And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why persecute you me?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?—It is remarkable that here only, in the original Greek, and in Acts 9:17, as in the reproduction of the words in Acts 22:27; Acts 26:14, do we find the Hebrew form of the Benjamite name. It is as though he, who gloried in being above all things a Hebrew of the Hebrews, heard himself claimed as such by Him who spoke from heaven, called as Samuel had been called of old (1Samuel 3:4-8), and having to decide whether he would resist to the end, or yield, saying with Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” The narrative implies that the persecutor saw the form of the Son of Man as well as heard His voice, and to that visible presence the Apostle afterwards refers as a witness to him of the Resurrection (1Corinthians 9:1; 1Corinthians 15:8). If we ask as to the manner of the appearance, it is natural to think of it as being such as had met the gaze of Stephen. The martyr’s words, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56), had then seemed to the fiery zeal of the Pharisee as those of a blasphemer. Now he too saw the Son of Man in the glory of the Father stretching forth His hand, not now, as He then had done, to receive the servant who was faithful even unto death, but, in answer to that servant’s dying prayer, to transform the persecutor into the likeness of his victim.Daniel 8:17. Also Daniel 10:8, "Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision; and there remained no strength in me, for my comeliness (vigor) was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength." The effect was such as to overpower the body.
And heard a voice - The whole company heard a voice Acts 9:7, but did not distinguish it as addressed particularly to Saul. He heard it speaking to himself.
Saying unto him ... - This shows that it was not thunder, as many have supposed. It was a distinct articulation or utterance, addressing him by name.
Why - For what reason. Jesus had done him no injury; had given him no provocation. All the opposition of sinners to the Lord Jesus and his church is without cause. See the notes on John 15:25, "They hated me without a cause."
Persecutest - See the notes on Matthew 5:11.
and heard a voice saying unto him—"in the Hebrew tongue" (Ac 26:14).
Saul, Saul—a reduplication full of tenderness [De Wette]. Though his name was soon changed into "Paul," we find him, in both his own narratives of the scene, after the lapse of so many years, retaining the original form, as not daring to alter, in the smallest detail, the overpowering words addressed to him.
why persecutest thou me?—No language can express the affecting character of this question, addressed from the right hand of the Majesty on high to an infuriated, persecuting mortal. (See Mt 25:45, and that whole judgment scene).fell to the earth, struck with the amazing light and terrible voice of Christ; as also with the sense of the presence of God, which he knew was thus reverenced by Daniel, Daniel 8:17 10:9.
Saul, Saul; the name Saul is the rather mentioned, to mind him and us of his persecuting of Christ in his members, as his name sake had persecuted David, who was a type of Christ; and it is ingeminated, or doubled, not only to rouse and awaken Saul, but to testify his love to him, and commiseration of him.
Why persecutest thou me? Christ was in heaven, beyond Saul’s rage; but Christ and his church make but one body. Thus Christ says, I was hungry and thirsty, Matthew 25:35. And in all their afflictions he is afflicted, Isaiah 63:9. But me is here emphatically spoken, as if our Saviour had minded him of his great love and mercy to him, in dying and suffering for him; and why then should he persecute him? Acts 26:14
and heard a voice, saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? this voice was the real voice of Christ in his human nature, and who visibly and in person appeared, and was seen by the apostle; Acts 26:16 the language he spoke in was the Hebrew tongue, and he calls him by his Hebrew name Saul, and which is doubled to denote vehemency and affection; See Gill on Luke 22:31 he knew him as one of his sheep, though straying, and calls him by name, and expostulates with him, wherefore he should persecute him in his members as he did; for the union between Christ and his people is so close, that what is done to them is done to him. There seems to be a considerable emphasis on the word "me"; "me", who have been they surety from everlasting; "me", who hath loved thee and given myself for thee; "me", who have shed my blood, laid down my life, and died for thee; "me", who am now at my Father's right hand, interceding for thee, that grace might be bestowed upon thee, the set time being now come.And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 9:4-5. The light shone around him (and not his companions). Out of the light the present Christ manifested Himself at this moment to his view: he has seen, the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8), Acts 9:17; Acts 9:27, who afterwards makes Himself known also by name; and the persecutor, from terror at the heavenly vision, falls to the ground, when he hears the voice speaking in Hebrew (Acts 26:14): Saul, Saul, etc.
τί με διώκεις;] τί παρʼ ἐμοῦ μέγα ἢ μικρὸν ἠδικημένος ταῦτα ποιεῖς; Chrysostom. Christ Himself is persecuted in His people. Luke 10:16. “Caput pro membris clamabat,” Augustine.
τίς εἶ, κύριε]. On the question whether Saul, during his residence in Jerusalem, had personally seen Christ (Schrader, Olshausen, Ewald, Keim, Beyschlag, and others) or not (comp. on 2 Corinthians 5:16), no decision can at all be arrived at from this passage, as the form in which the Lord presented Himself to the view of Saul belonged to the heavenly world and was surrounded with the glorious radiance, and Saul himself, immediately after the momentary view and the overwhelming impression of the incomparable appearance, fell down and closed his eyes.
Observe in Acts 9:5 the emphasis of ἐγώ and σύ.Acts 9:4. καὶ πεσὼν ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν, cf. Acts 22:7, both expressions show the over-whelming impression made by the sudden bright light. In Acts 26:14 all fall to the ground, but there is no contradiction with Acts 9:7, see below on Acts 9:7. Lewin, Farrar (so Hackett, and some early interpreters) have held that Saul and some at least of his companions were mounted, since Saul was the emissary of the high priest, and the journey would occupy some days. On the other hand Felten (following Corn, à Lapide) holds that the text makes no suggestion of this, and that the expression “they led him by the hand” and the command “rise and enter into the city” are against it; but the near neighbourhood of Damascus might easily account for the fact that his companions led Saul by the hand for the remaining distance, which could not have been long, although the immediate proximity of the traditional site cannot be maintained (see above on Acts 9:3). As the strict Jews, like the Pharisees, seldom used horses, Felten may be right in conjecturing that Saul rode upon an ass or a mule (p. 186, note).—ἤκουσε φωνὴν λέγουσαν: in St. Paul’s own account we have ἤκουσα φωνῆς λεγούσης, Acts 22:7, and ἤκουσα φωνὴν λέγ., as here, in Acts 26:14. It would seem therefore that the distinction between ἀκούειν with (1) accusative, and (2) genitive; (1) to hear and understand, (2) to hear, merely, cannot be pressed (so Alford, in loco, and Simcox, Language of N. T., p. 90, and Weiss on Acts 22:7; but see on the other hand Rendall on 9 Acts 9:7). Thus in the passage before us it has been usual to explain ἀκούειν with φωνήν Acts 9:4, as indicating that Saul not only heard but understood the voice, cf. Acts 22:14, whilst ἀκούειν with φωνῆς Acts 9:7, has been taken to show that his comrades heard, but did not understand (so Weiss, in loco, and also on Acts 22:9). But there is (1) no contradiction with Acts 22:9, for there it is said of Paul’s companions: τὴν δὲ φωνὴν οὐκ ἤκουσαν τοῦ λαλοῦτός μοι—they heard the utterance, Acts 9:7, Acts 22:7, but did not hear definitely, or understand who it was that spoke, μηδένα δὲ θεωροῦντες. But (2) on comparing the passages together, it appears that in Acts 9:4; Acts 9:7 a distinction is drawn between the contents of the utterance and the mere sound of the voice, a distinction drawn by the accusative and genitive; in Acts 22:7 the same distinction is really maintained, and by the same cases, since in Acts 22:7 Paul, in speaking of himself, says that he heard a voice, i.e., was conscious of a voice speaking to him (genitive, φωνῆς), (Simcox, u. s., p. 85), whilst in Acts 9:9 (accusative φωνήν) the contents of the utterance are referred to, cf. Acts 9:14 in the same chapter; in Acts 26:14 the accusative is rightly used for the contents of the utterance which are given there more fully than elsewhere.—Σαούλ, Σαούλ: in each of the three narratives of the Conversion it is significant that the Hebrew form is thus given, and it is also found in the address of Ananias, probably himself a Hebrew, Acts 9:17, to the new convert. On the emphatic and solemn repetition of the name cf. Genesis 22:11, and in the N.T., Luke 10:41; Luke 22:31, Matthew 23:37, and on the frequency of this repetition of a name as characteristic of Luke in Gospel and Acts see Friedrich, pp. 75, 76, cf. Luke 8:24; Luke 10:41; Luke 22:31; cf. Luke 23:21 (see also Deissmann’s note Bibelstudien, p. 184, on the introduction of the Hebrew name).—τί με διώκεις; cf. Acts 7:52, and 1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13. “Saul’s first lesson was the mystical union between Christ and His Church” cf. Matthew 10:40; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45, John 10:16, etc. No wonder that Felten sees “an ineffable pathos” in the words; Wendt quotes St. Augustine: “caput pro membris damabat,” cf. also Corn. à Lapide: “corpus enim mystcum Christi est ecclesia, membra sunt fideles”.4. And he fell to the earth] Dazzled by the intense brightness. From Acts 26:14 we find that not only Saul but his companions were struck down by the light, though there was more in the vision which he beheld than was made evident to them, and by reason of the greater glory which was manifested to him, his natural sight was blinded.
and heard a voice] We cannot represent in English the different case of the noun in this verse, and in 7. The Greek puts here the accusative case and there the genitive, and thus indicates that there was a difference in the nature of the hearing of Saul and of his companions. And Paul in Acts 22:9 marks the distinction in his own narration, for he says “They heard not the voice (accusative) of him that spake to me.” As this difference is made both in St Luke’s first account, and in the speech of St Paul at Jerusalem, it seems reasonable to accept the explanation which has long ago been given of this grammatical variation, and to understand that Saul heard an articulate sound, a voice which spake to him, while his companions were only conscious of a sound from which they comprehended nothing. St Paul then is precise when he says “they heard not the voice” which I heard, and St Luke is correct when in Acts 9:7 he says “they heard a sound.”
saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?] It is very noteworthy that in all the three accounts of the vision the Greek text of Saul’s name is a transliteration of the Hebrew, shewing that we have here a very close adherence to the words of Jesus. The Lord spake in the language of His people, and both the Evangelist and the Apostle have preserved for us this remarkable feature of the heavenly address. The only other place where the Hebrew form of Saul’s name is retained is in the speech of Ananias when (Acts 9:17) he comes to see the convert in his blindness. As he also had received a communication from Jesus in connection with Saul’s conversion, we can understand how the same form of the name would have been given to him. Moreover he was himself, to judge from his name, a Hebrew, and therefore that form would be most natural on his lips. Except in these cases St Luke always employs the Greek form of the word.
Christ speaks of Himself as persecuted by Saul, because “in all the affliction of his people he is afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9), and “whoso toucheth them, toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).Acts 9:4. Φωνὴν, a voice) stern, and yet full of grace: ch. Acts 22:14.—Σαοὺλ, Saul) JESUS knew Saul before that Saul knew JESUS.Verse 4. - Fell upon, for fell to, A.V. Some, as Lord Lytlelton and Lewin ('Life of St. Paul,' vol. 1. p. 48), from the expressions, "fell to the ground," "fell to the earth," infer that Saul was "himself mounted, and his followers some mounted and some on foot." And Farrar also, far other reasons, supposes that Saul and his companions rode horses or mules. The journey, he says, was nearly a hundred and fifty miles, and the roads rough, bad, and steep; and Saul was traveling as the legate or the high priest. Still it is strange that no one expression should point distinctly to the party being on horseback, which "falling to the earth," or "ground," certainly do not. While, on the other hand, the phrases, "Arise," "stood speechless," "led him by the hand," seem rather to point to his being on foot. Lunge well compares the double invocation, Saul, Saul! with those similar ones, "Abraham, Abraham!" "Samuel, Samuel!" "Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" "Simon, Simon!" (Genesis 22:11; 1 Samuel 3:10; Matthew 23:27; Luke 22:31).
In Paul's own account he says that the words were spoken in Hebrew (Acts 26:14).
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