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Acts 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole BibleCommentary Critical

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In Company with Barnabas.



The first seven chapters of this book might be entitled, The Church among the Jews; the next five (chapters eight through twelve), The Church in Transition from Jews to Gentiles; and the last sixteen (chapters thirteen through twenty-eight), The Church among the Gentiles [BAUMGARTEN]. "Though Christianity had already spread beyond the limits of Palestine, still the Church continued a stranger to formal missionary effort. Casual occurrences, particularly the persecution at Jerusalem ( :-), had hitherto brought about the diffusion of the Gospel. It was from Antioch that teachers were first sent forth with the definite purpose of spreading Christianity, and organizing churches, with regular institutions ( :-)" [OLSHAUSEN].

Verse 1

1. there were . . . certain prophets—(See on Acts 13:1).

and teachers; as Barnabas, c.—implying that there were others there, besides but, according to what appears the true reading, the meaning is simply that those here mentioned were in the Church at Antioch as prophets and teachers.

Simeon . . . Niger—of whom nothing is known.

Lucius of Cyrene— (Acts 13:1- :). He is mentioned, in Acts 13:1- :, as one of Paul's kinsmen.

Manaen—or Menahem, the name of one of the kings of Israel (Acts 13:1- :).

which had been brought up with—or, the foster brother of.

Herod the tetrarch—that is, Antipas, who was himself "brought up with a certain private person at Rome" [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 17.1,3]. How differently did these two foster brothers turn out—the one, abandoned to a licentious life and stained with the blood of the most distinguished of God's prophets, though not without his fits of reformation and seasons of remorse; the other, a devoted disciple of the Lord Jesus and prophet of the Church at Antioch! But this is only what may be seen in every age: "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.' If the courtier, whose son, at the point of death, was healed by our Lord (John 4:46) was of Herod's establishment, while Susanna's husband was his steward (John 4:46- :), his foster brother's becoming a Christian and a prophet is something remarkable.

and Saul—last of all, but soon to become first. Henceforward this book is almost exclusively occupied with him; and his impress on the New Testament, on Christendom, and on the world is paramount.

Verse 2

2. As they ministered to the Lord—The word denotes the performance of official duties of any kind, and was used to express the priestly functions under the Old Testament. Here it signifies the corresponding ministrations of the Christian Church.

and fasted—As this was done in other cases on special occasions (Acts 13:3; Acts 13:14; Acts 13:23), it is not improbable that they had been led to expect some such prophetic announcement at this time.

the Holy Ghost said—through some of the prophets mentioned in Acts 13:23- :.

Separate me—So Acts 13:23- :.

for the work whereunto I have called them—by some communication, perhaps, to themselves: in the case of Saul at least, such a designation was indicated from the first (Acts 22:21). Note.—While the personality of the Holy Ghost is manifest from this language, His supreme divinity will appear equally so by comparing it with Hebrews 5:4.

Verse 3

3. laid their hands on them—(See on Acts 6:6) —"recommending them to the grace of God for the work which they had to fulfil" (Acts 14:26).

sent them away—with the double call—of the Spirit first, and next of the Church. So clothed, their mission is thus described: "They being sent forth by the Holy Ghost." Have we not here for all time the true principle of appointment to sacred offices?


Verse 4

4, 5. departed unto Seleucia—the seaport of Antioch, from which it lay nearly due west fifteen miles, and five from the Mediterranean shore, on the river Orontes.

thence sailed to Cyprus—whose high mountain summits are easily seen in clear weather from the coast [COLONEL CHESNEY in HOWSON]. "Four reasons may have induced them to turn in first to this island: (1) Its nearness to the mainland; (2) It was the native place of Barnabas, and since the time when Andrew found his brother Simon, and brought him to Jesus, and "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus," family ties had not been without effect on the progress of the Gospel. (3) It could not be unnatural to suppose that the truth would be welcomed in Cyprus when brought by Barnabas and his kinsman Mark, to their own connections or friends. The Jews were numerous in Salamis. By sailing to that city, they were following the track of the synagogues; and though their mission was chiefly to the Gentiles, their surest course for reaching them was through the proselytes and Hellenizing Jews. (4) Some of the Cypriotes were already Christians. Indeed, no one place out of Palestine, except Antioch, had been so honorably associated with the work of successful evangelization" [HOWSON].

Verse 5

5. and when they were at Salamis—the Grecian capital of the island, on the eastern side, and not many hours' sail from Seleucia. At this busy mercantile port immense numbers of Jews were settled, which accounts for what is here said, that they had more than one synagogue, in which Barnabas and Saul preached, while other cities had one only.

they had . . . John—Mark.

to their minister—"for their officer". (See on :-). With what fruit they preached here is not said. Probably their feeling was what Paul afterwards expressed at Antioch in Pisidia ( :-).

Verse 6

6. when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos—on the opposite or west side of the island, about one hundred miles by land, along the south coast; the Roman capital, where the governor resided.

they found a . . . sorcerer—one of a numerous class of impostors who, at this time of general unbelief, were encouraged even by cultivated Romans.

Verse 7

7. Which was with the deputy—properly, "the proconsul." This name was reserved for the governors of settled provinces, which were placed under the Roman Senate, and is never given in the New Testament to Pilate, Felix, or Festus, who were but procurators, or subordinate administrators of unsettled, imperial, military provinces. Now as Augustus reserved Cyprus for himself, its governor would in that case have been not a proconsul, but simply a procurator, had not the emperor afterwards restored it to the Senate, as a Roman historian [DIO CASSIUS] expressly states. In most striking confirmation of this minute accuracy of the sacred historian, coins have actually been found in the island, stamped with the names of proconsuls, both in Greek and Latin [AKERMAN, Numismatic Illustrations of the New Testament]. (GROTIUS and BENGEL, not aware of this, have missed the mark here).

Sergius Paulus, a prudent man—an intelligent man, who thirsting for truth, sent for Barnabas and Saul, desiring ("earnestly desiring") to hear the Word of God.

Verse 8

8-12. But Elymas—or "the wise."

for so is his name by interpretation—the word is from the Arabic.

withstood them—perceiving, probably, how eagerly the proconsul was drinking in the word, and fearing a dismissal. (Compare :-).

Verse 9

9. Then Saul . . . also . . . called Paul—and henceforward Paul only; a softening of his former name, in accommodation to Roman ears, and (as the word signifies "little") probably with allusion as elsewhere to his insignificance of stature and appearance (2 Corinthians 10:1; 2 Corinthians 10:10) [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].

filled with the Holy Ghost—the Spirit coming mightily upon him.

set his eyes on him and said—Henceforward Barnabas sinks into the background. The whole soul of his great colleague, now drawn out, as never before, shoots, by the lightning gaze of his eye, through the dark and tortuous spirit of the sorcerer. What a picture!

Verse 10

10. full of all subtlety—referring to his magic arts.

and all malice—The word signifies "readiness for anything," knavish dexterity.

thou child of the devil . . . enemy of all righteousness—These were not words of passion, for immediately before uttering them, it is said he was "filled with the Holy Ghost" [CHRYSOSTOM].

wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord—referring to his having to that hour made a trade of leading his fellow creatures astray.

Verse 11

11. the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind for a season—the judgment being mercifully designed to lead him to repentance. The tradition that it did is hardly to be depended on.

there fell on him a mist, &c.—This is in Luke's medical style.

Verse 12

12. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord—so marvellously attested; compare :-. What fruit, if any, followed this remarkable conversion, or how long after it the missionaries remained at Paphos, we know not.


Verse 13

13. they came to Perga in Pamphylia—The distance from Paphos to Attalia, on the Gulf of Pamphylia (see on Acts 13:1), sailing in a northwest direction, is not much greater than from Seleucia to Salamis on the east. Perga was the metropolis of Pamphylia, on the river Cestrus, and about seven miles inland from Attalia.

and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem—As Paul afterwards peremptorily refused to take Mark with him on his second missionary journey, because he "had departed [or 'fallen off'] from them and had not gone with them to the work" (Acts 15:38), there can be no doubt that he had either wearied of it or been deterred by the prospect of the dangers which lay before him. (But see on Acts 13:1, &c.).

Verse 14

14. departed from Perga—apparently without making any stay or doing any work: compare the different language of Acts 14:25, and see immediately below.

came to Antioch in Pisidia—usually so called, to distinguish it from Antioch in Syria, from which they had started, though it actually lies in Phrygia, and almost due north from Perga. It was a long journey, and as it lay almost entirely through rugged mountain passes, while "rivers burst out at the base of huge cliffs, or dash down wildly through narrow ravines," it must have been a perilous one. The whole region was, and to this day is, infested by robbers, as ancient history and modern travels abundantly attest; and there can be but little doubt that to this very journey Paul many years after alludes, when he speaks amidst his "journeyings often," of his "perils of rivers" (as the word is), and his "perils of robbers" (Acts 14:25- :). If this journey were taken in May—and earlier than that the passes would have been blocked up with snow—it would account for their not staying at Perga, whose hot streets are then deserted; "men, women, and children, flocks, herds, camels, and asses, all ascending at the beginning of the hot season from the plains to the cool basin-like hollows on the mountains, moving in the same direction with our missionaries" [HOWSON].

Verse 15

15-17. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand—as was his manner on such occasions ( :-; and see Acts 26:1).

Men of Israel, and ye that fear God—by the latter expression meaning religious proselytes, who united with the Jews in all acts of ordinary worship.

and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in Egypt—by marvellous interpositions for them in their deepest depression.

Verse 18

18-22. forty years suffered he their manners—rather, according to what appears the true reading, "cherished he them" (as a nurse the infant in her bosom).

Verse 20

20. after that he gave . . . judges . . . about the space of four hundred and fifty years—As this appears to contradict 1 Kings 6:1, various solutions have been proposed. Taking the words as they stand in the Greek, thus, "after that, by the space of four hundred fifty years, He gave judges," the meaning may be, that about four hundred fifty years elapsed from the time of the covenant with Abraham until the period of the judges; which is historically correct, the word "about" showing that chronological exactness was not aimed at. But taking the sense to be as in our version, that it was the period of the judges itself which lasted about four hundred fifty years, this statement also will appear historically correct, if we include in it the interval of subjection to foreign powers which occurred during the period of the judges, and understand it to describe the whole period from the settlement of the tribes in Canaan to the establishment of royalty. Thus, from the Exodus to the building of the temple were five hundred ninety-two years [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 8.3.1]; deduct forty years in the wilderness; twenty-five years of Joshua's rule [JOSEPHUS, Antiquities, 5.1.29]; forty years of Saul's reign (1 Kings 6:1- :); forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 6:1), and there remain, just four hundred forty-three years; or, in round numbers, "about four hundred fifty years."

Verse 21

21. God gave . . . them Saul . . . of the tribe of Benjamin—That the speaker was himself of the same name and of the same tribe, has often been noticed as in all likelihood present to the apostle's mind while speaking.

forty years—With this length of Saul's reign (not mentioned in the Old Testament), JOSEPHUS coincides [Antiquities, 6.14.9].

Verse 22

22. I have found David, c.—This quotation is the substance of Psalms 89:20 1 Samuel 13:14; and perhaps also of 1 Samuel 13:14- :.

Verse 23

23-25. Of this man's seed hath God, according to . . . promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus—The emphasis on this statement lies: (1) in the seed from which Christ sprang—David's—and the promise to that effect, which was thus fulfilled; (2) on the character in which this promised Christ was given of God—"a SAVIOUR." His personal name "JESUS" is emphatically added, as designed to express that very character. (See on :-).

Verse 26

26-31. children . . . of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God—Gentile proselytes.

to you is the word of this salvation sent—both being regarded as one class, as "the Jew first," to whom the Gospel was to be addressed in the first instance.

Verse 27

27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, &c.—The apostle here speaks as if the more immediate guilt of Christ's death lay with the rulers and people of the metropolis, to which he fondly hoped that those residing at such a distance as Antioch would not set their seal.

Verse 28

28. found no cause of death—though they sought it (Matthew 26:59; Matthew 26:60).

Verse 29

29. they took him down . . . and laid him in a sepulchre—Though the burial of Christ was an act of honor and love to Him by the disciples to whom the body was committed, yet since His enemies looked after it and obtained a guard of soldiers to keep watch over it as the remains of their own victim, the apostle regards this as the last manifestation on their part of enmity to the Saviour, that they might see how God laughed all their precautions to scorn by "raising Him from the dead."

Verse 30

26-31. children . . . of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God—Gentile proselytes.

to you is the word of this salvation sent—both being regarded as one class, as "the Jew first," to whom the Gospel was to be addressed in the first instance.

Verse 31

31. he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, &c.—that is, by those who, having gone out and in with Him in closest intimacy during all His public ministry, which lay chiefly in Galilee, and having accompanied Him on His last journey to Jerusalem, could not possibly be mistaken as to the identity of the risen One, and were therefore unexceptionable and sufficient witnesses.

Verse 33

33. God hath fulfilled the same—"hath completely fulfilled."

in that he hath raised up Jesus again—literally, "raised up"; but the meaning is (notwithstanding the contrary opinion of many excellent interpreters) "from the dead"; as the context plainly shows.

as it is written in the second psalm—in many manuscripts "the first Psalm"; what we call the first being regarded by the ancient Jews as only an introduction to the Psalter, which was considered to begin with the second.

this day have I begotten thee—As the apostle in Romans 1:4 regards the resurrection of Christ merely as the manifestation of a prior Sonship, which he afterwards (Romans 1:4- :) represents as essential, it is plain that this is his meaning here. (Such declarative meaning of the verb "to be" is familiar to every reader of the Bible). See Romans 1:4- :, "So shall ye be," that is, be seen to be "My disciples." It is against the whole sense of the New Testament to ascribe the origin of Christ's Sonship to His resurrection.

Verse 34

34-37. now no more to return to corruption—that is, to the grave where death reigns; and compare Romans 6:9, "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him."

I will give you the sure mercies of David— (Isaiah 55:3). The word rendered "mercies" is peculiar, denoting the sanctity of them, as comprehending the whole riches of the new covenant; while the other word, "sure," points to the certainty with which they would, through David's Seed, be at length all substantiated. See on Isaiah 55:3- :. But how do these words prove the resurrection of Christ? "They presuppose it; for since an eternal kingdom was promised to David, the Ruler of this kingdom could not remain under the power of death. But to strengthen the indefinite prediction by one more definite, the apostle adduces Isaiah 55:3- :, of which Peter had given the same explanation (see on Isaiah 55:3- :; Acts 2:30; Acts 2:31), both apostles denying the possibility of its proper reference to David" [OLSHAUSEN].

Verse 36

36. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God—rather, "served," in his own generation, the will (or "counsel") of God; yielding himself an instrument for the accomplishment of God's high designs, and in this respect being emphatically "the man after God's own heart." This done, he "fell asleep, and was gathered to his fathers, and saw corruption." David, therefore (argues the apostle), could not be the subject of his own prediction, which had its proper fulfilment only in the resurrection of the uncorrupted body of the Son of God, emphatically God's "Holy One."

Verse 37

34-37. now no more to return to corruption—that is, to the grave where death reigns; and compare Romans 6:9, "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him."

I will give you the sure mercies of David— (Isaiah 55:3). The word rendered "mercies" is peculiar, denoting the sanctity of them, as comprehending the whole riches of the new covenant; while the other word, "sure," points to the certainty with which they would, through David's Seed, be at length all substantiated. See on Isaiah 55:3- :. But how do these words prove the resurrection of Christ? "They presuppose it; for since an eternal kingdom was promised to David, the Ruler of this kingdom could not remain under the power of death. But to strengthen the indefinite prediction by one more definite, the apostle adduces Isaiah 55:3- :, of which Peter had given the same explanation (see on Isaiah 55:3- :; Acts 2:30; Acts 2:31), both apostles denying the possibility of its proper reference to David" [OLSHAUSEN].

Verse 38

38-41. the forgiveness of sins—the first necessity of the sinner, and so the first experienced blessing of the Gospel.

Verse 39

39. by him all that believe are justified from all things—The sense requires that a pause in the sentence be made here: "By him the believer is absolved from all charges of the law." What follows,

from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses—is not an exceptional but an explanatory clause. The meaning is not, "Though the law justifies from many things, it cannot justify from all things, but Christ makes up all deficiencies"; but the meaning is, "By Christ the believer is justified from all things, whereas the law justifies from nothing." (Note.—The deeper sense of justification, the positive side of it, is reserved for the Epistles, addressed to the justified themselves: and whereas it is the resurrection of Christ here, and throughout the Acts chiefly, which is dwelt on, because the first thing in order to bring peace to the guilty through Christ was to establish His Messiahship by His resurrection, in the Epistles to believers His death as the way of reconciliation is fully unfolded).

Verse 40

40. Beware, therefore, &c.—By this awful warning of the Old Testament the apostle would fain "shut them up unto the faith."

Verse 41

41. ye will not believe though a man declare it unto you—that is, even on unexceptionable testimony. The words, from Habakkuk 1:5, were originally a merciful but fruitless warning against the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and the Babylonish captivity. As such nothing could more fitly describe the more awful calamity impending over the generation which the apostle addressed.

Verse 42

42, 43. And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath—rather (according to what is beyond doubt the true reading), "Now, as they were going out [of the synagogue], they besought"—that is, not the Gentiles, whose case comes in afterwards, but the mixed congregation of Jews and proselytes, to whom the discourse had been addressed, entreated to have another hearing of such truths; those of them, that is, who had been impressed. "And after the breaking up of the synagogue, many of" both classes, Jews and religious; proselytes, followed Paul and Barnabas (observe, from this time forward, the inverted order of these names; except Acts 14:14; Acts 13:7; Acts 12:25; see on Acts 13:1; Acts 13:1- :; Acts 13:1). These names evidently been won to the Gospel by what they had heard, and felt a clinging to their spiritual benefactors.

Verse 43

43. who, speaking to them—following up the discourse in the synagogue by some further words of encouragement.

persuaded them to continue in the grace of God—which they had experienced through the Gospel. (Compare Acts 11:23).

Verse 44

44-48. the next sabbath came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God—the intervening days having been spent in further inquiry and instruction, and the excitement reaching the Gentiles, who now for the first time crowded, along with the usual worshippers, into the synagogue.

Verse 45

45. But when the Jews—those zealots of exclusive Judaism.

saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy—rather, "indignation," and broke out in their usual manner.

contradicting and blaspheming—There is nothing more awful than Jewish fury and execration of the name of Jesus of Nazareth, when thoroughly roused.

Verse 46

46. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, c.—This is in the highest style of a last and solemn protestation.

It was necessary that the word should first have been spoken to you—See the direction of Christ in Luke 24:47 also Luke 24:47- :.

since ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life—pass sentence upon yourselves.

Verse 47

47. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, c.—These and other predictions must have been long before this brought vividly home to Paul's mind in connection with his special vocation to the Gentiles.

I have set thee—that is, Messiah from which Paul inferred that he was but following out this destination of his Lord, in transferring to the Gentiles those "unsearchable riches" which were now by the Jews rejected and despised.

Verse 48

48. when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad—to perceive that their accession to Christ was a matter of divine arrangement as well as apostolic effort.

and glorified the word of the Lord—by a cordial reception of it.

and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed—a very remarkable statement, which cannot, without force, be interpreted of anything lower than this, that a divine ordination to eternal life is the cause, not the effect, of any man's believing.

Verse 49

49-52. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region—implying some stay in Antioch and missionary activity in its vicinity.

Verse 50

50. the devout and honourable women—female proselytes of distinction, jaundiced against the new preachers by those Jewish ecclesiastics to whom they had learned to look up. The potent influence of the female character both for and against the truth is seen in every age of the Church's history.

expelled them—an easier thing than to refute them.

Verse 51

51. shook off the dust of their feet against them—as directed ( :-).

came unto Iconium—a populous city about forty-five miles southeast from Pisidian Antioch: at the foot of Mount Taurus; on the borders of Lycaonia, Phrygia, and Pisidia; and in later times largely contributing to the consolidation of the Turkish empire.

Verse 52

52. the disciples—who, though not themselves expelled, had to endure sufferings for the Gospel, as we learn from Acts 14:22.

were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost—who not only raised them above shame and fear, as professed disciples of the Lord Jesus, but filled them with holy and elevated emotions.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfb/acts-13.html. 1871-8.
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