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Bible Commentaries
Acts 21

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


We said good-bye to them and left. The Greek implies “tearing themselves away,” a separation both difficult and painful. We came to Cos. A small island, forty miles south of Miletus. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was born there. Rhodes. Fifty miles further south. The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the wonders of the world, but an earthquake had brought it to the ground by this date. Patara. On the coast of Lycia, some thirty miles west of Myra. His ship ended its route here, and he found another ship which was going to Phoenicia (see Tyre). Where we could see Cyprus. He had worked there on his first tour of missions (Acts 13:4-13). On to Syria. The Romans used Syria as the general name for Phoenicia, Palestine, and Antioch. We went ashore at Tyre. Tyre was a city of Phoenicia. “It’s most important ruins now lie beneath the sea and can be seen through its waters.” We found some believers there. They did not “stumble on them,” but knew they were there (Acts 15:3). And stayed with them a week. This seems to be Paul’s usual plan of action (compare Acts 20:6; Acts 28:14). It implies he would wait to have one solemn meeting with them on the Lord’s Day, and eat the Lord’s Supper [Holy Meal] with them. By the power of the Spirit. They warned him of the dangers waiting for him at Jerusalem. This does not contradict Acts 20:22, since he himself speaks of the fact that the same Holy Spirit had warned him in the next verse of that chapter. We all knelt down. The whole congregation, men, women, and children. They prayed together, then Paul and the others went on board the ship.

Verses 7-14


To Ptolemais. On the coast, about half-way to Caesarea. Named for the Egyptian king who rebuilt the city. This is the Accho of Judges 1:31. And arrived in Caesarea. Some thirty or forty miles south. Paul had been here twice before (Acts 9:30; Acts 18:22). The first Gentiles were brought to Christ here. To the house of the evangelist Philip. He had preached in the cities of the sea coast (Acts 8:40). Who proclaimed God’s message. Compare Acts 2:17. The fact that they were unmarried does not mean they were members of a special religious order. The spirit of prophecy is not confined to men, either in the Old or New Testaments. Deborah and Huldah are Old Testament examples. Elizabeth, Mary, Anna, and the daughters of Philip are New Testament examples. On the role of a prophet, see note on Ephesians 4:11. In the East, men would not be free to spend much time teaching women in private, but a woman prophet could. Compare Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. A prophet named Agabus. He had come especially to meet Paul. [We met this man in Acts 11:28.] In the style of the Old Testament prophets, Agabus takes Paul’s belt and in a dramatic way shows what will happen to Paul. Compare 1 Kings 22:11; Isaiah 20:2; etc. Agabus either lived in Jerusalem or was closely connected with that city, and had first-hand knowledge of what would happen to Paul there. The prophecies of the danger Paul faced were designed to focus the attention of the entire church on Jerusalem. Paul deliberately walked into the danger to prevent a schism that threatened the church (compare Acts 15:0)! Jerusalem was the headquarters of the “circumcision party.”

Verses 15-17


Some of the disciples from Caesarea. Groups often went along with Paul as he traveled. They could talk together and he could teach them. Mnason, from Cyprus. The Latin Vulgate has Mnason in Caesarea, and going along with Paul to Jerusalem. When we arrived in Jerusalem. This is the fifth time Paul entered Jerusalem, since he left for Damascus about twenty-two years before. Ramsay dates this 57 A.D., near Pentecost (the latter part of May).

Verses 18-27


To see James. This James was not one of the Twelve, but is the human brother of Jesus (see note on 1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 15:6). He seemed to be a man of great influence in the Jerusalem church (Galatians 1:19). And gave a complete report. McGarvey says Paul also brought “money to God’s people in Judea,” the contribution to help the poor (compare 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Acts 24:17). They all praised God. James and the church elders approved of what Paul was doing (Acts 15:12-22). And they are all very devoted to the Law. Many thousands of Jewish Christians had come to Jerusalem to take part in the Feast of Pentecost. This proves that in Christianity there is room to do the “same thing in different ways.” Jewish Christians could practice Jewish customs and traditions without disturbing their relationship to Christ. Gentile Christians could practice their own special customs, etc. Compare what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. However, to force Gentile Christians to obey the Law of Moses as a RELIGIOUS RITE, would have been a sin (Galatians 5:4). Jewish pride was the real source of the problem. It took a direct act of the Holy Spirit to prove to them that God would accept the Gentiles (Acts 10:0). They have been told. Certain Jewish leaders were telling the people a distorted version of what Paul taught. They did this to try to destroy Paul’s influence. What should be done, then? To prove that this distorted version of Paul’s message was not what he really taught. Do what we tell you. A “ceremony of purification” seems to have grown out of the “Nazarite vow” Numbers 6:1-18). Any Jew, like Paul, who had been living with Gentiles, and who had not kept the “ritual law of cleanness,” would be excluded from the Temple until he had been purified. The hair was shaved off the head, and burnt as an offering to God, and sacrifices were also offered on the altar. Evidently Paul’s action in Cenchreae (Acts 18:18) was to prepare him for this. He would have saved the hair and brought it along. So Paul-took the men. They performed the ceremony together, then Paul went into the temple and notified the priest when the sacrifice would be offered (so that all necessary things would be there).

Verses 27-40


Some Jews from the province of Asia. These were not Christian Jews, but probably the Jews from Ephesus mentioned in Acts 20:3. The language implies they did not see Paul until the seven days of purification were about to end. When they see him, they stir up the people and grab Paul. And defiled this holy place. Note how they try to build up charges against him. They charge him with trying to turn people against the Jews, the Law of Moses, and the Temple of God at Jerusalem. Not only this, but they also charge him with defiling the sacred temple by bringing unclean Gentiles into it. Nothing would arouse fanatical frenzy more than to think that Paul had done this!!! And dragged him out of the temple. They were willing to murder him, but not in the temple. The mob was trying to kill Paul. Probably in their frenzy they were fighting each other and getting in each other’s way, as they attempted to kill Paul. Stoning would be the right way to kill a religious criminal (Acts 7:57-60 and notes.) When a report was sent up. The Roman soldiers would be in the Castle of Antonia. The men standing guard would have seen the riot, and the commander would have rushed down the stairs to the temple area. The Castle was built against the temple wall. The commander went over to Paul. He thought Paul was an Egyptian revolutionary (Acts 21:38). Note the confusion of the mob, and how wild they were! The soldiers were forced to carry Paul. Do you speak Greek? This surprised the commander. [Greek was the “Esperanto” of the Roman Empire, the universal language of communication. That’s why it was chosen as the language of the New Testament.] Egyptian fellow. Josephus tells about this Egyptian. He was probably illiterate and could not speak Greek. While Felix was governor, he gathered a crowd of 30,000 people on the Mount of Olives, and said that at his word, the walls of Jerusalem would fall down (like Jericho). Felix had brought the army against this fellow, who fled into the desert, while the majority of his followers were captured or killed. Josephus says of these armed terrorists: “They mingled with the crowds at the Festivals, stabbed their political opponents unobserved, and drew suspicion from themselves by apparent indignation at such crimes.” They are also known as “Assassins.” I am a Jew, born in Tarsus. This fact places Paul above suspicion. Please, let me speak to the people. He has the legal right to do this. The commander knows nothing of Paul and the reason for this riot. He may think that allowing Paul to speak will clear up the mystery. Paul spoke to them in Hebrew. He stands, tied up with two chains, ready to make his defence. He speaks in their beloved Hebrew language, in the dialect spoken in Judea (see note on Acts 26:14).

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 21". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/acts-21.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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