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Acts 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Acts 9:0


The Conversion of SaulThe Damascus Road: Saul ConvertedConversion of Saul of TarsusThe Conversion of SaulThe Conversion of Saul
Acts 9:1-9Acts 9:1-9Acts 9:1-9Acts 9:1-2Acts 9:1-2
Acts 9:3-4Acts 9:3-9
Acts 9:5a
Acts 9:5-6
Ananias Baptizes SaulActs 9:7-9
Acts 9:10-19aActs 9:10-19Acts 9:10-19aActs 9:10aActs 9:10-12
Acts 9:10b
Acts 9:11-12
Acts 9:13-14Acts 9:13-19a
Acts 9:15-16
Acts 9:17-19a
Saul Preaches at DamascusSaul Preaches ChristSaul Preaches in DamascusSaul's Preaching at Damascus
Acts 9:19-22Acts 9:19-22Acts 9:19-20Acts 9:19-22
Acts 9:20-22Acts 9:21
Acts 9:22
Saul Escapes From the JewsSaul Escapes DeathSaul's First Visit to Jerusalem
Acts 9:23-25Acts 9:23-25Acts 9:23-25Acts 9:23-25Acts 9:23-25
Saul at JerusalemSaul at JerusalemSaul in JerusalemSaul's Visit to Jerusalem
Acts 9:26-30Acts 9:26-30Acts 9:26-30Acts 9:26-30Acts 9:26-30
The Church ProspersA Lull
Acts 9:31Acts 9:31Acts 9:31Acts 9:31Acts 9:31
The Healing of AeneasAeneas HealedPeter's Journey to Lydda and JoppaPeter Sees Lydda in JoppaPeter Cures a Paralytic at Joppa
Acts 9:32-35Acts 9:32-35Acts 9:32-35Acts 9:32-35Acts 9:32-35
Dorcas Restored to LifeDorcas Restored to LifePeter Raises a Woman to Life at Joppa
Acts 9:36-43Acts 9:36-43Acts 9:36-43Acts 9:36-43Acts 9:36-38
Acts 9:39-42
Acts 9:43

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The emphasis in Acts is beginning to shift from

1. the Apostle Peter to the Apostle Paul

2. from Palestine to the Mediterranean world

3. from Jews to Gentiles.

B. Paul's conversion is such an important point in church history that it is recorded three times in the book of Acts.

1. Luke's account, Acts 9:1-30

2. Paul's account before the mob in Jerusalem, Acts 22:3-16

3. Paul's account before Agrippa II at Caesarea, Acts 26:4-18

4. Paul also briefly mentions this same period in Galatians 1:13-17 and 2 Corinthians 11:32-33

C. The similarities between Stephen's message and Paul's messages are obvious. Paul began to minister to the same Hellenistic Jews to whom Stephen had preached. Paul heard Stephen's sermon of Acts 7:0 (cf. Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1; Acts 22:20). It is even possible that Paul was one of the leaders of the Hellenist Synagogues in Jerusalem who debated with Stephen and lost!

D. Some possible influential factors in Paul's conversion

1. failure of Judaism to provide internal peace and joy

2. the life and teachings of Jesus were well known and discussed in rabbinical circles (especially Jerusalem)

3. he heard Stephen's sermon and witnessed his death (possibly even debated Stephen)

4. he saw the demeanor and faith of Christians under persecution

5. his personal encounter with the resurrected Lord changed everything


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the conversion of Paul recorded three times in Acts?

2. Why are the three accounts of Paul's conversion slightly different?

3. How much choice did Paul have in his conversion? Is his experience to be seen as normative?

4. Why did the Hellenistic Jews try to kill Paul?

5. If Peter and Paul used miracles to open the door for the gospel, why does God not use that method more today?

Verses 1-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:1-9 1Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do." 7The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Acts 9:1 "Saul, still breathing threats and murder" This is literally "snorting." In Acts 26:11, Paul says of himself, that he was furiously enraged at them. Apparently Paul even killed some Christians (cf. Acts 8:1).

"the disciples of the Lord" This term means learners. It only appears in the Gospels and Acts. This term is rapidly replaced by the term "saints." Notice the number of terms used in this chapter to describe the people of God:

1. disciples, Acts 9:1, Acts 9:10, Acts 9:19, Acts 9:25, Acts 9:26, Acts 9:36, Acts 9:38

2. the Way, Acts 9:2

3. saints, Acts 9:13, Acts 9:32, Acts 9:41

4. brothers, Acts 9:17.

"went to the high priest" This is obviously a reference to the Sanhedrin (cf. Acts 26:10). See note on Sanhedrin at Acts 4:5.

Acts 9:2 "for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus" The Roman government had given limited authority to the Sanhedrin to conduct and control events in the synagogues or related to Jewish life in the Empire (cf. I Macc. 15:16-21 or Josephus, Antiq. 14.10.2). Judaism was a recognized, legal religion of the Greco-Roman world.

Apparently these were letters of extradition for the Jewish Christians who had fled Jerusalem in the face of the Jewish persecution (cf. Acts 9:14, Acts 9:21; Acts 22:5; Acts 26:10).

"if" This is a third class conditional sentence meaning potential action.

"The Way" This was the early designation for believers (cf. Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22 and possibly Acts 18:25, Acts 18:26). It has an OT background, speaking of lifestyle faith (cf. Psalms 1:1; Psalms 16:11; Psalms 119:105; Psalms 139:24; Proverbs 4:10-19). Jesus uses this concept in Matthew 7:14 and uses the title for Himself in John 14:6. Christianity is a personal encounter followed by a daily relationship.

"women" The mention of women three times amidst the groups that Paul persecuted is a way to show the intensity of Paul's actions (cf. Acts 8:3; Acts 22:4). Luke has a special concern for women!

Acts 9:3 "Damascus" This was an ancient city and capital of the Roman Province of Syria just north/northeast of Galilee. It was 150 miles from Jerusalem.

"and suddenly" This term also has the connotation of "unexpectedly."

"a light from heaven" Paul relates his experience with this light differently in his three accounts of his experience in Acts

1. "a light from heaven flashed around him" (Acts 9:3)

2. "a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me" (Acts 22:6)

3. "I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me" (Acts 26:13)

Paul vividly remembers this event! It is just possible that this light is theologically/physically related to the Shekinah glory of YHWH's presence with Israel during the Wilderness Wandering Period. The Hebrew concept of "glory" takes on an aspect of bright light from this historical event (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) at Acts 3:13). This light would have showed Saul the rabbi that this was the personal presence of God.

Acts 9:4 "heard a voice" This heavenly voice was something Judaism was familiar with. It is known as a bath kol. This provided a means for the Jews to receive information and/or confirmation from God (during the interbiblical period between the closing of Malachi [or Chronicles] and the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist). This form of revelation was necessary because there were no inspired prophets during this period.

"Saul, Saul" In Hebrew this repeating of the name was a way to show intensity.

"why are you persecuting Me" This is extremely significant theologically because it shows the continuity and intimacy between Jesus and His church (cf. Matthew 10:40; Matthew 25:40, Matthew 25:45). Paul was persecuting the Church, but Jesus took it personally. From Acts 26:14 we know that Jesus spoke to Paul in Aramaic.

It is also theologically significant that Christianity is both a person (Jesus) and a group (church). The corporate metaphors used in the NT for the church are:

1. body

2. family

3. building

4. saints

All emphasize the corporate nature of faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7). It starts individually, but moves to the group (conscientiousness and concern). This individual corporality can be seen in Paul's discussion of Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-21. The One is part of the all; the One can affect the all (cf. Joshua 7:0).

Acts 9:5a "Who are You, Lord" What did Paul imply by the use of "Lord"?

1. sir, title of respect (ex. John 4:11)

2. YHWH, translated by Lord in the OT (ex. Genesis 2:4)

If surprise is the focus, then possibly #1 applies, but if the light from heaven denotes an action of God, then #2 is the case. If #2, then suddenly Paul's rabbinical theology is challenged. What a confusing and frightful time this must have been! See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Acts 1:6.

Acts 9:5-6b These verses are not found in any early Greek manuscripts. They are found in only one Latin family of manuscripts. Erasmus, translating from the Vulgate, put them in his first edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516. These words are found in Acts 26:14. Their inclusion here shows a tendency of scribes to make parallels uniform and full of all details.

Acts 9:5 "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" Paul is claiming to have seen the Glorified Christ (cf. Acts 22:14; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9). Paul will later understand this experience as an integral part of his call to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The crucified carpenter from Nazareth is the glorified Messiah!

Acts 9:6 This verse is explained in detail in Acts 9:10-19.

"must do" See full note on dei at Acts 1:16.

Acts 9:7 "The men who traveled with him" This possibly refers to

1. the Temple police accompanying Paul

2. other Jewish zealots, probably from Hellenistic synagogues

3. other theological students from Jerusalem

"hearing the voice but seeing no one" There is a seeming discrepancy between Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 in the details of this event. There have been several theories how to deal with it:

1. It is a matter of syntax. The verb "to hear" can take a genitive (Acts 9:7) or an accusative (Acts 22:9). These different forms have different implications or connotations. The NRSV, in a footnote, has "The Greek suggests that his companions heard the sound of the voice, but not the words spoken."

2. Others say it is similar to John 12:29-30 about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the voice from heaven.

3. Others say that it is Paul's voice that is being referred to, not Jesus'. They heard Paul speaking, but they did not hear Jesus speaking.

4. Others say this is similar to the Synoptic problem. Different Gospel writers record the same events, sermons, and actions of Jesus in differing ways, which is different eyewitness accounts.

Acts 9:8 "though his eyes were open, he could see nothing" Paul apparently had eye problems from this point on (cf. Galatians 4:13-15; Galatians 6:11). I, personally, believe Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Galatians 4:13-15; Galatians 6:11) was Oriental ophthalmia, possibly caused by this experience. There is irony here; Paul experiences a reorientation. He thought he could see (physically and spiritually, cf. John 9:0), but he found out that he was blind. After this encounter with Christ he was physically blinded for a period, but his spiritual eyes were wide open!

Acts 9:9 "And he was three days without sight" This is a periphrastic imperfect. Some commentators see this as the occasion of Paul's vision of heaven recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4.

"and neither ate nor drank" Paul was fasting and praying (cf. Acts 9:11). What a reorientation must have been occurring in Paul's mind (theology) and heart (desire)! He was beginning the transformation from persecutor of the gospel to proclaimer of the gospel!

Verses 10-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:10-19a 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." 17So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19and he took food and was strengthened.

Acts 9:10 "Ananias" This name means "YHWH is gracious." Apparently he was a believing Jew of good reputation, not a refugee (cf. Acts 22:12).

"Here I am, Lord" This is a Jewish idiom of availability (cf. Isaiah 6:8). Verse Acts 9:11 was obviously given verbally because it is very specific instruction.

Acts 9:12 "he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias" "In a vision" is not in the ancient Greek manuscripts P74, א, and A, but it is in MSS B and C. The UBS4 put the shorter reading in the text but gives it a "C" rating (with difficulty in deciding). This verse shows that Ananias' coming, actions, and message were confirming Jesus' earlier words to Paul (cf. Acts 9:6)

"lay his hands on hin" See Special Topic at Acts 6:6.

Acts 9:13 "I have heard from many" Obviously Ananias had heard the bad reports about Paul's vicious persecution of believers from the Jewish refugees from Jerusalem.

"Your saints" The term hagioi is related to the Greek word "holy" (hagios). The OT background (kadosh) relates to some thing, some person, or some place set apart by God for a special task. The term "saints" is always plural, except one time in Philippians 4:21, but even there it is in a plural context. To be a Christian is to be a part of a family, a community. There are no loners in the faith.


Acts 9:14 "the chief priests" In the OT the high priesthood was for life and was passed on to a special family of Levite's son (cf. Lev. 8-10). However, during the Roman period this position was purchased from the Roman officials. Therefore, there were several High Priests within the Sadducean family of Annas.

"who call on Your name" This phrase has important theological implications. Luke uses it several times in Acts for

1. someone addressing Jesus (cf. Acts 7:59)

2. someone who has accepted Jesus as Savior (cf. Acts 9:14, Acts 9:21)

3. an OT quote from Amos 9:12, where it refers to someone upon whom YHWH's name is called (i.e., believers, cf. Acts 15:17)

4. A way for someone to publicly affirm his faith in Jesus (cf. Acts 22:16)

This phrase is also part of Paul's plea to Israel from Joel 2:32 in Romans 10:9-13 (cf. 2 Timothy 2:22). Peter uses this same passage (Joel 2:28-32) in his Pentecost sermon and invited those present to "call upon the name of the Lord" from Joel 2:32.

The name stands for the person. By invoking the name sinners beseech Jesus to act on their behalf and include them in His family. See Special Topic at Acts 2:22.

Acts 9:15 "Go" This is a present middle (deponent) imperative. Jesus authoritatively sends the reluctant Ananias to Saul.

"for he is a chosen instrument of Mine" Oh, the greatness of the grace and election of God! Paul does not fit the evangelical model of voluntary, volitional conversion. He was dramatically drafted!

NASB, NKJV"before the Gentiles" NRSV, NJB"to bring my name before Gentiles" TEV"to make my name known to Gentiles"

What a startling statement for a Jew to be told (cf. Ephesians 3:7)! Yet, this has always been God's plan (cf. Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:5-6; Ephesians 2:11-13, see Special Topic at Acts 1:8). Israel was only an instrument to reach the world, made in the image of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27), but fallen (cf. Genesis 3:15).

"and kings" Paul spoke to governmental leaders, small and great, and finally to Caesar!

"and the sons of Israel" Paul's regular missionary pattern was to preach first at the local synagogue (cf. Romans 1:16) in every city. This allowed the Jews and the God-fearers who knew the OT a chance to respond first to the gospel. Then he would turn to the pagans.

Acts 9:16 "for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake" Suffering is not the exception, but the norm for Christians in a fallen world (cf. Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; John 16:1-2; John 17:14; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:24-33; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-16).

There is a theological relationship between the sufferings of Christ and the sufferings of His followers in this fallen realm. The book of 1 Peter shows this parallel.

1. Jesus' suffering, 1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1

2. His followers', 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 2:19; 1 Peter 3:13-17; 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 4:12-19; 1 Peter 5:9-10

If the world rejected Him it will reject His (cf. John 7:7; John 15:18-19; John 17:14).

Acts 9:17 "and after laying his hands on him" There is no scriptural basis for the concept of "apostolic authority" in bestowing spiritual gifts. Ananias is an unknown lay believer in Damascus who becomes

1. God's spokesman and an agent in

2. Paul's being the filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 9:17)

3. Paul's physical healing (cf. Acts 9:18)

4. Paul's baptism (cf. Acts 9:18)

"Brother Saul" What a great example of obedience and love!

Acts 9:18 "there fell from his eyes something like scales" This is a technical medical term for the flaking of skin from a wound Luke uses to describe what happened to Paul's eyes in this moment of healing. The word scales is used of fish scales in the Septuagint (cf. Leviticus 11:9, Leviticus 11:10, Leviticus 11:12; Deuteronomy 14:9). The metaphorical extension can be seen in Numbers 16:38, where it is used of flattened metal plates. In this context they were probably flakes of skin or crust which oozed from Paul's eyes.

"was baptized" Ananias apparently also baptized Paul (cf. Acts 8:36, Acts 8:38). NT baptism was an act of obedience to Jesus' example (cf. Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) and command (cf. Matthew 28:19.) It marks a change of ownership and allegiance.

Acts 9:19a "he took food and was strengthened" Paul had been fasting and praying since the light knocked him to the ground (cf. Acts 9:9). After a three day total fast (no food or water), he must have been very weak.

Verses 19-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:19-22 19bNow for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." 21All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" 22But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Acts 9:20 "he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues" This is an imperfect active indicative. It can mean (1) the beginning of an action or (2) repeated action. What irony! He came earlier with a letter from the High Priests in Jerusalem to the synagogues in Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus and now he came to the same synagogues preaching Jesus as the Messiah (cf. v Acts 9:21).

"'He is the Son of God'" This is the only use of the title "Son of God" in the book of Acts (except for the quote of Psalms 2:7 in Acts 13:33). Its OT background reflects its significance: (1) the nation of Israel (cf. Hosea 11:1); (2) the King of Israel (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14); and (3) the Messiah (cf. Matthew 2:15). Paul's strict monotheism (see Special Topic at Acts 2:39) is being redefined!


Acts 9:21 This verse is in the form of a question which expects a "yes" answer.

"destroyed" This is a rare and intense word meaning to ravage, lay waste to, or totally destroy. It is found only here and in Galatians 1:13, Galatians 1:23 in the NT and in IV Macc. Acts 4:23. Paul was a vicious persecutor!

Acts 9:22

NASB"Saul kept increasing in strength" NKJV"Saul increased all the more in strength" NRSV"Saul became increasingly more powerful" TEV"Saul's preaching became even more powerful" NJB"Saul's power increased steadily"

This is an imperfect passive indicative. It took some time for Saul's gifts and skills to develop. In context this refers to Paul's preaching and debating skills (cf. TEV).

"confounding" This is an imperfect active indicative which denotes repeated action in past time. This is a compound term from "together" (sun) and "pour" (cheô). This word is only found in Acts.

Acts 9:1. Acts 2:6, bewildered

Acts 9:2. Acts 9:22, confounded

Acts 9:3. Acts 19:32, confusion

Acts 9:4. Acts 21:27, stir up

Acts 9:5. Acts 21:31, confusion

The Jews could not explain Paul's conversion or his powerful preaching of Jesus as the promised OT Messiah.

"proving" This word means to conclude (cf. Acts 16:10; Acts 19:33) and by extension, to prove. Paul's method was much like Stephen's. They both used OT passages and their fulfillment in the life of Jesus of Nazareth to prove that He was the Messiah promised in the OT.

"the Christ" This is a way of referring to the Messiah (Anointed One, Promised Coming One, see Special Topic at Acts 2:31). Many times in Acts the definite article precedes the noun (ex. Acts 2:31, Acts 2:36; Acts 3:18, Acts 3:20). Saul was asserting with power and conviction that Jesus of Nazareth, killed in Jerusalem, was indeed God's Son, the Messiah. If this was true, it changed everything for Jews (and Gentiles)! They had misunderstood and rejected Him. They had missed God's gift and remained in spiritual darkness and need.

Verses 23-25

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:23-25 23When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, 24but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; 25but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

Acts 9:23 "When many days had elapsed" We must take into account Paul's personal account found in Galatians 1:15-24, where he spent a long period of time in Arabia. In this context Arabia refers to the Nabataean kingdom (ruled by Aretas IV, who reigned from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40) just southeast of Damascus. The three-year period probably reflects somewhere close to eighteen months. Jews counted part of a day as the whole day (cf. Matthew 26:61; Matthew 27:40, Matthew 27:63); this reckoning was also used of years.

"the Jews plotted together to do away with him" The Jews apparently stirred up the civil authorities (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:32-33). This must have been humiliating for Paul because he mentions this very event in his discussion of weakness in 2 Corinthians 11:0.

Acts 9:25 "through an opening in the wall" This must refer to a window in a private house whose back wall was part of the wall surrounding the city (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:33; Joshua 2:15; 1 Samuel 19:12).

Verses 26-30

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:26-30 26When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. 30But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.

Acts 9:26 "he came to Jerusalem" This was apparently eighteen to thirty-six months later (cf. Galatians 1:15-24). This verse shows the level of skepticism in which the Jerusalem believers held their former persecutor. Apparently Acts records several of Paul's visits to Jerusalem after his dramatic conversion.

Acts 9:1. Acts 9:26, first visit

Acts 9:2. Acts 11:30, relief visit

Acts 9:3. Acts 12:25, after mission

Acts 9:4. Acts 15:2, Jerusalem Council

Acts 9:5. Acts 18:22, brief visit with the church

6. Acts 21:17, visit with James and the elders and resulting Nazarite vow and arrest

Acts 9:27 "Barnabas" The popular meaning, though not etymological, was "son of encouragement." This was the great saint mentioned back in Acts 4:36 who later became Paul's first missionary companion. See full note and Special Topic at Acts 4:36.

"brought him to the apostles" The only other account is Galatians 1:18.

"and described to them" Barnabas knew and shared Saul's testimony. This opened the door to his acceptance (cf. Acts 9:28).

Acts 9:28

NASB"moving about freely" NKJV"coming in and going out" NRSV"went in and out" TEV"went all over" NJB"to go around"

This is an OT idiom of everyday life or activity (cf. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 3:7).

Acts 9:29 "he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews" This refers to the same group (synagogues of Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem) who killed Stephen; now they are planning to kill Saul, who was also a Jew from the diaspora. They must have thought Stephen had returned!

Acts 9:30 "when the brethren learned of it" From Acts 22:17-21 we learn that Jesus appeared to Paul at this time to tell him to flee Jerusalem. Jesus appeared to Paul several times during his ministry to encourage and guide him (cf. Acts 18:9-11; Acts 22:17-21; and an angel of the Lord in Acts 27:23).

"Caesarea" This refers to the Roman seaport on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine. This was the official headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine.

"Tarsus" Paul is going to drop out of sight now for several years in his home town. Tarsus was a free city. It was also the third largest center of learning in the ancient world, behind Alexandria and Athens. The universities in Tarsus emphasized philosophy, rhetoric, and law. Paul was obviously trained both in Greek rhetoric and philosophy as well as rabbinical Judaism.

Verse 31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:31 31So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

Acts 9:31 This is a summary verse which concludes the account of Paul's conversion and introduces the travels of Peter. Luke uses these summary verses often in Acts. See Introduction IV Purpose and Structure, A.

"the church" See note and Special Topic at Acts 5:11 and notice how the singular "church" refers to many individual congregations. The term "church" can denote a local church (ex. Colossians 1:18, Colossians 1:24; Colossians 4:15, Colossians 4:16), all churches of an area (ex. Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:21; Ephesians 5:23, Ephesians 5:24, Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 5:27, Ephesians 5:29, Ephesians 5:32), and all churches universally (ex. Matthew 16:18).

Notice the items Luke chooses to mention.

1. peace in all churches

2. growing and increasing

3. comfort from the Spirit

What a change from the persecution of Acts 8:1! There were still problems, but God had met every need!


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Paul so vehement in his persecution of the church?

2. Why are there three accounts of Paul's conversion in the book of Acts?

3. What is the significance of Paul being commissioned, laid-hands on, and baptized by Ananias?

4. What is the significance of Paul's use of Jesus as "The Son of God"?

5. Why does Luke not record Paul's three year excursion to Arabia?


A. Although the book of Acts begins the transition from Peter to Paul, Acts 9:32-25 show the itinerant ministry of Peter.

B. This section deals with Peter at Lydda, Acts 9:32-35; Joppa, Acts 9:36-43, Acts 10:9-23; Caesarea, Acts 10:1-8; Acts 10:1-8, Acts 10:23-48; and at Jerusalem, Acts 11:1-18; Acts 12:1-17.

C. This section is extremely important because it deals with the continuing struggle over the Gentile mission and Peter's part (as head of the Apostolic group) in that struggle. Luke deems the Cornelius account so important as to repeat it three times in this section.


Verses 32-35

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:32-35 32Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed." Immediately he got up. 35And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.

Acts 9:32 "Peter was traveling" Apparently the Apostles were preaching throughout Palestine and in neighboring countries.

"the saints" This term is used in the book of Acts to describe the church. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at Acts 9:13. The term "disciples" is gradually replaced by the term "saints." The term is related to the OT word "holy" and means, "set apart" for God's service. It is never used in the singular except one time in Philippians 4:21, which is a corporate context. This shows that to be a saint means to be "in community." See Special Topic at Acts 9:13. All believers are called "saints" in the NT! It is our position in Christ that is being emphasized.


"Lydda" The town of Lydda was located on the trade route from Babylon to Egypt. In the OT it was known as "Lod" (cf. 1 Chronicles 8:12). It was about eleven miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea. This is the same area visited by Philip in Acts 8:40.

Acts 9:33 "a man named Aeneas" His Greek name means "praise." Whether he is a believer or unbeliever is uncertain, but apparently Peter is revisiting the established churches started by Philip.

"who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed" This translation is the most common interpretation of this Greek phrase (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB). However, the Greek phrase can mean "since eight years old" (cf. Newman and Nida, A Translator's Handbook on The Acts of the Apostles, p. 199).

Acts 9:34 "Jesus Christ heals you" There is no article here, which implies that these two terms had become a common designation. This is a literary form known as an aoristic present, which means "this instant the Messiah is healing you."

"get up and make your bed" These are two aorist active imperatives showing intensity and urgency!

"Immediately he got up" This shows the man's faith in response to Peter's message about Jesus.

Acts 9:35 "all who lived at Lydda" This is a good example of a hyperbolic use of the term "all" in the Bible (cf. Genesis 41:37; Deuteronomy 2:25; Luke 2:1; Romans 11:26).

"Sharon" This refers to the northern coastal plain in Palestine. It is about thirty miles in length running from Joppa to Caesarea.

"and they turned to the Lord" The word "turn to" may reflect the OT word for repentance (shub). It implies turning from sin and self (repentance) and turning to (faith) the Lord (cf. Acts 11:21).

This little summary statement is included several times in this section, showing the great movement of the Spirit of God through Peter and later through Paul. This miraculous event opened the door for the proclamation of the gospel.


Verses 36-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 9:36-43 36Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. 37And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, "Do not delay in coming to us." 39So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. 40But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43And Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon.

Acts 9:36 "Joppa" Today this town is known as Jaffa (Yafo). It was the ancient seaport for Jerusalem. Today it is part of the modern city of Tel Aviv-Yafo.

"disciple" The term "disciple" is used quite often in this section of Acts. It literally means "learner," but is used in the sense of believer.

"Tabitha. . .Dorcas" This lady's Aramaic name was Tabitha; her Greek name was Dorcas. Most Jews who had social or commercial contact with non-Jews had two names, an Aramaic one and a Greek one. Both of these names mean "gazelle," a symbol of grace and beauty (cf. Song of Song of Solomon 2:9, Song of Solomon 2:17; Song of Solomon 4:5; Song of Solomon 7:3).

"with deeds of kindness and charity" This refers to Jewish alms-giving. This was a Jewish concept of weekly donations that developed in the Synagogue for the care of the needy Jewish people in the community. It was considered spiritually important by the Jews of Jesus' day. The church followed this pattern (cf. Acts 6:0). See Special Topic at Acts 3:2.

"which she continually did" This is an imperfect active indicative. This speaks of habitual action in past time.

Acts 9:37 "they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room" The washing of the body was typical of the Jewish preparation for burial. In Jerusalem a body had to be buried the same day one died, but outside of Jerusalem, burial could be delayed for three days. See Special Topic at Acts 5:6.

Acts 9:38 "sent two men to him" These believers had heard of great miracles done by God through Peter and they believed that he could do something for this great Jewish Christian lady.

Acts 9:39 "and all the widows stood beside him" Apparently they were wearing the clothes that Dorcas had made for them of two different kinds: (1) the inner undergarments and (2) the outward cloaks.

Acts 9:40 "But Peter sent them all out" This is literally "threw them out." This is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 5:40. In fact, there are great similarities between the miracles performed in this section and the miracles performed in Jesus' lifetime. Jesus' ministry is the only model the Apostles had.

The question is, "Why did Peter want all of them to leave the room?" Jesus did this because He did not want to be known as a healer only and the gospel was not yet complete. But why did Peter do this? It seems that these miracles opened the door of faith, so it would seem he would want as many as possible to view it.

"knelt down" The usual position for Jewish prayer was standing with the arms and eyes raised to heaven. However, in the Book of Acts, it is recorded several times that the disciples knelt down to pray. This apparently was for emphasis (cf. Acts 7:60; Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5), as it was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:41).

"'Tabitha, arise'" Apparently he was speaking Aramaic. Jesus and the Jews in Palestine of the first century all spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew. This is true even as far back as Ezra-Nehemiah (cf. Nehemiah 8:4-8).

Acts 9:41 "saints" See Special Topic: Saints at Acts 9:13.

Acts 9:42 "and many believed in the Lord" This is another summary statement that shows the great results of Peter's miracles and preaching ministry. See Special Topics at Acts 2:40 and Acts 3:16.

Acts 9:43 "Peter stayed many days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon" Peter's Jewish legalism must have been breaking down already for him to stay with a ceremonially unclean tanner (had to deal with dead animal skins) such as Simon.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Acts 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/acts-9.html. 2021.
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