Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 8:26

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Arise, and go toward the south - How circumstantially particular are these directions! Every thing is so precisely marked that there is no danger of the apostle missing his way. He is to perform some great duty; but what, he is not informed. The road which he is to take is marked out; but what he is to do in that road, or how far he is to proceed, he is not told! It is God who employs him, and requires of him implicit obedience. If he do his will, according to the present direction, he shall know, by the issue, that God hath sent him on an errand worthy of his wisdom and goodness. We have a similar instance of circumstantial direction from God in Acts 9:11; : Arise, go into the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one Saul of Tarsus, etc. And another instance, still more particular, in Acts 10:5, Acts 10:6; : Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. God never sends any man on a message, without giving him such directions as shall prevent all mistakes and miscarriages, if simply and implicitly followed. This is also strictly true of the doctrines contained in his word: no soul ever missed salvation that simply followed the directions given in the word of God. Those who will refine upon every thing, question the Divine testimony, and dispute with their Maker, cannot be saved. And how many of this stamp are found, even among Christians, professing strict godliness!

Gaza, which is desert - Αὑτη εϚιν ερημος, This it the desert, or this is in the desert. Gaza was a town about two miles and a half from the sea-side; it was the last town which a traveler passed through, when he went from Phoenicia to Egypt, and was at the entrance into a wilderness, according to the account given by Arrian in Exped. Alex. lib. ii. cap. 26, p. 102. [Ed. Gronov.]

That it was the last inhabited town, as a man goes from Phoenicia to Egypt, επι τῃ αρχῃ της Ερημου, on the commencement of the desert. See Bp. Pearce.

Dr. Lightfoot supposes that the word desert is added here, because at that time the ancient Gaza was actually desert, having been destroyed by Alexander, and μενουσα ερημος, remaining desert, as Strabo, lib. xvi. p. 1102, says; and that the angel mentioned this desert Gaza to distinguish it from another city of the same name, in the tribe of Ephraim, not far from the place where Philip now was. On this we may observe that, although Gaza was desolated by Alexander the Great, as were several other cities, yet it was afterwards rebuilt by Gabinius. See Josephus, Ant. lib. xv. cap. 5, sect. 3. And writers of the first century represent it as being flourishing and populous in their times. See Wetstein.

Schoettgen thinks that ερημος, desert, should be referred, not to Gaza, but to ὁδος, the way; and that it signifies a road that was less frequented. If there were two roads to Gaza from Jerusalem, as some have imagined, (see Rosenmuller), the eunuch might have chosen that which was desert, or less frequented, for the sake of privacy in his journeying religious exercises.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And the angel of the Lord - The word “angel” is used in the Scriptures in a great variety of significations. See the notes on Matthew 1:20. Here it has been supposed by some to mean literally a celestial messenger sent from God; others have supposed that it means a “dream”; others a “vision,” etc. The word properly means a “messenger”; and all that it can be shown to signify here is, that the Lord sent a “message” to Philip of this kind. It is most probable, I think, that the passage means that God communicated the message by his Spirit; for in Acts 8:29, Acts 8:39, it is expressly said that “the Spirit” spake to Philip, etc. Thus, in Acts 16:7, the “Spirit” is said to have forbidden Paul to preach in Bithynia; and in Acts 8:9, the message on the subject is said to have been conveyed in “a vision.” There is no absurdity, however, in supposing that an “angel” literally was employed to communicate this message to Phil See Hebrews 1:14; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 22:11; Judges 6:12.

Spake unto Philip - Compare Matthew 2:13.

Arise - See the notes on Luke 15:18.

And go … - Philip had been employed in Samaria. As God now intended to send the gospel to another place, he gave a special direction to him to go and convey it. It is evident that God designed the “conversion” of this eunuch, and the direction to Philip shows how he accomplishes his designs. It is not by miracle, but by the use of means. It is not by direct power without “truth,” but it is by a message suited to the end. The salvation of a single sinner is an object worthy the attention of God. When such a sinner is converted, it is because God forms a plan or “purpose” to do it. when it is done, he inclines his servants to labor; he directs their labors; he leads his ministers; and he prepares the way Acts 8:28) for the reception of the truth.

Toward the south - That is, south of Samaria, where Philip was then laboring.

Unto Gaza - Gaza, or Azzah Genesis 10:19, was a city of the Philistines, given by Joshua to Judah Joshua 15:47; 1 Samuel 6:17. It was one of the five principal cities of the Philistines. It was formerly a large place; was situated on an eminence, and commanded a beautiful prospect. It was in this place that Samson took away the gates of the city, and bore them off, Judges 16:2-3. It was near Askelon, about 60 miles southwest from Jerusalem.

Which is desert - This may refer either to the “way” or to the “place.” The natural construction is the latter. In explanation of this, it is to be observed that there were “two” towns of that name, Old and New Gaza. The prophet Zephaniah Zephaniah 2:4 said that “Gaza” should be “forsaken,” that is, destroyed. “This was partly accomplished by Alexander the Great (Josephus, Antiq., book 11, chapter 8, sections 3 and 4; book 13, chapter 13, section 3). Another town was afterward built of the same name, but at some distance from the former, and Old Gaza was abandoned to desolation. Strabo mentions ‹Gaza the desert,‘ and Diodorus Siculus speaks of ‹Old Gaza‘” (Robinson‘s Calmet ). Some have supposed, however, that Luke refers here to the “road” leading to Gaza, as being desolate and uninhabited. Dr. Robinson (Biblical Res., 2:640) remarks: “There were several ways leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. The most frequented at the present day, although the longest, is the way by Ramleh. Anciently there appear to have been two more direct roads. Both these roads exist at the present day, and the one actually passes through the desert, that is, through a tract of country without villages, inhabited only by nomadic tribes.” “In this place, in 1823, the American missionaries, Messrs. Fisk and King, found Gaza, a town built of stone, making a very mean appearance, and confining about five thousand inhabitants” (Hall on the Acts ).

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely places. We should study to do good to those we come into company with by travelling. We should not be so shy of all strangers as some affect to be. As to those of whom we know nothing else, we know this, that they have souls. It is wisdom for men of business to redeem time for holy duties; to fill up every minute with something which will turn to a good account. In reading the word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of what the sacred writers spake; but especially our thoughts should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact fulfilment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature of the Messiah's kingdom and salvation, and desired to be numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will be sure to reap advantages. The avowal of the Ethiopian must be understood as expressing simple reliance on Christ for salvation, and unreserved devotion to Him. Let us not be satisfied till we get faith, as the Ethiopian did, by diligent study of the Holy Scriptures, and the teaching of the Spirit of God; let us not be satisfied till we get it fixed as a principle in our hearts. As soon as he was baptized, the Spirit of God took Philip from him, so that he saw him no more; but this tended to confirm his faith. When the inquirer after salvation becomes acquainted with Jesus and his gospel, he will go on his way rejoicing, and will fill up his station in society, and discharge his duties, from other motives, and in another manner than heretofore. Though baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with water, it is not enough without the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Lord, grant this to every one of us; then shall we go on our way rejoicing.
Ellen G. White
In Heavenly Places, 103.1

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. Acts 8:26. HP 103.1

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Ellen G. White
Conflict and Courage, 332.1

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went. Acts 8:26, 27. CC 332.1

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 107-11

Philip's work in Samaria was marked with great success, and, thus encouraged, he sent to Jerusalem for help. The apostles now perceived more fully the meaning of the words of Christ, “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Acts 1:8. AA 107.1

While Philip was still in Samaria, he was directed by a heavenly messenger to “go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza.... And he arose and went.” He did not question the call, nor did he hesitate to obey; for he had learned the lesson of conformity to God's will. AA 107.2

“And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.” This Ethiopian was a man of good standing and of wide influence. God saw that when converted he would give others the light he had received and would exert a strong influence in favor of the gospel. Angels of God were attending this seeker for light, and he was being drawn to the Saviour. By the ministration of the Holy Spirit the Lord brought him into touch with one who could lead him to the light. AA 107.3

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 152

The same angel who had come from the royal courts to rescue Peter, had been the messenger of wrath and judgment to Herod. The angel smote Peter to arouse him from slumber; it was with a different stroke that he smote the wicked king, laying low his pride and bringing upon him the punishment of the Almighty. Herod died in great agony of mind and body, under the retributive judgment of God. AA 152.1

This demonstration of divine justice had a powerful influence upon the people. The tidings that the apostle of Christ had been miraculously delivered from prison and death, while his persecutor had been stricken down by the curse of God, were borne to all lands and became the means of leading many to a belief in Christ. AA 152.2

The experience of Philip, directed by an angel from heaven to go to the place where he met one seeking for truth; of Cornelius, visited by an angel with a message from God; of Peter, in prison and condemned to death, led by an angel forth to safety—all show the closeness of the connection between heaven and earth. AA 152.3

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