Acts 9:2 MEANING

Acts 9:2
(2) And desired of him letters to Damascus.--We learn from 2 Corinthians 11:32-33, that Damascus was at this time under the government of Aretas, the king of Arabia Petraea. How it came to be so, having been previously under Vitellius, the Roman president of Syria (Jos. Ant. xiv. 4, ? 5), is not clear. It is probable, however, that in the war which Aretas had declared against Herod Antipas, in consequence of the Tetrarch's divorcing his daughter in order that he might marry Herodias (see Notes on Matthew 14:3; Luke 3:14), he had been led, after defeating the Tetrarch (Jos. Ant. xviii. 5, ? 1), to push his victories further; and, taking advantage of the absence of Vitellius, who had hastened to Rome on hearing of the death of Tiberius (A.D. 37) had seized on Damascus. In this abeyance of the control of the Roman power, Aretas may have desired to conciliate the priestly party at Jerusalem by giving facilities to their action against the sect which they would naturally represent as identified with the Galileans against whom he had been waging war. The Jewish population at Damascus was, at this time, very numerous. Josephus relates that not less than 10,000 were slain in a tumult under Nero (Wars, ii. 25), and the narrative of the Acts (Acts 9:14) implies that there were many "disciples of the Lord" among them. Many of these were probably refugees from Jerusalem, and the local synagogues were called upon to enforce the decrees of the Sanhedrin of the Holy City against them. On the position and history of Damascus, see Note on next verse.

If he found any of this way.--Literally, of the way. We have here the first occurrence of a term which seems to have been used familiarly as a synonym for the disciples of Christ (Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14; Acts 24:22). It may have originated in the words in which Christ had claimed to be Himself the "Way," as well as the "Truth" and the "Life" (John 14:6); or in His language as to the "strait way" that led to eternal life (Matthew 7:13); or, perhaps, again, in the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3) cited by the Baptist (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3), as to preparing "the way of the Lord." Prior to the general acceptance of the term "Christian" (Acts 11:26) it served as a convenient, neutral designation by which the disciples could describe themselves, and which might be used by others who wished to speak respectfully, or, at least, neutrally, instead of the opprobrious epithet of the "Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5). The history of the term "Methodists," those that follow a distinct "method" or "way" of life, offers a partial but interesting analogue.

Whether they were men or women.--The mention of the latter has a special interest. They too were prominent enough to be objects of the persecution. It is probable that those who were most exposed to it would have fled from Jerusalem, and among these we may think of those who had been foremost in their ministry during our Lord's life on earth (Luke 8:2), and who were with the Apostles at their first meeting after His Ascension (Acts 1:14).

Might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.--The mission implied that the offence, as being against the Holy Place and the Law, as involving what would be called, in modern language, sacrilege and heresy, was beyond the jurisdiction of the subordinate tribunals, and must be reserved for that of the Council. (See Notes on Matthew 5:22; Matthew 10:17.)

Verse 2. - Asked for desired, A.V.; unto for to, A.V.; any that were of the Way for any of this way, A.V.; whether men, etc., for whether they were men, etc., A.V.; to for unto, A.V. To Damascus. No special reason is given why Damascus is singled out. But it is clear from vers. 10 and 13 that there was already a considerable number of Christian Jews at Damascus. And this, with the fact of there being a great multitude of Jews settled there, was a sufficient reason why Saul should ask for letters to each of the synagogues at Damascus, directing them to send any Christians who might be found amongst them bound to Jerusalem to be tried there before the Sanhedrim. There may have been thirty or forty synagogues at Damascus, and not less than forty thousand resident Jews. Of the Way; i.e. holding the doctrine of Christ. Thus in Acts 18:25, 26, the Christian faith is spoken of as "the way of the Lord" and "the way of God." In Acts 19:9, 23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, was the term by which the faith of Christ was spoken of chiefly, perhaps, among the Jews. The term means a peculiar doctrine or sect. Its application to Christians apparently lasted only so long as Christianity was considered to be a modification or peculiar form of Judaism, and its frequent use in the Acts is therefore an evidence of the early composition of the book.

9:1-9 So ill informed was Saul, that he thought he ought to do all he could against the name of Christ, and that he did God service thereby; he seemed to breathe in this as in his element. Let us not despair of renewing grace for the conversion of the greatest sinners, nor let such despair of the pardoning mercy of God for the greatest sin. It is a signal token of Divine favour, if God, by the inward working of his grace, or the outward events of his providence, stops us from prosecuting or executing sinful purposes. Saul saw that Just One, ch. 22:14; 26:13. How near to us is the unseen world! It is but for God to draw aside the veil, and objects are presented to the view, compared with which, whatever is most admired on earth is mean and contemptible. Saul submitted without reserve, desirous to know what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Christ's discoveries of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low, in mean thoughts of themselves. For three days Saul took no food, and it pleased God to leave him for that time without relief. His sins were now set in order before him; he was in the dark concerning his own spiritual state, and wounded in spirit for sin. When a sinner is brought to a proper sense of his own state and conduct, he will cast himself wholly on the mercy of the Saviour, asking what he would have him to do. God will direct the humbled sinner, and though he does not often bring transgressors to joy and peace in believing, without sorrows and distress of conscience, under which the soul is deeply engaged as to eternal things, yet happy are those who sow in tears, for they shall reap in joy.And desired of him letters to Damascus,.... Damascus was the head or metropolis of Syria, Isaiah 7:8 And so Pliny (z) calls it Damascus of Syria: it was a very ancient city; it was in the times of Abraham; his servant Eliezer is said to be of it, Genesis 15:2 and some say it was built by him the said Eliezer; though Josephus (a) makes Uz, a grandson of Shem, to be the founder of it; whose surname is conjectured, by some, to be Dimshak, seeing that and Uz differ not in sense: and Justin says (b), it had its name from Damascus, the king of it, in honour of whom the Syrians made a temple of the sepulchre of his wife Arathis, and her a goddess; after Damascus, he says, Azelus, then Azores, Abraham, and Israel were kings of it. Some think it has its name from blood, and that it signifies a "sack" or bag, or, as Jerom explains, a cup of blood (c), or one that drinks blood; who says, it is a true tradition, that the field in which Abel was killed by Cain, was in Damascus (d): but it seems rather to be so called from the redness of the earth about it; for some very good writers affirm, that the earth in the fields of Damascus is like wax tinged with red lead; so if it be read Dammesek, as it commonly is, in the Arabic language, "Damma" signifies to tinge, and "Meshko" is used for "red earth"; or if "Dummesek", as it is in 2 Kings 16:10, "Daumo", in the same language, is "permanent", what always abides, and "Meshko", as before, "red earth", and so "Dummesek" is never failing red earth; or if it be Darmesek", as in 1 Chronicles 18:5 the same with Darmsuk", it may be observed, that the Syrians call red earth "Doro sumoko": so that, upon the whole, this seems to be the best etymology of the word (e), and the rise of the name of this famous city, which Justin calls the most noble city of Syria. It is said (f) to be an hundred and sixty miles from Jerusalem. Here might be many Christians before, and others might flee hither upon this persecution; and Saul, not content with driving them from their native place, persecuted them, as he himself says, to strange cities: and that he might do this with safety to himself, and with the greater force and cruelty to them, he got letters from the high priest, and sanhedrim, at Jerusalem; either recommending him to the Jews at Damascus, and exhorting them to assist him in what he came about; or empowering him to act under his authority, or both: and these were directed to be delivered

to the synagogues; to the rulers of them; for the Jews being numerous in this place, they had more synagogues than one. Josephus says (g), that under Nero the inhabitants of Damascus killed ten thousand Jews in their own city: and Benjamin Tudelensis (h) in his time says, there were about three thousand Jews (Pharisees), besides two hundred Karaites (or Scripturarians), and four hundred Samaritans, who lived in peace together. Now to these synagogues, and the chief men of them, was Saul recommended for assistance and direction,

that if he found any of this way; of thinking; that were of this sect of religion, and either professed to believe, or preach, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah:

whether they were men or women; without any fear of one, or mercy to the other:

he might bring them bound to Jerusalem; to be examined and punished by the sanhedrim there, as they should think fit; and for this purpose he must take with him a considerable number of men; and that he had men with him is certain from Acts 9:7.

(z) L. 36. c. 8. (a) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 5. (b) Ex Trogo, l. 36. c. 2.((c) De Nominibus Hebraicis, fol. 97. F. & 101. K. (d) Comment. in Ezekiel 27.18. (e) Vid. Hiller. Onomasticum, p. 114, 115, 419, 793. (f) Bunting's Itinerar. p. 394. (g) De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 20. sect. 2.((h) ltinerar. p. 56, 57.

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