Acts: Chapter 9
Let’s begin by reading (Acts 9:1-9).
(Verses 1-2)(NASB) “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, (2) and asked for letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them in shackles to Jerusalem.”
This is the third mention of Saul / Paul in the New Testament (Acts 7:58)(Acts 8:1-3). Beginning in this chapter of Acts, we gradually see the primary focus shifting away from Peter, and on to Paul. This “persecution,” which is first mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 8 is “still” continuing, and is increasing.
In his zeal to persecute Christians, Saul / Paul went to the “High Priest,” and asked for “letters” from him, which would allow him to go to Damascus, arrest the Christians (those of “the Way”), and bring them back to Jerusalem.
***Note: The term “the Way” is used in several places in Acts as a description of Christians (Acts 19:9,23)(Acts 22:4)(Acts 24:14,22). It almost certainly came from the words Jesus used to describe Himself in (Jn 14:6) “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
***Note: It is interesting to note from these verses, that at this point in time, in some places like Damascus, Christians still appear able to meet in Jewish places of worship (“letters to the synagogues to arrest Christians”). (Also see: Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42) This will soon change.
Damascus, one of the oldest cities in the world, was supposedly founded by Uz (Josephus (Ant. 1.6.4), grandson of Shem (Gen 10:21-23)(1 Chr 1:17). It was (is) located in Syria, and was a Roman province. It was a very important and prosperous city in Bible times. Several major trade routes passed through Damascus. It had a large Jewish population, and was ruled by King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32) during this part of Paul’s life (Aretas ruled from 9 B.C. to A.D. 40.).
The distance between Damascus (in Syria) and Jerusalem is about 135 miles. By foot, this journey would have taken a week or more! So, here is a question for you: Why would Paul go all the way to Damascus to arrest Christians?
(Verse 3)(NASB) “Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him”
In later recounting this event, Paul says this light was “above the brightness of the sun” (Acts 26:13), and it occurred “about noon” (Acts 22:6)(“midday” – Acts 26:13). My “Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary” says, “Tradition points to a bridge near the city as the spot referred to.”
***Note: I have written a study related to this titled: “How long was it from the time of Jesus’ death until He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus?” Putting together several facts, I determined that this event occurred somewhere between the dates of 34 – 36 A.D., about 6 – 8 years after Jesus had died, and 1 – 3 years after the stoning of Stephen. You can go to https://jesusalive.cc/timeline-jesus-death-pauls-conversion to find out how I arrived at this conclusion.
(Verses 4-5) “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (5) And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest…”
The Bible tells us that Christians are “the body” of Christ (Col 1:18)(1 Cor 12:12,27)(Eph 1:22-23). In a sense, when Christians are being attacked, Christ Himself is being attacked.
The Jews (primarily the Jewish leaders) had worked hard to make sure Jesus was crucified and killed. Now that they had accomplished this task, all that remained was to eliminate all of His followers, and then this newfound “religion” would be dead and gone. In the process of this attempted elimination, the man who was supposed to be dead, suddenly appears to Paul alive! Imagine what a shock this was to Paul!
(Verse 5)(NKJV) “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
This phrase is found only in the KJV and NKJV versions of the Bible here, but when Paul is later recounts this event in (Acts 26:14), he adds this phrase, and it is found in all versions of the Bible. It is an intriguing phrase that I once studied, and I want to look at in detail.
According to scholars, this interesting saying appears to have been a common Greek proverb that was used in those days, and it can be found in ancient writings from Euripedes, Pindar, Terence, and others.
In understanding what it means, we must first know what a “goad” (or “prick”) was. In short, a “goad” was a long stick, made out of oak or some other hardwood, app. 8′- 10′ long and 6″ in circumference, that generally had a metal point on one end, and a flattened piece of metal on the other end. The pointed end was used to “goad” or prod an ox pulling a plow or cart to move / turn, and the other end was used to remove accumulated dirt from a plowshare.
When the “goad” was used, an ox would sometimes kick back against it, especially if it was a young ox that was new to pulling. If they did this, the result was that the goad would go deeper into their skin, causing them more pain. By “kicking against the goad,” they were only hurting themselves more (kick = Gr. laktizo – “to strike with the heel”). Instead, what they needed to do was submit to the direction their master wanted them to go, and then there would be no pain.
I believe there is a very interesting spiritual lesson to see with this in relation to Paul (and ultimately ALL non-Christians). This lesson has to do with the drawing of the Father, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit in a non-Christian’s life. The Bible says that no one can become a Christian unless they are first “drawn” by the Father (Jn 6:44). The Father does this through the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin (Jn 16:8). The Bible also tells us that God does not wish that ANY man would perish, but that ALL would be saved (1 Tim 2:3-4)(2 Pet 3:9)(Ezek 18:23,32)(Titus 2:11)(Mt 18:14). This being the case, we know that He draws ALL men at some point in their lives.
However, the Bible is also clear in many verses that God’s will can be resisted: (Jn 5:40)(Mt 23:37)(Lk 13:34)(Acts 7:51)(Mt 21:42)(Acts 4:11)(Lk 7:29-30)(2 Th 1:8-9)(Rom 10:21)(2 Kin 17:14-18).
I believe this is what is going on in (Acts 9:5)(Acts 26:14). When Jesus is telling Paul “it is hard for thee to kick against the goads,” He is talking about Paul fighting against the direction his Master (the Father) is trying to “prod or turn” him. In “kicking against the goad,” Paul is fighting against the “drawing” of the Father, and the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, he is driving the goad in deeper, and only hurting himself.
It seems likely that in conjunction with this, things that Paul experienced might also have been at work in his conscience. For example:
1. Remembering his whole experience with Stephen (Acts 6:8 – 7:60) – the “great wonders and miracles” he did, his face being as “the face of an angel,” his impassioned speech before his accusers, his vision of Jesus “standing on the right hand of God,” and his asking God’s forgiveness on those who were murdering him.
2. Seeing Christians over and over willing to go to prison or die for the name of Jesus.
3. Perhaps seeing friends come to Christ. (Some say one of these might have been Barnabas. For example, Easton’s Bible Dictionary says, “They had probably been companions as students in the school of Gamaliel.”)
4. Recalling the counsel of his teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) not to kill the disciples, because if what they do “is of God, you cannot overthrow it- lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-39)(NKJV).
We can see that after this confrontation with Jesus, Paul stopped “kicking against the goad,” and he gave his life to Christ. He submitted to his Master, and followed the direction He wanted him to go. This same thing happens to all who become “Christians.” We all “kick against the goads” for various lengths of time, but eventually we stop and submit our lives to the Master’s direction. We accept Christ.
(Verse 6) “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”
A classic definition of an “apostle” is “one who has seen the risen Christ” (see: Acts 1:23). Based upon this experience, Paul considered himself to be an apostle, who had indeed seen the risen Christ (see: 1 Cor 9:1). He was an apostle “born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8), meaning he had seen the risen Christ later than the other apostles had. This moment on the road to Damascus forever changed Paul’s life!
(Verse 7) “And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”
In later recounting this event, Paul adds the detail that the men with him also “saw the light, and were afraid” (Acts 22:9), and they “fell to the ground” because of it (Acts 26:13-14).
In addition, in (Acts 22:9) Paul says that the men with him “heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” How do we reconcile this verse which says the men “heard the voice,” with (22:9) which says they “heard not the voice?” The best explanation would be to say that the men with Paul heard some type of sound when Jesus was speaking, but they had no idea that it was a voice. (Perhaps they thought it was thunder i.e. Jn 12:28-29.) (See: Dan 10:7 for a parallel)
We also see here that while Paul indeed saw the risen Christ, the men with him never saw Christ.
(Verse 8) “And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.”
As we saw in (Acts 26:13), the light that shone down upon Paul from Heaven (the glory of Jesus) was “above the brightness of the sun.” It was so bright that Paul had to close his eyes. When he opened them, he was blind! In order to obey Jesus’ command to “Arise, and go into the city,” those traveling with him had to help him get there. From this verse, it sounds like Paul had almost arrived at the city when Jesus appeared.
***Note: (mythbuster) How many of you have heard this: “When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, he fell off of his horse onto the ground?” He may have, but nothing in these verses says this.
(Verse 9) “And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
One of my study Bibles says for this verse, “While was blind, he saw his own spiritual blindness.”
It is interesting to note what may be a parallel between the “3 days” Paul was blind before the arrival of Ananias, and the “3 days” of the death and resurrection of Jesus: part of the first day, a full second day, and part of the third day.
Next, let’s read (Acts 9:10-18).
(Verse 10) “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.”
In (Acts 22:12), Paul calls Ananias, “a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there.” Ananias (“Jehovah has been gracious”) was almost certainly a leader in the church at Damascus, and therefore would have been a prime target of Paul’s persecution. “Unger’s New Bible Dictionary” says this of Ananias, “Tradition makes Ananias to have been afterward bishop of Damascus and to have suffered martyrdom.”
(Verses 11-12) “And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, (12) And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
“Straight street” is still a street in Damascus today. It is about a half-mile in length, and runs from east to west through the city. An arched Roman gate can still be found at the entrance to the city.
“Tarsus” – This is the first of 3 times in the book of Acts that Tarsus is mentioned as the birthplace of Saul / Paul (also see: Acts 21:39, Acts 22:3). The “MacArthur Study Bible” gives this description of Tarsus: “The birthplace of Paul and a key city in the Roman province of Cilicia, located on the banks of the Cydnus River near the border of Asia Minor and Syria. It served as both a commercial and educational center. The wharves on the Cydnus were crowded with commerce, while its university ranked with those of Athens and Alexandria as the finest in the Roman world.” ***Note: This area today is our modern Turkey.
While Saul was praying, God gave him a “vision” that Ananias was coming to give him back his eyesight. This is the first of five “visions” that Paul will receive from God (also see: Acts 16:9-10, Acts 18:9-10, Acts 22:17-21, 2 Cor 12:1-4).
(Verses 13-14) “Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: (14) And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.”
Clearly, the reputation of Paul had preceded him. Ananias had been made aware “by many” of Paul’s persecution of Christians, and he certainly realized that the reason Paul was in Damascus was to arrest Christians, especially Christian leaders like him. It seems clear that Ananias had a hard time believing that someone like Paul could be converted. So, do you see a lesson in this?
***Note: Notice that Ananias says the “saints” belong to Jesus? What does this point to?
(Verse 15) “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel”
Jesus responds to Ananias by stating that Saul / Paul is His “chosen vessel.” Later, Paul mentions a number of times the fact that Jesus specifically “chose” him to be an “apostle,” and share the Gospel (Rom 1:1)(Gal 1:1)(1 Tim 1:1)(2 Tim 1:11).
After his conversion, Paul does this very thing, sharing the Gospel (“bearing Jesus’ name”) with the Jews (“the children of Israel”) (Acts 13:14-16)(Acts 14:1)(Acts 17:1-4,10-12), the Gentiles (2 Tim 4:17)(Acts 18:4-6), and before kings (Acts 25:23 – 26:32)(also likely before Caesar when he was sent to Rome: Acts 25:11-12, Acts 27:24). However, Paul’s “primary” mission was to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46-48)(Acts 21:19)(Rom 11:13)(Rom 15:15-16)(Gal 2:8)(Eph 3:1,8)(1 Tim 2:7)(2 Tim 1:11).
(Verse 16) “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
During his ministry, Paul did indeed “suffer” greatly for the name of Jesus. (2 Cor 11:23-28) mentions many of the trials Paul faced. Let’s look at these.
In addition, (2 Cor 12:1-10) describes how Paul was caught up into paradise and heard words no man may utter. Many scholars believe this occurred when Paul was stoned and left for dead in (Acts 14:19-20). (2 Cor 12:7) says that because of the abundance of revelation given to him, he was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being proud. (2 Cor 12:8) says that Paul asked for it to be removed 3 times, and God refused saying His grace was sufficient. People disagree as to what this thorn was, but whatever it was, it appears to be very debilitating. (I believe it was a disease of the eyes. For more on this, see: https://jesusalive.cc/pauls-thorn-in-flesh.)
Soooo, when you are facing trials, take a look at what Paul faced. It can put your trials in perspective.
(Verses 17-18) “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (18) And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.”
Laying aside any possible concerns, Ananias obeyed the command from Jesus and went to Saul. Of course, as we saw in verse 12, Saul already knew that Ananias was coming. However, while he had been told that Ananias would restore his sight, he had not been told that he would be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What an emotional moment this must have been for Saul!
Receiving the Holy Spirit is the sign and guarantee that a person has been saved for eternity (Eph 1:13-14)(Eph 4:30)(2 Cor 1:22)(2 Cor 5:5), and it brings that person into the “church” of all believers in Christ. When Paul receives the Holy Spirit here, he joins the family of those he had formerly persecuted.
These verses present a strong argument against those who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Those who hold to this belief say that you receive the Holy Spirit “after” you are baptized. However, here we see Saul receiving the Holy Spirit “before” he is baptized. For more on why baptism is not necessary for salvation, you can go here: https://jesusalive.cc/baptism-for-salvation.
Next, let’s read (Acts 9:19-31).
(Verses 19-20) “And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. (20) And straightway (“immediately”) he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
“Immediately” after he was born again, Saul (Paul) began to “preach Christ,” teaching that He is the “Son of God.” In “preaching Christ,” Saul was proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah, and in preaching He was the “Son of God,” He was proclaiming the deity of Jesus. This was in total contrast to what he had believed just days earlier!
(Verse 21) “But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?”
As we mentioned in verses 13-14, Paul’s reputation had preceded his arrival in Damascus. He was the one who “destroyed” (“persecuted”) Christians, and arrested them for “calling on the name” of Jesus. But now, here is this same man “calling on this name” himself! They were “amazed!”
(Verse 22)(NKJV) “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”
Somewhere between verses 21-25, likely between verses 21-22 or 22-23, verses found in (Gal 1:15-19) fit in:
“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, (16) to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, (17) nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (18) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. (19) But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”
In other words, combining these verses with Acts, going back to (Acts 9:19), “Saul (Paul) was certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus” after his conversion. During this time, he “preached Christ” (Acts 9:20-21). However, sometime after that, he left Damascus and went to Arabia for an unspecified amount of time. These verses in Galatians seem to say that He did this to spend time with the Lord (“I did not…. confer with flesh and blood”), and grow in His new faith.
After his time in Arabia, he “returned again to Damascus” (Gal 1:17). “After three years” in Damascus (Gal 1:18), Saul went to Jerusalem (Gal 1:19), which we see occurring in (Acts 9:26).
(Verses 23-25) “Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. (24) But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. (25) Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.”
If the verses in Galatians fit after (Acts 9:22) (this seems most likely), then after “many days had passed (likely “three years” after Saul had return to Damascus), the Jews became so infuriated with Saul that they “plotted to kill him.” “Day and night” they waited at the “gates” of the city to kill Saul. However, Saul knew of their plan, and escaped from Damascus “by night” when his disciples “let him down by the wall in a basket.”
In many cities like Damascus, houses were built into the wall that surrounded the city. These houses had windows, and Saul was lowered to the ground in a large basket through one of these windows. Obviously, the house would have belonged to one of “his disciples.”
In (2 Cor 11:32-33), as Paul recounts this time, he adds an important detail.
(2 Cor 11:32-33) “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: (33) And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”
The Jews who were “watching the gates by day and night to kill Saul” were aided in this by the “governor,” who had a “garrison, desiring to apprehend” Saul. It is interesting to note in (2 Cor 11:33) that Paul says he escaped “his” (the governor’s) hands.
(Verse 26)(NKJV) “And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.”
After Saul escaped from Damascus, he headed to Jerusalem to “join the disciples.” The last time he was in Jerusalem, he was leaving it to go to Damascus to arrest Christians, and bring them back to Jerusalem. Now a Christian himself, he is going back to Jerusalem for the first time since being born again.
***Note: We don’t know how long it had been since Saul was last in Jerusalem. Four things play into this: 1. the time he was in Damascus with the disciples after he was born again before going to Arabia. 2. The time he was in Arabia. 3. The “three years” he was in Damascus after returning to it from Arabia. 4. The time it took him to get to Jerusalem after leaving Damascus.
As we discussed in verses 13-14, Ananias had a hard time believing that someone like Saul could be converted. However, while Ananias had a hard time believing it, “the disciples “did not believe” at all that Saul could be “a disciple,” and “they were all afraid of him.”
(Verse 27)(NASB) “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus at Damascus.”
This is the second time Barnabas has appeared in Acts. We first see him in (Acts 4:36), and he will be mentioned by name 22 more times in Acts, and 5 more times in 3 other books, mostly in conjunction with Paul. As we first mentioned in (Acts 4:36), his actual name was not “Barnabas,” but rather Joseph (“Joses”). However, he was given the name Barnabas by the apostles, because it means “son of encouragement” (“consolation”). As we read about him in Acts, we find that this perfectly describes Barnabas, because he was constantly encouraging people.
Going back to our verses in (Gal 1:18-19), we learn that Paul primarily went to Jerusalem to see Peter, and he “saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”
***Note: James, “the Lord’s brother” was actually Jesus’ “half – brother.” Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:34-35), while the father of James was Joseph (Mt 13:55)(Mk 6:3). While Jesus was on earth, James was not a believer in Him (see: Jn 7:3-5). However, after Jesus appeared to James after His resurrection (1 Cor 15:7), that appears to be the moment he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He later is shown to be the leader of the church at Jerusalem, and he also wrote the book of James.
Because the disciples would not accept that Saul (Paul) was a fellow disciple, Barnabas stepped in and took him to the disciples. After Barnabas shared the testimony how Jesus had changed and used Saul, the disciples accepted him. Afterwards, he stayed in Jerusalem with Peter for “fifteen days” (Gal 1:18).
(Verses 28-30)(NKJV) “So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. (29) And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. (30) When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.
Caesarea was built by Herod the Great between 25 – 13 B.C., and he named it in honor of Caesar Augustus. It served as the headquarters for Roman governors (i.e. Pilate lived there while he was ruling Judea). Several important events in the New Testament occurred there: i.e. Philip preached there (Acts 8:40), and later lived there (Acts 21:8-9), Peter will meet with the Roman centurion Cornelius there in the next chapter, Herod Agrippa I was killed by God there (Acts 12:19-23), Paul was sent there to stand trial before Felix (Acts 23:23,33), and Paul sailed from the harbor there to appear before Caesar in Rome.
***Note: Please refer back to the beginning of our study of Acts Chapter 6 for a detailed explanation of who the Hellenists were. See (verses 11-12) above for a description of Tarsus.
(Verse 31)(NASB) “So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace, as it was being built up; and as it continued in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it kept increasing.”
The “church” (all believers in Christ) in the areas of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria temporarily had a moment of “peace.” Most scholars say this is because the lead persecutor of Christians (Saul) was now a Christian himself, and a replacement for him had not yet been found.
However, the Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible adds this: “This peace was not solely due to Saul’s conversion. Tiberius, the emperor of Rome, died around this time, He was replaced by Caligula, who wanted to erect a statue of himself in the temple at Jerusalem. Thus Jewish energy was directed away from persecuting Christians, and toward Caligula. Here we see God’s sovereign hand at work, giving the early church a short season of respite.”
Finally, let’s read (Acts 9:32-43).
(Verses 32-33)(NASB) “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he also came down to the saints who lived at Lydda. (33) There he found a man named Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years, because he was paralyzed.”
Suddenly, we now switch from Saul (Paul) to Peter. After Saul is sent to Tarsus (verse 30), we don’t see him again until (Acts 11:25-30). MacArthur says, “Paul disappeared from prominent ministry for several years, although he possibly founded some churches around Syria and Cilicia (15:23, Gal. 1:21).”
Lydda – “Smith’s Bible Dictionary” gives us this: “(strife), the Greek form of the name, which appears in the Hebrew records as LOD a town of Benjamin, founded by Shamed or Shamer. (1 Chronicles 8:12 ; Ezra 2:33 ; Nehemiah 7:37 ; 11:35) It is still called Lidd or Ludd , and stands in part of the great maritime plain which anciently bore the name of Sharon. It is nine miles from Joppa, and is the first town on the northernmost of the two roads between that place and Jerusalem. The watercourse outside the town is said still to bear the name of Abi-Butrus (Peter), in memory the apostle. It was destroyed by Vespasian, and was probably not rebuilt till the time of Hadrian, when it received the name of Diospolis. When Eusebius wrote (A.D. 320-330), Diospolis was a well-known and much-frequented town.”
Aeneas – We know “absolutely” nothing about this man. Gill says his name means “to praise.” In looking for info on him, different scholars say he was saved, and not saved, and that he was a Gentile, or a Jew, or a Hellenist.
“Bedridden for eight years” – This is one of six places where Luke emphasizes the amount of time a person has been sick or lame. Also see: (Lk 8:27)(Lk 8:43)(Lk 13:11)(Acts 3:2)(Acts 14:8). Do you think there is a reason why Luke does this?
(Verses 34-35) “And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole (heals you): arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. (35) And all that dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and turned to the Lord.”
It is interesting to note the similar terminology between Peter saying “arise, and make thy bed,” and Jesus saying “arise, and take up thy bed” in (Mk 2:11)(Jn 5:8) after He healed two different paralytic men.
“All… turned to the Lord” – It is unlikely that “every” person in Lydda and Sharon saw the healed man and “turned to the Lord” after seeing him. This likely means that all from Lydda and Sharon who were “present” when the miracle occurred were saved. Others in these cities certainly “turned to the Lord” as well when they later saw the healed man. I think it is safe to say that Aeneas also “turned to the Lord” when he was healed.
One of the main reasons for “miracles” in the New Testament was so that people would believe in Jesus and “turn” to Him. Jesus said this about the miracles He performed (Jn 10:37-38)(Jn 20:30-31)(Mt 11:2-6) (Also see: Acts 2:22, Heb 2:3-4).
Sharon – From “New Unger’s Bible Dictionary” – “A part of the coastal plain of Palestine extending from Joppa to Mt. Carmel, proverbially fertile and noted for its flowery beauty (Isa. 35:2; Song of Sol. 2:1). It has a width of six to twelve miles. The plain was well watered and was a garden spot (1 Chron. 27:29). In modern Palestine it is dotted with citrus farms and numerous settlements. In antiquity it was a favorite caravan route along the sea, connecting Asia Minor, Egypt, and Mesopotamia. The plain furnished a home for very early man, as discovery of cave burial places has indicated. Dor, Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea, Rakkon, and Antipatris were well-known biblical cities located in this plain.”
(Verse 36)(NKJV) “At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.”
Joppa – (beautiful) Joppa is one of the oldest cities in the world. In the Old Testament, it was the place where timber from the forests of Lebanon arrived by sea to be transported to Jerusalem to be used in the building of God’s Temple (2 Chr 2:8-9,16)(Ezra 3:7). It was also the place where Jonah boarded a ship to flee “from the presence of the Lord” after God told him to go to Ninevah (Jon 1:1-3).
Today, it is called “Jaffa,” south of Tel Aviv. It is a seaport located on the Mediterranean Sea, about 40 miles northwest of Jerusalem, and it is actually the primary seaport for Jerusalem.
“Tabitha, which translated is Dorcas” – Dorcas is the Greek name for Tabitha, which is the Aramaic form of a Hebrew name. Both of these names mean “gazelle.” “Nelson’s Dictionary of the Bible” adds: “Dorcas may well have been one of the early converts of Philip the evangelist, who established a Christian church at Joppa.” “New Unger’s Bible Dictionary” shows a picture of the traditional site of her tomb, which can still be seen today in the courtyard of the Russian Church of St. Peter.
“full of good works and charitable deeds” – She was very active in helping the poor. As we learn in verse 39, one of the things she did was to make “coats and garments” for them.
(Verses 37-39)(NKJV) “But it happened in those days that she became sick and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. (38) And since Lydda was near Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent two men to him, imploring him not to delay in coming to them. (39) Then Peter arose and went with them. When he had come, they brought him to the upper room.”
Lydda was just under 17 miles from Joppa. Why did “the disciples” want Peter to “come to them?” Were they expecting what happens next?
(Verses 40-41)(NKJV) “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up…”
Why do you think Peter “put out” all of the people in the room before performing this miracle?
It is interesting to note in these two verses one key difference, and two similarities between the miracle of raising the dead that Peter did here, and the one that Jesus did earlier in (Mk 5:21-24,35-43).
The key difference is that while Peter “knelt down and prayed,” Jesus did not do so.
One “fascinating” similarity is the words they spoke. Peter said “Tabitha arise,” and Jesus said “Talitha cumi, which is translated (in Greek), Little girl, I say to you arise” (Mk 5:42). In other words, basically one letter difference!
In addition, just as Jesus put the mourners out of the room (Mk 5:40), so did Peter here.
***Note: Also, when Jesus healed the sickness of Peter’s mother-in-law in (Mk 1:30-31), He “took her by the hand and lifted her up,” just as Peter did here.
(Verse 42) “And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.”
As mentioned in verse 34, one of the main purposes of miracles in the New Testament was so that people would turn to Jesus and be saved.
(Verse 43) “And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.”
It is worth noting Simon’s occupation here as a “tanner.” Because “tanning” involved touching the dead bodies of animals, this occupation was repulsive to the Jews, and therefore, Simon probably was as well. In the Old Testament, Jews were forbidden from touching the dead bodies of animals (Lev 11:8,39-40)(Deut 14:8), or humans (Num 5:2)(Num 9:6-7)(Num 19:11-16), as it would make them “ceremonially” unclean. However, most Jews failed to recognize that the “ceremonial laws” pointed to Jesus, and were fulfilled in Him. They no longer needed to be kept. Peter recognized this, and therefore, his staying with Simon was significant. For more on this, see: https://jesusalive.cc/difference-ceremonial-and-moral-law.
***Note: The ruins of what is believed to be Simon the tanner’s house are still visible today.
Ok, so the commentary for this verse in my “Zondervan NIV Study Bible” regarding “Simon a tanner” sent me onto a “rabbit-trail” that took me several days to study! It says, “Occupations were frequently used with personal names to identify individuals further.” This got me to thinking, “How many people in the Bible actually HAD a job that was tied to their identity?” It was a FASCINATING study! However, it became so large that I had to narrow the guidelines to make a reasonable sized list.
So, let’s end chapter 9 with this challenge (it isn’t easy!). Eliminating the following “jobs” – kings, queens, judges, priests, governors, military commanders, or any type of ruler or leader, AND not counting any “spiritual gift” jobs like prophets, prophetesses, pastors, evangelists, etc…, how many people in the Bible can you think of that had a job tied to their identity like “Simon the (a) tanner?”
***Note: For my answers to this, you can find my study here: https://jesusalive.cc/people-whose-job-tied-to-identity.