Acts 28 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Acts 28
Pulpit Commentary
And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
Verse 1. - We for they, A.V. and T.R. (twice). Was called. It reads as if it was the answer to their question to the natives, "What is this island called?" Melita. That Melita is the island of Malta, and not Meleda off the coast of Dalmatia, is demonstrated in Smith's ' Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul,' and it is not worth while here to consider the arguments in favor of Meleda. Melita appears to be a Phoenician name, from the root in Hebrew מָלַט, to escape (Bochart, 'Canaan,' 1:26), meaning, therefore, a "refuge," a harbor of refuge so called from sailors often running into Valetta during a gale; or possibly from מֶלֶ, clay, in Italian malta, from the clay which forms the bottom of the sea as you approach Malta, and which makes the anchorage so safe. It was originally colonized by Phoenicians, whether from Tyre or Carthage cannot be pronounced with certainty, though we know it was a Carthaginian possession at the time of the first Punic War. It fell into the hands of the Romans B.C. 218, and at the time of St. Paul's shipwreck was annexed to the province of Sicily. The population, however, was Phoenician or Punic, and probably knew little Greek or Latin. The name of a fountain in St. Paul's Bay, Ayn tal Razzul, "The Apostle's Fountain," is said (Smith, p. 24) to be Phoenician. But this is extremely doubtful. It is far more probably, not to say certainly, the corrupt Africano-Arabic dialect of the island, as I venture to affirm on the high authority of Professor Wright. Gesenius is also distinctly of opinion that there are no remains of Phoenician in the Maltese, and that all the words in the Maltese language which have been thought to be Phoenician are really Arabic. Four genuine Phoenician inscriptions have, however, been found in the island ('Monument. Phoenic,' pars prima, pp. 90-111,252, and 341).
And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
Verse 2. - Barbarians for barbarous people, A.V.; common for little, A.V.; all for every one, A.V. Barbarians; i.e. not Greeks or Romans, or (in the mouth of a Jew) not Jews. The phrase had especial reference to the strange language of the "barbarian." See St. Paul's use of it (Romans 1:14; 1 Corinthians 14:11; Colossians 3:11); and compare Ovid's saying ('Trist.,' 3:10, 37), "Barbarus hic ego sum, quia non intelligor ulli;" and that of Herodotus (2, 158), that the Egyptians call all barbarians who do not speak the Egyptian language(Kuinoel). The word is thought to be formed onomate-poetically, to express the confused sound which a strange language has in a man's ears. Kindness; φιλανθρωπία, here and Titus 3:4 (comp. Acts 27:3). Received us all. The whole party, numbering two hundred and seventy-six. The present rain, and... cold; showing that the gale still continued, and the wind was still north-east. The plight of the shipwrecked party must have been lamentable, drenched to the skin, with no change of clothes, a cold wind blowing. Probably the hearty meal they had taken on beard ship was the means of saving their lives.
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
Verse 3. - But for and, A.V.; a viper came for there came a viper, A.V.; by reason of for out of, A.V. Had gathered; συστρέψαντος, only here and in the LXX. of Judges 11:3 and Judges 12:4, for "to collect," "gather together." But συστροφή (Acts 19:40; Acts 23:12) means "a concourse," "a conspiracy." In classical Greek συστρέφειν is "to twist up together," to "form into a compact body," and the like. A bundle of sticks; φρυγάνων πλῆθος. The word only occurs in the New Testament here; it means "dry sticks," "kindlers," any combustible material. In the LXX. it is used as the equi- valent of קַשׁ, straw or stubble (Isaiah 40:24; Isaiah 41:2, etc.), and for "nettles" (Job 30:7). Theophrastus seems to use it for plants smaller than a shrub ('Hist.,' Plant., 1:3, 1, quoted by Hobart). Lewin (vol. it. p. 208) writes as follows: - "When in Malta in 1853, I went to St. Paul's Bay at the same season of the year as when the wreck occurred .... We noticed eight or nine stacks of small faggots, they consisted of a kind of thorny heather, and had evidently been cut for firewood." This is a conclusive answer, if any were needed, to the objection to Melita being Malta, drawn from the absence of wood in the island. But besides this, it is not a fact that even now there is no wood at all (see Lewin). A viper came out. It is objected that there are no vipers in Malta. But it is obvious that the condition of Malta now, a very thickly inhabited island (one thousand two hundred people to the square mile, Lewin, p. 208), is very different from what it was with a sparse population in the days of St. Paul. Vipers may well have been destroyed during one thousand eight hundred and sixty years. Lewin mentions that his traveling companions in 1853 started what they thought was a viper, which escaped into one of the bundles of heather. Came out. Διεξελθοῦσα is the reading of Tischendorf, Alford, Meyer, eta., "came out through the sticks." It is a frequent medical term. The heat; τῆς θέρμης. This form of the word is only used here in the New Testament, instead of the more common θερμότης. It occurs, however, repeatedly in the LXX. (Job 6:17; Psalm 19:7; Ecclus. 38:34, etc.), and was the usual medical word for feverish heat. Fastened; κάθηψε, here only in the Bible; but not uncommon in classical Greek, and of general use among medical writers.
And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
Verse 4. - Beast for venomous beast, A.V.; hanging from for hang on, A.V.; one to another for among themselves, A.V.; escaped from for escaped, A.V.; justice for vengeance, A.V.; hath not suffered for suffereth not, A.V. The beast (τὸ θηρίον). It is peculiar to medical writers to use θηρίον ασ synonymous with ἔχιδνα, a viper. So also θηριόδηκτος, bit by a viper, θηριακή, an antidote to the bite of a viper (Dioscorides, Galen, etc.). Justice (ἥ Δίκη). In Greek mythology Dice (Justitia) was the daughter and assessor of Zeus, and the avenger of crime. In her train was Poena, of whom Horace says," Rare antecedeutem scelcstum Deseruit pede Poena claude" ('Od.,' 3:2, 32). "The idea of Dice as justice personified is most perfectly developed in the dramas of Sophocles and Euripides" (article "Dice," in 'Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Mythol.'). It does not appear whether the islanders had learned the name and office of Dice from the Greeks in Sicily, or whether they had any native divinity whose name St. Luke translates into that of Dice. The gods whose names are found in ancient Maltese inscriptions are Melkarth, another name of Hercules, the tutelar god of Tyre; Osiris, and Baal. Other Phoenician divinities are named in the Carthaginian inscriptions (see Gesenius, 'Monument. Phoenic.'). Had not suffered. They assume that death will certainly follow from the bite.
And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
Verse 5. - Howbeit for and, A.V.; look for felt, A.V.
Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
Verse 6. - But they expected that he would for howbeit, they looked when he should, A.V.; when they were long in expectation for after they had looked a great while, A.V.; beheld nothing amiss for stay no harm, A.V. They expected; προσεδόκων. This word is used eleven times by St. Luke, twice by St. Matthew, and three times in the Second Epistle of Peter (see Acts 3:5; Luke 1:21, etc.). It is also common in the LXX. But it is a word much employed by medical writers in speaking of the course they expect a disease to take, and the results they look for. And this is the more remarkable here because there are no fewer than three other medical phrases in this verse, τίμπρασθαι καταπίπτειν, and μηδὲν ἄτοπον, besides those immediately preceding διεξέρχεσθαι (according to several good manuscripts and editions) θέρμη καθάπτειν, and θηρίον. So that it looks as if, having once got into a medical train of thought from the subject he was writing about, medical language naturally came uppermost in his mind. Have swollen; πίμπρασθαι, only here in the Bible, and not found in this sense in older classical writers. But it is the usual medical word for "inflammation" in any part of the body. Fallen down; καταπίπτειν, only here and in Acts 26:14, and twice in the LXX.; but common in Homer and elsewhere, and especially frequent in medical writers of persons falling down in fits, or weakness, or wounded, or the like. Nothing amiss (μηδὲν ἄτοπον). Mr. Hobart quotes a remarkable parallel to this phrase from Damocrites, quoted by Galen. He says that whosoever, having been bitten by a mad dog, drinks a certain antidote (εἰς οὐδὲν ἄτοπον ἐμπεσοῦται ῤᾳδίως), "shall suffer no harm." It is used in medical writers in two senses - of" unusual symptoms," and of fatal consequences. In the New Testament it only occurs elsewhere in Luke 23:41, "Nothing amiss;" and 2 Thessalonians 3:2, Ἀτόπων καὶ πονηρῶν ἀνθρώπων. It is also used in the LXX. for wickedness, doing wickedly, etc. They changed their minds; as in an opposite direction the Lycaonians did (Acts 14:11, 19). It is a graphic picture of the fickleness of an untutored mind yielding to every impulse. The impunity with which St. Paul endured the bite of the viper was a direct fulfillment of our Lord's promise in Mark 16:18 (see further note on ver. 8).
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
Verse 7. - Now in the neighborhood of that place for in the same quarters, A.V.; lands belonging to for possessions of, A.V.; named for whose name was, A.V.; entertained for lodged, A.V. Lands (χωρία); so John 4:5; Actsi. 18,19; 4:34; 5:3,8. The chief man of the island (τῷ πρώτει τῆς νήσου). It appears that, with his usual accurate knowledge gained on the spot (see Acts 16:22. note), St. Luke here gives to Publius his peculiar official title of primus. For Ciantar (1. 215), quoted by Smith, gives a Greek inscription on a marble, which in his day was standing near the gates of Citta Vecehia, in Malta, in which are the words, Προύδενς ἵππευς Ρωμ πρῶτος Μελιταίων κ.τ.λ., "Prudens, a Roman knight, chief of the Maltese." The Latin inscription, which was discovered in 1747, has the same title, MEL PRIMUS. "chief of the Maltese." It may not improbably be the Greek and Latin translation of the old Phoenician title of the "headman," in Hebrew הָרלֺאשׁ, in Chaldee ראֵשׁ, as in the title ראֵשׂ הַגְלוּתָה, the chief of the Captivity. When the Romans succeeded the Carthaginians in the possession of the island, they would be likely to perpetuate the title of the chief magistrate. In this case the chief was also a Roman, as his name of Publius indicates. Alford says that he was legatus to the Praetor of Sicily, and so 'Speaker's Commentary,' Kuinoel, Meyer, ere.' Received us; ἀναδεξάμενος, only here (and Hebrews 11:17 in a different sense) for the more common ὑποδέχομαι. Kuinoel quotes from AElian, 'Var. Hist.,' 4, 19, the similar phrase, Υπέδεξατο αὐτοὺς. . . φιλοφρόνως: and from 2 Macc. 3:9, Φιλοφρόνως ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀρχιερέως ὑποδεχθείς. Entertained us (ἐξένισεν); see Acts 10:6, 18, 23, 32; Acts 21:16; and in the active voice in Hebrews 13:2. Courteously; φιλοφρόνως, only here in the New Testament, but we find φιλόφρων, courteous, in 1 Peter 3:8. We must understand the "us" probably to include the centurion, St. Paul, St. Luke, Aristarchus, and possibly one or two others, but not the whole two hundred and seventy-six. Hebrews 13:2 had a striking fulfillment here. During the three days they would have opportunity to procure suitable winter quarters.
And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
Verse 8. - It was so for it came to pass, A.V.; fever for a fever, A.V.; dysentery for of a bloody flux, A.V.; unto for to, A.V.; and laying, etc., healed for and laid, etc., and healed, A.V. The father of Publius. The fact of the father of Publius being alive and living in Malta is a further indication that the term ὁ πρῶτος τῆς νήσου ισ an official title. Lay sick. Συνέχεσθαι ισ also the usual medical expression for being taken sick of any disease (see the numerous passages quoted by Hobart, pp. 3, 4, from Galen and Hippocrates). It is used by St. Luke, with πυρετῴ (Luke 4:38), and in the same sense in Matthew 4:24. Lay. Κατακεῖσθαι is used especially of lying in bed from sickness (see Mark 1:30; Mark 2:4; Luke 5:25; Acts 9:33). It answers to decumbo in Latin. Sick of fever and dysentery (πυρετοῖς καὶ δυσεντερία συνεχόμενον). The terms here used are all professional ones. Πυρετός, in the plural, is of frequent occurrence in Hippocrates, Aretaeus, and Galen, but elsewhere in the New Testament always in the singular; δυσεντερία, only found here in the New Testament, is the regular technical word for a "dysentery," and is frequently in medical writers coupled with πυρετοί or πυρετός, as indicating different stages of the same illness. Laying his hands on him. So Mark 16:18, "They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (see also Matthew 9:18; Matthew 19:13, 15; Mark 5:23; Mark 6:5; Mark 7:32; Mark 8:23, 25; Luke 4:40; Luke 13:13; Acts 9:12). It is also spoken of as an accompaniment of prayer in confirmation, ordination, etc. It has been remarked as curious that the two actions of taking up serpents and healing the sick by the laying on of hands should be in such close juxtaposition both here and in Mark 16:18. It suggests the thought whether Luke had seen the passage in St. Mark; or whether the writer of Mark 16:18 had seen Acts 28:8. Or is the coincidence accidental, arising out of the facts?
So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
Verse 9. - And for so, A.V. and T.R.; the rest for others, A.V.; cured for healed, A.V.
Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
Verse 10. - Sailed for departed, A.V.; put on board for laded us with, A.V.; we needed for were necessary, A.V. Honored us with many honors. Kuinoel understands this in the sense of "gifts, presents," which of course their destitute condition, after losing all they had in the ship-wreck, would make very acceptable. But there is nothing in the words to suggest this meaning, and, had it been so, Luke would have simply stated it, as he does immediately afterwards, when he says that they put on board such things as we needed. When we sailed (ἀναγομένοις); see Acts 13:13; Acts 16:11; Acts 18:21; Acts 20:3, 13; Acts 21:1, 2, 4, 12, 21, and notes. It is touching to see the kindness of the Maltese, and we may hope that they had to thank God for light and grace and life through the ministry of St. Paul and his companions.
And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
Verse 11. - Set sail for departed, A.V.; island for isle, A.V.; The Twin Brothers for Castor and Pollux, A.V. After three months. At the very earliest period when the sailing season began after the winter. It would be, perhaps, about the middle of February, or, as Alford thinks, about March 10. If the weather was fine, having so short a voyage before them, they would venture to sail without further delay. Set sail (see preceding verso, note). A ship of Alexandria. Some ship, better fated than that one (Acts 27:6) which was wrecked in St. Paul's Bay, which had weathered or avoided the gale, and probably got into the harbor of Valetta in good time. One would have thought that this ship wintering at Malta on its way from Alexandria to Italy, via Sicily, would be of itself a sufficient proof that Melita was Malta. Which had wintered (παρακεχειμακότι); see Acts 27:12, note. Whose sign was The Twin Brothers (Δίοσκουροι, Latin the constellation Gemini). The twin sons of Jupiter and Leda, Castor and Pollux, brothers of Helena ("fratres Helenis, lucida sidera," Horace, 'Od.,' 1:3, 2), were called by the Greeks Dioscuri, the sons of Jove. It was their special office to assist sailors in danger of shipwreck. Hence Horace, in the ode just quoted, prays that Castor and Pollux, in conjunction with other deities, would carry the ship in which Virgil sailed safe to Attica. And in Ode 12:27, etc., he describes the subsidence of the storm, and the calming of the waves, at the appearance of the twin stars, of Leda's sons. It was, therefore, very natural to have the Dioscuri for the παράσημον, the sign of the ship. Every ancient ship had a παράσημον, "a painted or carved representation of the sign which furnished its name on the prow, and at the stern a similar one of their tutelary deity." (Alford), which was called the tutela. These were sometimes the same, and perhaps were so in this instance. Ovid tells us that Minerva was the tutela of the ship in which he sailed, and that her painted helmet gave it its name ('Trist.,' 1 9:1), Galea, or the like. We may notice the continual trial to Jews and Christians of having to face idolatry in all the common actions of life.
And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
Verse 12. - Touching for landing, A.V. Touching (καταχθέντες); Acts 21:3; Acts 27:3, note. The way in which Syracuse is here mentioned is another redundant proof that Melita is Malta. "Syracause is about eighty miles, a days' sail, from Malta" (Afford). Tarried there three days. Perhaps wind- bound, or possibly having to land part of their cargo there.
And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
Verse 13. - Made a circuit for fetched a compass, A.V.; arrived at for came to, A.V.; a south for the south, A.V.; sprang up for blew, A.V.; on the second day we came for we came the next day, A.V. We made a circuit; περιελθόντες. St. Luke only uses this word in one other passage, Acts 19:13," The strolling [or, 'vagabond'] Jews;" and it has the same sense of "wandering" in the only other passages where it occurs in the New Testament (1 Timothy 5:13; Hebrews 11:37). If it is the right reading here, the meaning must be "tacking," the wind not allowing them to sail in a direct course. "I am inclined to suppose that the wind was north-west, and that they worked to windward, availing themselves of the sinuosities of the coast. But with this wind they could not proceed through the Straits of Messina .... They were, therefore, obliged to put into Rhegium But after one day the wind became fair (from the south), and on the following day they arrived at Puteoli, having accomplished about one hundred and eighty nautical miles in less than two days" (Smith, p. 156). But Meyer explains it, "after we had come round," viz. from Syracuse, round the eastern coast of Sicily. Lewin thinks they had to stand out to sea to catch the wind, and so arrived at Rhegium by a circuitous course. The other reading is περιελόντες, as in Acts 27:40; but this seems to give no proper sense here. A south wind sprang up. The force of the preposition in ἐπιγενομένου shows that there was a change of wind. The south wind would, of course, be a very favorable one for sailing from Reggio to Puzzuoli. Hobart remarks of ἐπιγίνεσθαι (which is also found in Acts 27:27, according to some good manuscripts) that it "was a favorite medical word constantly employed to denote the coming on of an attack of illness." It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but is common in Diodorus Siculus, Xenophon, Herodotus, Thucydides, etc., for the coming on of a storm, wind (adverse or favorable), or any other change. On the second day; δευτεραῖοι. This particular numeral occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but the analogous τεταρταῖος is used in John 11:39. And Herodotus has τριταῖος ἀφίκετο, "he went away on the third day." Τριταῖος is also common in medical writers with πυρετός, a tertian ague, a fever that recurs on the third day; τεταρταῖος, a quartan fever; πεμπταῖος, one recurring on the fifth day; ἑβδομαῖος, on the seventh day; ἐνναταῖος, on the ninth day. The forms δεκαταῖος πεντηκοσταῖος, etc., "doing anything on the tenth, the fiftieth day," also occur. Puteoli; now Puzzuoli. The Italian port to which ships from Alexandria usually came. Smith quotes a passage from Seneca (Epist., 77) describing the arrival of the Alexandrian wheat-ships at Puteoli. The whole population of Puteoli went out to see them sail into harbor with their topsails (supparum), which they alone were allowed to carry, in order to hasten their arrival (p. 157), so important to Italy was the corn trade with Alexandria.
Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
Verse 14. - Intreated for desired, A.V.; came to for went toward, A.V. Brethren. It is very interesting to find the gospel already planted in Italy. The circumstances of Purcell as the great emporium of African wheat made it a likely place for Christianity to reach, whether from Rome or from Alexandria (see Acts 18:24). Luke calls them ἀδελφοί, not Ξριστιανοί (Acts 11:26). Perhaps the name of Christian was still rather the name given by those without, and that of "brethren," or "disciples," the name used by the Christians among themselves. What a joy it must have been to Paul and his companions to find themselves among brethren! Seven days. Surely that they might take part in the service and worship of the next Sunday (see Acts 20:6, 7). It is implied that the philanthropy of Julius (Acts 27:3) did not now fail. So we came to Rome. The R.V. is undoubtedly right. 'We can trace in the anticipatory form of speech here used by St. Luke, simple as the words are, his deep sense of the transcendent interest of the arrival of the apostle of the Gentiles at the colossal capital of the heathen world. Yes; after all the conspiracies of the Jews who sought to take away his life, after the two years' delay at Caesarea, after the perils of that terrible shipwreck, in spite of the counsel of the soldiers to kill the prisoners, and in spite of the "venomous beast," - Paul came to Rome. The word of God," Thou must bear witness also at Rome" (Acts 23:11), had triumphed over all "the power of the enemy" (Luke 10:19). And doubtless the hearts both of Paul and Luke beat quicker when they first caught sight of the city on the seven hills.
And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
Verse 15. - The brethren, when, etc., came for when the brethren, etc., they came, A.V.; The Market of Appius for Appii forum, A.V. The brethren, when they heard of us. During the seven days' stay at Putcoli, the news of the arrival of the illustrious confessors reached the Church at Rome. The writer of that wonderful Epistle which they had received some three years before, and in which he had expressed his earnest desire to visit them, and his hope that he should come to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:11, 12, 15; Romans 15:22, 24, 28-32), was now almost at their gates as a prisoner of state, and they would soon see him face to face. They naturally determined to go and meet him, to honor him as an apostle, and show their love to him as a brother. The younger and more active would go as far as Appii Forum, "a village on the Via Appia, forty-three miles from Rome" (Meyer). The rest only came as far as The Three Taverns, ten miles nearer to Rome. Alford quotes a passage from Cicero's letters to Atticus (it. 10), in which he mentions both "Appii Forum" and the "Tres Tabernae;" and refers to Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 17. 12:1) for a similar account of Jews at Rome, who, on hearing of the arrival of the pretended Alexander at Puteoli, went out in a body to meet him (πᾶν τὸ Ιουδαίων πλῆθος ὑπαντιάζοντες ἐξῄεσαν). He also quotes from Suetonius the passage in which he tells us that, on Caligula's return from Germany, "populi Romans sexum, aetatem, ordinem omnem, usque ad Vicesimum lapidem effadisse se" ('Calig.,' c. 4). Appii Forum was not far from the coast, and was a great place for sailors and innkeepers (Horace, 'Sat.,' 1:5, 3). The Via Appia was made by Appius Claudius, B.C. 442. It led from the Ports Capena in Rome through the Pontino marshes to Capua.
And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
Verse 16. - Entered into for came to, A.V. and T.R.; the words which follow in the T.R. and the A.V., the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but, are omitted in the R.T. and R.V., following א, A, B, and many versions; Alford retains them, Meyer speaks doubtfully; abide for dwell, A.V.; the soldier that guarded him for a soldier that kept him, A.V. The captain of the guard (A.V.); τῷ στρατοπεδάρχῃ: in Latin praefectus praetorio (Στρατόπεδον, was the Greek name for the castra praetoriana). There were usually two great officers so called, and it was their special duty to take charge of prisoners sent from the provinces to be tried at Rome. 'Vinctus mitti ad praefectos praetorii met debet" (Pliny, 'Epist.,' 10:65). It has been argued, from the mention of "the captain of the guard," that Paul's imprisonment must have occurred when Burrus was sole prefect, as related by Tacitus ('Annal.,' 12:42, 1), and that hence we get a precise date for it (so Wieseler, 'Chronologic de Apostolisch. Geshichte'). But this can hardly be depended upon. Luke might speak of "the prefect," meaning the one to whom the prisoners were actually committed, just as we might speak of a magistrate writing to "the secretary of state," or an ambassador calling upon "the secretary of state," the matter in hand determining which of the three secretaries we meant. With the soldier that guarded him. It appears from ver. 20 that St. Paul was subjected to the custodia militaris, i.e. that he was fastened by a single chain to a praetorian (στρατιώτης), but, as a special favor, granted probably on the good report of the courteous Julius, was allowed to dwell in his own hired house (ver. 30); see Acts 24:23.
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
Verse 17. - He for Paul, A.V. and T.R.; called together those that were the chief for called the chief... together, A.V.; I, brethren, though I had done for men and brethren, though I have committed, A.V. and T.R.; the customs for customs, A.V.; was I for was, A.V. After three days. He could but just have got into his hired house, but he would not lose a day in seeking out his brethren to speak to them of the hope of Israel. What marvelous activity! what unquenchable love! The chief (τοὺς ὄντας... πρώτους). The expression οἱ πρῶτοι, for the principal people of the district or neighborhood, occurs repeatedly in Josephus. The Jews. They had returned to Rome, after their banishment by Claudius (Acts 18:2), some time before this (Romans 16:3, 7). I had done nothing against the people, or the customs (comp. Acts 23:1, 6; Acts 24:14-16, 20, 21; Acts 25:8; Acts 26:6, 7, 22, 23).
Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
Verse 18. - Desired to set me at liberty for would have let me go, A.V. Had examined me (ἀνακρίναντές με); see Acts 4:9; Acts 12:19; Acts 24:8; Acts 25:26. Desired to set me at liberty (see Acts 25:18, 19, 25; Acts 26:31, 32).
But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
Verse 19. - When the Jews spake against it. This is a detail not expressly mentioned in the direct narrative in Acts 25, but which makes that narrative clearer. It shows us that Festus's proposal in Acts 25:9 was made in consequence of the opposition of the Jews to the acquittal which he was disposed to pronounce. I was constrained to appeal. Nothing can be more delicate, more conciliatory, or more truly patriotic than Paul's manner of addressing the Jews. Himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews, devoted to his kinsmen according to the flesh, never even putting forward his own privilege as a Roman citizen till the last necessity, he shows himself the constant friend of his own people in spite of all their ill usage. Undazzled by the splendor of Rome and the power of the Roman people, his heart is with his own despised nation, "that they might be saved." He wishes to he well with them; he wants them to understand his position; he speaks to them as a kinsman and a brother. His appeal to Caesar had been of necessity - to save his life. But he was not going to accuse his brethren before the dominant race. His first desire was that they should be his friends, and share with him the hope of the gospel of Christ.
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
Verse 20. - Did I entreat you to see and to speak with me for have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you, A.V.; for because of for because that for, A.V. To see and to speak with me. Meyer, followed by Alford, rightly prefers the rendering of the A.V. and the margin of the R.V. Παρακαλέω is here in its primary sense of calling any one to come to you, and the two infinitives express the object for which he called them, viz. to see and speak with them. Because of the hope of Israel (see Acts 23:6; Acts 24:14, 15, 21; Acts 26:6, 22, 23). I am bound with this chain (περικεῖμαι). In Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2 the millstone 'hangs about' (περικεῖται) the neck. But here and Hebrews 5:2 the construction is different, and the subject and the object are reversed. Instead of the chain encompassing Paul, Paul is said to be bound with the chain. (For the chain, see ver. 16, note, and Acts 24:23.) The force of this saying seems to be this, "I have asked you to come to me because this chain which binds me is not a token of a renegade Israelite who has come to Rome to accuse his nation before the heathen master, but of a faithful Israelite, who has endured bondage rather than forsake the hope of his fathers."
And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
Verse 21. - From for out of, A.V.; nor for neither, A.V.; did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak for any of the brethren that came showed or spake, A.V. Nor did any of the brethren come hither, etc. This is no improvement on the A.V.; for it implies that they denied that any special messenger had been sent to speak harm of Paul, which nobody could have thought had been done. What they meant to say is exactly what the A.V. makes them say, viz. that, neither by special letters, nor by message nor casual information brought by Jews coming to Rome from Judaea, had they heard any harm of him. This seems odd; but as the Jews had no apparent motive for not speaking the truth, we must accept it as true. The expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius (Acts 18:1) may have slackened the intercourse between Judaea and Rome; the attention of the Jews may have been absorbed by their accusation of Felix; there had been a very short interval between Paul's appeal and his departure for Rome; he had only been at Rome three days, and so it is very possible that no report had yet reached Rome concerning him at this early season of the year.
But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
Verse 22. - It is known to us for we know, A.V. We desire (ἀξιοῦμεν); or, we are willing; literally, think it right (so Acts 16:38). Ηξίου, followed by a negative, means "was unwilling." It has this sense frequently in Xenophon, AElian, Josephus, and other Greek writers (see Kuinoel, on Acts 16:30). This sect (τῆς αἱρέσεως ταύτης); see Acts 24:5, 14, notes. It is known to us; i.e. though we have heard nothing against you Paul, we have heard of the sect of the Nazarenes and have heard nothing but harm concerning it. Spoken against (ἀντιλέγεται); see Acts 13:45; ver. 19; Romans 10:21; Titus 1:9. It is called a "superstitio prava, malefica, exitiabilis" (Pliny, 'Ep.,' 10:96; Suetonius, 'Nero,' 16; Tacitus, 'Annal.,' 15:44; 'Speaker's Commentary').
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
Verse 23. - They came to him into his lodging in great number for there came many to him into his lodging, A.V.; expounded the matter for expounded, A.V.; testifying for and testified, A.V.; and persuading for persuading, A.V.; from for out of (twice), A.V. His lodging; ξενία, elsewhere only in Philemon 1:22. It may well be the same as the "hired dwelling" in ver. 30. Expounded (ἐξετίθετο). The verb governs the accusative τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ Θεοῦ, as in Acts 18:26, and is not intransitive, as in Acts 11:4. Testifying; διαμαρτυράμενος, a favorite word of St. Luke's, most commonly intransitive, and so to be taken here. It qualifies the verb (see Luke 16:28; Acts 2:40; Acts 8:25; Acts 10:42; Acts 20:23; Acts 23:11). It is transitive in Acts 20:21, 24; doubtful in Acts 18:5. The kingdom of God. The great subject-matter of the gospel in all its parts - grace, righteousness, glory, through Jesus Christ (see ver. 31 and Acts 20:25). From the Law of Moses and from the prophets (see Luke 24:27, 44). From morning till evening. So do the Jews frequent the houses of the missionaries to this day, and listen with great interest and apparent earnestness to their teaching.
And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
Verse 24. - Disbelieved for believed not, A.V. The usual division of the hearers of the Word.
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
Verse 25. - Isaiah for Esaias, A.V.; your for our, A.V. and T.R. When they agreed not; ἀσύμφωνοι ὄντες, only here in the New Testament; but συμφωνέω to agree, occurs repeatedly (Luke 5:36; Acts 5:9; Acts 15:15; and Matthew, pass.); also σύμφωνος and συμφώνησις (1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 6:15). Ἀσύμφωνος occurs in Wisd. 18:10 and in classical writers. Probably the disagreement led to some altercation, and to the exhibition of the usual bigotry and prejudice and bitter opposition on the part of the unbelieving Jews. They departed; ἀπελύοντο, the proper word for the breaking up of an assembly (Matthew 14:15, 22, 23; Matthew 15:32, 39; Acts 15:30; Acts 19:41, etc.). Well spake the Holy Ghost. Note the distinct assertion of the inspiration of Isaiah. Compare the words of the Creed, "Who spake by the prophets;" and for similar statements, see Mark 12:36; Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 10:15, etc. Note also how resolutely St. Paul maintains his own standpoint as the faithful and consistent Israelite in accord with Moses and the prophets, while his adversaries, with their boasted zeal for the Law, were really its antagonists. The attitude of the true Catholics, in protesting against the corruptions and perversions of the Church of Rome, and showing that they are the faithful followers of Scripture and of apostolic tradition, and the true up holders of the primitive discipline and doctrine of the Church, is very similar.
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
Verse 26. - Go thou for go, A.V.; by hearing for hearing, A.V.; in no wise for not, A.V.; shall in no wise for not, A.V. Go thou, etc. The quotation is all but verbatim from the LXX. of Isaiah 6:9, 10. This particular chapter was evidently deemed one of great importance, since our Lord quotes from it (Matthew 13:14, 15), and St. John (John 12:37-41), as well as St. Paul in the passage before us. By hearing (ἀκοῇ). Why the LXX. translated שָׁמועַ by the substantive (ἀκοῇ) instead of by the participle (ἀκούοντες), as in the precisely similar phrase which follows - βλέποντες βλέψατε - does not appear. The Hebrew reads, as it is rendered in the A.V.," Hear ye,... and see ye," etc., in the imperative mood, not differing much in sense (in prophetical language) from the future. It is impossible to give the force in English exactly of the repetition of the verb in the infinitive mood שְׁמְעוּ שָׁמועַ, and רְאוּ רָאו by a very common Hebrew idiom. It is done imperfectly by the word "indeed." Rosenmuller quotes from Demosthenes ('Contr. Aristogit.,' 1.) the proverbial saying, Ὁρώντας μὴ ὁρᾳν καὶ ἀκούονσας μὴ ἀκούειν
For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Verse 27. - This people's heart for the heart of this people, A.V.; they have for have they, A.V.; lest haply they should perceive for lest they should see, A.V.; turn again for be con-vetted, A.V. This people's heart, etc. So the LXX. But the Hebrew has the imperative form, "make fat.," "make heavy.... shut," in the prophetical style (comp. Jeremiah 1:10). They have closed (ἐκάμμυσαν). The verb καμμύω, contracted from καταμύω (μύω, to close, from the action of the lips in pronouncing the sound μυ), means "to shut" or "close" the eyes. It is found repeatedly in the LXX., and, in the form καταμύω, in classical writers. The word "mystery" is etymologically connected with it. The word here expresses the willfulness of their unbelief: "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life."
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
Verse 28. - This salvation for the salvation, A.V. and T.R.; they will also hear for and that they will hear it, A.V. The A.V. gives the sense better than the R.V. This salvation; τὸ σωτήριον. This form, instead of the more common σωτηρία, is found in Luke 2:30; Luke 3:6; and Ephesians 6:17. The Gentiles (see Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 22:26; Acts 26:17, 20, 23). But even at Rome the apostle of the Gentiles was faithful to the rule, "To the Jew first."
And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
Verse 29 (A.V.). - This verse is entirely wanting in the R.T. and R.V. It is omitted in many good manuscripts and versions. It is condemned by Grotius, Mill, Tischendorf, Lachmann, and others; but is not absolutely rejected by Meyer, Alford, Plumptre, and others. Great reasoning (πολλὴν συζήτησιν see Acts 15:2, 7; and Luke 22:23; Luke 24:15; Acts 6:9; Acts 9:29). The phrase is in St. Luke's style, and the statement seems necessary to complete the narrative.
And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
Verse 30. - He abode for Paul dwelt, A.V. and T.R.; dwelling for house, A.V.; went for came. A.V. Two whole years. Διετία occurs also in Acts 24:27, and διετής in Matthew 2:16; τριετία in Acts 20:31. These forms are frequent in the LXX. His own hired dwelling; ἰδίῳ μισθώματι, only here. The word properly means "hire," the price paid for the use of anything, and then by metonymy "the thing which is hired." It occurs frequently in the LXX. in the sense of" hire" or" wages;" e.g. ties. 2:12; Deuteronomy 23:18, etc. This may be the ξενία spoken of in ver. 23, or he may have removed from thence into stone house more commodious for gathering Jews and Christians around him.
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
Verse 31. - The things for those things, A.V.; concerning for which concern, A.V.; boldness for confidence, A.V.; none for no man, A.V. Boldness (παρρησίας); see above, Acts 2:29; Acts 4:13, 29, 31. The verb παρρησιάζομαι also occurs frequently (Acts 9:27; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:3, etc.). The boldness and freedom with which he spake the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ would naturally increase more and more, as he found himself day by day unchecked by enemies, and encouraged by the number and earnestness of his hearers. None forbidding him; ἀκωλύτως, only here in the New Testament; but the adjective is found in Symmachus's version of Job (Job 34:31), and in the LXX. of Wisd. 7:22; and both adjective and adverb are occasionally used in classical Greek. But the most common use of the adverb is by medical writers, who employ it "to denote freedom, unhindered action, in a variety of things, such as respiration, perspiration, the pulse, the muscles, the members of the body" (Hobart). In two passages quoted from Galen ('Meth. Med.,' 14:15; 'Usus Part.,' 2:15) the sentence ends, as here, with the word ἀκωλύτως Some derive the word "acolyte" hence, from their being admitted to holy functions, though not in full orders. And so ends this lively and beautiful and most faithful sketch of one of the greatest men, and one of the greatest works, the world has ever seen. "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft," is seen, as we read this history, to be no empty boast, but a simple statement of the truth. The springs of that mind and of that zeal were ever ready to rise to fresh work, however crushing a strain had been put upon them. "I count not my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God," is the true description of that life as delineated by the beloved physician. And yet how remarkable it is that in the whole of the Acts there is not one single word of panegyric! The portraiture is a bare photograph, without a single additional touch to enhance its beauty. Nor must we forget the singular brevity with which some episodes are passed over. Had we only Luke's history, we should not know that the apostle was an author - an author whose writings have moved the world of mind and spirit more than all the writings of Plato, and Aristotle, and Cicero, and Bacon combined, through a period of eighteen hundred years. Thus, to glance at the "two whole years" with the record of which the book closes, think of the work clone in that time. What gatherings of holy men and women within the walls of that "hired dwelling" are we sure must have taken place! Prisca and Aquila, and Epaenetus, and Mary, and Urban, and Apelles, and Persis, and Hermas, and Olympas, and all their compeers, we may be sure were often there. What wrestlings in prayer, what expositions of the Scriptures, what descriptions of the kingdom of God, what loving exhortations, what sympathetic communings, must have made that "hired dwelling" a very Bethel in the stronghold of heathenism! We think of the praetorian soldiers to whom he was successively chained; perhaps of the courteous Julius; of the inmates of Nero's palace (Philippians 4:22); perhaps of Eubulus, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia (2 Timothy 4:21); of Epaphras and Epaphroditus, and of Luke, and Mark, and Timothy, and Aristarchus, and we know not how many more besides; and there rises before our minds a crowd of agencies and sober activities directed by that master mind to the advancement of the kingdom of God. We feel, indeed, that, though he was chained, "the word of God was not bound;" but that through the marvelous energy and unfailing wisdom of the great prisoner, his prison turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. And then we turn to the Epistles written at this time. What a contribution to the literature of the kingdom of heaven!-the Epistles to the Ephesians, to the Colossions, to Philemon, and to the Philippians, and probably much help given to Luke in the composition of the Acts of the Apostles. Truly they were two years of infinite moment to the Church of God. What followed those two years, what became of Paul, and what of his saintly biographer, we shall never know. It has pleased God to draw a curtain ever the events, which we cannot penetrate. Here our history ends, because nothing more had happened when it was given to the Church. Instead of vain regrets because it reaches no further, let us devoutly thank God for all that this book has taught us, and strive to show ourselves worthy members of that Gentile Church, whose foundation by St. Peter and St. Paul, and whose marvelous increment, through the labors of him who once laid it waste, has been so well set before us in the Book of THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.

Courtesy of Open Bible