|Ananias - |
1. High priest (Acts 23:2, etc.; Acts 24:1). Son of Zebedaeus, succeeded Joseph, son of Camydus, and was followed by Ismael, son of Phabi Herod, king of Chalcis A.D. 48, appointed him. The prefect Ummidius Quadratus in A.D. 52 sent him to be tried before the emperor Claudius on the charge of oppressing the Samaritans. Cumanus the procurator, his adversary, was not successful but was banished; so that Ananias seems not to have lost office then, but lost it before Felix left the province; and was at last assassinated by the Sicarii (zealot assassins and robbers) early in the last Jewish war. Violent tempered to such a degree that he caused Paul to be smitten on the mouth for saying, "I have lived in all good conscience before God"; himself on the contrary "a whited wall." Compare Matthew 23:27.
2. A disciple at Jerusalem, Sapphira's husband (Acts 5). Having sold his property for the good of the church professedly, he kept back part of the price, and handed the rest to the apostles. Peter stigmatized the act as "lying to the Holy Spirit," who was in the apostles, and whom notwithstanding he thought he could elude. Ananias instantly fell down and expired. That this was no mere natural effect of excitement appears from the sentence expressly pronounced by Peter on Sapphira, and immediately executed by God, whose instrument of justice Peter was. The judgment had the salutary effect designed, of guarding the church in its infancy from the adhesion of hypocrites; for "great fear came upon all the church and upon as many as heard it; and of the rest durst no man join himself to them, but the people magnified them."
Ananias was sincere up to a certain point, for he had cast in his lot with the despised "Nazarenes," but he wished to gain a high name in the church by seeming to have given his all, while he really gave but a part. He was not obliged to throw his property into a common Christian fund (as Peter's words show, "after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?") It was a compromise between love of Christian applause and worldliness; "Satan filled his heart" as "Satan entered into Judas" (Luke 22:3).
At the beginning of the course of the New Testament church an awful example was given to guard her in guileless sincerity from the world's corruption's; just as at the beginning of the course of the Old Testament church, Israel, a similar example was given in Achan's case, to warn her that she was to be a holy people, separate from and witnessing against the world's pollution's by lust (Joshua 7). The common fund which the first disciples voluntarily brought was a kind of firstfruits to the Lord in entering on possession of the spiritual Canaan, as Jericho's spoil was a firstfruit to Jehovah of the earthly Canaan. The need there was for such a prescient warning appears from the last protest of the same apostle Peter in his 2nd Epistle, against the growing covetousness and lust within the church.
3. A Jew Christian at Damascus, "a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there" (Acts 9:10, etc., Acts 22:12, etc.). By the Lord's direction in a vision, he sought out Saul in his blindness and foodlessness for three days after Jesus' appearing to him; putting hands on Saul, Ananias was the Lord's instrument of restoring his sight, and conveying to him the Holy Spirit, that he might be "a chosen vessel to bear Jesus' name before the Gentiles, and kings and Israel, as a witness unto all men of what he had seen and heard, suffering as well as doing great things for His name's sake. Ananias told him, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." How striking that Ananias, whom Saul would have seized for prison and death, should be the instrument of giving him light and life. Tradition makes Ananias subsequently bishop of Damascus and a martyr.