Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Saul was consenting unto his death--The word expresses hearty
they were all scattered abroad--all the leading Christians,
particularly the preachers, agreeably to their Lord's injunctions
though many doubtless remained, and others (as appears by
except the apostles--who remained, not certainly as being less exposed
to danger, but, at whatever risk, to watch over the infant cause where
it was most needful to cherish it.
2. and devout men--pious Jews, probably, impressed with admiration for
Stephen and secretly inclined to Christianity, but not yet openly
3. Saul . . . entering into every house--like as inquisitor
haling men and women, &c.--See his own affecting confessions
(Ac 22:4; 26:9, 10;
4. they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching--Though
solemnly enjoined to do this
they would probably have lingered at Jerusalem, but for this besom of
persecution which swept them out. How often has the rage of Christ's
enemies thus "turned out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel"
Php 1:12, 13).
5. Then Philip--not the apostle of that name, as was by some of the
Fathers supposed; for besides that the apostles remained at Jerusalem,
they would in that case have had no occasion to send a deputation of
their own number to lay their hands on the baptized disciples
It was the deacon of that name, who comes next after Stephen in the
catalogue of the seven, probably as being the next most prominent. The
persecution may have been directed especially against Stephen's
the city of Samaria--or "a city of Samaria"; but the former seems
more likely. "It furnished the bridge between Jerusalem and the world"
6-8. the people with one accord gave heed to . . .
Philip--the way being prepared perhaps by the fruits of our Lord's
sojourn, as He Himself seems to intimate (see on
But "we may mark the providence of God in sending a Grecian, or a
Hellenistic Jew, to a people who from national antipathy would have
been unlikely to attend to a native of Judea" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
8. great joy in that city--over the change wrought on it by the Gospel,
as well as the cures which attested its divine character.
9-13. used sorcery--magical arts.
some great one . . . the great power of God--a sort of incarnation of
10. To whom all gave heed . . . because of long time he had bewitched
them--This, coupled with the rapidity with which they deserted him
and attached themselves to Philip, shows the ripeness of Samaria for
some religious change.
12. were baptized, both men and women--the detection of Simon's frauds
helping to extend and deepen the effects of Philip's preaching.
13. Then Simon himself believed also--Left without followers, he thinks
it best to join the man who had fairly outstripped him, not without a
touch of real conviction.
and . . . was baptized--What a light does this throw on what is called
he continued with Philip--"was in constant attendance upon" him.
14-17. the apostles . . . sent Peter and John--showing that they
regarded Peter as no more than their own equal.
15, 16. prayed . . . they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For only they
were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus)--As the baptism of adults
presupposed "the renewing of the Holy Ghost"
of which the profession of faith had to be taken for evidence, this
communication of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the apostles' hands
was clearly a superadded thing; and as it was only
occasional, so it was invariably attended with miraculous
where it followed Peter's preaching; and
where, as here, it followed the laying on of hands). In the present
case an important object was served by it--"the sudden appearance of a
body of baptized disciples in Samaria, by the agency of one who was not
an apostle, requiring the presence and power of apostles to perform
their special part as the divinely appointed founders of the Church"
[ALFORD]. Beautiful, too, was the spectacle
exhibited of Jew and Samaritan, one in Christ.
18-24. offered them money--Hence the term simony, to denote
trafficking in sacred things, but chiefly the purchase of ecclesiastical
19. that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy
Ghost--Spiritual ambition here shows itself the key to this
wretched man's character.
20. Thy money perish with thee--that is, "Accursed be thou and thy
money with thee." It is the language of mingled horror and indignation,
not unlike our Lord's rebuke of Peter himself
21. Thou hast neither part nor lot . . . thy heart is not fight,
&c.--This is the fidelity of a minister of Christ to one deceiving
himself in a very awful manner.
22. Repent . . . pray . . . if perhaps the thought of thine heart may
be forgiven--this expression of doubt being designed to impress upon
him the greatness of his sin, and the need of alarm on his part.
23. in the gall of bitterness and . . . bond of iniquity--expressing
both the awfulness of his condition and the captivity to it in which he
24. Pray ye to the Lord for me--Peter had urged him to pray for
himself: he asks those wonder-working men to do it for him; having no
confidence in the prayer of faith, but thinking that those men possessed
some peculiar interest with heaven.
that none of these things dome upon me--not that the thought of his
wicked heart might be forgiven him, but only that the evils threatened
might be averted from him. While this throws great light on Peter's view
of his melancholy case, it shows that Christianity, as something divine,
still retained its hold of him. (Tradition represents him as turning out
a great heresiarch, mingling Oriental or Grecian philosophy with some
elements of Christianity.)
25. and they--Peter and John.
when they had . . . preached--in the city where Philip's labors
had been so richly blessed.
returned . . . and preached . . . in many villages of
the Samaritans--embracing the opportunity of their journey back to
Jerusalem to fulfil
their Lord's commission to the whole region of Samaria
"With this narrative of the progress of the Gospel among the Samaritans
is connected another which points to the diffusion of the doctrine of
the Cross among the remotest nations. The simplicity of the chamberlain
of Meroe forms a remarkable contrast with the craft of the magician just
26-28. the angel of the Lord--rather, "an angel."
go . . . south, the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza--There
was such a road, across Mount Hebron, which Philip might take without
going to Jerusalem (as VON
RAUMER'S'S Palæstina shows).
which is desert--that is, the way; not Gaza itself, which was the
southernmost city of Palestine, in the territory of the ancient
Philistines. To go from a city, where his hands had been full of work,
so far away on a desert road, could not but be staggering to the faith
of Philip, especially as he was kept in ignorance of the object of the
journey. But like Paul, he "was not disobedient to the heavenly
vision"; and like Abram, "he went out not knowing whither he went"
27. a man of Ethiopia--Upper Egypt, Meroe.
an eunuch of great authority--Eunuchs were generally employed for
confidential offices in the East, and to some extent are still.
Candace--the family name of the queens of Upper Egypt, like Pharaoh,
Cæsar, &c. (as appears from classic authors).
had come to Jerusalem to worship--that is, to keep the recent feast
of Pentecost, as a Gentile proselyte to the Jewish faith. (See
and Joh 12:20).
28. Was returning--Having come so far, he not only stayed out the days
of the festival, but prolonged his stay till now. It says much for his
fidelity and value to his royal mistress that he had such liberty. But
the faith in Jehovah and love of His worship and word, with which he was
imbued, sufficiently explain this.
and sitting in his chariot, read Esaias--Not contented with the
statutory services in which he had joined, he beguiles the tedium of the
journey homeward by reading the Scriptures. But this is not all; for as
Philip "heard him read the prophet Esaias," he must have been reading
aloud and not (as is customary still in the East) so as merely to be
audible, but in a louder voice than he would naturally have used if
intent on his own benefit only: evidently therefore he was
reading to his charioteer.
29-31. the Spirit said--by an unmistakable voice within, as in
Ac 10:19; 16:6, 7.
go near and join this chariot--This would reveal to Philip the hitherto
unknown object of his journey, and encourage him to expect something.
30. Understandest thou what thou readest?--To one so engaged this would
be deemed no rude question, while the eager appearance of the speaker,
and the question itself, would indicate a readiness to supply any want
of insight that might be felt.
31. How can I, except some man guide me?--Beautiful expression at once
of humility and docility; the invitation to Philip which immediately
followed, to "come up and sit with him," being but the natural
expression of this.
32, 33. The place . . . was this, He was led as a sheep, &c.--One
cannot but wonder that this, of all predictions of Messiah's sufferings
in the Old Testament the most striking, should have been that which the
eunuch was reading before Philip joined him. He could hardly miss to
have heard at Jerusalem of the sufferings and death of Jesus, and of the
existence of a continually increasing party who acknowledged Him to be
the Messiah. But his question to Philip, whether the prophet in this
passage meant himself or some other man, clearly shows that he had not
the least idea of any connection between this prediction and those
34-38. And the eunuch answered, I pray thee, &c.--The respect with
which he here addresses Philip was prompted by his reverence for one
whom he perceived to be his superior in divine things; his own worldly
position sinking before this.
35. Then Philip opened his mouth--(See on
began at the same scripture--founding on it as his text.
preached unto him Jesus--showing Him to be the glorious Burden of this
wonderful prediction, and interpreting it in the light of the facts of
36. See, here is water--more simply, "Behold water!" as if already
his mind filled with light and his soul set free, he was eagerly looking
out for the first water in which he might seal his reception of the
truth and be enrolled among the visible disciples of the Lord Jesus.
what doth hinder me to be baptized?--Philip had probably told him that
this was the ordained sign and seal of discipleship, but the eunuch's
question was likely the first proposal of its application in this case.
is wanting in the principal manuscripts and most venerable versions of
the New Testament. It seems to have been added from the formularies for
baptism which came into current use).
38. they went down both into the water, and he baptized him,
&c.--probably laving the water upon him, though the precise mode is
neither certain nor of any consequence.
39, 40. the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip--To deny
BLOOMFIELD] the miraculous nature of Philip's disappearance,
is vain. It stands out on the face of the words, as just a repetition of
what we read of the ancient prophets, in
And the same word (as BENGEL remarks) is employed
to express a similar idea in
2Co 12:2, 4;
the eunuch saw him no more--nor, perhaps, for very joy, cared to see
and he went on his way rejoicing--He had found Christ, and the key
to the Scriptures; his soul was set free, and his discipleship sealed;
he had lost his teacher, but gained what was infinitely better: He felt
himself a new man, and "his joy was full." Tradition says he was the
first preacher of the Gospel in Ethiopia; and how, indeed, could he
choose but "tell what the Lord had done for his soul?" Yet there is no
certainty as to any historical connection between his labors and the
introduction of Christianity into that country.
40. Philip was found--that is, "found himself," "made his appearance":
an expression confirming the miraculous manner of his transportation.
at Azotus--the ancient Ashdod.
preached in all the cities--along the coast, proceeding northward.
till he came to Cæsarea--fifty-five miles northwest of
Jerusalem, on the Mediterranean, just south of Mount Carmel; and so
named by Herod, who rebuilt it, in honor of Cæsar Augustus.
Henceforth we lose sight of zealous and honored Philip, as by and by we
shall lose sight even of Peter. As the chariot of the Gospel rolls on,
other agents are raised up, each suited to his work. But "he that
soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together." (See on