Phillip in Gaza with the Ethiopian [16 verses]
After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News.
As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth.
He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth.”
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”
So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”[“You can,” Philip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]
He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.
Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.Acts 8:25-40
Yes Gillian it is hard to know what details to look up and what details to ignore. The problem is that there are so many details available to us we have to decide what is important. In doing so it is likely we will miss something. That is one of the reasons we continue to gain insight from the Word of God years after we started reading it, despite the fact that we might read it daily and read through the whole Bible once a year. There are just too many details in the book, and many are hidden. One person has asked me if what I have told you about Simon and his background is all there is. The simple answer is “No”. I could give you pages and pages about Simon from all of the sources I have at my disposal but I choose to give you the ones I think are most relevant so as not to swamp you with detail. In Deeper Bible CSU / CSI terms, a detective must check out all the leads or evidence before we know which evidence is important and which isn’t. Being on a stake out and observing “the perp’s” house is boring, until you turn up something important. The same is true of Bible Study: you never know which word or phrase or background detail will turn into a Gem. That is why I seek to turn Deeper Biblers into CSU Investigators. [People who learn how to Chase the Sense Unit].
The Introduction / Preparation:
Did Philip go back to Jerusalem with Peter and John and then later go to Gaza or did he go straight away? Ben
I suspect you have read some of the commentators who claim that Philip in conjunction with Peter and John went about preaching in the Samaritan towns together. They read into the Greek text that Philip was also involved with Peter and John in a series of continuing actions (testifying, preaching and returning) on the basis of the imperfect verbs involved. Therefore they conclude that Philip returned with the two apostles to Jerusalem as well, only to leave for Desert Gaza later. I don’t agree with that reading of the text and feel the NLT (as above) has captured the intent accurately. It seems Peter and John are being set in contrast to Philip. Remember the fact that Peter and John were apostles while Philip was a deacon. Luke is showing us the second level of leadership were involved in significant ways too. Philip was involved in the miracles which took place in Samaria along with Peter and John. But according to a straight forward reading of the Greek text, Philip did not go back Jerusalem with the other two, rather he was called specifically to Gaza at the time Peter and John headed off on the coast road. (see below my comments on the places involved)
Phillip himself had the Holy Spirit (proven by the miracles) why were Peter and John needed to call on the Holy Spirit for the people of Samaria? (Andre)
I think Peter and John went down to assure the team that Philip could handle the introduction of the Gospel of Jesus to the Samaritans. This was after all an issue of the Gospel being taken to the hated Samaritans as well. That was astounding given the past history between the Jews and the Samaritans.
Why do they stop in many Samaritan villages when Jews don’t like Samaritans? (Gillian) Clearly the order set by Jesus was that they were to be His witnesses in Judea and Samaria and following that everywhere. The inclusion of the Samaritans specifically was an indication to them that EVERYONE was to receive the Good News. In their heart of hearts the Jews would not be keen on sharing the Good News with the Samaritans at all. (See Gems 1100 – 1101). This was always an issue through Luke’s Gospel as well as John’s. Peter and John leave the area but visit Samaritan towns on their way back to Jerusalem. Philip doesn’t go that way because God has a different plan in mind for him.
The matter of Where this took Place and Why it’s Important?
How did Philip know to go to Gaza? Quite simply Philip was told by an angel to go south by way of the desert road to Gaza. – “As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” We are not told exactly how the angel spoke to Philip but it seems he heard or perceived words which included the clear information within. But those words could have been delivered inwardly, i.e. perceived by Philip within his head or heart or they could have been via an audible voice as one normally hears speech. We are not told which. If the statement given to Philip tells him to go via the desert road then it is important to God’s plans. There were two ways Philip could go from Jerusalem to Gaza. One road went from Jerusalem up to Hebron through the desert regions. This was the old Gaza road and passed through Desert Gaza. The Maccabean prince Alexander had destroyed the settlements along this road in 96 BC. This area was uninhabited. The other road was one which passed through a new town of Gaza called Maritime Gazaon the coast, the road to which passed through the more heavily populated areas. It was made clear from what the angel told Philip that he was to go the desert way. Peter and John go back the more populous way, Philip on the other hand is instructed to go where he would not have expected to see anyone. I guess he must have wondered why he had to go that particular way. Not only was he not likely to see anyone, he was also in more danger of encountering robbers and highwaymen.
Why the use of the word “Behold”? Behold is a word Luke uses frequently in Acts – 1:10, 10:17, 12:7. It most often indicates a sudden providential occurrence. Is it Luke’s use of the word or is it Philip’s? I suspect it is more likely to be Philip who used the word and Luke recorded it. Why? Either it expresses Philip’s surprise at finding someone on that deserted road or surprise at seeing who was on the road? Or both. The fact is that on this deserted road where he didn’t expect to see anyone, he encounters a high court official of the Ethiopian Queen Candace. So God had a plan in mind after all. He goes to Desert Gaza which is uninhabited and encounters a very important person from Ethiopia. What is interesting is that from this time onward the Gospel of Jesus takes root along the northern coast of Africa and especially in Ethiopia, more Nubia (from the second nile cataract south to Khartoum) than Abyssinia. In a remote area of Gaza Philip encounters the Court Treasurer for Ethiopia who takes the gospel south to the Sudan and Ethiopia. When God is in control things happen at various levels all at the same time. The gospel goes to the Samaritans and begins its journey to the outer most parts (Africa) at the same time. This man is often referred to as the eunuch. I choose to refer to him as the Treasurer.
The word [idou] “behold” is used again in 8:36 when they come across water. It is again a surprise that coincidentally water was available there in this desert region at the very moment they had been talking about baptism and would need it. The fact that “behold” is used twice in this short segment adds to the remarkable nature of what was happening here. This was no chance encounter neither was the topic of conversation and the fact that water was available there just when they needed it by chance. But now the question is how much water was there? Was it enough to sprinkle or enough for complete immersion? More on that in the next Gems – you think about it in the meantime.
Who was this Ethiopian Eunuch?
What is a eunuch? Is it like a gay person? No his sexual preference was not in focus. The word eunuch was just simply a term applied to men who had been castrated. Likely as not it had been cut off in war or as result of persecution during tribal warfare there. He was a court official and highly respected, despite his unfortunate loss. Surely the focus was more that he was the Treasurer for Ethiopia than that he was a man who had been castrated. That is the reason I choose to refer to him as the Treasurer rather than the eunuch. Candace was a name given to all Ethiopian Queens at the time. Like the English kings and queens during Tudor and Stuart times, each successive monarch with the name of the previous ruler had to take a number to distinguish them from others of the same name. We have no idea which Queen Candace is referred to in this case. We are told the Ethiopian had gone to Jerusalem to worship. But that doesn’t infer he was a Christian or a someone who had become an adherent of Judaism. Worship is a verb that simply means to pay homage or respect to your God. However the fact that he went to Jerusalem indicated he was likely a God-fearer and was on a mission to find out more about the God of the Jews. Once in Jerusalem there is no doubt he would have heard all about Jesus, the Messiah.
Wouldn’t the Treasurer of Ethiopia have had more people travelling with him Ian? (Yohanes) That is a good question Yohanes. Normally we would expect that to be the case. Beside which it was always more prudent to travel in remote areas in a camel caravan for safety – vis the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Either this man was alone which is strange or he had companions who were just not mentioned. In all probability he would have had a cart or chariot driver and not be driving it himself and likely a guard of some sort especially as he was a treasurer for royalty and had great authority. However we are not told that. It is possible that Philip’s “Behold” response was because he was surprised at the Treasurer being alone.
Why was the treasurer reading aloud if he was the only one there? (Peter) People in the ancient world tended to read aloud when they read rather than read silently as most of us do.
- Did Philip catch up to the chariot or was the chariot stopped?
- How could Philip keep up with the chariot?
The chariot and Philip were going in the same direction. It is clear that Philip has caught up the chariot or cart. The Greek word is a generic word for a cart. The carts of the time travelled slowly, at less than walking pace given the nature of the terrain. So it would not have been a problem for Philip to catch up and walk alongside chatting with the eunuch as he rode in his chariot. It also would not have been a problem for Philip to pull himself up on to the chariot when he was invited to do so by the treasurer.
- Why was an Ethiopian reading the book of Isaiah? (Cynthia)
- Did other people have the Jewish books and not just the Jews themselves? (Cynthia)
- Was the Ethiopian eunuch a Christian already but just needed some things explained to him?
Interesting questions Cynthia – yes the Jewish writings had been spread around Asia Minor and much of the then-known-world. It seems the Ethiopian had the book of Isaiah and was studying it. Perhaps reading that book had sparked his journey to Jerusalem in the first place. It isn’t conclusive evidence that this Ethiopian was a believer in Christ but it is likely that he had come across the story of Christ and His significance during his time in the Holy City. As we learned from Cleopas, everyone was talking about the events of the time.
More to come in the next Gem.
What you do daily defines you, not your past.Anon
To respond to an idea it isn’t sufficient to simply re-tweet it.Ian Vail
It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.Edward de Bono
Atheist don’t believe in God but become obsessed with disproving the existence of the God they don’t believe in. Not particularly smart.Ian Vail
- Behold! This is my 1500th Gems. Behold! It’s hard to believe 1500 Gems in almost 6 and a half years.
- But not surprising because at the beginning I was sending them daily. Seven per week.
- And behold you think it is hard now to keep up with three per week; three English and three Indonesian.