Acts 16
Vincent's Word Studies
Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:
Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.
Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.
To go forth (ἐξελθεῖν)

The word is used of going forth as a missionary in Luke 9:6; 3 John 1:7.

And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Were established (ἐστερεοῦντο)

Rather, were strengthened. Another word is used for established. See Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32, Acts 15:41; Acts 18:23. There is a difference, moreover, between being strengthened and established. See 1 Peter 5:10.

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

See on Acts 2:9.

After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
Passing by Mysia

Not avoiding, since they could not reach Troas without traversing it; but omitting it as a preaching-place.

Came down

From the highlands to the coast.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
We sought

Note the introduction, for the first time here, of the first person, intimating the presence of the author with Paul.

Assuredly gathering (συμβιβάζοντες)

See on proving, Acts 9:22.

Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
Came with a straight course (εὐθυδρομήσαμεν)

Lit., we ran a straight course. A nautical term for sailing before the wind.

And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
Chief (πρώτη)

Some explain, the first city to which they came in Macedonia.

A colony (κολωνία)

Roman towns were of two classes: municipia, or free towns, and colonies. The distinction, however, was not sharply maintained, so that, in some cases, we find the same town bearing both names. The two names involved no difference of right or of privilege. The historical difference between a colony and a free town is, that the free towns were taken into the state from without, while the colonies were offshoots from within. "The municipal cities insensibly equalled the rank and splendor of the colonies; and in the reign of Hadrian it was disputed which was the preferable condition, of those societies which had issued from, or those which had been received into, the bosom of Rome" (Gibbon, "Decline and Fall").

The colony was used for three different purposes in the course of Roman history: as a fortified outpost in a conquered country; as a means of providing for the poor of Rome; and as a settlement for veterans who had served their time. It is with the third class, established by Augustus, that we have to do here. The Romans divided mankind into citizens and strangers. An inhabitant of Italy was a citizen; an inhabitant of any other part of the empire was a peregrinus, or stranger. The colonial policy abolished this distinction so far as privileges were concerned. The idea of a colony was, that it was another Rome transferred to the soil of another country. In his establishment of colonies, Augustus, in some instances, expelled the existing inhabitants and founded entirely new towns with his colonists; in others, he merely added his settlers to the existing population of the town then receiving the rank and title of a colony. In some instances a place received these without receiving any new citizens at all. Both classes of citizens were in possession of the same privileges, the principal of which were, exemption from scourging, freedom from arrest, except in extreme cases, and, in all cases, the right of appeal from the magistrate to the emperor. The names of the colonists were still enrolled in one of the Roman tribes. The traveller heard the Latin language and was amenable to the Roman law. The coinage of the city had Latin inscriptions. The affairs of the colony were regulated by their own magistrates, named Duumviri, who took pride in calling themselves by the Roman title of praetors (see on Acts 16:20).

And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
Out of the city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως)

The best texts read τύλης, the gate.


Probably the Gangas or Gangites.

Where prayer was wont to be made (οὗ ἐνομίζετο προσευχὴ εἶναι)

The best texts read ἐνομίζομεν προσευχὴν, where we supposed there was a place of prayer. The number of Jews in Philippi was small, since it was a military and not a mercantile city; consequently there was no synagogue, but only a proseucha, or praying-place, a slight structure, and often open to the sky. It was outside the gate, for the sake of retirement, and near a stream, because of the ablutions connected with the worship.

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

An adjective: the Lydian; but as Lydia was a common name among the Greeks and Romans, it does not follow that she was named from her native country.

A seller of purple

On purple, see note on Luke 16:19.


The district of Lydia, and the city of Thyatira in particular, were famous for purple dyes. So Homer:

"As when some Carian or Maeonian dame

Tinges with purple the white ivory,

To form a trapping for the cheeks of steeds."

Iliad, iv., 141.

An inscription found in the ruins of Thyatira relates to the guild of dyers.

Heard (ἤκουεν)

Imperfect, was hearing while we preached.

And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
Constrained (παρεβιάσατο)

Only here and Luke 24:29, on which see note. The constraint was from ardent gratitude.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

See on Acts 12:13.

Spirit of divination (πνεῦμα Πύθωνα)

Lit., a spirit, a Python. Python, in the Greek mythology, was the serpent which guarded Delphi. According to the legend, as related in the Homeric hymn, Apollo descended from Olympus in order to select a site for his shrine and oracle. Having fixed upon a spot on the southern side of Mount Parnassus, he found it guarded by a vast and terrific serpent, which he slew with an arrow, and suffered its body to rot (πυθεῖν) in the sun. Hence the name of the serpent Python (rotting); Pytho, the name of the place, and the epithet Pythian, applied to Apollo. The name Python was subsequently used to denote a prophetic demon, and was also used of soothsayers who practised ventriloquism, or speaking from the belly. The word ἐγγαστρίμυθος, ventriloquist, occurs in the Septuagint, and is rendered having a familiar spirit (see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, 27; 1 Samuel 28:7, 8). The heathen inhabitants of Philippi regarded the woman as inspired by Apollo; and Luke, in recording this ease, which came under his own observation, uses the term which would naturally suggest itself to a Greek physician, a Python-spirit, presenting phenomena identical with the convulsive movements and wild cries of the Pythian priestess at Delphi.

Soothsaying (μαντευομένη)

Akin to μαίνομαι, to rave, in allusion to the temporary madness which possessed the priestess or sibyl while under the influence of the god. Compare Virgil's description of the Cumaean Sibyl:

"And as the word she spake

Within the door, all suddenly her visage and her hue

Were changed, and all her sleeked hair and gasping breath she drew,

And with the rage her wild heart swelled, and greater was she grown,

Nor mortal-voiced; for breath of god upon her heart was blown

As he drew nigher."

Aeneid, vi., 45 sq.

The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
Grieved (διαπονηθεὶς)

Not strong enough. Rather, worn out. Both grieved at the sad condition of the woman, and thoroughly annoyed and indignant at the continued demonstrations of the evil spirit which possessed her. Compare Acts 4:2.

And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
Was gone (ἐξῆλθεν)

Went out with the evil spirit.

And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
Magistrates (στρατηγοῖς)

Their usual name was duumviri, answering to the consuls of Rome; but they took pride in calling themselves στρατηγοί, or praetors, as being a more honorable title. This is the only place in the Acts where Luke applies the term to the rulers of a city. See Introduction to Luke.


Who at this time were in special disgrace, having been lately banished from Rome by Claudius (see Acts 18:2). The Philippians do not appear to have recognized the distinction between Christians and Jews.

And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
Being Romans

The Romans granted absolute toleration to conquered nations to follow their own religious customs, and took the gods of these countries under their protection. Otho, Domitian, Commodus, and Caracalla were zealous partisans of the worship of Isis; Serapis and Cybele were patronized at Rome; and in the reign of Nero the religious dilettanti at Rome affected Judaism, and professed to honor the name of Moses and the sacred books. Poppaea, Nero's consort, was their patroness, and Seneca said, "the Jewish faith is now received on every hand. The conquered have given laws to the conquerors." On the other hand, there were laws which forbade the introduction of strange deities among the Romans themselves. In 186 b.c., when stringent measures were taken by the government for the repression of Bacchanalian orgies in Rome, one of the consuls, addressing an assembly of the people, said: "How often in the ages of our fathers was it given in charge to the magistrates to prohibit the performance of any foreign religious rites; to banish strolling sacrificers and soothsayers from the forum, the circus, and the city; to search for and burn books of divination; and to abolish every mode of sacrificing that was not conformable to the Roman practice" (Livy, xxxix., 16). It was contrary to strict Roman law for the Jews to propagate their opinions among the Romans, though they might make proselytes of other nations.

And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
Rent off their clothes (περιῤῥήξαντες)

Only here in New Testament. By the usual formula of command to the lictors: Go, lictors; strip off their garments; let them be scourged!

To beat (ῥαβδίζειν)

From ῥάβδος, a rod. Rev. properly adds, with rods.

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

See on Acts 5:21.

Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
The inner prison

Some have supposed this to be the lower prison, being misled by the remains of the Mamertine prison at Rome, on the declivity of the Capitoline, and near the Arch of Septimius Severus. This consists of two chambers, one above the other, excavated in the solid rock. In the centre of the vault of the lower chamber is a circular opening, through which it is supposed that prisoners were let down into the dungeon. Modern excavations, however, have shown that these two chambers were connected with a series of large chambers, now separated by an alley from the prison of St. Peter. The opening into the passage leading to these was discovered in the lower dungeon. Under this passage ran a drain, which formed a branch of the Cloaca Maxima, or main sewer. Six of these chambers have been brought to light, evidently apartments of a large prison in the time of the Roman kings. Mr. John Henry Parker, from whose elaborate work on the primitive fortifications of Rome these details are drawn, believes that the prison of St. Peter now shown to tourists formed the vestibule and guard-room of the great prison. It was customary to have a vestibule, or house for the warder, at a short distance from the main prison. Thus he distinguishes the inner prison from this vestibule. With this agrees the description in the Rev. John Henry Newman's "Callista:" "The state prison was arranged on pretty much one and the same plan through the Roman empire, nay, we may say throughout the ancient world. It was commonly attached to the government buildings, and consisted of two parts. The first was the vestibule, or outward prison, approached from the praetorium, and surrounded by cells opening into it. The prisoners who were confined in these cells had the benefit of the air and light which the hall admitted. From the vestibule there was a passage into the interior prison, called Robur or Lignum, from the beams of wood which were the instruments of confinement, or from the character of its floor. It had no window or outlet except this door, which, when closed, absolutely shut out light and air. This apartment was the place into which Paul and Silas were cast at Philippi. The utter darkness, the heat, and the stench of this miserable place, in which the inmates were confined day and night, is often dwelt upon by the martyrs and their biographers."

Stocks (ξύλον)

Lit., the timber. An instrument of torture having five holes, four for the wrists and ankles and one for the neck. The same word is used for the cross, Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24.

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
Prayed and sang praises (προσευχόμενοι ὕμνουν)

Lit., praying, they sang hymns. The praying and the praise are not described as distinct acts. Their singing of hymns was their prayer, probably Psalms.

And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
Would have killed (ἔμελλεν ἀναιρεῖν)

Rev., more correctly, was about to kill. Knowing that he must suffer death for the escape of his prisoners.

But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
A light (φῶτα)

Rev., more correctly, lights. Several lamps, in order to search everywhere.

Sprang in

See on ran in, Acts 14:14.

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
He took (παραλαβὼν)

Strictly, "took them along with (παρά) him:" to some other part of the prison.

Washed their stripes (ἔλουσεν ἀπὸ τῶν πληγῶν)

Properly, "washed them from (ἀπό) their stripes." The verb λούειν, expresses the bathing of the entire body (Hebrews 10:23; Acts 9:37; 2 Peter 2:22); while νίπτειν commonly means the washing of a part of the body (Matthew 6:17; Mark 7:3; John 13:5). The jailer bathed them; cleansing them from the blood with which they were besprinkled from the stripes.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Brought (ἀναγαγών)

Lit., "brought up (ἀνά)." His house would seem to have been above the court of the prison where they were. See on took, Acts 16:33.

Believing (πεπιστευκὼς)

More correctly, having believed; assigning the reason for his joy: "in that he had believed."

And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.
Serjeants (ῥαβδούχους)

Lit., those who hold the rod. The Roman lictors. They were the attendants of the chief Roman magistrates.

"Ho, trumpets, sound a war-note !

He, lictors, clear the way!

The knights will ride, in all their pride,

Along the streets to day."

Macaulay, Lays of Ancient Rome.

They preceded the magistrates one by one in a line. They had to inflict punishment on the condemned, especially on Roman citizens. They also commanded the people to pay proper respect to a passing magistrate, by uncovering, dismounting from horseback, and standing out of the way. The badge of their office was the fasces, an axe bound up in a bundle of rods; but in the colonies they carried staves.

Those men


And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men that are Romans

Hackett remarks that "almost every word in this reply contains a distinct allegation. It would be difficult to find or frame a sentence superior to it in point of energetic brevity." Cicero in his oration against Verres relates that there was a Roman citizen scourged at Messina; and that in the midst of the noise of the rods, nothing was heard from him but the words, "I am a Roman citizen." He says: "It is a dreadful deed to bind a Roman citizen; it is a crime to scourge him; it is almost parricide to put him to death."

And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
They went out

Note that Luke here resumes the third person, implying that he did not accompany them.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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