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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles

ANALYSIS

Landing on the island which they knew to be Melita, St. Paul and his companions were treated with the greatest humanity. The inhabitants were in no small degree astonished at seeing that Paul was by no means injured by a viper that fastened on his hand. Publius, the chief man of the island, treated them very generously (1–11). They tarried there three months and made for Syracuse; thence, for Rhegium and Puteoli (11–14). The fame of the Apostles being near Rome, attracted several of the Christians to go out to meet him at Appii Forum and the Three Taverns (15). Arriving at Rome, where he was placed in custody in charge of a soldier, the Apostle summoned the chief men among the Jews to come to him. He then explained his position (17–22). On an appointed day, be expounded the Christain Faith. Some believing and others rejecting his doctrine, which elicited from him a reference to the Prophecy of Isaias on the subject (24–28). He remained there two years.

Commentary

1. “Escaped.” Safely landed on the beach. “We knew” from the inhabitants. “Melita.” The well-known island of “Malta.”

“Barbarians.” The inhabitants of the island. The Greeks and Romans regarded all the nations that did not speak their own language as barbarians. “No small courtesy” treated them with more than ordinary humanity.

2. “Fire,” &c. Literally, having set fire to a piece of wood, “refreshed,” by protecting and caring us. “Because of the present rain” succeeding the storm, “and of the cold.” It was the month of October. Besides, they were drenched in the water in scrambling to get on shore.

3. “A viper,” a most venemous animal that lay torpid in the cold brushwood, and now owing to the heat revived, and “fastened on his hand” evidently with his teeth, in which it is tacitly conveyed that he had bitten him.

4. “Beast.” A word applied by Greek writers to serpents. “A murderer.” Murder was regarded as the greatest of crimes. “Doth not suffer him,” &c. They regarded him already as a dead man, the serpent’s bite being sure to cause death.

6. “To swell up,” also means inflammation. “A God,” as none but a God could thus be preserved. The Maltese were, no doubt, at this time idolaters and worshippers of the Gods.

7. “In these places,” this part of the island. “Possessions,” residence and property. “Chief-man.” He may have been governor of the island; or, as Malta was subject to the Prætor of Sicily, this Publius may have been his deputy. He treated Paul and his companions with great hospitality.

8. “Bloody flux.” In Greek, dysentery. “Prayed,” &c. St. Peter acted similarly (9:40). Thus was fulfilled the Divine promise (Mark 16:18).

10. Bestowed many gifts in gratitude for the blessings received at the hands of the Apostle, and “laded us,” &c. Supplied what was necessary for the coming journey.

11. “Three months” from the time of the shipwreck. The time for safely embarking had not come earlier; most likely, they had no means or opportunity for leaving sooner.

“Of Alexandria,” belonging to Alexandria, they had wintered at Malta.

“Whose sign,” an ornamental image either painted, or, in bas relief on the prow. “The Castors,” Castor and Pollux, twin Deities, were supposed to be tutelary Deities of seafaring men.

12. “Syracuse,” the ancient capital of Sicily, on the South Eastern coast, about eighty (80) miles from Malta. “Three days,” possibly, to land some cargoes or in hopes of a favourable breeze.

13. “Compassing,” &c. Coasting along the eastern shore of Sicily. “Rhegium” on the south-west extremity of Italy, nearly opposite Messina in Sicily.

“South wind,” so favourable for wafting them on their journey. “Puteoli,” the favourite port of ships from Alexandria (Strabo 1–17; Seneca Ep. 77).

14. Christian believers. How the Gospel was preached then cannot be ascertained.

15. “From thence.” Puteoli, whence, during over seven days sojourn, accounts either by letter or by verbal message, reached the brethren at Rome, owing to the frequent communications between both places.

“Appii Forum,” over fifty miles distant from Rome, so-called from Appius Claudius, the builder of this city, as well as of the Appian way. It was a forum or market place, where travellers stopped for refreshment. Horace (Sat. 6) is not over complimentary to it.

It was an extraordinary mark of respect for them to come so far, over fifty miles, to meet him.

“The Three Taverns,” ten miles from Rome, so-called from three retail shops, resorted to for refreshment by travellers to and from Rome.

“Gave thanks to God,” that His desire of seeing the Christians of Rome was now on the eve of fulfilment (Rom. 1:10; 15:23–32), “and took courage,” inspired with fresh vigour. Probably, he may have been in a state of depression up to this.

16. “Come to Rome”—to which is added in the Greek, “The centurion delivered the prisoners to the Captain of the Guard.” (Roman Law required that all prisoners sent to Rome should be handed over to the custody of the Captain of the Guard.) “Paul was suffered,” &c. Most likely it was owing to the influence of the Centurion, on whom he made so favourable an impression during the voyage (27:43) who also witnessed the welcome shown him on nearing Rome by the Christians, that he was allowed to live in private lodgings “with a soldier who kept him.” This is what was termed custodia libera. In such cases, the prisoner was bound to the soldier. Hence, he says (v. 20) “with this chain.” The necessity of changing the guard gave the Apostle an opportunity of having the Gospel made known throughout the entire Prætorian camp, from which the soldiers in their turn, came to guard him.

17. “Called together,” &c. Chiefly with the view of preaching the Gospel as he did, “in season and out of season,” especially to his Jewish brethren, in the first instance. Moreover, he likely wished to remove any false or unfavourable impressions they might have entertained regarding him, especially, as he supposed it to be very likely that some unfavourable reports may been forwarded against him to the Jews of Rome, by the Jews of Judea, “the chief of the Jews,” the principal persons amongst them.

“Against the people.” The Jewish people, “or the custom,” &c., their religious usages.

“Delivered … hands of the Romans.” The hands of Roman governor or Procurator at Cesarea.

18. (26:32).

19. “Contradicting it.” Opposing his being set at liberty.

“Not that I had,” &c. He had no idea of recriminating, through he had good grounds for doing so. It was for his own safety solely he appealed.

20. “For this cause,” viz. To make known that I appealed solely in my own defence, and not for the purpose of making counter-charges.

“Hope of Israel.” In preaching the Advent of the Messiah, whose coming the Jewish people longed for to redeem them. In him they hoped, as their deliverer.

“I am bound with this chain.” Whereby I am attached to the soldier on guard.

21. Having failed before all the Tribunals, it would seem the Jews of Palestine did not care to prosecute the case farther. Moreover, they may not have had sufficient time; and the communication with Rome was so uncertain.

22. “What thou thinkest.” In defence of this universally despised sect of Nazarenes (24:5). Likely, in thus speaking scornfully and disparagingly of Christianity, they had in view to dissuade Paul from preaching up its odious tenets. Whether in referring to the universal opposition to Christianity there is allusion to the vile calumnies afterwards circulated regarding the lives of the Christians, it is hard to say. Tacitus speaking of them, scornfully describes them, as the abettors of an exitialis superstitio, as “guilty of atrocious and abominable crimes, convicted by the hatred of mankind.” (Annal. xv. 44.) Suetonius describes them as “a race of men, maintaining a new and criminal superstition. (Nero, c. xvi.)

23. “Testifying,” &c. Announcing the doctrines and principles, regarding the reign of the Messiah and the establishment of His church. “Concerning Jesus,” as the expected Messiah, liberator of the Jewish race; showing all that was said of the Messiah in the Law of Moses and predicted by the Prophets, to be fully realized in Jesus of Nazareth. In him was fully realized all that was said and predicted of the Messiah.

“From morning,” &c. Shows the indefatigable zeal of the Apostle.

25. This division among his unbelieving countrymen caused the Apostle to utter “one word,” one parting solemn warning and denunciation of their stiff-necked incredulity, the peculiar characteristic of their race, long before denounced by the Prophet Isaias.

“Well,” truly, did the Holy Ghost, in describing the character of the Jews of old say, what applied, no less to the Jews, he was then addressing, as it was meant for them, than it did to their fathers in the days of Isaias, with whom they but formed one body morally.

26, 27. “With ears,” &c. This is put imperatively in Isaias (c. 6:9, 10). See this fully explained (Matthew 13:14; John 12:39, Commentary on).

28. “This Salvation.” The full knowledge, as contained in the Gospel, of how this Salvation may be secured, the whole economy and Divine dispensation of God in imparting it.

“Is sent to the Gentiles” (c. 13:46), after being first preached to the Jews. The Gentile world “will hear it,” obey and embrace it, so that the Divine seed is not scattered through the world in vain.

29. “Much reasoning.” Discussion regarding what Paul uttered among the believing and unbelieving Jews.

This verse is omitted in some MSS., and rejected by some eminent critics.

30. “Two whole years.” No doubt, guarded by soldiers, as up to this, it would seem he was not finally tried before the Emperor, though, no doubt, he was questioned on some one occasion (2 Tim. 4:16). Why he was not yet brought before the Emperor, cannot be known for certain.

“Received all.” Jew and Gentile, imparting the knowledge of Salvation.

“In his own hired lodging.” Though a prisoner, he enjoyed more liberty than was ordinarily given to prisoners, being something like what was termed, libera custodia.

31. “Kingdom of God.” In reference to these words, Beelen observes, that, although having different significations in the SS. Scriptures, such as the Advent of the Messiah and the Messiah Himself as King; Life Eternal; the society instituted by our Lord, His church and all appertaining to it; in a word, the economy of the New Law; it is only in the latter sense, it can be understood throughout this Book of the Acts. Only in one place (c. 14:21), does it designate Life Eternal.

“And teaching the things,” &c. All the truths relating to our Lord’s Divinity and Humanity, taken in the most general sense, as propounded in the Holy Gospels.

“With all confidence.” Intrepidly, and the greatest freedom of speech.

“Without prohibition.” This shows how the Roman authorities were affected in regard to the Gospel at this time, when a prominent propagator of the doctrines of this “sect every where contradicted,” was permitted to announce them freely, without let or hindrance.

All hitherto recorded of St. Paul occurred before and during his first imprisonment. The Acts of the Apostles go no further. The history of the several occurrences connected with his preaching and writings, after his release from his first imprisonment, his martyrdom in the year 65, under Nero, in the 12th year of his reign, are all derived from other authentic sources.








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