Acts 13:20
And after that he gave to them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
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(20) After that he gave unto them judges . . .—The statement in the text, assigning 450 years to the period of the judges, and apparently reckoning that period from the distribution of the conquered territory, is at variance with that in 1Kings 6:1, which gives 480 years as the period intervening between the Exodus and the building of the temple. The better MSS., however, give a different reading—“He gave their land to them as an inheritance, about 450 years, and after these things he gave unto them judges,” the 450 years in this case being referred to the interval between the choice of “our fathers,” which may be reckoned from the birth of Isaac (B.C. 1897 according to the received chronology) to the distribution of the conquered country in B.C. 1444. So far as any great discrepancy is concerned, this is a sufficient explanation, but what has been said before as to the general tendency in a discourse of this kind to rest in round numbers, has also to be remembered. (See Note on Acts 7:6.) Josephus (Ant. viii. 3, § 1) gives 592 years from the Exodus to the building of Solomon’s Temple. Of this period sixty-five years were occupied by the wanderings in the wilderness and the conquest under Joshua, eighty-four by the reigns of Saul and David and the first four years of Solomon, leaving 443 years for the period of the Judges. This agrees, it will be seen, sufficiently with the Received text in this passage, but leaves the discrepancy with 1Kings 6:1 unexplained. There would of course, be nothing strange in St. Paul’s following the same traditional chronology as Josephus, even where it differed from that of the present Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

13:14-31 When we come together to worship God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The bare reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be expounded, and the people exhorted out of them. This is helping people in doing that which is necessary to make the word profitable, to apply it to themselves. Every thing is touched upon in this sermon, which might best prevail with Jews to receive and embrace Christ as the promised Messiah. And every view, however short or faint, of the Lord's dealings with his church, reminds us of his mercy and long-suffering, and of man's ingratitude and perverseness. Paul passes from David to the Son of David, and shows that this Jesus is his promised Seed; a Saviour to do that for them, which the judges of old could not do, to save them from their sins, their worst enemies. When the apostles preached Christ as the Saviour, they were so far from concealing his death, that they always preached Christ crucified. Our complete separation from sin, is represented by our being buried with Christ. But he rose again from the dead, and saw no corruption: this was the great truth to be preached.He gave unto them judges - Men who were raised up in an extraordinary manner to administer the affairs of the nation, to defend it from enemies, etc. See Judges 2:16.

About the space of four hundred and fifty years - This is a most difficult passage, and has exercised all the ingenuity of chronologists. The ancient versions agree with the present Greek text. The difficulty has been to reconcile it with what is said in 1 Kings 6:1, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel ...he began to build the house of the Lord." Now if to the 40 years that the children of Israel were in the wilderness there be added the 450 said in Acts to have been passed under the administration of the judges, and about 17 years of the time of Joshua, 40 years for Samuel and the reign of Saul together, and 40 years for the reign of David, and three years of Solomon before he began to build the temple, the sum will be 590 years, a period greater by 110 years than that mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1. Various ways have been proposed to meet the difficulty. Doddridge renders it, "After these transactions, (which lasted) 450 years, he gave them a series of judges," etc., reckoning from the birth of Isaac, and supposing that Paul meant to refer to this whole time. But to this there are serious objections:

(1) It is a forced and constrained interpretation, and one manifestly made to meet a difficulty.

(2) there is no propriety in commencing this period at the birth of Isaac. That was in no manner remarkable, so far as Paul's narrative was concerned; and Paul had not even referred to it. This same solution is offered also by Calovius, Mill, and DeDieu. Luther and Beza think it should be read 300 instead of 400. But this is a mere conjecture, without any authority from mss. Vitringa and some others suppose that the text has been corrupted by some transcriber, who has inserted this without authority. But there is no evidence of this; and the mss. and ancient versions are uniform. None of these explanations are satisfactory. In the solution of the difficulty we may remark:

(1) That nothing is more perplexing than the chronology of ancient facts. The difficulty is found in all writings; in profane as well as sacred. Mistakes are so easily made in transcribing numbers, where letters are used instead of writing the words at length, that we are not to wonder at such errors.

(2) Paul would naturally use the chronology which was in current, common use among the Jews. It was not his business to settle such points; but he would speak of them as they were usually spoken of, and refer to them as others did.

(3) there is reason to believe that what is mentioned here was the common chronology of his time. It accords remarkably with that which is used by Josephus. Thus, (Antiq., book 7, chapter 3, section 1), Josephus says expressly that Solomon "began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign, 592 years after the exodus out of Egypt," etc. This would allow 40 years for their being in the wilderness, 17 years for Joshua, 40 for Samuel and Saul, 40 for the reign of David, and 452 years for the time of the judges and the times of anarchy that intervened. This remarkable coincidence shows that this was the chronology which was then used, and which Paul had in view.

(4) this chronology has the authority, also, of many eminent names. See Lightfoot and Boyle's Lectures, Acts 20. In what way this computation of Josephus and the Jews originated it is not necessary here to inquire. It is a sufficient solution of the difficulty that Paul spake in their usual manner, without departing from his regular object by settling a point of chronology.

20. after that he gave … judges … about the space of four hundred and fifty years—As this appears to contradict 1Ki 6:1, various solutions have been proposed. Taking the words as they stand in the Greek, thus, "after that, by the space of four hundred fifty years, He gave judges," the meaning may be, that about four hundred fifty years elapsed from the time of the covenant with Abraham until the period of the judges; which is historically correct, the word "about" showing that chronological exactness was not aimed at. But taking the sense to be as in our version, that it was the period of the judges itself which lasted about four hundred fifty years, this statement also will appear historically correct, if we include in it the interval of subjection to foreign powers which occurred during the period of the judges, and understand it to describe the whole period from the settlement of the tribes in Canaan to the establishment of royalty. Thus, from the Exodus to the building of the temple were five hundred ninety-two years [Josephus, Antiquities, 8.3.1]; deduct forty years in the wilderness; twenty-five years of Joshua's rule [Josephus, Antiquities, 5.1.29]; forty years of Saul's reign (Ac 13:2); forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign (1Ki 6:1), and there remain, just four hundred forty-three years; or, in round numbers, "about four hundred fifty years." These judges were persons deputed by God to govern and deliver that people; their commission was attested usually by some extraordinary thing done by them, and their power (as being mediately from God) was absolute. The computation of years here mentioned hath been very much controverted. That which hath the greatest probability with it, is, either, first, to have recourse to Acts 13:17, and begin this era there, with God’s choosing of their fathers; and ending it at the time of the decision of the land by lot, as Acts 13:19; for from the birth of Isaac, to this distribution of the land, are reckoned four hundred and forty-seven years; which may well be said here,

about four hundred and fifty years: but then the sense is,

after that such things mentioned in Acts 13:17-19 were done; which were in the compass of four hundred and fifty years, God then gave them judges. Or, as others do refer these words to what follows, and begin the era or computation from the going of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and ending it at the expulsion of the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, which may make up this account. But then this passage of St. Paul is not intended to show how long the judges ruled, but when it was, or about what time that they ruled; as also to show what a long time it took up to gain that people a quiet possession of that promised inheritance, their sins still keeping good things from them. And after that he gave unto them judges,.... As Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, and Eli:

about the space of four hundred and fifty years; not that from the division of the land of Canaan among the tribes, to Samuel the prophet, was such a space of years; for from the coming of the children of Israel out of Egypt, to the year that Solomon began to build the temple, were but four hundred and fourscore years, 1 Kings 6:1 and out of these must be taken the forty years the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and seven years in subduing the land of Canaan, before the division of it, which reduce this number to four hundred and thirty and three; and from hence must be deducted the time of Samuel's judging Israel, the reigns of Saul and David, and three years of Solomon's, which reduced the years of the judges to less than four hundred years; and according to some, the years of the judges were three hundred and fifty seven; and according to others, three hundred and thirty nine, and both fall short of the space of years here assigned. The Alexandrian copy and the Vulgate Latin version read this clause in connection with the preceding words, "he divided their land unto them, about the space of four hundred years, and after that he gave unto them judges"; agreeably hereunto the Ethiopic version renders it, "and after four hundred and fifty years, he set over them governors, &c". So that this account respects not the time of the judges, or how long they were, but refers to all that goes before, and measures out the space of time from God's choice of the Jewish fathers, to the division of the land of Canaan: and reckoning from the birth of Isaac, when the choice took place, and in whom Abraham's seed was called, there was much about such a number of years; for from the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jacob, were sixty years; from thence to his going down into Egypt, an hundred and thirty years; and from thence to the Israelites coming out of Egypt, two hundred and ten years; and from thence to their entrance into the land of Canaan, forty years; and from that time to the division of the land, seven years, which in all make four hundred and forty seven years: so that, according to this account, there were three years wanting of the sum in the text; hence the apostle might with great propriety say, that it was about the space of so many years. It follows,

until Samuel the prophet; the meaning of which, is not that there was such a space of time as before mentioned, from the distribution of the land of Canaan until the times of Samuel the prophet, during which space judges were given; but that after that term of time was expired, God gave them judges, or raised up one after another, until Samuel the prophet, who was the last of them: of his character as a prophet; see Gill on Acts 3:24 and which is a title frequently given him by Jewish writers (u).

(u) Maimon. Cele Hamikdash, c. 4. sect. 3.

And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of {l} four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.

(l) There were from the birth of Isaac until the destruction of the Canaanites under the governance of Joshua four hundred and forty-seven years, and therefore he adds in this place the word about, for three years are missing; the apostle, however, uses the whole greater number.

Acts 13:20. And afterwards—after this division of the land among the Israelites

He gave them, during about 450 years, judges (שֹׁפְטִים, theocratic dictators, national heroes administering law and justice; see Nägelsbach in Herzog’s Encykl. XIII. p. 23 ff.; Bertheau, Komment.), until Samuel. The dative ἔτεσι τετρακ. is dative of the time, during which something happens (comp. Acts 8:11). Comp. Joseph. Antt. i. 3. 5 : τὸ ὕδωρ ἡμέραις τεσσαράκοντα ὅλαις κατεφέρετο. John 2:20; Romans 14:2-5; Winer, p. 205 [E. T. 274]. As Paul here makes the judges to follow after the division of the land, it is evident that he overleaps the time which Joshua yet lived after the division of the land, or rather includes it in the μετὰ ταῦτα, which in so summary a statement is the less strange, as Joshua was actually occupied until his death with the consolidation of the new arrangement of the land, Joshua 24:1-28. But the 450 years are in contradiction with 1 Kings 6:1, where the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, the year of the building of the temple, is placed 480 (LXX.: 440) years after the Exodus from Egypt, which leaves only about 300 years for the period of the judges. But, on the other hand, the chronology of Josephus, who in Antt. viii. 3. 1, comp. x. 8. 5, reckons 592 years from the Exodus out of Egypt to the building of the temple, agrees with Paul in our passage.[11] If, namely, we reckon: (1) 40 years as the period of sojourn in the desert; (2) 25 years as the period of Joshua’s rule (Joseph. Antt. v. 1. 29); (3) 450 years as the duration of the judges, to Samuel inclusive (according to our passage); (4) 40 years as the reign of Saul (see on Acts 13:21); (5) 40 years as the reign of David (1 Kings 2:11); (6) the first four years of Solomon’s reign,—there results from the Exodus out of Egypt to the building of the temple 599 years, with which there remains a difference between Paul and Josephus, which is fully covered by ὡς in the text. Accordingly, it appears as the correct view that Paul here follows the chronology entirely different from 1 Kings 6:1, which is also followed by Josephus.[12] This chronology arises from summing up all the numbers mentioned in the Book of Judges (Jdg 3:8; Jdg 3:11; Jdg 3:14; Jdg 3:30, Jdg 4:3, Jdg 5:31, Jdg 6:1, Jdg 8:28, Jdg 9:22, Jdg 10:2-3; Acts 10:8, Acts 12:7; Acts 12:9-10; Acts 12:14, Acts 13:1, Acts 15:20,—410 years), and adding 40 years for Eli; by which, however, a total much too high results, as synchronistic statements are included in the reckoning. All attempts at reconciling our passage with 1 Kings 6:1 bear the impress of arbitrariness and violence—namely: (1) that of Perizonius (Orig. Aeg. p. 321) and others, that in 1 Kings 6:1 the years are not reckoned, in which the Israelites in the time of the judges were oppressed by heathen nations, with which view Wolf agrees; comp. also Keil in the Dörpt. Beitr. II. p. 311. (2) Cornelius a Lapide, Calovius, Mill, and others supply γενόμενα after πεντήκοντα, post haec, quae spatio 450 annorum gesta sunt, so that the terminus a quo is the birth of Isaac, in whom God chose the fathers; from thence to the birth of Jacob are 60 years, from the birth of Jacob to the entrance into Egypt are 130 years, after which the residence in Egypt lasted 210 years, and then from the Exodus to the division of Canaan 47 years elapsed, making in all 447 years,—accordingly, about 450 years. With the reading of Lachmann, also, we must count in accordance with this computation. Comp. Beza. (3) Others have had recourse to critical violence. They suppose either (Luther and Beza) that in this passage τριακοσίοις is to be read (τʼ for υʼ), or (Vitringa and Heinrichs) that ὡς ἔτεσι τετρ. κ. πεντήκ. is an addition of a marginal annotator, who (Heinrichs) reckoned thus from the birth of Isaac; or, at least (Voss, Michaelis, Kuinoel), that 1 Kings 6:1 is corrupt; in which case, however, Kuinoel grants that Paul follows a Jewish chronology of his time.

ἓως Σαμουήλ] i.e. until the end of the series of judges, which had commenced with Othniel and closed with Samuel, after which Saul’s reign began. See Acts 13:21.

[11] In Antt. xx. 10, c. Ap. ii. 2, he reckons 612 years for the same period, this 20 years more, which comes still nearer to the statement of time in our passage; see below.

[12] That, nevertheless, the reckoning of 480 years in 1 Kings 6 is not on account of our passage to be wholly rejected; and how far, on the contrary, it is to be considered as correct, may be seen in Bertheau on Judges, Introd. p. xvi. ff.Acts 13:20. If we follow the best attested reading, see critical notes, we may connect the dative of time ἔτεσι, cf. Acts 8:11, closely with the preceding words as signifying the period within which an event is accomplished. The κληρονομία was already assured to the fathers as God’s chosen, Acts 7:5, and the four hundred years of the people’s sojourn in a strange land, Acts 7:6, Genesis 15:13, forty years in the wilderness, and some ten years for the actual conquest of the land made up the four hundred and fifty years (so Weiss, Felten, see Wendt, in loco). If reading in T.R. is accepted (strongly defended by Farrar, St. Paul, i., p. 370), although it is at variance with 1 Kings 6:1, according to which Solomon began his Temple in the 480th (LXX 440th) year after the Exodus, we have merely to suppose that the Apostle followed the popular chronology adopted by Josephus, Ant., viii., 3, 1; x., 8, 5, especially when we remember that speaking in round numbers (ὡς) that chronology tallies very fairly with that of the Book of Judges. See Meyer-Wendt, Alford, and cf. also the almost similar reckoning in Wetstein, and Bethge, Die Paulinischen Reden, pp. 30, 31. Another explanation is given by Rendall, in loco, where ἔτεσι is taken as marking not duration of time (which would require the accusative), but the limit of time within which, etc.Acts 13:20. Μετὰ ταῦτα, after these things) these things mentioned Acts 13:17-19.—ἔδωκε, He gave) It was an act of kindness to them.—κριτὰς, Judges) The times of the Judges were especially glorious (prosperous), nor did their servitudes occupy a great part of those times: therefore Paul draws his mention of the Judges from that Haphtara (Lesson read on that Sabbath): Isaiah 1:26, “I will restore thy judges as at the first.”—τοῦ προφήτου, the prophet) Before Samuel, prophets were rare; afterwards, very numerous.
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