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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - ACTS 9
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    CHAPTER 9

    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.
    - to Damascus--the capital of Syria and the great highway between eastern and western Asia, about one hundred thirty miles northeast of Jerusalem; the most ancient city perhaps in the world, and lying in the center of a verdant and inexhaustible paradise. It abounded (as appears from JOSEPHUS, Wars of the Jews, 2.20,2) with Jews, and with Gentile proselytes to the Jewish faith. Thither the Gospel had penetrated; and Saul, flushed with past successes, undertakes to crush it out.
    - that if he found any of this way, whether men or women--Thrice are women specified as objects of his cruelty, as an aggravated feature of it (Ac 8:3; 22:4; and here).

    3. he came near Damascus--so Ac 22:6. 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.
    - suddenly--At what time of day, it is not said; for artless simplicity reigns here. But he himself emphatically states, in one of his narratives, that it was "about noon" (Ac 22:6), and in the other, "at midday" (Ac 26:13), when there could be no deception.
    - there shined round about him a light from heaven--"a great light (he himself says) above the brightness of the sun," then shining in its full strength.

    4-6. he fell to the earth--and his companions with him (Ac 26:14), who "saw the light" (Ac 22:9).
    - and heard a voice saying unto him--"in the Hebrew tongue" (Ac 26:14).
    - Saul, Saul--a reduplication full of tenderness [DE WETTE]. Though his name was soon changed into "Paul," we find him, in both his own narratives of the scene, after the lapse of so many years, retaining the original form, as not daring to alter, in the smallest detail, the overpowering words addressed to him.
    - why persecutest thou me?--No language can express the affecting character of this question, addressed from the right hand of the Majesty on high to an infuriated, persecuting mortal. (See Mt 25:45, and that whole judgment scene).

    5. Who art thou, Lord?--"Jesus knew Saul ere Saul knew Jesus" [BENGEL]. 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), by Barnabas (Ac 9:27), and by himself (Ac 26:16); 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.
    - I am Jesus whom thou persecutest--The "I" and "thou" here are touchingly emphatic in the original; while the term "JESUS" is purposely chosen, to convey to him the thrilling information that the hated name which he sought to hunt down--"the Nazarene," as it is in Ac 22:8 --was now speaking to him from the skies, "crowned with glory and honor" (see Ac 26:9).
    - It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks--The metaphor of an ox, only driving the goad deeper by kicking against it, is a classic one, and here forcibly expresses, not only the vanity of all his measures for crushing the Gospel, but the deeper wound which every such effort inflicted upon himself.

    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 Ac 9:5]; but they occur in Ac 26:14 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 Ac 2:37). Its elements seem to be these: (1) Resistless conviction that "Jesus whom he persecuted," now speaking to him, was "Christ the Lord." (See on 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 Ac 9:9).
    - Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee, &c.--See on Ac 8:26-28.

    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" (Ac 26:14), they arose of their own accord while Saul yet lay prostrate.
    - hearing a--rather "the"
    - voice--Paul himself says, "they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me" (Ac 22:9). But just as "the people that stood by heard" the voice that saluted our Lord with recorded words of consolation and assurance, and yet heard not the articulate words, but thought "it thundered" or that some "angel spake to Him" (Joh 12:28, 29) --so these men heard the voice that spake to Saul, but heard not the articulate words. Apparent discrepancies like these, in the different narratives of the same scene in one and the same book of Acts, furnish the strongest confirmation both of the facts themselves and of the book which records them.

    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?

    10-16. a certain disciple . . . named Ananias--See on Ac 22:12.
    - to him said the Lord--that is, Jesus. (See Ac 9:13, 14, 17).

    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].
    - and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus--There is something touching in the minuteness of these directions. Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia, lying along the northeast coast of the Mediterranean. It was situated on the river Cydnus, was a "large and populous city" (says XENOPHON, and see Ac 21:39), and under the Romans had the privilege of self-government.
    - behold, he prayeth--"breathing out" no longer "threatenings and slaughter," but struggling desires after light and life in the Persecuted One. Beautiful note of encouragement as to the frame in which Ananias would find the persecutor.

    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].
    - how much evil he hath done to thy saints--"Thy saints," says Ananias to Christ; therefore Christ is God [BENGEL]. So, in Ac 9:14, Ananias describes the disciples as "those that called on Christ's name." See on Ac 7:59, 60; and compare 1Co 1:2.

    14. here he hath authority, &c.--so that the terror not only of the great persecutor's name, but of this commission to Damascus, had travelled before him from the capital to the doomed spot.

    15. Go thy way--Do as thou art bidden, without gainsaying.
    - he is a chosen vessel--a word often used by Paul in illustrating God's sovereignty in election (Ro 9:21-23; 2Co 4:7; 2Ti 2:20, 21 [ALFORD]. Compare Zec 3:2).

    16. I will show him--(See Ac 20:23, 24; 21:11).
    - how great things he must suffer for my name--that is, Much he has done against that Name; but now, when I show him what great things he must suffer for that Name, he shall count it his honor and privilege.

    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!"
    - the Lord, even Jesus--This clearly shows in what sense the term "Lord" is used in this book. It is JESUS that is meant, as almost invariably in the Epistles also.
    - who appeared unto thee in the way--This knowledge by an inhabitant of Damascus of what had happened to Saul before entering it, would show him at once that this was the man whom Jesus had already prepared him to expect.
    - and be filled with the Holy Ghost--which Ananias probably, without any express instructions on that subject, took it for granted would descend upon him; and not necessarily after his baptism [BAUMGARTEN, WEBSTER and WILKINSON]--for Cornelius and his company received it before theirs (Ac 10:44-48) --but perhaps immediately after the recovery of his sight by the laying on of Ananias' hands.

    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 WILKINSON]. And the medical precision of Luke's language here is to be noted.
    - was baptized--a

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