Persecution Continued, in Which Saul Takes a
Prominent Part—How Overruled for
1. Saul was consenting unto his
death—The word expresses hearty approval.
they were all scattered abroad—all the
leading Christians, particularly the preachers, agreeably to their
Lord's injunctions (Mt 10:23),
though many doubtless remained, and others (as appears by Ac 9:26-30) soon returned.
except the apostles—who remained, not
certainly as being less exposed to danger, but, at whatever risk, to
watch over the infant cause where it was most needful to cherish
2. and devout men—pious Jews, probably,
impressed with admiration for Stephen and secretly inclined to
Christianity, but not yet openly declared.
3. Saul … entering into every
house—like as inquisitor [Bengel].
haling men and women, &c.—See his
own affecting confessions afterwards (Ac 22:4; 26:9, 10; 1Co 15:9; Ga 1:13; Php 3:6; 1Ti
4. they that were scattered abroad went everywhere
preaching—Though solemnly enjoined to do this (Lu 24:47; Ac
1:8), they would probably
have lingered at Jerusalem, but for this besom of persecution which
swept them out. How often has the rage of Christ's enemies thus "turned
out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel" (see Php 1:12, 13).
Success of Philip's Preaching in
Samaria—Case of Simon
5. Then Philip—not the apostle of that
name, as was by some of the Fathers supposed; for besides that the
apostles remained at Jerusalem, they would in that case have had no
occasion to send a deputation of their own number to lay their hands on
the baptized disciples [Grotius]. It was
the deacon of that name, who comes next after Stephen in the catalogue
of the seven, probably as being the next most prominent. The
persecution may have been directed especially against Stephen's
the city of Samaria—or "a city of
Samaria"; but the former seems more likely. "It furnished the bridge
between Jerusalem and the world" [Baumgarten].
6-8. the people with one accord gave heed to
… Philip—the way being prepared perhaps by the fruits
of our Lord's sojourn, as He Himself seems to intimate (see on Joh 4:31-38). But "we may mark the providence of God in
sending a Grecian, or a Hellenistic Jew, to a people who from national
antipathy would have been unlikely to attend to a native of
Judea" [Webster and Wilkinson].
8. great joy in that city—over the
change wrought on it by the Gospel, as well as the cures which attested
its divine character.
9-13. used sorcery—magical arts.
some great one … the great power of
God—a sort of incarnation of divinity.
10. To whom all gave heed … because of long
time he had bewitched them—This, coupled with the rapidity
with which they deserted him and attached themselves to Philip, shows
the ripeness of Samaria for some religious change.
12. were baptized, both men and
women—the detection of Simon's frauds helping to extend and
deepen the effects of Philip's preaching.
13. Then Simon himself believed
also—Left without followers, he thinks it best to join the
man who had fairly outstripped him, not without a touch of real
and … was baptized—What a light
does this throw on what is called Baptismal Regeneration!
he continued with Philip—"was in
constant attendance upon" him.
14-17. the apostles … sent Peter and
John—showing that they regarded Peter as no more than their
15, 16. prayed … they might receive the Holy
Ghost. (For only they were baptized in the name of the Lord
Jesus)—As the baptism of adults presupposed "the renewing of
the Holy Ghost" (Tit 3:5-7; 1Co 12:13), of which the profession of faith had
to be taken for evidence, this communication of the Holy Ghost by the
laying on of the apostles' hands was clearly a superadded thing;
and as it was only occasional, so it was invariably attended
with miraculous manifestations (see Ac 10:44, where it followed Peter's preaching;
19:1-7, where, as here, it
followed the laying on of hands). In the present case an important
object was served by it—"the sudden appearance of a body of
baptized disciples in Samaria, by the agency of one who was not an
apostle, requiring the presence and power of apostles to perform their
special part as the divinely appointed founders of the Church" [Alford]. Beautiful, too, was the spectacle
exhibited of Jew and Samaritan, one in Christ.
18-24. offered them money—Hence the term
simony, to denote trafficking in sacred things, but chiefly the
purchase of ecclesiastical offices.
19. that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive
the Holy Ghost—Spiritual ambition here shows itself
the key to this wretched man's character.
20. Thy money perish with thee—that is,
"Accursed be thou and thy money with thee." It is the language of
mingled horror and indignation, not unlike our Lord's rebuke of Peter
21. Thou hast neither part nor lot … thy
heart is not fight, &c.—This is the fidelity of a
minister of Christ to one deceiving himself in a very awful manner.
22. Repent … pray … if perhaps the
thought of thine heart may be forgiven—this expression of
doubt being designed to impress upon him the greatness of his sin, and
the need of alarm on his part.
23. in the gall of bitterness and … bond of
iniquity—expressing both the awfulness of his condition and
the captivity to it in which he was held.
24. Pray ye to the Lord for me—Peter had
urged him to pray for himself: he asks those wonder-working men to do
it for him; having no confidence in the prayer of faith, but thinking
that those men possessed some peculiar interest with heaven.
that none of these things dome upon
me—not that the thought of his wicked heart might be forgiven
him, but only that the evils threatened might be averted from him.
While this throws great light on Peter's view of his melancholy case,
it shows that Christianity, as something divine, still retained its
hold of him. (Tradition represents him as turning out a great
heresiarch, mingling Oriental or Grecian philosophy with some elements
25. and they—Peter and John.
when they had … preached—in the
city where Philip's labors had been so richly blessed.
returned … and preached … in many
villages of the Samaritans—embracing the opportunity of their
journey back to Jerusalem to fulfil their Lord's commission to the
whole region of Samaria (Ac 1:8).
Ac 8:26-40. The Ethiopian
"With this narrative of the progress of the Gospel
among the Samaritans is connected another which points to the diffusion
of the doctrine of the Cross among the remotest nations. The simplicity
of the chamberlain of Meroe forms a remarkable contrast with the craft
of the magician just described" [Olshausen].
26-28. the angel of the Lord—rather, "an
go … south, the way that goeth down from
Jerusalem to Gaza—There was such a road, across Mount Hebron,
which Philip might take without going to Jerusalem (as Von Raumer's'S Palæstina shows).
which is desert—that is, the
way; not Gaza itself, which was the southernmost city of Palestine,
in the territory of the ancient Philistines. To go from a city, where
his hands had been full of work, so far away on a desert road, could
not but be staggering to the faith of Philip, especially as he was kept
in ignorance of the object of the journey. But like Paul, he "was not
disobedient to the heavenly vision"; and like Abram, "he went out not
knowing whither he went" (Ac 26:19; Heb 11:8).
27. a man of Ethiopia—Upper Egypt,
an eunuch of great authority—Eunuchs
were generally employed for confidential offices in the East, and to
some extent are still.
Candace—the family name of the queens
of Upper Egypt, like Pharaoh, Cæsar, &c. (as appears from
had come to Jerusalem to worship—that
is, to keep the recent feast of Pentecost, as a Gentile proselyte to
the Jewish faith. (See Isa 56:3-8, and Joh 12:20).
28. Was returning—Having come so far, he
not only stayed out the days of the festival, but prolonged his stay
till now. It says much for his fidelity and value to his royal mistress
that he had such liberty. But the faith in Jehovah and love of His
worship and word, with which he was imbued, sufficiently explain
and sitting in his chariot, read
Esaias—Not contented with the statutory services in which he
had joined, he beguiles the tedium of the journey homeward by reading
the Scriptures. But this is not all; for as Philip "heard him read the
prophet Esaias," he must have been reading aloud and not (as is
customary still in the East) so as merely to be audible, but in a
louder voice than he would naturally have used if intent on his own
benefit only: evidently therefore he was reading to his
29-31. the Spirit said—by an
unmistakable voice within, as in Ac 10:19; 16:6, 7.
go near and join this chariot—This
would reveal to Philip the hitherto unknown object of his journey, and
encourage him to expect something.
30. Understandest thou what thou
readest?—To one so engaged this would be deemed no rude
question, while the eager appearance of the speaker, and the question
itself, would indicate a readiness to supply any want of insight that
might be felt.
31. How can I, except some man guide
me?—Beautiful expression at once of humility and docility;
the invitation to Philip which immediately followed, to "come up and
sit with him," being but the natural expression of this.
32, 33. The place … was this, He was led as
a sheep, &c.—One cannot but wonder that this, of all
predictions of Messiah's sufferings in the Old Testament the most
striking, should have been that which the eunuch was reading before
Philip joined him. He could hardly miss to have heard at Jerusalem of
the sufferings and death of Jesus, and of the existence of a
continually increasing party who acknowledged Him to be the Messiah.
But his question to Philip, whether the prophet in this passage meant
himself or some other man, clearly shows that he had not the least idea
of any connection between this prediction and those facts.
34-38. And the eunuch answered, I pray thee,
&c.—The respect with which he here addresses Philip was
prompted by his reverence for one whom he perceived to be his superior
in divine things; his own worldly position sinking before this.
35. Then Philip opened his mouth—(See on
began at the same scripture—founding
on it as his text.
preached unto him Jesus—showing Him to
be the glorious Burden of this wonderful prediction, and interpreting
it in the light of the facts of His history.
36. See, here is water—more
simply, "Behold water!" as if already his mind filled with light and
his soul set free, he was eagerly looking out for the first water in
which he might seal his reception of the truth and be enrolled among
the visible disciples of the Lord Jesus.
what doth hinder me to be
baptized?—Philip had probably told him that this was the
ordained sign and seal of discipleship, but the eunuch's question was
likely the first proposal of its application in this case. (Ac 8:37 is wanting in the principal
manuscripts and most venerable versions of the New Testament. It seems
to have been added from the formularies for baptism which came into
38. they went down both into the water, and he
baptized him, &c.—probably laving the water upon him,
though the precise mode is neither certain nor of any consequence.
39, 40. the Spirit of the Lord caught away
Philip—To deny [as Meyer,
Olshausen, Bloomfield] the miraculous nature of Philip's
disappearance, is vain. It stands out on the face of the words, as just
a repetition of what we read of the ancient prophets, in 1Ki 18:12;
2Ki 2:16. And the same word
(as Bengel remarks) is employed to
express a similar idea in 2Co 12:2, 4; 1Th 4:17.
the eunuch saw him no more—nor,
perhaps, for very joy, cared to see him [Bengel].
and he went on his way rejoicing—He
had found Christ, and the key to the Scriptures; his soul was set free,
and his discipleship sealed; he had lost his teacher, but gained what
was infinitely better: He felt himself a new man, and "his joy was
full." Tradition says he was the first preacher of the Gospel in
Ethiopia; and how, indeed, could he choose but "tell what the Lord had
done for his soul?" Yet there is no certainty as to any historical
connection between his labors and the introduction of Christianity into
40. Philip was found—that is, "found
himself," "made his appearance": an expression confirming the
miraculous manner of his transportation.
at Azotus—the ancient Ashdod.
preached in all the cities—along the
coast, proceeding northward.
till he came to
Cæsarea—fifty-five miles northwest of Jerusalem, on the
Mediterranean, just south of Mount Carmel; and so named by Herod, who
rebuilt it, in honor of Cæsar Augustus. Henceforth we lose sight
of zealous and honored Philip, as by and by we shall lose sight even of
Peter. As the chariot of the Gospel rolls on, other agents are raised
up, each suited to his work. But "he that soweth and he that reapeth
shall rejoice together." (See on Joh