Acts 15:13-21

13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:

14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.

15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

16 ‘After! this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up;

17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.’

18  “Known to God from eternity are all His works.

19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,

20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

declared (v.14) = narrated in detail

at the first (v.14) — at the beginning of this sequence of events (v.7)

agree (v.15) — with one voice

words of the prophets (v.15) — In general. He then quotes, in particular, from Amos 9:11-12 LXX, freely in some parts (vs. 16, 18), but verbatim in the part relating to the Gentiles (v.17). A reference to the original passage in Amos will show that the prophet referred specially to the possession, by the chosen race, of Edom and the other Gentile nations. The Greek translators, by rendering Adam (man) for Edom, through the change of a single letter, interpreted the passage as we have it in the text. The Jews understood the prophecy to be Messianic, and had called the Messiah, in consequence, “Bar Naphli,” “the son of the fallen.” — Walker, page 327.


In the Authorized Version, Amos 9:11-12 reads “remnant of Edom,” instead of “residue of men,” and “possess,” instead of “seek,” but doubtless the latter in each case is correct, as quoted by James in Acts for while Edom is adum in the Hebrew, man is adam and while possess is irsh, seek is drash. The difference in each case is so slight that the words may very well have been miscopied. Also, James’ quotation of the passage is more in line with the rest of prophecy than the text from which it was translated in the A.V. — Stam, page 270.

The words “after this I will return” are not from Amos, but the Lord does promise to return throughout the prophets. The return foretold by the prophets is the second coming.

rebuild the tabernacle of David (v.16) — the nation of Israel, which will be rebuilt in the Kingdom (Luke 1:32-33).

even all the Gentiles (v.17) — Isaiah 2:2; 11:10; 60:5; 66:23

who are called by My name (v.17) = who bear My name (as being My people)

I judge (v.19) = I decide — the “I” is emphatic. James is expressing his opinion, but doing so with a great deal of determinative authority.

trouble (v.19) = annoy by putting obstacles in the way

write (v.20) = send written instructions

polluted by idols (v.20) — sacrificed to idols

sexual immorality (v.20) — often associated with idolatry in Greece and Rome

what is strangled (v.20) — A word peculiar to this chapter and 21:25. The Jews were forbidden by their law to eat the flesh of any animal from which the blood had not been let out (Leviticus 17:13), since the latter was considered sacred to God. Things “strangled” would, of course, come under the prohibition. There is a natural feeling, which is allied to this, against eating animals which die of themselves.

blood (v.20) — This, from the time when animal food was first permitted to man, was strictly prohibited (Genesis 9:4), the prohibition being enforced and emphasized by the law of Moses (Leviticus 3:17; 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23). If we examine the four points specified, we see that they relate to idolatry, impurity, and indulgence in questionable meats (as the Jew, at least, considered them). It was just such things which, apart from circumcision, made the Gentile offensive to the Jew and so rendered intercourse between them well nigh impossible. Jame’s fourfold prohibition was clearly intended to form a basis of agreement between the two parties. Many consider that it was of the nature of a compromise, intended to meet temporary conditions (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). Such compromise on lesser questions, when once the main principle (in this case the circumcision test) is conceded, is in accordance with the law of love. But compromise, when a main principle is not conceded, is wrong. — Walker, page 330.

Moses (v.21) — the Mosaic Law

in every city (v.21) — Where there was a synagogue. We may understand this verse as meaning either that there was no fear that the law of Moses would be entirely forsaken, since it was regularly taught in the synagogues of the dispersion; or, that, since the precepts of the law of Moses were everywhere diligently inculcated, Gentile Christians must be careful not to offend the prejudices of their Jewish fellow-believers in these four particulars. — Walker, page 331.

It’s my opinion that James wasn’t saying that Paul’s ministry was a fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy. I’m certain that Amos wasn’t referring to Gentiles being saved into the Body of Christ. What I think the passage means is that the Lord, in the Old Testament, foretold that the Gentiles would be saved, so there was no reason for the Jews to be shocked that Gentiles were being saved (even though the particular circumstances of their salvation were unknown to Amos and may not have been completely understood by James and Peter).

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