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Ver. 1. And when they were escaped , etc.] From the danger they were exposed to by shipwreck, and were got safe to land; this is omitted in the Syriac version: then they knew that the island was called Melita ; an island toward the African shore, where it is placed both by Pliny f1325 , and Ptolomy f1326 ; in which, the latter says, was the city Melita: it lies between Sicily and Tripolis of Barbary, and is now called Malta: it was famous for the knights of Rhodes, which are now called the knights of Malta: it has its name from jlm , “to escape”, it being formerly a refuge to the Phoenicians, especially in stormy weather, in their long voyage from Tyre to Gades; and was indeed a place of escape to the Apostle Paul, and those that were with him.
And perhaps it might be so called from its being a refuge for pirates; for Cicero says, here pirates used to winter almost every year, and yet did not spoil the temple of Juno, as Verres did: though some say it was so called from the great abundance of honey found in it; for it was a very pleasant and fruitful island, bringing forth great plenty of wheat, rye, flax, cummin, cotton, figs, wine, roses, thyme, lavender, and many other sweet and delightful herbs, from whence bees did gather great plenty of honey. It was, according to Pliny, distant from Camerina eighty four miles, and from Lilybaeum a hundred and thirteen; and it is said to be distant from the promontory of Sicily an hundred miles, though others say sixty; and that it was so far from Syracuse, which is the next place the apostle came to in this voyage, was from Africa an hundred and ninety miles. On the east side, a little from the chief city of it, now called Malta, was a famous temple of Juno, spoiled by Verres, as before observed; and on the south side another of Hercules, the ruins of both which are yet to be seen. The compass of the island is about sixty miles, the length twenty, and the breadth twelve, and has in it five ports, and about sixty villages.
Ver. 2. And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness , etc.] The inhabitants of this island are called barbarians, not from the country of Barbary, near to which they were; nor so much on account of their manners, for, though Heathens, they were a civil and cultivated people, being, as appears from the name of the chief man of the island, under the Roman government; but because of their language, (see 1 Corinthians 14:11), it being neither Hebrew, Greek, nor Latin; for as the inhabitants were originally a colony of the Phoenicians, they spoke their language; and now though it is inhabited by such as are called Christians, they speak the Saracen or Arabic language, and little different from the old Punic or Phoenician language: however, though the inhabitants could not understand their language, they understood their case, and were very civil and humane to them, and showed them extraordinary kindness: for they kindled a fire ; or set fire to a large pile of wood; for a large fire it must be to be of service to such a number of people, in such a condition as they were: and received us everyone : though their number were two hundred threescore and sixteen; because of the present rain, and because of the cold ; for a violent rain fell on them, as is usual upon a storm, and much wetted them, so that a fire was very necessary; and it being winter or near it, it was cold weather; and especially they having been so long in a storm, and now shipwrecked; and some having thrown themselves into the sea, and swam to the island; and others having been obliged to put themselves on boards and planks, and get ashore, and were no doubt both wet and cold; so that nothing was more needful and more agreeable to them than a large fire.
Ver. 3. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks , etc.] Had picked up some sticks, and put them in a bundle fit for the fire, as everyone was busy to assist in this extremity; nor did the apostle think such an action below him, who in all things was a man of great humility and condescension: and laid them on the fire ; to increase it: there came a viper out of the heat : a viper is a kind of serpent, which brings forth its young living, to the number of twenty, only one in a day, which come forth wrapped up in thin skins, which break on the third day, and set them at liberty; and so is reckoned among viviparous animals, from whence it seems to have its name, whereas other serpents lay eggs and hatch them. It is said f1328 , that this remarkable reptile has the biggest and flattest head of all the serpent kind; its usual length is about half an ell, and its thickness an inch; its snout is not unlike that of a hog; it has sixteen small immovable teeth in each jaw, besides two other large, sharp, hooked, hollow, transparent, canine teeth, situate at each side of the upper jaw, which are those that do the mischief: these are flexible in their articulation, and are ordinarily laid flat along the jaw, the animal never raising them but when it would bite The roots or bases of these teeth, or fangs, are encompassed with a vesicle or bladder, containing the quantity of a large drop of a yellow insipid salivous juice. — It has only one row of teeth, whereas all other serpents have two; its body is not at all fetid, whereas the inner parts of the bodies of other serpents are intolerable. — It creeps very slowly, and never leaps like other serpents, though it is nimble enough to bite when provoked. — Its body is of two colours, ash coloured or yellow, and the ground speckled with longish brown spots; the scales under its belly are of the colour of well polished steel. Its bite is exceeding venomous, and its poison the most dangerous. Now when this viper here is said to come out of the heat, the meaning is, that it came out from the sticks, which were laid upon the fire, being forced from thence by the heat of it: and so the Syriac version renders it, “there came out of them” (the sticks) “a viper, because of the heat of the fire”; it lay quiet among the sticks, among which, and such like things, this creature often lies; but when the fire began to heat it, it sprung out: and fastened on his hand ; or wrapped itself about his hand: the Syriac and Arabic versions render it, “bit his hand”; but that does not seem so likely, since he felt no harm by it; the Ethiopic version, “hung upon his hand”; which agrees with what follows; nor is it inconsistent with its wrapping itself about his hand, which is the more proper signification of the word used.
Ver. 4. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast , etc.] The viper is called “Therion”, a beast, it being of the viviparous kind; and hence comes “Theriaca”, or “Venice treacle”, the foundation of which composition is vipers’ flesh; and it is called venomous, because it is of all serpents the most venomous: this when the country people saw hang on his hand , having wrapped itself about it, they said among themselves, no doubt this man is a murderer : they might see he was a prisoner by his chain, or might learn it from some of the company, and therefore took it for granted he had been guilty of some crime; and by the viper’s fastening on him, they concluded it was murder he was guilty of; for the same notion might obtain among them, as among the Jews, that a murderer that could not be legally convicted, was sometimes punished this way. “Says R. Simeon ben Shetach f1329 , may I never see the consolation, if I did not see one run after his friend into a desert place; and I ran after him, and I saw the sword in his hand, and the blood dropping, and he that was slain panting; and I said to him, O wicked man, who has slain this? either I or thou; but what shall I do? for thy blood is not delivered into my hand; “for the law says, by the mouth of two or three witnesses he shall surely die” (( Deuteronomy 17:6)): may he that knows the thoughts take vengeance on that man that slew his friend; they say, they did not remove from thence, çjn abç d[ , “till a serpent came”, and bit him, and he died.”
So the Jews observe, that when the execution of capital punishments was taken away from them, yet such who deserved them were punished by God in a way equivalent to them: so for instance, if a man committed a crime, for which he deserved to be burnt, either he fell into the fire, or wkçwn çjn , “a serpent bit him” f1330 ; or if he deserved to be strangled, either he was drowned in a river, or died of a quinsy. There is a kind of an asp which the Egyptians call “Thermuthis”, which they reckon sacred, and worship: this they say will not hurt good men, but destroys the wicked; and if so, says the historian, then dikh , “vengeance”, or justice has honoured this creature, to be so sharp sighted as to discern the good from the bad; and they say, Isis sends it to the most wicked f1331 . Agreeably to which these men reason, whom though he hath escaped the sea : has not been drowned there, when shipwrecked, yet vengeance suffereth not to live . The Greek word “Dice” rendered “vengeance”, is the name of a goddess among the Heathens, said to be the daughter of Jupiter and Themis f1332 . She is represented as sitting by her father Jupiter; and when anyone does injury to another, informs him of it f1333 . She is painted sorrowful, and with a contracted forehead, a grave countenance, and a rough aspect, to strike terror in unrighteous persons, and give confidence to righteous ones f1334 , agreeably to her name, which signifies “justice”. This deity the barbarians supposed pursued Paul; and though she let him escape the sea, she will not suffer him to live any longer; for they looked upon the viper’s fastening on him, as to be sent by her, so to be immediate death to him.
Ver. 5. And he shook off the beast into the fire , etc.] Having held it a while, and as being master of it, and as not being afraid of it, though it was the ready way to provoke it to fasten on him again: and felt no harm ; it having not bit him, nor infected him with its poison; and hereby was fulfilled what our Lord promised to his disciples, ( Mark 16:18); Ver. 6. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen , etc.] With the venomous bite of the viper; swelling is one of the symptoms following the bite of this creature; and if the bite does not issue in death, yet the swelling continues inflamed for some time. The symptoms following the bite of a viper are said to be an acute pain in the place wounded; swelling, first red, afterwards livid, spreading by degrees; great faintness; a quick, low, and sometimes interrupted pulse; sickness at the stomach; bilious convulsions: vomiting; cold sweats; sometimes pains about the navel; and death itself, if the strength of the patient, or the slightness of the bite, do not overcome it: if he does overcome it, the swelling continues inflamed for some time; and the symptoms abating, from the wound runs a sanious liquor, little pustules are raised about it, and the colour of the skin is as if the patient were icterical or jaundice; or had the jaundice: the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, “that he should burn”, or “burnt”; that is, inflamed, for the bite of the viper causes an inflammation, a hot swelling, which rises up in pustules or blisters: or fallen down dead suddenly ; for immediate death is sometimes the effect of such poison. Pliny relates, that the Scythians dip their arrows in the sanies or corrupt matter of vipers, and in human blood, which by the least touch causes immediate death; and Pausanias reports from a certain Phoenician, that a man fleeing from a viper got up into a tree, where the viper could not reach him, but it blew, or breathed out its poison on the tree, and the man immediately died: though the force of this creature’s poison does not always, and in all places, and in all persons operate alike; some die within a few hours, and others live some days, some to the third day, and some to the seventh f1338 : but after they had looked a great while ; upon the apostle, to observe whether any inflammation or swelling arose, or death ensued, as they expected: when they had waited some time, perhaps an hour or two, and saw no harm come to him ; that he was neither inflamed, nor swelled, nor dead; that it had no manner of effect upon him, and no evil of punishment was inflicted on him hereby, from whence they could conclude that he was guilty of any notorious crime: they changed their minds, and said that he was a god : before they took him to be a murderer, and now they even ascribe deity to him, as was usual with the Gentiles, when anything extraordinary was performed by men: so the Lystrians took Paul for Mercury, and Barnabas for Jupiter, upon the apostle’s curing the cripple, ( Acts 14:11,12); but what god the inhabitants of Melita thought him to be, is not certain; some think Hercules, who was worshipped in this island. The inhabitants of this island now believe that the apostle expelled all poison and venom out of it when he was there; and it is reported, that the children born in this place fear not any snakes, neither are hurt by anything that is venomous, insomuch that they will take scorpions, and eat them without danger; although, in all other parts of the world, those kind of creatures are most pernicious, and yet do no manner of hurt to men in this island; yea, it is affirmed, that there is a sort of earth found here, which kills serpents: as for the eating of them, the viper itself may be eaten; most authors agree f1339 , that there is no part, humour, or excrement, not even the gall itself, of a viper, but may be swallowed without much harm; accordingly the ancients, and, as several authors assure us, the Indians at this day, both of the east and west, eat them as we do eels — viper’s flesh either roasted or boiled, physicians unanimously prescribe as an excellent restorative, particularly in the elephantiasis, incurable consumptions, leprosy, etc.
Ver. 7. In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island , etc.] Or “the first man of the island”; so the governor of Melita used to be called, as appears by an inscription mentioned by Bochart, wherein a Roman knight is called prwtov melitaiwn , “the first of the Melitians”; for this island was under the Roman government, and the very name of this chief man shows it: it was first in the hands of the Africans, when Dido built Carthage, which was eight or nine hundred years before the time of Christ: Battus was king of this island, from whom it was taken by Hiarbas king of Lybia, or of the Getulians, and who also conquered Carthage; and it continued under the power of the Carthaginians, until they were conquered by the Romans; and then it was taken by Titus Sempronius, above two hundred years before Christ, in whose hands it was when the apostle was here; since then it has been taken by the Saracenes, though they held it not, being taken from them by Roger earl of Sicily, in the year 1090; and so it remained in the hands of the Sicilians, until the knights of Rhodes were driven out of that island by the Turks, in 1522; and then this was given them by the Emperor Charles the Fifth seven years after, on condition they would oppose the Turks, and defend that part of Christendom, which they bravely did: in the year 1565, it was besieged by Pialis Bassa, but without success f1340 ; and it is said to be so well fortified, as that it is impossible it should be taken, unless through treachery or famine; it is now in the hands of the said knights: but whether this man was governor of the island or not, it may be reasonably thought that he was the richest man in the island, and in the greatest honour and dignity; and had near the shore, where the ship’s company landed, many houses and much land, and farms and vineyards, and the like: whose name was Publius ; or Poplius, as some copies, and the Syriac version read. Publius was a name common with the Romans; it was with them a forename, by which such were called, who were “pupilli”, or fatherless, for it is a contraction of “Popilius”. There was one of this name who was bishop of Athens, said to succeed Dionysius the Areopagite there; who is thought by some to be the same here mentioned; who they say was first bishop in his own country, which through mistake they make to be Miletus, instead of Melita; and afterwards bishop of Athens, where he suffered martyrdom: but this is not likely, for even though he might be converted by the apostle, of which we have no account; and also became a preacher of the Gospel, of which there is no proof; it is not probable that he should leave his own country, and go to Athens, and take upon him the care of that church there: but whether he was afterwards converted or not, he was very kind to the apostle and the ship’s company, as follows: who received us, and lodged us three days courteously ; this was a very considerable instance of humanity and hospitality, to receive so many strangers at once into his houses, as two hundred three score and sixteen; and give them food and lodging, for three days together, and that in such a kind, friendly, and cheerful manner: and thus, as Abraham and Lot, by receiving strangers, entertained angels at unawares, so Publius, though ignorant of it, entertained an apostle of Christ among those strangers; the benefit of which he afterwards enjoyed, and which was a compensation for his liberality and beneficence.
Ver. 8. And it came to pass that the father of Publius , etc.] So that Publius was not an old man, though of so much dignity and wealth: the Arabic version, contrary to all copies, and other versions, reads, “the son of Publius”: lay sick of a fever ; or fevers, of different sorts, a complication of them, which sometimes is the case; unless this was an intermitting fever, and the several fits of it are intended; or rather the plural number is put for the singular, to denote the vehemence of it, and which was attended with another disorder, and might be brought on by it: and of a bloody flux ; or dysentery, a pain of the bowels, as the Syriac version renders it; or an ulceration of the bowels, as the Arabic version; which occasioned a discharge of blood, so that his case was very threatening. This disease, according to modern writers f1341 , is attended with a fever. The word “dysentery” here used properly signifies that kind of flux of the belly, characterized by the frequency of stools, or dejections, mixed with blood, and accompanied with gripes: the fever, ulcer, etc. which attend it, are not essential to the disease; though many both of the ancients and moderns think the ulcer is. — There are three kinds of “dysenteries”; the “first” when a laudable blood is evacuated from a mere plethora, or plenitude, without any disorder of the intestines, as in the haemorrhoidal flux; the “second” when a thin watery blood is evacuated, called the “hepatic” flux, though really arising from haemorrhoidal vessels; the “third” kind, which is that that is properly called the dysentery, is when blood is cast out, mixed with a purulent matter in the excrements: this is either “benign”, i.e. without a fever, and not contagious; or “malignant”, which is attended with a pestilential fever, and frequently ravages whole cities and provinces, happening most commonly in armies; in the last stage, a sort of caruncles are frequently ejected along with the purulent matter, which are difficult to be accounted for, unless from an excoriation and ulceration of the intestines: sometimes the intestines are even gangrened: this seems to have been the case of the father of Publius, which makes the following cure the more remarkable: to whom Paul entered in ; into the room where he was, no doubt with the consent and leave, if not at the request of Publius; the Ethiopic version adds, “and he entreated him to put his hand upon him”; that is, either Publius asked this favour of the apostle for his father, having heard of the affair of the viper, from whence he concluded there was something divine and extraordinary in him; or the father of Publius asked this for himself: and prayed and laid his hands on him, and healed him ; when Paul had entered the room, and found in what a bad condition the sick man was, he either kneeled down and prayed by him, or stood and prayed over him, and for him, that God would restore him to his health; and this he did, to let them know that he himself was not a god; and that the cure that would now be wrought would be from God, and not from himself, and therefore all the glory should be given to God; and he laid his hands on him, as a sign or symbol, or rite that was used in extraordinary cases, and agreeably to the direction and promise of Christ, ( Mark 16:18); and upon this a cure followed; both the diseases left him at once, and he was restored to health.
Ver. 9. So when this was done , etc.] This miracle was wrought, and the fame of it spread over the island: others also which had diseases in the island came : from all parts of it, to the apostle: and were healed ; of whatsoever diseases they were afflicted with.
Ver. 10. Who also honoured us with many honours , etc.] Not with divine honours, with religious adorations, as if they had been so many deities; for these they would not have received, nor have recorded them, to the commendation of the inhabitants; but civil honours, expressions of respect and gratitude; and particularly gifts and presents, large and valuable, in which sense the phrase is used by Jewish writers; so upon those words in ( Judges 13:17). “What is thy name, that when the sayings come to pass, we may do thee honour?” they make this paraphrase f1342 , “Manoah said to him (the angel), tell me thy name, that I may inquire where to find thee, when thy prophecy is fulfilled, and give thee ˆrwd , “a gift”, hjnm ala Æwndbkw ˆyaw , “for there is no honour but a present”, or “offering”; or wherever this phrase is used, it signifies nothing else but a gift, as it is said, ( Numbers 22:17). “For honouring I will honour thee”:” that is, with money and gifts, as Balaam’s answer in the next verse shows, and so the Jewish commentators interpret it f1343 ; (see Gill on “ Timothy 5:17”); And when we departed ; from the island, which was not till three months from their first coming ashore: they laded [us] with such things as were necessary ; that is, for the voyage: they provided a proper supply of food for them, which they put into the strip, for their use in their voyage; by which they expressed their gratitude for the favours they received from Paul; for whose sake not only his company, but the whole ship’s company fared the better: and very likely many of them were converted under the apostle’s ministry; for it can hardly be thought that the apostle should be on this island three months, as he was, and not preach the Gospel to the inhabitants of it, in which he always met with success, more or less; and the great respect shown him at his departure seems to confirm this; though we meet with no account of any church, or churches, or preachers of the word in this place, in ecclesiastical history, until the “sixth” century, when mention is made of a bishop of the island of Melita f1344 ; indeed in the “fourth” century, Optatus Milevitanus is said by some, through mistake; to be bishop of Melita, when he was bishop of Milevis, a city in Africa upon the continent; and, through a like mistake, this island is said to be famous for a council held in it under Pope Innocent, against Pelagius, in the beginning of the “fifth” century; when the council was held at the above place Milevis, and not at Melita, from whence it was called the Milevitan council.
Ver. 11. And after three months we departed , etc.] From Melita; here they stayed the three winter months, which were unseasonable for navigation; but now the spring coming on, and the weather agreeable, they left the island, and sailed in a ship of Alexandria ; (see Gill on “ Acts 27:6”); which had wintered in the isle ; perhaps all the said three months, for the same reason: whose sign was Castor and Pollux ; or Dioscuri, that is, the sons of Jupiter; for Castor and Pollux were his sons, by Leda: these are placed among the constellations in the Zodiac, and go by the name of Gemini, or the twins; and these were supposed to have a power of saving men in danger at sea: wherefore such as were about to go to sea, first paid their devoirs, and made vows to them; which they performed when they returned, and were delivered from shipwreck; and when they were in danger at sea, they used to pray unto them: the fiery exhalations that sometimes appear at sea, they took for them; and when only one appeared, it was looked on as a bad omen; but when both, it was reckoned to portend a prosperous voyage; hence they were considered as sea deities; and the Ethiopic version accordingly renders it here “Dioscoura”, and adds, “who is the god of the mariners”: now the images of these two brothers were sometimes set at the head, or forepart of the ship, as they were in this, from whence the ship took its name; as it is very common for the names of ships to be the same with the pictures or images that are placed at the head of them: whether the centurion chose this ship because of its sign, imagining there might be more safety in it, he having suffered shipwreck already; or whether this was the only one in the island, that was going for Italy, is not certain, nor very material: the Arabic version takes the word rendered Castor and Pollux, to be the name of a man, who was the owner of the ship; for it reads the words thus, “in a ship of Alexandria”, that belonged “to a man of Alexandria, called Dioscorides”.
Ver. 12. And landing at Syracuse , etc.] A famous city in the isle of Sicily, now called Saragossa: it is placed by Ptolomy on the east side of the island, in the Adriatic sea; it was 180 furlongs, or two and twenty miles and a half in circuit, and formerly had a marble haven and triple wall, and as many towers; the founder of it was Archias, a Corinthian; Pliny says f1346 , that it is never so cloudy weather, but the sun is seen in it, at one time or another of the day: Cicero calls it the greatest and most beautiful of all the cities of Greece; it is such a city, he says, that it may be said to consist of four large cities; “one” part of it is called “the island”, which has two ports to it; “another” was called Acradina, in which were a large market, beautiful porticos, etc. the “third”, Tiche, in which was the ancient temple of Fortune; and the “fourth”, which because it was last built, was called Neapolis: it is a very ancient city, being built more than seven hundred years before the birth of Christ; it was a colony of the Corinthians; here reigned two tyrants, whose names were Dionysius; it was attacked by the Carthaginians, but without success, being delivered from the siege by Pyrrhus king of Epirus f1348 ; it was again assaulted by the Athenians, who were repulsed, and entirely conquered, about the year before Christ 413: after that it was taken by Marcellus, the Roman consul, about the year of the city of Rome 542 f1349 , after a three years’ siege; during which time it was defended, and preserved by the means of the famous mathematician Archimedes; who by his invention of warlike machines, baffled all the attempts of the Romans; but was killed by a soldier, as he was intent upon his studies, not knowing that the city was taken; and it continued in the hands of the Romans, until it was taken and plundered by the Saracens, in the year of Christ 675; and was retaken by Roger king of Apulia, about the year 1090, and is now under the government of Don Carlos, king of the two Sicilies; we tarried there three days ; on what account it is not said, whether on account of merchandise, or for the sake of the conversation of Christians here: it is certain there were churches in Sicily very early; we read of them in the “second” and “third” centuries; in the time of Constantine, at the beginning of the “fourth” century, there was a church at Syracuse, of which Chrestus was bishop, to whom the emperor wrote a letter himself, which is still extant in Eusebius f1350 : in the “fifth” century, Hilarius, a teacher at Syracuse, wrote from thence to Augustine, concerning the Pelagian heresy, to whom he gave an answer: in the “sixth” century, Maximinianus, bishop of this church, had the inspection of all the churches in Sicily committed to him, by Gregory; who was wonderfully preserved in a shipwreck, as he was returning from Rome; in this same age lived John, bishop of Syracuse, and Trajanus a presbyter, and Felix a deacon of the same church: in the seventh century there was one George bishop of this place, to whom Pope Vitalian wrote a letter; and in the same century a bishop of this church was in the sixth council at Constantinople f1351 .
Ver. 13. And from thence we fetched a compass , etc.] About the isle of Sicily, from Syracuse to Pachinus, the promontory of the island: and came to Rhegium ; a city in Calabria, called by Ptolomy Regium Julium; it was built, as Solinus says, by the Chalcidensians, and was formerly a city of the Brutians f1354 ; it is now called Reggio: it is said to have its name from its being broken off from the main continent, for it lies in the straits of Sicily; and formerly Sicily was joined to Italy, but was separated from it by the violence of the sea at this place: and after one day the south wind blew ; they stayed one day at Rhegium, and when they departed from thence, they had a south wind, which was favourable to them: whether the apostle preached here, or no, is not certain, since his stay was so short; some Popish writers tell some idle stories about the apostle’s preaching; how that the fishes came to the shore to hear him; that the grasshoppers were commanded by him to be silent, and have never been seen in that place since; that a stone pillar was set on fire by the flame of a candle, by which miracle the inhabitants present were converted and baptized; and one Stephen, that was in company, was made by him their first bishop: but in ecclesiastical history we meet with no account of any church in this place, until the fifth century; when the bishop of it, with others, subscribed a letter of Leo the First, sent into the east; and about the year 440, there was a synod of thirteen bishops convened in this place, on account of a certain ordination; and in the “seventh” century, a bishop of the church at Rhegium was present in the sixth council at Constantinople; in the “eighth”, Constantine, bishop of Rhegium, was in the Nicene synod f1356 : and we came the next day to Puteoli ; the Syriac version adds, “a city of Italy”; it was formerly called Dicearchia f1357 , from the strict justice used in the government of it: it had its name of Puteoli, either “a putore”, from the rankness and ill smell of the waters of it, through the “sulphur” and “alum” in them; or “a puteis”, from the wells about it, the waters of which, by Pausanias, are said to be so hot, as in time to melt the leaden pipes through which they flow, who calls it a town of the Tyrrhenians; by Pliny it is placed in Campania, and so Jerom says, Puteoli a city, a colony of Campania, the same that is called Dicearchia. Josephus also speaks of it as in the same country; for he says, that Herod and Herodias both came to Dicearchia, (or Puteoli), and found Caius (the emperor) at Baiai, which is a little town in Campania, about five furlongs from Dicearchia; and he also in another place says, the Italians call Dicearchia, potiolouv , “Potioli”; which is the same word the apostle here uses, and which is the Latin “Puteoli” corrupted; it is said to be first built by the Samians: frequent mention is made by writers f1363 , of “pulvis Puteolanus”, the dust of Puteoli; which being touched by the sea water, hardens into a stone; and was therefore used to bank the sea, break the waves, and repel the force of them: that it was a place by the sea side, may be learned from the sea being called after its name, “mare Puteolanum” f1364 , the sea of Puteoli; so Apollonius Tyaneus is said to sail from this place to Rome, whither he came in three days; to this port the ships of Alexandria particularly used to come, and hither persons were wont to go to take shipping for Alexandria f1366 ; it is now called by the Italians Pozzuolo, and lies about eight miles from Naples; and according to the following story of the Jews’, must be an hundred and twenty miles from Rome; who tell us f1367 , that “Rabban Gamaliel, and R. Eleazar ben Azariah, and R. Joshua, and R. Akiba, went to Rome, and they heard the noise of the multitude at Rome, from Puteoli, an hundred and twenty miles:” the story is a fable designed to signify the vast number of people at Rome, and the noise, hurry, and tumult there; but perhaps the distance between the two places may not be far from truth: and as fabulous is the account which R. Benjamin gives of this place Puteoli, when he says it was called Surentum, a great city which Tzintzan Hadarezer built, when he fled for fear of David.
Ver. 14. Where we found brethren , etc.] Christians; which is not to be wondered at, since it was a port much frequented, and where many came and went, of different countries and nations; particularly there were many Jews here, to whom the Gospel was first preached, and to some of them it was the power of God unto salvation in many places, and doubtless was so here: Josephus speaks of Jews in this place, who were deceived by a false Alexander, who pretended to be the son of Herod, a prince of their nation. Patrobulus, the same with Patrobas in ( Romans 16:14); who is reckoned one of the seventy disciples, is said to be bishop of this place; (see Gill on “ Luke 10:1”); though we have no account of its church state until the “fifth” century, when a bishop of the church at Puteoli is said to be in the council held at Ephesus against Eutyches, and sustained the place of Leo, pope of Rome: in the “sixth” century, a bishop of this church was in a council held at Rome, under Symmachus: in the seventh century, the bishop of Puteoli was in the sixth council at Constantinople f1370 : and were desired to tarry with them seven days ; that is, the Christians at Puteoli desired the apostle, and those that were with him, to stay a week with them, that they might have the advantage of a day of public worship together, and might enjoy much of their Christian conversation; and accordingly they did stay that time, no doubt by the leave, and with the consent of Julius the centurion; and which shows, that he used the apostle with great civility and courteousness, and was very ready to grant him favours; if he was not in this voyage converted by him, which is not unlikely, considering the whole of his conduct: and so we went toward Rome ; after they had stayed seven days at Puteoli, they set forward on their journey to Rome; for from hence they went thither on foot, though they might have gone from hence to Rome by sea, as Apollonius Tyaneus did; (see Gill on “ Acts 28:13”); and so likewise Titus the son of Vespasian, who went from Rhegium to Puteoli in a merchant ship, and from thence to Rome f1371 ; but it may be the ship unloaded here, and there was no other going for Rome at that time: Rome was the metropolis of Italy, the seat of the empire, and mistress of the whole world; it is so well known, as not to need describing: it was built on seven hills, and had its name either from Romulus the founder of it; or from the Greek word rwmh , which signifies “strength” f1372 , from whence Romulus is supposed to have his name; with the Hebrews it has its name from its sublimity, height, and glory, from the word µwr , which signifies to be high and exalted: some say it had its name from Roma, a daughter of Italus, who first laid the foundation of it, though Romulus and Remus brought it into the form of a city; it was built seven hundred and fifty years, and upwards, before the birth of Christ. The Jews make it to be of an earlier date; they say f1373 , that at the time Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter, Gabriel descended and fixed a reed in the sea, and brought up clay, and with it was built the great city, which is Rome; and in another place it is said, in the day in which Jeroboam set up the two calves, one at Dan, and the other at Bethel, was built a certain cottage, which is Italy of Greece, that is, Rome; for it is elsewhere observed f1375 , Italy of Greece, this is the great city of Rome; and again f1376 , on the day in which Jeroboam set up the two calves, Remus and Romulus came and built two cottages in Rome.
Ver. 15. And from thence , etc.] That is, from Rome, whither they were going: when the brethren heard of us ; when the Christians at Rome heard that the apostle and his friends were landed at Puteoli, and were on their journey to Rome: these were the members of the church at Rome; for there was a church state here before this time. The apostle had before this written a letter to them, called the Epistle to the Romans, in which he treats them as a church. The Papists say that the Apostle Peter was the first bishop of it, and pretend an uninterrupted succession from him; though it is questionable whether he ever was at Rome; and if he was, it is not probable that he should take upon him the care of a single church, which was not consistent with his office as an apostle: in the “first” century, the bishops or pastors of this church were as follow; after the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, Eusebius says, Linus was the first bishop of it, the same that is mentioned in ( 2 Timothy 4:21) and according to the same writer f1378 , Anencletus succeeded him, and then Clement, a fellow labourer of the Apostle Paul’s, ( Philippians 4:3); who wrote two epistles to the Corinthians, which are still extant; though Eusebius f1379 , not consistent with himself, makes Clement in another place to succeed Linus; and some make Clement even to be before him; and some place one Cletus before Anencletus and him: such an uncertainty is there, and such a puzzle attends the first account of this uninterrupted succession; and which seems designed in Providence to bring it into contempt: in the “second” century, Euarestus succeeded Clement; and then followed him Alexander, Sixtus, or Xystus, Telesphorus, Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus, Soter, Eleutherius, and Victor: in the “third” century, Victor was succeeded by Zephyrinus; and after him were Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Anterus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Sixtus, or Xystus II, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, and Gaius: in the “fourth” century, Marcellinus succeeded Gaius; who was followed by Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Julius, Liberius, Felix II, Damasus, and Siricius f1380 ; and further than this age, it is not worth while to follow them; the man of sin began to grow apace, and in a century or two afterwards, proclaimed himself universal bishop: they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and the Three Taverns ; these were both of them towns that lay in the Appian way to Rome; the former of these Horace makes mention of, in the account of his journey from Rome to Brundusium; first he says, he came to Aricia, or Rizza, which is about 160 furlongs, or 21 miles from Rome, and from thence to Appii Forum: that Appii Forum was further from Rome than the Three Taverns, appears from what Cicero says f1382 , who dates his letter to Atticus from Appii Forum, at four o’clock, and tells him, that be had sent him another a little before from “Tres Tabernae”, or the Three Taverns; and indeed, Appii Forum was one and fifty miles from Rome, and the Three Taverns but three and thirty: so that the sense must be, that some of the brethren from Rome came as far as the Three Taverns, and others as far as Appii Forum; which, as before observed, were two towns upon the road: hence the former of these was not a statue of Appius, near the city of Rome, as some have said; nor a market in the city itself, as says Jerom f1384 , or a writer under his name; whose words are, Appii Forum is the name of a market at Rome, from Appius, formerly a consul, and from whom the Appian way had its name: but this was a town at some distance; there were several towns in Italy of a like appellation; as Julii Forum, Cornelii Forum, now Imola, Livii Forum, now Forli: Pliny makes mention of an Appii Forum; and there was a town in Calabria, called Taberna: and as the one was not a mere market place, so the other does not design three houses for public entertainment; for the words should not be translated “three taverns”, nor indeed translated at all; nor are they by Luke, who retains the Latin name, as the name of a place; and here it was that Severus, the Roman emperor, was killed by Herculius Maximianus f1386 ; and this, in Constantine’s time, was the seat of a bishop; for among the bishops assembled on account of Donatus, mention is made of one “Felix a Tribus Tabernis” f1387 , or Felix bishop of Tres Tabernae, the same place we call “the Three Taverns”: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God and took courage ; that is, when he saw the brethren that came to meet him, he gave thanks to God for the sight of them, which he had so much desired; and he took heart and courage, and went on cheerfully, and in high spirits, towards Rome; in hope of seeing the rest, and believing that God had some work for him to do there.
Ver. 16. And when we came to Rome , etc.] To the city itself: the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard ; or general of the army; or, as some think, the governor of the “praetorian” band of soldiers, who attended the emperor as his guards: his name is thought to have been Burrhus Afranius; to him Julius the centurion delivered all the prisoners he brought from Caesarea, excepting Paul, to be disposed of by him, in the several prisons, or jails, to whom it belonged to take care of such persons: this clause is wanting in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him : this was owing, either to the letter which Festus sent to Rome concerning him, and his case; by which it appeared, that he was no malefactor, and therefore to be used in a different manner from the rest of the prisoners; or rather to the intercession of the centurion, who had all along used him in a very civil and courteous manner; who requesting this favour had it granted, that Paul should not be put into the common prison with the rest, but should dwell in an apartment by himself; or, as the Ethiopic version renders it, “at his own will”; where he himself pleased, for he dwelt in his own hired house, ( Acts 28:30); only he was under the care and custody of a soldier, who constantly attended him wherever he went; and which could not be otherwise, seeing he was chained, as in ( Acts 28:20) and his chain was put on his right hand, and fastened to the left hand of the soldier, that had him under his keeping; so that wherever he was or went, the soldier must be likewise: hence that passage in Seneca f1388 , “as the same chain joins together the prisoner and the soldier, so those things which are unlike go together; fear follows hope.”
Ver. 17. And it came to pass, that after three days , etc.] From his first coming to Rome, when he had hired himself a house, or lodging, and was settled in it, and was rested from the fatigue of his voyage and journey: Paul called the chief of the Jews together : he sent to the principal men among them; for though the Jews, were expelled from Rome in the reign of Claudius, they were now returned, and had their liberty of residing there; very likely by means of Poppea, Nero’s concubine, who favoured the Jews: but whether they had a synagogue, and these men were the chief and leading men in it, the doctors, rulers, and officers of it, are things not certain; however, these the apostle desired to come to him where he was, for whether he had the liberty of going about where he would, the soldier attending him, is not so clear a point: and when they were come together ; to his house, or lodging: he said unto them, men and brethren : which was the usual form of address with the Jews; (see Acts 7:2). Though I have committed nothing against the people and customs of our fathers ; meaning he had said nothing disrespectfully of the people of the Jews; nor had done anything to the prejudice of their temporal, spiritual, and eternal good, but just the reverse; nor had he said or done anything contrary to the laws and customs enjoined the Jews by Moses, even those that were of a ceremonial nature; for though he had everywhere declared that the Gentiles were not obliged to an obedience to them, yet he did not dissuade the Jews from the use of them; and oftentimes complied with them himself, things he had been charged with: yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans ; he was first seized by the Jews in the temple of Jerusalem, and then fell into the hands of Lysias, the chief captain; who bound him, and by whom he was sent to Caesarea, where he was retained a prisoner both by Felix and Festus, Roman governors.
Ver. 18. Who when they had examined me , etc.] About the things laid to his charge, had heard what his accusers had to object to him, and the defence he made for himself: would have let [me] go ; released him from his bonds, and set him at liberty to go where he pleased: because there was no cause of death in me ; no crime proved upon him, which was worthy of death; and this was the sense of Lysias the chief captain, and of Felix and Festus the Roman governors, and of King Agrippa.
Ver. 19. But when the Jews spake against it , etc.] His being cleared and dismissed, and desired he might be sent back to Jerusalem, to be tried and judged there, to which Festus seemed inclined: I was constrained to appeal to Caesar ; to prevent the design of the Jews upon him, which was to way lay him and kill him, or by what ways they could, right or wrong, take away his life; and to provide for his own safety: not that I had ought to accuse my nation of ; meaning, that he had no ill design in this appeal against his country, to expose them, and bring them under reproach and censure, but to vindicate himself, defend his own innocence, and preserve his character and life; suggesting, that what he did was not of choice, but by constraint, and with reluctance; being no friend to Heathen tribunals, nor any enemy to the Jewish nation.
Ver. 20. For this cause therefore have I called for you , etc.] To let them know the true state of his case; that though he was a prisoner, it was not for any crime he had done, much less any of a capital nature; and that as he was no scandal to his country, so neither did he intend to raise any against it, or say or do anything which might bring it into contempt and danger: as well as to see [you] and speak with [you] ; and keep up and maintain a free and friendly conversation together: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain ; which was then upon him, and he pointed to; the true reason of which was, because he had preached that the Messiah the tribes of Israel were hoping and waiting for, and who is the only solid foundation of the hope of eternal life and salvation, was already come; and that he had suffered and died, and rose again from the dead, and that Jesus of Nazareth was he; (see Jeremiah 14:8 17:13). And this title well agrees with Jesus Christ, who in the New Testament is called “our hope”, and “the hope of glory”, ( 1 Timothy 1:1 Colossians 1:27), and he is the hope of every Israelite indeed, of every sensible sinner, of every regenerated person, whether Jew or Gentile; and such are encouraged to hope in him for grace here, and glory hereafter: and whereas they see themselves lost and undone, and that there is no salvation for them by their own works, and that there is salvation in Christ, they are directed and encouraged to hope in him for it; because it is a work finished by him, and is complete in him; it is of free grace and favour bestowed; it is wrought out for the chief of sinners; and such as they themselves are, are invited by himself to look to him for it; and the Gospel declaration is, that whoever believes in him shall be saved: they see themselves to be sinners, and that there is no hope of the forgiveness of their sins from an absolute God, or the absolute mercy of God out of Christ, but that the blood of Christ was shed for the remission of sins, and that God, for Christ’s sake, does forgive sins: wherefore they hope in him for it; to which they are encouraged by the proclamation of the grace of God, as a forgiving God in Christ; by the promises of forgiveness in the covenant of grace; by the Gospel declaration of it; by its being entirely of free grace, through the blood of Christ; and by the many instances of the worst of sinners who have been favoured with it: these Israelites, indeed, also see themselves unrighteous creatures, and that they cannot be justified before God by works of righteousness done by them; but that there is a righteousness wrought out by Christ, which is acceptable and well pleasing to God; is freely bestowed on men, and is imputed to all sorts of men, even to the ungodly; wherefore they hope in him for it, and lay hold on this object of hope set before them: in a word, they have hope of eternal life on his account, that being the gift of God through him; and it being the will of God, that whoever believes in him should have it; and it being in the power and right of Christ to bestow it; and they having also his Spirit as the earnest and pledge of it; as well as have his righteousness as their title to it, his grace as their meetness for it, and have a share both in his intercession and in his preparations of it: moreover, the apostle taught that there would be a general resurrection of the dead, upon which would succeed a state of everlasting happiness for the righteous; and which was the hope of the tribes of Israel in common, especially of every Israelite indeed: now these things had irritated the carnal Jews against him, who could not rest till they had been the means of bringing him into the condition he now was; nor were they content with this, without having his life.
Ver. 21. And they said unto him , etc.] That is, the chief men of the Jews at Rome, whom Paul had called together, replied; either in a lying and dissembling way, or as expressing matter of fact; which last may be allowed: we neither received letters out of Judea concerning thee : which was very much, that the high priest and sanhedrim had not wrote to the principal men of their religion at Rome; giving an account of the apostle, and his case unto them, in order to prejudice them against him, and to furnish them with charges and accusations; which if they could not prevail by them, so as to get him condemned by the emperor, yet might be a means of preventing any of their nation giving heed unto him, and embracing his sentiments and notions concerning Jesus of Nazareth: neither any of the brethren that came [from] Jerusalem ; or any part of Judea, to Rome; meaning not the Christian Jews, for these they would not call brethren; but those who were of the same religion as well as nation, whom it was usual with the Jews to call brethren: shewed or spake any harm of thee ; so that it looks as if they did make mention of him, but did not charge him with anything that was wicked and criminal: this they said, to show that they were not prejudiced against him by any person or means; and which carried in it a very considerable testimony of the apostle’s innocence.
Ver. 22. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest , etc.] What was his opinion and judgment, concerning the Messiah, whether he was come or not, and whether Jesus of Nazareth was he; and concerning other principles relating to him, embraced by the Christians; and what he had to say for the clearing up, proving, and confirming his sentiments about these things: for as concerning this sect ; or heresy, meaning the Christian religion: in saying so, they reproached it; for the Gospel, or Christian religion, is not an human device, the choice and option of man’s free will, and what he pleases himself with, as an opinion and invention of his own, or of other men, as “heresy” signifies; but it is of God, and by revelation of Jesus Christ, and is a doctrine of the highest wisdom: nor does it deny or take away any fundamental article of true religion; either natural, as known by the Gentiles, or as revealed, with which the Jews were made acquainted, under the former dispensation; but establishes every such article, as the unity of the divine Being; the worship of the one only and true God of Israel, in a spiritual manner; the doctrine of the Messiah, his person, office, and grace; the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment; and therefore could not be chargeable with heresy: nor was it set up for any worldly gain, or popular applause, which are the things that authors and abettors of heresy have in view; nor was it designed to divide and separate persons from the true church of God, but to bring them to it, and unite them together in it; (see Acts 24:14). We know that everywhere it is spoken against ; this they knew, both by letters they received, and by persons who came from different parts of the world; and which was fact, and was no other than what was foretold concerning Christ, that he should be a sign that should be spoken against, ( Luke 2:34); and which the apostle found true of the Gospel preached by him, both among Jews and Greeks; it being to the one a stumblingblock, and to the other foolishness, ( 1 Corinthians 1:23), and especially it was contradicted and blasphemed everywhere by the Jews; these in all places opposed themselves to it, and spoke evil of it, and of its preachers and professors: Christ, the author, sum, and subject of the Christian religion, was spoken against in his person; his deity and divine sonship were denied, as they still are; and his offices, as prophet, priest, and King; yea, his actions, even his works of mercy to the bodies of men, by healing their diseases, his conversing with sinners for the good of their souls, the several miracles he wrought, and the whole series of his life and conversation, were blasphemed and evil spoken of: the doctrines of the Gospel in general were contradicted, as they now are by many, as absurd and irrational, and as tending to licentiousness; and in particular those which respect the Father of Christ, as being the Father of Christ, his everlasting love to the elect in him, and his distinguishing grace in the choice of them; and those which relate to Christ, as that he is truly God, and the Son of God, and to his sacrifice, satisfaction, and imputed righteousness; and also which concern the Spirit of God, as his deity and personality, and his operations on the souls of men; and such as relate to a future state, the resurrection of all the dead, and judgment to come: likewise the ordinances of the Christian religion, baptism and the Lord’s supper, were despised and spoken against, and the professors of it treated as fools and wicked men; the reasons of all this are, because the Christian religion, and the doctrines of it, are not of men, are contrary to the lusts of men, and particularly to the pride of men; they subject them to reproach and persecution, and gather men out from among them.
Ver. 23. And when they had appointed him a day , etc.] When they should meet together, and when both sides might be better prepared to enter into a conversation on the subject of Christianity; and when there might be an opportunity for a more numerous assembly to hear: there came many to him into his lodging ; the same very likely with his own hired house, ( Acts 28:30); hither a large number came at the time appointed, more than those whom Paul first sent for: to whom he expounded ; the Scriptures, the writings of Moses, and the prophets; and particularly such parts of them as concerned the Messiah; so our Lord expounded to his disciples in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself, ( Luke 24:27). And testified the kingdom of God ; or the kingdom of the Messiah, which oftentimes signifies the Gospel, and the Gospel dispensation: he produced full and sufficient proofs and testimonies from prophecies, miracles, and facts, that the kingdom of the Messiah was come; which consisted not in outward pompous things, in temporal riches and honours, as they expected; but in the ministration of the Gospel, and in the administration of its ordinances; and in righteousness and holiness, which give the one a right unto, and the other a meetness for, the kingdom of heaven: and of this he testified, that it is the kingdom of God, of his preparing and of his giving, and is what he calls his people unto, and makes them meet for; and in which they shall reign with him, and enjoy him for ever: and the apostle could testify and make it evident, that there was such a kingdom, and such a future glorious state; from the promise of God, to which the twelve tribes of Israel hoped to come; from the prophecies of the Old Testament, which speak of everlasting life, and of the resurrection of the dead unto it; from the expectations of the saints of the former dispensation, who all died in the faith of it; and from the coming of the Messiah, his sufferings and death, and ascension to heaven, whereby he had brought life and immortality to the clearest light: persuading them concerning Jesus ; endeavouring to persuade them, that Jesus was the true Messiah; that he was truly God, and the Son of God, as well as man; that he was born of a virgin, and wrought miracles, and yielded perfect obedience to the law; that he laid down his life as a sacrifice for sin, and to make reconciliation and atonement for it; that he brought in an everlasting righteousness; that he rose again from the dead for justification; that he was ascended up to heaven, and was set down at the right hand of God, where he ever lives to make intercession, and will come again a second time to judge both quick and dead: these are some of “the things concerning Jesus”, as the words may be rendered, which the apostle endeavoured to persuade the Jews into a belief of; as also the blessings of grace which come by him, such as peace and pardon through his blood, reconciliation and atonement by his sacrifice, justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation in him: concerning these he persuaded the Jews, setting things in a clear light, using strong arguments to convince them, and giving full proof, as the nature of them would admit of; and which is no other than moral persuasion, and is of itself ineffectual; efficacious persuasion is only of God; it is he that opens the heart to attend to these things, and gives faith to receive and embrace them: however, it is the duty of Gospel ministers to make use of arguments, and by them to endeavour to persuade men of their need of Christ, and of salvation by him, as the apostle did; (see 2 Corinthians 5:11). Both out off the law of Moses : not the law of the ten commandments, given on Mount Sinai to Moses, who delivered it to the children of Israel, and is opposed to the doctrine of grace and truth, which came by Jesus Christ, ( John 1:17); that accuses and convinces of sin, and pronounces guilty, and curses for it; but does not reveal Jesus Christ as a Saviour from it; no proof can be taken from thence of the things concerning Jesus; but the five books of Moses are here meant, in which he wrote of Christ, as our Lord himself says, ( John 5:46,47) as he did particularly in ( Genesis 3:15 49:10 Deuteronomy 18:15); also the types and sacrifices, recorded in his writings, might be made use of in proof of Jesus, and the things of him: and out of the prophets : such as ( Psalm 22:15,16 16:10 68:18 110:1) ( Isaiah 7:14 53:1-12 Daniel 9:24,26 Micah 5:2 Zechariah 9:9 13:7); with many others: and in this work he continued, from morning till evening ; not that we are to suppose, that he carried on one continued discourse upon these subjects, without any intermission; but that he was all the day employed, either in expounding: the Scriptures, proving that the kingdom of the Messiah was come, and using strong and persuasive arguments, to show that Jesus was he; or in answering the cavils and objections of the Jews, to what he said.
Ver. 24. And some believed the things which were spoken , etc.] By him, concerning the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ; even as many as were ordained unto eternal life, and to whom it was given to believe; for faith is the gift of God, and which comes by hearing of the word, when it is attended with a divine power; and then it is not only notionally understood, and barely assented to as truth, but is cordially believed and embraced, and cheerfully professed, and steadily held fast: this was not a mere historical faith, or a bare assent to the truth of the things spoken, nor a mere profession of faith in them, but a believing in Christ with the heart, the sum and substance of them; as they heard these things, their understandings were enlightened, and they saw their need of Christ, and the things of Christ, which were held forth in the ministry of the word; and so approved of them, savoured, relished, and fed upon them; and until this is the case, none can, nor will believe aright: and some believed not : notwithstanding the full proof, and clear evidence produced by the apostle: these were not of Christ’s sheep, their eyes were blinded, and their hearts were hardened, as was prophesied of them, and therefore they could not believe; they were given up to a judicial blindness and hardness of heart, and were left under the power of obstinate and invincible unbelief: their disbelief of these things arose from the prejudices they had conceived about a worldly kingdom; from the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, they imagining the Messiah would not die, but abide for ever; from the carnal reasonings of their minds, about divine and spiritual things; and from the ignorance that was in them, because of the obduracy of their hearts. The kingdom the apostle testified of was not an Utopian kingdom, nor any of the real kingdoms of this world, but the kingdom of the Messiah they were expecting; but that which he described, being not such an one as they imagined, they believed him not: the things he said concerning Jesus were not trivial, speculative, and indifferent things; but of the greatest moment and importance, and of which there was full proof in their own writings; and though spoken by Paul, were no other than the word of God; and besides, were good news, and glad tidings, and yet they believed them not: this difference among them, some believing and some not believing, was not owing to the power and free will of man, as if some of themselves would, and did believe, and others would not, but to the distinguishing grace of God; for faith is not of man, it is the gift of God, it is the fruit of electing grace, and is given in consequence of it: nor is this any unusual thing, under the same ministration of the word, for one to believe, and another not believe: this is a common case, and is the usual success the Gospel meets with; so it always has been, and so it is, and will be; so it was in the times of Noah, he was a preacher of righteousness to the old world, even of the righteousness of faith, many were disobedient, few believed; and so it fared with the evangelical prophet Isaiah, and with Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and other prophets of the Old Testament; and with John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, and with Christ himself, as well as with our apostle; and this has been the case ever since his time, now is, and will be, as long as the Gospel is preached.
Ver. 25. And when they agreed not among themselves , etc.] One part believing what was said, and the other disbelieving; and such a division is the usual effect of the Gospel ministry; (see Luke 12:51,52). Or this may be understood of the unbelieving party, who though they agreed in the main that Jesus was not the Messiah, yet might have different sentiments of the apostle; of the manner of his reasoning, and the nature of his proofs and arguments; and of some things which he delivered, which some might assent to, and others deny; as the Pharisees and Sadducees in the sanhedrim at Jerusalem disagreed about the doctrine of the resurrection: and the rather this may be thought to be the sense, because they not only departed, when very likely those that believed might stay longer, but because at their departure the apostle says something very cutting and stinging, and which he would not say in common of them all, of the believers; and besides, they are afterwards said to reason among themselves, ( Acts 28:29). They departed ; from the apostle’s lodging to their own houses, or to some other place, where they could call over, and debate among themselves, the things they had heard: after that Paul had spoken one word ; a very remarkable one, and full to the purpose, and which he gave them just at parting with them: well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers ; the passage referred to is in ( Isaiah 6:9,10), which the prophet Isaiah delivered under the influence and by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, being moved by him, as all the holy men of God were; and which was very appropriate, not only to the Jewish fathers in the times of Isaiah, but to their posterity in succeeding ages, in the times of Christ and his apostles; (see Matthew 13:10-14 John 12:37-46); and were exceeding applicable to the present unbelieving Jews, who had been disputing with the apostle, and were now departing from him, in unbelief: and from hence it appears, that since it was the Holy Ghost that spake by Isaiah the prophet, and he that spoke to him and by him, was the Adon, Jehovah, and Lord of hosts, as is clear from ( Isaiah 6:1,5,8,9); it follows, that the Holy Ghost is a divine person, truly God, and equal with the Father and the Son.
Ver. 26. Saying, go unto this people, and say , etc.] A message sent in wrath and judgment to the people of Israel, rejected from being the people of God, a “lo ammi” being written upon them; and therefore God does not call them “his”, but “this” people: and this message was sent by an evangelical prophet, who foretold, in the clearest manner, the Messiah’s incarnation, and birth of a virgin, the work he was to do, the sufferings he should undergo, and the glory that should follow; and that after he had seen in a vision the glory of the King Messiah, the perfections of deity filling the temple of his human nature, him exalted on a throne, and attended and worshipped by angels; after he had had such a view of his beauty and excellency, that laid him low in his own sight, and humbled him under a sense of his own impurity and unworthiness; and after he had had a comfortable discovery and application of pardoning grace; and after he had expressed such a readiness and willingness to go on the Lord’s errand: which one might have thought would have been of a different nature; and that he would have been sent, and have been made useful, to set forth the glories and excellencies of Christ’s person, office, and grace, he had had such a view of; and to preach the comfortable doctrine of pardoning grace to men, which he had just now such a gracious experience of; but on the contrary, he is bid to say, hearing ye shall hear ; with bodily ears, the Gospel preached by the Messiah and his apostles: and shall not understand , spiritually and experimentally, what they heard: to have an opportunity of hearing the Gospel, is a great blessing; seeing it is good news, glad tidings of good things, a joyful sound, and the voice of Christ himself; it is a distinguishing favour, and what all men at all times have not; when it is attended with a divine energy, the Spirit of God is received through it, regeneration, quickening and sanctifying grace are by it; faith comes by hearing it, and Christ is found under the ministration of it; and, generally speaking, the understanding and knowledge of divine things, are by means of it: men are naturally without the understanding of spiritual things, and where the Gospel is not, they remain so; the ministers of the Gospel, and the word preached by them, are the means of leading men into a spiritual understanding of things, though only as, and when attended with the Spirit of God, who is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Christ: and a special mercy it is when persons, whilst hearing the word, understand what they hear, and can distinguish truth from error; and approve of the truth, receive the love of it, feel the power, and taste the sweetness of it; find it and eat it, believe, embrace, and profess it, and bring forth fruits worthy of it: but on the contrary, when it is heard and not understood, it is an awful dispensation; for hence either they content themselves with bare hearing, and depend upon it for salvation; or they despise and speak evil of what they do not understand; and so their hearing, instead of being a blessing, is an aggravation of their condemnation: and seeing ye shall see : miracles wrought: and not perceive ; them to be proofs of the things, for which they are wrought: so Jarchi expounds those words, “ye shall see the wonders, or miracles I have done for you, and shall not set your hearts to know me” from whence it appears that the Gospel preached in the clearest and most powerful manner, and even miracles wrought in confirmation of it, are insufficient for conversion; and nothing will effect it, but efficacious grace.
Ver. 27. For the heart of this people is waxed gross , etc.] Or fat; stupefied with notions of carnal and temporal things, and become hardened against, and unsusceptible of, divine and spiritual things: and their ears are dull of hearing ; the Gospel, and its joyful sound; to which they stop their cars, as the deaf adder to the voice of the charmer: and their eyes have they closed ; and wilfully shut, against all evidence from facts, miracles, prophecies, and preaching: lest they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears , and understand with [their] heart, and should be converted ; that is, see the evidence of miracles, take in the truth of doctrine, understand the meaning of prophecy, and so be turned from darkness, ignorance, and unbelief, to light, knowledge, and faith: and I should heal them ; or “have mercy on them”, as the Ethiopic version renders it; that is, forgive their sins: hearing the Gospel preached, is the ordinary means of understanding spiritual things; and the understanding being enlightened through the ministry of the word, by the Spirit of God, whereby the sinner sees his lost state by nature, his impurity and impotency, the danger he is in, and the destruction that is imminent on him, and he is liable to, and also his need of Christ, and salvation by him; this issues in conversion, in the turning of a man from the evil of his ways, to believe in Christ, walk on in him, and worthy of him; when he is healed of the diseases of his soul, which are many, are natural, and hereditary, mortal and incurable, but by Christ the great physician; by whose stripes, wounds, and blood, there is healing, that is, pardon; for healing diseases, and pardoning iniquities, are one and the same; (see <19A303> Psalm 103:3); and at conversion, when a soul is enlightened, and made sensible of the evil of sin, and that there is no cure of this disease, by anything that he or any creature can do, or prescribe for him, but only by the blood of Christ; a discovery of pardoning grace is made unto him; and he is made whole, and cured of every disease that attended him; from whence spring joy, peace, and comfort to him:, but when through hearing the word, the understanding is not enlightened, and conversion does not follow upon it, there is no healing of the disease of sin, no pardon applied; and consequently such must be in a most deplorable and miserable condition, as all ignorant hearers and despisers of the Gospel are; (see Gill on “ Matthew 13:14; see Gill on “ Matthew 13:15; Ver. 28. Be it known therefore unto you, etc.] Unbelievers and despisers, take this along with you at parting, and do not say you were never acquainted with it: that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles; meaning the Gospel, which is a publication and declaration of that salvation, which God contrived from all eternity; made provision for, and secured in the covenant of grace; which he appointed, called, and sent Christ to effect, in the fulness of time; and which he has accomplished, by his obedience, sufferings, and death; even a full, complete, spiritual, and eternal salvation, from sin, Satan, the world, the curse of the law, and eternal death; that that Gospel which proclaims this, and is the power of God unto it, to them that believe, is sent to the Gentile world, by God himself, who has ordered his ministers to turn to them, upon the rejection of it by the Jews: and [that] they will hear it: and do understand it and obey it, believe it and profess it : this the apostle could assert upon his own knowledge, who had preached it in many nations of the world; and could testify how gladly they heard it, with what pleasure they received it, how readily they obeyed it, and how cheerfully they professed it, and how steadily they held it; though the Jews despised and put it away from them, judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life: this the apostle says, reproaching them with their folly, stupidity, and infidelity; when the Gentiles, which knew not God, received the Gospel and are saved.
Ver. 29. And when he had said these words , etc.] Cited the prophecy of Isaiah, and declared the mission of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and their calling by it; both which must greatly gravel and disturb the unbelieving part of his audience: the Jews departed; much displeased and uneasy: and had great reasoning among themselves; not only with them that believed, but with others, that seemed to incline towards the apostle, and who espoused and undertook to defend some principles of his, against the rest, as the doctrine of the resurrection; and particularly they might take into consideration the passage in Isaiah, the apostle had recited to them at parting, and which was so appropriate to them; as well as the account he gave them of the preaching of the Gospel, and the success of it among the Gentiles, things which must be very grating to them: this whole verse is wanting in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Syriac version.
Ver. 30. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, etc.] In a house which he hired with his own money; in which his friends Luke, Aristarchus, and others, dwelt with him; where he was guarded by a soldier: whether at the expiration of these two years he was set at liberty, and for ten years afterwards travelled into Italy, France, and Spain, preaching the Gospel, as some think; or whether he then suffered martyrdom, is not certain; the latter is most probable: and received all that came in unto him; there, as the Syriac version reads, that is, into his lodging, as the Ethiopic version expresses it; which is not to be understood of his hospitality, for it cannot be thought that he should provide food and lodging for all that came unto him; but that be admitted all that would to come and hear him, and freely preached the Gospel to them: it should seem by this, as well as by what is said ( Acts 28:23); that many of the Jews came into his lodging, and heard him expound, that it was a large house he had hired and dwelt in; and such an one Jerom f1389 thinks it was, like that he supposes he would have Philemon provide for him, which he desires in his epistle to him, (Philemon 22); namely, a house in the most noted place in the city, for the conveniency of those that came to him; large enough to hold many; free from noise and disturbance; and not situated in a scandalous neighbourhood, nor near to shows and plays; and that the lodging should rather be on the floor than in an upper room: and such a house, with all the conditions that Jerom mentions, the Papists pretend to show at Rome to this day; where, as their tradition is, Luke composed, or however finished this his history; which, as the above writer observes f1390 , reaches to the two years of Paul’s stay at Rome; that is, until the fourth year of Nero; from whence, adds he, we learn that in the same city this book was composed: and it is certain, that Luke was with him, when the apostle wrote his second epistle to Timothy from Rome, and when the time of his martyrdom seemed to himself to be at hand, ( Timothy 4:7,11).
Ver. 31. Preaching the kingdom of God, etc.] That is, the Gospel, as in ( Luke 4:43 16:16); he preached up Jesus as the King Messiah, and declared that his kingdom was come, and opened the nature of it; that it consisted not in meats and drinks, but in righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; which is the kingdom of grace here, and is within a man, in his heart, where grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life: and he gave them same account of the kingdom of glory, and the way unto it; and showed, that without regeneration and sanctification, no one could be meet for it; and without the justifying righteousness of Christ, no man could have a right unto it, or be possessed of it: and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ: his person, as God and man; his office as Mediator, being prophet, priest, and King; his incarnation and birth; his life and miracles; his doctrine and obedience, sufferings and death; his resurrection, ascension, session at God’s right hand; his intercession, and second coming to judgment; with all the truths of the Gospel, in which he has a concern; as redemption, peace, reconciliation and pardon, by his blood and sacrifice, and justification by his righteousness, and salvation and eternal life through him. These things had been the subject of the apostle’s ministry, throughout the whole of it: he began at Damascus with preaching Jesus as the Son of God and the true Messiah; and he ends at Rome, with teaching the things concerning him: at his first setting out in the work of the Lord, he determined to make known none but Christ, and him crucified; and in this resolution he continued through the whole course of his life, and abode by it to the end: and this he did with all confidence; with all freedom and liberty in his soul, though he was bound in his body with a chain; with all plainness, openness, and faithfulness; and with all courage and boldness, though in the midst of adversaries: no man forbidding him; not the Roman emperor, nor the Roman senate, nor any other magistrate; nor could the Jews hinder him, nor was his mouth to be stopped by any; nor could the open door of the Gospel be shut, or its course be impeded; for though the apostle was bound, the word of God was not, but ran and was glorified; and was made known, and even owned in Caesar’s palace; some say Nero’s cupbearer, and Poppea his concubine, were converted by him: and he not only continued preaching the Gospel during the two years of his imprisonment at Rome, but also wrote several epistles to churches, and particular persons; as the epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the Hebrews, and to Philemon, and the “second”) epistle to Timothy: some copies add here, “Amen”; and at the close of the Alexandrian copy, stand these words, “the Acts of the holy Apostles”; and at the Syriac version these, “the End of the Acts of the blessed Apostles, that is, of their Histories”.