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Bible Commentaries
Acts 21

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

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Verse 1

And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:

We came with a straight course — ευθυδρομησαντες . So shall all those that make "straight paths for their feet," Hebrews 12:13 , whose eyes look straight before them, Proverbs 4:25 , who ponder their paths by the weights of the word, Proverbs 4:26 .

Verse 2

And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.

Phoenicia — A region of Syria: the woman of Canaan was a Syrophoenician.

Verse 3

Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

Now when he had discovered CyprusVox nautica, a mariner’s term; so is συνεσταλμενος , 1 Corinthians 7:29 . St Paul was a great trader of Christ both by land and sea; and had terms ready for both. See Trapp on " 1 Corinthians 7:29 "

Verse 4

And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

And finding disciples — Such as Isaiah had long since foretold should leave hoarding and heaping wealth, and find another manner of employment for it, to feed and clothe God’s saints, Isaiah 23:18 .

That he should not go up, … — They understanding by his divine revelation, what danger Paul was in, out of charity, and not by any special command of the Spirit, forewarned him, and desired him not to go up.

Verse 5

And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.

And prayedSee Trapp on " Acts 20:36 "

Verse 6

And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.

We took ship — Leaving them on shore: we shall one day meet, and never more be separated. O dieculam illam, … Euge, Deo sit laus et gloria, quod iam instet horula illa gratissima, a O that day! O that joy! Castigemus mores et moras. (Bernard.) Let us ripen apace, and hasten to that heavenly home, that glorious panegyris and general assembly, Hebrews 12:23 .

Verse 7

And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.

And abode with them one daySuavis hora, sed parva mora, short and sweet abode.

Verse 8

And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

Philip the Evangelist — He was at first but a deacon; but having well used that lower office, he was advanced to this. A fruitful man shall not sit long in a low place: God will call him forth to a higher employment, and make him master of much, that was so "faithful in a little" Luke 16:10 .

Verse 9

And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

Did prophesy — That is, they had the gift of foretelling future things by divine inspiration. This was every way extraordinary.

Verse 10

And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

A certain prophet — So called a procul fando, as some will have it. These New Testament prophets were next to the apostles in office; and are mentioned together with them in laying the foundation of Christianity, Ephesians 3:5 ; Ephesians 2:20 .

Verse 11

And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

So shall the Jews — Who were ever most bitter enemies to Christians, and so they continue. Among the Turks every vizier and pasha of state useth to keep a Jew of his private council; whose malice, wit, and experience of Christendom, with their continual intelligence, is thought to advise most of that mischief which the Turk puts in execution against us. Are those then well advised that desire that the Jews may have free commerce among us, as they have in Poland? where they not only curse all Christians publicly in their daily prayers, but boldly print against our religion whatsoever they please? (Buxtorf. Synag. Jud.)

Verse 13

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

What mean you to weep? — Ecclesiastical history mentioneth one Phileas, a nobleman and a martyr, who going to execution, seemed as one deaf at the persuasions and blind at the tears of his friends; Nam quomodo potest terrenis lachrymis flecti cuius oculi coelestem gloriam contuentur? said one Philoramus defending him, and was therefore beheaded with him.

I am ready, not to be bound — This was a brave Roman resolution. Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam, said Pompey. The Lacedaemonians were wont to say, It is a shame for any man to flee in time of danger; but for a Lacedaemonian, it is a shame for him to deliberate. How much more for a Christian, when called by God to suffer! Go (said Luther), I will surely go (since I am sent for) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, yea, though I knew there were so many devils to resist me as there are tiles to cover the houses in Worms. Spalatinus had sent to Luther, to inquire whether or no he would go to Worms, and appear in the gospel’s cause, if Csesar summoned him; Omnia de me praesumas (said he) praeter fugam, et palinodiam. Fugere nolo, multo minus recantare. Ita me confortet Dominus. Socrates would not hearken to his friend Criton, persuading him to shift for himself by a dishonourable flight. And when some friends dealt with Dr Taylor, martyr, not to appear before Stephen Winchester, but to flee; Flee you (said he), and do as your conscience leads you; I am fully determined, with God’s grace, to go to the bishop, and to his beard to tell him that he doth naught. True zeal is of a most masculine, disengaged, courageous nature, and ready to say, Shall I change mine opinion, because Hoc Ithacus velit? does Ithacus wish this? remit of my diligence for fear of death? Oh, that I might enjoy those wild beasts prepared for my torments, said blessed Ignatius. Οναιμην των θηριων των εμοι ητοιμασμενων . And oh, that it might be so with me, said Basil, threatened with death by Valens the Arian emperor. Ειθε γενοιτο μοι . So we read of another holy bishop, who when his hand was threatened to be cut off, cried out, Seca ambas, nay, cut off both.

Verse 14

And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

The will of the Lord be doneVox vere Christianorum, saith one, Voluntas Dei, necessitas rei. A godly man says Amen to God’s Amen; and puts his Fiat Let him do it, and Placet let it be pleasing, to God’s. One said, he could have what he would of God. Why? how was that? Because whatsoever was God’s will, that was his. It is said that I shall be burned in Smithfield (said blessed Bradford), and that very shortly, Fiat voluntas Domini: Ecce ego, mitte me. Let the will of God be done, behold, me, send me, Mr Beza’s last text was the third petition of the Lord’s prayer, "Thy will be done," … In qua deficere potius quam desinere visas est, saith he that writeth his life. (Melch. Adam.)

Verse 15

And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

We took up our carriages — A military term; we trussed up our fardles, made up our packs, our bag and baggage, επισκευασαμενοι , instructi et comparati ad quaevis nimirum pericula subeunda, said Beza, being ready prest and prepared to whatsoever hazard.

Verse 16

There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

An old disciple — A gray-headed experienced Christian, a father, 1 John 2:13 . Such as those mentioned Psalms 92:12-14 . A Christian hath his degrees of growth. Ye have his conception,Galatians 4:19; Galatians 4:19 ; birth,1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 1:13 ; childhood, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 ; youth or well grown age, when he is past the spoon, 1 John 2:13 ; his full grown age, Ephesians 4:13 ; old age, as1 John 2:13; 1 John 2:13 , and here. An "old disciple," and yet a disciple still not too old to learn. Solon said, I wax old ever learning somewhat. Γηρασκω αιει πολλα διδασκομενος . Julianus, the lawyer, said, that when he had one foot in the grave, yet he would have the other in the school. Chytreus, when he lay dying, lifted up himself to hear the discourse of some friends that visited him; and said that he should die with so much the better cheer if he might better his knowledge by what they were speaking of. (Melch. Adam.)

With whom he should lodge — viz. When we came to Jerusalem. This Mnason was another Gaius, the host of the Church. The Waldenses were so spread in Germany that they could travel from Colen to Milan in Italy, and every night lodge with hosts of their own profession, which was a great comfort to them. (Cade of the Church.)

Verse 17

And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

Received us gladly — Gr. ασμενως , smilingly. Dat bene, dat multum, qui dat cum munere vultum. When we come to the new Jerusalem, the whole court of heaven shall meet us, and greet us with great joy.

Verse 18

And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

Unto James — The son of Alpheus, called by St Mark, "James the less," and by some of the ancients, Bishop of Jerusalem.

Verse 19

And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

He declared partlcularly — Gr. καθ εν εκαστον , "one by one." So Moses tells Jethro all things one by one what God had done for Israel,Exodus 18:8; Exodus 18:8 . We must not relate God’s lovingkindness in the lump or by wholesale, but be punctual and particular.

Verse 20

And when they heard it , they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

Many thousands — Therefore not to be slighted.

Verse 21

And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

To remake Moses — An odious and false imputation. All that St Paul taught was, that the legal rites and customs were only shadows of things to come, but the body is of Christ, Colossians 2:17 ; and that Christians should know and use their freedom in wisdom and charity, Galatians 2:3 ; 1 Corinthians 8:13 .

Verse 22

What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

The multitude must needs come together — And be satisfied, for else that sinister opinion which they have conceived of thee will be increased, and they will take all for granted that is alleged against thee. Now a heathen sage could say (and there is much truth in it), Negligere quid de se quisque sentiat, non solum arrogantis est, sed ei dissoluti: It is a sign of a proud lewd person not to care what people think of him.

Verse 23

Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

A vow on them — A voluntary vow of Nazariteship, which yet is agreeable to the law’s praescript.

Verse 24

Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

And all may know — There is a real confutation of calumnies.

Verse 25

As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

And from fornicationSee Trapp on " Acts 15:20 "

Verse 26

Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Purifying himself — See Augustine’s Epistles 11 and 19.

Verse 27

And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

The Jews which were of Asia — St Paul’s good intent had but evil success; but his conscience was his comfort, as2 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:9 ; 2 Corinthians 1:12 . So was holy Melancthon’s; when but coarsely dealt with, and threatened with banishment, Dixerunt adversarii se mihi non relicturos esse vestigium pedis in Germ. this he could say for himself, I have not sought for myself wealth, honour, pleasure, or victory over mine adversaries. This conscience I take with me, withersoever they shall drive me.

Verse 28

Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

Crying, Men of Israel, help, this is the man, … — An admirable and graphic description of this tumult; every circumstance set forth to the life as it were. No poet could have done it with more skill and artifice. There is as good rhetoric in the Bible as in any heathen orator whatsoever. It was therefore a foolish and profane fear of Politian, Longolius, Bonamicus, and other Logodaedali, that if they should read the Scriptures, they should mar the purity of their style. "This is the man that teacheth," … There is not a true word in all this outcry. So Elias was called a troubler, Luther a trumpeter of rebellion, Melancthon a blasphemer of God and his saints, Calvin a Mahometan, Zanchius an Anabaptist, a Swenckfeldian, Novatian, and what not? Arminius paved his way first by aspersing and sugillating the fame and authority of Calvin, Zuinglius, Beza, Martyr, and other champions of the truth. The Papists reported the Waldenses (those ancient Protestants) to be Manichees, Arians, Catharists, …, as they do us to be libertines, enthusiasts, atheists, … Contra sycophantae morsum non est remedium. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongue walketh through the earth, Psalms 73:9 . But God will cut out such false tongues, Psalms 12:3 , and broil them upon coals of juniper, Psalms 120:4 .

Verse 29

29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

Whom they supposed — But was that sufficient ground to make such a coil, to raise such an uproar? Passions are head-long and head-strong; like heavy bodies down steep hills, once in motion, they move themselves, and know no ground but the bottom.

Verse 30

And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

The doors were shut — That he might not there take sanctuary.

Verse 31

And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

And as they went about to kill him — The devil was first a liar and then a murderer. The persecutors ever first belied the Church, and then did their worst against her. Slander is a kind of murder, and makes way for it, Ezekiel 22:9 , as in the massacre of Paris. The monks had given out before that the Protestants met for no other purpose but to feast their carcases, and then (the lights being put out) to satisfy their unlawful lusts promiscuously. Thus they prepared and provoked the people to that bloody butchery, and so slew the innocent Huguenots twice; like as it is said of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, that he was thought by the people of England to be doubly murdered, viz. by detraction and deadly practice.

Verse 32

Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.

Who immediately took soldiers — An admirable example of God’s good providence, who delighteth to reserve his hand for a dead lift, to save those that are forsaken of their hopes. He cometh unlooked for, as it were out of an engine, απο μηχανης .

They left beating of Paul — Who could better bear it, because he had felt worse fingers than theirs, when that messenger of Satan buffeted him, 2 Corinthians 12:7 . And surely if the philosopher (when brayed in a mortar by his cruel Scythians) could bear it patiently, saying, Beat on Anacharsis’ wind bang, meaning his body, Tundite Anach. folliculum. much more could the apostle by the force of his faith. Especially, since his suffering reached only to his flesh, his soul was untouched thereby, Colossians 1:24 .

Verse 33

Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.

To be bound with two chains — As if he would have presently punished him. This he did to satisfy the mad multitude.

Verse 34

And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.

For the tumult — All was on a hurry, as it was Acts 19:23-29 at Ephesus, vel ut in regno Cyclopico.

Into the castle — Called Antonia, near the temple, where the soldiers kept garrison.

Verse 35

And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

He was borne of the soldiers — Who considered as little what a precious pack they now had upon their backs, as once the Midianitish merchants did, what a price they had in their hands, viz. Joseph, the jewel of the world and lord of Egypt.

Verse 36

For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.

Away with him — Yea, but stay, Paul’s time was in God’s hand, who had told him that after he had been at Jerusalem he must see Rome too. In the mean time it might be some comfort to Paul to hear the same words (and perhaps by the same men) used of him, as had been before of his Master Christ, Away with him, … It is sufficient for the servant to be as his Lord. Art thou not glad to fare as Phocion? said he to one that was to suffer with him. ουκ αγαπας μετα Φωκιωνος αποθανουμενος . Plut. Apoph. Holy Ignatius took great comfort in this, that though he suffered death for Christ, yet in the day when God should make up his jewels, he should reckon not only from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, but from the blood of Zacharias to the blood of mean Ignatius. We have mentioned before that martyr that rejoiced that she might have her foot in the hole of the stocks in which Mr Philpot had been before her. When Luther thought he should die of an apoplexy, A malady, very sudden in its attack, which arrests more or less completely the powers of sense and motion; it is usually caused by an effusion of blood or serum in the brain, and preceded by giddiness, partial loss of muscular power, etc. ŒD it comforted him that the apostle John had died of that disease. How much more should it do us, that we "fill up that only which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in our flesh," Colossians 1:24 , and that suffering together, we shall also reign together!

Verse 37

And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?

Canst thou speak Greek — Ay, no man better, whensoever he pleased; witness his gallant apology to Tertulhs, Ac. xxiv., and again his most accurate apology to Agrippa, Ac. xxvi., wherein (Pericles-like) fulgurabat, iutonabat, …, he lightened one while, thundered another, did what he would with his audience, became master of their affections, being as potent in his divine rhetoric as Cicero in his human; who, as it is said, while he pleaded for Ligarius, disarmed the angry emperor and got pardon for the poor suppliant.

Verse 38

Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

Art not thou that Egyptian? — Of whom read Joseph. ii. 10, de Belle Jud., and Antiq. xx.

That were murderers — Assassins, cut-throats. These were of the faction of Judas Gaulonites or Galileus. See Luke 13:1 . (Godw. Heb. Antiq.)

Verse 39

But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.

Of no mean city — And yet more ennobled by Paul than Paul was by it; like as Hippo was better known by Austin than Austin was by Hippo, whereof he was bishop; the island Cos by Hippocrates than Hippocrates by Cos; King Archelaus by his friend Euripides than Euripides by Archelaus.

Verse 40

And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

In the Hebrew tonguei.e. In the Syriac, a daughter of the Hebrew, and the mother tongue of them who were called Hebrews.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 21". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/acts-21.html. 1865-1868.
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