Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.

27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,

28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.

29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”

30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.”

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”

35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.

36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”

37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.

40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.

toward the south (v.26) — the same word is translated “about noon” in Acts 22:6.

from Jerusalem to Gaza (v.26) — The angel instructed Philip to go to a sparsely-inhabited desert. The way would have been through the Negeb, a desert region.

Gaza was deserted then. Gaza was a fortress in the extreme south of Palestine. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great in the fourth century before Christ. What was not destroyed by him was in the year 96 completely overthrown by the Maccabaean prince Alexander so that it was literally a desert. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, page 156

desert (v.26) — Gaza was two miles from the sea … a new city was built in the Roman period on the sea-coast and distinguished from its predecessor by the name of “Maritime Gaza.” If this remark [about it being desert] refers to Gaza, we must understand it as indicating the old city which lay in ruins. Since the highway to Egypt passed through the old city, the comment of the text is pertinent. Others, however, coniseder that the road from Jerusalem to Gaza is intended, and not the city. In that case, we must understand that Philip was instructed to take the less frequented route via Hebron [ across the Negeb]. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 196.

Ethiopia (v.27) — a large country then, including Abyssinia, Nubia, Sudan and the countries bordering the Red Sea on the west.

eunuch (v.27) — the law made eunuchs outcasts who could not fully enter the congregation of Israel, but Isaiah 56:3-5 promises blessings to those who believe. He was likely traveling in a large caravan.

great authority (v.27) = potentate, high official

Candace (v.27) — not the name of the queen but a title given to the mother of the Ethiopian king (like Pharaoh)

worship (v.27) — He was probably a proselyte to Judaism, perhaps in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

reading (v.28) — reading aloud

guides (v.31) = authoritative teaching and interpretation. The eunuch traveled to Jerusalem to worship but did not find the answers to his questions in the dead ceremony of the Jews who had rejected Messiah. Even today, Jews take Isaiah’s prophecy as referring to Isaiah himself, Jeremiah or Hezekiah.

The quote in verses 32 and 33 is from Isaiah 53:7-8 in the Septuagint.

As a sheep … as a lamb (v.32) — The order of these words in the LXX differs from that in the Hebrew which is more precise. All the utterances of the New Testament regarding the Lamb of God are derived from this prophecy.

In His humiliation His justice was taken away (v.32) — This may be interpreted in a two-fold sense.

  1. “In His state of humiliation, the righteous judgment which was His due was taken away:” i.e. He was unjustly treated.
  2. “When He humbled Himself (Philippians 2:8), His condemnation was taken away and canceled” i.e. He was exalted because of His self-humiliation.

The Hebrew original emphasizes the severity of the suffering by, or from, which He was taken away.

Who will declare His generation? (v.33) — The most natural interpretation of this is, “Who shall declare and number the generation or seed which He has won by His death and passion?” (cf. Psalm 22:30). They have, however, been explained as meaning “Who shall declare the wickedness of the generation in which He lived and by which He was put to death?” The Hebrew original seems to lay stress on the carelessness and thoughtlessness of His contemporaries who failed to lay to heart the meaning of His passion.

His life is taken from the earth (v.33) — This means, most naturally “He was put to death,” and the Hebrew original agrees. Some, however, interpret “His life is taken from the earth to a higher and heavenly sphere (Philippians 2:9-11), referring the words to His exaltation. — Walker, pages 199-200

The 37th verse … does not belong in the text at all, but is an interpolation. The profession of faith put by this verse in the mouth of the Ethiopian anticipates Paul. The first time that Christ is preached that He is the Son of god is in Acts 9:20. Peter preached Him as the rejected Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead and Philip simply preached Jesus. It was reserved for Paul to declare the fullness of the Gospel of the Son of God, that Gospel of which he writes to the Galatians “I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). The best Greek manuscripts have not the verse, which speaks of the eunuch’s confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. — Gaebelein, page 158

caught away (v.39) — the same verb is used of believers at the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Azotus (v.40) — the old Philistine city Ashdod, 20 miles north of Gaza

all the cities till he came to Caesarea (v.40) — Philip traveled along the coastal highway.

Caesarea (v.40) — A city on the sea-coast, about 30 miles north of Joppa. It was originally an obscure town called Strato’s Tower; but Herod the Great, to whom Augustus had given it, rebuilt it on a large scale and constructed a fine harbor with immense breakwaters. He renamed it Caesarea Augusta in honor of the emperor, and built himself a magnificent palace there. The population consisted partly of Gentiles and partly of Jews, between whom frequent feuds occurred. When Judea passed directly under Roman rule, Caesarea became the residence of their procurator, and so alike the capital city and a garrison town. Since we find Philip residing there still in A.D. 57 (Acts 21:8), it seems almost certain that he made it his headquarters from this time forward. — Walker, pages 202-203

Caesarea (v.40) — Twenty years later (Acts 21:8), Paul visited Philip there.

Those who have supposed that the gospel of the grace of God is found in Isaiah 53 and that this is what Philip preached to the eunuch, have failed to notice two things; the scope and the tone of Isaiah’s prophecy.

As to the scope of the prophecy, it must be noted that Isaiah speaks strictly as a Hebrew prophet. He does not speak of Christ dying for the world, but of His dying for Israel. The 6th verse says: “All WE [ not “all men”] like sheep have gone astray … and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of US all.” The thoughtful student of Scripture will therefore immediately inquire: To whom does the “all we” and the “us all” refer? This question is plainly answered in verse 8, where the prophet goes on to say: “For the transgression of MY PEOPLE was He stricken.”

Thus Isaiah, as a Hebrew prophet, spoke of Messiah’s death for his (Isaiah’s) people and it must not be forgotten that the eunuch had joined himself as a proselyte to this people.

All this is not to deny that we Gentiles too were lost when God found us, or that Christ died for us too. It is simply that this had not yet been made known. Nor did Philip expound Romans, Galatians or Ephesians to the eunuch, but the Old Testament Scriptures, in the light that had thus far been given.

The tone of Isaiah’s prophecy, too, deserves careful notice. It is by no means the joyous proclamation that Christ should die for sinners and that they might find salvation through faith in His finished work. there is rather a tone of disappointment and wonder that He should have to suffer for their sins through, indeed, the prophet declares that God will reward Him and that He shall yet see the glorious results of His humble submission. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, pages 283-284

Some suppose that substitution — which indeed is taught in Isaiah 53 — is the very acme of Christian truth, while in fact it is but the very beginning … Many an innocent man has suffered for a guilty one, but do people generally rejoice in this? No indeed. And neither were the twelve nor Philip yet proclaiming the cross in this manner. There was as yet no boasting about the cross, as in Galatians 6:14. God was rather calling upon His people to repent of their wicked deed and to be baptized, acknowledging Jesus as their Messiah (Read carefully Acts 2:23, 32, 36, 38; 3:13-15, 19-21; 4:10-12; 5:30-31 and cf. John 1:31).

Those who have not quite taken in this important fact should reflect that the Scriptures clearly teach that the nation Israel will be saved only when she acknowledges her sin against Christ; when, condemned by her guilt and touched by His gentle submission, she breaks down in contrite confession and humbly acknowledges Him as her Messiah.

… then they will look on [or “unto”] Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem … (Zechariah 12:10-11).

And one will say to Him, ‘What are these wounds between Your arms?’ Then He will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends’ (Zechariah 13:6).

And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be — “The Lord is one,”  and His name one (Zechariah 14:9).

This, then, is God’s purpose in the cross as revealed in the Old Testament prophecy and it must not be confused with “the mystery,” that deeper, more glorious purpose “hid from ages and from generations” but made known in due time through Paul (Colossians 1:26).

Not until the chief of sinners was saved and sent forth with the gospel of the grace of God did the world hear what is properly called “the preaching of the cross,” i.e., as good news. Not until Paul did God offer salvation through faith in Christ’s shed blood. — Stam, pages 285-287

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