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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 8 - Verse 33

Verse 33. In his humiliation. This varies from the Hebrew, but is copied exactly from the Septuagint, showing that he was reading the Septuagint. The Hebrew is, "he was taken from prison, and from judgment." The word rendered "prison" denotes any kind of detention, or even oppression. It does not mean, as with us, to be confined in a prison or jail, but may mean custody, and be applied to the detention or custody of the Saviour when his hands were bound, and he was led to be tried. See Barnes "Mt 27:2".

It is not known why the Seventy thus translated the expression "he was taken from prison" etc., by "in his humiliation," etc. The word "from prison," may mean, as has been remarked, however, from oppression, and this does not differ materially from humiliation; and in this sense the Seventy understood it. The meaning of the expression in the Septuagint and the Acts is clear. It denotes that in his state of oppression and calamity, when he was destitute of protectors and friends, when at the lowest state of his humiliation, and, therefore, most the object of pity, that in addition to that, justice was denied him, his judgment—a just sentence—was taken away, or withheld, and he was delivered to be put to death. His deep humiliation and friendless state was followed by an unjust and cruel condemnation, when no one would stand forth to plead his cause. Every circumstance thus goes to deepen the view of his sufferings.

His judgment. Justice, a just sentence, was denied him, and he was cruelly condemned.

And who shall declare his generation? The word generation, used here, properly denotes posterity; then an age of mankind, comprehending about thirty years, as we speak of this and the next generation; then it denotes the men of a particular age or time. Very various interpretations have been given of this expression. Lowth translates it, "His manner of life, who would declare?" referring, as he supposes, to the fact that when a prisoner was condemned and led to execution, it was customary for a proclamation to be made by a crier in these words, "Whoever knows anything about his innocence, let him come and declare it." This passage is taken from the Gemara of Babylon.—Kennicott, as quoted by Lowth. The same Gemara of Babylon on this passage adds, that "before the death of Jesus, this proclamation was made forty days; but no defence could be found"—a manifest falsehood; and a story strikingly illustrative of the character of the Jewish writings. The Gemara was written some time after Christ, perhaps not far from the year 180, Lardher, and is a collection of commentaries on the traditional laws of the Jews. That this custom existed is very probable; but it is certain that no such thing was done on the trim of the Saviour. But instances are wanting where the word "generation" has this meaning. The Chaldee paraphrase translates the passage in Isaiah, "He shall collect our captivity from infirmities and vengeance; and who can declare what wonderful things shall be done for us in his days?" Others have referred this question to his Deity, or Divine generation; intimating that no one could explain the mystery of his eternal generation. But the word in the Scriptures has no such signification; and such a sense would not suit the connexion. (See Calvin, in loco.) Others have referred it to his own spiritual posterity, his disciples, his family: "The number of his friends and followers who could enumerate?"—Calvin, Beza, etc. But this as little suits the connexion. Another sense which the word has, is to denote the men of any particular age or time, Mt 11:16; 23:36; Lu 16:8, etc. And it has been supposed that the question here means, "Who can describe the character and wickedness of the generation when he shall breathe enormous crime of that age, in putting him to death?' This, perhaps, is the most probable interpretation of the question, for these reasons:

(1.) It is the most usual signification of the word, (see Schleusner,) and would be its obvious meaning in any other connexion.

(2.) It suits the connexion here. For the prophet immediately adds as a reason for the fact that no one can describe that generation, that he was put to death—a deed so enormous, as to make it impossible to describe the wickedness of the generation that would do it. This was the sum, the crowning act of human guilt—a deed so enormous as to defy all attempt at description. The murder of the Messiah; the crucifixion of the Son of God; the killing of the highest Messenger that heaven could send, was the consummation of all earthly wickedness. There was no other deed so enormous that could be performed; and there were no words to describe this. The same thing is implied in what the Saviour himself said, Mt 23:37,38; Lu 13:34,35; 19:42, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," etc. The idea in these places is, that notwithstanding their sin in killing the prophets, and stoning those who had been sent to them, he would still have been willing to receive and pardon them, but for this enormous act of wickedness in putting the Messiah to death—a deed which they were about to accomplish, and which should be attended with the destruction of their state and nation. The Hebrew word "declare" Isa 53:8 means, properly, to meditate, to think of, and then to speak, to declare. It means probably in that place," Who can think of, who can conceive the enormity of the crimes of that age, so as fully to publish or declare them?"

For his life, etc. This is the act of wickedness just referred to—putting the Messiah to death. The Hebrew is, "For he was cut off from the land of the living," i. e., he was put to death. The expression used in the Acts was taken from the Septuagint, and means substantially the same as the Hebrew.

{*} "generation" "The men of his generation who can describe"

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