Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,Acts 19:1-7 The Holy Ghost is conferred by Paul on twelve of
Acts 19:8-12 He preacheth at Ephesus, first in the synagogue, and
afterwards in a private school for two years; God
confirming the word by special miracles.
Acts 19:13-20 Certain Jewish exorcists, attempting to cast out a devil
in the name of Jesus, are sent off naked and wounded:
the gospel gains credit, and magical books are burned.
Acts 19:21-41 Paul proposing to depart soon, Demetrius and the
silversmiths raise an uproar against him, which is
with some difficulty appeased.
The upper coasts; the north parts, in which were Pontus, Bithynia, Phrygia, and Galatia, Acts 18:23.
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.Have ye received the Holy Ghost? The extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, as prophesying, speaking with tongues, healing of the sick, &c., as appears by Acts 18:6, and John 7:39; for it could not be, that they, who were instructed and baptized by John, should be ignorant of the essence or person of the Holy Ghost; for the Baptist had seen him descending upon our Saviour; as is remembered by all the evangelists which speak of his baptism, Matthew 3:16 Mark 1:10 Luke 3:22; besides other scriptures which testified of him; and St. John had spoken of him unto all he baptized, that our Saviour would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire, John 1:32,33.
We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost: this answer must be understood, according to the question, of those gifts now mentioned; and which by the imposition of the hands of the apostles were given, especially at the ordination of such as were sent to preach the gospel, it being necessary for the planting of the church, those miraculous gifts assuring those unto whom they preached, that their doctrine was from heaven; as also to assure the apostles themselves of the success of their ministry, and the conversion of such they preached unto, as Acts 10:44,47. And this acceptation of these words is paralleled, 1 Samuel 3:7, where it is said, that
Samuel did not yet know the Lord; the meaning is, that he knew not that God was wont so to speak unto any; otherwise, that holy man, as young as he was, both knew God, and served him.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.Unto what then were ye baptized? What doctrine did you make profession of? And what religion did you seal unto at your baptism?
Unto John’s baptism; the doctrine that John taught, and the religion that he professed and preached. Thus the Jews are said to be
baptized unto Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2, being engaged to believe the doctrine and observe the law delivered by Moses. Now the Baptist, as Acts 18:25, preached indeed Christ; but many things concerning him he could not preach, unless as of things to come; as his death, and resurrection: the Baptist being beheaded before our Saviour’s death, and the Holy Ghost was not poured out in that extraordinary manner until after our Saviour’s resurrection and ascension; which pouring out of the Spirit, these disciples at Ephesus, having been baptized by John in Judea, and afterwards returning home, might not have heard of.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.The baptism of repentance; at which the Baptist did exhort them to repentance, and they by it were obliged to repent; by which is manifest, that the baptism of John and of Christ (which he commanded) are one and the same. John’s baptism did respect Christ, and oblige the baptized to believe in him, as also to repent; and more, it was a seal unto them of the remission of their sins, as is expressly observed, Mark 1:4: so that the baptism of John, and the baptism of the apostles afterward, had the same sign and the same thing signified in them both (the inward and outward part, the heavenly and earthly part, were the same in both); as also they had both the same end; and therefore they were both the same. Add to this, that unless the Baptist’s and the apostles’ baptism were the same, Christ and his members (the church) are not baptized with the same baptism. It must be acknowledged that there are some circumstances in which they differ; John’s baptism respected Christ to come; that is, in the exercise of his ministry (which was not so fully exercised till after John’s death); but especially, those great things (his death, resurrection, and ascension, &c.) were to come after John’s time, which now are accomplished.
On Christ Jesus; including the Father and the Holy Ghost, and mentioning Christ, to difference his baptisms from the several baptizings and washings then in use.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.The disciples, or those that John preached to, (for these Ephesians were not amongst those few that Paul baptized, 1 Corinthians 1:14), who when they heard what the Baptist said in the foregoing verse, they were baptized; as in the same terms it is said, Acts 2:37,
when they heard what St. Peter had said, they were pricked in their heart, & c., and were baptized. As for Paul’s imposing his hands upon them that are said here to be baptized, it might very well be, that the twelve disciples, Acts 19:7, might have been baptized by John, and now receive the Holy Ghost in those extraordinary gifts by the laying on of the hands of St. Paul: for to what end should these disciples, who were baptized with St. John’s baptism, be again baptized by Paul? It is true, they had further manifestations of the mystery of the gospel brought unto them; but if men should be baptized for every degree of knowledge or grace which they do acquire, how many baptisms had they need to have, who ought daily to grow in grace and in knowledge! It is evident, that the apostles themselves were only baptized with the baptism of John, for there were none else to baptize them. And baptism being an ordinance for our regeneration and new birth, as we can be born but once in the flesh, we can be but once also born in the Spirit; and no more may Christians be baptized twice, than the Jews could be twice circumcised.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.Laid his hands upon them; thereby ordaining and authorizing of them to preach the gospel.
The Holy Ghost came on them; in those extraordinary gifts of tongues, &c., whereby they were fitted to preach the gospel unto any nation or people unto whom they should be sent.
Prophesied; they prophesied, either in its proper sense, being enabled to foretell things that were to come; or in a larger and more improper sense, praising and magnifying of God, and declaring the hidden mysteries of the gospel; expounding the Scriptures, especially the prophecies concerning Christ, as 1 Corinthians 14:1.
And all the men were about twelve.Or exactly twelve; answering to the apostles, and that blessed number so often mentioned in Scripture.
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.The synagogue of the Jews at Ephesus. For in the greater cities the Jews had their synagogues, in which they had their prayers, read, and expounded the law; as also a school for teaching of their theology, in which they treated of hard questions, and more difficult matters; which might occasion the apostle’s frequenting that place.
The kingdom of God; the gospel; which is so called, Romans 14:17, because the kingdom of grace is by it set up in us here, and we are fitted by it for the kingdom of glory hereafter. But it might be also so called, because the Jews had dreamed of a political kingdom of the Messiah, and the Christians would own that Christ was indeed a King, but that his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom.
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.Divers were hardened; the sun hardeneth what it doth not soften, and causeth a stench from dunghills, as well as a sweet smell from the mountains of spices; and Christ is for the falling, as well as for the rising of many.
That way; so the doctrine of the gospel is called, by reason of its excellency above other ways. By way the Hebrews understand any course or means to an end. Hence we read of the way of peace, the way of salvation, the way of the Lord.
He departed from them; not frequenting any more the synagogue of the Jews, where they met only with contradiction of their doctrine, and blasphemy against their Saviour.
Tyrannus; some have taken this word appellatively, as denoting some great man, or ruler, who maintained a school, or place for instruction; but it is rather a proper name of some private teacher amongst them: for the Jews had not only public schools, where their consisteries did meet, but private schools, where their law was taught.
And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.All they; many of all sorts.
Asia; Asia the Lesser, or Asia strictly so called, lying about Ephesus: the heathens came thither to worship their Diana; the Jews came thither about their affairs, either in their trades, or law suits.
The word of the Lord Jesus; the gospel, which is the word concerning the Lord Jesus; or, the word which he appointed to be preached and published.
And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:Special miracles; not common or ordinary things, or such as might happen by chance.
By the hands of Paul; as Acts 5:12; by his means and ministry.
So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.Handkerchiefs or aprons; our habit and attire being so different from what was used so long since, it cannot but occasion some variety in rendering these words; which some think to signify two things; and some, but one and the same part of their clothes or dress: the words are both originally, Latin; the former so called from its use to wipe away sweat; the other, from its being usually tied about such as wore it.
The diseases departed from them; God by such small and unlikely means wrought these miracles:
1. That the power of Christ (whom Paul preached) might the more clearly appear. And:
2. That such as were absent might have a high value for Christ and the gospel, though they had never seen Paul, or heard him preach. Such extraordinary works were also wrought by God to magnify the words preached by Peter, Acts 5:15, as our Saviour had foretold and promised, John 14:12.
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.Vagabond Jews; who wandered up and down, making it their trade and livelihood; as jugglers amongst us.
Exorcists; so called from their obtesting the evil spirits in the name of God. Of these Josephus tells strange stories, Antiq. lib. 8, and thinks that the way of their exorcising was derived unto them from Solomon, and that they used the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; as also of Zebaoth, and Adonai, as Origen tells us. Some think, that though there is certainly no power in the words and syllables which they pronounced, yet that the true God, being rather willing to be known and owned by those names, than that any should call on the names of the false gods, did sometimes put forth his power in casting out of devils at such times, as Matthew 12:27. Howsoever, there being no warrant in the word of God for any such practice, and no promise to act faith in prayer upon, were the words never so serious, and the name of God and his attributes never so much (seemingly) manifested, it is a most abominable impiety.
The name of the Lord Jesus; instead of, or together with, those other names formerly mentioned.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.One of the chief of the twenty-four courses into which the priests were divided, 1 Chronicles 24:4, or such as (according to the corruption of those times) had been high priests, and were laid aside, or were of the high priest’s family, and hoped to succeed him.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?I acknowledge that Jesus hath power to command me to go hence; and I know that Paul, as his minister, hath authority over me; but what pretensions have ye to command me now? Though the devil is a liar, and the father of lies, yet none lie to their own disadvantage, but rather to their advantage, as they take it; and Satan may therefore be believed in what he here says, because it is to his disgrace, that, will he, nill he, he is under the command of God, though but signified to him by the least of his ministers or servants.
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.Leaped on them, &c.; by the power of the evil spirit, which by the permission of God did act in him, Matthew 8:28 Mark 5:4 Luke 8:29. Satan retains still his natural power, though he hath wholly lost his moral or spiritual power unto any good: and that his violence proceeded no further, is to be ascribed only to the bounds which God had set him, which he, being in chains, could not exceed or go beyond; not for his want of malice, but power.
And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.Fear fell on them all; they feared (after this example of God’s not holding them guiltless that had taken his name in vain) to profane the name of Christ, and much more to blaspheme or speak against it.
The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified; his authority, which the unclean spirit could not resist; and his doctrine and ministers, whose defence God had undertaken.
And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.Many that believed came; that believed the power which God alone had over Satan, and were convinced of their sin and danger in being led captive by him.
And confessed, and showed their deeds; openly declared their evil deeds. They durst keep the devil’s counsel no longer, but expose and manifest it, that their sores being laid open, the balm of the gospel might more effectually be put into them. Thus with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Romans 10:10.
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.Thus their good works justified their faith, without which it had been dead, Jam 2:24,26.
Curious arts; or rather idle and vain arts, as judicial astrology, calculating nativities, and all magical arts, which the Ephesians, of all others, were most addicted to and famous for; and may be here called
curious arts, because they were so called by the Ephesians, who practised them; as also because these arts are about curiosities, not necessary for us to know. Otherwise they are diabolical arts, or rather devilish cheats.
Brought their books together, and burned them: these books were not sold, and the price of them brought unto the apostles, because it was looked upon as the price of a whore, which was an abomination, and might not be offered unto God, Deu 23:18.
Fifty thousand pieces of silver: what this sum amounts to is not so certain, because it is not agreed what these pieces were. Some make them Roman or Grecian coin; and others understand by them shekels, which are the Jewish money, and would make this sum so much the greater. Take them for so many pence, a piece of money commonly so called, which weighed the eighth part of an ounce of silver, as Matthew 18:28, they make six thousand two hundred and fifty ounces of silver, or so many crowns, and so much more as silver is worth more per ounce. Such indignation have rue converts against the sins they have been guilty of, that they will not retain any thing that might occasion their return unto them; were it a right eye, they would pull it out.
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.The increase which the seed of the word had made was very remarkable; or it is a great instance of the power of God’s word, when it makes men willing to part with their beloved and accustomed sins, and not to stand upon saving or gaining; as Isaiah 55:11.
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.Paul purposed in the spirit; resolved with himself, or purposed in his heart, as Daniel 1:8. Yet in this his determination he had the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost, and that in a more than ordinary manner; as we may see by the continued series of this history, how he came to all these places here mentioned. Paul travelled through these countries, and went to these cities, because he hoped for a greater harvest, where he might scatter the seed so far abroad.
So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.Ministered unto him; this great apostle had not any to minister unto him out of state, but out of necessity, being he could not himself attend to all the offices of the church. These were employed by Paul, not so much to procure any accommodation for himself by the way, as to further a collection for the poor brethren at Jerusalem, 2 Corinthians 9:3,4.
Erastus: there seems to have been two of this name mentioned in Scripture: the one, Romans 16:23, and the other, 2 Timothy 4:20: the latter is here spoken of.
In Asia; in Ephesus, which was in Asia, where Paul now was.
And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.And the same time; when all things seemed to have been quiet: so uncertain are the servants of Christ to have any quiet here.
That way; the doctrine of the gospel, as Acts 18:25.
For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;These shrines were only, either;
1. Portraits of the temple of Diana, in which was graven, or by any other art represented, that famous structure, which was afterwards burnt by Erostratus: or:
2. they were medals in which their idol Diana was expressed according to her image, spoken of, Acts 19:35. And they are called here, temples, or shrines, because they did resemble and represent that shrine or temple.
And these the superstitious people carried home to their houses and friends; not only to evidence what a pilgrimage they had performed, but to incite the more their devotions towards this idol.
Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.Gain, getting or keeping a livelihood, are great temptations, and, a little pretext of piety with them, keep up the superstition and false worship that abound in the world.
Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:He tells them indeed what was St. Paul’s doctrine; but he conceals the reasons of his doctrine; for there can be nothing more evident to any considering man, than that there is but one God who made all things; as Psalm 115:3,4 Jer 10:10.
So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.Not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; not only that we shall have no more to do, and be without work; but that it will be a reproach unto us to have had such an employment.
But also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised; this is made an aggravation to the loss of their all, that religion should suffer too. How much more ought it to concern those who have a sure foundation for what they do profess!
All Asia; this temple is said to have been burnt down the same day that Alexander was born, and that it was two hundred and twenty years in rebuilding, at the charge of all Asia.
The world worshippeth; though the Romans might worship any god (of those multitudes) which they allowed, yet they might leave their estates only to a very few amongst them; but Diana of the Ephesians was one of those few; as also one of those twelve whom they accounted dii or deae majorum gentium, gods and goddesses of the highest quality, or first rank.
And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.The argument from their profit wrought very much upon them, especially meeting with their prejudicate opinions, having pretended antiquity and universality to confirm them.
Saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians; to show their abhorrence of what Paul had taught; and desiring her glory might be perpetual, whom Paul thought not worthy to be honoured at all.
And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.Filled with confusion; tumults and noise; all conditions of men, high and low, promiscuously being met in such uproars.
Gaius; one born at Derbe, but living at Thessalonica, as Acts 20:4.
Aristarchus; of whom we read, Acts 27:2 Colossians 4:10.
The theatre; a place or structure built for public uses; whence;
1. Their sports or plays in any public solemnity were beheld.
2. Their speeches or orations in their common assemblies were heard.
3. Where they punished also their malefactors; it being accommodated with several steps or seats higher than one another, and of vast extent for these purposes.
Hither, according to their custom, they resort, to hear if any one would speak upon this occasion to them; or rather, to get these Christians condemned and executed for their supposed sacrilege and blasphemy.
And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.Paul would have entered in unto the people; being desirous either to appease the tumult; or, if the worst came of it, to die for Christ’s sake.
The disciples suffered him not, by their entreaties; to whom this good apostle’s life, from whom they had received the faith, was more dear than their own.
And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.Certain of the chief of Asia; such as had the oversight of the plays and shows in honour of their idol gods, and were usually their priests; and were of four countries; from whence they had their names of Asiarchs, Bithynarchs, Syriarchs, and Cappadociarchs. Whosoever these were, the providence of God is to be adored, who could out of his greatest enemies raise up deliverers for his servants.
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.An excellent description of a popular tumult. Whether this
assembly was afterwards made legal by the magistrates resorting thither, (though it was not called by their authority), and is therefore called here, ekklhsia, is not so useful to inquire.
And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.They drew Alexander out of the multitude, where he could not be seen and heard, unto some more convenient place, from whence he might make a vindication or defence for them; and that most likely in behalf of the Jews, who were equally obnoxious to the rage of the people for being against their idolatry, as the Christians were. This
Alexander is thought to have been that Alexander of whom we read, 1 Timothy 1:20 2 Timothy 4:14: though some think that this was another of that name.
Beckoned with the hand, to procure silence; as Acts 12:17.
But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.A Jew, and by consequence an enemy to their idolatry; and, as they might imagine at least, a friend to St. Paul.
All with one voice; unanimity makes not the cause to be good, if it were bad at first.
And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?Town clerk, or secretary, who registered their acts, and intervened in all their meetings.
Is a worshipper; each country and city had their peculiar gods, which they worshipped, and took for their patrons, as Ephesus did this goddess Diana. But the word here signifies a sacrist, or one that looks to the temple to keep it clean; especially that hath the charge of more solemn shows or sports in honour of any supposed deity: and these Ephesians took it to be their no small glory, that they were employed in such as belonged to Diana.
The image which fell down from Jupiter; though the maker’s name (Canetias) is upon record, yet it having lasted whilst the temple was six or seven times repaired, at least, if not renewed, and none ever remembering when it first was brought in amongst them, the crafty priests persuaded the credulous people that it was fallen from heaven, thereby getting more honour unto it, and profit to themselves.
Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.He did there cunningly than honestly endeavour to evade their clamour, and still their rage, by telling them (how fallaciously soever), that neither Paul, nor any other Christian or Jew, had any quarrel with their goddess or worship. For they indeed were against all images that were made with hands; but theirs was not such a one, it being fallen down from heaven. We must consider he was but a pagan; and his design was only to still the people; and populus vult decipi.
For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.Neither robbers of churches; for they had not entered into their temple.
Nor yet blasphemers of your goddess; Paul had barely preached this truth amongst them, not upbraiding them for their idolatry; as Michael, the archangel, brought no railing accusation against the devil, when he contended with him, Judges 1:9.
Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.The law is open; which is fittest to determine all questions and controversies; for men would be partial to their own cause, and every one challenge to be in the right.
Deputies; who, under the Roman emperors or consuls, had power to hear and determine of all matters.
Let them implead one another; that so both parties may be heard.
But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.Other matters; relating to the good government of the city, or maintaining the established religion, which ought not in such a confused manner to be treated of, but in an assembly called by lawful authority, which the Romans did usually call, at least, three times every month.
For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.He wisely minds them of their danger; for being under the power of the Romans, it was no less than the loss of their liberties to abet any faction or sedition; and to make a concourse or meeting tumultuously together, was capital, unless it were upon the sudden invasion of an enemy, or to but out some raging fire.
And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.The people were persuaded quietly to depart to their homes. Thus God one way or other, sometimes by friends, and sometimes by foes, kept his church and people from being ruined; and his hand is not shortened.