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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 13 - Verse 20

Verse 20. He gave unto them judges. Men who were raised up in an extraordinary manner to administer the affairs of the nation, to defend it from enemies, etc. See Jud 2:16.

About the space of our hundred and fifty years. This is a most difficult passage, and has exercised all the ingenuity of chronologists. The ancient versions agree with the present Greek text. The difficulty has been to reconcile it with what is said in 1 Ki 6:1: "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel .... he began to build the house of the Lord." Now if, to the forty years that the children of Israel were in the wilderness, there be added the four hundred and fifty said in Acts to have been passed under the administration of the judges, and about seventeen years of the time of Joshua, forty for Samuel and the reign of Saul together, and forty for the reign of David, and three of Solomon before he began to build the temple, the sum will be five hundred and ninety years, a period greater by one hundred and ten years than that mentioned in 1 Ki 6:1. Various ways have been proposed to meet the difficulty. Doddridge renders it, "After these transactions, [which lasted] four hundred and fifty years, he gave them a series of judges," etc., reckoning from the birth of Isaac, and supposing that Paul meant to refer to this whole time. But to this there are serious objections.

(1.) It is a forced and constrained interpretation, and one manifestly made to meet a difficulty.

(2.) There is no propriety in commencing this period at the birth of Isaac. That was in no manner remarkable, so far as Paul's narrative was concerned; and Paul had not even referred to it. This same solution is offered also by Calovius, Mill, Lud, and De Dieu. Luther and Beza think it should be read three hundred, instead of four hundred. But this is a mere conjecture, without any authority from Mss. Vitringa and some others suppose that the text has been corrupted by some transcriber, who has inserted this without authority. But there is no evidence of this; and the Mss. and ancient versions are uniform. None of these explanations are satisfactory. In the solution of the difficulty we may remark,

(1.) that nothing is more perplexing than the chronology of ancient facts. The difficulty is found in all writings; in profane as well as sacred. Mistakes are so easily made in transcribing numbers where letters are used, instead of writing the words at length, that we are not to wonder at such errors.

(2.) Paul would naturally use the chronology which was in current, common use, among the Jews. It was not his business to settle such points; but he would speak of them as they were usually spoken of, and refer to them as others did.

(3.) There is reason to believe that that which is here mentioned was the common chronology of his time. It accords remarkably with that which is used by Josephus. Thus (Antiq. b. vii. chap. iii. & 1) Josephus says expressly, that Solomon "began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign, five hundred and ninety-two years after the Exodus out of Egypt, etc. This would allow forty years for their being in the wilderness, seventeen for Joshua, forty for Samuel and Saul, forty for the reign of David, and four hundred and fifty-two years for the time of the judges and the times of anarchy that intervened. This remarkable coincidence shows that this was the chronology which was then used, and which Paul had in view.

(4.) This chronology has the authority, also, of many eminent names. See Lightfoot, and Boyle's Lectures, chap. xx. In what way this computation of Josephus and the Jews originated, it is not necessary here to inquire. It is a sufficient, solution of the difficulty that Paul spoke in their usual manner, without departing from his regular object by settling a point of chronology.

{g} "judges" Jud 2:16

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