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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Acts 8

Introduction

A.M. 4038. A.D. 34.

(1,) While Stephen is buried and lamented, the Christians at Jerusalem are terribly persecuted by Saul and others, Acts 8:1-3 .

(2,) The church is enlarged by the dispersion of the persecuted, particularly Philip the evangelist, in the country of Samaria, Acts 8:4-13 .

(3,) Peter and John confirm the new converts there, and severely reprove Simon the sorcerer, Acts 8:14-25 .

(4,) By divine direction, Philip goes toward the south, and joining an Ethiopian eunuch, whom he found reading the prophecy of Isaiah, he preaches Christ to him, converts him to the faith, and baptizes him, Acts 8:26-38 .

(5,) While the eunuch joyfully pursues his journey homeward, Philip preaches the gospel along the western borders of Canaan, Acts 8:39 , Acts 8:40 .

Verses 1-2

Acts 8:1-2. And Saul was consenting Ην συνευδοκων τη αναιρεσει αυτου , was consenting with delight; to his death Or, more literally, was well pleased with his slaughter; for he was so full of rage and malice against the Christian name, that he thought no severities were too great to be exercised on those who thus zealously endeavoured to propagate it. And at that time Εν εκεινη τη ημερα , in that day, in the very day in which this inhuman murder was committed on Stephen, who leads the van in the glorious army of martyrs; there was a great persecution Which continued to rage for some time; against the church at Jerusalem

Which was no sooner planted than it was persecuted, as Christ had often intimated, signifying that tribulation and persecution would arise, because of the word, particularly at Jerusalem, that city having been formerly famous for killing the prophets, and stoning them that were sent to it, Matthew 23:37. And now the adversaries of the Christians, having tasted blood, were the more eager to shed it. And they were all scattered abroad Not all the church, for if so, who would have remained for the apostles to teach, or Saul to persecute? but all the teachers, except the apostles, who, though in the most danger, stayed with the flock. And devout men Who feared God more than persecution; carried Stephen to his burial Having the courage to show themselves openly as the friends of that holy man, whose blood had been so unrighteously shed; and made great lamentation over him Mourning that the church had lost so excellent an instrument of usefulness, though he himself was so much a gainer by it, as to be the object of congratulation, rather than condolence.

Verse 3

Acts 8:3. As for Saul Who was one of the main instruments in this persecution; he made havoc of the church Like some furious beast of prey. So the Greek word properly signifies. He did his utmost to ruin it, not caring what mischief he did to the disciples of Christ, and setting no bounds to his rage and cruelty: entering into every house Where the Christians used to assemble for the worship of God; or every house that had, or was thought to have, any Christians in it; haling men and women Dragging them along the streets, without any regard to age or sex; committed them to prison For no crime, real or pretended, but that of having believed in Jesus, and embraced the gospel. Therefore they that were Greek, οι μεν ουν διασπαρεντες , they, therefore, being scattered abroad, went everywhere Went through Judea and Samaria, (Acts 8:1,) preaching the word Wherever they came; scattering the knowledge of Christ and his gospel wherever they were scattered: they went, ευαγγελιζομενοι τον λογον , evangelizing, or, declaring the glad tidings of the word Those of them that had ability to preach, in their preaching, and others in their common converse. And in many places they were remarkably successful. So that God overruled the cruelty and rage of his people’s enemies to subserve his own wise and gracious purposes. There is no room to inquire where these poor refugees had their orders. Some of them were endowed with miraculous gifts: and, if none of them had been so, the extraordinary call they had to spread the knowledge of Christ wherever they came, among those who were ignorant of him, abundantly justified them in what they did. They were now in a country where many of them were no strangers, for Christ and his disciples had conversed much in the regions of Judea and Samaria, so that a foundation had been laid for them to build upon, and it was requisite to let the people in those parts know what had been the issue of the preaching Christ’s doctrine, and that it was not now left neglected and forgotten, as perhaps they had been made to believe.

Verses 5-7

Acts 8:5-7. Then Philip, &c. The sacred historian here proceeds to record one particular instance of the success of the preaching of the persons dispersed by the above-mentioned persecution. The Philip here spoken of was not the apostle of that name, for all the apostles continued at Jerusalem, (Acts 8:1,) and this Philip, as appears from Acts 8:14-17, had not the power of communicating the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, by laying on of hands. He was, therefore, Philip the deacon, mentioned Acts 6:5; no other of that name, besides the apostle, having been mentioned in this history. Went down to the city of Samaria Or, as some read it, to a city of Samaria; as it is not specified what city of that country it was. The mode of expression, however, seems to point out the capital of Samaria, which was Sychar, or Sichem, where Christ had preached in the beginning of his ministry: and preached Christ unto them It is certain that the Samaritans were better prepared to receive the gospel than most of the Gentile nations, as they worshipped the true God, and acknowledged the authority of the pentateuch. Nay, indeed, in some respects they were better prepared than the body of the Jewish nation, as we do not find that they had either such notions of the Messiah’s temporal reign as the Jews had, or had received the Sadducean principles, which were both very strong prejudices against the Christian doctrine. And the people Who inhabited that city, notwithstanding their natural prejudices against the Jews; with one accord Ομοθυμαδον , unanimously; gave heed unto those things which Philip spake Of the truth and importance of which, upon their attending to them, they were soon persuaded; hearing The rational and convincing arguments which he used; and seeing the miracles Which he performed, in confirmation of his doctrine. For unclean spirits At Philip’s command, came out of many persons that had been possessed by them, crying with a loud voice Which showed that they came out with great reluctance, and much against their wills, but were forced to acknowledge themselves overcome by a superior power. And there was great joy in that city Both on account of those benevolent miracles which were performed by Philip in it, and of that excellent doctrine which he preached among them, containing such welcome tidings of pardon and eternal salvation.

Verses 9-11

Acts 8:9-11. But there was, &c. At the time when the gospel was thus brought to them by Philip, a man was there, called Simon, which before- time in the same city used sorcery Greek, had been μαγευων , using magic arts. Some think the expression is entirely of the same signification with the word μαγος , and is intended to tell us, that this Simon was one of the sect of the magi; (see on Matthew 2:1;) and it is possible he might profess himself of that sect: but certainly the expression here used imports much more, and amounts to the same with one who used enchantments, pretending, in consequence of them, to exert some supernatural powers; whereas the word magus, at least about Christ’s time, seems to have signified much the same with our English word sage, and to have denoted a proficient in learning, and especially in astronomy, and other branches of natural philosophy, to which the Persian magi addicted themselves, and so gave name to many who were far from holding the peculiarities of that sect. Yet as many natural philosophers pretended also to be magicians in the common sense of the word among us, and might make their natural knowledge subservient to that pretence when it was mere imposture, it is not improbable that they generally called themselves magi; and so the verb μαγευων might come to signify the making use of unlawful arts, (as it plainly does here,) while the noun, from whence it was derived, might still retain a more extensive and innocent signification. See Doddridge. And bewitched the people Εξιστων το εθνος , astonishing the nation; of Samaria By his magic arts he showed many signs and lying wonders, which seemed to be miracles, but really were not so; like those of the magicians of Egypt, and those of the man of sin, mentioned 2 Thessalonians 2:9: giving out, that himself was some great one A person possessed of supernatural powers; he wished the people to believe so, and to respect him accordingly. To whom they all gave heed Paid great regard, as he desired them to do; from the least to the greatest Both young and old, both poor and rich; saying, This man is the great power of God Greek, η δυναμις του Θεου , η μεγαλη , literally, the power of God, that great power. Thus ignorant, unthinking people mistake what is done by the power of Satan, as if it were done by the power of God; and so with the Gentile world, devils pass for deities, and in the antichristian kingdom, all the world wonders after the beast, to whom the dragon gives his power, and who opens his mouth in blasphemy against God, Revelation 13:2-5. Their meaning probably was, that Simon was the long-expected Messiah, and even Omnipotence itself incarnate, otherwise, they supposed, he could not do such wonderful things. And to him they had regard Had the greater regard; because that of long time he had bewitched them Or rather, had astonished them, the word being the same with that used Acts 8:9; with sorceries With the lying wonders which he wrought by his enchantments.

Verses 12-13

Acts 8:12-13. But when they believed Philip, &c. When they became spectators of Philip’s miracles, and were convinced that they were real, and those of Simon a mere sham; or, when they believed the doctrine that Philip preached, concerning the kingdom of God, they then saw and felt the real power of God, and submitted thereto; and were baptized, both men and women Thus making an open profession of their faith in the gospel. By the influence of divine grace, working with the word, they that had been led captive by Satan, were brought into obedience to Christ. Then Simon himself believed The truth of the doctrine taught by this messenger of God, though his heart was not truly changed by its power: and when he was baptized On a profession of that faith; he continued with Philip Courting a further acquaintance with him; and wondered, beholding the miracles, &c. Greek, was astonished, or filled with amazement, as the Samaritans had formerly been, at the sight of his magical performances. “It is with peculiar elegance and propriety, that the same word which had been used to express the manner in which the Samaritans were affected with Simon’s enchantments, is here used to describe the impression which Philip’s miracles made on him.” Thus Doddridge; who adds, “We see in this, as in a thousand nearer instances, that there may be a speculative faith in the gospel where there is no true piety; and if such persons, on the profession of that faith, where nothing appears contrary to it, be admitted to those ordinances by which Christians are distinguished from the rest of mankind, it is an evil in the present state of things unavoidable, and the conduct of Christian ministers and societies, in admitting such, will be less displeasing to God than a rigorous severity.”

Verses 14-17

Acts 8:14-17. When the apostles heard that Samaria That the inhabitants of that country, or of the chief city thereof; had received the word of God By faith; being desirous that these new converts should be further settled in their Christian profession, by receiving those spiritual gifts which no inferior teacher or officer in the church could be the instrument of communicating; they sent unto them Peter and John Two of the most eminent of their number, made remarkable by the miracle they had lately performed, and the courageous manner in which they had borne their testimony to the gospel. Here we find Peter sent by the other apostles, which is a proof that he was not their head and superior, for greater is he that sends than he that is sent. Peter and John were sent to Samaria, 1st, To assist and strengthen the hands of Philip. Ministers in a higher station, and that excel in gifts and graces, should consider how they may be helpful to those in a lower sphere, and should labour to promote their comfort and usefulness. 2d, To endeavour to carry on the good work that was begun among the people, and through those heavenly graces that had enriched themselves to confer upon them spiritual gifts. Who, when they were come, prayed for them The imposition of their hands would have been unavailing toward the purpose of their mission, without prayer: that they might receive the Holy Ghost In his miraculous gifts, as well as in his sanctifying graces. Not that all who had been baptized in Samaria might receive these gifts, for it was never so in any church, no, not in that of Jerusalem; there being only some, even among them, who were, in this sense, full of the Holy Ghost; (Acts 6:3;) but that some of them might receive these gifts, for the confirmation of the gospel, and especially such as were designed for some office in the church, or at least, to be eminently active members of it; and that some of them might receive one gift of the Holy Ghost, and others another; see 1 Corinthians 12:4; 1Co 12:8 ; 1Co 12:28-31 ; 1 Corinthians 14:26. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them None of them were endued with his extraordinary influences, notwithstanding that those influences had been wonderfully displayed among them in the astonishing miracles which Philip had performed. It is rightly observed here by Epiphanius, that Philip, being only a deacon, had not the power of conferring these miraculous gifts, and therefore these apostles were sent to do it. Then laid they their hands on them Namely, after they had prayed for them; and they received the Holy Ghost In answer to the prayers of these apostles: that is these new converts spake with tongues, and performed other extraordinary works. Thus God put honour upon the apostolic office, bore witness to his truth, and by qualifying many persons to instruct others therein, and to sustain other offices among his people, he made provision for the further enlargement of his work, in the conversion of more sinners, and the establishment and edification of believers.

Verses 18-19

Acts 8:18-19. And when Simon The magician, spoken of before; saw With astonishment; that through laying on of the apostles’ hands On the heads of many individuals, lately converted to the Christian faith; the Holy Ghost was given In his extraordinary operations; he offered them money And hence the procuring any ministerial function, or ecclesiastical benefice, by money, is termed Simony: saying, Give me also this power Let me prevail with you, by this reward, to confer on me the power which I have seen you exercise with so much ease. It seems Simon imagined, if by the imposition of his hands he could confer such gifts as Peter and John conferred, it would turn considerably to his honour and advantage; and especially if he could, by this means, communicate to whom he would the knowledge of languages, which they had never been at the trouble of learning in a natural way. “Simon,” says Henry, “did not desire the apostles to lay their hands on him, that he might receive the Holy Ghost himself, for he did not foresee that any thing was to be got by that; but that they would convey to him a power to bestow the gift upon others; he was ambitious to have the honour of an apostle, but not at all solicitous to have the spirit or disposition of a Christian: he was more desirous to gain honour to himself than to do good to others. Now in making this motion, 1st, He put a great affront upon the apostles, as if they were mercenary men, who would do any thing for money. 2d, He put a great affront upon Christianity, as if the miracles that were wrought in confirmation of it were done by magic arts, only of a different nature from those which he himself had practised formerly.” Indeed, as Dr. Whitby observes, “The sin of Simon struck at the very foundation of the Christian faith; supposing that the apostles, and other Christians, did their miracles by some higher art of magic than that which he had learned, and so that they, by the same art, could teach others to do the same works for any other end.” “3d, He showed that, like Balaam, he aimed at the rewards of divination; for he would not have bid money for this power, if he had not hoped to get money by Act 2:4 th, He showed that he had a very high conceit of himself, and that his heart had never been truly humbled.”

Verses 20-21

Acts 8:20-21. But Peter said, Thy money perish with thee Not being able to conceal his indignation, upon hearing so infamous an offer. His words are not to be considered as an imprecation, but as a strong admonition to Simon of his danger, and an intimation, how much rather the apostle would see the greatest sum of money lost and cast away, than receive any part of it upon such shameful terms. With a horror like that with which Peter received the wicked proposal of Simon, should we look on the conduct of all those by whom sacred things are either bought or sold; an infamous traffic, about which an upright man cannot deliberate a moment, but will reject it at once with an honest scorn and indignation, like that of Peter in the present instance. “They,” says Beza, “who buy and sell sacred things, are the successors not of Simon Peter, but of Simon Magus.” A crime almost equally enormous with this is, that of prostituting the ordinances of Christ to secular ends. In vain is it for men to profess themselves Christians, in vain to submit like Simon to baptism, or like him to adhere constantly to the ministers of the gospel, while such hypocritical conduct proclaims aloud that they are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Because thou hast thought Hast persuaded thyself; that the gift of God may be purchased with money Thus, on the one hand, overvaluing the wealth of this world, as if it were an equivalent for any thing, even for spiritual and eternal blessings; and, on the other, undervaluing the gift of the Holy Ghost, and putting it on a level with the common gifts of nature and providence. Observe, reader, all the buying and selling of pardons and indulgences in the Church of Rome is the product of this same wicked thought, that the gift of God may be purchased with money; whereas the offer of divine grace is expressly made to all that will receive it, without money and without price. Thou hast neither part By purchase, nor lot Given gratis, in this matter This gift of God; nor any interest in the important spiritual blessings to which all these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are subservient; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God Otherwise thou wouldst think far more honourably of his Spirit than to form a mercenary scheme to traffic in it in this scandalous manner. Probably Peter discerned that Simon’s heart was not right in the sight of God long before he declared it; although it does not appear that God gave to any of the apostles a universal power of discerning the hearts of all they conversed with, any more than a universal power of healing all the sick they came near. This we are sure Paul had not, though he was not inferior to the chief of the apostles; otherwise he would not have suffered the illness of Epaphroditus to have brought him so near death, Philippians 2:25-27; nor left so useful a fellow-labourer as Trophimus sick at Miletus, 2 Timothy 4:20. Observe, reader, although we cannot infer from every thing that a man saith or doth amiss, that he is a hypocrite in the profession he makes of religion; yet, conduct like this of Simon is such a fundamental error as can by no means consist with a state of grace. His offering money for a spiritual gift was an incontestable evidence, 1st, That he was yet under the power of a worldly and carnal spirit; and, 2d, That he was yet a mere natural man, who received not the things of the Spirit of God. His heart, as Peter tells him, was not right, and we are as our hearts are: if they be not right, we are wrong; and, whatever our pretensions may be, our religion is vain, and will stand us in no stead on a death-bed, or at the day of judgment. Inquire, therefore, reader, whether thy heart be right in His sight who trieth the heart and the reins, to whom every heart is open, and who will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, and in particular will make manifest the counsels of the heart.

Verses 22-23

Acts 8:22-23. Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness Be humbled and ashamed for what thou hast thought, said, and done; own thyself guilty in this matter, and be sorry for it; condemn thy way, and amend it; and be a new creature in Christ. And pray to God He must pray that God would give him repentance, and pardon upon repentance. “Here is so incontestable an evidence of an unconverted sinner being exhorted to repentance and prayer, while he was known to be in that state, that it is astonishing the propriety of doing this should ever have been disputed; and one would think none could be so wild as to imagine faith in Christ was not included in that repentance which an apostle preaches to a baptized person as the way of obtaining forgiveness.” Doddridge. If perhaps, the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee Without all doubt, if Simon had repented he would have been forgiven; and this dubious manner in which Peter speaks of his obtaining forgiveness, intimates, not that his repentance, if sincere, might possibly fail of acceptance, for that would have been contrary to the whole tenor of the gospel; but the doubt was, whether he would sincerely repent; whether, after the commission of a sin so nearly approaching the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, he could ever be brought to true repentance. For I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness That is, the most bitter gall. “Significat animi constitutionem perquam vitiosam, et talem, qualis sunt cibi felle corrupti.” It signifies a state of mind very vicious, and like meats corrupted with gall. Grotius. Odious to God, as that which is bitter as gall is to us; or plunged in that hateful pollution which must be bitterness and poison in the latter end. See note on Deuteronomy 29:18; and Hebrews 12:15. And in the bond of iniquity Held in the chains of thine own covetousness and carnality, and consequently in a state of base servitude; bound over to the judgment of God by the guilt of sin, and bound under the dominion of Satan by the power of sin, led captive by him at his will. The whole sentence expresses, in Peter’s strong manner of speaking, how odious and wretched a creature Simon now appeared to him: and how much more odious must such a sinner be in the eyes of a holy God!

Verse 24

Acts 8:24. Then answered Simon Alarmed by the solemn admonition given him; and said To the apostles; Pray ye to the Lord for me If you indeed conceive my case to be so bad, extend your charity so far as to make your supplications to the Lord on my account; that none of these things, which ye have spoken, come upon me He probably inferred, from what Peter had said, that some token of God’s wrath would soon fall upon him, which he thus dreaded and deprecated. But there is reason to fear that this pretence of conviction and humiliation was used chiefly to prevent Peter and John from disgracing him among the body of Christians: for it is reasonable to suppose this conversation passed in private between them: and, perhaps, Simon might have some hope, that, if the secret were kept, he might reduce the people, when Peter was gone, to their former subjection to him, notwithstanding their conversion to Christianity.

Verse 25

Acts 8:25. And when they had testified, and preached the word of the Lord Had borne a solemn testimony by word and deed to the truth of the gospel, and confirmed what Philip had preached; they returned to Jerusalem To the other ten apostles, having executed their commission, and performed the errand on which they were sent; and preached the gospel As they went along; in many villages of the Samaritans Which lay in their way, doubtless confirming their doctrine by miracles, though none are here recorded.

Verses 26-28

Acts 8:26-28. And After the important affairs above mentioned were despatched at Samaria, and a church was established there, and supplied with proper pastors and teachers; the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip Probably in a dream or vision by night; saying, Arise, and go toward the south Though angels were not employed to preach the gospel, they were often employed in carrying messages to those that preached it, for advice, direction, and encouragement. And it gives us a very high idea of the gospel, to see the ministers of it receiving such immediate direction from celestial spirits, in the particular discharge of their office. Unto the way from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert There were two ways from Jerusalem unto Gaza; one desert, the other through a more populous country. And Philip is directed in these words to go to some part of the former, because there he would find work to do. And he arose and went Without objection, or presuming to inquire into the errand on which he was sent; and behold, a man of Ethiopia Greek, Αιθιοψ ευνουχος , an Ethiopian eunuch. The Hebrew word סריס , which answers to that here rendered eunuch, is sometimes very properly translated an officer: and chief officers were often anciently called eunuchs, though not always literally such; because such used to be chief ministers in the eastern courts. Of great authority Δυναστης , a grandee; under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians It appears that Candace was a name common to several of the queens who reigned in Meroe, a part of Ethiopia to the south of Egypt; who had the charge of all her treasure So great a trust did she repose in him; and had come to Jerusalem to worship Being a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and as such having renounced idolatry, and being brought over to the worship of the God of Israel. This man was then returning home, and sitting in his chariot, read Esaias It is probable his mind was deeply impressed with devout and religious sentiments, in consequence of his having attended the solemnities of divine worship at one of the festivals at Jerusalem, and that he was therefore thus employed in reading the writings of this prophet, that he might learn the will of God and his duty. God meets those that remember him in his ways. It is good to read, hear, and seek information even on a journey. Why should we not redeem all our time?

Verses 29-31

Acts 8:29-31. Then the Spirit By that secret suggestion which inspired persons could distinguish with certainty as divine revelation; said to Philip, Go near Now Philip shall know the reason of his being sent into a desert; join thyself to this chariot Enter into conversation with the person who sits in it, without fear of offending him, or exposing thyself to any inconvenience. And Philip ran to him Ran up to the chariot; and heard him read For he read aloud, both that his own mind might be more deeply impressed with what he read, and that his servants, who were near, might receive some benefit by it. And Philip, being well acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, soon perceived that the book in which he read was that of the Prophet Isaiah, and that the passage he was reading would give him a very proper opportunity of entering into discourse with him concerning Christ, and delivering to him that evangelical message with which he was charged. He therefore took occasion to begin the conversation from this circumstance, saying to the eunuch, Understandest thou what thou readest? This question Philip puts to him, not by way of reproach, but with a design to offer him his service, and lead him into the true knowledge of the important prophecy which now engaged his attention. Observe, what we read and hear of the word of God, it highly concerns us to understand; especially what we read and hear concerning Christ; and therefore we should often ask ourselves whether we understand it or not. Philip did not begin about the weather, news, or the like. In speaking for God, we may frequently come to the point at once without circumlocution. And he said, How can I The eunuch was so far from being offended at the freedom Philip took, that he mildly and respectfully said in reply, How should I understand such obscure oracles as these, except some man should guide me Unless some person, better acquainted with the contents of them than I am, should throw that light upon them which I, who am so much a stranger to the Jewish affairs, must necessarily be destitute of. And he desired Philip to come up and sit with him Inferring from the question he put, that he was better acquainted with these things than himself. Here we see a remarkable instance of the providence and grace of God. This great man had been at Jerusalem, where the apostles were preaching the Christian faith, and multitudes professing it, and yet there he had taken no notice of it, and made no inquiries after it; nay, it seems had slighted it, and turned his back upon it. Yet the grace of God pursues him, overtakes him in the desert, and there converts him. Thus God is often found of those that sought him not!

Verses 32-33

Acts 8:32-33. The place Η περιοχη , the portion, or paragraph, of the Scripture which he read was, He was led, &c. These words were taken from Isaiah 53:8; where, that the prophet speaks of Christ, no Christian can reasonably doubt, there being scarce a verse in the whole chapter which is not by the Holy Ghost applied to Christ in the New Testament; the 1st verse, John 12:38; the 3d, Mark 9:12; the 4th, Mark 8:17; the 5th, Mark 15:28. And by reading this same chapter, many Jews, yea, and deists, have been converted. Some of them history records; but God knows them all. The passage here referred to is quoted according to the Septuagint version, which differs in some things from the original Hebrew. Grotius thinks the eunuch read it in Hebrew, having learned, from the many Jews that were in Ethiopia, both their religion and their language, and that Luke gives it to his readers in Greek, as being the language in which he wrote his history, and which he knew would be more generally understood. But, considering that the Septuagint version was made in Egypt, which was the country next adjoining to Ethiopia, and lay between it and Jerusalem, it is more probable that translation was most familiar to the eunuch, and therefore was now used by him. The greatest variation from the Hebrew here is, that what in it is, He was taken from prison and from judgment, or, as the margin has it, He was taken away by distress and judgment; that is, he was taken out of this life by oppression, violence, and a pretence of justice; is here read, In his humiliation his judgment was taken away That is, he appeared so mean and despicable in the eyes of mankind, both Jews and Romans, that they denied him common justice, and, against all the rules of equity, condemned him, even while they declared him innocent. To take away a person’s judgment is a proverbial phrase for oppressing him. The sense therefore is nearly the same with that of the Hebrew. But see the notes on Isaiah 53:7-8; where the paragraph is explained at large.

Verses 34-35

Acts 8:34-35 . The eunuch said, Of whom speaketh the prophet this He asks a very important question, a question necessary to be resolved, in order to the understanding of the prophecy; of himself Does the prophet speak this of himself, in expectation of being treated as the other prophets were? or, does he speak it of some other man In his own age, or in some age to come? Though the modern Jews will not allow it to be spoken of the Messiah, yet their ancient doctors interpreted it of him; and, perhaps, the eunuch knew this, and did partly understand the prophecy, and only proposed this question to draw on discourse with Philip. Then Philip Doubtless, secretly adoring the divine providence, in giving him so fair an opportunity; opened his mouth With an air of solemnity, proportionable to the importance of what he had to say; and began at the same scripture In which Christ was so plainly described; and preached to him Jesus ευηγγελισατο αυτω τον Ιησουν , preached to him glad tidings of Jesus, of whom, not Isaiah alone, but so many of the other prophets had spoken. And after he had laid before him the predictions recorded in Scripture concerning the Messiah, he, doubtless, bore witness to the glorious accomplishment of them in Jesus of Nazareth, and gave him the history of those extraordinary facts which had lately happened, in confirmation of the gospel he taught. His noble hearer, in the mean time, we have reason to believe, hearkened attentively; and, it appears, not in vain. For though he saw no miracle performed, in evidence of the truth of Philip’s doctrine, he found such a light breaking in upon his mind from the view given him of the prophecies, and such an inward conviction wrought in his spirit by the divine influence, that he became a sincere convert to the gospel.

Verses 36-37

Acts 8:36-37. And as they went on their way Discoursing together of the person and sufferings of Christ, and of the method of salvation by him; they came to a certain water For even the circumstances of the journey were under the direction of God; and the eunuch, having learned what was the rite of initiation which the great Prophet and Sovereign of the church had appointed, and being willing to embrace the first opportunity that Providence offered of making a surrender of himself to Christ, and of being received into the number of his people; said, Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? Why should I not, from this hour, become one of the Christian community? Probably he had been circumcised; otherwise Cornelius would not have been the first-fruits of the Gentiles. Observe, reader, in the solemn dedicating of ourselves to God, it is good to make haste, and not delay, for the present time is the best time. Thus the psalmist, I made haste and delayed not to keep thy commandments, Psalms 119:60; and thus the eunuch here: he feared lest the good affections now working in him should abate; and therefore was desirous immediately to bind his soul with the baptismal bonds unto the Lord, that he might bring the matter to a good issue. And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest That is, if thou believest this doctrine which I have preached to thee concerning Jesus; if thou receivest the record God has given concerning him, and set to thy seal that it is true; if thou not only assentest to the gospel truths in thy understanding, but embracest gospel blessings in thy affections, and consentest in thy will to obey the gospel precepts; if thou indeed believest with thy heart unto righteousness, thou art by that faith united to Christ, and mayest, by baptism, be joined to his church. And he answered, I believe that Jesus Christ Whom thou hast now been preaching to me; is the Son of God And the promised Messiah, who was to be sent into the world for the salvation of lost sinners. He was before a worshipper of the true God, so that all he had now to do, in order to be a true Christian, was thus to receive Christ Jesus the Lord. In many ancient copies and versions this verse is omitted; (see Dr. Mill on the place.) “Nevertheless,” says Beza,

“God forbid I should think it ought to be expunged, since it contains such a confession of faith as in the apostolic times was required of the adult, in order to their being admitted to baptism.” Allowing it to be genuine, it fully proves that Philip had opened to the eunuch the doctrine of Christ’s divinity; and indeed, if he had not done it, he must have given him a very imperfect account of the gospel.

Verse 38

Acts 8:38. And he commanded the chariot to stand still Namely, upon Philip’s declaring his satisfaction in this profession of his faith in Christ, and subjection to him, and readily consenting to receive him as a fellow Christian. And they went down both Namely, out of the chariot; into the water Or rather, to the water, as εις τω υδωρ literally signifies. For it is not certain that he was baptized by immersion. This text neither affirms nor intimates it. And he baptized him Though Philip had very lately been deceived in Simon Magus, and had admitted him to baptism, though he afterward appeared to be no true convert, yet he did not therefore scruple to baptize the eunuch immediately upon his profession of faith, without putting him upon a longer trial than was usual. If some hypocrites, who afterward prove a grief and scandal to us, crowd into the church, yet we must not therefore make the door of admission any straiter than Christ has made it; they shall answer for their hypocrisy, and not we.

Verse 39

Acts 8:39. And when they were come up out of the water Or, from the water, as εκ του υδατος may be properly rendered; the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip Namely, in a miraculous manner, probably transporting him, part of the way at least, through the air; a thing which seems to have happened with respect to some of the prophets. See 1Ki 18:12 ; 2 Kings 2:16; Ezekiel 3:14. That the eunuch saw him no more This fact is as surprising as the other parts of the story. One would have expected that the eunuch should either have stayed with Philip, or have taken him along with him into his own country, especially as it seems he might have been spared in these parts of Palestine, where there were so many apostles, evangelists, and other teachers of Christianity; and his ministry was much needed in Ethiopia, where, at this time, there were none; and where, recommended by a person so high in power as the eunuch was, he might probably have been remarkably useful in converting the Ethiopians to the faith of the gospel. But God ordered it otherwise, and took away Philip so suddenly as not even to give him time to address an exhortation to the eunuch after his baptism, as it is probable he intended to do. His sudden departure, however, in so miraculous a way, was sufficient to make up the want of that exhortation, especially if we suppose that he was caught up and carried through the air in the eunuch’s sight. It may not be improper to observe here, that the Alexandrian MS., and several other old copies, read it, Πνευμα αγιον επεσεν επι τον ευνουχον , αγγελος δε Κυριου ηρπασε , The Holy Spirit fell upon the eunuch, but an angel of the Lord snatched away Philip: and certainly it is not improbable that God should communicate a large measure of his Spirit, and even some extraordinary gifts thereof, to such a person going into a country where the gospel was entirely unknown, and should thereby furnish him for the great work of preaching it there. And he went on his way rejoicing His heart being full of thankfulness, that he had been favoured with the privilege of so important an interview with such a divinely-commissioned teacher, and highly-favoured servant of Christ, and that, after having received the gospel from his lips, he had seen such a miraculous confirmation of its truth in his sudden removal from his sight; a fact to which all his attendants were witnesses. He rejoiced also, 1st, That he himself was united to Christ, had an interest in him, and was thereby made a child of God, and an heir of eternal felicity and glory: and, 2d, That he had such good tidings to bring to his countrymen, and a prospect of bringing them also, by virtue of his interest among them, into fellowship with Christ; for he returned, not only a Christian, but a minister. And Eusebius assures us, ( Ecclesiastes Hist., lib. 2. cap. 1,) that he planted a flourishing church in Ethiopia, a fact in which all the most ancient histories of that country agree.

Verse 40

Acts 8:40. But Philip Quickly after he was separated from the eunuch; was found at Azotus Or Ashdod, a city that was more than thirty miles from Gaza. Probably none saw him from the time of his leaving the eunuch till he was there. And passing through That part of the country; he preached in all the cities Namely, Joppa, Lydda, Saron, and all the other cities along the coast of the Mediterranean sea; till he came to Cesarea Namely, Cesarea in Palestine, a city far distant from Cesarea Philippi, (mentioned Matthew 16:13, where see the notes,) which was situate to the north of the tribe of Naphtali, and near the sources of Jordan. Wherever the word Cesarea occurs without Philippi, the former place is intended. It was anciently called Stratonice, or Straton’s Tower, and was rebuilt by Herod the Great in honour of Augustus Cesar, and greatly enlarged and beautified with many fine edifices of polished marble; but the greatest and most beneficial of all his works here was the harbour, which he made equal in largeness to the Piræus at Athens. The beauty of this Cesarea, and the conveniences of its situation, were so great, that when the Romans reduced Judea into the form of a province, they made it the seat of their government, in preference even to Jerusalem itself. It appears that Philip settled here for some time, probably for life, for we find him long after this residing here with his four unmarried daughters, who were prophetesses, and entertaining Paul and his company many days at his house, when on their way to Jerusalem. See Acts 21:8-9. It is likely, therefore, that his itinerant mission ended here. It is reasonable to suppose, however, that he still continued to preach the gospel to those Jews who were disposed to attend his ministry, and that he made, at least, some converts among them. He doubtless also performed the work of an evangelist in some other places in those parts.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 8". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/acts-8.html. 1857.