Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 19:14

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests - The original Ιουδαιου αρχιερεως, dignifies a Jewish high priest; but it is not probable that any sons, much less seven sons of a Jewish high priest, should be strolling exorcists: it is therefore likely that υἱοι Σκευα τινος ἱερεως, the sons of Skeva, a certain priest, as it stands in the Codex Bezae, is the true reading. The whole verse in that MS. reads thus: Among them there also the sons of Skeva, a priest, who wished to do the same: for they were accustomed to exorcise such persons. And entering in to the demoniac, they began to invoke that Name, saying, We command thee by Jesus, whom Paul preacheth, to go out. And the evil spirit angered, and said unto them, Jesus I know, etc. It has been often remarked that in our Lord's time there were many of the Jews that professed to cast out demons; and perhaps to this our Lord alludes, Matthew 12:27. See the note there.

Josephus, in speaking of the wisdom of Solomon, says that he had that skill by which demons are expelled; and that he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they are cast out; and that those arts were known among his countrymen down to his own time; and then gives us the following relation: "I have seen a certain man of my own country whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacs, in the presence of Vespasian, his sons, his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring, that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon, to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and, when the man fell down, immediately he adjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations that he had composed. And when Eleazar would persuade the spectators that he had such power, he set at a little distance a cup of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it; and, when this was done, the skill and wisdom of Solomon were showed very manifestly." Joseph. Antiq. book viii. cap. 2, sect. 5. Whiston's edition.

That there were such incantations among the Jews we know well, and that there are still such found, and that they are attributed to Solomon; but that they are his remains to be proved; and could this even be done, a point remains which can never be proved, viz. that those curious arts were a part of that wisdom which he received from God, as Josephus intimates. Indeed, the whole of the above account gives the strongest suspicion of its being a trick by the Jewish juggler, which neither Josephus nor the emperor could detect; but the ring, the root, the cup of water, the spell, etc.; all indicate imposture. Magicians among the Jews were termed שם בעלי baaley shem, Masters of the Name, that is, the name of Jehovah יהוה by a certain pronunciation of which they believed the most wonderful miracles could be wrought. There were several among them who pretended to this knowledge; and, when they could not deny the miracles of our Lord, they attributed them to his knowledge of the true pronunciation of this most sacred name.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

One Sceva - Sceva is a Greek name, but nothing more is known of him.

Chief of the priests - This cannot mean that he was high priest among the Jews, as it is wholly improbable that his sons would be wandering exorcists. But it denotes that he was of the sacerdotal order. He was a Jewish chief priest; a priest of distinction, and had held the office of a ruler. The word “chief priest,” in the New Testament, usually refers to men of the sacerdotal order who were also rulers in the Sanhedrin.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
It was common, especially among the Jews, for persons to profess or to try to cast out evil spirits. If we resist the devil by faith in Christ, he will flee from us; but if we think to resist him by the using of Christ's name, or his works, as a spell or charm, Satan will prevail against us. Where there is true sorrow for sin, there will be free confession of sin to God in every prayer and to man whom we have offended, when the case requires it. Surely if the word of God prevailed among us, many lewd, infidel, and wicked books would be burned by their possessors. Will not these Ephesian converts rise up in judgement against professors, who traffic in such works for the sake of gain, or allow themselves to possess them? If we desire to be in earnest in the great work of salvation, every pursuit and enjoyment must be given up which hinders the effect of the gospel upon the mind, or loosens its hold upon the heart.
Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 285-90

There is still another lesson for us in the experience of those Jewish converts. When they received baptism at the hand of John they did not fully comprehend the mission of Jesus as the Sin Bearer. They were holding serious errors. But with clearer light, they gladly accepted Christ as their Redeemer, and with this step of advance came a change in their obligations. As they received a purer faith, there was a corresponding change in their life. In token of this change, and as an acknowledgment of their faith in Christ, they were rebaptized in the name of Jesus. AA 285.1

As was his custom, Paul had begun his work at Ephesus by preaching in the synagogue of the Jews. He continued to labor there for three months, “disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” At first he met with a favorable reception; but as in other fields, he was soon violently opposed. “Divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude.” As they persisted in their rejection of the gospel, the apostle ceased to preach in the synagogue. AA 285.2

The Spirit of God had wrought with and through Paul in his labors for his countrymen. Sufficient evidence had been presented to convince all who honestly desired to know the truth. But many permitted themselves to be controlled by prejudice and unbelief, and refused to yield to the most conclusive evidence. Fearing that the faith of the believers would be endangered by continued association with these opposers of the truth, Paul separated from them and gathered the disciples into a distinct body, continuing his public instructions in the school of Tyrannus, a teacher of some note. AA 285.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 281-97

This chapter is based on Acts 19:1-20.

While Apollos was preaching at Corinth, Paul fulfilled his promise to return to Ephesus. He had made a brief visit to Jerusalem and had spent some time at Antioch, the scene of his early labors. Thence he traveled through Asia Minor, “over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia” (Acts 18:23), visiting the churches which he himself had established, and strengthening the faith of the believers. AA 281.1

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Paul's Journeys
The Third Missionary Journey of Paul