Acts 8:5-13

5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.

6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.

8 And there was great joy in that city.

9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,

10 to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.”

11 And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Philip (v.5) — one of the seven chosen with Stephen in chapter 6. He also shows up in Acts 21:8.

Samaria (v.5) — The quondam capital of the northern (Israelite) kingdom, and an important center commanding the roads northward to Esdraelon and westward to the coast. It was first built by Omri (1 Kings 16:24). After its capture by Sargon, the Assyrian monarch (722 B.C.), its Israelite inhabitants, in common with those of the whole northern kingdom, were largely replaced by foreign colonists. It passed through various vicissitudes under the Greeks and Romans, being finally rebuilt by Pompey. Herod the Great embellished and fortified it, renaming it Sebaste in honor of the Emperor, (Sebastos being the Greek equivalent of the Latin Augustus). Its inhabitants at this period represented a mixture of various races. — Walker, page 185


The Samaritans were not a heathen people, though, from their mixed descent, they had proclivities which were Gentile rather than Jewish. There was at least some mixture of Hebrew blood in their veins, and they had adopted a modified Jewish sacrificial ritual. They gloried in their famous temple, built on Mt. Gerizim (John 4:20), probably in the time of Sanballat, Nehemiah’s chief opponent. Their sacred book was the Samaritan Pentateuch, which presents many variations from the Jewish Pentateuch. They held a strong Messianic hope (John 4:25-26), and Philip, with true wisdom, made that his avenue of approach to them in his presentation of the Gospel message, as indeed our Lord had done before him. He “proclaimed unto them Messiah,” for whom they were looking as a nation. — Walker, page 186.

It seems that Simon’s “belief” (v.13) was in Philip’s miracles and not in the Lord. He was probably hoping to discover Philip’s secret so he could do miracles too. Simon amazed the people but was, in turn, amazed by Philip.

preached (v.5) = proclaimed like a herald

paralyzed (v.7) — a technical medical term

sorcery (v.9) — skilled in “magician lore” — from Medo-Persian priests — a mix of science and superstition. It came to mean any sort of magical arts such as astrology, soothsaying, exorcisms, divination, mantras, etc.

Suetonius, a Roman historian, who lived in the first part of the second century of our era, gives the information that the whole eastern countries were at that time overrun with all kinds of wonder-workers, astrologers, healers and necromancers. One of the greatest was Apollonius of Tyanaeus, who died about 97 A.D. He was a great sorcerer and worker of miracles. His life and supposed miracles were often compared with those of our Lord. Satan had anticipated the coming of the Gospel and used this man to keep the Samaritans in bondage, to counterfeit the power of God, and to oppose the truth. — Gaebelein, page 147


This man is the great power of God (v.10) — Simon seems to have taught, along with his practice of the arts of magic, a sort of pseudo-philosophy of which we find other traces at that period and which was afterwards elaborated in the system of Gnosticism. It represented man as united to God by a series of mediators in the shape of divine emanations called Aeons or Powers. The Samaritans saw in Simon the chief of these Powers, a sort of mighty effluence from the deity rendered human by incarnation. — Walker, page 188

astonished (v.11) = bewitched, made distraught, under his influence.

The Samaritans are not considered Gentiles in the Scriptures, though indeed the Jews of Judaea looked upon them as worse than Gentiles.

The ten tribes, it will be remembered, broke away from Judah and Benjamin in the apostasy under Rehoboam. After that the two tribes were generally called Judah and the ten Israel.

Renouncing Jerusalem and the temple, the ten tribes had made Samaria their capital city, hence Israel is also referred to as Samaria in the Old Testament (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:24, 26, 28; Ezekiel 16:53, etc.).

After the Syrian conquest, in which Israel was carried into captivity, the King of Syria sent colonist to repopulate the land. These intermarried with those of the ten tribes still remaining in the land and brought them to a still lower moral and spiritual level. The Lord, however, sent lions into their midst to devour them until the King of Syria found it necessary to send one of the Hebrew priests to Samaria to teach them “the manner of the God of  the land” (2 Kings 17:25-28).

After the Babylonian captivity the Jews did not permit the Samaritans to help them rebuild the temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 4) whereupon the Samaritans built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim (cf. John 4:20).

Since the Samaritans had renounced Jerusalem and its authority, the Jews would have no dealings with them, but it is important to remember that whatever their heresies, Samaria represented the ten tribes, that they held to the law of Moses, worshiped the true God and looked for the coming of Messiah.

There came to be, of course, an increasing number of individuals from the ten tribes who did not go along with the great apostasy nor intermarry with the Syrians, and lived in Judaea, Galilee and other places in and outside of Palestine. Thus the term Israel later began again to be applied to all from the twelve tribes who were true to the God-appointed priesthood and to the temple at Jerusalem. In the same way, Israelites from the ten tribes came to be called Jews, along with those of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

If anything is clear in the prophetic Scriptures it is that one day the breach between the ten tribes and the two will be fully healed and that all ten tribes of Israel will be restored and exalted in the kingdom (Ezekiel 37:15-19; Jeremiah 31:31-34; etc.).

Thus in the proclamation of the kingdom as recorded in the four Gospels and in Acts, the term Israel refers to all twelve tribes (See Matthew 19:28; Acts 1:6; etc.). Paul alter used the term in the same way (Acts 26:7; 28:20).

Philip’s  ministry among the Samaritans, therefore, was no departure from the prophetic kingdom program, nor did it constitute the sending of the gospel to the Gentiles through Israel’s unbelief. Philip went to the Samaritans to seek to win them to the true Messiah, who was to reign in Jerusalem over all twelve tribes of Israel.

It was not until after the raising up of another apostle — Paul — that the gospel of the grace of God was proclaimed and salvation was sent to the Gentiles through Israel’s fall. This also explains the miraculous element in this passage, for these demonstrations were associated with the kingdom and ceased only when Israel as a nation was set aside. — Stam, pages 259-261

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