18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.
19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent,
21 but took leave of them, saying,”I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.
22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.
23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
Cenchreae (v.18) — The port they sailed from. It was eight and a half miles from Corinth.
Syria (v.18) — where Jerusalem was
Ironside thinks Paul made a Nazarite vow, which included no cutting of hair, before his conversion and felt compelled, in order not to offend Jews, to keep it for the avowed number of years. That time had been completed and, therefore, Paul cut his hair.
Gabeilein thinks Paul was perhaps wrong to take a legalistic vow but explains it no further. He also thinks Paul was probably wrong to go to the feast in Jerusalem instead of teaching at Ephesus.
Walker thinks Paul took a Nazarite vow because he continued to conform to Jewish law and custom although preaching liberty to Gentiles.
Stam doesn’t go into it much here except to say it was probably a Nazarite vow. He links it with Paul’s later visit to Jerusalem when he aided the four men in taking their vow as recorded in Acts 21:23-26. In that case, he thinks Paul was mistaken, but with good motives and that, although God didn’t direct or want Paul to do it, He still used Paul’s ministry. My view is close to this.
The Holy Spirit wouldn’t let Paul visit Ephesus at the beginning of the journey (Acts 16:6)
Ephesus (v.19) — The real capital of the Roman province of Asia, and, after Corinth, the next great city in order on the main central route from Rome to the East. It lay three miles from the sea, on the river Cayster, which was navigable at that period as far as the city. Four great roads diverged from Ephesus as routes of traffic. With these natural advantages, it was the great commercial center of all that part of Asia Minor, and ranked with Alexandria and Syrian Antioch as one of the most important cities of the Roman East. (Pergamum however, was the residence of the Roman proconsul, one of the most important governors of the empire.) Ephesus contained a goodly company of Greeks, as it had been formerly a Greek colony. The vast majority of inhabitants, however, were Asiatics, zealously attached to their old pagan religion, and proud of the temple of their goddess who, though originally the deity of an aboriginal cult, had adopted under the Greeks the name of Artemis. Her temple stood a little distance outside the city, near the slope of a hill, and was the religious center of the whole district.
The voyage from Cenchreae to Ephesus would occupy from two to three days, the route leading past some of the islands of the Greek Archipelago. The ship called at Ephesus, en route for Caesarea, probably to take in more pilgrims and to allow the passengers to spend the Sabbath in the synagogue. — Walker, page 398.
keep this coming feast in Jerusalem (v.21) — not in the best manuscripts
church (v.22) — the church in Jerusalem. Paul’s stay was probably very brief at this time.
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