may well suppose that, bearing Paul a grudge ever since the events recorded in Acts 19:9 , etc., they would be the first to instigate a tumult against him.

When they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

Verse 28

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.

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. Since the foulest charges have usually some foundation in fact, the historian here deems it necessary to explain what that was in this case.

Verse 29

(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 before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian; [ton (G3588 ) Efesion ( G2180)] - it should be 'the Ephesian;' for he had been mentioned before as accompanying the apostle from Ephesus ( Acts 20:4):

Whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) It is a good exclamation of Lechler here, 'How narrowly are the servants of God watched, and what great reason have they to take heed to their steps! The world gives heed to those we walk with, and judges preachers by their company.'

Verse 30

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, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut - probably that the murder they meant to perpetrate might not pollute that holy place.

Verse 31

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

And as they went about ('sought') to kill him, tidings came, [anebee (G305 )] - 'came up,' a graphic allusion to the elevated position of the castle, which was built by Herod the Great on a high rock at the northwest corner of the great temple area, and called, after Mark Antony, the castle or fortress of Antonia.

Unto the chief captain of the band, [too ( G3588) chiliarchoo (G5506) tees (G3588) speiras ( G4687)] - properly, 'the prefect' or 'tribune of the cohort;' the commander of the garrison quartered in the castle, Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26). The full number of the cohort was 1000 men: Josephus informs us (Jewish Wars, 5: 5, 8) that the garrison were ordered to remain under arms during the festivals in case of any outbreak.

That all Jerusalem was in an uproar. This part of the narrative is particularly graphic.

Verse 32

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.

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.

The tribune orders Paul to be bound with hand-chains and had to the barracks, taking him for a noted desperado; but on learning who he is, he gives him permission to address the people from the castle stairs (21:33-40)

Verse 33

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.

Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains (see the note at Acts 12:6 ); and demanded, who he was, [tis ( G5100) an (G302) eiee (G1510)] - 'who he might be,' "and what he had done."

Verse 34

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.

And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude. The difficulty would be so to state his alleged crimes as to justify their proceedings to a Roman officer.

And when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle, [agesthai ( G71) eis (G1519 ) teen ( G3588 ) paremboleen ( G3925 )] - 'to be brought into the barracks,' or that part of the castle which was allotted to the soldiers.

Verse 35

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

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

Verse 36

For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.

For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him - as before of his Lord (Luke 23:18; John 19:15).

Verse 37

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?

And as Paul was to be led into the castle ('the barracks'), he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?

Verse 38

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 not thou that Egyptian, [ ouk ( G3756 ) ara (G686 ) su ( G4771) ei (G1487)] Since the grammatical form of the question implies that a negative answer is expected (and in this ease, to the surprise of the officer), the strict rendering of it should be 'Thou art not then that Egyptian,' etc.-Is it possible that thou art not? -- Which before these days madest an uproar ('an insurrection'), and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? [ toon (G3588) sikarioon (G4607)] - 'of the sicarii,' or 'assassins.' Josephus twice over gives an account of this impostor and false prophet in his Antiquities (20: 8. 6), and in his 'Wars' (2: 13, 5). Both these accounts agree with what is said here, except that instead of 4000 Sicarii, Josephus, in the latter passage, says he collected about 30,000 men, whom he lured to his cause. But if we suppose that of this large force 4000 were desperadoes, the two statements are not at all inconsistent.

Verse 39

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.

But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city - better, 'I am a Jew of Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city, of Cilicia.' 'The answer of the apostle (remarks Humphry) to the two questions of the Roman captain is such as to show at once that he could speak Greek with elegance, and that he was entitled, to respectful treatment. The word rendered "citizen" [ politees ( G4177)] (he adds), implying the possession of civil rights, is emphatic and appropriate; for Tarsus was a free city, having received its liberty from Mark Antony (Appian, Bell. Civ. 5: 7). It was "no mean city," for it enjoyed the title of metropolis of Cilicia, which, together with other privileges, was conferred on it by Augustus (Dio Chrys. Orat. 34:, p. 415). Strabo, in his interesting account of Tarsus (Lib. 14: 674), says it surpassed even Athens and Alexandria in its zeal for philosophy, differing from those great schools in one respect-that its students were all natives, and it was not resorted to by foreigners. The natives, however, were not content with a home education, but went abroad to complete their studies, like Paul (Acts 22:3), and often did not return. Rome was full of them. Tarsus derived its civilization, and indeed its origin, from Greece, having been rounded, as its mythology shows, by an Argine colony.'

Verse 40

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,

And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. 'What nobler spectacle (exclaims Chrysostom, or some other in his name, quoted by Hackett) than that of Paul at this moment! There he stood, bound with two chains, ready to make his defense to the people. The Roman commander sits by, to enforce order by his presence. An enraged populace look up to him from below. Yet in the midst of so many dangers, how self-possessed is he, how tranquil!'

And when there was made a great silence - the people awed at the permission given him by the commandant, and seeing him sitting as a listener,

He spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue - the Syro-Chaldaic, the vernacular tongue of the Palestine Jews since the captivity. Remarks:

(1) It will be observed that the predictions of impending suffering, in connection with this visit of the apostle to Jerusalem, became not only more frequent but more and more clear the nearer the time for their fulfillment came to be. So was it with the Old Testament predictions of the first appearing of our Lord in the flesh, and His own predictions of His last sufferings. And like foreshadowings of suffering for the truth, waxing clearer and more unmistakeable as the time approaches, prepare the faithful servants of Christ for meeting calmly, and enduring triumphantly, what in earlier stages of their testimony they might probably have shrunk from.

(2) 'To find disciples (says Lechler finely) was an important event in the journal of the traveling apostles. If the learned, the naturalists, the judges of the fine arts, inquire in their travels after the curiosities of science, nature, and art, a servant of Jesus, on the contrary, directs his eye to the rarities in the kingdom of Jesus; and his most delightful discovery is to meet with the children of God.'

(3) In what passed between Paul and the official brethren at Jerusalem, with James at their head, we have a beautiful example-deeply worthy of study and imitation-of firm adherence to essential principles on the one hand, and, on the other, of forbearance and concession in things subordinate. As James had in the famous council (Acts 15:1-41) maintained the freedom of the Gentile believers from the bondage of Jewish ordinances, so he and the elders associated with him glorify God on this occasion for the conversion of so many Gentiles through Paul's instrumentality, never proposing that any ceremonial yoke should be imposed upon them. In one who appears to have had an intensely conservative reverence for all the observances of the ancient economy-insomuch that Josephus testifies to the reverence in which he was held by the whole Jewish community (by whom he was known as JAMES THE JUST) - this joy at the accession to Christ of uncircumcised Gentiles, and firmness in resisting the imposition of the ceremonial yoke upon the Gentile converts, was very admirable.

But, on the other hand, representing, as James and the elders did, the church of the metropolis of Judaism, whose members entirely Jewish, were strongly tinctured with Jewish prejudice, and jealous of whatever tended to loosen the hold of Jewish peculiarities on the minds of the chosen people, they deemed it highly expedient that Paul, who had been industriously represented as "teaching all the Jews which were among the Gentiles to forsake Moses," should give some public evidence that this was a calumny. And James having suggested a way by which this could be at once done, our apostle immediately falls in with it and carries it into effect. It may, indeed, be said that this proved a fatal step, since it was by entering into the temple, to announce to the priest the completion of the days of his ceremonial purification that he was supposed to have "brought Greeks with him into the temple, and so to have polluted that holy place." But this was only the immediate occasion of a charge which his Jewish enemies were evidently waiting for some opportunity of fastening upon him-of being an enemy to Moses; and from their temper and treatment of him on this occasion there can be little doubt that, failing this, they would speedily have found some other plea for setting upon him. As the advice was in the circumstances a wise one, so the ready compliance with it on the part of Paul showed his entire freedom from narrowness and fanaticism in the advocacy even of great truths. (See the note at Acts 3:1-26 , Remark 1, and on Acts 15:1-35 Remark 4, at the close of those sections.)

(3) What zeal for Christ was that which, when seized, hustled, and ready to be assassinated by an infuriated Jewish mob; when wrested out of their hands with difficulty by order of the tribune, who knew nothing of the circumstances, and only sought to preserve the peace; when bound with hand-chains, and in this condition-ascending the castle stairs on his way to the barracks, from whence he beheld the masses of the people that thronged the declivity below him-hurried to adds them; and-when permission to do so was asked in excellent Greek, to the astonishment of the tribune, and granted at once-prompted him to tell the story of his conversion, as the most convincing way of bringing the glory of the crucified Redeemer before them; a story whose narrative form and unvarnished, unimpassioned character only showed how sober was his present enthusiasm, how reasonable and resistless his surrender to Christ, and how entire was his devotion to His cause!

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/acts-21.html. 1871-8.