Acts: Chapter 28
Let’s begin by reading (Acts 28:1-10).
(Verses 1-2) “And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita (“Malta”). (2) And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness (“extraordinary” – NASB): for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.”
“Malta” – (“Melita” the Greek / Roman name) The name “Malta” comes from the Greek word “meli,” which means “honey.” John Gill says Malta “was a very pleasant and fruitful island, bringing forth great plenty of wheat, rye, flax, cummin, cotton, figs, wine, roses, thyme, lavender, and many other sweet and delightful herbs, from whence bees did gather great plenty of honey.”
The island of Malta is about 17 miles long, and 9 miles wide. In Paul’s time, it had a fairly sparce population, however, today it has a population of over 500,000 people! (“Pulpit Commentary” says, “about 1200 people per sq mile!”) As we mentioned in the previous chapter, in Paul’s time, it had a very prominent port in the capital city of “Valetta,” which still exists today. However, the ship Paul was on missed that port, and shipwrecked about 7 miles past it. The place where they shipwrecked now has a port today, and it is called “St. Paul’s Bay.” Malta is about 60 miles south (near the toe) of Sicily. (Note: The island of Malta is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible.)
“barbarous people” – (Gr: “barbaros” – also used in 1 Cor 14:11, Col 3:11, Acts 28:2,4, Rom 1:14) This word was not used in those times like it is today. “Strong’s” gives us this definition for their time: “It then came to denote any foreigner ignorant of the Greek language and culture.” “Barnes” adds, “It does not denote, as it does sometimes with us, “people of savage, uncultivated, and cruel habits, but simply those whose speech was unintelligible.” Malta was colonized by the Phoenicians in about 1000 B.C., and the language spoken there was likely some sort of Phoenician dialect.
“no little kindness” – The Greek word used here for “kindness” is “philanthropia.” It is used only one other time in the NT in (Titus 3:4).
“kindled a fire” – It is likely that some of the islanders witnessed the shipwreck, and helped the passengers get to shore. Afterwards, because of the cold (it was likely October [see: Acts 27:9]), they started a fire for them.
(Verses 3-4) “And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. (4) And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.”
“Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks” – Notice that even in this tragedy, cold and wet, Paul is still serving others, obeying the command of Jesus to be a “servant of all” (Mk 9:35)(Mk 10:44-45)(Jn 13:12-17)(Mt 23:11-12). Paul also speaks of this in (1 Cor 9:19)(NKJV) “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.” (Also see: 2 Cor 4:5, Gal 5:13)
“a viper came out of the heat, and fastened on his hand” – The Greek word for “viper” is “echidna.” From “Strong’s: “Echidna is probably a generic term for “poisonous snakes.” (As opposed to “non-poisonous snakes.”) John the Baptist (Mt 3:7)(Lk 3:7), and Jesus (Mt 12:34)(Mt 23:33) used this in describing the Sadducees and Pharisees. Interesting in light the “poisonous” emphasis. (The Greek word “therme” is used for “heat” here. This is the only time it is used in the NT.)
The belief of many here is that due to the time of season (with it being cold), the snake was in partial hibernation, but was quickly revived by the heat of the fire.
***Note: Apparently, poisonous snakes can no longer be found in Malta.
***Note: As I discuss here: https://jesusalive.cc/pauls-thorn-in-flesh, I believe that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was an eyesight problem, and here he mistook the snake for a stick.
“fastened on his hand” – The snake bit him on the hand, and did not let go.
“the venomous beast” – The Greek word “therion” is used for this term here. It literally means “a wild beast.” Other than its uses in verses 4 & 5 here, and once in (Heb 12:20), it is used only in the Book of Revelation, where it is used 37 times. From “Strong’s” – “Therion, in the sense of wild “beast,” is used in the Apocalypse for the two antichristian potentates who are destined to control the affairs of the nations with Satanic power in the closing period of the present era.”
“they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer” – Why do you suppose that they thought of all crimes, Paul must be a murderer?
(Verses 5-6) “And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. (6) Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”
“and felt no harm” – Miraculously, the poison of the snake caused no harm to Paul. God said Paul was going to Rome, and nothing would stop that, not even a poisonous snake!
“they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.” – Because Paul did not die from the poisonous bite, the “barbarians” went from believing that the “gods” were killing him for his crime, to believing he “was” one of the “gods.”
Remember the fickleness of the people of Lystra, who did the reverse of what happened here in (Acts 14:8-20)? After Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man, they declared them to be “gods” (Barnabas – “Zeus” & Paul – “Hermes”). However, shortly afterwards, they changed their minds, and stoned Paul to death (he came back to life).
(Verse 7) “In the same quarters were possessions of (“lands belonging to” – NASB) the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.”
“the chief man… Publius” – (“chief man” = Gr: “protos“) Publius was likely the governor of the island. (From the “Cambridge Commentary”) – “The Greek word is “Protos,” which is known from inscriptions to have been the official title of the governor of Melita.” (Since the island was under the control of the Romans, Publius was likely given this position by them.) “Publius” was a Roman name, and a common one (“Gill”).
“lands belonging to… and lodged us three days courteously” – By “LANDS,” it appears that Publius was wealthy enough to own a lot of land. The fact that he had the ability to “lodge” ALL of the shipwrecked men (276 men – Acts 27:37) for 3 days would certainly back up that he was wealthy. (***Note: Some believe that by “lodged us,” Paul was simply speaking of him, and those traveling with him i.e. Luke, Aristarchus.)
***Note: Publius lodging them for “3 days” was likely to give them time to find more permanent accomodations on the island for the 3 months (verse 11) they would be staying. Tradition says that Publius later became the bishop of Malta.
(Verses 8-9) “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux (“dysentery” – NKJV): to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. (9) So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed”
“a fever and bloody flux (“dysentery”)” – (From the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible”) – “This fever was possibly Malta fever, which was common in Malta, Gibralter, and other Mediterranean islands. The microorganism has since been traced to the milk of Maltese goats. The fever usually lasted four months, but sometimes could last as long as two or three years.”
“prayed, laid hands on him, healed him” – Of course, we always need to “pray” when asking for “healing.” Miraculous healing comes from the Lord (Jer 17:14)(Ps 30:2)(Ps 103:2-3)(Mk 5:34)(James 5:14-15). In this instance, Paul’s praying may have had added significance, in that because many of the people believed he was a “god,” his praying would show that the coming healing did not come from him, but from a different God.
“Laying hands” on people in conjunction with “healing” is seen throughout the New Testament: (Mt 9:18)(Mk 5:23)(Mk 6:5)(Mk 7:32)(Mk 8:22-25)(Lk 4:40)(Lk 13:11-13)(Acts 9:17-18).
***Note: “Laying hands” on people was also done throughout the Bible in conjunction with things such as: blessing, commissioning, receiving the Holy Spirit, and the giving of spiritual gifts. I discuss this in more detail here: https://jesusalive.cc/laying-hands-in-bible.
“many others who had diseases… came, and were healed” – Word of the miraculous healing spread throughout the island, and people came from every part to be healed as well. (See similar with Jesus in Mt 4:23-25)
***Note: Tying together what has happened here with the miraculous healings, and Paul’s being bitten by the poisonous viper, and surviving, we have a picture of what is said in (Mk 16:17-18):
(Mk 16:17-18)(NKJV) “And these signs will follow those who believe… (18) they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
(Verse 10)(NASB) “They also showed us many honors, and when we were about to set sail, they supplied us with everything we needed.”
“showed us many honors” – (“honors” = Gr. “timeo“) This likely included “gifts” and “money.” Of course, Paul was not healing people in order to receive “gifts and money” (unlike some “faith healers” today – see Mt 10:8). However, the people truly wanted to thank Paul for all that he did for them, and for Paul to refuse their gifts would likely have resulted in hurt feelings.
“they supplied us with everything we needed” – They also supplied the ship with “everything” that would be useful on their continued voyage to Rome.
As Paul now leaves, what effect do you think his 3 months on the island had on the people?
Next, let’s read (Acts 28:11-20).
(Verses 11-12) “And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux. (12) And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.”
“after three months” – As we learned in the previous chapter, they had left the island of Crete in their continued journey to Rome around the beginning of October (Acts 27:9), and then spent 14 days in the open sea (Acts 27:27). After this, they arrived here in Malta (Acts 27:33-44), where they stayed (“wintered”) for “three months.” Therefore, the time they are leaving here is around mid-January. to the beginning of February. This would have been a few weeks before what was considered the acceptable time of safe travel, but they were likely anxious to resume their journey.
“a ship of Alexandria” – This is same term that was used for the ship that they had previously boarded in Myra (Acts 27:6), and later shipwrecked on here in Malta. Just like that ship, it was likely a on its way to Italy to deliver grain.
“Castor and Pollux” – In Greek mythology, “Castor and Pollux” were the two twin sons (Gr: Dioscuri) of Zeus and Leda. Many sailors believed them to be the “gods” who offered them protection while sailing. While many ships carried an image of these two “gods,” this ship was actually named after them. (From “Ellicott’s Commentary”) – “In Greek mythology, Zeus had rewarded their brotherly devotion by placing them among the stars as the Gemini (the twins), which were connected with the month of May in the signs of the Zodiac, and Poseidon (Neptune) had given them power over the wind and waves that they might assist the shipwrecked.”
The images of these two gods were likely carved of the bow of the ship (one on each side). Today, an image of St. Anthony is given the same power of protection by some sailors (an image St. Christopher is also believed to offer protection).
***Note: It is important to understand that the Bible strongly condemns the use of images like these (Ex 20:4-5)(Lev 26:1)(Deut 4:16-19)(Isa 42:8)(Acts 17:29). It is idolatry.
***Trivia note: This is the only time the name of a ship is given to us in the Bible.
“Syracuse” – Syracuse (today “Siracusa” – pop. over 100,000) is about 80 miles north of Malta (a day’s sail in favorable weather). It was located on the east side of the island of Sicily, and was its capital. Founded in about 735 B.C., it was conquered in 212 B.C. by the Romans (led by the Roman general Marcellus). It was the most prosperous city on the island. “Benson’s Commentary” says of the port, “it had the sea on both sides of it, (and) was almost wholly surrounded with eloquent buildings; all the suburbs being banked up, and supported with walls of marble.”
“Benson’s” also says that the city was called the “Quadruplex,” because it was divided into four parts. Each contained an idolatrous image: one had a temple of Jupiter, one a temple of Fortune, one a statue of Diana, and one temples to Diana and Minerva.
“we tarried there three days” – Likely waiting for a favorable wind. It is also possible that they wanted to do some trading. We are not told if Paul went ashore during these 3 days, but knowing Paul, it seems unlikely that he would miss an opportunity (if allowed) to witness to all of the people who would be in this crowded place of commerce. “MacArthur” says, “tradition holds that Paul established a church during the ship’s 3-day stopover there.”
(Verses 13-14)(NKJV) “From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, (14) where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome.”
“Rhegium” – Rhegium (today “Reggio” – pop. about 182,000) is about 75 miles north of Syracuse (today “Siracusa”). It is located on the toe of Italy. Its port is on the “Strait of Messina,” which runs between it and the eastern tip of Sicily (and its city Messina). The Strait, which is 20 mi long, is 1.9 miles wide at its narrowest point (in the north), and 10 mi. wide at its widest point (in the south).
Founded in 712 B.C., it was conquered in 270 B.C. by the Romans. Because of its location, its port was considered an important strategic spot. Suetonius said that after General Titus conquered Judea (and destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D.), he stopped here on his way back to Rome. We see in verse 13 that Paul’s ship only stayed here for a day, leaving because of a favorable “south wind,” which would help carry them to the next point on their journey: Puteoli.
“Puteoli” – (name means “little wells”) Puteoli (today “Pozzuoli” – pop. about 80,000) is about 180 mi. northwest of Rhegium (today “Reggio”). (From “Nelson’s Bible Dictionary”) – “A seaport on the western shore of southern Italy. Puteoli was one of the most important harbors in Italy (the nearest to Rome). At Puteoli the great grain ships from Alexandria were unloaded. Puteoli is… across the Bay of Naples from Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. The city boasts an ancient Roman amphitheater, built like the Colosseum of Rome, with a capacity of 40,000 to 60,000 people.”
While Puteoli was Rome’s main port, it was still about 150 miles southeast of it. “Barnes Commentary” says, “This place was celebrated for its warm baths, and from these and its springs it is supposed to have derived its name of The Wells.” The “Expositor’s Commentary” adds, “Probably after Rome itself, Puteoli was the most ancient Jewish community in Italy. Jews were there as early as B.C. 4, after the death of Herod the Great (Josephus Ant. xvii. 12,1).” (“Expositor’s Commentary” says, “the remains of a Jewish cemetery have been found even near Perugia.”)
“we found brethren” (NASB – “brothers and sisters”) – The “Liberty Commentary” says, “By this time, in the history of the early church Christian believers could be found almost anywhere throughout the empire.” However, Paul may have been surprised to find fellow believers there.
“stay with them seven days” – Why did they stay in Puteoli for “seven days” instead of heading immediately for Rome? The most likely reason is that Julius (the centurion) reported his arrival in Puteoli to his superiors in Rome, and he was waiting to hear back from them. Some suggest that because Paul had found favor in his eyes, (i.e. Acts 27:3,42-43), perhaps he stayed longer at Paul’s request (I find this unlikely).
“And so we went toward Rome” – Paul is about to receive his long awaited desire (Acts 19:21)(Acts 23:11)(Rom 1:11)(Rom 15:22-24)!
(Verses 15-16)(NKJV) “And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. (16) Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.”
“when the brethren heard about us” – We are not told how they “heard” about Paul’s arrival. Perhaps, just as with Julius above, his arrival had been reported to the believers in Rome. “Seven days” would have been plenty of time for them to hear the news, and then leave to meet Paul.
Who were these “brethren” who were coming to meet Paul? We can get a pretty good clue who some were from the Book of Romans, which Paul had written about 3-4 years earlier from Corinth to the “church at Rome” (Acts 20:1-3). In Chapter 15 of Romans, he “greets” some of the people he knew in Rome. Let’s turn to (Rom 15:3-16), and see who some these were.
“Appii Forum” – A town about 45 miles southeast of Rome, located on the Appian Way. The “Appian Way” was a road that ran from Rome to Brindisi (on the coast). It was named after Appius Claudius, who started and finished building the main part of it in 312 B.C.. This town was also named after him. Horace, in his writing “The Satires” (Book I, Satire V) says of this city, it was “crammed with bargemen and stingy innkeepers.” (Bargemen [sailors] were often in the city because the start of a canal, that ran parallel to the road for a number of miles, was located there.)
“Three Inns (“Taverns” – KJV, NIV)” – Located about 10-15 miles north of Appii Forum on the Appian Way, about 30 mi from Rome. From the “Cambridge Commentary” – “The name “Tabernae” had in Latin a much wider signification than the English “Taverns,” and was applied to any shop whatever, not as the English word to one where refreshments are sold. The site of this place has not been identified.”
“he… took courage” – They must have been a great encouragement to Paul.
“Now when we came to Rome” – This is the last of the “we” statements that Luke makes in the Book of Acts. As we have previously indicated in (Acts 16:10-17)(Acts 20:5-15)(Acts 21:1-18)(Acts 27:1 to here), these 1st person “we / us” statements (rather than 3rd person “they / them”) have indicated the times that Luke was with Paul on his journeys. However, while this is the last use in Acts, based upon (Phile 1:24)(Col 4:14), it is clear that Luke stayed with Paul throughout his 2 year imprisonment in Rome.
“the captain of the guard” – From “Ellicott’s Commentary” – “The centurion, on arriving at the Palace of the Caesars, would naturally deliver his prisoners to the captain of the division of the Praetorian Guard stationed there as the emperor’s body-guard. The Prefect of the Praetorium was the natural custodian of prisoners sent from the provinces, and about this time that office was filled by (Afranius) Burrus (see “Tacitus History” Ch. 12, 41), the friend and colleague of Seneca.”
“Paul was permitted to dwell by himself” – Certainly, Paul received this privilege based upon three things: (1.) The (very likely) positive “letter” that governor Festus had written, and sent with Paul (he could find no guilt in him: Acts 25:24-27,31-32) (v. 18), (2.) A positive recommendation by the centurion Julius, with whom Paul had found favor several times (Acts 27:3,31-32,42-43), (3.) Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37)(Acts 22:25-29), who had committed no serious, or dangerous, or political crime. This place that he “dwelled” in was a “rented house” (v. 30). (See Acts 24:23 for a similar confinement)
“with the soldier who guarded him” – While Paul was allowed to live in a “rented house” by himself, a “soldier” was assigned to guard him at all times, and he was “chained” to that soldier (v. 20). In the letters (“epistles”) that Paul writes while in captivity, he mentions these “chains” (Eph 6:20)(Phil 1:7,13,14,16)(Col 4:3,18), and being a “prisoner” (Eph 3:1)(Eph 4:1).
Of course, the soldiers who guarded Paul would be rotated, so this gave Paul a chance to share the Gospel with many. We are told in (Phil 1:12-13) that he actually got through to some:
(Phil 1:12-14)(NKJV) “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, (13) so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; (14) and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
(Verses 17-18)(NKJV) “And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, (18) who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death.”
“after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews” – As we first mentioned in (Acts Ch. 13 & 14), even though God had called Paul to be an Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15)(Gal 1:15-16)(Gal 2:7), as a Jew, Paul had a great love for his people, and a strong desire to see them saved (Rom 9:1-5)(Rom 10:1). This being the case, Paul had a pattern of heading to Jewish synagogues when he entered a new city i.e. (Acts 14:1)(Acts 17:1-3,10,17)(Acts 18:4,19)(Acts 19:8). This followed a tradition of taking the “word of God” to the Jews first (i.e. see Mt 10:5-6, Mt 15:24, Lk 24:47, Rom 1:16).
However, since Paul is a prisoner here, and cannot go to the synagogues, he asks the leaders of the Jewish synagogues in Rome to come to him. The “Expositor’s Commentary” says, “The Jews in Rome were divided into no less than seven synagogues.”
***Note: In (Acts 18:2), we were told that at that time, “Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome.” As we quoted from the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible” in that chapter, “In A.D. 49 the Roman emperor Claudius (Emperor of Rome from 41 – 54 A.D.) expelled all Jews from Rome due to riots that were ignited by a group of zealous Jews. These insurrectionists were advocating revolution against Rome and opposing the installation of a new king.”
We can see here that the Jews have been allowed to return to Rome under Nero’s reign. The “Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary” says, “The Jews… were at this time in considerable numbers, wealth, and influence settled at Rome.”
“Men and brethren” – A common greeting meant to express respect and “brotherly love.” It was used to express this respect and love between fellow Jews or Christians. (Also see: Acts 1:16, 2:29,37, 13:15,26,38, 15:7,13, 23:1,6)
“I have done nothing against our people (fellow Jews), or the customs (traditions) of our fathers” – Paul has made this point a number of times leading up to this. Let’s look at a few of these: (Acts 23:1,6)(Acts 24:14-16,20-21)(Acts 25:8)(Acts 26:6-8,22-23).
“yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans” – Paul is leaving out a LOT of details that would have made the Jews look bad i.e. they had beaten him (Acts 21:30-35)(Acts 23:2), wanted him to be put to death (Acts 22:22), and plotted to ambush and kill him twice (Acts 23:11-21)(Acts 25:1-5).
“examined me, wanted to let me go… no cause for putting me to death” – The Romans who “examined” Paul, and who he made his defense before were : Governor Felix (Acts 24:10-21), Governor Porcius Festus (Acts 25:1-12), and Festus / Agrippa (Jewish king) (Acts 26:1-32). They all found him “not guilty” (Felix – Acts 24:22-26)(Festus – Acts 25:25-26)(Agrippa / Festus – Acts 26:31-32). (Lysias, the Roman commander also found him innocent: Acts 23:26-30.)
(Verses 19-20) “But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought (anything) to accuse my nation of. (20) For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”
“but when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal to Caesar” – As we saw in (Acts 25:9), it was more the words of Festus, rather than the Jews, which “constrained” Paul to “appeal to Caesar.” Paul made his “appeal to Caesar” in (Acts 25:11). As we mentioned in more detail there, as a Roman citizen, Paul had the right to have his case heard before Caesar if he did not feel as though he was getting a fair trial in a provincial court.
“not that I had anything to accuse my nation of” – Paul has forgiven his fellow Jews for the way they treated him.
“For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain” – (From “Ellicott’s Commentary”) – “The hope for which he suffered was two-fold: (1) the expectation of the Messiah as bringing in a kingdom of heaven, which was cherished by every Israelite; (2) the hope of a resurrection from the dead, which he proclaimed as attested by the resurrection which proved (Rom 1:3-4) that Jesus was the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God.” For verses in Acts which speak of this “hope,” see: (Acts 23:6)(Acts 24:15,21)(Acts 26:6-7,22-23). “Chain” indicates that he was chained to “one” soldier.
Finally, let’s read (Acts 28:21-30).
(Verses 21-22)(NASB) “They said to him, “We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor has any of the brothers come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. (22) But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for regarding this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.””
On verse 21, from the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible” – “The Jewish leaders had not received any news about Paul from Judea. It may be that after Paul’s appeal to Caesar, Paul was on the first ship that made it to Italy. Or the Jewish antagonists may have given up their attacks on Paul, having already failed with Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. A third reason may be that the Jews, only recently back in Rome after the expulsion of Claudius (see my “Note” above for verses 17-18), wanted to avoid trouble.”
In addition, notice it says, “anything bad (“evil” – NKJV) about you.” This could indicate that they “had” heard about Paul from “letters,” or Jewish “brothers,” but had not heard anything “bad” about him.
“But we desire to hear from you what your views are” – Because Paul had written earlier (about 10 years earlier) to the already established Christian church in Rome (the “Book of Romans”), we know that the Jewish leaders had clearly heard about the “sect” of Christianity. However, since they had heard nothing “bad / evil” about Paul, they were open to hear him explain Christianity more fully.
“regarding this sect (Gr: “haireseos“)” – Similar to (Acts 24:5), when the “orator named Tertius” accused Paul of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.” From the “Liberty Commentary” – “The term “sect” was used by Josephus to designate the various parties and divisions within Judaism, indicating that the opposition still considered the Christians as an unorthodox break within Judaism.”
“it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere” – (From the “Life Application Bible”) – “Christians were denounced everywhere by the Romans because they were seen as a threat to the Roman establishment. They believed in one God, whereas the Romans had many gods, including Caesar. The Christians were committed to an authority higher than Caesar.”
(Verses 23-24) “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the Law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening. (24) And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.”
“there came many to him” a great number of Jews” – (From “Ellicott Commentary”) – “The Greek for “many” (Gr: “pleiones“) is a comparative form, implying a larger attendance than might have been looked for.”)
“persuading them concerning Jesus. both out of the Law, and out of the Prophets” – The “Law and the Prophets” is referring to the books of the Old Testament (see: Mt 7:12, Mt 11:13, Mt 22:40, Lk 16:16, Jn 1:45). Using the Old Testament, Paul was showing them scriptures which pointed to the Messiah, and how they were fulfilled in Jesus. Some of these are: (Gen 3:15)(Deut 18:15)(Ps 2:7)(Ps 16:10)(Ps 22:7-8,16,18)(Ps 69:21)(Ps 78:2)(Isa 7:14)(Isa 9:1-7)(Isa Ch. 53)(Mic 5:2)(Zech 9:9).
***Note: See two examples where Jesus said Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Him in (Lk 4:16-21)(Lk 24:25-27).
“some believed… some believed not” – The same continues today as the Gospel is shared.
(Verses 25-27)(NKJV) “So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, (26) saying, ‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; (27) For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” ‘ “
“they departed” – The Greek word “apoluo” is used for “departed” here. Looking at other uses for this Greek word may give us a clearer picture: “released,” “put away,” send away,” “let go,” “divorced.”
“The Holy Spirit spoke” – Verses 26 & 27 come from (Isa 6:9-10). These words were given to Isaiah by the Holy Spirit, who “spoke through” him. This is similar to all of the words in our Bible, which were given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to those who wrote it (2 Pet 2:20-21)(2 Tim 3:16-17)(Eph 6:17).
These words in Isaiah were “spoken” to unbelieving, disobedient Jews in that time, who refused to hear the truth, and they still apply in the present to those here with Paul.
Before Paul, Jesus also quoted (Isa 6:9-10) when explaining to the disciples why he spoke to the Jews in Capernaum in parables (Mt 13:10-15)(Mk 4:10-12)(Lk 8:9-10). In (Jn 12:39-40), John quotes (Isa 6:9-10) when speaking of the Jews in Jerusalem.
“For the hearts of this people have grown dull (KJV – “heart… is waxed gross”)” – The Greek word for “grown dull / waxed gross” here is “pachuno” (Heb – “hasmen“), which literally means “to grow fat” or “become thick.” In other words, their hearts had become thick (“hardened”).
“So that I should heal them” – This means “healing” means being “healed” from sin:
(Isa 53:5) “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
(1 Pet 2:24) “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
***Note: These verses should “not” be used to say that the “healing” being spoken of here is referring to “physical illnesses.”
***Note: For a parallel, in (Mt 15:7-9) Jesus quoted (Isa 29:13) when speaking to the “scribes and Pharisees” – ” “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: (8) “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. (9) And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” ” (NKJV) (Also see: Mk 7:6-7)
(Verses 28-29) “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. (29) And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning (disputing) among themselves.”
“the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles” – Paul was the chosen instrument of Jesus to “send” this message of “salvation to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15)(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).
“they will hear it” – While the Jews rejected the Gospel message, Paul expresses confidence here that the Gentiles “will” receive it. He has said this previously in Acts: (Acts 13:44-48)(Acts 18:5-6).
In regards to verse 29, nearly all sources say that this verse is not found in most early manuscripts. “Ellicott’s Commentary” says, “The whole verse is wanting in many of the earliest MSS. and versions. It may have been inserted, either by a transcriber, or by the historian himself in a revised copy in order to avoid the apparent abruptness of the transition from Acts 28:28-30.” (This verse is not found versions such as the NIV, ESV, NLT, or NASB [some NASB’s have it].)
“had great reasoning (disputing) among themselves” – Most likely between those who believed, and those who did not. The “Believer’s Bible Commentary” says, “Paul’s quoting a prophecy against them irritated the ungodly element who rejected the Messiah. It whipped them into a fury against those who accepted Him.”
(Verses 30-31)(NASB) “Now Paul stayed two full years in his own rented lodging and welcomed all who came to him, (31) preaching the kingdom of God and teaching things about the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
“two full years” – Why did it take “two full years” for Paul’s trial before Nero to occur? Paraphrasing the “Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary,” it says, “it was the practice of Nero to hear one charge at a time, therefore, it is easy to understand why it took two years to hear Paul’s case.” The “Expositor’s Commentary” somewhat backs this up, saying, “When we remember how long a delay occurred in the case of the Jewish priests, the friends of Josephus, Vita, 3, who were sent to Rome by Felix to plead their cause, it ceases to be surprising that St. Paul was detained so long without a trial.”
Another theory is that Paul’s Jewish accusers had to come from Jerusalem, and that took some time. (Certainly they would not have been in a hurry, since they would have been happy he was already imprisoned.)
During these “two years” Paul wrote what are called the “Prison Epistles” (because they were written while he was imprisoned). These letters (“epistles”) were written somewhere between the years of 60 – 62 A.D.. The order they were written in was most likely: 1st: Ephesians, 2nd: Colossians, 3rd: Philemon, 4th: Philippians.
“in his own rented lodging” – With many Christians surrounding and supporting him, this support would have included taking care of his “rent.” Some of those with Paul during his imprisonment include: Timothy – (Phil 1:1)(Col 1:1)(Phile 1:1), Luke – (Col 4:14)(Phile 1:24), Tychicus – (Eph 6:21)(Col 4:7), Mark – (Col 4:10)(Phile 1:24), Aristarchus – (Col 4:10)(Phile 1:24), Demas – (Col 4:14)(Phile 1:24), Epaphras – (Col 4:12)(Phile 1:23), Epaphroditus – (Phil 2:25)(Phil 4:18), Onesimus – (Col 4:9), and Justus – (Col 4:11). In (Phil 4:10-19), Paul singles out the Philippian church for their support.
***Note: Remember that Paul is chained to a soldier while in this “lodging” (v. 16).
“with all openness, unhindered (KJV – “no man forbidding him”)” – Emperor Nero reigned from (54 – 68 A.D.), therefore, Paul’s house arrest would likely have been during the 6th – 8th years of Nero’s reign. For the first 10 years of Nero’s reign, he was generally considered a good leader, thus Paul’s “unhindered” freedom here, and his later release from house arrest (likely in 62 or 63 A.D).
However, Nero turned violently cruel during the final years of his reign. On July 18, 64 A.D., a great fire, lasting 6-7 days destroyed much of Rome (about 3/4). While not completely confirmed, it was believed by many that Nero ordered this fire to be set (some say to build himself a greater palace). With people looking for someone to blame for the fire, Nero put the blame on Christians. It was from this point forward that Nero’s persecution of Christians began. Shortly afterwards, this would include the martyrdom of both Peter and Paul in 66 or 67 A.D. (Peter by crucifixion [see: Jn 21:18-19], Paul by beheading [he could not be crucified because he was a Roman citizen]).
We do not know why Luke failed to mention Paul’s trial before Nero, or his subsequent release from house arrest. Perhaps he finished writing Acts before this occurred. However, we do know from two of his “Prison Epistles” that Paul told the recipients he expected to be released from his “house arrest” soon, and was planning to visit them (Phil 1:25-26)(Phil 2:23-24)(Phile 1:22).
While not mentioned in Acts, we know from other Epistles that Paul wrote, that after his release was granted, he continued his missionary work. It is believed that this work continued for 2 to 4 years (62 or 63 A.D. to 65 or 66 A.D..)
To close the Book of Acts, let me share this closing from the “Believer’s Bible Commentary:”
“Thus the Book of Acts closes. Some think it ends with a strange abruptness. However, the pattern outlined at the outset had now been fulfilled. The gospel had reached out to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and now the Gentile world. The events in the life of Paul after the close of Acts can only be inferred from his later writings. It is generally believed that after his two years in Rome, his case came before Nero and the verdict was acquittal.
He then embarked on what has come to be known as his Fourth Missionary Journey. Places in which he probably visited on this trip, though not necessarily in this order were: (#1.) Ephesus (Phile 1:22)(1 Tim 3:14), (#2.) Macedonia (Phil 1:25-26)(Phil 2:24)(1 Tim 1:3), (#3.) Spain (Rom 15:24), (#4.) Crete (Titus 1:5), (#5.) Corinth (2 Tim 4:20), (#6.) Miletus (2 Tim 4:20), (#7) Winter spent in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12), (#8.) Troas (2 Tim 4:13). (***Note: verses, cities, and order slightly altered by me)
We have no information as to why, when, or where he was arrested, but we do know he was brought to Rome as a prisoner a second time. This imprisonment was much more harsh than the first (2 Tim. 2:9). He was deserted by most of his friends (2 Tim. 4:9-11), and knew the time of his death was at hand (2 Tim. 4:6-8).” (My note: likely arrested in 65 or 66 A.D., martyred a year later in 66 or 67 A.D.)”
(From the “Barnes Commentary”) – “It is the uniform account of antiquity that Luke, after the transactions with which the Acts of the Apostles closes, passed over into Achaia, where he lived a year or two, and there died at the age of 84 years.”