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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 13 - Verse 40
Verses 40,41. Beware therefore. Avoid that which is threatened. It will come on some; and Paul exhorted his hearers to beware lest it should come on them. It was the more important to caution them against this danger, as the Jews held that they were safe.
Lest that come. That calamity, that threatened punishment.
The place where this is recorded is Hab 1:5. It is not taken from the Hebrew, but substantially from the Septuagint. The original design of the threatening was to announce the destruction that would come upon the nation by the Chaldeans. The original threatening was fulfilled. But it was as applicable to the Jews in the time of Paul as in the time of Habakkuk. The principle of the passage is, that if they held in contempt the doings of God, they would perish. The work which God was to do by means of the Chaldeans was so fearful, so unusual, and so remarkable, that they would not believe it in time to avoid the calamity. In the same way, that which God did in giving a Messiah so little in accordance with their expectation, the manner of the introduction of his kingdom by miracles, and the gift of his Spirit, was so much at variance with their expectations, that they might see it, yet disbelieve it; they might have the fullest proof, and yet despise it; they might wonder, and be amazed and astonished, and unable to account for it, and yet refuse to believe it, and be destroyed.
Behold, ye despisers. Heb. "Behold, ye among the heathen." The change from this expression to "ye despisers" was made by the Septuagint translators, by a very slight change in the Hebrew word—probably from a variation in the copy which they used. It arose from reading
Bogedim instead of Baggoin. The Syriac, the Arabic, as well as the Seventy, follow this reading.
And wonder. Heb. "And regard, and wonder marvellously."
And perish. This is not in the Hebrew, but is in the Septuagint and the Arabic. The word means, literally, to be removed from the sight, to disappear; and then to corrupt, defile, destroy, Mt 6:16,19. The word, however, may mean, to be suffused with shame; to be overwhelmed and confounded, (Schleusner;) and it may perhaps have this meaning here, answering to the Hebrew. The word used here is not that which is commonly employed to denote eternal perdition; though Paul seems to use it with reference to their destruction for rejecting the gospel.
For I work a work. I do a thing. The thing to which the prophet Habakkuk referred was that God would bring upon them the Chaldeans, that would destroy the temple and nation. In like manner Paul says that God in that time might bring upon the nation similar calamities. By rejecting the Messiah and his gospel, and by persevering in wickedness, they would bring upon themselves the destruction of the temple, and city, and nation. It was this threatened destruction, doubtless, to which the apostle referred.
Which ye shall in no wise believe. Which you will not believe. So remarkable, so unusual, so surpassing anything which had occurred. The original reference in Habakkuk is to the destruction of the temple by the Chaldeans—a thing which the Jews would not suppose could happen. The temple was so splendid; it had been built by the direction of God; it had been so long under his protection, that they would suppose that it could not be given into the hands of their enemies to be demolished. And even though it were predicted by a prophet of God, still they would not believe it. The same feelings the Jews would have respecting the temple and city in the time of Paul. Though it was foretold by the Messiah, yet they were so confident that it was protected by God, that they would not believe that it could possibly be destroyed. The same infatuation seems to have possessed them during the siege of the city by the Romans.
Though a man, etc. Though it be plainly predicted. We may learn,
(1.) that men may see, and be amazed at the works of God, and yet be destroyed.
(2.) There may be a prejudice so obstinate that even a Divine revelation will not remove it.
(3.) The fancied security of sinners will not save them.
(4.) There are men who will not believe in the possibility of their being lost, though it be declared by the prophets, by apostles, by the Saviour, and by God. They will still remain in fancied security, and suffer nothing to alarm or rouse them. But
(5.) the fancied security of the Jews furnished no safety against the Babylonians or the Romans. Nor will the indifference and unconcern of sinners furnish any security against the dreadful wrath of God. Yet there are multitudes who live amidst the displays of God's power and mercy in the redemption of sinners; who witness the effects of his goodness and truth in revivals of religion, who live to despise it all; who are amazed and confounded by it; and who shall yet perish.
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