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Verse 37. They were stoned. A common method of punishment among the Jews. See Barnes "Mt 21:35,44.

Thus Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, was stoned. See 2 Ch 24:21; comp. 1 Ki 21:1-14. It is not improbable that this was often resorted to in times of popular tumult, as in the case of Stephen, Ac 7:59; comp. Joh 10:31; Ac 14:5. In the time of the terrible persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes, and under Manasseh, such instances also probably occurred.

They were sawn asunder. It is commonly supposed that Isaiah was put to death in this manner. For the evidence of this, see Introduction to Isaiah, & 2. It is known that this mode of punishment, though not common, did exist in ancient times. Among the Romans, the laws of the twelve tables affixed this as the punishment of certain crimes; but this mode of execution was very rare, since Aulius Gellius says, that in his time no one remembered to have seen it practised. It appears, however, from Suetonius, that the emperor Caligula often condemned persons of rank to be sawn through the middle. Calmet, writing above a hundred years ago, says, "I am assured that the punishment of the saw is still in use among the Switzers, and that they put it in practice not many years ago upon one of their countrymen, guilty of a great crime, in the plain of Grenelles, near Paris. They put him into a kind of coffin, and sawed him lengthwise, beginning at the head, as a piece of wood is sawn." Pict. Bib. It was not an unusual mode of punishment to cut a person asunder, and to suspend the different parts of the body to walls and towers as a warning to the living. See 1 Sa 31:10, and Morier's Second Journey to Persia, p. 96.

Were tempted. On this expression, which has given much perplexity to critics, see the Notes of Prof. Stuart, Bloomfield, and Kuinoel. There is a great variety of reading in the Mss. and editions of the New Testament, and many have regarded it as an interpolation. The difficulty which has been felt in reference to it has been, that it is a much milder word than those just used, and that it is hardly probable that the apostle would enumerate this among those which he had just specified, as if to be tempted deserved to be mentioned among sufferings of so severe a nature. But it seems to me, there need be no real difficulty in the case. The apostle here, among other sufferings which they were called to endure, may have referred to the temptations which were presented to the martyrs, when about to die, to abandon their religion and live. It is very possible to conceive that this might have been among the highest aggravations of their sufferings. We know that in latter times it was a common practice to offer life to those who were doomed to a horrid death, on condition that they would throw incense on the altars of a heathen god, and we may easily suppose that a temptation of that kind, artfully presented in the midst of keen tortures, would greatly aggravate their sufferings. Or suppose when a father was about to be put to death for his religion, his wife and children were placed before him, and should plead with him to save his life by abandoning his religion, we can easily imagine that no pain of the rack would cause so keen torture to the soul as their cries and tears would. Amidst the sorrows of martyrs, therefore, it was not improper to say that they were tempted, and to place this among their most aggravated woes. For instances of this nature, see 2 Mac. 6:21, 22; 7:17, 24.

Were slain with the sword. As in the case of the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg, (1 Sa 22:18;) and the prophets, of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains, 1 Ki 19:10.

They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins. Driven away from their homes, and compelled to clothe themselves in this rude and uncomfortable manner. A dress of this kind, or a dress made of hair, was not uncommon with the prophets, and seems indeed to have been regarded as an appropriate badge of their office. See 2 Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4.

Being destitute, afflicted, tormented. The word tormented here means tortured. The apostle expresses here in general what in the previous verses he had specified in detail.

{i} "stoned" Ac 7:59

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