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Ac 9:1-25. CONVERSION OF SAUL, AND BEGINNINGS OF HIS MINISTRY.
1. Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, &c.--The emphatic "yet" is intended to note the remarkable fact, that up to this moment his blind persecuting rage against the disciples of the Lord burned as fiercely as ever. (In the teeth of this, NEANDER and OLSHAUSEN picture him deeply impressed with Stephen's joyful faith, remembering passages of the Old Testament confirmatory of the Messiahship of Jesus, and experiencing such a violent struggle as would inwardly prepare the way for the designs of God towards him. Is not dislike, if not unconscious disbelief, of sudden conversion at the bottom of this?) The word "slaughter" here points to cruelties not yet recorded, but the particulars of which are supplied by himself nearly thirty years afterwards: "And I persecuted this way unto the death" (Ac 22:4); "and when they were put to death, I gave my voice [vote] against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to [did my utmost to make them] blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange [foreign] cities" (Ac 26:10, 11). All this was before his present journey.
2. desired . . . letters--of authorization.
3. he came near Damascus--so
Tradition points to a bridge near the city as the spot referred to.
Events which are the turning points in one's history so imprint
themselves upon the memory that circumstances the most trifling in
themselves acquire by connection with them something of their
importance, and are recalled with inexpressible interest.
4-6. he fell to the earth--and his companions with him
who "saw the light"
5. Who art thou, Lord?--"Jesus knew Saul ere Saul knew Jesus"
The term "Lord" here is an indefinite term of respect for some unknown
but august speaker. That Saul saw as well as heard this glorious
Speaker, is expressly said by Ananias
(Ac 9:17; 22:14),
and by himself
and in claiming apostleship, he explicitly states that he had
"seen the Lord"
(1Co 9:1; 15:8),
which can refer only to this scene.
6. And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou have
me to do? And the Lord said--(The most ancient manuscripts and
versions of the New Testament lack all these words here [including
the last clause of
but they occur in
and Ac 22:10,
from which they appear to have been inserted here). The question, "What
shall I do, Lord?" or, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" indicates
a state of mind singularly interesting (see on
Its elements seem to be these: (1) Resistless conviction that "Jesus
whom he persecuted," now speaking to him, was "Christ the Lord." (See
Ga 1:15, 16).
(2) As a consequence of this, that not only all his religious views,
but his whole religious character, had been an entire mistake; that he
was up to that moment fundamentally and wholly wrong. (3) That though
his whole future was now a blank, he had absolute confidence in Him who
had so tenderly arrested him in his blind career, and was ready both to
take in all His teaching and to carry out all His directions. (For
more, see on
7. the men . . . stood speechless--This may mean
merely that they remained so; but if the standing posture be
intended, we have only to suppose that though at first they "all fell
to the earth"
they arose of their own accord while Saul yet lay prostrate.
8. Saul arose . . . and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man--after beholding the Lord, since he "could not see for the glory of that light" (Ac 22:11), he had involuntarily closed his eyes to protect them from the glare; and on opening them again he found his vision gone. "It is not said, however, that he was blind, for it was no punishment" [BENGEL].
9. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink--that is, according to the Hebrew mode of computation: he took no food during the remainder of that day, the entire day following, and so much of the subsequent day as elapsed before the visit of Ananias. Such a period of entire abstinence from food, in that state of mental absorption and revolution into which he had been so suddenly thrown, is in perfect harmony with known laws and numerous facts. But what three days those must have been! "Only one other space of three days' duration can be mentioned of equal importance in the history of the world" [HOWSON]. Since Jesus had been revealed not only to his eyes but to his soul (see on Ga 1:15, 16), the double conviction must have immediately flashed upon him, that his whole reading of the Old Testament hitherto had been wrong, and that the system of legal righteousness in which he had, up to that moment, rested and prided himself was false and fatal. What materials these for spiritual exercise during those three days of total darkness, fasting, and solitude! On the one hand, what self-condemnation, what anguish, what death of legal hope, what difficulty in believing that in such a case there could be hope at all; on the other hand, what heartbreaking admiration of the grace that had "pulled him out of the fire," what resistless conviction that there must be a purpose of love in it, and what tender expectation of being yet honored, as a chosen vessel, to declare what the Lord had done for his soul, and to spread abroad the savor of that Name which he had so wickedly, though ignorantly, sought to destroy--must have struggled in his breast during those memorable days! Is it too much to say that all that profound insight into the Old Testament, that comprehensive grasp of the principles of the divine economy, that penetrating spirituality, that vivid apprehension of man's lost state, and those glowing views of the perfection and glory of the divine remedy, that beautiful ideal of the loftiness and the lowliness of the Christian character, that large philanthropy and burning zeal to spend and be spent through all his future life for Christ, which distinguish the writings of this chiefest of the apostles and greatest of men, were all quickened into life during those three successive days?
11. go into the street . . . called Straight--There is still a street
of this name in Damascus, about half a mile in length, running from east
to west through the city [MAUNDRELL].
12. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias, &c.--Thus, as in the case of Cornelius and Peter afterwards, there was a mutual preparation of each for each. But we have no account of the vision which Saul had of Ananias coming unto him and putting his hands upon him for the restoration of his sight, save this interesting allusion to it in the vision which Ananias himself had.
13. Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man,
&c.--"The objections of Ananias, and the removal of them by the Lord,
display in a very touching manner the childlike relation of the
believing soul to its Redeemer. The Saviour speaks with Ananias as a man
does with his friend" [OLSHAUSEN].
15. Go thy way--Do as thou art bidden, without gainsaying.
16. I will show him--(See
Ac 20:23, 24; 21:11).
17-19. Ananias went his way, and putting his hands on him, said,
Brother Saul--How beautifully childlike is the obedience of Ananias
to "the heavenly vision!"
18. there fell from his eyes as it were scales--"This shows that the
blindness as well as the cure was supernatural. Substances like scales
would not form naturally in so short a time" [WEBSTER and
And the medical precision of Luke's language here is to be noted.