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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 21

 

 

Verses 1-6

Acts 21:1-6. From Miletus to Tyre.—The sailing is by day, with a following wind (cf. Acts 20:15). After "Patara" D adds "and Myra," where Paul touched on his journey to Rome (see Acts 27:5). Vessels from the East for Rome made for Myra and coasted from there. The vessel from Assos in which Paul was, whether or not chartered for the party, probably went no further than Patara or Myra; he had to tranship, and the rest of his voyage was on the open sea, past the SW. corner of Cyprus, which was sighted. At Tyre there was an enforced delay for the discharge of cargo (cf. "accomplished the days," Acts 21:5). The Christians in the large city had to be looked for, but they took an interest in Paul and warned him that it was dangerous for him to go to Jerusalem. Paul was himself aware of the danger (Romans 15:30 f.). The scene on the beach shows that the church at Tyre was not a large one; the fragrance of it is still sweet to us.


Verses 7-14

Acts 21:7-14. To Cæsarea.—From Tyre to Ptolemais (p. 28) is 20 miles. The stay there is brief; the journey from Ptolemais to Cæsarea, about 30 miles, was probably by land. Philip arrived at Cæsarea after his meeting with the eunuch (Acts 8:40); he still lived there and he received the party. None of the prophecies of his daughters on this occasion are given; the visit lasted some days, and if Philip was one of the Twelve as well as one of the Seven of Acts 6, much would be said that we should like to know. The third Gospel, according to some scholars, was largely indebted to this meeting. Agabus (Acts 11:28) is here introduced to us afresh, and symbolises with Paul's girdle the bonds and imprisonment which in Acts 20:23 Paul said were everywhere foretold to him. Yet his resolution is not shaken.


Verse 15

Acts 21:15 f. To Jerusalem.—"We packed up" is probably nearer the original than either AV or RV (see mg.). The arrangement of quarters at Jerusalem for the party is interesting; but D and the Philox. Syriac read: "when we came to a certain village we found quarters with Mnason." The journey was 65 miles; they would be more than one night on the way.


Verses 17-26

Acts 21:17-26. Arrival at Jerusalem: Paul's Nazirite Vow.

Acts 21:17 gives the general impression on both sides when Paul arrived; in Acts 21:18 he presents himself to James with his retinue, and finds the elders, i.e. the governing body of the Church (Acts 11:30), assembled to receive them. His report to them is given as in Acts 14:27, Acts 15:4. Nothing is said of the subvention from the churches of Macedonia and Greece. The elders have already been considering Paul's arrival, the painful impressions which prevail about him and doubtless occasioned the warnings received on the journey, and possible means of removing them. They represent multitudes of Jews who believe in Christ and yet are upholders of the Law and the customs. These Christian Jews have been told that Paul encourages all the Jews who live among Gentiles to desert Moses, to give up circumcising their children and all their distinctive practices. This must place the Jewish Christians in a painful position. Paul should consider this. The elders have thought of a plan to remove these misconceptions and establish his reputation as a law-abiding Jew. He is to associate himself with four men who have a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6*) to discharge, himself coming under the same vow and paying the expenses of the whole party. The person taking the vow let his hair grow and abstained from every form of wine and defiling contact, and, when the vow matured, presented offerings at the Temple (Numbers 6:13-17), and then shaved his head and put the hair in the fire of the sacrifice. Paul, having just arrived at Jerusalem, could not fully discharge such a vow, which took time (at least thirty days); but the considerable expense of the party of five, two lambs and a ram each, with additions, would show his sincerity as a supporter of the Temple and its rites. This on his part, and on the part of the Gentile Christians the careful observance of the rescript of ch. 15. will secure the position of the Law for all parties. Paul agrees; he goes next day to the Temple and adds his vow to theirs; it is to be for seven days (Acts 21:27).


Verses 27-36

Acts 21:27-36. Outburst of Jewish Fury against Paul in the Temple: his Arrest.—A week later Paul is in the Temple to discharge his vow; whether it was discharged or not is uncertain. The sight of him there infuriates certain Jews from Asia (Ephesus was the metropolis of that province), who at once begin shouting, as they lay their hands on Paul, that he teaches everywhere a doctrine subversive of all that the Jew held dear; and that he had violated the Temple by taking a Gentile into the inner court. An inscription on the railings (Revelation 11:2*, cf. Ephesians 2:14*) denounced the penalty of death against any Gentile found there. It was a suspicion merely; Trophimus (Acts 20:4) had been seen with Paul on the streets but not in the Temple. Paul is dragged at once out of the Temple, which he is accused of defiling and which must at once be cleared. The Roman garrison at Jerusalem was a cohort (600 men) with some cavalry, under a tribune (Acts 21:31 mg.); it was lodged in the Antonia Tower at the NW. corner of the Temple area and connected with the Temple by two flights of steps. The tribune, thinking he has before him a dangerous character, orders him (Acts 21:33) to be heavily chained (cf. Acts 12:6), and to ascertain the merits of the case takes him up to the barracks (Acts 21:34).

Acts 21:36. Away with him: cf. Luke 23:18.


Verses 37-40

Acts 21:37-40. Conversation on the Steps: Paul Addresses the Jews.—Josephus (Wars, II. xiii. 5, Ant. XX. viii. 6) tells us of an Egyptian Jew who, under Felix, led 30,000 men to the Mount of Olives with promises of the Messianic kingdom. He escaped when his followers were killed and dispersed; the tribune here supposes the Jews to be taking vengeance on him. He is surprised to hear Paul speak Greek: what language he expected the Egyptian to use, is not clear. The assassins are the Sicarii, dagger-men, who were the extreme Jewish party and spread terror in Judæa in the days of Felix (p. 610). That Paul after his rough usage should be anxious to address the excited crowd at his feet, seems unlikely, as also is his being allowed by the tribune to do so. But this is the last opportunity for Paul to address the Jewish people; the stairs give the position, and he is exhibited once more as enjoying the favour of a Roman official (cf. Acts 13:7, Acts 18:12 ff.).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 21:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/acts-21.html. 1919.

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