Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
This speech, though in substance the same as that from the fortress
stairs of Jerusalem
differs from it in being less directed to meet the charge of apostasy
from the Jewish faith, and giving more enlarged views of his remarkable
change and apostolic commission, and the divine support under which he
was enabled to brave the hostility of his countrymen.
1-3. Agrippa said--Being a king he appears to have presided.
Paul stretched forth the hand--chained to a soldier
and see on
3. I know thee to be expert, &c.--His father was zealous for the
law, and he himself had the office of president of the temple and its
treasures, and the appointment of the high priest
hear me patiently--The idea of "indulgently" is also conveyed.
4, 5. from my youth, which was at the first . . . at
Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the
beginning--plainly showing that he received his education, even
from early youth, at Jerusalem. See on
5. if they would--"were willing to"
testify--but this, of course, they were not, it being a strong point
in his favor.
after the most straitest--"the strictest."
sect--as the Pharisees confessedly were. This was said to meet the
charge, that as a Hellenistic Jew he had contracted among the heathen
lax ideas of Jewish peculiarities.
6, 7. I . . . am judged for the hope of the promise made . . . to our
fathers--"for believing that the promise of Messiah, the Hope of the
(Ac 13:32; 28:20)
has been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead."
7. Unto which promise--the fulfilment of it.
our twelve tribes--
and see on
instantly--"intently"; see on
serving God--in the sense of religious worship; on
"ministered," see on
day and night, hope to come--The apostle rises into language as
catholic as the thought--representing his despised nation, all scattered
thought it now was, as twelve great branches of one ancient stem, in all
places of their dispersion offering to the God of their fathers one
unbroken worship, reposing on one great "promise" made of old unto their
fathers, and sustained by one "hope" of "coming" to its fulfilment; the
single point of difference between him and his countrymen, and the one
cause of all their virulence against him, being, that his hope had found
rest in One already come, while theirs still pointed to the future.
For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews--"I am
accused of Jews, O king" (so the true reading appears to be); of all
quarters the most surprising for such a charge to come from. The charge
of sedition is not so much as alluded to throughout this speech. It
was indeed a mere pretext.
8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible . . . that God should
raise the dead?--rather, "Why is it judged a thing incredible if God
raises the dead?" the case being viewed as an accomplished fact. No
one dared to call in question the overwhelming evidence of the
resurrection of Jesus, which proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of
God; the only way of getting rid of it, therefore, was to pronounce it
incredible. But why, asks the apostle, is it so judged? Leaving
this pregnant question to find its answer in the breasts of his
audience, he now passes to his personal history.
9-15. (See on
&c.; and compare
16-18. But rise, &c.--Here the apostle appears to condense into one
statement various sayings of his Lord to him in visions at different
times, in order to present at one view the grandeur of the commission
with which his Master had clothed him [ALFORD].
a minister . . . both of these things which thou hast seen--putting
him on a footing with those "eye-witnesses and ministers of the word"
and of those in which I will appear to thee--referring to visions he
was thereafter to be favored with; such as
Ac 18:9, 10; 22:17-21; 23:11;
17. Delivering thee from the people--the Jews.
and from the Gentiles--He was all along the object of Jewish
malignity, and was at that moment in the hands of the Gentiles; yet he
calmly reposes on his Master's assurances of deliverance from both, at
the same time taking all precautions for safety and vindicating all his
unto whom now I send thee--The emphatic "I" here denotes the authority
of the Sender [BENGEL].
18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to
light--rather, "that they may turn" (as in
that is, as the effect of their eyes being opened. The whole passage
and from the power of Satan--Note the connection here between
being "turned from darkness" and "from the power of Satan," whose whole
power over men lies in keeping them in the dark: hence he is
called "the ruler of the darkness of this world." See on
that they may receive forgiveness . . . and inheritance among the
sanctified by faith that is in me--Note: Faith is here made the
instrument of salvation at once in its first stage, forgiveness, and
its last, admission to the home of the sanctified; and the faith
which introduces the soul to all this is emphatically declared by the
glorified Redeemer to rest upon Himself--"FAITH,
even THAT WHICH IS IN
ME." And who that believes this can refrain from casting his crown
before Him or resist offering Him supreme worship?
19-21. Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the
heavenly vision--This musical and elevated strain, which carries the
reader along with it, and doubtless did the hearers, bespeaks the lofty
region of thought and feeling to which the apostle had risen while
rehearsing his Master's communications to him from heaven.
20. showed . . . to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem--omitting
Arabia; because, beginning with the Jews, his object was to mention
first the places where his former hatred of the name of Christ was best
known: the mention of the Gentiles, so unpalatable to his audience, is
reserved to the last.
repent and return to God, and do works meet for repentance--a brief
description of conversion and its proper fruits, suggested, probably, by
the Baptist's teaching
(Lu 3:7, 8).
22, 23. having obtained help--"succor."
from God--"that [which cometh] from God."
I continue--"stand," "hold my ground."
unto this day, witnessing, &c.--that is, This life of mine, so
marvellously preserved, in spite of all the plots against it, is upheld
for the Gospel's sake; therefore I "witnessed," &c.
23. That Christ should suffer, &c.--The construction of this sentence
implies that in regard to the question "whether the Messiah is a
suffering one, and whether, rising first from the dead, he should show
light to the (Jewish) people and to the Gentiles," he had only said what
the prophets and Moses said should come.
24. Festus said with a loud voice--surprised and bewildered.
Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad--"is
turning thy head." The union of flowing Greek, deep acquaintance
with the sacred writings of his nation, reference to a resurrection and
other doctrines to a Roman utterly unintelligible, and, above all, lofty
religious earnestness, so strange to the cultivated, cold-hearted
skeptics of that day--may account for this sudden exclamation.
25, 26. I am not mad, most noble Festus, but, &c.--Can anything
surpass this reply, for readiness, self-possession, calm dignity? Every
word of it refuted the rude charge, though Festus, probably, did not
intend to hurt the prisoner's feelings.
26. the king knoweth, &c.--(See on
27-29. believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest--The
courage and confidence here shown proceeded from a vivid persuasion of
Agrippa's knowledge of the facts and faith in the predictions
which they verified; and the king's reply is the highest testimony to
the correctness of these presumptions and the immense power of such bold
yet courteous appeals to conscience.
28. Almost--or, "in a little time."
thou persuadest me to be a Christian--Most modern interpreters think
the ordinary translation inadmissible, and take the meaning to be, "Thou
thinkest to make me with little persuasion (or small trouble) a
Christian"--but I am not to be so easily turned. But the apostle's
reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our authorized
version, which is that adopted by CHRYSOSTOM and some of the best
scholars since. The objection on which so much stress is laid, that the
word "Christian" was at that time only a term of contempt, has no force
except on the other side; for taking it in that view, the sense is,
"Thou wilt soon have me one of that despised sect."
29. I would to God, &c.--What unequalled magnanimity does this speech
breathe! Only his Master ever towered above this.
not only . . . almost . . . but altogether--or, "whether soon or late,"
or "with little or much difficulty."
except these bonds--doubtless holding up his two chained hands
which in closing such a noble utterance must have had an electrical
30-32. when he had thus spoken, the king rose--not over-easy, we may
32. This man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to
Cæsar--It would seem from this that such appeals, once made, behooved
to be carried out.