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Acts 13:1-52 | Werner Bible Commentary

Acts 13:1-52

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Prophets and teachers were associated with the congregation or community of believers in Syrian Antioch. While prophets did at times foretell future events that particularly concerned the followers of Jesus Christ, their role was chiefly one of making known God’s will, providing admonition, encouragement, and comfort to strengthen fellow believers. (15:32; 1 Corinthians 14:3) Prophets commonly also functioned as teachers, assisting others to be strong in faith and to understand God’s will for them and how to conduct themselves as devoted disciples of his Son. (1 Timothy 2:7) The five prophets and teachers in the Antioch congregation that are identified by name were Barnabas, Symeon (called “Niger”), Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (13:1; see the Notes section and see http://bibleplaces.com/antiochorontes.htm for pictures of and comments about Antioch.)

Barnabas, a disciple from the tribe of Levi and a native of Cyprus, had originally been sent to Antioch by the community of believers in Jerusalem after news reached them that non-Jews there had become followers of Jesus Christ. The name “Barnabas” (which is translated as meaning “Son of Comfort”) was given to him by the apostles, evidently because he proved himself to be a compassionate man who deeply cared about the needs of fellow believers. (13:1; 4:36; 11:20-22)

The Acts account provides no other specifics about Symeon. In Latin, the word niger means “black” or “dark.” Possibly he was dark complexioned, and the surname “Niger” may have served to distinguish him from others who were named “Symeon” or “Simon.” Among the Jews, “Symeon” or “Simon” was a common name. The grecized “Symeon” may be an abbreviated form of the Hebrew name that means either “God has heard” or “YHWH has heard.” (13:1)

Like Symeon (Simeon), Lucius (from the Latin luceo, meaning “to shine” or “to be light”) is not mentioned again in the Acts account. His original home was Cyrene on the northern coast of Africa. He may well have been the Cyrenian who was among the first disciples to share the message about Jesus Christ with the non-Jews (Hellenists) in Antioch. (13:1; 11:20)

In the Septuagint, the grecized form of the Hebrew “Menahem,” meaning “consoler” or “comforter,” is “Manaem.” This was the name of the Israelite king who gained the throne by killing Shallum, who had assassinated King Zechariah (the last ruler in the line of King Jehu). (2 Kings 15:10-17) “Manaen” is yet another form of the Hebrew name “Menahem.” Manaen’s link to Herod the tetrarch (Herod Antipas, the ruler who had John the Baptist beheaded and who later mocked Jesus) is expressed by the Greek word sýntrophos. This term designates someone who grew up with, was reared with, or was educated with another person. According to Josephus, Antipas and his brother Archelaus “were brought up with a certain private man at Rome.” (Antiquities, XVII, I, 3) This may provide a basis for concluding that there, in his youth, Manaen may have been closely associated with the two sons of Herod the Great by his Samaritan wife Malthace. (13:1)

Barnabas had introduced Saul (the former persecutor to whom the risen Lord Jesus Christ had revealed himself on the way to Damascus) to the “apostles” in Jerusalem. (9:27) Later, after Saul had returned to Tarsus, Barnabas searched for him, wanting him to join him in Antioch. (11:25, 26) After the opening verses of this chapter, the Benjamite Saul is no longer identified by his Hebrew name. This name (meaning “asked for” or “asked of” that is, asked of God) was the name of Israel’s first king (also from the tribe of Benjamin). (13:1)

All five prophets and teachers engaged in “ministering to the Lord and fasting.” In the Greek text, the kind of ministering or serving is called leitourgéo, which can designate the performance of duties related to worship and so would be sacred service. In this context, it would be the service rendered to God as prophets and teachers. Fasting for spiritual reasons was common among Jews and disciples of Jesus Christ. Particularly in the case of believers, fasting prepared them mentally to be more receptive to the leading of God’s spirit during times of adversity or need. While the group was ministering and fasting, apparently one of their number expressed what God’s spirit impelled him to say, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the activity to which I have called them.” (13:2)

After they had fasted and prayed, Symeon, Lucius, and Manaen probably were the ones who placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul, thus acknowledging them as having been designated by the holy spirit for special service and also making tangible expression of their blessing on the ministry the two men had been commissioned to perform. They then “sent them off” to carry out the work for which they had been set apart. (13:3)

Sent off as the holy spirit directed, Barnabas and Saul, with John (Mark, the cousin of Barnabas) as their assistant, headed down to the nearby seaport of Seleucia. (See http://bibleplaces.com/seleucia.htm for pictures of and comments about Seleucia.) From there they sailed to Cyprus, the island where Barnabas had originally lived. They disembarked at Salamis on the eastern coast of Cyprus. In the Jewish synagogues, Barnabas and Saul “proclaimed the word of God,” or the message about his Son that he wanted them to make known. Nothing about the response of those who heard the message is related in the account. (13:4, 5; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamis,_Cyprus for pictures of and information about Salamis.)

Barnabas, Saul, and Mark traveled westward through the entire island, finally arriving at the seaport of Paphos on the southwestern coast of Cyprus. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paphos for pictures of and information about Paphos.) In Paphos, they encountered a Jewish man named Bar-Jesus (Son of Jesus or Joshua). This man appears to have engaged in the practice of occult arts as a mágos, “magician,” or “sorcerer”. Possibly he also made predictions, and this may explain why he is called a “false prophet.” His words and actions, unlike those of true prophets, would not have helped others to turn to God. (13:6)

In what sense Bar-Jesus was “with” Sergius Paulus cannot be determined from the account. Perhaps he functioned as an adviser much like astrologers who, in more recent times, have often been consulted by persons in high governmental station before they made important decisions. The Greek term for the administrative position of Sergius Paulus is anthýpatos, which designated the chief office bearer (the proconsul) in a Roman senatorial province. In 22 BCE, Caesar Augustus changed the status of Cyprus from an imperial province to a senatorial province, placing the island under the control of the Senate, which could review actions the proconsul might take in the province. (13:7)

Sergius Paul is described as an “intelligent [synetós] man,” a person possessing good judgment or discernment. Apparently news about the activity of Barnabas and Saul had reached him. Wanting to “hear the word of God” (or the message about Jesus Christ that Barnabas and Saul had been divinely commissioned to proclaim), Sergius Paulus summoned them, likely through someone in his service. (13:7)

Bar-Jesus was present when Barnabas and Saul spoke to Sergius Paulus. The account indicates that Bar-Jesus was also known as “Elymas,” which name is interpreted as meaning mágos (“magician” or “sorcerer”). He set himself in opposition to Barnabas and Saul, seeking “to turn the proconsul away from the faith.” In this context, “the faith” denotes the content of the faith that centered in the Son of God. (13:8; see the Notes section.)

Saul is identified as also having the name “Paul” (Latin, Paulus, meaning “little”). In the Greco-Roman world, it was not uncommon for Jews to have both a Hebrew and a Roman or Greek name. As the apostle to the nations, Saul, from this point onward, is referred to by his Roman name “Paul.” Countering the opposition of Elymas, Paul, filled with holy spirit, focused his attention on him and said, “O [you], full of all deceit and all chicanery, son of the devil, enemy of all uprightness, will you not cease from making the straight ways of the Lord crooked?” With these severe words, Paul identified Elymas as an unscrupulous fraud in the service of the devil and an enemy to everything that is right. By his opposition to the message Paul and Barnabas proclaimed, the very message that God had commissioned them to make known, Elymas identified himself as one who represented the ways of the Lord as being, not straight, but “crooked” and to be rejected as undeserving of attention. In this case, the “ways of the Lord” could refer to what is required of one to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. In view of the earlier reference to the “word of God,” however, it appears more likely that the reference is to the Father and, therefore, to God’s ways or requirements for his approval, which included putting faith in his Son. (13:9, 10)

Paul then backed up his words with a pronouncement of judgment, telling Elymas that the “hand of the Lord” (God’s hand) would be directed against him. He would become temporarily blind, not being able to “see the sun for a time.” Just as Elymas had chosen to remain in spiritual darkness, he would experience literal darkness, unable to perceive any light from the sun. At once, “mist and darkness” (that is, a dark mist) came upon him, requiring him to seek persons who could lead him by the hand where he needed to go. (13:11)

Witnessing what had happened, a development that confirmed that Paul and Barnabas truly proclaimed God’s word, Sergius Paulus became a believer. He was astonished by “the teaching of the Lord.” Whereas the miracle provided corroborating evidence that Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the truth, it was the “teaching of the Lord” (the message itself) that led Sergius Paulus to believe. The reference to the “teaching of the Lord” could mean the teaching that had Lord Jesus Christ as its focus. Another possibility is that Sergius Paulus was amazed at what the Lord Jesus Christ or his Father was teaching him through Paul and Barnabas. (13:12)

Paul, with Barnabas and Mark (literally “the ones about Paul”), sailed from Paphos to the southern coast of Asia Minor. Their intended destination must have been Perga in Pamphylia, a small Roman province bordered by Lycia on the west and Galatia on the north. The city itself was not a seaport on the coast. Therefore, they must first have arrived at the nearby seaport of Attalia. According to Strabo (Geography, 14.4.2), it was possible to sail up the Cestrus (Aksu) River to Perga (Perge), but whether the vessel on which Paul and his companions were sailing was of a size that could navigate the river cannot be determined from the account. John (Mark) did not continue traveling with Paul and Barnabas, but returned to Jerusalem, doubtless to the home of his mother Mary. When he withdrew from them, he probably boarded a ship at Attalia and possibly sailed to Caesarea, making his way back to Jerusalem from there. The reason for Mark’s departure is not mentioned in the account, but the later argument between Paul and Barnabas about again having Mark accompany them suggests that Paul did not regard his leaving to have been justified. (13:13; see http://www.visualbiblealive.com/religiouspictures/Perga+%28Turkey%29.html for pictures of and comments about Perga. Also see the Notes section.)

“They,” that is, Paul and Barnabas continued traveling northward. The journey would have taken them up steep slopes in rugged mountainous terrain, over narrow, rocky paths, and through forests, until finally arriving at Antioch of Pisidia, which at its highest point lies well over 1,200 meters (over 4,000 feet) above sea level. The actual distance they traveled would have been considerably more than the some 100 miles (over 160 kilometers) between Perga and Antioch. Located on the border of Phrygia and Pisidia, Antioch anciently was also identified with Phrygia. This may explain why Strabo, in his Geography (12.8.14), referred to Antioch (Antiocheia) as being “toward Pisidia.” (13:14; see http://bibleplaces.com/pantioch.htm for pictures of and comments about Antioch.

“On the sabbath day,” Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue, seating themselves among those who had assembled to hear the reading of the holy writings. (13:14) Both men would have been clearly identifiable as fellow Jews (and not as possibly being visiting “God-fearers”). They would have continued to adhere to the requirements of the law regarding dress and grooming. (Leviticus 19:27; 21:5; Numbers 15:38-41; Deuteronomy 22:12) Men serving in official capacity at the synagogue noticed Paul and Barnabas as visitors. So, “after the reading of the law and the prophets” had been completed, these officials invited them as “brothers” (fellow Jews) to speak if they had a “word” or message of “encouragement,” “exhortation,” or “comfort” for the assembled people. (13:15)

Paul responded to the invitation. After standing up, he motioned with his hand, evidently thus gesturing for silence and attention, and then began to speak, “Men, Israelites, and you who fear God, listen.” The God-fearing non-Jews would have been recognizable, for they would not have been groomed and attired as were the Jews. Although Paul directed his words to both groups, his presentation consisted of a historical development similar to Stephen’s defense and focused on the people of Israel. (13:16)

“The God of this people Israel chose our fathers.” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” were the “fathers” or forefathers with whom God dealt in a special way and through whose line of descent the Messiah or Christ was destined to come, with resultant blessings for people of all nations who responded in faith to him. God called Abram (Abraham) from Ur of the Chaldeans, chose Isaac instead of Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar), and Jacocb instead of his twin brother Esau. During the time they resided as resident aliens in the land of Egypt, “he exalted the people,” making it possible for them to increase in numbers to such an extent that the Egyptian monarch came to view them as a potential threat. (Exodus 1:7-10) “With a high arm,” God led the Israelites out of Egypt. The “high arm” represents the great power that is revealed when the arm is raised high in order to strike. Ten devastating plagues made God’s power manifest, forcing the release of the Israelites from Egyptian enslavement. (13:17; Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; 5:15; 9:26, 29)

During their some 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites often complained and disregarded God’s ways. Therefore, Paul referred to God as putting up with their wayward conduct for about 40 years. Despite their serious failings, he continued to show mercy, grant forgiveness, provide food and water for them, and to make it possible for their clothing not to wear out. (13:18; Deuteronomy 1:19-44; 2:7; 8:2-4; 9:8-29; see the Notes section.)

YHWH promised to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites and enabled them to take possession of it by conquering the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Paul represented God (evidently by reason of the assistance granted to the Israelites) as the one who overthrew these “seven nations” and then who gave the land as an inheritance to his people. (13:19; Deuteronomy 7:1)

The position in which the reference to the period of “about 450 years” appears in the Greek text affects the meaning of the verse. According to the oldest extant manuscripts, about 450 years preceded the time the “judges” figured prominently in the affairs of the Israelites. This manuscript reading could be understood to include the 400 years of affliction that started when the half Egyptian Ishmael mocked Isaac at the time of his being weaned and ended with the liberation from Egyptian enslavement), the some 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and about 10 years occupied by the conquest of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. (7:6; see the comments on this verse regarding the 400 years.) Other possibilities are to start the count of the 450 years from the time God directed his call to Abram (Abraham), or from the time God chose Isaac instead of Ishmael. (13:20)

Certain manuscripts indicate that the some 450 years followed the conquest of Canaan. This is the reading of the New King James Version, “After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.” (13:20; see the Notes section.)

In the time of Samuel, the Israelites “asked for a king,” and God gave them “Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, [for] 40 years.” Because of having been divinely designated as the one whom the prophet Samuel was to anoint as king, Saul could rightly be identified as the monarch whom God “gave” to the people. (13:21; 1 Samuel 9:15-17)

The length of Saul’s reign is given as “40 years.” In the extant Hebrew text of 1 Samuel 13:1, there is a reference to his ruling “two years over Israel.” This text, however, appears to be poorly preserved, as the age at which he began to rule is missing. There is no corresponding verse in the best extant manuscripts of the Septuagint. Josephus, in Antiquities (X, viii, 4), indicates that Saul ruled 20 years. In an earlier part of his Antiquities (VI, xiv, 9), however, he says that Saul reigned for 18 years during the lifetime of Samuel and an additional 22 years (“two and twenty” [dýo kaí eíkosi]) after Samuel’s death. The Latin text of Josephus, though mentioning 18 years, only assigns two more years to Saul’s reign. (13:21)

God rejected Saul for his unfaithfulness, his failure to be obedient. Ultimately, he was removed as king when divine rejection reached its culmination point at the time of his death. (13:22; 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14)

After removing Saul, God “raised up David” to be king over the Israelites, testifying regarding him, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man according to my heart, who will carry out all my will.” When the prophet Samuel announced the divine judgment against Saul for disobedience, he declared that YHWH would seek out a “man according to his heart.” (1 Samuel [1 Kings] 13:14, LXX) In being “according to,” or after God's own heart, he would be one devoted to him and, unlike Saul, not disobedient. The divine testimony preserved in the Scriptures regarding David is that, despite personal failings, he remained devoted to YHWH and kept his commands. (1 Kings 11:33, 38; 14:8; 15:5) In the Greek text, the word rendered “will” (thélema) is plural, indicating that all of the divine requirements would be involved. (13:22)

From the “seed,” or the posterity, of David, God promised to raise up a savior for Israel. Paul identified Jesus as this promised savior. In this capacity, Jesus is the one through whom forgiveness of sins is made possible. All who put faith in him and what his sacrificial death accomplished for them are saved or delivered from the condemnation to which sin leads. (13:23)

Before Jesus made his entrance on the scene as the promised Messiah, John had started to proclaim a “baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” Immersion in water was the outward expression of their having repented of their sins, which act served to prepare them for the arrival of Jesus as the Messiah or Christ who was to come. (13:24)

“As John was fulfilling his course” in preparation for the coming of the promised one, he would ask the people as to who they thought he was. He would then tell them, “I am not [the one],” adding that he would not even be worthy to untie the sandals on the feet of the coming one. This indicated that the one for whom John was preparing the way, the Messiah or Christ, possessed such greatness that he would not even deserve to perform the lowliest task, one which slaves commonly rendered. (13:25)

Focusing the attention of those assembled on what had personally been made available to them, Paul continued, “Men, brothers, sons of the line of Abraham, and the God-fearers among you, the word of this salvation has been sent forth to us [‘you,’ according to other manuscripts].” Both his Jewish brothers, the “sons” or descendants of Abraham, and the God-fearing non-Jews could avail themselves of the salvation or the deliverance from the condemnation to which sin leads. The “word” or message that was being proclaimed to them would show them how they could attain this salvation through Jesus Christ. (13:26)

“The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize him.” They failed to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ. Every Sabbath, the words of the prophets were read, and their words provided indications regarding the coming of the Messiah and his activity. Based on the words of the prophets, the leaders of the nation and other inhabitants of Jerusalem should have been able to identify Jesus as the one who was destined to come, but, as Paul continued, they condemned him, fulfilling the things the prophets spoke. It had been foretold that the Messiah would serve as a sin bearer, and this meant that he would suffer and be put to death. Therefore, when abusing and condemning Jesus, the members of the Jewish high court fulfilled the prophetic words. (13:27; Isaiah 11:1-3; 52:13-53:12; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 12:10-13:1)

When Jesus appeared before the members of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish high court), witnesses presented false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. (Matthew 26:59-63; Mark 14:55-61) So, as Paul said, “they” (inhabitants of Jerusalem, particularly the elders, scribes, and chief priests, or the members of the Sanhedrin) found no legitimate cause for condemning him to death, for they did not have the required witnesses for doing so. Nevertheless, they requested Pilate to have Jesus executed. (13:28)

After everything the prophets had written about the Messiah (that he would be mistreated, condemned, and killed) had been carried out, he was taken down from the “timber” (xýlon, “wood” or “tree”) to which he had been nailed and laid in a tomb, “but God raised him from the dead.” Whereas humans brought about his death, God restored him to life, thus revealing that he fully approved of him. (13:29, 30; see the Notes section regarding verse 29.)

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to those who had accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These were his apostles and other disciples, and all the faithful followers of Jesus served as “his witnesses to the people,” making known to the people of Israel and the people of other nations that Jesus is the Christ whom his Father raised from the dead. (13:31)

Using the editorial “we,” or including Barnabas, Paul continued, “And we are declaring the good news to you that the promise to our fathers [ancestors] has been actualized, that God has fulfilled this [promise] for us, [their] children, [when] resurrecting Jesus, as it also has been written in the second psalm, ‘You are my son; I, this day, have begotten you.’” (13:32, 33)

The promise to the Israelite forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though including reference to inheriting the land of Canaan, focused on the “seed” or the descendant to come, with resultant blessing to people of all nations. (Genesis 17:15-21; 22:15-18; 26:3-5; 35:9-12; 46:3, 4) In view of the earlier mention of David, he also may be regarded as one of the forefathers. To him the divine promise was given through the prophet Nathan that his line of descent would continue, and other prophets pointed to a future anointed one (Messiah or Christ), speaking of him as “David.” (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 37:24, 25; Hosea 3:5) The promise respecting the “seed” had become a reality, for Jesus proved to be this “seed” in the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. For blessing to come through Jesus as the promised “seed,” he needed to be alive and active. Accordingly, when his Father raised him from the dead, he fulfilled the promise to those whom he acknowledged as his children (persons who became reconciled to him on the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death for them). (13:32, 33)

To support his point about the resurrection of Jesus, Paul quoted from the second psalm (verse 7). His quotation is the same as the wording of Psalm 2:7 in the Septuagint. Jesus’ resurrection undeniably established his identity as the unique Son of God, with his Father having been his life-giver, “begetting” or “fathering” him by restoring him to life. Through his resurrection, Jesus was restored to full sonship with all the rights and privileges associated therewith. This included his being granted all authority in heaven and on earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. (13:33; see the Notes section.)

With quotations from the sacred writings, Paul made the point that the resurrected Son would not “return to corruption,” never again being mortal as he had been as a human on earth. “I [YHWH] will give you the trustworthy holy things of David.” This quotation includes words found at Isaiah 55:3 in the Septuagint, and “the holy things” seemingly relate to the covenant promises to David respecting the continuance of his royal line of descent and the benefits that would result therefrom. These “holy things” are designated as “trustworthy” (pistós) or dependable and thus of an enduring nature. With the sacred things being bound up with the royal descendant of David, this one (the Messiah or Christ) would not return to corruption or to the mortal state of all his predecessors who ruled as kings. For the “holy things” to be assured and to be “given” to members of the human family would mean that these benefits from the rule of the future David, the Messiah or Christ (David’s permanent heir) cannot end and that he must continue to live, requiring that he be incorruptible and immortal. (13:34)

The quotation from the prophet Isaiah is followed up with one from Psalm 16:10 (15:10, LXX), “You will not permit [literally, ‘give’] your holy one to see corruption.” (13:35) “David,” Paul explained, “served God’s purpose in his own generation,” or functioned among his contemporaries as the divinely appointed king, died (literally, “fell asleep”), “was added to his fathers” (joined his forefathers in the realm of the dead or was buried with them) and “saw corruption,” for he did not rise from the dead but his body decayed after being placed in a tomb. (13:36) Jesus, “the one whom God raised” from the dead, however, did not remain in the tomb and undergo the process of decay. (13:37)

Addressing those assembled as “men, brothers,” Paul acknowledged them, both Jews and God-fearers, as being in a brotherly relationship with him by reason of their common belief in the one true God. He wanted them to “know” or recognize that the one whom God raised from the dead, Jesus, is the one through whom forgiveness of sins has been made possible. This message about forgiveness of sins through the risen Jesus Christ is what Paul was then proclaiming. (13:38) “From everything the law of Moses could not justify” them, or make them right or acceptable before God, “everyone who believes in [Jesus] is justified.” The law set forth requirements, and a failure to live up to these requirements resulted in condemnation. Faith in Jesus as the one through whom forgiveness of sins is possible, however, results in delivering the individual from the condemnation to which transgression of the law leads. (13:39)

Admonishing the listeners to guard against a failure to believe, Paul urged them to watch out lest what the prophets said might befall them. (13:40) He then quoted the basic thought from Habakkuk 1:5 (LXX), “Look, O scoffers, and wonder and perish, for I am working a work in your days, a work that you would not believe if someone would tell [about it] to you.” The Greek word rendered “perish” (aphanízo) literally signifies “to make invisible” and as a passive verb “to vanish” or “to disappear.” Scoffing at the prophetic word instead of heeding it would result in great loss. One would vanish or perish. Therefore, refusing to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, would mean to remain under the condemnation to which sin leads, ultimately resulting in vanishing or perishing. (13:41; see the Notes section.)

Now when Paul and Barnabas were leaving, they were entreated to return on the following Sabbath to speak further about the subject. (13:42) Many of those who had assembled, both Jews and devout proselytes (converts from among non-Jews) followed Paul and Barnabas, who then continued to speak to them, urging them to remain in God’s favor. The favorable response of these Jews and proselytes meant that they had availed themselves of the favor of God as it related to his Son and the forgiveness of sins made possible through him. This is the divine favor in which they were to continue, not departing from the course upon which they had embarked. (13:43)

The Jews, proselytes, and God-fearers who had responded favorably to the words of Paul and wanted to hear more must have shared what they learned with others. So many came to the synagogue the next Sabbath that it appeared as though the whole city had assembled “to hear the word of the Lord [‘of God,’ according to other manuscripts].” This was the “word” or message about Jesus Christ that God wanted to have proclaimed. (13:44)

“When the [unbelieving] Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy.” Their purpose had been to gain converts from among the non-Jews, and they appear to have perceived that the message Paul proclaimed did not further their objective. As a result, they started to contradict his words and blasphemed or spoke abusively about the things he said. (13:45)

Faced with opposition from the Jews who did not believe, Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, telling them that the “word of God” (the message about his Son that God purposed to have made known) first had to be spoken to them. As God’s covenant people, they were extended the favor of being the first ones to hear the message. (13:46)

They, however, rejected the message, and so Paul and Barnabas told them that they had judged themselves as not being worthy of eternal life, the real life of an enduring relationship with God as his approved children. Although expressed in ironic terms, the words of Paul and Barnabas reflected the truth in a forceful manner. The Jews who rejected the opportunity for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God through his resurrected Son looked upon it as something they could not accept and treated it with disdain. When individuals do not consider themselves as deserving, they often rationalize that they did not really want what they could not have. In attitude, the unbelieving Jews did the same thing and so demonstrated themselves to be persons who had judged themselves as individuals not deserving of eternal life. In view of their rejection, Paul and Barnabas said that they would be turning their attention to the “nations,” the non-Jews. (13:46)

They quoted from Isaiah 49:6 (LXX) to indicate that they acted in harmony with what the Lord had commanded them, “I have set you as a light to the nations to be for salvation to the end of the earth.” Paul and Barnabas had been divinely commissioned to proclaim the message about God’s Son. They functioned as a light that God had appointed for bringing enlightenment to non-Jews. These non-Jews or people of the nations had been in darkness because of having no knowledge about God and his promises, and he purposed that illumination would reach the most distant part of the earth. Through human agencies (as were Paul and Barnabas), the message of salvation would be made known. They would be ones who would proclaim how deliverance from sin and the condemnation to which it leads could be attained through the risen Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, Paul and Barnabas served as God’s light for salvation. (13:47)

When the non-Jews (literally, “nations”) heard this, “they rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord [‘of God,’ according to the reading of other manuscripts].” Their glorifying the “word of the Lord” or the “word of God” may be understood to mean that they praised, or voiced their deep appreciation for, the message that revealed to them how they could come to be divinely approved by faith in Jesus Christ and the surrender of his life for them. The non-Jews who had “been designated for eternal life believed.” Their being “designated,” appointed, or destined for the real life of an enduring relationship with God through Christ may be understood to mean that God had purposed for them to be extended the opportunity to be reconciled to him. As such divinely designated ones for whom eternal life or the real life was in prospect, they believed. (13:48; see the Notes section.)

From then onward, “the word of the Lord” (“of God,” according to the reading of other manuscripts) spread beyond Antioch throughout the whole surrounding region of Asia Minor. This “word” or message was the good news about Jesus Christ and what his Father had done through him. (13:49)

The unbelieving Jews succeeded in inciting prominent devout women and influential men [literally, “the first”] against Paul and Barnabas, leading to an outbreak of persecution and their forced expulsion from the district of Antioch. The prominent women likely were non-Jews who had come to be believers in the one true God and who regularly assembled with the Jews on the Sabbath. Their husbands doubtless were the influential men whom they persuaded to take action against Paul and Barnabas. (13:50; see the Notes section.)

After their ouster from the city, Paul and Barnabas shook the dust of their feet against the hostile inhabitants of Antioch and headed for Iconium, located about 75 miles (c. 120 kilometers) to the east. Shaking the dust off their feet served as a testimony against the unresponsive ones. On the future day of judgment, the dust would testify against them as having been persons who rejected the message that had been proclaimed to them, refused to repent, and turned their backs on the opportunity to come into possession of eternal life. (13:51; Matthew 10:14, 15; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5)

According to ancient Jewish sources, dust from outside the land of Israel defiled by one’s carrying or touching it. Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet, they could also have been indicating that the rejection of the message revealed that the people had chosen to remain impure and did not want a relationship with God. Paul and Barnabas were leaving the hostile inhabitants behind as persons with whom they would have no further contact, taking nothing of theirs with them, not even the dust on their sandals. (13:51)

The “disciples” who were filled with “joy and holy” spirit” could either be Paul and Barnabas or the believers in Antioch. Despite having been expelled from the city, Paul and Barnabas would still have been able to rejoice because of their having shared in the advancement of the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ, and God’s spirit would have continued to operate fully on and through them. All who had become believers would have been able to rejoice in the blessings they had come to have as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and the aid and guidance made available to them through God’s spirit. (13:52)

Notes:

In verse 1, numerous manuscripts include the word tines (“some” or “certain ones”), suggesting that the five men who are named were not the only prophets and teachers in the Antioch congregation.

As an explanation for the efforts of Elymas to turn Sergius Paulus away from paying attention to Paul and Barnabas, Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) adds (in verse 8) that Sergius Paulus “listened to them gladly” or with great pleasure.

The opening verb in the Greek text of verse 13 is a form of anágo, which literally means “to bring up” or “to lead up.” As a nautical expression, the term may be understood to signify “to begin going by boat” or “to set out to sea.”

In verse 18, a number of manuscripts say that God “cared for them” (not “put up with them”).

It appears that understanding the some 450 years (verse 20) to apply to the period of the judges can be supported with the chronological references Josephus provided. In Antiquities (VIII, iii, 1), he wrote that Solomon built the temple in the fourth year of his reign and 592 years after the exodus from Egypt. With about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, 40 years for Saul’s reign (13:21), about 40 years for David’s rule (2 Samuel 5:5), and not quite four full years for Solomon’s reign being subtracted from the 592 years, this would leave approximately 468 years or about 450 years (when excluding the number of years occupied in the conquest of Canaan under the command of Joshua) for the period of the judges until Samuel anointed Saul as king. While the Masoretic Text (in 1 Kings 6:1) says that Solomon began building the temple in the 480th year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, the passage in the Septuagint says that it was in the 440th year. So neither the Hebrew text of 1 Kings 6:1 nor the corresponding Greek text in 3 Kings 6:1 would support a period of about 450 years for the time of the judges.

In verse 29, the third person plural verbs (their taking him down and laying him in a tomb) are used in a generic sense. Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and he and Nicodemus shared in preparing it for burial and laying it in a tomb. (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38-41)

In verse 33, Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) includes the words of verse 8 of Psalm 2 as part of the quotation, which verse invites the “son” to ask of God and that, in response to his request, he would be given the nations as his inheritance and the “ends of the earth” as his possession.

The quotation in verse 41 differs slightly from the reading of Habakkuk 1:5 in the Septuagint. “Look, O scoffers, and see, and be astounded [about] astounding things, and perish, for I am working a work in your days that you would not believe if someone should tell [about it].” The Hebrew text does not mention scoffers and includes no comment about “perishing” or, literally, “vanishing.” It appears that the Septuagint translator considered the Hebrew letter beth (B) to be part of the word for “scoffers” (not as a preposition meaning “among”) and read the waw (W) as daleth (D), accounting for the rendering “scoffers.” The Hebrew text says, “Look among the nations and see, and be astounded, [yes,] be astounded, for a work [is] working in your days [that] you would not believe should [someone] tell [about it].”

In verse 48, Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) says, “received the word” (not “glorified the word”). Other manuscripts omit “the word,” only mentioning that they “glorifed God.” Another reading found in a number of manuscripts is that they “glorified God and believed the word of the Lord.”

According to the expanded text of Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) of verse 50, they stirred up “great distress and persecution.”