Acts Chapter Twenty-one
I. Content of the Chapter
Paul Went Back to Jerusalem and Was Taken
I. The process that Paul went back to
They changed the ship and came to
They passed Ptolemais and came to Caesarea from
Agabus the prophet predicted that Paul would be bound at
E. Paul did not listen to the entreaty of all (v.12-14).
They went up to
II. Paul was taken at
A. He told the elders the things that he preached among the Gentiles (v.17-19).
B. The elders advised Paul to take men to obey the regulations in order to show that he observed all rules and regulations (v.20-26).
Paul was taken by the Jews in the
D. The commander of the garrison took soldiers and delivered Paul from the multitudes (v.31-36).
E. Paul asked the commander to permit him to speak to the people (v.37-40).
II. Verse by Verse commentary
Acts. 21:1 “Now it came to pass, that
when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came
to Cos, the following day to
YLT: “And it came to
pass, at our sailing, having been parted from them, having run direct, we came
to Coos, and the succeeding [day] to
Meaning of Words: “Cos”: summit, a
public prison; “
Literal Meaning: “when we had departed from them” In the original two words are used to express “depart” and they mean to drag them apart with strength, implying that it is difficult to depart from the Saints who were reluctant to part from them (See Acts. 20:36-38).
“Set sail, running a straight course we
came to Cos” “Cos” was a small
island on the outside of the southwest end of
“The following day to Rhodes” “Rhodes” was on the north of Cos and it
was an island much greater than
“And from there to Patara” “Patara” was an inland harbor in the
Acts. 21:2 “And finding a ship
sailing over to
YLT: “and having found a ship passing over to Phenicia, having gone on board, we sailed,”
Meaning of Words: “
Literal Meaning: “And finding a ship sailing
Acts. 21:3 “When we had sighted
YLT: “and having
Meaning of Words: “
The Background: the ships at old times were used for both passengers and freight and every time the ships arrived in a port, they had to load and unload the cargo and therefore they had to stay there several days.
Enlightenment in the Word: “and
Acts. 21:4 “And finding disciples, we
stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to
YLT: “And having found
out the disciples, we tarried there seven days, and they said to Paul, through
the Spirit, not to go up to
Meaning of Words: “through”: because;
Literal Meaning: “And finding disciples” “Disciples” refer to believers of Jesus
Christ; “finding” in the original means “must find”. Probably believers at
“We stayed there seven days” Please note: there were “seven days” here,
five days that after he spent the Passover in Philippi and sailed to Troas,
seven days that he stayed in Troas (Acts. 20:6), four days that he sailed from
Troas to Miletus (Acts. 20:13-15) and at least three days that he stayed in
Miletus (See the note in Acts. 20:18). We do not know how many days they needed
to sail from
“Through the Spirit” Probably they had communion with the Holy
Spirit and foreknew that Paul was about to suffer danger at
“Not to go up to
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Wherever Paul arrived, a group of believers in the Lord received him. A great good point of working for the Lord is to increase the contact with all members of the body of Christ and have sweet fellowship with them.
2) Today believers always like to walk in excuse of through the Spirit, actually the Spirit has not moved them and they walk according to their own subjective motives. Even if it is truly through the Spirit and He gives men feeling, the feeling cannot be the only ground by which we walk.
Acts. 21:5 “When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.”
YLT: “but when it came that we completed the days, having gone forth, we went on, all bringing us on the way, with women and children, unto the outside of the city, and having bowed the knees upon the shore, we prayed,”
Literal Meaning: “and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city.” Believers, with wives and children, accompanied them till they were out of the city, showing their love and concern to Paul. Though they were acquainted with them several days, they were reluctant to depart from them because of their fellowship in the Lord.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The world needs quite a long period of time to establish a deep friendship, however, as long as believers have communion with each other in life, the love from God will be touched off immediately (1John. 4:7; 5:1).
2) “And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.” When the Saints depart from each other, we’d better command each other to the word of the Lord’s grace through prayer (See Acts. 20:32, 36).
Acts. 21:6 “When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.”
YLT: “and having embraced one another, we embarked in the ship, and they returned to their own friends.”
Acts. 21:7 “And when we had finished
our voyage from
YLT: “And we, having
finished the course, from
Meaning of Words: “Ptolemais”: sandy, hot sand.
Literal Meaning: “And when we had finished
our voyage from
“We came to Ptolemais” “Ptolemais” was a costal
harbor which was about sixty kilometers to the south of
Acts. 21:8 “On the next day we who
were Paul's companions departed and came to
YLT: “and on the morrow Paul and his company having gone forth, we came to Cesarea, and having entered into the house of Philip the evangelist -- who is of the seven -- we remained with him,”
Meaning of Words: “Caesarea”: the city of
Literal Meaning: “and entered the house of
Philip the evangelist” Philip was the
deacon who served tables in the
“Who was one of the seven” “The seven” specially refers to the seven
deacons who were chosen in the
Enlightenment in the Word: When we serve the Lord in the church, though each has his duties, we should still have the mission of preaching the gospel.
Acts. 21:9 “Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.”
YLT: “and this one had four daughters, virgins, prophesying.”
Literal Meaning: “four virgin daughters” means that they were all older than the age of marriage and still remained unmarried. Probably they kept unmarried all their life in order to serve God.
“Who prophesied” “Prophesy” means that they speak for God and preach the word.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) Believers should not only preach the gospel to strangers but also lead their children to believe in the Lord and serve Him (See Josh. 24:15).
2) The true spiritual ones always do from home and
lead their children to love the Lord. For if a man does not know how to rule
his own house, how will he take care of the
Acts. 21:10 “And as we stayed many
days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from
YLT: “And we remaining
many more days, there came down a certain one from
Meaning of Words: “Agabus”:
grasshopper; “Judea”: praise, the
Literal Meaning: “And as we stayed many days” Most probably, their date of departure was earlier than the predetermined date and they had a few days to stay.
“A certain prophet named Agabus” Agabus once predicted that there should be great dearth throughout all the world and it was fulfilled (Acts. 11:27-28).
Acts. 21:11 “When he had come to us,
he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So
shall the Jews at
YLT: “and he having come unto us, and having taken up the girdle of Paul, having bound also his own hands and feet, said, `Thus saith the Holy Spirit, The man whose is this girdle -- so shall the Jews in Jerusalem bind, and they shall deliver [him] up to the hands of nations.'”
The Background: the Jewish prophets always had a habit that they used real object or body movement to express the message theatrically when their words cannot fully express the meaning (See 1Kings. 11:29-31; Is. 20:3-4; Jer. 13:1-11; 27:2; Ezek. 4; 5:1-4).
Literal Meaning: “So shall…bind the man who owns this belt” Paul was bound indeed (See v.33; 28:17).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) The two great apostles Peter and Paul of the New Testament were bound and mistreated by men (See John. 21:18) in their old age. Serving the Lord is to walk on the way of cross and the more we are bound and deprived of by men, the more we are able to provide the riches of the Lord.
2) Through many tribulations, we must enter into
3) The prophets in the church------who speak for God------only tell us what would happen in future, however, they cannot replace Christ in us. We should not despise prophesyings (1Thess. 5:20), however, we should not equate Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophets) with Christ (Matt. 17:3-5).
Acts. 21:12 “Now when we heard these
things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to
YLT: “And when we heard
these things, we called upon [him] -- both we, and those of that place -- not
to go up to
Literal Meaning: “both we and those from that
place” The word “we”
shows that Luke himself also joined them to advise Paul not to go to
“Pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem” Please note that Agabus only pointed out that Paul must be bound in Jerusalem and did not say that the Lord did not permit him to go there (See v.11). And therefore their entreaty was obviously of the mind of men instead of the mind of the Spirit.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) In the church, though many people have love, the love is probably of our natural emotion and it is the carnal love.
2) The carnal love and the sight of gains and losses always make us “be not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” so that we become the tools of Satan (Matt. 16:22-23).
Acts. 21:13 “Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I
am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at
YLT: “and Paul answered, `What do ye -- weeping, and crushing mine heart? for I, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem, am ready, for the name of the Lord Jesus;'”
Literal Meaning: “What do you mean by weeping
and breaking my heart” Believers in
Caesarea worried about Paul’s journey to
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) It is good that believers care about the conditions of each other, however, it should not be our attitude that we regard our safety and interests higher than the will of God.
2) Our natural love that is of the flesh not only makes the faithful witnesses sad and “heart-broken” but also becomes the enemy of the Lord’s cross (See Matt. 16:21-23).
3) Those who serve the Lord should have a determination that even though our future suffer pain and difficulties, we shall still walk forth willingly.
4) We should disregard the individual gain and loss for the sake of the name of the Lord.
5) Only when Christians hold Christ as our only
the name of the Lord Jesus”, and deeply know
the necessity of the cross------“to die at
Acts. 21:14 “So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’”
YLT: “and he not being persuaded, we were silent, saying, `The will of the Lord be done.'”
Literal Meaning: “So when he would not be
persuaded” The Bible exegetes
had two different kinds of views towards Paul’s attitude of not being
persuaded. The first kind of view is that he obstinately adhered to his own
idea so that he was imprisoned at
The second kind of view is that he did not disobey
the Holy Spirit but did the will of God and the reasons are as follows: 1) he
decided to go to
The editor of this book agreed on the second kind of view.
“Saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’” They seemed to have known that the action of Paul was the guidance of God and therefore they no longer discouraged him from doing it and agreed on Paul’s decision.
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) When believers have communion with the Spirit and foresee the tribulation that we are going to face, it does not mean that the Spirit asks us to avoid the difficult position. What’s important is to know the will of the Lord and walk according to the principle of “the will of the Lord be done”.
2) The will of the Lord is accomplished not only through our smoothness and peace but also through our suffering and tribulation many times. And therefore the problem does not lie in the environments but whether we have the clear guidance of the Lord.
3) All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). If we walk according to the will of God, all the environments are beneficial to us.
4) The Lord rules over all for His own glory. The positive persons and things work for Him and even the negative persons and things are controlled by Him.
5) The senses and opinions of brothers and sisters in the church could help us to understand the guidance of God, however, what we should be very carful is that we should not listen to the voice of men more than that of God in us.
6) Concerning one’s own way, he could not listen to others. Everyone must know the will of God by himself and receive the guidance of the Lord who dwells in him. Christianity is that Christ lives in every believer and tells us right and wrong individually.
7) Those who truly know the will of God have the iron will and they are neither persuaded by men’s words nor weakened by men’s tears.
8) Concerning doing the will of God, we should neither respect persons nor make en exception in the favor of men.
9) The one who clearly sees the will of God and insists on the will to the end will always influence others and makes them turn to consider “the will of the Lord” and no long care for the individual gain.
Acts. 21:15 “And after those days we
packed and went up to
YLT: “And after these
days, having taken [our] vessels, we were going up to
Meaning of Words: “packed”: take up…carriages, hire horses.
Literal Meaning: “we packed and went up to
Acts. 21:16 “Also some of the
YLT: “and there went also of the disciples from Cesarea with us, bringing with them him with whom we may lodge, a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an aged disciple.”
Meaning of Words: “Mnason”: memory.
Literal Meaning: “Also some of the disciples
from Caesarea went with us” It was the time of
the feast of the Passover,
“And brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple” The word “an early disciple” implies that he was an essential member of the local church and some people held that he was one of the first one hundred and twenty members in the church at Jerusalem.
“A certain Mnason” There were two sayings concerning where the house of Mnason was: 1) it was at Jerusalem and the “brothers” in v.17 refers to Mnason and the brothers who were with him; 2) it was on the way from Caesarea to Jerusalem and probably it was in Lydda or Antipatris (See the note in Acts. 23:31) because two days were needed for them to go to Jerusalem from Caesarea on foot and they had to spend a night on the way.
Acts. 21:17 “And when we had come to
YLT: “And we having come
Meaning of Words: “received”: welcome.
Literal Meaning: “when we had come to
“The brethren received us gladly” “The brothers” may refer to Mnason in v.16 and the brother who were with him.
The “receive” here stresses on “welcoming greatly” and it is different from the word hospitality (which means opening one’s house to receive others; Heb. 13:2) in the original.
Acts. 21:18 “On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.”
YLT: “and on the morrow Paul was going in with us unto James, all the elders also came,”
Meaning of Words: “James”: seize the heel, the one who is crowded out, follow up.
Literal Meaning: “Paul went in with us to James” The word “us” shows that Luke was also present with Paul. After this time, this word did not appear again until the end of the twenty-sixth chapter, however, it does not mean that Luke departed from Paul temporarily.
James refers to the brother of Jesus according to
the flesh (See Acts. 12:17; 15:13) and he was the pillar of the church at
“And all the elders were present” Here the apostles were not mentioned.
Probably they had all departed from
Acts. 21:19 “When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.”
YLT: “and having saluted them, he was declaring, one by one, each of the things God did among the nations through his ministration,”
Literal Meaning: “he told in detail” refers to the things that happened after
Paul’s last visit to
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) There isn’t the difference between superior and subordinate among fellow-workers, however, it is good for them to greet each other and have communication at work with each other.
2) The fellowship among the Saints could have the effect of “proving each other” and “being encouraged together”.
Acts. 21:20 “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;”
YLT: “and they having heard, were glorifying the Lord. They said also to him, `Thou seest, brother, how many myriads there are of Jews who have believed, and all are zealous of the law,”
Meaning of Words: “many myriads”: innumerable, ten thousand.
Literal Meaning: “And when they heard it,
they glorified the Lord” It shows that the
elders of the church at
“And they are all zealous for the law” It shows that the church at
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) If the preachers had worked effectively, they should “glorify God” and should not attribute the success to themselves.
2) “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed.” If men always judge whether the church has the presence and blessing of God according to the number of people, they will be misled unavoidably. It shows that the outer large-scale is not necessarily of spiritual value.
3) “And they are all zealous for the law.” “Being zealous” is supposed to be good, however, if we are zealous for the wrong aims, it is not good contrarily and even the one who kills men thinks that he renders service to God (John. 16:2).
4) The normal church should preach the gospel to increase the number of men and teach the believers with pure truth (See Matt. 28:19-20; Acts. 2:41-42).
Acts. 21:21 “but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”
YLT: “and they are instructed concerning thee, that apostacy from Moses thou dost teach to all Jews among the nations, saying -- Not to circumcise the children, nor after the customs to walk;”
Meaning of Words: “Moses”: drag out.
Literal Meaning: “you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses” “Forsake Moses” means not to obey the Law that was given to Moses. The main points of Paul’s teachings concerning the Law of Moses are as follows: 1) a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28); 2) the Gentile believers do not need to be circumcised or obey the Law after they have trusted the Lord and have been saved (Gal. 5:2-5); 3) the Law such as the circumcision is only the shadow and only Christ is the substance (Col. 2:17); 4) Believers are not without law toward God, but under law toward Christ (1Cor. 9:21), however, the law is not the law of letters but the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).
To the Jewish believers, Paul did not teach them to abandon the Law obviously and contrarily he seemed to obey some ceremonies of the Law himself: 1) he had a vow and had shorn his head (Acts. 18:18); 2) to those who are under the law, as under the law, that he might win those who are under the law (1Cor. 9:20).
“Nor to walk according to the customs” “The customs” refers to the items that are ordered by the Jewish Law.
Acts. 21:22 “What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.”
YLT: “what then is it? certainly the multitude it behoveth to come together, for they will hear that thou hast come.”
Acts. 21:23 “Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.”
YLT: “`This, therefore, do that we say to thee: We have four men having a vow on themselves,”
Literal Meaning: “We have four men” Undoubtedly, these four men were all the Jewish Christians.
“Who have taken a vow” “A vow” refers to the vow of a Nazarite (See v.24; Acts. 18:18). One takes a vow for thanksgiving in order to receive some special blessings from God.
Acts. 21:24 “Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.”
YLT: “these having taken, be purified with them, and be at expence with them, that they may shave the head, and all may know that the things of which they have been instructed concerning thee are nothing, but thou dost walk -- thyself also -- the law keeping.”
The Background: according to the vow of a Nazarite in the Law of Moses, all the days of one’s separation he shall not eat anything that is made of the vine or shear his head and avoid touching the uncleanness; when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he has to offer all kinds of sacrifices and shave his head finally and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings (Num. 6:1-21).
According to the regulations that were made by rabbis, the rich ones could pay the expenses of the poor in order to realize the vow of a Nazarite and through this behavior those who pay the money show their piety.
Literal Meaning: “and be purified with them” It refers to the cleansing before they enter the temple (See v.26).
“And pay their expenses” Paying the expenses of others is the proof that one is zealous for the Law.
“So that they may shave their heads” The hair of those who take a vow from the day they took the vow to the day of expiration should be shaven before the altar and offered as a sacrifice.
Acts. 21:25 “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.’”
YLT: “`And concerning those of the nations who have believed, we have written, having given judgment, that they observe no such thing, except to keep themselves both from idol-sacrifices, and blood, and a strangled thing, and whoredom.'”
Literal Meaning: “so that they may shave their heads” It shows that the Gentile Christians should not obey the Jewish law (See v.24).
“We have written and decided” It refers to the resolution at
“That they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Please see the literal and spiritual meaning in Acts. 15:20.
Acts. 21:26 “Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.”
YLT: “Then Paul, having taken the men, on the following day, with them having purified himself, was entering into the temple, announcing the fulfilment of the days of the purification, till the offering was offered for each one of them.”
Literal Meaning: “Then Paul took the men” Some people criticized Paul that he yielded to the situation, disobeyed the principle of his teachings and his words and deeds were not in accord. And therefore he was hypocritical and no wonder there were so many bind and tribulations on him (Acts. 20:23; 21:33; 22:25). However, Paul taught men that “men are justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16) and he did not teach the Jews to disobey the Law of Moses. Obeying the Law did not conflict believing in Jesus Christ to the Jews.
“Having been purified with them” It shows that Paul himself also joined the purification.
“To announce the expiration of the days of purification” The one who carries out the vow has to announce to the priest when he made the vow and today the days are fulfilled and he comes to carry out the vow.
Controversial Clarification: Many Bible exegetes held that Paul did not listen to the persuasion that he should listen to in Acts. 21:1-16 and he even listened to the persuasion that he should not listen to in Acts. 21:17-26. And therefore this chapter could be the greatest spot in Paul’s experience of service all his life. And their reasons were as follows: 1) Paul insisted on going up to Jerusalem and consequently he spent most of time in prison from then on and wasted his precious time of serving the Lord; 2) after Paul had been saved, he tried his best to oppose obeying the Law and today he even could not withstand the tender push of James and all the elders and bent his head to the law. It was just like what he had said, “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” (Gal. 2:18); 3) the elders advised Paul to take the head to be purified in order to dissolve the misunderstanding (v.21, 24) and consequently greater misunderstanding was brought in (v.27-29). It shows that this way was unacceptable to the Lord; 4) Paul received the advice of the elders reluctantly in order to consider the general interest and consequently he darkened the will of God and gave great confusion to the later believers.
However, such criticism was unfair to Paul because what he did at that time was under the arrangement of the sovereign hand of God in order to fulfill His goodwill: 1) Paul went to Jerusalem because he was “bound in Spirit” (Acts. 20:22) and he did not have the freedom of not going there; 2) Paul must have seen that this journey was to fulfill the will of the Lord (See v.14) and therefore he made no account of his life (Acts. 20:24) and did not receive the persuasion of love from others (See v.4, 12-14); 3) Paul, as a Jewish believer, was under the environments of the Jews and his action was not against his teachings. Such point was difficulty for the Gentile believers to understand; 4) from then on Paul still had the Lord’s presence and blessings in the life of imprisonment (Acts. 23:11; 27:23-24; 28:30-31) and he did not regret being imprisoned (See 2Tim. 2:9; 4:7-8).
Enlightenment in the Word:
1) To the Jews Paul became as a Jew, that he might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that he might win those who are under the law (1Cor. 9:20).
2) Paul constrained his opinion for the sake of the church and it shows that he was indeed the spiritual giant who “did not have himself”. Sometimes the compromise which is not against the truth shows one’s strength in stead of his weakness.
Acts. 21:27 “Now when the seven days
were almost ended, the Jews from
YLT: “And, as the seven
days were about to be fully ended, the Jews from
Meaning of Words: “
Literal Meaning: “the seven days were almost ended” There are seven days from the time one announces the expiration of the days of purification (See v.26) to the end of sacrifices. “Almost ended” indicates that it is close to the seventh day.
“The Jews from Asia” Probably they were the Jews from
Enlightenment in the Word: the best plan may not make the best result; man proposes, and God disposes.
Acts. 21:28 “crying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’”
YLT: “crying out, `Men, Israelites, help! this is the man who, against the people, and the law, and this place, all everywhere is teaching; and further, also, Greeks he brought into the temple, and hath defiled this holy place;'”
Meaning of Words: “
The Background: the Jews only permitted the Gentiles to enter the outer court of the temple and did not allow them to enter the border of the inner court. They posted the announcement before the inner court to indicate that the Gentiles were not allowed to enter: if the one who presumes to pass the warning board and enter the inner court shall be put to death. If a Jew brings a Gentile into the inner court, both of them shall be put to death. This regulation was also permitted by the Roman Government and it shows that it was a very serious crime for the Gentiles to intrude into the temple.
Acts. 21:29 “(For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)”
YLT: “for they had seen before Trophimus, the Ephesian, in the city with him, whom they were supposing that Paul brought into the temple.”
Meaning of Words: “
Literal Meaning: “For they had previously
seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city” “Trophimus” may be the fellow-worker of Paul and Trophimus
walked with Paul when he returned to
Enlightenment in the Word: men always regard the one-sided fact as the overall basis in making a judgment so that wrongness is made. Christians should be very careful and should not make conclusions hastily.
Acts. 21:30 “And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.”
YLT: “All the city also was moved and there was a running together of the people, and having laid hold on Paul, they were drawing him out of the temple, and immediately were the doors shut,”
Literal Meaning: “and dragged him out of the temple” They did so in order to not blaspheme the sacred place with the blood of men.
“And immediately the doors were shut” “The doors” refer to the doors connecting the inner court and the outer court. The captain of the temple shut the doors in order to avoid the more blasphemy towards the temple.
Acts. 21:31 “Now as they were seeking
to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all
YLT: “and they seeking to
kill him, a rumour came to the chief captain of the band that all
Literal Meaning: “news came to the commander of the garrison” During the feast, many Jews gathered together at Jerusalem from various places and therefore the Roman military camps were set up in the northwest corner of the temple which were called “Anthony the barracks” (See the note in v.34). “The commander of the garrison” controlled a thousand soldiers, showing that the military force of that camp was at least several hundreds of soldiers. The name of this commander of the garrison was Claudius Lysias (Acts. 23:26).
Acts. 21:32 “He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.”
YLT: “who, at once, having taken soldiers and centurions, ran down upon them, and they having seen the chief captain and the soldiers, did leave off beating Paul.”
Acts. 21:33 “Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done.”
YLT: “Then the chief captain, having come nigh, took him, and commanded [him] to be bound with two chains, and was inquiring who he may be, and what it is he hath been doing,”
Literal Meaning: “and commanded him to be bound with two chains” “Two chains” may be used to lock the hands of Paul with two soldiers, on either side one.
Acts. 21:34 “And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks.”
YLT: “and some were crying out one thing, and some another, among the multitude, and not being able to know the certainty because of the tumult, he commanded him to be carried to the castle,”
Literal Meaning: “he commanded him to be taken into the barracks” “The barracks” refers to the headquarter of the station troops. It is said that the barracks was built by Herod the Great to remember his good friend Mark Anthony and its name was Anthony the barracks.
Acts. 21:35 “When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob.”
YLT: “and when he came upon the steps, it happened he was borne by the soldiers, because of the violence of the multitude,”
Literal Meaning: “When he reached the stairs” There were two flights of stairs from the barracks to the outer court of the temple.
Acts. 21:36 “For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, ‘Away with him!’”
YLT: “for the crowd of the people was following after, crying, `Away with him.'”
Literal Meaning: “crying out, ‘Away with him!’” The slogan “away with him” was once used upon the Lord Jesus (John. 19:15; Luke. 23:18).
Acts. 21:37 “Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, ‘May I speak to you?’ He replied, ‘Can you speak Greek?”
YLT: “”And Paul being about to be led into the castle, saith to the chief captain, `Is it permitted to me to say anything unto thee?' and he said, `Greek dost thou know?
Literal Meaning: “Can you speak Greek?” Obviously, Paul requested the commander in Greek.
Acts. 21:38 “Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?"”
YLT: “art not thou, then, the Egyptian who before these days made an uprising, and did lead into the desert the four thousand men of the assassins?'”
Meaning of Words: “assassin”: men of the dagger; “Egyptian”: double difficulty, the land of the Coptic.
Background: according to the
record of the Jewish historian Joseph, an Egyptian led the multitudes to rebel
Acts. 21:39 “But Paul said, ‘I am a Jew from
YLT: “And Paul said, `I, indeed, am a man, a Jew, of Tarsus of Cilicia, of no mean city a citizen; and I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.'”
Meaning of Words: “Cilicia”: rolling,
hair cloth; “
Literal Meaning: “from
Acts. 21:40 “So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,”
YLT: “And he having given him leave, Paul having stood upon the stairs, did beckon with the hand to the people, and there having been a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew dialect, saying:”
Meaning of Words: “Hebrew”: cross, of Herber.
Literal Meaning: “Paul stood on the stairs” The highest place of the stairs was sixty elbows high and the stairs occupied a commanding position. It was the best temporary platform.
“He spoke to them in the Hebrew
language, saying” “The Hebrew
language” refers to the Aramic that was commonly used by the Jews in
III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons
The Example that Believers Travelled
I. Wherever they arrived, they “found” the local believers (v.4, 15).
II. They “stayed with” with believers (v.4, 7-8, 15) and practiced the life of the body of Christ.
III. They spoke in the Spirit and had the open fellowship with each other (v.4, 11-14).
IV. They “greeted” each other (v.7, 19), “prayed” together before leaving and bid them farewell formally (v.5; Acts. 20:36).
The Conflict that Paul Experienced
Concerning His Going up to
I. The disciples at Tyre advised him through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem (v.4-6) and that is in conflict with that he was bound in Spirit and had to go to Jerusalem (Acts. 20:22).
II. His concern and burden towards believers in
various places (v.7) are in conflict with that he cannot stay long because he
had to arrive at
III. The Spirit pointed out through the prophet
that he would be bound at
IV. The Saints entreated Paul not to go up to
V. God used him to preach among the Gentiles and especially taught them the revelation that men are saved by faith instead of by obeying the Law (v.19; Gal. 3:2, 13-14) and that is in conflict with that he was forced to be under the law at Jerusalem in order to win those who are under the law (v.20-26, 1Cor. 9:20).
VI. The Jews who were zealous for the law and contrarily stirred up the riot and wanted to kill men (v.27-31) and that is in conflict with that the commander of the garrison who was the Gentile without the law walked by the rules and wanted to save Paul’s life (v.32-40; Acts. 23:16-24).
The Example of Philip the Evangelist (v.8-10)
I. He opened his house to receive the visitors from various places (including Paul and those who were with him and Agabus the prophet).
II. He served the Lord in many aspects------he was the deacon in the church of a place and preached the gospel everywhere.
III. He was famous for “preaching the gospel” and it became his mark, showing that the effect was quite remarkable.
IV. He was good at ruling his own house and made
his children dedicate themselves to serve the Lord. He was indeed the best
candidate to take care of the
The Two Aims of Those Who Insisted on the Law
I. Christians who were zealous for the Law------the gentle aspect------they persuaded Paul with reasons (v.20-25).
II. The Judaists who were zealous for the Law------the unreasonable aspect------they started a rumor to stir up the multitudes to oppose Paul (v.27-30).
── Caleb Huang《Christian Digest Bible Commentary Series》
Translated by Sharon Ren