Paul at Caesarea with Philip the Evangelist: Part 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe


Lesson: IV.D.7: Paul at Caesarea with Philip the Evangelist (21:1-14)


ACTS 21:1-14 (KJV)

1 And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:
2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth.
3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.
4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.
6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.
7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
8 And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying,

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 20 concluded with the tender meeting he had with the Ephesian Elders at Miletus. Now he boards the ship for the voyage that will return him to Israel.

After the parting scene at Miletus, Paul resumed his final voyage to Jerusalem. At this point, the “journey itinerary” was probably fixed and included a detailed listing of the ports and stopping points along the way. The most striking characteristic of this section is the warning from Paul’s fellow Christians of the dangers that awaited him in Jerusalem. This is a continuation of the emphasis that began in 20:22, where Paul told the Ephesian elders how the Spirit was leading him to Jerusalem and of the possible dangers that awaited him there. This “journey itinerary” is strongly reminiscent of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels. The same forebodings marked Jesus’ journey—the same strong resolve on Jesus’ part, the same misgivings on the part of His disciples. In the Gospels, Jesus’ predictions of his coming passion provide the ominous tone. For Paul’s journey, the warnings of the Christians along his way serve this function. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ journey is particularly marked by sayings regarding Jerusalem as the place of rejection for God’s messengers. In Jerusalem, Jesus was arrested and executed. In Jerusalem Paul also was arrested and his life put in extreme jeopardy.


COMMENTARY

1 And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:

“And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos.” Luke’s statement, “That after we were gotten from them” implies that they had to

tear themselves away from their friends. The coastal vessel (a boat not equipped for ocean travel, and which had to stay within sight of land) that carried Paul and his companions, then headed south, threading its way through the islands of the Dodecanese.

“Coos” is a small island which had a city with the same name, one of the Sporades in the Aegean Sea, north-west of “Rhodes,” off the coast of Caria. Here they spent the night (ships did not sail at night). “Coos,” besides being famous for its medical school, was a center of Jewish Life in the Aegean. It is now called Stanchio.

“And the day following unto Rhodes.” The most notable stop was at “Rhodes,” famous in ancient times for its lighthouse, which was one of the seven wonders of the world. Again, the city is probably meant; the city and island had the same name.

“And from thence unto Patara.” From “Rhodes” the vessel headed southeast again finding and following the mainland until, after an uneventful voyage, it dropped anchor at “Patara,” a port of Lycia.“ Patara” was a city on the south-west coast of Lycia. There Paul found a larger vessel, which was about to sail across the open sea to the coast of Phoenicia (v. 2). He set out in this vessel and reached the city of Tyre (v. 3) in perhaps two or three days.


2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard and set forth.

Since the next port he mentions after Patara is Tyre (v. 3), it means that Paul was able to find an oceangoing vessel, one that could put out to sea boldly and sail on a direct course for “Phenicia,” a journey of around 400 miles by a course that took them south of Cyprus to Tyre, the chief city of “Phenicia,” where the “ship” was to unload its cargo (v. 3). Such a vessel would save him endless hours of travel and speed him on his way toward Jerusalem and the Passover feast (Pentecost). Paul wasted no time because he wanted to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost, which occurs just 50 days after Passover. Paul had celebrated Passover with his friends in Philippi more than three weeks earlier, so he had less than 30 days to reach Jerusalem in time for the festival.


3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

“Now when we had discovered Cyprus.” The voyage itself was uneventful and probably lasted five or six days. On the way, they cited the island of “Cyprus” coming up over the horizon to the southeast. Anyone who has seen one of the movies which featured the vessels of Paul’s day knows the excitement on board whenever land is cited. The lookout in the crow’s nest {1]gives a loud shout, “Land ho!”, which would not only bring the captain on deck but the passengers as well, and there would be a burst of activity as everyone crowded to the landward side. Word would soon circulate: “its ‘Cyprus.’”

“We left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.” At last “Cyprus,” too, dropped over the horizon, and the voyage continued swiftly now to “Tyre,” where the captain had business and the passengers a few days to stretch their legs on shore.

From the time the unloading took (vs. 4-6; seven days), it would appear this was a large vessel (v. 4). The main harbor of “Tyre” lay on the southern side of the island on which the city was built. This island, however, was now joined to the mainland by a mole {2](built by Alexander the Great) and the subsequent accumulation of sand on either side of it. In verse 5 Luke mentions one of these sandy beaches. The former glory of “Tyre” was somewhat diminished by this time, but it remained an important center of trade and industry. In honor of its past greatness, the Romans had declared it a “free city” within the province of “Syria.”

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