Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
Acts of the
Notes on Chapter 16.
Verse 1. A certain disciple— Bishop Pearce would read the latter part of this verse and the beginning of the next thus-A certain disciple named Timotheus, (the son of a certain Jewish woman that believed, but of a father who was a Greek,) who was well reported of by the brethren, etc.
This Timothy was the same person to whom St. Paul wrote those two noble epistles which are still extant. His mother’s name was Eunice, as we learn from 2 Timothy 1:5. What his father’s name was we know not; he was either a mere heathen, or, at most, only a proselyte of the gate, who never submitted to circumcision: had he submitted to this rite, he would, no doubt, have circumcised his son; but the son being without it is a proof that the father was so too. Some MSS. state that Timothy’s mother was now a widow; but this does not appear to be well founded.
Verse 2. Which was well reported of— These words are spoken of Timothy, and not of his father. At this time Timothy must have been very young; for, several years after, when appointed to superintend the Church at Crete, he appears to have been then so young that there was a danger of its operating to the prejudice of his ministry: 1 Timothy 4:12, Let no man despise thy youth. He had a very early religious education from his godly mother Eunice, and his not less pious grandmother Lois; and, from his religious instructions, was well prepared for the work to which God now called him.
Verse 3. Took and circumcised him— For this simple reason, that the Jews would neither have heard him preach, nor would have any connection with him, had he been otherwise. Besides, St. Paul himself could have had no access to the Jews in any place, had they known that he associated with a person who was uncircumcised: they would have considered both to be unclean. The circumcision of Timothy was a merely prudential regulation; one rendered imperiously necessary by the circumstances in which they were then placed; and, as it was done merely in reference to this, Timothy was lain under no necessity to observe the Mosaic ritual, nor could it prejudice his spiritual state, because he did not do it in order to seek justification by the law, for this he had before, through the faith of Christ. In Galatians 2:3-5, we read that Paul refuses to circumcise Titus, who was a Greek, and his parents Gentiles, notwithstanding the entreaties of some zealous Judaizing Christians, as their object was to bring him under the yoke of the law: here, the case was widely different, and the necessity of the measure indisputable.
Verse 4. They delivered them the decrees for to keep— ta dogmata, ta kekrimena upo twn apostolwn. Bishop Pearce contends that ta dogmata, the decrees, is a gloss which was not in the text originally; and that the ta kekrimena, the judgments or determinations of the apostles, was all that was originally written here. He supports his opinion by a reference to the word krinw, I judge, used by James, Acts 15:19, whence the whole decision, as it referred-1. to the inexpediency of circumcising the Gentiles; and, 2. to the necessity of observing the four precepts laid down, was called ta kekrimena, the things that were judged, or decided on; the judgments of the apostolic council. Instead of gegrammena, the Syrian has a word that answers to gegrammena, the decrees that were written. The word dogma, from dokew, to think proper, determine, decree, signifies an ordinance or decree, properly and deliberately made, relative to any important point, and which, in reference to that point, has the force of law. Our term dogma, which we often abuse, is the Greek word in English letters.
Verse 5. And so were the Churches established— The disputations at Antioch, relative to circumcision, had no doubt spread far and wide among other Churches, and unhinged many. The decrees of the apostles came in good time, and prevented farther mischief: the people, saved from uncertainty, became established in the faith; and the Church had a daily accession of converted souls.
Verse 6. Were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia.— The Asia mentioned here could not be Asia Minor in general, for Galatia, Phrygia, Pisidia, Lycaonia, and Pamphylia, were provinces of it, and in these the apostles preached; but it was what was called Proconsular Asia, which included only Ionia, AEolia, and Lydia. The apostles were not suffered to visit these places at this time; but they afterwards went thither, and preached the Gospel with success; for it was in this Proconsular Asia that the seven Churches were situated. God chose to send his servants to another place, where he saw that the word would be affectionately received; and probably those in Proconsular Asia were not, as yet, sufficiently prepared to receive and profit by it.
Verse 7. After they were come to Mysia— They passed through Phrygia into Mysia, which lay between Bithynia on the north, Phrygia on the east, AEolia on the south, and the Mediterranean on the west.
But the Spirit suffered them not— God saw that that was not the most proper time to preach the word at Bithynia; as he willed them to go immediately to Macedonia, the people there being ripe for the word of life. Instead of to pneuma, the Spirit merely, to pneuma ihsou, the Spirit of JESUS, is the reading of ABCDE, several others, with both the Syriac, the Coptic, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, Itala, and several of the fathers. The reading is undoubtedly genuine, and should be immediately restored to the text.
Verse 8. Came down to Troas.— The Troad, or part of Phrygia Minor in which the celebrated city of Troy was formerly situated. This city was first built by Dardanus, who was its king, and from whom it was called Dardania; from Tros, his grandson, it was called Troja, or Troy; and from his son, Ilus, it was called Ilium. It has been long so completely destroyed that no ascertainable vestige of it remains; insomuch that some have even doubted of its existence. Those who contend for the reality of the history of Troy suppose it to have stood on the site of the modern village Bounarbachi, about twelve miles from the sea, on an eminence, at the termination of a spacious plain.
Verse 9. A vision appeared to Paul in the night— Whether this was in a dream, or whether a representation made to the senses of the apostle, we cannot tell. A man of Macedonia appeared to him, and made this simple communication, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
Some suppose that the guardian angel of Macedonia appeared to St. Paul in a human shape; others, that it was a Divine communication made to his imagination in a dream.
Verse 10. We endeavored to go into Macedonia— This is the first place that the historian St. Luke refers to himself: WE endeavored, etc. And, from this, it has been supposed that he joined the company of Paul, for the first time, at Troas.
Assuredly gathering— sumbibazontev, Drawing an inference from the vision that had appeared.
That the Lord had called us for to preach— That is, they inferred that they were called to preach the Gospel in Macedonia, from what the vision had said, come over and help us; the help meaning, preach to us the Gospel. Instead of o kuriov, the Lord, meaning JESUS, several MSS., such as ABCE, several others, with the Coptic, Vulgate, Theophylact, and Jerome, have o qeov, GOD. Though this stands on very reputable authority, yet the former seems to be the better reading; for it was the SPIRIT OF JESUS, Acts 16:7, that would not suffer them to go into Bithynia, because he had designed that they should immediately preach the Gospel in Macedonia.
Verse 11. Loosing from Troas— Setting sail from this place.
With a straight course to Samothracia— This was an island of the AEgean Sea, contiguous to Thrace, and hence called Samothracia, or the Thracian Samos. It is about twenty miles in circumference, and is now called Samandrachi by the Turks, who are its present masters.
And the next day to Neapolis.— There were many cities of this name; but this was a sea-port town of Macedonia, a few miles eastward of Philippi. Neapolis signifies the new city.
Verse 12. And from thence to Philippi— This was a town of Macedonia, in the territory of the Edones, on the confines of Thrace, situated on the side of a steep eminence. It took its name from Philip II., king of Macedon. It is famous for two battles, fought between the imperial army, commanded by Octavianus, afterwards Augustus, and Mark Antony, and the republican army, commanded by Brutus and Cassius, in which these were successful; and a second, between Octavianus and Antony on the one part, and Brutus on the other. In this battle the republican troops were cut to pieces, after which Brutus killed himself. It was to the Church in this city that St. Paul wrote the epistle that still goes under their name. This place is still in being, though much decayed, and is the see of an archbishop.
The chief city of that part of Macedonia— This passage has greatly puzzled both critics and commentators. It is well known that, when Paulus AEmilius had conquered Macedonia, he divided it into four parts, merh, and that he called the country that lay between the rivers Strymon and Nessus, the first part, and made Amphipolis its chief city, or metropolis; Philippi, therefore, was not its chief city. But Bishop Pearce has, with great show of reason, argued that, though Amphipolis was made the chief city of it by Paulus AEmilius, yet Philippi might have been the chief city in the days of St. Paul, which was two hundred and twenty years after the division by P. AEmilius. Besides, as it was at this place that Augustus gained that victory which put him in possession of the whole Roman empire, might not he have given to it that dignity which was before enjoyed by Amphipolis? This is the most rational way of solving this difficulty; and therefore I shall not trouble the reader with the different modes that have been proposed to alter and amend the Greek text.
And a colony— That is, a colony of Rome; for it appears that a colony was planted here by Julius Caesar, and afterwards enlarged by Augustus; the people, therefore, were considered as freemen of Rome, and, from this, call themselves Romans, Acts 16:21. The Jewish definition of aynlq kolonia (for they have the Latin word in Hebrew letters, as St. Luke has it. here, kolwnia, in Greek letters) is, a free city, which does not pay tribute.
Verse 13. By a river side, where prayer was wont to be made— ou enomizeto proseuch einai, where it was said there was a proseucha. The proseucha was a place of prayer, or a place used for worship, where there was no synagogue. It was a large building uncovered, with seats, as in an amphitheatre. Buildings of this sort the Jews had by the sea side, and by the sides of rivers. See this subject considered at large in the note on Luke 6:12. It appears that the apostles had heard from some of the Gentiles, or from some of the Jews themselves, that there was a place of prayer by the river side; and they went out in quest of it, knowing that, as it was the Sabbath, they should find some Jews there.
Spake unto the women— Probably this was before the time of their public worship, and while they were waiting for the assembling of the people in general; and Paul improved the opportunity to speak concerning Christ and salvation to the women that resorted thither.
Verse 14. Lydia, a seller of purple— She probably had her name from the province of Lydia, in which the city of Thyatira was situated. The Lydian women have been celebrated for their beautiful purple manufactures.
Which worshipped God— That is, she was a proselyte to the Jewish religion; as were probably all the women that resorted hither.
Whose heart the Lord opened— As she was a sincere worshipper of God, she was prepared to receive the heavenly truths spoken by Paul and his companions; and, as she was faithful to the grace she had received, so God gave her more grace, and gave her now a Divine conviction that what was spoken by Paul was true; and therefore she attended unto the things-she believed them and received them as the doctrines of God; and in this faith she was joined by her whole family, and in it they were all baptized.
Verse 15. If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord— The meaning seems to be this: If my present reception of the Gospel of Christ be a proof to you that I have been faithful to the Lord, in the light previously imparted, and that I am as likely to be faithful to this new grace as I have been to that already received, and, consequently, not likely by light or fickle conduct to bring any discredit on this Divine work, come into my house, and abide there. It is wrong to suppose that this woman had not received a measure of the light of God before this time.
And she constrained us.— She used such entreaties and persuasions that at last they consented to lodge there.
Verse 16. As we went to prayer— eiv proseuchn, Into the proseucha: see on Acts 16:13, and on Luke 6:12. The article, thn, is added here by ABCE, several others, Origen and Theophylact: thus makes the place more emphatic, and seems to determine the above meaning of proseuchn to be right-not the act of prayer or praying to God, but the place, the oratory, in which these proselytes assembled for the purpose of praying, reading the law and the prophets, and such like exercises of devotion. It appears that the apostles spent dome time here; as it is evident, from this and the following verses, that they often resorted to this place to preach the Gospel.
Possessed with a spirit of divination— ecousan pneuma puqwnov, Having a spirit of Python, or of Apollo. Pytho was, according to fable, a huge serpent, that had an oracle at Mount Parnassus, famous for predicting future events; Apollo slew this serpent, and hence he was called Pythius, and became celebrated as the foreteller of future events; and all those, who either could or pretended to predict future events, were influenced by the spirit of Apollo Pythius. As often-times the priestesses of this god became greatly agitated, and gave answers apparently from their bellies, when their mouths remained close, puqwn was applied to the eggastrimuqoi, or ventriloquists. Hesychius defines puqwn, daimonion mantikon, a divining demon; and it was evidently such a one that possessed this young woman, and which Paul expelled, Acts 16:18. See on this subject the notes on Leviticus 19:31, and Deuteronomy 18:11.
Brought her masters much gain by soothsaying— manteuouenh, By divination, or what we call telling fortunes. Our term soothsaying coming from the Anglo-Saxon (Anglo-Saxon), truth; and (Anglo-Saxon), to say, i.e. truth saying, or saying the truth. For, as it was supposed among the heathen that such persons spoke by the inspiration of their god, consequently what they said must be true. However, our translators might have used a term here that would not have been so creditable to this Pythoness; for, what she said concerning the apostles excepted, she certainly could not be supposed to tell the truth, while her inspiration came from him who is the father of lies. But Satan will sometimes conceal himself under the guise of truth, that he may the more effectually deceive. See below.
Verse 17. These men are the servants, etc.— It is astonishing how such a testimony could be given in such a case; every syllable of it true, and at the same time full, clear, and distinct. But mark the deep design and artifice of this evil spirit: 1. He well knew that the Jewish law abhorred all magic, incantations, magical rites, and dealings with familiar spirits; he therefore bears what was in itself a true testimony to the apostles, that by it he may destroy their credit, and ruin their usefulness. The Jews, by this testimony, would be led at once to believe that the apostles were in compact with these demons, and that the miracles they wrought were done by the agency of these wicked spirits, and that the whole was the effect of magic; and this, of course, would harden their hearts against the preaching of the Gospel. 2. The GENTILES, finding that their own demon bore testimony to the apostles, would naturally consider that the whole was one system; that they had nothing to learn, nothing to correct; and thus the preaching of the apostles must be useless to them. In such a predicament is this, nothing could have saved the credit of the apostles but their dispossessing this woman of her familiar spirit, and that in the most incontestable manner; for what could have saved the credit of Moses and Aaron, when the magicians of Egypt turned their rods into serpents, had not Aaron’s rod devoured theirs? And what could have saved the credit of these apostles but the casting out of this spirit of divination, with which, otherwise, both Jews and Gentiles would have believed them in compact?
Verse 18. Paul, being grieved— Probably for the reasons assigned above.
Turned-to the spirit— Not to the woman; she was only the organ by which the spirit acted.
I command thee, in the name of Jesus— Jesus is the Savior; Satan is Abaddon and Apollyon, the destroyer. The sovereign Savior says to the destroyer, Come out of her; and he came out in the same hour. Every circumstance of this case proves it to have been a real possession. We have already had several opportunities of remarking the great accuracy of St. Luke in his accounts of demoniacs: his education as a physician gave him advantages to detect imposture of this kind where it subsisted; but he sees none in this case. He speaks of the spirit and the damsel as distinct persons. The damsel had a spirit of divination. Paul turned to the spirit, and said, I command THEE to come out of HER; and he came out in the same hour. Had not St. Luke considered this as a real case of diabolic possession, he has made use of the most improper language he could choose; language and forms of speech calculated to deceive all his readers, and cause them to believe a lie. But it is impossible that the holy apostle could do so, because he was a good man; and it is not likely he could be deceived by a parcel of charlatans, because he was a wise man; and it would be absurd to suppose that, while he was under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he could be imposed on by the cunning of even the devil himself.
Verse 19. When her masters saw— It appears she was maintained by some men, who received a certain pay from every person whose fortune she told, or to whom she made any discovery of stolen goods, etc., etc.
The hope of their gains was gone— /h elpiv, This hope; viz. the spirit. So completely was this spirit cast out that the girl could divine no more; and yet she continued a heathen still, for we do not hear a word of her conversion. Had she been converted, got baptized, and been associated with the apostles, the family of Lydia, etc., there would have been some show of reason to believe that there had been no possession in the case, and that the spirit of divination coming out of her meant no more than that, through scruple of conscience, she had left off her imposing arts, and would no longer continue to pretend to do what she knew she could not perform. But she still continued with her masters, though now utterly unable to disclose any thing relative to futurity!
Drew them into the market-place— This was the place of public resort, and, by bringing them here, they might hope to excite a general clamor against them; and probably those who are here called touv arcontav, the rulers, were civil magistrates, who kept offices in such public places, for the preservation of the peace of the city. But these words, the rulers, are suspected to be an interpolation by some critics: I think on no good ground.
Verse 20. Brought them to the magistrates— strathgoiv, The commanders of the army, who, very likely, as this city was a Roman colony, possessed the sovereign authority. The civil magistrates, therefore, having heard the case, as we shall soon find, in which it was pretended that the safety of the state was involved, would naturally refer the business to the decision of those who had the supreme command.
Exceedingly trouble our city— They are destroying the public peace, and endangering the public safety.
Verse 21. And teach customs— eqh, Religious opinions, and religious rites.
Which are not lawful for us to receive— The Romans were very jealous of their national worship. Servius, on the following lines of Virgil, has given us correct information on this point; and has confirmed what several other writers have advanced: —
Rex Evandrus ait: Non haec solemnia nobis
Vana superstitio, veterumque ignara deorum,
Imposuit. AEn. viii. v. 185, etc.
King Evander said:-It is not vain superstition, ignorant of the ancient worship of the gods, which has imposed these rites on us. Duo dicit, says Servius: non ideo Herculem colimus; aut quia omnem religionem veram putamus; aut quia deos ignoramus antiquos. Cautum enim fuerat, et apud Athenienses, et apud Romanos; ne quis NOVAS introduceret RELIGIONES: unde et Socrates damnatus est: et Chaldaei et Judaei unt urbe depulsi.
“He says two things: we do not worship Hercules because we believe every religion to be true; nor are we ignorant of the ancient gods. Great care was taken, both among the Athenians and Romans, that no one should introduce any new religion. It was on this account that Socrates was condemned, and on this account the Chaldeans and the Jews were banished from Rome.”
CICERO, Deuteronomy Legibus, lib. ii. c. 8, says: Separatim nemo habessit deos; neve NOVOS; sed nec ADVENAS, nisi publice ADSCITOS, PRIVATIM colunto. “No person shall have any separate gods, nor new ones; nor shall he privately worship any strange gods, unless they be publicly allowed.” The whole chapter is curious. It was on such laws as these that the people of Philippi pleaded against the apostles. These men bring new gods, new worship, new rites; we are Romans, and the laws forbid us to worship any new or strange god, unless publicly allowed.
Verse 22. The multitude rose up together— There was a general outcry against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes, and delivered them to the mob, commanding the lictors, or beadles, to beat them with rods, rabdizein. This was the Roman custom of treating criminals, as Grotius has well remarked.
Verse 23. Laid many stripes upon them— The Jews never gave more than thirty-nine stripes to any criminal; but the Romans had no law relative to this: they gave as many as they chose; and the apostles had, undoubtedly, the fullest measure. And perhaps St. Paul refers to this, where he says, 2 Corinthians 11:23: en plhgaiv uperballontwv, in stripes beyond measure or moderation.
Verse 24. The inner prison— Probably what we would call the dungeon; the darkest and most secure cell.
Made their feet fast in the stocks.— The to xulon, which we here translate stocks, is supposed to mean two large pieces of wood, pierced with holes like our stocks, and fitted to each other, that, when the legs were in, they could not be drawn out. The holes being pierced at different distances, the legs might be separated or divaricated to a great extent, which must produce extreme pain. It is this circumstance to which it is supposed Prudentius refers, in speaking of the torments of St. Vincent: —
Lignoque plantas inserit,
“They placed his feet in the stocks, his legs greatly distended!” If the apostles were treated in this way, lying on the bare ground with their flayed backs, what agony must they have suffered! However, they could sing praises notwithstanding.
Verse 25. At midnight Paul and Silas-sang praises— Though these holy men felt much, and had reason to fear more, yet they are undismayed, and even happy in their sufferings: they were so fully satisfied that they were right, and had done their duty, that there was no room for regret or self-reproach. At the same times they had such consolations from God as could render any circumstances not only tolerable, but delightful. They prayed, first, for grace to support them, and for pardon and salvation for their persecutors; and then, secondly, sang praises to God, who had called them to such a state of salvation, and had accounted them worthy to suffer shame for the testimony of Jesus. And, although they were in the inner prison, they sang so loud and so heartily that the prisoners heard them.
Verse 26. There was a great earthquake— Thus God bore a miraculous testimony of approbation to his servants; and, by the earthquake, and loosing the bonds of the prisoners, showed, in a symbolical way, the nature of that religion which they preached: while it shakes and terrifies the guilty, it proclaims deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison-doors to them that are bound; and sets at liberty them that are bruised.
Every one’s bands were loosed.— And yet so eminently did God’s providence conduct every thing, that not one of the prisoners made his escape, though the doors were open, and his bolts off!
Verse 27. The keeper of the prison-would have killed himself— Every jailor was made responsible for his prisoner, under the same penalty to which the prisoner himself was exposed. The jailor, awaking, and finding the prison-doors open, taking it for granted that all the prisoners had made their escape, and that he must lose his life on the account, chose rather to die by his own hand than by that of others. For it was customary among the heathens, when they found death inevitable, to take away their own lives. This custom was applauded by their philosophers, and sanctioned by some of their greatest men.
Verse 28. Do thyself no harm— As it was now dark, being midnight, St. Paul must have had a Divine intimation of what the jailor was going to do; and, to prevent it, cried out aloud, Do thyself no harm, for we are all here.
Verse 29. He called for a light— That he might see how things stood, and whether the words of Paul were true; for on this his personal safety depended.
Came trembling— Terrified by the earthquake, and feeling the danger to which his own life was exposed.
Fell down before Paul and Silas— The persons whom a few hours before he, according to his office, treated with so much asperity, if not cruelty, as some have supposed; though, by the way, it does not appear that he exceeded his orders in his treatment of the apostles.
Verse 30. Brought them out— Of the dungeon in which they were confined.
What must I do to be saved?— Whether this regard personal or eternal safety, it is a question the most interesting to man. But it is not likely that the jailor referred here to his personal safety. He had seen, notwithstanding the prison doors had been miraculously opened, and the bonds of the prisoners all loosed, that not one of them had escaped: hence he could not feel himself in danger of losing his life on this account; and consequently it cannot be his personal safety about which he inquires. He could not but have known that these apostles had been preaching among the people what they called the doctrine of salvation; and he knew that for expelling a demon they were delivered into his custody: the Spirit of God had now convinced his heart that he was lost, and needed salvation; and therefore his earnest inquiry is how he should obtain it. The answer of the apostles to the jailor shows that his inquiry was not about his personal safety; as his believing on Jesus Christ could have had no effect upon that, in his present circumstances. Men who dispute against this sense of the word are not aware that the Spirit of God can teach any thing to a heart, which the head of a person has not previously learned. Therefore, they say it was impossible that a heathen could make such an inquiry in reference to his eternal state, because he could know nothing about it. On this ground, how impertinent would the answer of the apostles have been: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be put in a state of PERSONAL SAFETY, and thy family! I contend that neither he nor his family were in any danger, as long as not one prisoner had escaped; he had, therefore, nothing from this quarter to fear; and, on the ground against which I contend, his own question would have been as impertinent as the apostles’ answer.
Verse 31. Believe on the Lord Jesus— Receive the religion of Christ, which we preach, and let thy household also receive it, and ye shall be all placed in the sure way to final salvation.
Verse 32. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord— Thus, by teaching him and all that were in his house the doctrine of the Lord, they plainly pointed out to them the way of salvation. And it appears that he and his whole family, who were capable of receiving instructions, embraced this doctrine, and showed the sincerity of their faith by immediately receiving baptism. And, by the way, if he and all his were baptized straightway, paracrhma, immediately, instantly, at that very time, dum ipsa res agitur, it is by no means likely that there was any immersion in the case; indeed, all the circumstances of the case, the dead of the night, the general agitation, the necessity of despatch, and the words of the text, all disprove it. The apostles, therefore, had another method of administering baptism besides immersion, which, if practised according to the Jewish formalities, must have required considerable time, and not a little publicity. As the Jews were accustomed to receive whole families of heathens, young and old, as proselytes, by baptism, so here the apostles received whole families, those of Lydia and the jailor, by the same rite. It is therefore pretty evident that we have in this chapter very presumptive proofs: 1. That baptism was administered without immersion, as in the case of the jailor and his family; and 2. That children were also received into the Church in this way; for we can scarcely suppose that the whole families of Lydia and the jailor had no children in them; and, if they had, it is not likely that they should be omitted; for the Jewish practice was invariably to receive the heathen children with their proselyted parents.
Verse 33. Washed their stripes— elousen apo twn plhgwn, He washed from the stripes: i.e. he washed the blood from the wounds; and this would not require putting them into a pool, or bath, as some have ridiculously imagined.
Verse 34. He set meat before them— They were sufficiently exhausted, and needed refreshment; nor had the apostles any such inherent miraculous power as could prevent them from suffering through hunger, or enable them to heal their own grounds. As they were the instruments of bringing health to his soul, he became the instrument of health to their bodies. Genuine faith in Christ will always be accompanied with benevolence and humanity, and every fruit that such dispositions can produce. The jailor believed-brought them into his house-washed their stripes-and set meat before them.
Verse 35. And the magistrates sent the sergeants— The original word, pabdoucouv, means the lictors, persons who carried before the consul the fasces, which was a hatchet, round the handle of which was a bundle of rods tied. Why the magistrates should have sent an order to dismiss the apostles, whom they had so barbarously used the preceding evening, we cannot tell, unless we receive the reading of the Codex Bezae as genuine, viz. /hmerav de genomenhv, sunhlqon oi strathgoi epi to auto eiv thn agoran, kai anamnhsqentev ton seismon ton gegonta, efobhqhsan, kai apesteilan touv rabdoucouv k. t. l. And when it was day, the magistrates came together into the court, AND REMEMBERING THE EARTHQUAKE THAT HAD HAPPENED, they were afraid, and they sent the sergeants, etc. The Itala version of this same MS. has the same reading: so has also the margin of the later Syriac. If this MS. be correct, the cause of the dismissal of the apostles is at once evident: the earthquake had alarmed the magistrates; and, taking it for granted that this was a token of the Divine displeasure against them for their unprincipled conduct towards those good men, they wished to get as quietly rid of the business as they could, and therefore sent to dismiss the apostles. Whether this reading be genuine or not, it is likely that it gives the true cause of the magistrates’ conduct.
Verse 37. They have beaten us openly-being Romans— St. Paul well knew the Roman laws; and on their violation by the magistrates he pleads. The Valerian law forbade any Roman citizen to be bound. The Porcian law forbade any to be beaten with rods. “Poreia lex virgas ab omnium civium Romanorum corpore amovit.” And by the same law the liberty of a Roman citizen was never put in the power of the lictor. “Porcia lex libertatem civium lictori eripuit.” See CICERO, Orat. pro Rabirio. Hence, as the same author observes, In Verrem, Orat. 5: “Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum, scelus verberari.” It is a transgression of the law to bind a Roman citizen: it is wickedness to scourge him. And the illegality of the proceedings of these magistrates was farther evident in their condemning and punishing them unheard. This was a gross violation of a common maxim in the Roman law. Causa cognita, possunt multi absolvi; incognita, nemo condemnari potest. Cicero. “Many who are accused of evil may be absolved, when the cause is heard; but unheard, no man can be condemned.” Every principle of the law of nature and the law of nations was violated in the treatment these holy men met with from the unprincipled magistrates of this city.
Let them come themselves and fetch us out.— The apostles were determined that the magistrates should be humbled for their illegal proceedings; and that the people at large might see that they had been unjustly condemned, and that the majesty of the Roman people was insulted by the treatment they had received.
Verse 38. They feared when they heard-they were Romans.— They feared, because the Roman law was so constituted that an insult offered to a citizen was deemed an insult to the whole Roman people. There is a remarkable addition here, both in the Greek and Latin of the Codex Bezae. It is as follows: “And when they were come with many of their friends to the prison, they besought them to go out, saying: We were ignorant of your circumstances, that ye were righteous men. And, leading them out, they besought them, saying, Depart from this city, lest they again make an insurrection against you, and clamor against you.”
Verse 40. Entered into the house of Lydia— This was the place of their residence while at Philippi: see Acts 16:15.
They comforted them, and departed.— The magistrates were sufficiently humbled, and the public at large, hearing of this circumstance, must be satisfied of the innocency of the apostles. They, therefore, after staying a reasonable time at the house of Lydia, and exhorting the brethren, departed; having as yet to go farther into Macedonia, and to preach the Gospel in the most polished city in the world, the city of Athens. See the succeeding chapter.
GREAT and lasting good was done by this visit to Philippi: a Church was there founded, and the members of it did credit to their profession. To them the apostle, who had suffered so much for their sakes, was exceedingly dear; and they evidenced this by their contributions to his support in the times of his necessity. They sent him money twice to Thessalonica, Philippians 4:16, and once to Corinth, 2 Corinthians 11:9, and long afterwards, when he was prisoner in Rome, Philippians 4:9, 14, 18. About five or six years after this, St. Paul visited Philippi on his way to Jerusalem, and he wrote his epistle to them about ten years after his first journey thither. The first members of the Church of Christ in this place were Lydia and her family; and the next in all probability were the jailor and his family. These doubtless became the instruments of bringing many more to the faith; for the false imprisonment and public acquittal of the apostles by the magistrates must have made their cause popular; and thus the means which were used to prevent the sowing of the seed of life in this city became the means by which it was sown and established. Thus the wrath of man praised God; and the remainder of it he did restrain. Never were these words more exactly fulfilled than on this occasion.