Paul Seized in the Temple.
SUMMARY.--The Voyage to Tyre.
The Prayer-Meeting on the Seashore.
Abiding with Philip the Evangelist in Cæsarea.
The Prophecy of Agabus.
The Importunity of the Disciples That Paul Should Not Go to Jerusalem.
The Meeting of Paul with James and the Elders at Jerusalem.
Their Request That He Should Disarm Prejudice by a Nazarite Vow.
The Attempt to Kill Him in the Temple.
The Rescue by the Chief Captain.
1-6. After we were gotten from them. Chrysostom, himself, a Greek,
says the Greek word
means "had torn away."
Came to . . . Coos. A small island, famous for its wines, forty
miles south of Miletus. Hippocrates, the great physician, and Apelles,
the painter, were born here.
The day following to Rhodes. Fifty miles further south, one of
the most famous islands of the world, noted for its beauty, its
Colossus, its defence by the Knights of St. John against the Turks, and
for giving its name to one of the American states.
Thence to Patara. On the coast of Lydia. Here he took another
ship, this probably being the destination of the first.
Finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia. Tyre, where he landed,
was a Phoenician city.
When we had discovered Cyprus. Sailed in sight of Cyprus. This
would arouse the memories of Paul's first missionary labors here about
fourteen years before (see
Sailed into Syria. Syria embraced Phoenicia, Palestine and
Antioch, in the Roman use of the term.
Landed at Tyre. Still a considerable city, though its ancient
glories had faded on account of the growth of Alexandria and Antioch,
which had become the commercial centers of the East. "Its most
important ruins now lie beneath the sea and can be seen through its
Finding disciples. In
we find that preachers of the word came to Phoenicia, of which Tyre was
the capital, and probably planted the church
Tarried seven days. As this statement is made three times where
Paul found brethren
it evidently implies that he tarried at each place to have one solemn
meeting on the first day of the week, as at Troas,
and to celebrate the Lord's Supper with the church.
Said to Paul through the Spirit. Predicted the sufferings that
would befall him, and endeavored to dissuade him.
We kneeled down on the shore and prayed. This was an affecting
sight. The whole church, men, women and children, gathered around the
great apostle and his companions, and the voice of prayer arose above
the ceaseless roar of the waves.
7-14. Came to Ptolemais. Here the journey by sea ended. This
city, now called Acre, and having 15,000 population, is one of the
oldest cities in the world, and called Accho in
from which term its modern name is derived. It had the name Ptolemais
for a few centuries from Ptolemy Soter, an
Egyptian king who rebuilt it.
Came to Cæsarea. By land, a distance of thirty to forty
miles. Paul had been here twice before
The place is memorable for the conversion of the first Gentiles.
Entered into the house of Philip. The evangelist of whose work
we have an account in
nearly a quarter of a century before. The last account of him
shows him preaching in the cities of the sea-coast. In one of these we
now find him settled.
Had four daughters . . . which did prophesy. Compare
The prophetic spirit in either the Old or New Testament is not confined
to a single sex. Deborah
are Old Testament examples, and in the New Testament, Elisabeth,
and the daughters of Philip are instances.
A certain prophet named Agabus. He is named in
as a prophet. He had probably come down to meet Paul.
Took Paul's girdle. The belt or sash that bound the loose,
flowing robe worn. In the style of the Old Testament prophets he
impressed his lesson in a dramatic manner. Compare
1 Kings 22:11;
Isa. 20:2, 3; Jer. 13:4-9; Ezek. 4:1, 2, 3.
When we heard these things. The striking manner of Agabus, and
perhaps his statements of the dark plots among the Jews against Paul,
had such an effect that all sought, more earnestly than ever before, to
dissuade him from going on. Why should the apostle, with these certain
dangers revealed, press on right into the stronghold of enemies
thirsting for his blood, infuriated by the accounts that came up from
Asia and Europe of his success in converting Jews to Christ? Had not a
deep sense of duty impelled him, we may be certain that he would have
done this. There can be no doubt that he braved the danger in order
to prevent a schism that threatened the church. False reports were
circulated at Jerusalem concerning his teaching to Jewish Christians;
the church there was filled with prejudice against him; from thence
Judaizing teachers went forth to interfere with his work. Hence, in a
loving spirit, filled with that charity that suffers all things, and
carrying large offerings gathered in the Gentile churches for the poor
at Jerusalem, he came to disarm prejudice and show the falsehood of the
stories alleged about his teachings. There are times when duty calls
the man of God to face the danger; so went the Lord to Jerusalem in
spite of the protests of his disciples; so went Luther to Worms, though
warned of his danger; so went Paul to Jerusalem.
15-17. Took up our carriages. Our baggage. See Revision.
"Carriages" once meant the things carried.
Went with us certain disciples of Cæsarea. Paul was often
thus attended. They seem to have gone in order to find a place for him
with an old disciple, a native of Cyprus, now dwelling in Jerusalem,
Come to Jerusalem. This is the fifth time Paul entered the
Holy City since his departure on that memorable journey to Damascus
about twenty-two years before. The present probable date is near
Pentecost (the latter part of May), A. D. 58.
18-27. Paul went in with us unto James. For the identification and
position of James see note on
This James was not one of the twelve, but was "the brother of the
Lord," a witness of the risen Savior
(1 Cor. 15:7).
"James the brother of John" had been slain
of James the son of Alphæus, little is known, but James "the
brother of the Lord"
was now the leader of the church at Jerusalem. No mention is made of
any one of the twelve, and it is probable that those still living in
A. D. 58, were in other fields of labor. The "elders" are
mentioned, but not the apostles, a proof that none of the latter were
When they heard it. Paul's report of the wonderful success of
the gospel. They evidently approved of and sympathized with his work.
Thou seest, brother, now many thousands . . . believe.
The Greek reads: "How many tens thousands." There were not only many
thousands of Christians in the Jerusalem church, but many thousands of
Jewish Christians who had come up to the feast of Pentecost.
Twenty-seven years before there were five thousand men who believed in
They are all zealous for the law. "Zealots" for the law in the
Greek. They believed upon Christ as the Messiah, but did not understand
that the Old Covenant had passed away to give place to the New
Hence, while they observed the Christian rites, they still kept up the
forms of Judaism. It took a direct interposition of the Spirit to teach
that Gentiles were entitled to baptism without circumcision.
It required a council in Jerusalem to settle the question that Gentile
Christians were not to keep the Jewish law.
God taught the church, lesson by lesson, but up to this time that at
Jerusalem had not yet learned that they were freed from the obligation
to keep the law of Moses. Paul, in advance of the rest, had learned
that the Jewish forms were not to be imposed upon Gentiles, were not an
obligation upon Jewish Christians, but he still observed them, at least
in part, himself, and so far from bidding Jewish brethren to forsake
Moses, he circumcised Timothy,
and said, "Let every man abide in the same calling (whether Jew or
Gentile) in which he is called." (Read the whole connection of
1 Cor. 7:18-20).
He had not, therefore, taught
Jews to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise
their children, neither to walk after the customs.
Do therefore this. This counsel is given
that the multitude of Jewish Christians may see that Paul still kept
the Jewish customs. As he did keep them, not as a matter of
obligation, but as a Jew, in order that he might reach his own race, it
involved no sacrifice of principle.
We have four men which have a vow. These were Jewish Christians.
The vow was a Nazaritish vow (see
for a description). This vow involved living an ascetic life for a
certain period, sometimes thirty days, and was terminated by shaving
the head, burning the hair as an offering, and offering a sacrifice.
The advice to Paul is to associate himself in this vow,
and be at charges with them for the necessary expenses, and thus
show that he kept the time-honored customs of the Jewish race.
As touching the Gentiles. The duties of the Gentiles had
been settled in the council described in
The advice of James was no doubt given from the best of motives. His
position was a difficult one. The fanaticism of the Jewish nation,
which broke out in war a few years later, was growing intense. The
national feeling in the church had to be handled with great care. It
would not do for the church to believe that Paul had become a renegade
from their race. Paul, aware of all these difficulties, generously
complied for the sake of peace and unity. We cannot be certain that the
advice was just right, or that Paul did just right to comply, but these
grand men acted according to their knowledge, and the record of Acts
portrays both the shortcomings and the perfection of its great
Entered into the temple. Purifying himself, he entered the
temple, gave notice that the sacrifices would be offered at a definite
time, and the period of the vows be closed.
When the seven days were almost ended. Seven days was an
ordinary period of purification
Lev. 12:2; 13:6; Num. 12:14,
Concerning this advice of James and compliance of Paul, Pres. Milligan
says: "Three different views have been taken: (1) That Paul in this
case acted ignorantly, not being aware of the fact that the law of
Moses was no longer binding; (2) that, like Peter
he acted from fear of the Jewish brethren; (3) that he acted in
conformity with the law of Christian benevolence which requires us to
respect even the weaknesses and prejudices of our brethren, so far as
this can be done without in any way neglecting the requirements of the
Gospel." The third hypothesis is the best, but some explanations are
needful. The Jewish Christians were slowly emancipated from Judaism,
and they did not reach the clear conviction, until after the temple was
destroyed, that its sacrifices were obsolete. Gentiles were forbidden
to sacrifice to idols, but there was no such prohibition with regard to
the altar of Jehovah. Even Paul evidently at this time thought of the
sacrifices as, like circumcision, a matter of indifference. It was left
for the next generation to learn that the inspired writings of Paul
himself lead to the conclusion that all the sacrifices of the temple
altar pointed to the Lamb of God, and that, from the time he was
offered, they became obsolete.
27-40. The Jews . . . of Asia. From the Roman province called
Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital. As Paul had spent three years
in that city, they knew him well. These Jews were watching Paul, had
seen him in company with Trophimus, an Ephesian Greek, and when they
saw Paul in the temple keeping the Nazarite vow, seized him and raised
Hath polluted this holy place. They not only charge him with
teaching against Judaism, but with bringing Greeks into the part of the
temple where all Gentiles were forbidden to come. The Palestine
Exploration Society found in their excavations an inscription that must
have been over the passage between the court of the Gentiles and the
interior court, where the chambers for Nazarites were, forbidding
aliens to pass the balustrade on the penalty of death. Nothing could
arouse a greater outburst of fanaticism than the belief that Paul had
taken Gentiles within the sacred precincts.
They took Paul, and drew him out of the temple. He was, no
doubt, within the inner courts, and was hurried without, and the gates
shut, to prevent the pollution of the sacred courts by the shedding of
blood. They proposed to slay him when they had dragged him where it
could be done without profanation. They were willing to murder, but not
to profane the temple.
They went about to kill him. Had Trophimus been within, their
customs might have permitted them to kill him, but to slay Paul could
only be a murder.
Tidings came unto the chief captain. The commander of the
garrison in the castle of Antonia, overlooking the temple. The watch
could see the uproar from their elevated outlook, and the soldiers in a
moment would rush down the staircase that led into the temple area, and
appear upon the scene. The fortress joined the temple wall and had two
flights of stairs leading into the temple courts.
Took him, and commanded him to be bound. The first thought of
the commander was that the man seized was some great criminal. From
we learn that he supposed Paul was an Egyptian rebel. Hence he ordered
Canst thou speak Greek? When Paul reached the head of
the stairs, as he was carried by the soldiers into the fortress, he
addressed the officer in Greek. Surprised that he should use that
language, the chief captain asked if he was not
that Egyptian. Josephus twice mentions this notorious Egyptian,
a pretended prophet, and leader of the Sicarii, or "Assassins."
This "Egyptian" brigand was probably illiterate and did not speak
a Jew of Tarsus. As Tarsus was "no mean city," a free city, he
was entitled to some consideration.
When he had given him license. To address the people. He stood
at the head of the stairs, with the vast throng in the court below.
Beckoning with the hand to call attention, he addressed them in their
beloved Hebrew tongue. There is no excitement, no resentment, but an
earnest purpose to benefit them by preaching Christ.