|《John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible – Acts (Vol. 2)》(John Gill)
10 Chapter 10
There was a certain man in Caesarea,.... This was the Caesarea formerly called Strato's tower, not Caesarea Philippi; for the former, and not the latter, lay near Joppa:
called Cornelius; which was a Roman name, and he himself was a Roman or an Italian:
a centurion of the band called the Italian band; which consisted of soldiers collected out of Italy, from whence the band took its name, in which Cornelius was a centurion, having a hundred men under him, as the name of his office signifies.
A devout man,.... A truly religious person, who had forsaken the Roman idolatry and superstition, in which he was brought up:
and one that feared God: the one only living and true God, the God of Israel; he had the fear of God wrought in his heart, which is a part of the covenant of grace, a blessing of it, and the beginning of wisdom; he was truly a gracious man, a converted person, and who from an internal principle worshipped God externally:
with all his house; he brought up his family in a religious way, as every good man should; and which was very remarkable in a Gentile, a soldier, and an officer:
which gave much alms to the people; to the Jews that dwelt at Caesarea, and therefore was of good report among them, and much beloved by them, Acts 10:22 he had regard to both tables of the law, both to the worship of God, and the love of the neighbour: and prayed to God always; every day, at the usual times of prayer; prayed privately in his closet, and with his family, as well as attended public service of this kind.
He saw in a vision evidently,.... He was not in a dream, or in a trance, but he was thoroughly awake, and his eyes open, and was himself; it was not in the night, but in clear day:
about the ninth hour of the day; or three o'clock in the afternoon, which was the hour of prayer, Acts 3:1 in which exercise he was now engaged, Acts 10:30 at this time he saw
an angel of God coming to him; into the room where he was at prayer:
and saying unto him, Cornelius; he called him by his name, to let him know that he knew him, as angels are very knowing spirits; and to express his affection and friendship to him, and that he was a messenger, not of bad, but of good news to him; as well as to engage his attention to him; for he might be so intent at his devotion, that had he not called him by name, he would not have minded him.
And when he looked on him, he was afraid,.... What with the brightness of his clothing, Acts 10:30 and the lustre of his countenance, and the majestic form in which he appeared, he perceived there was something uncommon and divine in this vision, and therefore was filled with awe and reverence, yea, with something of a panic fear; as it was usual, even with good persons, as the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, Zacharias, the Virgin Mary, and others; from a sense of the greatness of the divine majesty, which they supposed to be near, or this to be an emblem of it, and from a notion that, at the sight of God, they should die.
And said, what is it, Lord what is the matter? what is to be said or done? What is the reason of this unusual appearance? Some of the Latin copies, and the Ethiopic version, read, "who art thou, Lord?" but by the angel's answer, not this, but the former was the question: for it follows,
and he said unto him, thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God; that is, the prayers which he had put up in faith, for himself and family, and the charitable actions he had performed from a principle of love, were like sacrifices upon the altar, which ascended to God with acceptance; so these sacrifices of prayer and beneficence came up with acceptance from off that altar which sanctities the gift, or were acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ; these were taken notice of, approved by God, and remembered by him, and the fruits and effects he was shortly to enjoy; for that Cornelius was a believer, need not be questioned; since he was not only a devout and religious person, but one that feared God, which includes the whole of religion, internal and external; and so faith in Christ, without which he could not pray aright: there is no doubt of it, but he had read the prophecies of the Old Testament, attended the synagogues of the Jews, and believed in the Messiah to come, though he did not know that he was come, and that Jesus of Nazareth was he; so that his faith was of the same kind with that of the saints before the coming of Christ; and in this faith he did all the good works he did, which became acceptable to God through Christ, and without which it is impossible to please him.
And now send men to Joppa,.... Which lay near to Caesarea;
and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: the angel was not sent to instruct Cornelius himself, but to direct him to an apostle of Christ, and minister of the Gospel, who should do it; for not angels, but men, are employed in the ministry of the word, which is the ordinary means of spiritual knowledge, and of increasing it. So the eunuch was instructed by Philip, and Saul by Ananias; which shows the excellency and usefulness of the Gospel ministry and ministers, and what dignity is put upon them, what use should be made of them, and in what esteem they should be had.
He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, &c. Simon the tanner was his host; this man very probably was a good man, and one that lodged strangers; of his trade; see Gill on Acts 9:43.
whose house is by the sea side; Joppa was a sea port, 2 Chronicles 2:16 Jonah 1:3 hence we read of ימא דיפו, "the sea of Joppa"F24Ezra iii. 7. Targum in 2 Chron. ii. 16. ; and also of למינה של יפו, "the port of Joppa"F25T. Hieros. Yoma, fol. 41. 1. Joseph. Antiqu. l. 11. c. 4. sect. 1. & 13. 9. 1 Maccab. xiv. 5. 1. Esdr. v. 55. ; now Simon's house was in the outer part of the city, and by the sea side, as well for convenience for his business, as because such trades might not be exercised within a city; being nauseous and disagreeable, because of their skins and manner of dressing them, and the dead carcasses from whence they often took them off; hence that rule of the JewsF26Misn. Bava Bathra, c. 2. sect. 9. ,
"they place dead carcasses, graves, ואת הבורסקי, "and a tanner's workshop", (in which he dresses his skins,) fifty cubits from the city; nor do they make a tanner's workshop, but at the eastern part of the city. R. Abika says, it may be made at every part excepting the west.'
The reason of that, as given by theF1Maimou. & Bartenora in ib. commentators, is, because prayer was made towards the west, where the temple stood, and the divine presence was. The Ethiopic version very wrongly renders it, "and the house of Cornelius is near the sea"; for not his, but Simon's is meant:
he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do; he was to tell him words, or to deliver doctrines to him, by which he and his family would be better instructed in the way of salvation, and arrive to a greater degree of knowledge of Christ, and faith in him, and be brought to a submission to his commands and ordinances; see Acts 10:22, this clause is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in some others, and in the Syriac and Arabic versions.
And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed,.... For when be had delivered his message, he either disappeared, or withdrew, and immediately Cornelius showed himself ready to obey the heavenly vision: for
he called two of his household servants; who were not of the band of soldiers under him, but were servants in his family, and such as feared God with him;
and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually: besides his household servants, there were soldiers that continually attended him, and among these there was one at least that was a devout and religious man; and him he called out from among the rest, and to him with the two household servants he communicated the vision: these three persons being religious, were very proper ones to be informed of this matter, and to be sent on the errand they were; and three might be particularly pitched upon, being a sufficient number to attest to Peter what they had from the mouth of their master, for by the mouth of two or three witnesses is everything established; and partly for the honour of Peter, and to show a proper respect to him, he would not send a single person, who could have told the story, and done the errand as well as three, but this would not have looked respectful enough.
And when he had declared all these things unto them,.... Which he had heard and seen in the vision, and of which he gave them a particular account; partly to engage them the more cheerfully to go on the errand, and partly that they might be able to give a distinct relation of it to Peter, that so he might be moved the more to comply with the request, and come along with them:
he sent them to Joppa; perhaps not that evening, since it was at the ninth hour, or three o'clock in the afternoon, when Cornelius had the vision; and some time must be taken up in discourse with the angel, and afterwards in sending for his servants, and relating the affair to them, and giving them their proper instructions. So that it may be they did not set out till early the next morning, as seems from the following verse.
On the morrow, as they went on their journey,.... From Caesarea to Joppa; Joppa is said to be six and thirty miles distant from Caesarea; so far Caesarea was from Lydda, but it seems to be further from Joppa; for according to JosephusF2Antiqu. l. 13. c. 13. , from Joppa to Antipatris were a hundred and fifty furlongs, which are almost nineteen miles, and from thence to Caesarea were twenty six miles; unless there was a nearer way by the sea shore, as there was a way by that from Caesarea to Joppa, of which the above author makes mentionF3De Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 14. ; wherefore they must either have set out the evening before, or early that morning, to get to Joppa by the sixth hour, or twelve o'clock at noon; as it seems they did, by what follows:
and drew nigh unto the city; that is, of Joppa, were but a little way distant from it:
Peter went up upon the housetop to pray; the roofs of houses in Judea were flat, and persons might walk upon them, and hither they often retired for devotion and recreation; See Gill on Matthew 10:27, Matthew 24:17, it was on the former count, namely for prayer, that Peter went up thither, and that he might, be private and alone, and undisturbed in the discharge of that duty. This being at a tanner's house, though not in his shop, brings to mind a canon of the JewsF4Misn. Sabbat, c. 1. sect. 2. ,
"a man may not enter into a bath, nor into a tanner's shop, near the Minchah,'
or time of prayer. Now this was about the sixth hour or twelve o'clock at noon, when Peter went up to pray; at which time the messengers from Cornelius were near the city of Joppa; this was another time of prayer used by the Jews, and is what they call the great Minchah, which began at the sixth hour and an half, and so was as is here said, about the sixth hour See Gill on Acts 3:1.
And he became very hungry,.... It being in the middle of the day, when it was usual to eat; and perhaps he had ate nothing that day, for those were reckoned the most religious persons, who eat nothing before the Minchah:
and would have eaten; though the Jews sayF5Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Sabbat. ib. , a man ought not to eat near the Minchah, not even the least, lest he should continue at it, and so neglect his prayers:
but while they made ready, while Simon's family were getting dinner ready, preparing the food for it:
he fell into a trance; or an ecstasy, or an ecstasy fell upon him; it was what was supernatural, and came from above, and did not arise from any natural cause in him; he was as it were out of the body, and entirely in the spirit; all the bodily organs and senses were shut up, and all sensible objects removed from him; and he was wholly intent on what was proposed to him in the vision, which filled him with wonder and astonishment.
And saw heaven opened,.... Not literally, as at the baptism of Christ, and the stoning of Stephen; but in a visionary way, and which was an emblem of the opening and revealing the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles, which in other ages was not made known, as it now and afterwards was:
and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet: which seems to represent the church of God, whose original is from heaven, and consists of persons born from above, who have their conversation in heaven, and were designed for it; and especially as under the Gospel dispensation, which Peter had a vision of in this emblematic way; the doctrines and ordinances of which are from heaven: and which may be compared to a linen sheet for its purity and holiness; through the blood and righteousness of Christ, and the grace of his Spirit, and with respect to its discipline and conversation; and so to a great one for its largeness; for though the number of its members, when compared with the world, are few, yet in themselves are a number which no man can number; and though it was but small at first, yet the Gospel being carried among the Gentiles it increased, and in the last times will be large:
knit at the four corners; which may denote the preaching of the Gospel, and the spread of it, and the planting of churches by it in the four parts of the world; and also the church being knit to Christ, and the members of it one to another:
and let down to the earth; for Peter to see it, and where it was to continue for a while, even to the second coming of Christ, and when the whole church of the firstborn will be let down to earth again; see Revelation 21:2.
Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth,.... Not as if they were painted upon it, and these were only pictures and representations of them made on the linen sheet; but as if they really add actually were upon it alive; since Peter is afterwards called upon to kill and eat: and these design four-footed beasts of every kind, that are tame, as distinct from the wild ones, after mentioned, as horses, camels, oxen, sheep, hogs, dogs, &c.
and wild beasts; lions, tigers, panthers, bears, &c. This clause is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions:
and creeping things; the above copy and versions here add, "of the earth", which they omit in the first clause; these intend serpents, snakes, worms, &c:
and fowls of the air; birds of all sorts: now the whole of this signifies, that the church of Christ, under the Gospel dispensation, consists of all sorts of persons, of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, the one being reckoned clean, the other unclean; of men of all sorts of tempers and dispositions, comparable to wild or tame beasts; and of all sorts of sinners, who before conversion have been greater or lesser sinners; as well as denotes that the distinction of food under the ceremonial law was now ceased. This is not designed to represent that there are good and bad in Gospel churches, as there certainly are and much less that immoral persons are to be received and retained there; but that those who have been of the blackest character, if called by grace, should be admitted into them; and chiefly to show that Gentiles reckoned unclean, when converted, are not to be rejected.
And there came a voice to him,.... Formed by an angel, or rather by Christ himself:
rise, Peter, kill and eat; he might be on his knees when he fell into this trance, being at prayer, and therefore is bid to rise; and he is called by name, the more to encourage him to do as he was ordered; and he is bid to kill and eat of all the creatures without distinction, which were represented to him in the sheet; and the design of this was to teach him, that both the distinction between clean and unclean creatures in the law was now abolished, and men might lawfully eat of whatsoever they pleased; and that he might and should without any difference converse with all sorts of men, Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised, and preach the Gospel to one as to another, and maintain a church communion and fellowship with all equally alike.
But Peter said, not so, Lord,.... God forbid I should do this, so contrary to the law of God, and to my own practice, throughout the whole course of my life:
for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean; in a ceremonial sense, which was in common use with Gentiles, but unclean by the law of Moses: this shows that Peter as yet closely adhered to the ceremonial law, nor did he know that it was abolished by Christ; and notwithstanding the commission given to him and the rest of the apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature, and the extraordinary gifts of speaking with divers tongues for that purpose, bestowed on them at the day of Pentecost; yet he and they remained greatly strangers to the calling of the Gentiles, and the admitting of them to a civil and religious conversation with them; the knowledge of every truth was not at once communicated to them, but gradually, as it pressed the Lord to enlighten their minds.
And the voice spake unto him again the second time,.... The following words,
what God hath cleansed; that is, hath pronounced clean and lawful to be used, as he now had all sorts of food, Matthew 15:11.
that call not thou common; or pronounce it to be unholy or unclean, and unlawful to be used: and the same holds good of men, as well as things; for as hereby the Lord instructed Peter, that there was nothing of itself common, or unclean, and unfit for use; so that no man, not any Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, or be he who he would, was common or unclean, and his company to be avoided as such. Distinctions both of men and meats were now to be laid aside; and the Jews themselves own, that what is now unclean, will be clean in the time to come, or the times of the Messiah; they sayF6R. Moses Haddarsan in Galatin. l. 11. c. 12. & Bereshit Rabba in Pugio Fidei, c. 12. sect. 1. ,
"every beast which is unclean in this world,
the holy blessed God מטהר אותה,
cleanses it, in the time to come, (the times of the Messiah,) as they were at first clean to the sons of Noah Genesis 9:3, wherefore, as the herb was clean to all, and as the beasts were clean to the sons of Noah; so also in the time to come he will loose what he has bound, or forbidden.'
And particularly they observe, that a swine is call הזיר from הזר, "to return", because the Lord will return it unto Israel.F7Abarbinel Rosh Amana, c. 12. fol. 18. 2. .
This was done thrice,.... That is, either the voice spoke the same words three times, or the sheet was let down three times; and it may be both; it may be, that every time the voice was spoke, the sheet was let down: this was done, not with respect to any mystical meaning in the number three, but for the confirmation of Peter, that he might be the more firmly assured of the truth of the things represented unto him:
and the vessel was received up again into heaven; to denote, that when the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, whether Jews or Gentiles, are all gathered in, by the preaching of the Gospel to them, they will be taken up to heaven, their original and native place, and be for ever with the Lord; as well as to certify to Peter, that what was now shown him on earth, concerning the taking away the distinction of men and meats, was ratified in heaven.
Now while Peter doubted in himself,.... For notwithstanding what he had heard and seen, he had not at once a full knowledge of this matter. Beza's most ancient copy reads, "as he was in himself, he doubted"; that is, when he came to himself, for he was before, as it were, out of himself, and was in a trance, or ecstasy; and now being come to himself, and reflecting on what he had seen and heard, he had some doubts and hesitations in his mind:
what this vision which he had seen should mean; what the vessel or sheet should signify, what should be meant by the four-footed beasts, &c. why he should be called to arise, and kill, and eat such creatures, and what should be designed by God's cleansing them; and while he was revolving these things in his mind, and at some uncertainty about them, something providentially happened, which was a key unto, and opened the whole vision clearly to him:
behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius, had made inquiry for Simon's house; they were come to Joppa, and, according to the direction given them, had inquired and found out the house of Simon the tanner, where Peter was:
and stood before the gate; of the house; perhaps knocking at it, in order to bring out somebody within to them, of whom they might inquire for Peter.
And called, and asked,.... That is, they called to the people of the house, Simon's family; and in a civil and courteous manner asked them,
whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter; which they said to distinguish him from Simon the master of the house, and as Cornelius was directed, and they were instructed by him: concerning him they inquired, whether he
were lodged there; the Ethiopic version adds, without any foundation for it, "and the place where they called at was Peter's lodging room".
Which greatly amused him, affected his mind, and employed his thoughts what should be the meaning and design of it:
the Spirit said unto him; the holy Spirit of God, either by an articulate voice, or by making an impulse on his mind;
behold, three men seek thee; the Arabic version leaves out the word "three": the Spirit of God is omniscient, and knows all things; if the deep things of God, then much more man, and the things of man.
Arise, therefore, and get thee down,.... From the top of the house where he was:
and go with them; the three men, to Caesarea
doubting nothing; whether it is right or wrong, lawful or unlawful, to go with them, because not Jews, but uncircumcised Gentiles, laying aside all such Jewish scruples:
for I have sent them: the Spirit of God is said to do what Cornelius did at his instigation and direction, signified by an angel he sent to him, Acts 10:5.
Then Peter went down to the men,.... The Ethiopic version adds, "from the third floor"; to the place where the men were: the following clause,
which were sent unto him from Cornelius, is not in Beza's most ancient copy, nor in the Alexandrian copy, nor in the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions: