Home > Book of Acts, Christ's kingdom, The Gospel > J. A. Alexander on Acts 13:15-41

J. A. Alexander on Acts 13:15-41

November 30, 2012

In his commentary on the account of Paul’s address to the Jews of Antioch in Acts 13, Joseph Addison Alexander invited comparison between Paul’s speech, and Peter’s address to the Jews of Jerusalem in Acts 2, the subject of this post.  Both apostles referred to Psalm 16, and employed similar reasoning to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah, based upon the fact of his resurrection from the dead. The following is Alexander’s commentary on Acts 13:15-41. [J. A. Alexander, The Acts of the Apostles explained. Vol. 2. (1857) pp. 17-37.]

15. And after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, (Ye) men (and) brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.

The reading of the Law (i. e. the books of Moses) seems to have formed a part of public worship, from the earliest times to which its history can be traced. That of the Prophets is said, in a tradition of the later Jews, to have been introduced as an evasion of an edict of Antiochus Epiphanes prohibiting the reading of the law, and afterwards continued as a permanent usage. The rulers of the synagogue (in Greek one compound word) were probably the elders of the Jews in Antioch, i. e. the heads of families, or other hereditary chiefs and representatives, as such conducting or controlling public worship. It is not impossible, however, that in foreign countries, the synagogue had more of a distinct organization than in Palestine itself. (See above, on 6, 9. 9, 2. 20.) But most of the minute details now found in Jewish books are probably posterior in date to the destruction of Jerusalem and the dissolution of the Jewish nation with its hereditary eldership, a change which would naturally lead to the separate organization of the synagogue or Jewish church. Sent to them, not said to them, implying that they were not in the chief seats of the synagogue (Matt. 23, 6), but had probably sat down near the entrance. They were no doubt recognized as strangers, and perhaps as teachers, by some circumstance of dress or aspect. The message was probably conveyed by the “minister” or servant of the synagogue. (See above, on v. 5, and compare Luke 4, 20.) Men and brethren, the same courteous and kindly form of speech which we have already had occasion to explain. (See above, on 1, 16. 2, 29. 37, 7, 2.) It implies a recognition of the strangers by the rulers of the synagogue, as fellow Jews, the Christian schism being probably as yet unknown to them. If ye have, literally, if there is in you, i. e. in your minds or your possession, (any) word of exhortation, i. e. any exhortation to be spoken or delivered. (See above, on 4, 36. 9, 31.) Say on is in Greek simply say or speak.

16. Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with (his) hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.

As Barnabas derived his very name from his experience and gifts as an exhorter (see above, on 4, 36), it is the more remarkable that Paul should now appear as the chief speaker, not only in this one case but before and afterwards. (See above, on v. 9, and below, on 14, 12.) The uniformity of this proceeding, and the seeming acquiescence of Barnabas himself, confirm the previous conclusion, that Paul’s commission as Apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11, 13), although given long before (see above, on 9, 15, and below, on 22, 21. 26, 17. 18), was now first publicly made known and acted on. Arising, standing up, see above, on 2, 15. 5, 34. 11, 28. Beckoning, above, on 12, 17. Men of Israel, i. e. Jews by birth, descendants of Jacob, hereditary members of the chosen people. (See above, on 2, 22. 3, 12. 6, 35.) Ye that fear (literally, those fearing) God, a phrase applicable in itself to all devout men, but specially applied in the New Testament to Gentiles, whether Proselytes, i. e. professed converts to the Jewish faith (see above, on 2, 10. 6, 6), or merely well disposed to it and more or less influenced by it (see above, on 10, 2. 22, 35.) Of this class many seem to have been found, wherever there was access to the Jewish worship, and from this class the Apostles gathered some of their earliest and most important converts. Give audience, literally, hear, implying, as in all like cases, that they might hear something to which they were not accustomed, or for which they were not prepared. (See above, on 2, 14. 22. 29.) The discourse which follows has peculiar interest and value, as the first of Paul’s on record, and most probably the first that he delivered after the avowal of his Apostolical commission. When compared with those of Peter and his own epistles, the degree of difference and sameness is precisely such as might have been expected from the circumstances under which they were composed or uttered. (See above, on 3, 26. vol. 1, p. 122.)

17. The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with a high arm brought he them out of it.

Beginning with a brief sketch of the early history of Israel, as the ancient church or chosen people, from their first vocation to the reign of David (17-22), the Apostle suddenly exhibits Jesus, as the heir of that king and the promised Saviour (23), citing John the Baptist as his witness and forerunner (24-25); then makes the offer of salvation through Christ to both classes of his hearers (26), describing his rejection by the Jews at Jerusalem (27), his death, burial, and resurrection (28-31); all which he represents as the fulfilment of God’s promise to the fathers (32), and of specific prophecies, three of which he quotes, interprets, and applies to Christ (33-37); winding up with another earnest offer of salvation (38-39), and a solemn warning against unbelief (40-41.) The mixture of law and gospel, threatening and promise, doctrine and exhortation, in this sermon, are highly characteristic of its author, and yet too peculiar, both in form and substance, to have been compiled, as some allege, from his epistles. In the verse before us, he describes the vocation of the Hebrews, and their organization as the chosen people. This people (of Israel is omitted by the latest critics) seems addressed rather to the Gentiles than the Jews. Chose, or more emphatically, chose out for himself or for his own use and service. (See above, on 1, 2. 24. 6, 5.) Our fathers, thus acknowledging his own hereditary kindred to them. (See above, on 3, 13. 25. 5, 30. 7, 2. 11. 12. 15. 19. 38. 39. 44. 45.) This first clause may relate to the original vocation of the Patriarchs, and the second to the national organization, for which the people were prepared in Egypt; or the whole may be referred to the Egyptian period, the choice mentioned in the first clause being then the choice of Israel, not as a family, but as a nation. The last of these constructions is the one most readily suggested by the words, although the first gives more completeness to Paul’s retrospect, by including the Patriarchal period. (See above, on 7, 2-16.) The people, thus chosen and separated from all others. Exalted, literally, heightened, made high, applied elsewhere to the raising of the brazen serpent and to Christ’s elevation on the cross (John 3, 14. 8, 28. 12, 32. 34); to his ascension and exalted state in heaven (see above, on 2, 33. 5, 31); in a moral sense, to self-exaltation or elation (Matt. 23, 12. Luke 14, 11. 18,14); and in an outward sense, to extraordinary privileges and prosperity (Matt. 11, 23. Luke 10, 15. 2 Cor. 11, 7. Jas. 4, 10. 1 Pet. 5, 6.) This last appears to be the meaning here, in reference either to the honour put upon the chosen people, even under persecution, or to their miraculous increase and national development. When they dwelt as strangers, literally, in the sojourn. (For a cognate form, applied to the same subject, see above, on 7, 6. 29.) A high arm, an idiomatic expression for the manifest exertion of extraordinary power, corresponding to the stretched out arm of the Old Testament, and like it specially applied to the exertion of Jehovah’s power in the exodus from Egypt. (Compare Ex. 6, 6. Deut. 5,15. Jer. 32, 21. Ps. 136, 12.)

18. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

Next to the Exodus he puts the Error, or forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. About, literally, as, see above, on 1, 15. 2, 41. 4, 4. 5, 7. 36. This expression is the more appropriate, because the actual error lasted only thirty-eight years. (See above, on 7, 42.) Suffered their manners, i. e. bore with them, endured them. Another reading, differing in a single letter, and preferred by most modem critics, yields the meaning, bore them as a nurse does, i. e. nursed or nourished. The same figure is applied by Moses to this period in the history of Israel (see Num. 11, 12. Deut. 1, 81, in which last place the Septuagint version exhibits the same textual variation) and by Paul to his own treatment of the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2, 7.)

19. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot.

Next to the Error comes the Conquest of Canaan. When he had (literally, having) destroyed. (For a very different meaning of the same verb, see below, on v. 29.) Seven nations, i. e. tribes of the Canaanites, to wit, those enumerated in Deut. 7, 1. Josh. 3, 10. Neh. 9, 8. Gave by lot, or, according to the oldest manuscripts and latest editors, gave as an inheritance, or caused them to inherit. Neither of the two Greek verbs occurs elsewhere in the New Testament, but both are used in the Septuagint, and sometimes to translate the same Hebrew word (e. g. Num. 33, 54. Josh. 14, 1, compared with Deut. 21, 16. Josh. 19, 61.) It is a curious inference of Bengel, that because three rare words used in these two verses occur also in the Septuagint version of the first chapters of Deuteronomy and Isaiah, these are the portions of the law and Prophets read, in the synagogue of Antioch for that day, as he says they still are in the Jewish service.

20. And after that he gave (unto them) judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

After that, literally, after these (things), i. e. the conquest and settlement of Canaan. About, literally, as; see above, on v. 18. By adding together all the periods mentioned in the book of Judges, i. e. the periods of foreign domination and the intervals of rest under the Judges, we obtain almost the very number here affirmed. This agreement between Paul and the inspired record of the time to which he here refers cannot be shaken by the seeming discrepancy in 1 Kings 6, 1, the solution of which belongs to the interpretation of that book. Gave them Judges, who were therefore not self-constituted rulers, but divinely commissioned. Until Samuel the Prophet, the next one of eminence after Moses (see above, on 8, 24.) He was also the last in the series of Judges, under whom the regal form of government was introduced.

21. And afterward they desired a king, and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

Afterward, literally, thence, from there, a local particle applied, in this one case, to time, as we say in English, thenceforth, henceforth. The expression may involve an allusion to the regular succession of the history which Paul was tracing, like a line or path presented to the eye. They asked (for themselves), to gratify their own desires, and not to answer any higher end. (For the exact force of the verbal form here used, see above, on 3, 14. 7, 46. 9, 2.) God gave, in displeasure and in judgment, but so that Saul was nevertheless a legitimate though not a theocratical sovereign. Cis should have been written Kis, the nearest approach that could be made in Greek letters to the Hebrew Kish. The coincidence, in name and tribe, between this king and the Apostle speaking, is undoubtedly remarkable. (Compare 1 Sam. 9, 1. 16. 21, with Rom. 11, 1. Phil. 3, 5.) One of the early Fathers (Tertullian) makes one Saul a type of the other, and even explains Gen. 49, 27 as a prophecy of Paul’s persecutions and conversion. By the space of is needlessly supplied by Tyndale, and transcribed by his successors. Wiclif has simply by, which seems to be equivalent to for in modern English, when prefixed to chronological specifications. The most simple and exact translation is the Rhemish (forty years.) This is understood by some as the age of Saul at his accession, but by most as the length of his reign. We have no account of its duration in Scripture; but Josephus states with great precision, perhaps relying upon public records or tradition not preserved in Scripture, that Saul reigned eighteen years in Samuel’s lifetime, and twenty-two years after his decease.

22. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony and said, I have found David the (son) of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.

Having removed (or deposed) him, i. e. from his kingly office, as recorded in 1 Sam. 15, 11. 23. 35. 16, 1. Some suppose it to refer to his death, as a removal out of life; but this would be otherwise expressed, and the Greek verb here used is repeatedly applied to removal from office, both in the Septuagint (2 Kings 17, 23. Dan. 2, 21) and the New Testament (Luke 16, 4.) Raised up then relates, not merely to David’s coronation (2 Sam. 2, 4), but to his original designation and anointing (1 Sam. 16, 1. 13.) To be their king, literally, as (or for) a king. To whom also, i. e. besides making him a king, he testified expressly of his character. Gave testimony and said, in Greek, said testifying. The words that follow are not found in the Old Testament, precisely as they stand here, but are made up of two passages, “The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13, 14), and “I have found David my servant” (Ps. 89, 20.) They are not combined through inadvertence or a lapse of memory, as some pretend, but as real expressions of what God did say, through Samuel and otherwise, on different occasions, or as the spirit and the meaning of his whole mode of dealing with this favoured servant, like the prophetic summary in Matt. 2, 23 (see above, on 2, 22.) The same explanation will apply to the last clause, which describes him not as personally free from fault or even crime, but as merely blameless in his character and conduct as a theocratic sovereign. Fulfil all my will, or more exactly, do all my wills, i. e. all the things that I shall will or order.

23. Of this man’s seed hath God, according to (his) promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:

The particular promise here referred to must be that recorded in 2 Sam. 7, 12, and frequently repeated elsewhere. Raised, or according to the text now commonly adopted, brought. (This expression occurs in the Septuagint version of Zech. 2, 9, as the other does in that of 3, 9. 15.) Unto Israel, as the chosen people, to whom the offer must be first made. A Saviour (even) Jesus, such being the import of the Hebrew name. (See Matt. 1, 21.)

24. When John had first preached, before his coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

John having heralded (proclaimed) beforehand, the same Greek verb that appears in the common text of 3. 20. Before, literally, before the face, an expression commonly applied to persons (Matt. 11, 10. Mark 1, 2. Luke 1, 76. 7, 27), but here used in imitation of the corresponding Hebrew phrase (***) His coming, not his birth or incarnation, which was before John’s public appearance, but his entrance on his office, in which sense the Greek word is used by Isocrates. Etymologically it is the correlative or converse of exodus, which is twice applied to death in the New Testament, being rendered in both instances decease (Luke 9, 31. 2 Pet. 1, 15), as it is departure, when the reference is to the exodus from Egypt. (Heb. 11, 22.) Baptism of repentance, of which repentance was not only the condition but the meaning or thing signified. (See above, on 2, 38, and below, on 19, 4, and compare Mark 1, 4. Luke 3, 3.) To all the people of Israel, not necessarily to every individual, but to the body of the nation as such. (See above, on 5, 31.)

25. And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think ye that I am? I am not (he). But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of (his) feet I am not worthy to loose.

25. Fulfilled, or was fulfilling, i. e. as some explain it, was engaged in executing his commission (see above, on 12, 25, below, on 14, 26), without reference to any particular period of his ministry; while others understand it as referring to its close, while he was finishing his course (see above, on 2, 1. 7, 23. 30. 9, 23, and below, on 24, 27.) Course, in its proper sense of race or running, a figure borrowed from the ancient games and used in the New Testament by Paul alone, who twice applies it to his own official life or ministry. (See below, on 20, 24, and compare 2 Tim. 4, 7.) The qualities which it suggests are those of energy and swiftness. He said, in the imperfect tense, not once for all, or on a single occasion, but habitually, he was wont to say. The next clause is construed in the Vulgate and by Luther without interrogation, and in this sense, l am not he whom ye suppose me to be. But this is now admitted to be ungrammatical, although it gives the true sense of the language. Whom, do ye suppose (or suspect) me to be? (The Messiah, but) l am not. (See the same form of negation in Mark 13, 6. Luke 21, 8. John 13, 19.) The historical fact here referred to is recorded in John 1, 19-28. See John 1, 20, 27. Luke 3, 15. With the remainder of the verse compare Matt. 3, 11. Mark 1, 7. Luke 3, 16. Shoes of his feet is pleonastic in English, but not in Greek, where the first noun strictly denotes underbinding, and the feet are mentioned to determine or define it. (See above, on 7, 33, and compare John 1, 27.) To unloose, untie, or take off, the lowest kind of menial service, used by John to signify the vast disparity between himself and Christ.

26. Men (and) brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

This was not a matter of local or temporary interest, but an offer of salvation to the very persons whom he now addressed, both Jews and Gentiles. The former he describes as his brethren (see above, on 1, 16. 2, 29), sons (or children) of the stock (race or lineage) of Abraham; the latter as those fearing God (i. e. the true God), although not belonging to the chosen people (see above, on v. 16.) The form of the original is, those among you fearing God. To you, i. e. as some understand it, you as distinguished from the Jews of Palestine, referred to in the next verse. But as we know that these were not excluded from forgiveness and salvation, the meaning rather seems to be, that the rejection of the Gospel by the people at Jerusalem ought not to occasion its rejection elsewhere. The word of this salvation is a similar expression to the words of this life in 5, 20. There is no need of resolving it into this word of salvation, i. e. this saving word or doctrine. It simply means the word (or tidings) of this (method of) salvation (through Christ.) Is sent, literally, was sent, i. e. was intended to be sent from the beginning, although necessarily presented to the Jew first (Rom. 2, 9. 10.) This agrees better with the form of expression, as well as with the known facts of the case, than the explanation, has been sent, i e. now, since the Jews at home have rejected it. This would rather have deterred the Jews of Antioch from hearing than incited them to do so.

27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled (them) in condemning (him).

The conduct of the Jews at home, far from discrediting the claims of Jesus, had confirmed them, by contributing to verify the prophecies respecting him. Not the rabble merely, but their rulers, their chief men and most enlightened spiritual guides, had failed to recognize him as the Messiah foretold in the Scriptures, which were weekly read in their assemblies; but in the act of judging him as an impostor, they fulfilled those very Scriptures, which predicted his rejection. Voices, i. e, audible predictions, in allusion to the circumstance just mentioned, of their being read aloud every sabbath. Judging, i. e. acting as judges, sitting in judgment; the idea of condemning is suggested by the context. (See above, on 7, 7.) The construction of the sentence is ambiguous, as the verb not knowing (or ignoring) seems to govern an accusative both before and after it. Some avoid this syntax by construing voices with fulfilled directly (and the voices of the prophets, every sabbath read, judging they fulfilled.) But the construction adopted in our version is more natural, and yields a stronger sense, by expressly stating that the Jews mistook the meaning of their Scriptures, as well as the person of their Messiah. Nor yet is simply and in the original.

28. And though they found no cause of death (in him), yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

So completely blinded were they to their own Messiah, and so bent on his destruction, that being unable to convict him of any capital offence, they asked it as a favour to themselves, and that too of a heathen governor, that he might be put to death. Cause of death, or ground of capital punishment. (See above, on 9, 16, and below, on 26, 25. 28, 18.) Finding (or having found), implying search and effort, on the part of accusers, witnesses, and judges. Desired, requested for themselves; see above, on v. 21, and compare 3, 14. 7, 46. 9, 2. 12, 20. Slain, despatched, made away with; see above, on 12, 2. Here again, though is simply and in the original. With the whole verse compare Matt. 27, 24. Lu. 23, 22. John 18, 31.

29. 30. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took (him) down from the tree, and laid (Him) in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead.

The very acts which seemed to put an end to Christ and his pretensions, were fulfillments of prophecy, and preparations for his reappearance. In venting their own spite, they (unwittingly) accomplished all the (things) written (in the prophecies) concerning him. They might have thought their work complete when, taking (him) down from the wood (or tree, i. e. the cross, see above, on 5, 30. 10, 39), they placed him in a tomb (or monument, a word akin to that used in 2, 29, and there explained.) But God raised (or roused) him from (among) the dead. So that even his burial was only a preliminary to his resurrection. The ascription of his death and burial to the same agents has been variously explained. Some suppose that, as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were themselves rulers of the Jews, as well as those by whom Christ was condemned, that whole class is here described as performing both acts. Others suppose the reference to be not to the immediate agents, either in the crucifixion or the burial, but to the prime movers in this whole judicial murder, of which the burial was the natural conclusion. A third opinion is, that even this part of the process, by itself considered, although at first accomplished by the hands of friends, was transferred, as it were, to those of enemies, by the sealing and guarding of the sepulchre (Matt. 28, 66.) Paul here presents the contrast of which Peter is so fond, between the acts of men and the acts of God, in reference to Jesus. (See above, on 10, 39. 40.) This resemblance is no argument against the authenticity of the discourse, but rather for it, since this was no peculiarity of Peter’s, but a view which every Christian must have taken, and which every preacher to the Jews was bound to set before his hearers.

31. And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

The resurrection of Christ was not assumed or asserted without evidence. He not only rose, but he was seen after he had risen; not for a moment, but for many days; not by strangers, but by those who knew him well, and had accompanied him on his last journey from the chief scene of his labours to the Holy City. Nor had these witnesses all passed away; they were still bearing testimony to the great event. This last point is particularly prominent in the text of the oldest manuscripts and latest editors (who now are) witnesses. Lastly, this testimony to the resurrection of the Saviour was not private or informal, but public and official, addressed directly to the chosen people.

32. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers–

The same testimony which was thus addressed by the companions of the risen Saviour to the body of the Jewish church in Palestine, was now borne by Paul and Barnabas, to Jews and Gentiles, in the synagogue at Antioch; not as a mere historical fact, but as joyful intelligence, good news; yet not as something altogether strange and unconnected with their previous religious faith and nope, but as the fulfilment of a promise made to former generations of God’s people, the natural progenitors of the Jews then present, and the spiritual fathers of believing Gentiles. We and you, at the beginning of the sentence, stand together in Greek, which gives great force and point to the antithesis; ‘What they are telling the people yonder, we tell you.’ Declare glad tidings is in Greek one word, often translated preach in this book (see above, on 6, 42. 8, 4. 12. 35. 40. 10, 36. 11, 20), sometimes more fully, preach the gospel (see above, on 8,25, and below, on 14, 7. 21. 16, 10), but nowhere so exactly rendered as in this place (and in Luke 1, 19. 2, 10. 8, 1.) The promise meant is that of the Messiah’s Advent, which pervades the Hebrew Scriptures.

33. God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

This oft-repeated, long-continued promise to the fathers God has now performed to us, their natural and spiritual children, by raising up or bringing forward, in our day and to our view, the long expected Saviour of his people, and as such called Jesus; and this he does not only in fulfilment of the promises in general, but of that one in particular, which is contained in the second Psalm, where God is represented as proclaiming the organic law or constitution of Messiah’s kingdom, and uttering as its fundamental principle, the intimate relation of Messiah to himself, not merely mutual affection, but community of nature. The idea is derived from the great Messianic promise made to David (2 Sam. 7, 14), “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.” The expression in the Psalm, I have begotten thee, means, I am he who has begotten thee, i. e. I am thy father. To-day refers to the date of the decree itself, (Jehovah said, To-day, &c.); but this, as a divine act, was eternal, and so must be the sonship it affirms. Raising up is here applied by some, not to Christ’s incarnation, but his resurrection, on the ground that it is certainly so used in the next verse. But this rather proves the contrary ; for there the meaning is defined or specified by adding, from the dead, which cannot retroact upon its absolute use here, especially when it has been repeatedly employed before, in this same book, to signify the act of giving him existence as a man. (See above, on 2, 30. 3, 22. 26. 7, 37.) In the only other place where it seems to be used absolutely of the resurrection (see above, on 2, 32), it is really determined by the previous reference to death and dissolution. (For a fuller view of the passage quoted, in its original connection, see the writer’s exposition of Ps. 2, 7.) Instead of second psalm, the latest editors read first psalm, but on very doubtful manuscript authority. Even admitting it to be the true text, it is not a lapse of memory, but a relic of the old opinion that the first Psalm is a preface to the whole collection.

34. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, (now) no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

But this was not the only sense in which Christ had been raised up, or the only scripture which his raising up had verified. As his incarnation was the advent of that Son of God predicted in the second Psalm, so his resurrection from the dead was the redemption of the promise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. That this is a quotation, is clear from the formula which introduces it, he said on this wise, or, he thus hath spoken. The passage quoted is Isai. 55, 3, but with some variation, both from the Hebrew and the Septuagint version. Thus the promise, I will make with you an everlasting covenant, Paul contracts into the brief phrase, I will give you, which is only a conciser and less definite expression of the same idea. On the other hand, he follows the Greek version in translating (***) favours, mercies, by a word (ὅσια) which properly means sacred, holy (things), particularly such as have respect to God, and not to human usages or institutions (***.) Besides this passage, and 2, 27 above, the word occurs in reference to God (Rev. 16, 4), to Christ (Heb. 7, 26), and to men (1 Tim. 2, 8. Tit. 1, 8), in all which places it is rendered holy. In the verse before us, and the Septuagint version of Isai. 55, 3, it appears to have the sense of solemn, sacred, or inviolable, as applied to the divine engagements. ‘I will give you (or fulfil to you) the sacred promises once made to David.’ This explanation is given in the margin of the English Bible, while the text retains the original expression (mercies.) Sure, i. e. sure to be accomplished, literally, faithful, credible, or worthy of belief and trust. The reference is to 2 Sam. 7, 8-16 (compare 1 Chr. 17, 11-14. Ps. 89, 3. 2.) As the burden of this promise was perpetual succession on the throne of David, it was fulfilled in Christ (compare Isai. 9, 6. 7. Luke 1, 32. 33), but only on the supposition, that his resurrection was not a mere temporary restoration, but the pledge of an endless immortality. Hence the Apostle speaks of this prophetic promise as fulfilled in the momentous fact, that God raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, i. e. into the condition, of which dissolution is a natural and in every other case a necessary incident. This perpetuity of Christ’s restored life, as a necessary element in the doctrine of his resurrection, is insisted on by the Apostle elsewhere. (See Rom. 6,9, and compare Rev. 1, 18.) The English version inserts one word (now) and omits another (μέλλοντα), which can be translated only by the use of an enfeebling paraphrase, no more about (or being about) to return. (See above, on 3, 3. 5, 35. 11, 28. 12, 6; and for the origin and usage of the word corruption, on 2, 27. 31.) In the foregoing exposition of this verse, the original order of the clauses is inverted, for the sake of the logical connection. The actual connection of both verses is as follows. ‘That God raised up Jesus (i. e. brought him into being as a man), is a verification of that passage in the second Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee: that he raised him from the dead, no more to be subjected to the power of corruption, is a verification of that promise in Isaiah, I will give you the sure mercies of (or things inviolably pledged to) David.’

35. Wherefore he saith also in another (psalm), Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

The necessity and certainty of Christ’s perpetual exemption from corruption, i. e. from dissolution of the body, was not a matter of mere inference or implication, but a subject of explicit prophecy and promise. To evince this, Paul adduces the same passage which Peter had expounded and applied in his Pentecostal sermon (see above, on 2, 25-31.) He also argues with respect to it precisely in the same way, namely, by denying that the words quoted (Ps. 16, 10) could apply to David, and affirming that they did apply to Christ. Here again the sameness of the two discourses has been made a ground of argument against their independent authenticity; as if each of the Apostles must use different methods of proving the Messiahship of Jesus; or as if the one here used belonged exclusively to Peter. We may even suppose that Paul heard Peter’s exposition of this passage, or heard of it afterwards, without detracting from his independent apostolical authority (see above, on v. 3.) That one discourse is not compiled or copied from the other, is sufficiently apparent from the difference of form, Paul quoting only one verse, and that only in part, of the four which Peter had made use of, and connecting that one with a passage of Isaiah, not alluded to by Peter, while he passes by the latter’s kindred argument derived from Ps. 110. (See above, on 2, 34. 35.) All this goes to show the independence of the two Apostles and their two discourses, but at the same time their exact agreement in the exposition of a Messianic prophecy. The logical connection of Paul’s arguments is indicated in the text itself. Wherefore, for which reason, i. e. because the sure mercies of David comprehended the Messiah’s perpetual exemption from mortality when once arisen from the dead. In another (psalm), or less specifically, in another (place or part of scripture.) For the meaning of the last clause, see above, on 2,27.

36. 37. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption. But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

The perfect independence of the two Apostles, even in expounding the same passage and employing the same argument, is furthermore apparent from the curious fact, that while the end they aim at is identical, namely, to show that David’s words were inapplicable to himself, and the proof coincident, to wit, that he did die and see corruption, this last phrase is the only one common to both speakers, their other expressions being wholly different. While Peter (see above, on 2, 29) begs leave to remind his hearers that the Patriarch, or founder of their royal family, was dead and buried, and his sepulchre among them at the time of speaking, Paul, with exact agreement as to substance but a beautiful variety of form, describes him as an eminent servant both of God and man while he lived, but as sleeping with his fathers for a course of ages, and subjected long since to that process of corruption, from which this prophecy (Ps. 16, 10) declared its subject to be free. He could not therefore be that subject; whereas Jesus, being raised up from the dead by God himself, before the process of corruption had begun, did really enjoy that very exemption which is here foretold. The consequence is plain, that he must be the Messiah. (See above, on 2, 32.) The marginal translation, having (in) his own age (or generation) served the will of God, is not so natural in its construction of the dative (γενεᾷ) as denoting time, and in giving the verb (served) an impersonal or abstract object (will); nor does it yield so rich a sense, as it obliterates the fine idea of his serving man as well as God. His own generation, or contemporary race, is here emphatic and exclusive, as distinguished from all later times and generations. (See above, on 2,40.) Served or ministered, by doing good, officially and privately. (Compare Paul’s description of his own voluntary service, 1 Cor. 9,19.) By (i. e. according to, or in obedience to) the will of God (see above, on 2, 23. 4, 28. 6, 88.) Fell on sleep, an unusual expression even in old English, but entirely synonymous with the common phrase, fell asleep (or still more simply and exactly, slept), which here means died, perhaps with an implication of serenity and peace, as in the case of Stephen. (See above, on 7, 60, where the same Greek word is rendered fell asleep.) Laid (literally, added, as in 2, 41. 47. 5, 14. 11, 24. 12, 3. Gal. 3, 19) unto his fathers, i. e. with them, but implying close proximity and union (as in John 1, 1. 2.) This is usually understood of burial in the same grave or family vault; but in the earliest instances of the expression, it seems to be distinguished both from death and burial, and has therefore been supposed to imply the separate existence of disembodied spirits. (See Gen. 25, 8. 35, 20. 2 Kings 22, 20, and compare Matt. 22, 32.) Even here, it may have reference to the soul, and the words following to the body, thus corresponding more exactly to the language of Ps. 16, 10, as fully quoted and applied to Christ by Peter. (See above, on 2,27.) He whom God raised (again), i. e. Jesus, as stated in v. 34. Raised, however, is not the verb there used, but that employed in 7. 30, and in 3, 15. 4, 10. 5, 30. 10, 40, in the same sense; while in vs. 22, 23 above, it has the general sense of calling into being; so that this double usage really belongs to both verbs, one of which originally means to stand or cause to stand, the other (the one here used) to arouse or awaken out of sleep. Saw no corruption, literally, did not see (perceive, experience) corruption (i. e. dissolution of the body.) We have thus the authority of two Apostles, and those the two most eminent, for denying that David is the subject of his own prophecy in Ps. 16, 10.

38. Be it known unto you, therefore, men (and) brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.

It was not mere historical, nor even doctrinal or exegetical instruction that the Apostle here intended to communicate, but practical and experimental knowledge of the utmost moment, as relating to the only method of salvation. Having shown therefore that the Jesus, whom the people of Jerusalem had crucified, must be the Christ predicted both by David and Isaiah, he now brings the matter home to the bosoms of his hearers, by announcing that this Jesus is not only the Messiah, but the vehicle or medium through whom alone forgiveness is now offered to the guilty. Be it known is the same solemn formula, employed by Peter in the beginning of his Pentecostal sermon (2, 14), and again when he ascribed the healing of the lame man to the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (4, 10.) It implies that the truth declared was one of which the hearers had been ignorant, but which it was important they should know. Therefore, as the logical no less than the practical conclusion of the whole preceding argument. Men and brethren, the respectful and affectionate address, with which he had already introduced the offer of salvation (see above, on v. 26), and with which he now impressively repeats it. Through this (one), this same Jesus, whom our brethren in Judea crucified, but whom I have just proved to be the promised Christ. Remission of sins, see above, on 2, 38. 5, 31. 10, 43. There is something impressive in the very order of the words in this clause — that through this (man) unto you remission of sins is preached — i. e. declared, announced, proclaimed. See above, on v. 5, and compare 4, 2. The idea of an offer or an invitation is implied, as when a government proclaims peace or pardon.

39. And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

The gift thus offered was not only pardon, or deliverance from punishment, but justification, or deliverance from guilt, reaching to all the sins of all believers, and effecting what the law, in which they trusted, had completely failed to bring about, through their fault, not its own. By him and by the law are correlative expressions, strictly meaning in him and in the law, i. e. in union with, and in reliance on, him and the law, as grounds of hope and means of justification. By some this verse is understood as drawing a distinction between sins which could and sins which could not be atoned for by the law of Moses, and asserting the necessity of justification only in relation to the latter. Others suppose the contrast to be that between mere ceremonial offences, for which ceremonial expiation was sufficient, and sins or offences against God, for which legal observances could make no satisfaction, though they might prefigure it. But most interpreters and readers take the words in an exclusive sense, ‘from all which sins ye were not able to be justified in the law of Moses.’ The English version has departed here materially from the form of the original, by substituting the plural, all that believe, for the singular, every one believing, and by changing the whole order of the sentence, not without some diminution of its force and beauty. The original arrangement is as follows: “and from all (the things from) which ye were not able to be justified in the law of Moses in this man every one believing is justified.” This collocation is entitled to the preference, not only as that chosen by the writer, but because it puts the two antagonistic phrases, in the law of Moses and in this man, side by side, and ends the sentence with the sum of the whole matter, every one believing is justified. The antithesis just mentioned shows that in this man depends upon the verb is justified, and not, as some suppose, upon believing. It is needless to show how much more this part of Paul’s discourse resembles his epistles than any part of Peter’s. (Compare Rom. 1, 16. 3, 22. 4, 25. 5, 10. 11. 6, 7. 8, 3. 10, 4. Gal. 3, 11. 22.) From after justified implies deliverance from guilt and righteous condemnation.

40. Beware, therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets:

The offer of salvation is accompanied, as usual in Scripture, by a warning against the danger of rejecting it, here clothed in a peculiar form, derived from the Old Testament, and threatening the despisers of this offered mercy with as sudden and terrific judgments as Jehovah brought of old upon his faithless people, by allowing fierce and cruel foreign nations to invade and conquer them. Take heed, literally, see, look, i. e. see to it, or look out, be upon your guard; an expression nowhere else employed in this book, but of frequent occurrence in the writings of the Apostle who is here speaking. (See 1 Cor. 3, 10. 8, 9. 10, 12. Gal. 6, 16. Eph. 6, 16. Phil. 3, 2. Col. 2, 8. 4, 17. Heb. 3, 12. 12, 26.) The coincidence is here so slight and yet so striking, that a later writer could not have invented it, or would not have left it to be brought to light by microscopic criticism, ages after it was written. Therefore, since the true Messiah has appeared and been rejected at Jerusalem, and you are now in danger of committing the same sin. Come upon you, suddenly, and from above, or as a divine judgment. (See above, on 8, 24, and compare Luke 11, 22. 21, 26. 35.) As it sometimes has a good sense (see above, on 1, 8, and compare Luke 1, 35), the unfavourable sense here is determined by the context. Spoken of, or rather spoken, not merely mentioned or referred to, but recorded as directly uttered by Jehovah. In the prophets, the division of the Hebrew Canon so called. (See above, on V. 15. 7, 42, and compare John 6, 45.)

41. Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.

These words are from the Septuagint version of Habakkuk 1, 5, which varies considerably from the Hebrew. Behold ye despisers is, in the original, behold (or see) among the nations. Wonder and perish (or be wasted, consumed) is there, wonder (and) wonder (or as the English version of Habakkuk has it, wonder marvellously.) The remainder of the verse agrees almost exactly with the Hebrew, the chief difference of form consisting in the substitution of the impersonal construction (if one tell you) for the passive (when it is told.) The necessity of trying to account for these departures from the Hebrew text is precluded by the obvious consideration, that this passage is not quoted, expounded, and declared to be fulfilled, like those from David and Isaiah in vs. 33-37 above, but merely made the vehicle of a warning similar to that contained in the original prediction. As if he had said, ‘Be upon your guard lest, by rejecting the salvation which I have now offered in the name of your Messiah, you should call down judgments on yourselves as fearful and incredible as those predicted by Habakkuk, and inflicted by the hands of the Chaldeans, on our unbelieving fathers.’ The Septuagint version is retained without correction, because no interpretation or application of the passage is intended, but a simple use of its expressions to convey the Apostle’s own ideas to the minds of his hearers in a striking manner. This is the less surprising or improbable, because that part of the quotation which he had especially in view, is that which agrees best with the original. For although the word despisers, in the first clause, may seem specially appropriate to the Jews who rejected Christ, Paul seems to have intended to dwell chiefly on the greatness of the threatened judgment or prediction, as incredible in either case. This quotation, therefore, does not of itself prove that Paul spoke in Greek, though this is highly probable for other reasons; but it does prove that he thought himself at liberty to use the words of the Old Testament in application to new cases, and even in a version not entirely accurate. But let it be observed, that in neither of these things is he an example to us, because in both he acted under the control of inspiration and by virtue of his apostolical authority, without which we are utterly incompetent to say what new application may be made of words prophetically uttered, or how far an imperfect version may be used with safety. Let it also be observed that no such use is made by the Apostle Paul of Scripture, where his doctrine or his argument depends upon it, as in a previous portion of this very chapter. (See above, on vs. 33-37.)

  1. jerryshugart
    November 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Of course we must not ignore what is said about the throne of David at other places. God promised David that his throne would be established “for ever”:

    ” And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Sam.2:7:12-13).

    That throne is an earthly throne because Solomon sat upon that throne on the earth (1 Ki.2:12).

    Since the Lord made this promise to David then we can know that the throne of David will be established forever as an earthly throne. In fact, the Lord says that He will not “alter” His promise to David:

    “I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant…Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David” (Ps. 89:3,33-35).

    Despite these facts Doug believes that God did in effect break His promise to David because according to Him that throne ceased to exist so therefore it was never a throne which was established for ever. Doug also says that God altered His promise to David because even though it was an earthly throne which was to be established for ever God changed it into a heavenly throne!

    Despite Doug’s assertions he insists that the Lord’s promise to David was not altered in any way. Sir Robert Anderson writes:”In no other sphere save that of religion do men of intelligence and culture willingly subject their minds to delusions. The historic Church once tried to compel belief that this planet was the fixed centre of the solar system; but who believes it now? Men cannot be made to believe that water runs uphill, or that five and five make anything but ten. In no other sphere can they be induced to stultify reason and common sense. But in religion there seems to be no limit to their credulity” (Anderson, The Bible or the Church? [London: Pickering & Inglis, Second Edition], 61).

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