Acts 13:15 MEANING

Acts 13:15
(15) After the reading of the law and the prophets.--The order of the Sabbath lessons was fixed as by a kind of calendar, the Law--i.e., the Pentateuch--being divided into fifty-three or fifty-four paraschioth, or sections. These, probably, came into use soon after the return from Babylon. To these were afterwards added special lessons, known technically as the Haphtaroth, from the prophets. We are enabled, by two curious coincidences, to fix, with very little uncertainty, the precise Sabbath on which the mission-work at Antioch opened. The opening words of St. Paul refer to Deuteronomy 1:31 (see Note on Acts 13:18) and this was the lesson for the forty-fourth Sabbath in the year, which fell in July or August; the corresponding second lesson from the prophets being Isaiah 1:1-27, from which he also quotes. He starts, as was natural, from what the people had just been listening to, as the text of his discourse.

The rulers of the synagogue sent unto them . . .--The elders apparently saw strangers taking the position of teachers, probably in the garb of Rabbis, and it belonged to their office to offer such persons an opportunity of addressing the people.

Verse 15. - Brethren for ye men and brethren, A.V. The order of the synagogue service was first the prayers, read by the Sheliach, or angel of the synagogue, the people standing. Then came the reading of the Law in Hebrew by the reader, and the interpretation by the interpreter, who, outside of Judaea, generally used the version of the LXX. This reading, or lesson, was called the Parashah. Next came the reading and interpreting of the prophets, called the Haphtorah, either by the regular reader or by any one invited by the ruler of the synagogue (Luke 4:16, 17). Then came the Midrash, the exposition or sermon, which Paul undertook at the invitation of the ruler of the synagogue. Our Lord at Nazareth seems to have delivered the Midrash sitting (Luke 4:20); here St. Paul stands (ver. 16).

13:14-31 When we come together to worship God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The bare reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be expounded, and the people exhorted out of them. This is helping people in doing that which is necessary to make the word profitable, to apply it to themselves. Every thing is touched upon in this sermon, which might best prevail with Jews to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah. And every view, however short or faint, of the Lord's dealings with his church, reminds us of his mercy and long-suffering, and of man's ingratitude and perverseness. Paul passes from David to the Son of David, and shows that this Jesus is his promised Seed; a Saviour to do that for them, which the judges of old could not do, to save them from their sins, their worst enemies. When the apostles preached Christ as the Saviour, they were so far from concealing his death, that they always preached Christ crucified. Our complete separation from sin, is represented by our being buried with Christ. But he rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption: this was the great truth to be preached.And after the reading of the law and the prophets,.... Which was done every sabbath day, Acts 15:21 The five books of Moses, which are meant by the law, were divided into sections: Genesis was divided into twelve, Exodus into eleven, Leviticus into ten, Numbers into ten, and Deuteronomy into ten, which in all make fifty three sections: and so by reading one on each sabbath, and two on one day, they read through the whole law in the course of a year, and which they finished at the close of the feast of tabernacles; and that day was called "the rejoicing of the law"; it was a day of rejoicing, that the law was read through. Some make fifty four sections, and then two of them must be read together, on two sabbath days, to finish the whole in the year. In some synagogues the section was divided into three parts, and so they finished the law in three years; but this custom was less common (p). The custom of reading the law, the Jews say, was one hundred and seventy years before the time of Jesus Christ; though some say the division of the law, into sections, was made by Ezra; and others refer it to Moses himself: it is certain it obtained in the times of Christ and his apostles, as did also the reading of the prophets, and which was introduced in this way, and upon this account. When Antiochus Epiphanes burnt the book of the law, and forbad the reading of it, the Jews in the room of it selected some passages out of the prophets, which they thought came nearest in words and sense to the sections of the law, and read them in their stead; and when the law was restored again, they still continued the reading of the prophetic sections; and the section for the day was called "the dismission", because usually the people were dismissed upon it, unless anyone stood up, and preached or expounded the word of God unto the people: hence the following message and address to the apostles,

the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them; that is, those who were the principal men in the synagogue, the ruler of it, together with the elders; for there was but one ruler in a synagogue; See Gill on Matthew 9:18 though there were more elders; and so the Syriac version here renders it, "the elders of the synagogue"; but it may be asked, why should they send to the apostles? how did they know that they were teachers, being strangers? this they might conclude from their outward appearance, their gravity and solidity; for as for habit or dress there was no distinction; or from their sitting down when they came into the synagogue, which was the custom of teachers; or they might have had some knowledge of them, and conversation with them, before they came into the synagogue; for it cannot be reasonably thought that they admitted anyone, whether they knew him or not, to teach in their synagogues:

saying, ye men and brethren: which was the common style of the Jews, they used in addresses, and especially to their own countrymen, as they might perceive Paul and Barnabas were; see Acts 2:29.

if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on; the sense is, if they were prepared to preach, or had anything upon their minds to say to the people; or if they had, as it is in the original text, "any word of exhortation or comfort" in them, as they had indeed a rich treasure in their earthen vessels, they had leave and liberty to speak it to the people. "A word of exhortation" designs any doctrine that might be for instruction and comfort, and this was agreeably to the practice of the Jews. For it is said (q).

"on the sabbath day, , "they preach a sermon", or expound to housekeepers (or masters of families), who are employed in business all the days of the week; and in the midst of the sermon they teach them the traditions, concerning what is forbidden, and what is lawful; and it is better for them to hear than to read in the Hagiographa;''

which books they did not read publicly, as is said in the same place, only the law and the prophets; with the latter of which they dismissed the people, unless a sermon was preached; and which, when done, was chiefly for the sake of the common people, men and women: and it is said (r), that

"the women, and the people of the earth (or the common people), come to hear the sermon, and the preachers ought to draw out their hearts;''

speak out their whole mind, and deliver all they know that may be instructive and profitable.

(p) Maimon. Hilchot Tephilla, c. 13. sect. 1. Benjamin Itinerar. p. 114, 115. (q) Gloss. in T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 115. 1.((r) Ib. fol. 30. 2.

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