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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Acts 21

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The Acts of the Apostles

Commentary by DAVID BROWN

CHAPTER 21

Act 21:1-16. SAILING FROM EPHESUS, THEY LAND AT TYRE, AND THENCE SAILING TO PTOLEMAIS, THEY PROCEED BY LAND TO CAESAREA AND JERUSALEM.

      1. we were gotten--"torn."
      from them--expressing the difficulty and pain of the parting.
      with a straight course--running before the wind, as Act 16:11.
      unto Coos--Cos, an island due south from Miletus, which they would reach in about six hours, and coming close to the mainland.
      the day following unto Rhodes--another island, some fifty miles to the southeast, of brilliant classic memory and beauty.
      thence unto Patara--a town on the magnificent mainland of Lycia, almost due east from Rhodes. It was the seat of a celebrated oracle of Apollo.

      2. And finding a ship--their former one going no farther, probably.
      to Phoenica--(See on JF & B for Ac 11:19).
      went abroad--One would almost think this extracted from a journal of the voyage, so graphic are its details.

      3. when we. . . discovered--"sighted," as the phrase is.
      Cyprus, we left it on the left hand--that is, steered southeast of it, leaving it on the northwest.
      sailed into--"unto"
      Syria, and landed at Tyre--the celebrated seat of maritime commerce for East and West. It might be reached from Patara in about two days.
      there the ship was to unlade her burden--which gave the apostle time for what follows.

      4-6. finding disciples--finding out the disciples, implying some search. They would expect such, from what is recorded, Act 11:19. Perhaps they were not many; yet there were gifted ones among them.
      who said to Paul. . . that he should not go up to Jerusalem--(See on JF & B for Ac 20:23; also see on JF & B for Ac 21:11-14).

      5. they all brought us on our way with wives and children. . . and we kneeled down on the shore and prayed--(See on JF & B for Ac 20:36). Observe here that the children of these Tyrian disciples not only were taken along with their parents, but must have joined in this act of solemn worship. See on JF & B for Eph 6:1.

      7. when we had finished our course--completing the voyage
      from Tyre, we came--which they would do the same day.
      to Ptolemais--anciently called Accho ( Jdg 1:31 ), now St. Jean d'Acre, or Acre.
      and saluted the brethren, and abode, &c.--disciples gathered probably as at Tyre, on the occasion mentioned ( Act 11:19 ).

      8-10. next day we that were of Paul's company departed--(The words "the were of Paul's company" are omitted in the best manuscripts. They were probably added as the connecting words at the head of some church lessons).
      and came to Caesarea--a run along the coast, southward, of some thirty miles.
      Philip the evangelist--a term answering apparently very much to our missionary [HOWSON], by whose ministry such joy had been diffused over Samaria and the Ethiopian eunuch had been baptized ( Act 8:4-40 ).
      one of the seven--deacons, who had "purchased to himself a good degree" ( 1Ti 3:13 ). He and Paul now meet for the first time, some twenty-five years after that time.

      9. the same man had four daughters. . . which did prophesy--fulfilling Joe 2:28 (see Act 2:18 ). This is mentioned, it would seem, merely as a high distinction divinely conferred on so devoted a servant of the Lord Jesus, and probably indicates the high tone of religion in his family.

      10. tarried there many--"a good many"
      days--Finding himself in good time for Pentecost at Jerusalem, he would feel it a refreshing thing to his spirit to hold Christian communion for a few days with such a family.
      there came down from Judea--the news of Paul's arrival having spread.
      a certain prophet. . . Agabus--no doubt the same as in Act 11:28.

      11-14. So shall the Jews bind the man that owneth this girdle, &c.--For though the Romans did it, it was at the Jews' instigation ( Act 21:33 Act 28:17 ). Such dramatic methods of announcing important future events would bring the old prophets to remembrance. (Compare Isa 20:2, &c. Jer 13:1, and Eze 5:1, &c.). This prediction and that at Tyre ( Act 21:4 ) were intended, not to prohibit him from going, but to put his courage to the test and when he stood the test, to deepen and mature it.

      12. we and they at that place--the Caesarean Christians.
      besought him--even with tears, Act 21:13.
      not to go to Jerusalem.

      13. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart--Beautiful union of manly resoluteness and womanly tenderness, alike removed from mawkishness and stoicism!
      I am ready not to be bound only--"If that is all, let it come."
      but to die, &c.--It was well he could add this, for he had that also to do.

      15, 16. we took up our carriages--"our baggage."
      and went up to Jerusalem--for the fifth time after his conversion, thus concluding his third missionary tour, which proved his last, so far as recorded; for though he accomplished the fourth and last part of the missionary plan sketched out ( Act 19:21 ) --"After I have been at Jerusalem, I must also see Rome"--it was as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ."

      16. went with us. . . and brought with them--rather, "brought us to."
      One Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, &c.--not an "aged" disciple, but probably "a disciple of old standing," perhaps one of the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, or, more likely still, drawn to the Saviour Himself during His lifetime. He had come, probably, with the other Cyprians ( Act 11:20 ), to Antioch, "preaching the Lord Jesus unto the Grecians," and now he appears settled at Jerusalem.

      Act 21:17-40. PAUL REPORTS THE EVENTS OF HIS THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY--IN THE TEMPLE, PURIFYING HIMSELF FROM A JEWISH VOW, HE IS SEIZED BY A MOB AND BEATEN TO THE DANGER OF HIS LIFE--THE UPROAR BECOMING UNIVERSAL, THE ROMAN COMMANDANT HAS HIM BROUGHT IN CHAINS TO THE FORTRESS, FROM THE STAIRS OF WHICH HE IS PERMITTED TO ADDRESS THE PEOPLE.

      The apostle was full of anxiety about this visit to Jerusalem, from the numerous prophetic intimations of danger awaiting him, and having reason to expect the presence at this feast of the very parties from whose virulent rage he had once and again narrowly escaped with his life. Hence we find him asking the Roman Christians to wrestle with him in prayer, "for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that he might be delivered from them that believed not in Judea," as well as "that his service which he had for Jerusalem (the great collection for the poor saints there) might be accepted of the saints" ( Rom 15:30, 31 ).

      17-19. the brethren received us gladly--the disciples generally, as distinguished from the official reception recorded in Act 21:18.

      18. Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present--to "report himself" formally to the acknowledged head of the church at Jerusalem, and his associates in office. See on JF & B for Ac 15:13. Had any other of the apostles been in Jerusalem on that occasion, it could hardly fail to have been noted.

      19. he declared particularly--in detail.
      what God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry--as on previous occasions ( Act 14:27; and see Rom 15:15 ); no doubt referring to the insidious and systematic efforts of the Judaizing party in a number of places to shrivel the Church of Christ into a Jewish sect, and his own counter-procedure.

      20-25. they glorified the Lord, &c.--constrained to justify his course, notwithstanding the Jewish complexion of the Christianity of Jerusalem.

      21. they are informed. . . that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles--those residing in heathen countries.
      to forsake Moses, &c.--This calumny of the unbelieving Jews would find easy credence among the Christian zealots for Judaism.

      23. we have four men--Christian Jews, no doubt.
      which have a vow--perhaps kept ready on purpose.

      24. be at charges with them--that is, defray the expense of the sacrifices legally required of them, along with his own, which was deemed a mark of Jewish generosity.

      25. touching the Gentiles. . . we have written and concluded that they observe no such things, &c.--This shows that with all their conciliation to Jewish prejudice, the Church of Jerusalem was taught to adhere to the decision of the famous council held there ( Act 15:19-29 ).

      26. to signify--that is, announce to the priest.
      the accomplishment of the days of purification, &c.--(See on JF & B for Nu 6:14-21).

      27-30. the Jews. . . of Asia--in all likelihood those of Ephesus (since they recognized Trophimus apparently as a townsman, Act 21:29 ), embittered by their discomfiture ( Act 19:9, &c.).

      29. Trophimus--(See on JF & B for Ac 20:4).

      30. took Paul, and drew him out of the temple; and forthwith the doors were shut--that the murder they meant to perpetrate might not pollute that holy place.

      31. tidings came--literally, "went up," that is, to the fortress of Antonia, where the commandant resided. See on JF & B for Ac 21:32. This part of the narrative is particularly graphic.

      32. the chief captain--"the chiliarch," or tribune of the Roman cohort, whose full number was one thousand men.

      33. commanded him to be bound with two chains--(See on JF & B for Ac 12:6).

      34. some cried one thing--The difficulty would be so to state his crimes as to justify their proceedings to a Roman officer.
      to be carried into the castle--rather, perhaps, "the barracks," or that part of the fortress of Antonia appropriated to the soldiers. The fort was built by Herod on a high rock at the northwest corner of the great temple area, and called after Mark Antony.

      35, 36. Away with him--as before of his Lord ( Luk 23:18 Jhn 19:15 ).

      37-40. Art not thou that Egyptian, &c.--The form of the question implies that the answer is to be in the negative, and is matter of some surprise: "Thou art not then?" &c.

      38. madest an uproar, &c.--The narrative is given in JOSEPHUS [Wars of the Jews, 2.8.6; 13.5], though his two allusions and ours seem to refer to different periods of the rebellion.

      39. a citizen of no mean city--(See on JF & B for Ac 16:37).

      40. stood on the stairs--"What nobler spectacle than that of Paul at this moment! There he stood, bound with two chains, ready to make his defense to the people. The Roman commander sits by, to enforce order by his presence. An enraged populace look up to him from below. Yet in the midst of so many dangers, how self-possessed is he, how tranquil!" [CHRYSOSTOM (or in his name) in HACKETT].
      a great silence--the people awed at the permission given him by the commandant, and seeing him sitting as a listener.
      in the Hebrew tongue--the Syro-Chaldaic, the vernacular tongue of the Palestine Jews since the captivity.

Introduction to John ← Prior Book
Introduction to Romans Next Book →
Commentary on Acts 20 ← Prior Chapter
Commentary on Acts 22 Next Chapter →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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