The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Acts 9

Act 9:1

Act 9:1 -- Act 16:5: Towards Asia:

Act 9: "The change is such a zealous and fervent man as Saul of Tarsus is remarkable. To cp v 1 with v 6 shows the effect of the Truth when a man has a mind to accept its reality. So the instrument was found, and Saul was called to 'repent and be baptised.' He responded in typical passion. It was the blinding light, and the voice from heaven, that changed this 'son of a Pharisee' and altered the complete pathway of his life. Having secured the dispersion of the ecclesia (Act 8:3), and the death of brethren (Act 22:4), he extended his activities beyond Judea (Act 26:11). He had dedicated himself to destroying the hated sect. Threatening and slaughter constituted the very atmosphere in which he lived. But that was all to change, and with such drama.

"(1) The road to Damascus sees a change in Saul: vv 1-9. (2) Ananias doubts the divine mission: vv 10-16. (3) Saul is baptised: vv 17-19. (4) Saul preaches in Damascus: vv 20-22. (5) His life endangered in Damascus: vv 23-25. (6) He joins the Jerusalem Ecclesia: vv 26-28. (7) He is forced to retire to Tarsus: vv 29-31. (8) Peter's authority is confirmed by miracle: vv 32-35. (9) Dorcas raised from the dead: vv 36-43. It was a time of great wonder for the ecclesia. As a Pharisee in Jerusalem at the time of Christ's crucifixion, Saul would have witnessed the action of the elders in their complete absorption for the death of Jesus. He would have been aware that the body of the Lord rested in the grave for three days -- and now he found himself blinded for three days. He neither ate nor drank. He was as a dead man. And yet his mind was opened, and he obviously pondered his circumstances. It was the beginning of a most remarkable career for the Truth, which ended by him 'bearing the Name before kings' (v 15), and the persecutor became the persecuted. There was a vision that never left the apostle Paul. He could not erase from his memory that terrible day when in fury he consented to the death of the righteous Stephen. He opposed Stephen's enemies at Jerusalem for that very reason (Act 9:29; 22:20). Paul was the greatest miracle of Acts 9" (GEM).

V 1: BREATHING OUT MURDEROUS THREATS: The word "out" should be omitted. Saul was breathing IN the prevailing Jewish atmosphere of hatred toward Christians.

Act 9:2

DAMASCUS: And Damascus was not the first city! (see Acts 26:11). Description of Damascus in C&H 77. Oldest city in world (Gen 14:15; 15:2).

THE WAY: The characteristic direction of life as determined by faith in Christ: Act 19:9; 22:4; 24:22; fuller expression in Act 16:17; 18:25. From Joh 14:5,6.

Act 9:3

"The conversion of Saul was like that of a second Abraham: he journeyed from south to north on same route Abraham had travelled in the opposite direction, the 'glory of God' appearing to him (cp Act 7:2). He left his family, his nation, his land. He travelled into new lands -- ever a stranger and a pilgrim (Act 7:3-5)" (C&H 68).

3 principal narratives of Paul's conversion: here (to Christians); Act 22 (to Jews); Act 26 (to Gentiles).

This happened at noon: Act 22:6; 26:13.

A LIGHT FROM HEAVEN: So bright as to eclipse the noonday sun: Act 22:6; 26:13.

Act 9:4

A VOICE: In Heb tongue (Act 26:14).

WHY DO YOU PERSECUTE ME?: The reverse of Mat 10:40: "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me." Cp Mat 25:40: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." And esp the negative, in Mat 25:45: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did NOT do for one of the least of these, you did NOT do for ME."

Act 9:5

"Have I not seen Jesus?" (1Co 9:1). "Last of all... as one born out of due time" (1Co 15:8).

The KJV has: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks", prob borrowing from Acts 26:14 -- but not found in the best texts for Acts 9 (Vincent).

Act 9:6

The KJV has: "What will you have me to do?" ...which is not found in most manuscripts.

Act 9:7

STOOD: May sig that their progress was arrested. Some at least fell to the ground (Act 26:14).

THEY HEARD THE SOUND: But did not understand the words: Act 22:9.

BUT DID NOT SEE ANYONE: Paul, by contrast, actually did see the Lord, through the blinding light: 1Co 9:1; 15:8.

Act 9:8

// Elisha, Dothan, men blinded: 2Ki 6.

Act 9:9

FOR THREE DAYS HE WAS BLIND, AND DID NOT EAT OR DRINK ANYTHING: Like Jesus before him, Saul was virtually "dead" for 3 days. During this time, he fasted and prayed, and thought upon all the Scriptures as they testified of Jesus. (Thus, when healed of his blindness, he could be immediately baptized.)

Act 9:11

FOR HE IS PRAYING: "Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed but praying soul. Oftentimes a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears; yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music; that tear has been caught by God and treasured in the lachrymatory of heaven. 'Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle,' implies that they are caught as they flow. The suppliant, whose fears prevent his words, will be well understood by the Most High. He may only look up with misty eye; but 'prayer is the falling of a tear.' Tears are the diamonds of heaven; sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's court, and are numbered with 'the sublimest strains that reach the majesty on high.' Think not that your prayer, however weak or trembling, will be unregarded. Jacob's ladder is lofty, but our prayers shall lean upon the Angel of the covenant and so climb its starry rounds. Our God not only hears prayer but also loves to hear it. 'He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.' True, He regards not high looks and lofty words; He cares not for the pomp and pageantry of kings; He listens not to the swell of martial music; He regards not the triumph and pride of man; but wherever there is a heart big with sorrow, or a lip quivering with agony, or a deep groan, or a penitential sigh, the heart of Jehovah is open; He marks it down in the registry of His memory; He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up therefrom" (CHS).

Act 9:12

Saul, though literally blind (v 9), still saw a "vision"!

See Lesson, Laying on of hands.

Act 9:13

LORD... I HAVE HEARD MANY REPORTS: We may think we know a man's character better than God does!

How often people have made this type of reply to God. Apart from the occasion (Exo 4:13,14) of Moses complaining that he would not be able to perform the task God had set him, God appears not to be angry at the weakness of the flesh, but instead provides comfort in one way or another to allay these fears: 1Sa 16:2; 1Ki 18:9-14; Jer 20:9,10; Eze 3:14; Mat 10:16.

Act 9:14

Ananias, a true watchman, is aware of the dangers confronting the flock.

Act 9:15

God's purposes in Saul's conversion: vv 15-17; Acts 22:14,15; 26:17,18.

MY CHOSEN INSTRUMENT: Lit, "vessel" (2Ti 2:21).

Act 9:16

// 2Co 11:25-28.

Act 9:18

See Lesson, Acts, conversions.

In ct 2Ki 5:12, the rivers of Damascus are now acceptable for washing.

Saul, his eyes opened, looked up into the face of a man whom, 4 days earlier, he would have happily led away to his death!

Act 9:20

JESUS: This is the correct reading; KJV has "Christ".

Act 9:21

A question of the Jews, not the Christians (notice the "them").

RAISED HAVOC: Sw Gal 1:13.

Act 9:22

PROVING: Sig to combine and compare, ie, various passages.

Act 9:23

AFTER MANY DAYS: About 3 years. Prob insert here Gal 1:17: A visit to Arabia, prob Sinai (Gal 4:25) -- to pray and ponder. Here he received a revelation of God's purpose with Gentiles (Rom 16:26; Eph 3:2-5).

Act 9:25

A humiliating experience for a proud Pharisee (cp David's flight: 1Sa 19:12; Psa 59).

BASKET: The basket here is a "spuris" -- a large basket -- obviously large enough for a man to hide in. This was the same sort of basket which was filled, seven times over, with the bread miraculously multiplied by Jesus (Mat 15:37; 16:10). And here, on a spiritual level, was part of the "bread" of Christ -- his "body"! -- being miraculously multiplied again! For this man Paul, escaping from Damascus in the basket (2Co 11:32,33), would live to see a miraculous multiplying of the "bread" or "body" of Christ -- through his labors in traveling and preaching the gospel.

Act 9:26

HE TRIED TO JOIN THE DISCIPLES: With purpose of visiting Peter (Gal 1:18).

NOT BELIEVING THAT HE REALLY WAS A DISCIPLE: The time spent in Arabia (Gal 1:17) may have caused this.

NOT BELIEVING: This is the continuous tense, ie happening time after time.

Act 9:27

Barnabas (the man known for his great generosity: Act 4:36) is the only one to support the new convert Saul.

...TO THE APOSTLES: Actually, only to Peter and James the Lord's brother (Gal 1:18,19). He stayed with Peter for 15 days (Gal 1:18).

Act 9:28

MOVED ABOUT FREELY: Lit "coming in and going out": a Heb idiom for assuming leadership, as a shepherd (Num 26:17; 1Sa 18:13; Acts 1:21). He is now accorded the full status of an apostle.

Act 9:29

THE GRECIAN JEWS: Those who had been his partners in executing Stephen.

Act 9:30

Paul had received a vision and message while in the Temple, that he must go to the Gentiles (Act 22:17-21).

TO TARSUS: That is, to regions of Syria and Cilicia (Gal 1:21). The narrative conc Paul is resumed at Act 11:30.

Act 9:31

A TIME OF PEACE: For first time since death of Stephen. This extends to Act 12:1. At this time Caligula the emperor issued his decree for placing a statue in the holy place of the Temple. This aroused Jewish opposition and apparently diverted their attention from persecuting Christians for several years (SB 13:78).

ENCOURAGED...: "Comfort" (Gr "paraklesis") in RSV.

FEAR: Fear and comfort are not incongruous pair. "There is many a one who might have been more comfortable in mind, had he minded his comfort less and his duty more."

Act 9:32

LYDDA: Lod of OT (Ezr 2:33), a day's journey from Jerusalem, 18 miles to nw. Several miles north of road connecting Jerusalem to Joppa.

Act 9:35

SHARON: That is, the plain of Sharon.

Act 9:36

JOPPA: Modern Jaffa -- a suburb of Tel Aviv, 38 mi from Jerusalem. From Joppa Jonah had fled rather than go to Gentiles (Jon 1:3). From Joppa also, Peter went willingly to the Gentiles.

GAZELLE: A favorite symbol of beauty and gracefulness (Song 2:9,17; 4:5; 7:3; Pro 5:9).

Act 9:39

ALL THE WIDOWS: Specially cared for (1Ti 5:3-16).

Act 9:40

SENT THEM... OUT...: After Christ's example in house of Jairus (Luk 8:54; Mar 5:40).

Act 9:43

A TANNER: an unclean and degrading profession, in eyes of Jews -- associated with an offensive odor, and dead beasts. Peter has begun at least to forget his Jewish prejudices. This is a step in the right direction, and further steps will be taken in Act 10.

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