13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”
16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.
19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.
20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
itinerant (v.13) — they traveled from place to place performing magic for a price
exorcists (v.13) — expelled demons or diseases by using some name
by the Jesus (v.13) — used as an incantation
The seven sons of Sceva tried to imitate the power of god as it was manifested through Paul; but they knew not the Lord Jesus Christ. They were professional exorcists traveling from place to place and preaching the expulsion of evil spirits. All kinds of mysterious things were used by these exorcists; the use of different names of God in driving out the evil spirits were especially resorted to. The so-called Kabbala and may parts of the Talmud are full of these mysterious things of magic. In some cases no doubt there was reality, as we learn from Matthew 12:27. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, pages 330-331.
chief priest (v.14) — He may have been one of the heads of the 24 courses of priests; or been termed “chief priest” popularly because of his connection with a high-priestly family; or even have been an ex-high priest himself. At first sight, the title seems strange in such a connection, but there are many illustrations of the sons of great and honored personages taking up strange professions. Some would interpret it as meaning that these exorcists gave out themselves to be sons or disciples of a Jewish high-priest, the better to attract attention. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 414.
How low these vagabond Jews had fallen, spiritually, is evidenced by the fact that, for personal gain, they would use the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, their Messiah, whom they rejected, in a traffic with evil spirits which was strictly forbidden by Scripture and punishable with death (See Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; 1 Samuel 28:3, 9).
In this too they were symbolic of their nation, for rather than representing God before the nations now, Israel has become a false prophet by rejecting Messiah. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 175.
Jesus I know (v.15) — personal knowledge — I recognize Him as an authority
Paul I know (v.15) — lesser knowledge — I “know of” him
magnified (v.17) — because it was seen how terrible it was to use His name vainly
many who had believed (v.18) — evidently referring to those who had heard and believed Paul’s message but hadn’t up to this time, stopped dabbling in magic
confessing and telling (v.18) — public acknowledgement
deeds (v.18) — a technical term from magical prescriptions — from the same root word as “practiced” in verse 19
They brought their parchments and rolls (v.19) which contained the magical formulas, incantations and adjurations. These formulas and written amulets had at that time a world-wide reputation and were known by the name “ephesia gramata” —the Ephesian letters. They brought them together and burned them before all men. — Gaebelein, page 331.
burned (v.19) — imperfect tense = “kept burning
grew (v.20) — imperfect tense = “grew continuously”