Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
After we were gotten from them - After we had left the elders at Miletus, Act 20:38. They were on their way to Jerusalem.
Unto Coos - This was a small island in the Grecian Archipelago, a short distance from the southwestern point of Asia Minor. It is now called "Stan-co." It was celebrated for its fertility, and for the wine and silk-worms which it produced. It was about 40 miles south of Miletus.
Unto Rhodes - This was also an island in the Grecian Archipelago. On the island was a city of the same name, which was principally distinguished for its brass Colossus, which was built by Chares of Lyndus. It stood across the mouth of the harbor, and was so high that vessels could pass between its legs. It stood for 56 years, and was then thrown down by an earthquake. It was reckoned as one of the seven wonders of the world. When the Saracens took possession of this island they sold this prostrate image to a Jew, who loaded 900 camels with the brass from it. This was 600 a.d., about 900 years after it had been thrown down. The ancient name of the island was Asteria. Its name, Rhodes, was given from the great quantity of roses which it produced.
Unto Patara - This was a maritime city of Lycia, in Asia Minor, over against Rhodes.
Unto Phenicia - See the notes on Act 11:19. Phoenicia was on their way to Jerusalem.
Set forth - Sailed.
Had discovered Cyprus - See the notes on Act 4:36.
Into Syria - See the notes on Mat 4:24.
And landed at Tyre - See the notes on Mat 11:21.
To unlade her burden - Her cargo. Tyre was formerly one of the most commercial cities of the world; and it is probable that in the time of Paul its commercial importance had not entirely ceased.
And finding disciples - Christians. This is the first mention of there being Christians at Tyre, but there is no improbability in supposing that the gospel had been preached there, though it is not expressly recorded by Luke.
Who said to Paul - Compare Act 21:12. Their deep interest in his welfare, and their apprehension of his danger, was the reason why they admonished him not to go.
Through the Spirit - There is some difficulty in understanding this. In solving this difficulty, we may remark:
(1) That it is evident that the Holy Spirit is meant, and that Luke means to say that this was spoken by his inspiration. The Holy Spirit was bestowed on Christians at that time in large measures, and many appear to have been under his inspiring guidance.
(2) it was not understood by Paul as a positive command that he should not go up to Jerusalem; for had it been, it would not have been disobeyed. He evidently understood it as expressive of their earnest wish that he should not go, as apprising him of danger, and as a kind expression in regard to his own welfare and safety. Compare Act 21:13. Paul was in better circumstances to understand this than we are, and his interpretation was doubtless correct.
(3) it is to be understood, therefore, simply as an inspired prophetic warning, that if he went, he went at the risk of his life a prophetic warning, joined with their individual personal wishes that he would not expose himself to this danger. The meaning evidently is that they said by inspiration of the Spirit that he should not go unless he was willing to encounter danger, for they foresaw that the journey would be attended with the hazard of his life. Grotius renders it, "That he should not go unless he was willing to be bound." Michaelis and Stolzius; "They gave him prophetic warrant that he should not go to Jerusalem." Doddridge, "If he tendered his own liberty and safety, not to go up to Jerusalem, since it would certainly expose him to very great hazard." The inspiration in the case was that of admonition and warning, not of positive command. Paul was simply apprised of the danger, and was then left to the free determination of his own will. He chose to encounter the danger of which he was thus apprised. He did not despise the intimations of the Spirit, but he judged that his duty to God called him thus to meet the perils of the journey. We may be apprised of danger in a certain course, either by our friends or by the Word of God, and still it may be our duty to meet it. Our duty is not to be measured by the fact that we shall experience danger, in whatever way that may be made known to us. Duty consists in following the will of God, and encountering whatever trials may be in our way.
Had accomplished those days - When those days were passed.
They all brought us on our way - They attended us. See the Act 15:3 note; Rom 15:24 note; Co1 16:6, Co1 16:11 notes; Jo3 1:6 note. This was an expression of tender attachment, and of a deep interest in the welfare of Paul and his fellow-travelers.
We kneeled down - See the notes on Act 20:36.
On the shore - Any place may be proper for prayer. See the notes on Joh 4:21-24. God is everywhere, and can as easily hear prayer on the seashore as in the most magnificent temple. This is an instance, as well as that in Act 20:36, where the apostle evidently prayed with the church without a form of prayer. No man can believe that he thus poured forth the desires of his heart at parting, and commended them to God in a prescribed form of words. Scenes like this show more clearly than abstract arguments could do that such a form was not needed, and would not be used. Paul and his fellow-Christians, on the sand of the sea-shore, would pour forth the gushing emotions of their souls in language such as their circumstances would suggest, and no man can read this narrative in a dispassionate manner without believing that they offered an extempore prayer.
We came to Ptolemais - This was a city situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, on the north angle of a bay which extends, in a semicircle of three leagues, as far as the point of Mount Carmel. At the south and west sides the city was washed by the sea, and was surrounded by triple walls. It was in the tribe of Asher Jdg 1:31, and was originally called Accho; but was called Ptolemais in honor of one of the Ptolemies, who beautified and adorned it. The Christian crusaders gave it the name of Acre, or John of Acre, from a magnificent church which was built in it, and which was dedicated to the apostle John. It is still called Akha by the Turks. The Syriac and Arabic render it Accho in this place. It sustained several sieges during the Crusades, and was the last fortified place wrested from the Christians by the Turks. It sustained a memorable siege under Bonaparte, and since then it has been much increased and strengthened. Its present population is estimated at from 18,000 to 20,000.
And saluted the brethren - Embraced them; gave them expressions of affection and regard.
We that were of Paul's company - From this it would appear that they had been attended thus far by some persons who were going only to Ptolemais. This clause, however, is missing in many mss., and has been omitted by Bengel, Griesbach, Knapp, and others as spurious. It is also missing in the Syriac and the Vulgate.
Unto Cesarea - See the notes on Act 8:40.
Into the house of Philip - One of the seven deacons, Act 6:5. After his conversation with the eunuch of Ethiopia, he went to Caesarea, and probably there abode.
The evangelist - This word properly means one who announces good news. In the New Testament it is applied to a preacher of the gospel, or one who declares the glad tidings of salvation. It occurs only in two other places, Eph 4:1; Ti2 4:5. What was the precise rank of those who bore this title in the early Christian church cannot perhaps be determined. It is evident, however, that it is used to denote the office of preaching the gospel; and as this title is applied to Philip, and not to any other of the seven deacons, it would seem probable that he had been entrusted with a special commission to preach, and that preaching did not pertain to him as a deacon, and does not properly belong to that office. The business of a deacon was to take care of the poor members of the church, Act 6:1-6. The office of preaching was distinct from this, though, as in this case, it might be conferred on the same individual.
Which did prophesy - See the notes on Act 2:17; Act 11:27. That females sometimes partook of the prophetic influence, and foretold future events, is evident from various places in the New Testament. See the notes on Act 2:17.
There came down - See the notes on Act 15:1.
Named Agabus - See the notes on Act 11:28.
He took Paul's girdle - The loose, flowing robes, or outer garments, which were worn in Eastern countries, were bound by a girdle, or sash, around the body when they ran, or labored, or walked. Such a girdle was therefore an indispensable part of dress.
And bound his own hands and feet - As emblematic of what would be done by the Jews to Paul. It was common for the prophets to perform actions which were emblematic of the events which they predicted. The design was to make the prediction more forcible and impressive by representing it to the eye. Thus, Jeremiah was directed to bury his girdle by the Euphrates, to denote the approaching captivity of the Jews, Jer 13:4. Thus, he was directed to make bands and yokes, and to put them around his neck, as a sign to Edom and Moab, etc., Jer 27:2-3. Thus, the act of the potter was emblematic of the destruction that was coming upon the nation of the Jews, Jer 18:4. So Isaiah walked naked and barefoot as a sign of the captivity of Egypt and Ethiopia, Isa 20:3-4. Compare Eze 4:12, etc.
So shall the Jews ... - This was fulfilled. See Act 21:33, and Acts 24.
Into the hands of the Gentiles - To be tried; for the Romans then had jurisdiction over Judea.
What mean ye - Greek: What do ye. A tender and affectionate, but firm reproach.
To weep and to break mine heart? - To afflict me, and distract my mind by alarms, and by the expressions of tenderness. His mind was fixed on going to Jerusalem; and he felt that he was prepared for whatever awaited him. Expressions of tenderness among friends are proper. Tears may be inevitable at parting from those whom we love. But such expressions of love ought not to be allowed to interfere with the convictions of duty in their minds. If they have made up their minds that a certain course is proper, and have resolved to pursue it, we ought neither to attempt to divert them from it, nor to distract their minds by our remonstrances or our tears. We should resign them to their convictions of what is demanded of them with affection and prayer, but with cheerfulness. We should lend them all the aid in our power, and then commend them to the blessing and protection of God. These remarks apply especially to those who are engaged in the missionary enterprise.
It is trying to part with a son, a daughter, or a beloved friend, in order that they may go to proclaim the gospel to the benighted and dying pagan. The act of parting - for life, and the apprehension of the perils which they may encounter on the ocean, and in pagan lands, may be painful; but if they, like Paul, have looked at it calmly, candidly, and with much prayer; if they have come to the deliberate conclusion that it is the will of God that they should devote their lives to this service, we ought not to weep and to break their hearts. We should cheerfully and confidently commit them to the protection of the God whom they serve, and remember that the parting of Christians, though for life, will be short. Soon, in a better world, they will be united again, to part no more; and the blessedness of that future meeting will be greatly heightened by all the sorrows and self-denials of separation here, and by all the benefits which such a separation may be the means of conveying to a dying world. That mother will meet, with joy, in heaven, the son from whom, with many tears, she was sundered when he entered on a missionary life; and, surrounded with many ransomed pagan, heaven will be made more blessed and eternity more happy.
But also to die - This was the true spirit of a martyr. This spirit reigned in the hearts of all the early Christians.
For the name of the Lord Jesus - For his sake; in making his name known.
Would not be persuaded - To remain. He was resolved to go.
We ceased - We ceased remonstrating with him, and urging him to remain.
The will of the Lord be done - They were now assured that it was the will of God that he should go, and they were now ready to submit to that will. This is an instance and an evidence of true piety. It was the expression of a wish that whatever God might judge to be necessary for the advancement of his cause might take place, even though it should be attended with many trials. They commended their friend to the protection of God, confident that whatever should occur would be right. Compare the notes on Mat 6:10; Mat 26:42.
After those days - After what had occurred, as related in the previous verses.
We took up our carriages - This is a most unhappy translation. The word carriage we apply now exclusively to a vehicle for conveying anything as a coach, chariot, gig, cannon carriage, etc. The original word means simply that they prepared themselves; made themselves ready; put their baggage in order, etc. ἀποσκευασάμενοι aposkeuasamenoi. They prepared for the journey. The English word carriage was formerly used in the sense of what is carried, baggage, burden, vessels, furniture, etc. Thus, it was used in the time that our translation was made; and in this sense it is to be understood in Sa1 17:22, "And David left his carriage (baggage) in the hand of the keeper of the carriage," etc. See Act 21:20, margin; Isa 10:28, "At Michmash he hath laid up his carriages" (his baggage, etc.).
One Mnason of Cyprus - The original in this place would be better translated, "And brought us to Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple," etc. It is evident that, though Mnason was originally of Cyprus, yet he was now an inhabitant of Jerusalem, and was well known to the disciples at Caesarea. It is possible that he might have been at Caesarea, and accompanied Paul to Jerusalem; but the more correct interpretation of the passage is, that Paul and his fellow-travelers were conducted to his house in Jerusalem, and that he was not with them in the journey.
Of Cyprus - See the notes on Act 4:36.
An old disciple - An early convert to Christianity - perhaps one who was converted before the crucifixion of the Saviour.
With whom we should lodge - In whose house we were to take up our abode. The rites of hospitality were shown in a distinguished manner by the early Christians.
The brethren - Christians.
Received us gladly - They had been long absent. They had been into distant regions, and had encountered many dangers. It was a matter of joy that they had now returned in safety.
Unto James - James the Less. See the notes on Act 15:13. He resided at Jerusalem. Compare Gal 1:19. It is not improbable that he was the only one of the apostles then at Jerusalem; and there is reason to believe that the church at Jerusalem was left under his particular care. It was natural, therefore, that Paul and his companions should take an early opportunity to see him. James was the cousin of our Lord, and in Gal 1:19 he is called the Lord's brother. On all accounts, therefore, he was entitled to, and would receive, particular respect from the early disciples.
Had saluted them - With the usual tokens of respect and affection.
He declared particularly ... - As an evidence that God had been with him. It is not improbable that there might have been some suspicion in regard to Paul among the disciples at Jerusalem, and he might have heard that they were prejudiced against him. This prejudice would be removed by his stating what had actually occurred under his ministry.
They glorified the Lord - They gave praise to the Lord for what he had done. They saw new proofs of his goodness and mercy, and they rendered him thanks for all that had been accomplished. There was no jealousy that it had been done by the instrumentality of Paul. True piety will rejoice in the spread of the gospel, and in the conversion of sinners, by whatever instrumentality it may be effected.
Thou seest, brother - The language of tenderness in this address, recognizing Paul as a fellow-laborer and fellow-Christian, implies a wish that Paul would do all that could be done to avoid giving offence, and to conciliate the favor of his countrymen.
How many thousands - The number of converts at this time must have been very great. Twenty-five years before this, 3,000 had been converted at one time Acts 2, and afterward the number had swelled to some more thousands, Act 4:4. The assertion that there were then "many thousands," implies that the work so signally begun on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem had not ceased, and that many more had been converted to the Christian faith.
Which believe - Who are Christians. They are spoken of as believers, or as having faith in Christ, in contradistinction from those who rejected him, and whose characteristic trait it was that they were unbelievers.
And they are all zealous of the law - They still observe the Law of Moses. The reference here is to the law respecting circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions of meats and days, festivals, etc. It may seem remarkable that they should still continue to observe those rites, since it was the manifest design of Christianity to abolish them. But we are to remember:
(1) That those rites had been appointed by God, and that they were trained to their observance.
(2) that the apostles conformed to them while they remained at Jerusalem, and did not deem it best to set themselves violently against them, Act 3:1; Luk 24:53.
(3) that the question about their observance had never been agitated at Jerusalem. It was only among the Gentile converts that the question had risen, and there it must arise, for if they were to be observed, they must have been imposed upon them by authority.
(4) the decision of the council Acts 15 related only to the Gentile converts. It did not touch the question whether those rites were to be observed by the Jewish converts.
(5) it was to be presumed that as the Christian religion became better understood - that as its large, free, and catholic nature became more and more developed, the special institutions of Moses would be laid aside of course, without agitation and without tumult. Had the question been agitated at Jerusalem, it would have excited tenfold opposition to Christianity, and would have rent the Christian church into factions, and greatly retarded the advance of the Christian doctrine. We are to remember also:
(6) That, in the arrangement of Divine Providence, the time was drawing near which was to destroy the temple, the city, and the nation, which was to put an end to sacrifices, and effectually to close forever the observance of the Mosaic rites. As this destruction was so near, and as it would be so effectual an argument against the observance of the Mosaic rites, the Great Head of the church did not suffer the question of their obligation to be needlessly agitated among the disciples at Jerusalem.
And they are informed of thee - Reports respecting the conduct of Paul would be likely to be in circulation among all at Jerusalem. His remarkable conversion, his distinguished zeal, his success among the Gentiles, would make his conduct a subject of special interest. Evil-minded men among the Jews, who came up to Jerusalem from different places where he had been, would be likely to represent him as the decided enemy of the laws of Moses, and these reports would be likely to reach the ears of the Jewish converts. The reports, as they gained ground, would be greatly magnified, until suspicion might be excited among the Christians at Jerusalem that he was, as he was reputed to be, the settled foe of the Jewish rites and customs.
That thou teachest all the Jews ... - From all the evidence which we have of his conduct, this report was incorrect and slanderous. The truth appears to have been, that he did not enjoin the observance of those laws on the Gentile converts; that the effect of his ministry on them was to lead them to suppose that their observance was not necessary - contrary to the doctrines of the Judaizing teachers (see Acts 15); and that he argued with the Jews themselves, where it could be done, against the obligation of those laws and customs since the Messiah had come. The Jews depended on their observance for justification and salvation. This Paul strenuously opposed; and this view he defended at length in the Epistles which he wrote. See the Epistles to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Hebrews. Yet these facts might be easily misunderstood and perverted, so as to give rise to the slanderous report that he was the enemy of Moses and the Law.
Which are among the Gentiles - Who live in pagan countries. The Jews were extensively scattered and settled in all the large towns and cities of the Roman empire.
To forsake Moses - The Law and the authority of Moses. That is, to regard his laws as no longer binding.
To walk after the customs - To observe the institutions of the Mosaic ritual. See the notes on Act 6:14. The word "customs" denotes "the rites of the Mosaic economy the offering of sacrifices, incense, the oblations, anointings, festivals, etc., which the Law of Moses prescribed."
What is it therefore? - What is to be done? What is it proper to do to avoid the effects of the evil report which has been circulated? What they deemed it proper to do is suggested in the following verses.
The multitude - The multitude of Jews.
Must needs come together - There will be inevitably a tumultuous assemblage. It will be impossible to prevent that. The reasons were, because the minds of the Jews were exceedingly agitated that one of their own countrymen had, as they understood, been advising apostasy from the religion of their fathers; because this had been extensively done in many parts of the world, and with great success; and because Paul, having, as they believed, himself apostatized from the national religion, had become very conspicuous, and his very presence in Jerusalem, as in other places, would be likely to excite a tumult. It was, therefore, the part of friendship to him and to the cause to devise some proper plan to prevent, if possible, the anticipated excitement.
We have four men - There are with us four men. It is evident that James and the elders meant to say that these men were connected with them in the Christian church; and the fact shows that the Christians at Jerusalem did not disregard the institutions of Moses, and had not been so far enlightened in the doctrines of Christianity as to forsake yet the ceremonial rites of the Jews.
Which have a vow on them - Which have made a vow. See the notes on Act 18:18. From the mention of shaving the head (in Act 21:24), it is evident that the vow which they had taken was that of the Nazarite; and that as the time of their vow was about expiring, they were about to be shaven, in accordance with the custom usual on such occasions. See the notes on Act 18:18. These persons Paul could join, and thus show decisively that he did not intend to undervalue or disparage the laws of Moses when those laws were understood as mere ceremonial observances.
Them take - Take with you. Join yourself with them.
And purify thyself with them - Join them in observing the forms of purification prescribed by the Law of Moses in the observance of the vow of the Nazarite. The purifying here refers to the vows of sanctity which the Nazarites were to observe. They were to abstain from wine and strong drink; they were to eat no grapes, moist or dried; they were to come near no dead body, nor to make themselves "unclean" for their father, mother, brother, or sister, when they died Num 6:3-7; and they were to present an offering when the days of the vow were completed, Num 6:8.
And be at charges with them - Share with them the expense of the offerings required when the vow is completed. Those offerings were a ram of a year old for a burnt-offering, a sheep of the same age for a sin-offering, a ram for a thank-offering, a basket of unleavened cakes, and a libation of wine. See Num 6:13-20.
That they may shave their heads - The shaving of the head, or the cutting off the hair which had been suffered to grow during the continuance of the vow Num 6:5, was an observance indicating that the vow had been performed. Paul was requested to join with them in the expense of the offerings, that thus, the whole of the ceremonies having been observed, their heads might be shaved as an indication that every part of the vow had been complied with.
And all may know - By the fact of your observance of one of the rites of the Mosaic religion, all may have evidence that it is not your purpose or practice to speak contemptuously of those rites, or to undervalue the authority of Moses.
Are nothing - Are untrue, or without any foundation.
Walkest orderly - That you live in accordance with the real requirements of the Law of Moses. To walk, in the Scriptures, often denotes "to live, to act, to conduct in a certain manner." All, probably, that they wished Paul to show by this was, that he was not an enemy of Moses. They who gave this counsel were Christians, and they could not wish him to do anything which would imply that he was not a Christian.
As touching the Gentiles - In regard to the Gentile converts. It might be expedient for Paul to do what could not be enjoined on the Gentiles. They could not command the Gentile converts to observe those ceremonies, while yet it might be proper, for the sake of peace, that the converts to Christianity from among the Jews should regard them. The conduct of the Christians at Jerusalem in giving this advice, and of Paul in following it, may be easily vindicated. If it be objected, as it has been by infidels, that it looks like double-dealing; that it was designed to deceive the Jews in Jerusalem, and to make them believe that Paul actually conformed to the ceremonial law, when his conduct among the Gentiles showed that he did not, we may reply:
(1) That the observance of that law was not necessary in order to salvation;
(2) That it would have been improper to have enjoined its observance on the Gentile converts as necessary, and therefore it was never done;
(3) That when the Jews urged its observance as necessary to justification and salvation, Paul strenuously opposed this view of it everywhere;
(4) Yet that, as a matter of expediency, he did not oppose its being observed either by the Jews, or by the converts made among the Jews.
In fact, there is other evidence besides the case before us that Paul himself continued to observe some, at least, of the Jewish rites, and his conduct in public at Jerusalem was in strict accordance with his conduct in other places. See Act 18:18. The sum of the whole matter is this, that when the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law was urged as necessary to justification and acceptance with God, Paul resisted it; when it was demanded that its observance should be enjoined on the Gentiles, he opposed it; in all other cases he made no opposition to it, and was ready himself to comply with it, and willing that others should also.
We have written - Act 15:20, Act 15:29.
Then Paul took the men - Took them to himself; united with them in observing the ceremonies connected with their vow. To transactions like this he refers in Co1 9:20; "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law, as under the Law, that I might gain them that are under the Law." Thus, it has always been found necessary, in propagating the gospel among the pagan, not to offend them needlessly, but to conform to their innocent customs in regard to dress, language, modes of traveling, sitting, eating, etc. Paul did nothing more than this. He violated none of the dictates of honesty and truth.
Purifying himself with them - Observing the ceremonies connected with the rite of purification. See the notes on Act 21:24. This means evidently that he entered on the ceremonies of the separation according to the law of the Nazarite.
To signify - Greek: signifying or making known. That is, he announced to the priests in the temple his purpose of observing this vow with the four men, according to the law respecting the Nazarite. It was proper that such an announcement should be made beforehand, in order that the priests might know that all the ceremonies required had been observed.
The accomplishment ... - The fulfilling, the completion. That is, he announced to them his purpose to observe all the days and all the rites of purification required in the Law, in order that an offering might be properly made. It does not mean that the days had been accomplished, but that it was his intention to observe them, so that it would be proper to offer the usual sacrifice. Paul had not, indeed, engaged with them in the beginning of their vow of separation, but he might come in with hearty intention to share with them. It cannot be objected that he meant to impose on the priests, and to make them believe that he had observed the whole vow with them, for it appears from their own writings (Bereshith Rabba, 90, and Koheleth Rabba, 7) that in those instances where the Nazarites had not sufficient property to enable them to meet the whole expense of the offerings, other persons, who possessed more, might become sharers of it, and thus be made parties to the vow. See Jahn's Archaeology, 395. This circumstance will vindicate Paul from any intention to take an improper advantage, or to impose on the priests or the Jews. All that he announced was his intention to share with the four men in the offering which they were required to make, and thus to show his approval of the thing, and his accordance with the law which made such a vow proper.
Until that an offering ... - The sacrifices required of all those who had observed this vow. See the notes on Act 21:24. Compare Num 6:13. It is a complete vindication of Paul in this case that he did no more here than he had done in a voluntary manner Act 18:18, and as appears then in a secret manner, showing that he was still in the practice of observing this rite of the Mosaic institution. Nor can it be proved that Paul ever, in any way, or at any time, spoke against the vow of the Nazarite, or that a vow of a similar kind in spirit would be improper for a Christian in any circumstances.
And when the seven days were almost ended - Greek: as the seven days were about to be fulfilled - ἔμελλον συντελεῖσθαι emellon sunteleisthai. The seven days which were to complete the observance of the vow, Act 21:26. Perhaps the whole observance in this case was intended to be but seven days, as the time of such a vow was voluntary. The translation, "were almost ended," is not quite correct. The Greek implies no more than that the period of the seven days was about to be accomplished, without implying that it was near the close of them when he was seized. By comparing the following places, Act 21:18, Act 21:26; Act 22:30; Act 23:12, Act 23:32; Act 24:1, Act 24:11, it appears that the time of his seizure must have been near the beginning of those days (Doddridge).
The Jews which were of Asia - Who resided in Asia Minor, but who had come up to Jerusalem for purposes of worship. Compare the notes on Acts 2.
Men of Israel - Jews. All who are the friends of the Law of Moses.
This is the man ... - This implies that they had before given information to the Jews at Jerusalem that there was such a man, and they now exulted in the fact that they had found him. They therefore called on all these to aid in securing and punishing him.
That teacheth ... - See the notes on Act 6:13-14.
Against the people - The people of the Jews. That is, they pretended that he taught that the customs and laws of the Jewish nation were not binding, and endeavored to prejudice all people against them.
And the law - The Law of Moses.
And this place - The temple. Everything against the Law would be interpreted also as being against the temple, as most of the ceremonies required in the Law were celebrated there. It is possible also that Paul might have declared that the temple was to be destroyed. Compare Act 6:13-14.
And further, brought Greeks ... - The temple was surrounded by various areas called courts. See the notes on Mat 21:12. The outermost of these courts was called the court of the Gentiles, and into that it was lawful for the Gentiles to enter. But the word "temple" here refers, doubtless, to the parts of the area appropriated especially to the Israelites, and which it was unlawful for a Gentile to enter. These parts are marked "GGGG" in the plan of the temple. See the notes at Mat 21:12.
And hath polluted ... - He has defiled the temple by thus introducing a Gentile. No greater defilement, in their view, could scarcely be conceived. No more effective appeal could be made to the passions of the people than this.
In the city - In Jerusalem. As he was with Paul, it was inferred that he would attend him everywhere.
Trophimus - He had accompanied Paul on his way from Ephesus, Act 20:4.
Whom they supposed ... - This is a most striking illustration of the manner in which accusations are often brought against others. They had seen him with Paul in the city; they inferred, therefore, that he had been with him in the temple. They did not even pretend that they had seen him in the temple; but the inference was enough to inflame the angry and excitable passions of the multitude. So in the accusations which people now often make of others. They see one thing, they infer another; they could testify to one thing, but they conclude that another thing will also be true, and that other thing they charge on them as the truth. If people would state facts as they are, no small part of the slanderous accusations against others would cease. An end would be made of the most of the charges of falsehood, error, heresy, dishonesty, double-dealing, and immorality. If a statement is made, it should be of the thing as it was. If we attempt to say what a man has done, it should not be what we suppose he has done. If we attempt to state what he believes, it should not be what we suppose he believes.
The city was moved - Was agitated; was thrown into commotion.
Drew him out of the temple - Under the pretence that he had defiled it. The evident design was to put him to death, Act 21:31.
The doors were shut - The doors leading into the courts of the temple.
And as they went about to kill him - Greek: they seeking to kill him. This was evidently done in a popular tumult, as had been done in the case of Stephen, Acts 7: They could not pretend that they had a right to do it by law.
Tidings came - The news, or rumour came; he was told of it.
The chief captain of the band - This band or body of Roman soldiers was stationed in the castle Antonia, on the north of the temple. This was built by John Hyrcanus, high priest of the Jews, and was by him called Baris. It was beautified and strengthened by Herod the Great, and was called Antonia in honor of his friend, Mark Antony. Josephus describes this castle as consisting of four towers, one of which overlooked the temple, and which he says was 70 cubits high (Jewish Wars, book 5, chapter 5, section 8). In this castle a guard of Roman soldiers was stationed to secure the temple and to maintain the peace. The commander of this cohort is here called "the chief captain." Reference is made to this guard several times in the New Testament, Mat 27:65-66; Joh 18:12; Act 5:26. The word translated "chief captain" denotes properly "one who commanded 1,000 men." The band σπεῖρα speira was the tenth part of a legion, and consisted sometimes of four hundred and twenty-five soldiers, at others of five hundred, and at others of six hundred, according to the size of the legion. The name of this captain was Claudius Lysias, Act 23:26.
In an uproar - That the whole city was in commotion.
Centurions - Captains of 100 men.
To be bound with two chains - To show to the enraged multitude that he did not intend to rescue anyone from justice, but to keep the peace. Paul's Being thus bound would convince them of his determination that justice should be done in the case. Probably he was bound between two soldiers, his right arm to the left arm of the one, and his left arm to the right arm of the other. See the notes on Act 12:6. Or, if his hands and feet were bound, it is evident that it was so done that he was able still to walk, Act 21:37-38. This was in accordance with the prediction of Agabus, Act 21:11.
Into the castle - The castle of Antonia, where the guard was kept. See the notes on Act 21:31. Compare Act 23:10, Act 23:16.
Upon the stairs - The stairs which led from the temple to the castle of Antonia. Josephus says (Jewish Wars, book 5, chapter 5, section 8), that the castle of Antonia "was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the temple, of that on the west, and of that on the north; it was erected on a rock of 50 cubits (75 feet) in height, and was on a great precipice. On the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guards went several ways among the cloisters with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, etc." It was on these stairs, as the soldiers were returning, that the tumult was so great, or the crowd so dense, that they were obliged to hear Paul along to rescue him from their violence.
The violence of the people - The rush of the multitude.
Away with him! - That is, to death. Compare Luk 23:18.
May I speak unto thee? - May I have the privilege of making my defense before thee; or of stating the case truly; the cause of my accusation; of this tumult, etc.
Canst thou speak Greek? - Implying that if he could, he might be permitted to speak to him. The Greek language was what was then almost universally spoken, and it is not improbable that it was the native tongue of the chief captain. It is evident that he was not a Roman by birth, for he says Act 22:28 that he had obtained the privilege of citizenship by paying a great sum. The language which the Jews spoke was the Syro-Chaldaic; and as he took Paul to be an Egyptian Jew Act 21:38, he supposed, from that circumstance also, that he was not able to speak the Greek language.
Art not thou that Egyptian? - That Egyptian was probably a Jew who resided in Egypt. Josephus has given an account of this Egyptian which strikingly accords with the statement here recorded by Luke. See Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 6, and Jewish Wars, book 2, chapter 13, section 5. The account which he gives is, that this Egyptian, whose name he does not mention, came from Egypt to Jerusalem, and said that he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go with him to the Mount of Olives. He said further that he would show them from thence how the walls of Jerusalem would fall down: and he promised them that he would procure for them an entrance through those walls when they were fallen down. Josephus adds (Jewish Wars) that he got together 30,000 men that were deluded by him; "these he led round about from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place. But Felix, who was apprised of his movements, marched against him with the Roman soldiers, and defeated him, and killed 400 of them, and took 200 alive. But the Egyptian escaped himself out of the fight, but did not appear anymore." It was natural that the Roman tribune should suppose that Paul was this Egyptian, and that his return had produped this commotion and excitement among the people.
Madest an uproar - Producing a sedition, or a rising among the people. Greek: "That Egyptian, who before these days having risen up."
Into the wilderness - This corresponds remarkably with the account of Josephus. He indeed mentions that he led his followers to the Mount of Olives, but he expressly says that "he led them round about from the wilderness." This wilderness was the wild and uncultivated mountainous tract of country lying to the east of Jerusalem, and between it and the river Jordan. See the notes on Mat 3:1. It is also another striking coincidence showing the truth of the narrative, that neither Josephus nor Luke mention the name of this Egyptian, though he was so prominent and acted so distinguished a part.
Four thousand men - There is here a remarkable discrepancy between the chief captain and Josephus. The latter says that there were 30,000 men. In regard to this, the following remarks may be made:
(1) This cannot be alleged to convict Luke of a false statement, for his record is, that the chief captain made the statement, and it cannot be proved that Luke has put into his mouth words which he did not utter. All that he is responsible for is a correct report of what the Roman tribune said, not the truth or falsehood of his statement. It is certainly possible that that might have been the common estimate of the number then, and that the account given by Josephus might have been made from more correct information. Or it is possible, certainly, that the statement by Josephus is incorrect.
(2) if Luke were to be held responsible for the statement of the number, yet it remains to be shown that he is not as credible a historian as Josephus. Why should Josephus be esteemed infallible, and Luke false? Why should the accuracy of Luke be tested by Josephus, rather than the accuracy of Josephus by Luke? Infidels usually assume that profane historians are infallible, and then endeavor to convict the sacred writers of falsehood.
(3) the narrative of Luke is the more probable of the two. It is more probable that the number was only 4,000 than that it was 30,000 thousand; for Josephus says that 400 were killed and 200 were taken prisoners, and that thus they were dispersed. Now, it is scarcely credible that an army of 30,000 desperadoes and cut-throats would be dispersed by so small a slaughter and captivity. But if the number was originally only 4,000, it is entirely credible that the loss of 600 would discourage and dissipate the remainder.
(4) it is possible that the chief captain refers only to the organized Sicarii, or murderers that the Egyptian led with him, and Josephus to the multitude that afterward joined them the rabble of the discontented and disorderly that followed them on their march. Or,
(5) There may have been an error in transcribing Josephus. It has been supposed that he originally wrote four thousand, but that ancient copyists, mistaking the (Δ D) delta, four, for (Λ L) lambda, thirty, wrote 30,000 instead of 4,000. Which of these solutions is adopted is not material.
That were murderers - Greek: men of the Sicarii - τῶν σικαρίων tōn sikariōn. This is originally a Latin word, and is derived from sica, a short sword, sabre, or crooked knife, which could be easily concealed under the garment. Hence, it came to denote "assassins," and to be applied to "banditti, or robbers." It does not mean that they had actually committed murder, but that they were desperadoes and banditti, and were drawn together for purposes of plunder and of blood. This class of people was exceedingly numerous in Judea. See the notes on Luk 10:30.
A Jew of Tarsus - A Jew by birth.
Of no mean city - Not obscure, or undistinguished. He could claim an honorable birth, so far as the place of his nativity was concerned. See the notes on Act 9:11. Tarsus was much celebrated for its learning, and was at one time the rival of Alexandria and Athens. Xenophon calls it a great and flourishing city. Josephus (Antiq., book 2, chapter 6, section 6) says that it was the metropolis, and most renowned city among them (the Cilicians).
Licence - Liberty; permission.
On the stairs - See the notes on Act 21:35.
Beckoned with the hand - Waving the hand as a sign that he was about to address them, and to produce silence and attention. See Act 12:17.
In the Hebrew tongue - The language which was spoken by the Jews, which was then a mixture of the Chaldee and Syriac, called Syro-Chaldaic. This language he doubtless used on this occasion in preference to the Greek, because it was understood better by the multitude, and would tend to conciliate them if they heard him address them in their own tongue. The following chapter should have been connected with this. The division here is unnatural.