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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 9

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations

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Acts 9:1-9 Saul, going towards Damascus, is encompassed with a light from heaven, falleth to the earth, is called by Christ, and led blind to Damascus.

Acts 9:10-22 Ananias is sent to him, by whom he is restored to sight, and baptized: he straightway preacheth Christ boldly.

Acts 9:23-25 The Jews of Damascus seek to kill him.

Acts 9:26-30 He goeth to Jerusalem, and is brought to the apostles by Barnabas: preaching boldly against the Grecians, he is again in danger of his life, and is sent to Tarsus.

Acts 9:31 The church hath rest, and is multiplied,

Acts 9:32-35 Peter cureth Eueas of the palsy at Lydda,

Acts 9:36-43 and raiseth Tabitha to life at Joppa.

Verse 1

St. Luke intending a narrative of the wonderful conversion of St. Paul, lets us know what manner of person he was before his conversion, that none might despond of the grace of God, who earnestly and heartily seek it.

Breathing out threatenings and slaughter; so full of rage within, that the stream was outwardly apparent, which that inward fire had sent forth: nothing less than destruction of the church is aimed at by its enemies; whilst Saul was one of them he hunted after their precious life too.

The high priest; who did usually preside in their great council, in which they took cognizance of such matters; The blood of Stephen did not quench their thirst, but increased it; they would spill more still.

Verse 2

To the synagogues; this council, though it sat at Jerusalem, had a power (whether commanding or recommending) over all the synagogues within or without Judea.

Of this way; this was eminently so called, being the way of God, and the way of life, and the only right and true way: any profession, persuasion, or manner of life, is called a way frequently in Scripture, 1 Kings 15:26; Psalms 91:2.

Men or women; it speaks their extraordinary rage, that would not spare the weaker sex, who are generally spared on that account.

Bring them bound; which shows that he carried many with him, to the further aggravation of his sin.

Unto Jerusalem; where they had power to judge of such things, and out of which it was impossible that a prophet should perish, Luke 13:33.

Verse 3

He was near to Damascus before this wonderful vision, that, being struck blind, he might be the sooner led thither; as also, that the miracle might be more easily and publicly known, Damascus being the chief city of Syria; and, though about six days’ journey from Jerusalem, inhabited by many Jews. This was done at noon day, the rather, that the light which Paul saw might appear to be beyond that which the sun gives; and this light was a symbol of that inward light, wherewith his mind was now to be enlightened; as also of the purity of the doctrine he was to preach, and holiness of his life which he was to lead; and most probably it was caused by the glorified body of Christ, which appeared unto him.

Verse 4

Saul fell to the earth, struck with the amazing light and terrible voice of Christ; as also with the sense of the presence of God, which he knew was thus reverenced by Daniel, Daniel 8:17; Daniel 10:9.

Saul, Saul; the name Saul is the rather mentioned, to mind him and us of his persecuting of Christ in his members, as his name sake had persecuted David, who was a type of Christ; and it is ingeminated, or doubled, not only to rouse and awaken Saul, but to testify his love to him, and commiseration of him.

Why persecutest thou me? Christ was in heaven, beyond Saul’s rage; but Christ and his church make but one body. Thus Christ says, I was hungry and thirsty, Matthew 25:35. And in all their afflictions he is afflicted, Isaiah 63:9. But me is here emphatically spoken, as if our Saviour had minded him of his great love and mercy to him, in dying and suffering for him; and why then should he persecute him?

Verse 5

Who art thou, Lord? Saul was in a great consternation and doubting, whether it was God, or an angel.

Jesus whom thou persecutest: though he did not intend this persecution against Christ, yet our Saviour looks upon the good or evil done unto his members as done unto himself.

It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks: this kicking against the pricks is a proverbial speech, taken either from oxen or slaves, whom they used with goads to prick on to their work, which when they kicked against, or opposed themselves to, they did not hurt the goads or pricks, but themselves; so shall all persecutors find that their mischiefs recoil upon themselves; Christ and his members shall be made here glorious by it: this metaphor is common in Scripture, Deuteronomy 32:15; 1 Samuel 2:29. The pricks Saul had kicked against, were the sermons and miracles of St. Stephen and others.

Verse 6

Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Saul, being thoroughly humbled, and brought to resign himself wholly to God, makes this question, giving up himself as a white paper, for Christ to write what he would upon: he had thought he had done God good service, (as it is said many persecutors should think so too, John 16:2), but he is now powerfully brought off from his obstinacy in that persuasion.

Go into the city; Damascus, which was near at hand. Whether Christ revealed his gospel now unto him, or in the three days in which he remained blind in Damascus, Acts 9:9, is not so certain; but it is certain that he was Ξριστο διδακτος, taught immediately by Christ himself, as he testifies. Galatians 1:12, and in that, without any further instruction, he was baptized, Acts 9:17,Acts 9:18; yet many things might be left for Ananias to confirm him in; and God, by this sending of him to Ananias, would honour his own ordinance, and recommend the ministry and use of means, which are the power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16; and thus, though God could have instructed Cornelius by the angel which appeared unto him, Acts 10:3, yet he is commanded to send for Peter, and to hear from him what he ought to do, Acts 9:5,Acts 9:6.

Verse 7

Stood speechless: in Acts 26:14, these men are said to be fallen to the earth as well as Saul, which they might at first be, and now rose up; or rather, by standing still here is only meant, they, being sorely amazed, remained in the place in which they were, without going forward: thus the angel forbade Lot and his family to stay or stand in the plain, Genesis 19:17, meaning that they should hasten forward.

Hearing a voice; the greater difficulty is, to reconcile these words with Acts 22:9, where it is expressly said, that these men did not hear the voice; but it is there added, of him that spake unto Saul; so that they might hear the voice of Saul, as it is said in this place, and wonder whom he spake unto, or what he spake about, they not hearing the voice or him that spake unto him, as in Acts 22:9 it is said: and it seems very likely that they should not hear the voice of Christ, for we read not that any of them were converted; and being left in their infidelity, they were in some respects the more undeniable witnesses of a great part of that miracle. But if it be understood of the voice of Christ in both places, then they might hear it, as it is said here, inarticulately, or the noise which that voice made; but not hear it articulately, or so as to understand it, as in a parallel case, John 12:29, the people are said to hear the voice that spake nnto Christ from heaven, yet they heard so confusedly, as that they thought it had only, been thunder. To be sure, they who are converted, and they who are not converted, by the word of God, may hear the word; but after a very different manner; they that are converted by it only hearing it inwardly, spiritually, effectually.

But seeing no man; these fellow travellers with St. Paul are said to see no man, but the expression here imports their doing their utmost for to see him that spake: thus God made a difference, Daniel 10:7, in the vision we read of there.

Verse 8

When his eyes were opened; when he opened his eyes as at other times, when he did rise to see, the glorious light had so dazzled him, that he could see nothing: thus Saul as, and all men are, before their conversion; he had the shape of a man, and of one learned in the law, when notwithsanding he is blind, and sees or knows nothing as he ought to know.

Verse 9

Some have thought that in these three days Paul had that rapture into the third heavens, which he speaks of, 2 Corinthians 12:2; but that seems rather to have been afterwards; God would, however, by this humble and try him, and excite his dependence wholly upon him, and that he might value his restored sight the more.

Neither did eat nor drink; that by fasting he might be more intent in prayer; for fasting does prepare for prayer, and therefore fasting and prayer are so often put together, Matthew 17:21; Acts 13:3. In those places they could fast longer without prejudice to their health, than amongst us, and, as I might add, were more willing to fast for any spiritual advantage than we are.

Verse 10

Ananias; he was of good repute for zeal and holiness. as appears, Acts 22:12, but whether he was one of the seventy disciples which our Saviour sent out, Luke 10:1, as some will have, is not certain.

He said, Behold, I am here, Lord; thereby showing his willingness to be sent on God’s message, and to do as God should bid him, as Samuel to Eli, 1 Samuel 3:5.

Verse 11

Inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul: God telleth our wanderings, and knoweth our abode, and mindeth his, especially in their sorrows, which was Saul’s case.

For, behold, he prayeth; he spent those three days, spoken of Acts 9:9, in acts of great humiliation, in which he would also not taste any food; this is revealed to Ananias, that he might not fear to go unto him. A great change! Is Saul also amongst them that pray? A greater wonder than that the other Saul was formerly amongst the prophets.

Verse 12

If this verse be the words of St. Luke, continuing the history, then they must be included in a parenthesis, the sense being entire without them; but they seem to be the words of the Lord continued to Ananias, telling him how he had provided for his welcome to Saul, contrary to his expectation.

Verse 13

I have heard by many of this man; his design and commission could not but be noised abroad.

Thy saints: the disciples of Christ are called saints, because:

1. They are dedicated unto the Lord in their baptism.

2. They are called unto holiness.

3. They did then live holily and exemplarily.

4. And so must all that hope for any benefit by their being disciples of Christ, &c.

Verse 14

Here Ananias shows the strengh of his excuse; for flesh and blood cried in him, as in Moses, Exodus 4:13, Send by him whom thou wilt send.

Verse 15

He is a chosen vessel: the whole world is God’s fabric, and the church especially is his house: not only in the whole world, but in the visible church, there are all sorts of utensils, some for higher, others for meaner uses; Saul was to be a vessel unto honour, Romans 9:21, into which the treasures of God’s word were to be put, 2 Corinthians 4:7, though he was but an earthen vessel: Such was indeed chosen by God to preach the gospel, Galatians 1:15,Galatians 1:16, to suffer for Christ’s name’s sake, 1 Thessalonians 3:3.

To bear my name before the Gentiles: this mystery of the calling of the Gentiles began now to spread abroad, and to be made more known, which was hid in those promises, Isaiah 49:6; Jeremiah 1:10.

Verse 16

He shall suffer as great things as he ever did cause or inflict; the hatred of his own countrymen the Jews, and the fury of the Gentiles: see the catalogue of them, 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. And were there ever so many sufferings heaped upon one man? And yet, though all these were foretold unto him, and certainly foreknown by him, he would preach the gospel for all that: much was forgiven him, and he loved much.

Verse 17

Entered into the house; the house of Judas, with whom Saul lodged, as Acts 9:11.

Putting his hands on him; concerning this, see Acts 6:6, besides on what may be said of this imposition of hands elsewhere: the curing of St. Paul’s blinduess was one reason of putting his hands on him here, for so it was ordinarily done towards the sick or infirm; they laid their hands upon them to heal them, as it was promised that they should do, Mark 16:18.

Brother Saul; Saul was become Ananias’s brother, as professing the same faith, and heir of the same promise with him.

Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way; Ananias mentions what had happened to Paul in the way, that Saul might be assured that he was sent from God, for none else could have told him what had happened.

Verse 18

Scales, as scales of fish: it was no ordinary blindness, nor from any ordinary cause, and could not have been cured by common means.

Verse 19

St. Paul could not but be much weakened with his journey, fear, grief, fasting, and constant praying; and now he takes a prudent care of his health, that he might be further enabled for the service of God, to what place soever he should be appointed.

With the disciples: Saul is no sooner changed, but he changeth his company and acquaintance; he resorts to none of the rabbies of the Jews, but to the disciples of Christ; he would love any, learn of any, that had Christ for their Master.

Verse 20

He preahced Christ in the synagogues; the apostles spake unto the Jews first, either that they might convert them, or at least take away all excuse from them.

That he is the Son of God; which doubtless he spake largely unto, though it be not here expressed; but he had an abundance in his heart, having tasted the power of the grace of God in Christ, and out of his heart his mouth spake.

Verse 21

This great change is a most unaccountable thing, and might truly cause amazement; but ex quovis ligno fit Mercurius, cum digitus Dei sit statuarius. Nothing is too hard for that God in whose hand Saul’s heart was.

Verse 22

Increased the more in strength; true grace thrives by exercise and opposition: the word here used many take to be a metaphor from builders, who, in erecting their fabrics, fit one piece or part to another, and then bring them and join them together; thus St. Paul did, in bringing forth or quoting the promises in the Old Testament, and showing their exactly being fulfilled in the New Testament, or in the gospel of our Saviour Jesus Christ; and he spake with such an evidence and demonstration of the Spirit, that he did, as it were, constrain men to be of his opinion.

Proving that this is very Christ; which was the sum of the gospel.

Verse 23

Many days; God would not presently expose him to conflicts, but inure him to suffer by degrees; as also it pleased God to spare him so long nigh unto that place where he had wrought so great a miracle for him, the sense of which might the more be upon himself and others also; for he continued here three years, excepting only a journey into Arabia, as may be seen, Galatians 1:17,Galatians 1:18.

Verse 24

Their laying await; the Jews, who stirred up Aretas the king of Damascus against Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:32,2 Corinthians 11:33; now began those things to be fulfilled, foretold Acts 9:16.

Verse 25

As Rahab did the spies, Joshua 2:15, and Michal did David, 1 Samuel 19:12.

Verse 26

To join himself to, to be admitted to intimate fellowship and communion with,

the disciples. They were all afraid of him; Paul was sufficiently known by name and face at Jerusalem, and many had felt his rage.

And believed not that he was a disciple; but how could the disciples be ignorant of his conversion so long, if it was three years after, as it seems by Galatians 1:18? To answer which may be considered:

1. The great distance between Jerusalem and Damascus, six days’ journey.

2. The little correspondence between the kings of those places, Herod and Aretas.

3. The persecution which was at Jerusalem might hinder the converts of Damascus them going thither.

4. Paul might have spent a great part of the three years in his journey amongst the Arabians, of which before.

Verse 27

Of Barnabas mention is made, Acts 4:36, who is thought to have been Paul’s fellow disciple under Gamaliel.

Brought him to the apostles; these apostles, to whom Barnabas brought Paul, were Peter and James, as Galatians 1:18,Galatians 1:19, who being the apostles of the circumcision, or having Judea under their charge, were abiding at Jerusalem, whilst the other apostles probably were absent, being founding of churches elsewhere.

He had seen the Lord, &c, :some take these things to have been related by Paul, others by Barnabas, who testified these things concerning Paul.

Verse 28

Living amongst them, and freely conversing with them; that is, with Peter, and James, and the rest of the believers, who had now no suspicion of him.

Verse 29

Disputed against the Grecians; Hellenists, of which Acts 6:1, such as were born in foreign parts, but of Jewish parents; these Paul chose rather to dispute with, because these had raised the persecution against Stephen, and Paul had furthered them in it; and he was very desirous to unweave that web, and give them an antidote unto whom he had formerly given poison; being especially concerned for their souls, whom he had helped to destroy.

Verse 30

Caesarea; there were two towns of this name, one a coast town, spoken of, Acts 8:40; the other was called Caesarea Philippi, nigh Mount Lebanon.

Tarsus, St. Paul’s birth place, where amongst his relations and acquaintance they might hope he would be safe.

Verse 31

Then had the churches rest; when Paul was sent away, against whom they had the greater spite, as having been as zealous a persecutor as any amongst them.

And were edified: the church is frequently compared to a building, and every believer to the temple of God, 1 Corinthians 3:16, and 1 Corinthians 6:19, which God dwells in; from whence this metaphor is taken.

Walking in the fear of the Lord: walking is a progressive notion, and so is building and adding to a structure till it come to perfection; which signifies that these believers increased daily in the knowledge of God, in true piety and charity, &c.

In the comfort of the Holy Ghost; the word also signifies the exhortation of the Holy Ghost; such exhortations as were given from God by the apostles: to be sure, the comforts of the Spirit are not without our obedience to the commandments of God; and it seems to be given here as the reason why the churches were edified, and did thus increase, because believers walked in the fear of the Lord; and nothing persuades more effectually to the embracing of religion, than the holy living of such as make profession of it.

Verse 32

Throughout all quarters, where the disciples that were dispersed had planted churches.

Saints: see Acts 9:13.

Lydda; a little town about the west bank of the Jordan, not far from the Mediterranean Sea.

Verse 33

It is supposed this Aeneas was a Jew, though now living at Lydda; and that St. Luke here names him by the name the Grecians called him by, he being amongst his own countrymen called Hillel.

Kept his bed eight years; to show the difficulty of the cure, and greatness of the miracle.

Verse 34

Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: these words are not a prayer, (though they were not spoken without Peter’s lifting up his heart to Christ in prayer), but a promise to this sick man of health and recovery, declaring from whom he should receive it, that he might know whom to acknowledge and thank for it.

Arise, and make thy bed: our Saviour bids the sick of the palsy to arise, and take up his bed, Mark 2:11; and so he commands the impotent man, John 5:8. Here St. Peter bids this paralytic to make his bed; which seems more strange, being he was commanded to arise, so that now he should have no need of having his bed made; but it is easily answered, that being it was only intended to show how fully he was cured, the making of his bed did as much prove, both to himself and others, that he was recovered, as any thing else could do.

Verse 35

Lydda: see Acts 9:32. Saron is the name of a city, 1 Chronicles 5:16, but here it is rather the name of a country, (which the masculine article usually shows), lying between Mount Tabor and the lake of Tiberias, a very fruitful plain, 1 Chronicles 27:29; Song of Solomon 2:1.

Turned to the Lord; to the owning of his truth. Error (if in fundamentals) keeps us from God.

Verse 36

Joppa, a post town: see Acts 10:5. These circumstances of places and persons are set down to evidence the certainty of the history.

Tabitha, according to the Syriac dialect, then in use amongst the Jews, and Dorcas, as she was called amongst the Greeks; it being common for the same person to have two names, one Hebrew and the other Greek, as Thomas, who was called Didymus, and Cephas, who was called Peter.

Full of good works; she was rich in good works, which are the best riches, last longest, and go farthest.

Verse 37

They washed the dead, and anointed them, to fit them for their burying, and especially to show their hope of the resurrection; which some think St. Paul alludes unto, 1 Corinthians 15:29.

Verse 38

They sent for Peter, that he might come to comfort those that were concerned in the great loss of so good a woman, and, it may be, not without some hopes of her recovery by a miracle from St. Peter; which is the likelier, because they so much hasten his coming to them, she being already dead, and they preparing for her burial.

Verse 39

It was strange that Peter should be sent for, or that he should go on such an account, viz. to raise one that was dead; but God, who had ordered this miracle for the manifestation of his truth and glory, so wrought in their hearts, that they did this out of faith; though if others should think to imitate it, it would be but presumption.

Weeping; here needed no mourning women to be hired; the death of this good woman was acommon loss: these coats were made by Dorcas in her lifetime, to clothe the poor and naked with.

Verse 40

Peter put them all forth; Peter put them out, that he might pray the more earnestly, without distraction or interruption; thus Elisha shut the door to him when he prayed for the Shunammite’s son, 2 Kings 4:33.

Kneeled down; this his kneeling is mentioned, to recommend reverence in our praying unto God.

And prayed: Peter, by his betaking himself unto prayer, would show, that he could do nothing by his own power, but it must come from above; and he had every mercy as much precariously, and by prayer, as any others.

Verse 41

The saints and widows; such who had sent for him, and now were gathered together to see what effects his prayers might have.

Presented her alive, and in perfect health, as all were that were miraculously cured; for the Lord’s works are perfect, Deuteronomy 32:4.

Verse 42

This cure was wrought, and all the other miracles were done, to be a means to make the gospel to be believed, which he published, and was an undeniable proof that this doctrine was from heaven; for none could do such things unless God were with him, or rather, unless God did them by him; so that this miracle wrought by St. Peter did more good to the souls of many, than to the body of this relieved woman.

Verse 43

The miracle had only prepared them to receive his doctrine, which Peter tarried some time with them to instruct them in: the miracle had prepared the ground, and now he takes this season to sow the seed of the word into it.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Acts 9". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/acts-9.html. 1685.
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