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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

II. THE NEW APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES CALLED, Acts 9:1-30.

1. Saul’s Journey to DamascusConversion, Acts 9:1-9.

1. And—Our historian, having closed the section narrating the spread of the Church, consequent upon the persecution, (Acts 8:5-40,) now takes up the historic thread of the persecution itself from Acts 8:4, the principal figure, of course, being SAUL. At this point it becomes us to trace Saul’s previous life-story.

He was born at the wealthy and learned city of Tarsus. He was, like King Saul of old, of the tribe of Benjamin; born some six years after our Saviour, of parents strictly Pharisaic in sect, who taught him the doctrines and history of the Old Testament from his childhood. Like other Jewish youth, doubtless, he commenced his Scripture studies at five years of age; the traditional law at ten; and graduated to the maturity of a responsible Jew at thirteen. His parents seem to have had wealth and rank sufficient to send him to the capital, Jerusalem, to complete his education under the tuition of the greatest doctor of the day, Rabban Gamaliel. He took the degree of Rab, probably that of Rabbi, and displayed that ambition and superiority of acquirement that justified the ambitious hope that he would one day attain the high rank of Rabban. Yet, as the Jewish maxim was that “He who teaches his son no trade teaches him to be a thief,” young Saul, though destined to a profession, learned the art of a tent-maker. He may have been at Jerusalem some part of the time when Jesus was there; but it is clear that he never was familiarly acquainted with our Lord’s person. He first emerges to view at the martyrdom of Stephen, in which he not only heartily concurred, but forthwith took the leadership in the persecution by which the Church was scattered and Christianity spread abroad. We are now to see in our following history the culmination and close of that leadership. He is just now becoming a fallen star of Judaism, but the rising star of Christianity.

And—Rather, but. The persecutions of the Gospel by Saul are contrasted with the spread of the Gospel by Philip.

Yet—In continuation from Acts 8:3.

Breathing out—Not breathing out, nor exhaling, nor inhaling; but inwardly breathing, referring rather to his temper—his inner atmosphere of soul—than to his external manifestations.

Threatenings and slaughter— ”Menace and murder” it is expressively rendered by Dr. Hackett, but with an alliterative point not contained in the original.

The high priest— Probably Theophilus, the son of Annas. At the Passover of the year 37 Caiaphas was deposed from the highpriesthood by the Roman prefect, and Jonathan, son of Annas and brother in law of Caiaphas, was put in his place. But at the next Pentecost, by the same arbitrary authority, Jonathan was removed, and his brother, this Theophilus, appointed to the office. He held the place about five years, and was removed by Herod Agrippa I. in A.D. 41.


Verse 2

2. Letters—When the Romans, on their way to universal empire, first began to spread into the East, the Jews, providentially, had occasion to seek them for friends and allies, and accordingly to render them preeminent services. In return the Roman emperors, for many years, conferred on the Jewish hierarchy, especially the high priest, peculiar powers and privileges. The first of the emperors, the celebrated Julius Cesar, led the way. He proclaimed a decree throughout the empire, in which, reciting the great services of the high priest Hyrcanus, he made the high priest arbiter of all questions of Jewish polity that might arise in any city or country. To this he subsequently added an order constituting the high priest patron of the whole Jewish race in all countries, by which he became the prosecutor in behalf of all Jews against any power that infringed their rights. Though in all other places synagogues could be built, in no other place than Jerusalem could sacrifices be offered. From every Jew a poll-tax of a didrachm, and voluntary offerings according to ability, were transmitted to the spiritual metropolis. Through all the Jewish dispersion the high priest judged of heresy, imprisoned, scourged, summoned to Jerusalem, and excommunicated—every thing but executed, unless by daring violence. Hence, the high priest was now a Jewish pope, with his Sanhedrin as his cardinals, with a sway as wide as the Roman empire. Hence, too, though Damascus was beyond the limits of Palestine, the ambitious and violent Saul had but to apply to these high dignitaries for authority that would be legally good against any lawful power in Damascus, and would bind and bring them to Jerusalem before the high priest.

Desired of him letters— Luke omits, as of course, the obtaining of the letters, which the high priest would be but too glad to give this fiery adherent for the purpose of exerting and maintaining his own authority. Paul’s own account (Acts 22:5) describes the receiving to show with what high warrant he went armed.

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DAMASCUS

Damascus—Perhaps the most ancient, and certainly one of the most beautiful, cities, as seen from without, in the world. It was a well known town in the time of Abraham. Lying in the great route of commerce between Egypt, Persia, and India, a green oasis in a desert of sand, watered by the plentiful streams of the Abana or Barada, it was celebrated for its commercial wealth and for the magnificence of its gardens. During much of the Old Testament times it was a capital of a region of very variable extent called Syria, ruled mostly by kings of the line of Ben-hadad. It was conquered by David, but briefly held by his successors. It stands about a hundred and forty miles northeast from Jerusalem. At this day it is one of the largest of eastern cities, with one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants, nearly two thousand Christian.

Synagogues—The Jews were numerous in Damascus, and doubtless had several synagogues, to each of which one of the letters would be addressed.

This way—Way of thinking and acting, a sect. So in Acts 24:14.

Women—Sparing not in his wrath the gentler sex.

Unto Jerusalem—To be tried and punished at the metropolis, whence, perhaps, some of them had fled. The reason, indeed, why Saul selected Damascus for his raid probably was that a large number of the Christians driven by his persecution from Jerusalem had taken that refuge, and were disseminating the new faith.


Verse 3

3. There shined… a light—The rationalistic solutions of the events of Saul’s conversion, in order to exclude miracle, are valid only on the assumption that there is no supernatural. He who accepts the miracle of Christ’s incarnation, and the whole supernaturalism therewith connected, has no difficulty with the supernaturalism of this one narrative.

Shined— Rather περιηστραψεν, flashed round about him like lightning; yet περιλαμψαν, in Acts 26:13, shining around, like a lamp or luminary, describes the steady continuance of the splendour after the first flash. This was the Shekinah or divine lustre of the person of the glorified Jesus, beheld also by the dying Stephen, and magnificently described by the Apocalyptist in Revelation 1:13-17. (See note Acts 7:2.) John, like Saul, fell as dead. The time was mid-day, (Acts 26:13,) and the light was above the brightness of the sun at that zenith. It was, as Milton says, “like a new morn risen on mid-noon.” The glory of Jehovah-Jesus outshone the blaze of noon-day. Says Stier: “Jesus on the mount of transfiguration ‘did shine as the sun,’ and at ‘the end of the world’ the righteous, too, shall ‘shine forth as the sun,’ (Matthew 17:2; Matthew 13:43;) but the revelation of the irresistible One must now flash down ‘above the brightness of the sun.’”

The instant of the light’s flashing about him before he fell was the moment of the visibility of the Lord’s person; the fall, as well as the ocular blinding, being the result of the light radiating from his central figure. After his fall Saul heard, but saw not.

Was this a mere vision, or did the actual person of Jesus appear to Saul’s eyes? Paul himself, we answer, claimed not only that he saw the real person of Jesus, but bases the validity of his apostolate upon that reality. To have seen the real Jesus was one of the requisites for a true apostle, (see note on Luke 1:1); and Paul claims this as the time when he so saw Jesus. “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord Jesus Christ?” (1 Corinthians 9:1.) “He was seen… by Cephas… by all the apostles… last of all by me,” (Acts 15:8.) And so Ananias, (Acts 9:7,) “The Lord hath sent me, even Jesus, who appeared to thee in the way as thou camest.” With all who hold the authority of Paul as an apostle, these words must be conclusive both for the reality of the miracle and of the visible person of Jesus.


Verse 4

4. He fell—They were also “all fallen to the earth,” (Acts 26:14.) But while the others, immediately recovering, “stood speechless,” (Acts 9:7,) the more deeply smitten Saul rose not until bidden, (Acts 9:8.)

Saul, Saul— Solemnly reiterated and in the sacred “Hebrew tongue,” (Acts 26:14.) The utterance of his personal name by the divine voice individualized his whole being; called him out from the human race as sole and peculiar. Repeated, that call was secured from mistake and emphasized to the centre of his soul. The “Hebrew tongue” betokened that he is called, like Abraham and Samuel of old, to a mission even more wonderful than the Old Testament ever knew. In that language of the chosen people he is summoned to be a preacher to all the people of the earth.

Me—For Jesus identifies himself with his own holy cause; considers himself to be embodied in his own Church. To persecute my loved disciples is to persecute me. So Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45 : Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And here Jesus, as at the judgment day, makes a direct issue with his foe: It is thou me.


Verses 4-8

4-8. Of what follows there are two parallel accounts besides—in Acts 22:7-12, and Acts 26:14-16; and between the three, critics have endeavoured to find contradictions; but the result is confirmatory rather than derogatory to the truth of the history. For all these variations are explainable upon one principle, namely, that Paul was the main object of this Christophany, and the rest of the company were but subordinate witnesses to some vague but supernatural manifestation. Hence, 1. Saul was permanently prostrated; they were “all” momentarily overthrown, but, forthwith recovering, “stood speechless,” (Acts 9:4;) 2. Saul saw the person of Jesus; they beheld no man, (Acts 9:7;) 3. Saul heard the Hebrew words; they heard the vocal sound, not the articulation, (Acts 9:7;) 4. Saul was struck blind; they were speechless with astonishment, but were able to lead the blinded. Now in the description of the eminence of Saul as the main object of the revelation rather than his companions, it will be found that the contradictions are in words, and not in thought or in fact.


Verse 5

5. The pricks—The goad, or goad-points, with which oxen were stimulated and punished, and compelled to submit by their drivers. It was a proverb in antiquity used by AEschylus and other classic poets (as quoted by Dr. Clarke) to describe a vain resistance.

Christ, both personally and impersonated in his own on-moving, resistless cause, is, like a relentless driver, requiring Saul’s absolute submission; but Saul, like a refractory bullock, is kicking back, as if to overthrow his true Lord and Master. It is but to pierce himself. And the issue for him is submission or death.

These words, however, are found in no Greek manuscript here, but are borrowed from Acts 26:14. And Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? is borrowed from Acts 22:10.


Verse 6

6. Trembling and astonished—Yet prostrate upon the earth.

What… do?—The energetic character of Paul speaks out even in his prostrate condition. “He does not,” says Stier, “wail out, ‘Ah! Lord, what have I done?” It may be a deep repentance that ruminates in sorrow over the past; but it is a more effective repentance that seeks, as far as possible, to undo the past by the most earnest use of the future.

Arise… go… city—Saul’s narrative to Agrippa declares that at this point God gave him his commission to the Gentiles (Acts 26:16-18) in rich and rounded terms. In his narrative to the hostile Jerusalemites he declares that Ananias confirmed the commission as by divine authority. The direction to be received from Ananias as to what he must do would include not the great commission of his life, but the immediate things to be done, as baptism, etc.

The sort of interior which Damascus had, its base streets yet luxurious indoor residences, Mr. Tristam well describes:

“In the city we were taken to visit one of the wealthiest houses. After picking our way over heaps of offal, stepping over dead dogs, and kicking aside living ones, through a loathsome dark lane, we turned up a narrow entry and were admitted at a small door. This led into a crypt-like vaulted ante-chamber, through which we passed, and, turning round, found ourselves on a sudden in a marble open court, in the centre of which was a fountain, surrounded by exotic trees. (See our vol. i, pp. 121, 326.) All round the court were rooms, and in the centre of each side an open chamber, or large alcove, up two or three steps, with a little marble fountain playing in front, and silk ottomans, worktables, and easy chairs behind. The roofing of these alcoves and the walls were marvellous in their elaborate workmanship and colouring, the whole one mass of carved and gilded arabesque. The flooring was marble: the walls up to the wainscot marble in elaborate mosaic patterns. Each room had a fountain in its centre, and was furnished with silk ottomans all round, lavishly strewn with brocade and silken cushions. A gallery ran round above in front of the upstairs rooms, which were similarly arranged. Such was probably a Jewish house in the palmy days of the monarchy.”


Verse 7

7. Hearing a voice—The Greek word for voice, like our word utterance, may signify either the vocal sound or the articulate words. So a man partially deaf would be said, popularly but truly, to hear and not to hear the same utterance. It is here said they heard, and in Acts 22:9, it is said they heard not, the utterance.

Seeing no man—They saw not, as Saul did, the speaker. How in the midst of that luminous splendour the form of Jesus loomed forth upon Saul’s sight—whether standing on the earth, or in the space exalted above him—we know not. We suppose the latter.

And thus to Paul, as to none of the other apostles, Jesus appeared, never in his humble terrene flesh, but solely in his glorification. Thenceforward, consequently, he was troubled with no low Ebionite conceptions of Jesus, but ever thought of him, purely, with intense self-consecration, as the exalted and divine Master of his own soul and body.

Yet Saul’s sight of Jesus could have been but for a moment. By its power he forthwith fell to the earth, (Acts 9:4,) and when he arose from the earth (Acts 9:8) he saw no man, being blinded by the glory that prostrated him.


Verse 9

9. Without sight—We look for the cause of this blindness, which affected Saul alone of this company, less into the region of matter than of soul. It was, perhaps, the powerful collision of spiritual forces, the Divine upon the human, which drove the perceptive power of Saul inward and disabled it from action.

Neither did eat nor drink—The spirit, forced from external action, concentrated inwardly upon itself.

Three days—If we contemplate the awful struggle within the mighty spirit of this great man, in the present hey-day of his young manhood, we shall not wonder that its violence left no vitality for the outer perceptions or sensations. Like a powerful rail-train, he is stopped and driven back by a solid collision, and terrible and apparently wrecking is the recoil. 1. Jesus of Nazareth and his Church, strange to say, are true and divine! Whatever a Christian is, that Paul must now be, at whatever cost. 2. The whole structure of his past life, education, and hopes is in ruins, from which he must emerge a new Prayer of Manasseh 1:3. The sin of relentless slaughters, real or purposed, presses heavy on his soul and demands deep repentance. 4. He had supposed hitherto that he was keeping the law to the very highest standard; but now he sees that he has never known the law in its essence, and that he has broken and destroyed it to the very foundations. The experience of Romans 7:5-13, is now actually undergone. He was imaginarily alive without the real law; that law comes and he is dead. Who shall deliver him from this death, pressing like a dead body upon him? 5. Stephen beheld the glorified Jesus in Acts 7:55-56. Saul, standing by, beheld Stephen, in a rapture of prayer, commit his spirit to that heavenly Jesus. Saul has now seen that same glorified Jesus, and turns to him for help, committing himself to him for salvation. And now, “Behold, he prayeth!” It is time for Ananias to be called.


Verse 10

2. Ananias Baptizes and Authenticates Saul, Acts 9:10-18.

10. Disciple… Ananias—A permanent resident of high reputation (Acts 22:12) at Damascus. How came so settled a Christian there? (See note on Acts 9:19.)


Verse 11

11. Street… called Straight—So called from its cutting the city in two in a straight line. It is two miles in length from east to west, lined with colonnades, and now called the “Street of Bazaars.” It has a spot pointed out by officious tradition as the very house of this Ananias.

“We visited the great cathedral,” says Mr. Tristam, “in the street which is called ‘Straight,’ and several of the mosques. The great mosque, once the Christian cathedral, and in yet earlier ages a heathen temple, is a noble structure, though, of course, without the interest or the splendour of the Mosque of Omar. We looked in at one magnificent portal, over which still remains engraven the inscription in Greek, ‘Thy kingdom, O Christ! is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.’ There stand the words, unread by the Moslem. We will take them as a silent prophecy that the day is coming when this dark land shall be Christ’s once more, and he shall reign for ever and ever. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”


Verse 12

12. Hath seen… a vision—Vision had answered to vision. Paul had been divinely assured upon his prayer what deliverer should come to relieve his spirit of its pressure and thereby his eyes of their blindness. He was assured that his comforter was no counterfeit; Ananias was assured that his patient was a genuine penitent. They met as strangers, yet as well known each to the other.


Verse 14

14. Authority… chief priests—The supernatural character of the events were clearly perceived by Saul’s company; and, however much they may have endeavoured to conceal the mortifying overthrow and conversion of their leader, rumours of the facts could not but be circulated among both Jews and Christians in Damascus.

Call on thy name—A clear declaration that the very peculiarity of the Christian was praying to Jesus.


Verse 15

15. A chosen vessel—Literally, a vessel of choice. Not merely, however, a choice vessel, but one whom, in view of his fitness as a man, Jesus hath chosen for a great mission. This, however, implies neither any impossibility that he would disobey his call, nor any eternal predestination to salvation.

The word here rendered vessel often signifies instrument or organ; an instrument for carrying something.

Kings—See Acts 25:23; Acts 26:1-32; Acts 27:24.


Verse 16

16. I will show him—By the revelations of future experience.

Suffer—As he has inflicted hitherto, rather than suffered.


Verse 17

17. Went his way—Ceased expostulation and commenced obedience, by taking, doubtless, the shortest route for the house of Judas in Straight Avenue.

Brother Saul—The tender Christian epithet for the late murderous persecutor. Reverent it was, no doubt, as well as tender; for Ananias knew that this man was a future apostle, with the Gentile world for his wide mission.

Appeared unto thee—Ananias here authenticates his own mission to Saul, by acknowledging Saul’s mission from Jesus.


Verse 18

18. There fell—Ananias had put his hand upon him, verse (12,) Saul received the Holy Ghost, (Acts 9:17,) and what followed? The regenerated and Spirit-filled Saul burst away the bondage produced upon his external sense. Very probably during the three days the humours had dried upon his eyeballs, and as the abounding of his spirit quickened the whole man, the scale-like particles fell from his eyes, thus forming a striking emblem of his renewed spiritual eye-sight.

Arose, and was baptized—Apparently without leaving the room. The interpolation by Lechler of a journey to the banks of some branch of the Barada river is licentious mis-interpretation. There is in the text (whatever there may be in his commentary) no intermediate event or action between the arose and the was baptized. The baptism in this case was preceded by faith, justification, regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and even the special bestowment of the Holy Ghost. It follows the regenerating affusion of the Spirit as the physical picture of a spiritual operation—the water-outpouring imaging the Spirit-outpouring.


Verse 19

3. Saul at Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Acts 9:19-30.

19. Meat… strengthened—If he possessed no strength before taking the meat, how could he have gone forth to endure immersion from the street Straight to the Barada?

Certain days—A brief period; unlike, and previous to, the many days of Acts 9:23.

Disciples… Damascus—Whence were these first fruits of Christ already at Damascus? They may have been 1. Jews who had heard our Lord preach, and had removed to Damascus. 2.

Devout persons present at the Pentecost, then for a while sojourning in Jerusalem, (Acts 2:5.) 3. Refugees scattered by the persecution of Acts 8:1-4.


Verse 20

20. Straightway—Saul is prompt to appear forthwith in public, both to testify what Jesus had done for him, and to demonstrate that he boasts rather than blushes at the change he had made.


Verse 21

21. Amazed—Sudden conversions are a great stumbling-block to unbelievers and rationalists. But in this case, when the persecutor suddenly turned preacher, the amazement was fairly at its height. It is well when the firmness of the young convert is greater even than the caviller’s amazement.


Verse 22

22. The more in strength—All the arguments which Stephen and his friends had used (note Acts 6:9) now, doubtless, came up to him with redoubled power, confirmed by his own recent experience.

This is very ChristThe very Messiah, predicted by prophets, and longed for by Israel. No wonder that he who thus used his spiritual strength increased the more in strength.

Confounded the Jews—But, alas! did not convince, or, at any rate, convert them.


Verse 23

23. Many days—Few would suspect here how many these days were. Yet we find that in 1 Kings 1:38-39, many days amounted to three years. And we also find by Galatians 1:15-18, that it was just three years between Saul’s conversion and his going to Jerusalem, as mentioned in Acts 9:26. During that three years he went into Arabia. But, by Jewish reckoning, three years may be only a year and two fragments of a year; less, perhaps, than eighteen months. Arabia is more narrowly the peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. But northeastwardly, as the wandering tribes streamed indefinitely forth, the territory of Arabia stretched up on the south and east to near Damascus. The Arabia to which Saul retired was, perhaps, Iturea or Hauran, lying eastwardly; and he probably continued in intercourse with Damascus. The purpose for which Saul retired into this sequestered region was, perhaps, to acquire by fuller study, under the guidance of inspiration and of the Old Testament, a clearer insight into the facts of Jesus’ life, and the great principles of Christian truth. No hint is given that he preached to the Arabians, which is not enumerated among the early fields of his ministry, (Acts 26:20.) From this retirement he came forth with greater apostolic strength.

Was it by revelation (Galatians 1) that Saul learned the facts of the Gospel History? If not, then how, and when? First, he must have acquired the main facts at Jerusalem itself, in his debates with Stephen and the other Hellenists. (See notes on Acts 6:9-15.) We see no reason to doubt that the entire miraculous life and atoning death of Christ had been discussed by Paul with the advocates of Christianity. Admitting the miracles, he would then attribute them to a demoniac power. Afterward he may have more fully grounded himself in them in his intercourse with the Damascus Christians, especially Ananias, some of whom were, doubtless, eye and ear witnesses of Jesus’ ministry and of the apostolic narratives. (See vol. ii, page 5.) Finally, we believe that Luke was the true historical investigator, and that Paul learned the Gospel facts of Luke, rather than Luke of Paul. These facts, when attained, he contemplated in the light of that previous meditation in Arabia, by which he became the profoundest of Christian theologians, and the most effective of Christian preachers. When at the close of this three years he went up to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18) and abode with Peter, Peter could add nothing to him (Galatians 2:6) of Gospel doctrine, though, doubtless, he could narrate many a historic fact.

Took counsel—Formed a conspiracy.

To kill him—They could let the quiet Ananias alone; they would not molest the disciples, (Acts 9:25;) but this prince of apostates, this friend to the Gentiles, they will not tolerate, but will assassinate. Wherever Paul appears, though peace before reigned, a flame of wrath springs up. The reason is in one word—GENTILES. (See note on Acts 22:22.)

In 2 Corinthians 11:32, Paul tells us that the governor (ethnarch) of King Aretas headed this conspiracy against him, and stationed the guards at the city gates to prevent his escape. We have narrated in our notes on Matthew 14:1-6, how the daughter of this Aretas, being the wife of Herod Antipas, was repudiated by her husband in order that he might marry Herodias. A war ensued, in which Aretas was victorious, and the vanquished Antipas appealed to Tiberius, Emperor of Rome, who commenced ordering his army to the aid of Antipas; but before the order was fulfilled the emperor died, leaving Aretas master of the territories he had acquired, of which Damascus appears to have been a part. The death of Tiberius, we know from history, occurred in A.D. 36, and Paul’s escape, therefore, was probably in 38.


Verse 24

24. Gates—As the only outlets from the city. Paul must have been very closely concealed, as there can be no doubt that the ethnarch or viceroy of Aretas, then master of Damascus, rendered them every aid to apprehend him.

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Verse 25

25. By the wall—The base or window of a house projecting beyond the wall allowed Saul to be let down without, and so escape.


Verse 26

26. Come to JerusalemThree years, by Jewish reckoning, have passed, and for the first time Saul returns, an altered man, to the Jerusalem from which he had so gallantly gone forth “breathing menace and murder.”

All afraid of him—The Church had been scattered abroad by his cruelty many months ago. One by one, as they learned that danger had died away, numbers had returned. Some, probably, had heard rumours that their chief persecutor had been converted; but as Saul had retired from public view into Arabia, the rumour died away. When at last that same face, so terrible in its associations, unannounced, reappeared among them, no wonder that a panic arose!


Verse 27

27. Barnabas—As he was a native of Cyprus, a few hours’ sail from Tarsus, he might have been a friend from boyhood to Saul.

To the apostles—Peter and James, who were probably the only apostles then in Jerusalem, (Galatians 1:18-19.) These may have known more clearly of Saul’s conversion, but it was necessary that they should be duly certified by a more authentic witness in order that they might reassure the suspicious brethren.


Verse 29

29. Grecians—Same word as in Acts 6:1; Acts 11:20; the Hellenists. One of the names of ancient Greece was Hellas, and Greeks were thence called Hellenes; and a Jew who imitated Greekish customs was said to Hellenize; and a Jew who spoke Greek or affected Greek manners was called a Hellenist. The utter refusal of the Gospel from Paul by the Jews was confirmed to him by the Lord in a trance, (Acts 22:17-21.) Saul, therefore, remained but fifteen days at the residence of Peter, and at the instance of the brethren departed.


Verse 30

30. Cesarea—See note on Acts 8:40.

To Tarsus—By sea or land? Probably by land. We have shown in our notes on Acts 8:40, how Philip the evangelist skirted along the beautiful Mediterranean coast, preaching in its ancient cities as he went, until he arrived at Cesarea. Saul takes up the line of march where he stopped, and preaches his way from Cesarea to his Cilician home of Tarsus. It was no doubt at this time that the Churches of Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:23) were founded by Saul. In Tarsus Saul remained until called thence by Barnabas, (Acts 11:25.)


Verse 31

31. Rest—From both the persecution by Saul, and the persecution of Saul. But concurrently with this, it is supposed that the trouble of the Jews arising from the project of the Emperor Caligula of placing his statue for worship engrossed all their thought and arrested the persecution of Christians. The trouble of her foes was the peace of the Church.

HISTORICAL NOTE II.—To the extravagant and freakish fool CALIGULA, (see Hist. Note I, Acts 1:1,) the successor was the solemn and stupid fool CLAUDIUS. He was himself a well-meaning man, but rendered a tyrant by being the tool of wicked advisers. His wife Messalina was guilty of the grossest debaucheries, but after deceiving him for awhile she was, upon detection, put to death. He then married Agrippina, his niece, the mother of Domitius AEnobarbus. Agrippina secured a marriage between her son and Octavia, the emperor’s daughter, and thereby secured to her son the succession to the imperial throne. She then poisoned Claudius, after a reign of fourteen years, and installed her son in his place with a new name which he has made forever infamous in history, NERO. The reign of Claudius covers the period extending from this repose to the commencement of the labours of Paul at Ephesus, in his second mission. It is contemporaneous with the apostolic life of Paul, from his retirement to Tarsus to the zenith of his active ministry; from January, A.D. 41, to October, 54. (See Hist. Note, Acts 19:10.)


Verse 32

32. Peter—The present rural narrative opens the entire final section of Peter’s history in the Acts, ending at Acts 12:17.

Peter passed—When Saul’s persecution dispersed the Church, the twelve stood firm in Jerusalem. (See note on Acts 8:1.) Yet they still held central communication with all quarters, and occasionally visited special points. (See note on Acts 8:14.) Peace opens, and Peter makes a general circuit.

Throughout all quarters—Rather, through all the saints, or Churches.

Lydda—An ancient town nine miles east of Joppa. It was once the seat of a rabbinical school celebrated for its learning. In the sixth century it was the seat of a bishopric. St. George, a martyr in the persecution by Diocletian, was born here, and after the triumph of Christianity his remains were brought hither and a church built over them, it is said, by the Emperor Justinian. In the time of the Crusades great honours were paid to this St. George, and England even adopted him as her patron saint. A considerable town still exists, retaining its ancient name of Ludd, with the immense remains of the Church of St. George, part of which is transformed into a large mosque.

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LUDD, (ANCIENT LYDDA.) RUINS OF THE CHURCH OF ST. GEORGE.


Verses 32-43

4. Fourth Repose, Miracle and Progress, Peter at Lydda and Joppa, Acts 9:32-43.

One of the intervals from commotion to holy calm, like Acts 2:41-47, Acts 5:12-16. But the period of commotion has now been long, namely, from Acts 6:9, to the present verse; while the repose, in proportion to the diffusion of the Church, is more broadly spread. It covers not Jerusalem alone, but the three great divisions of Palestine.


Verse 34

34. Eneas—He appears as a characterless man, quite in contrast with the noble maiden whose story next follows.

Jesus Christ maketh—There is a close resemblance between these two miracles and some performed by Jesus. Rightly, for, as these words of Peter show, these very miracles were truly performed by Jesus; Jesus Messiah healeth thee, not Peter; healeth thee in the present tense, and so is doing it at this very instant.

Make thy bedArise, spread (couch) for thyself. To show that he was paralytic no longer. (See notes on Matthew 9:2-8.)


Verse 35

35. Saron—The ancient and beautiful plain of Sharon, celebrated in the Old Testament for its fertility and flowers. In Canticles it is said, “I am the rose of Sharon;” and Isaiah celebrates “the excellency of Carmel and of Sharon.” The richness and beauty of the plain survives the desolations of the land.

All… turned to the Lord—It became an entirely Christian locality. It was a mixed population, Jew and Gentile, but all adopted one faith.


Verse 36

36. Tabitha—Signifying gazelle; alluding, as Baumgarten thinks, to her personal beauty. “The gazelle,” says Lechler, “in the Greek, Dorcas, is distinguished for its slender and beautiful form, its graceful movements, and its soft but brilliant eyes; it is frequently introduced by the Hebrew and other Oriental nations as an image of female loveliness, and the name was often employed as a proper name in the case of females.” (2 Kings 12:1; 1 Chronicles 8:9.) Probably this maiden was addressed in Hebrew by the one name, and in Greek by the other.

Full of good deeds—They were not only issuing from her hands; but her heart, soul, and nature, inspired by the power of Christian love, were full of them.


Verse 38

38. Disciples… sent… two men—The Christian love of all for the departed Gazelle is unanimous in the prayer that she may return to life. There is a blessed faith in the existence of a truly present resurrection power. The chiefest of apostles, the wonderful first disciple of Jesus, is but nine miles distant. Perhaps he can restore to us even our beloved dead.

Would not delay—They do not expressly utter the request for a miracle. Only they hope he will not delay; just as if the soul might soon go too far to hear and return.


Verse 39

39. WidowsMany, as if some war or desolation had slain many husbands.

Coats and garments—The Gazelle seems to have been unmarried, for no husband weeps for her or is named; she seems to have been not poor, as she was not compelled to be industrious for her own sake. But if wealthy, she was neither too indolent to work, nor too proud to work for the poor. The coats and garments may some of them have been upon the persons showing these, others laid up for bestowal.


Verse 41

41. Presented her alive—In the manner of performing the miracle Peter follows the example of Jesus in raising Jairus’ daughter, at which miracle he was one of the admitted spectators; just as if our Lord expected that they might be empowered and required to perform the same great deed.


Verse 42

42. Joppa—The extremely ancient, but not very secure, seaport of the Mediterranean coast before Herod built Cesarea, built on a well-rounded elevation overlooking the Mediterranean. It was an ancient Philistine city, not acquired by Israel until the time of David. When Solomon organized a Hebrew marine, Joppa became port for Jerusalem. In Peter’s day it was a flourishing city. Under its present name, Jaffa, it has about seven thousand inhabitants, of whom one half or more are Christians.

All Joppa—The writer does not say of Joppa, as of Lydda, that all turned to the Lord, for Joppa was a large city, but that all heard of it and many believed.

[image]


Verse 43

43. With one Simon a tanner—Tanning was an unclean trade in a Jew’s estimation, spoken of with great contemn by the rabbies, and excluded from Jewish cities, and so Simon’s tannery was by the sea side, (Acts 10:6.) Peter had, no doubt, so far relaxed his high Judaism as to slight this prejudice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/acts-9.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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