Acts 16:19-24

19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city;

21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.”

22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.

23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.

24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

gone (v.19) — the same word as “came out” in verse 18. When the demon was gone, their hope of profit was also gone.

marketplace (v.19) — The “agora”, or open space in the center of the city which contained the public buildings, senate house, law courts, and temples of tutelary deities. Colonnades were there as places of concourse, etc., and shops and marts in abundance. The “agora” was the heart of a Greek city, where magistrates, civic functionaries, and others congregated. — Walker, page 353.


authorities (v.19) — The word used is the one usually employed to denote the board of magistrates in a Greek city, and would flow naturally from Luke’s Greek pen. The technical term for the supreme magistrates of Philippi as a Roman colony follows in the next verse, and probably denotes the same authorities as are here alluded to. It is possible, however, that these “authorities” were officials or city judges who happened to be administering justice at the time in the agora, and that they remanded the prisoners to the higher authorities (the magistrates, verse 20), finding that they were political offenders. — Walker, page 353.


magistrates (v.20) — In Roman colonies, the chief authority was vested in two supreme officials who often, in imitation of the more dignified titles current in the imperial city, assumed the designation of “praetors,” though it did not actually pertain to them. They were popularly known by that name, and Luke employs the courtesy title, as it was in vogue in current phraseology. — Walker, page 354.

exceedingly trouble (v.20) = throw into utter disorder

The observation that Paul and Silas were Jews was intended to prejudice the magistrates against them since the Jews, already hated, had been expelled from Rome by Claudius Caesar (18:2). But why this sudden concern about the sanctity of their religion? Had the plain truth been told it would have been to the credit of the apostles, so all of a sudden they affect a zeal for the public religion! How hypocritically conscientious men can become when their crimes are detected and exposed! Though the Romans opposed religious innovations, they were tolerant of existing religions and, indeed declared themselves the protectors of the gods of these nations which they had conquered. — Stam, page 53.

customs (v.21) — They charged Paul and Silas with propagating an unlawful religion.

tore off their clothes (v.22) — the prisoners’ clothes

beaten with rods (v.22) — 2 Corinthians 11:25

Roman officials like those at Philippi were accompanied by attendants armed with rods called “lictors” (the “officers” in verse 35), and it was such attendants who inflicted this punishment on the two missionaries. — Walker, page 355.


stocks (v.24) — In this case, probably a wooden block with two apertures for the feet, wide apart from each other so that the prisoner’s legs were at once held fast and painfully stretched and strained. — Walker, page 256.


This bare account of the incident gives but a glimpse of the shameful treatment Paul and Silas were made to endure. The whole affair was highly improper to begin with. The plaintiffs had made a false charge and the magistrates had disgraced and punished them without a hearing or even an inquiry as to whether they were Roman citizens. Those who had professed such zeal for Roman law were flagrantly disregarding it now.

This was evidently one of the three times when Paul was “beaten with rods” (2 Corinthians 11:25). Flogging among the Jews was limited to 39 stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3 cf. 2 Corinthians 11:24) but the “many stripes” here inflicted on the naked apostles may well have exceeded that number, for in 2 Corinthians 11:23 Paul refers to “stripes above measure.” — Stam, page 54.

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