And on the sabbath
That is, as the Syriac version renders it, "on the sabbath day"; the Jewish sabbath, the seventh day of the week; though the words may be rendered, "on a certain day of the week" agreeably to ( Acts 20:7 ) where the first of the sabbath means the first day of the week; but be this as it will, on this day,
we went out of the city by a river side;
perhaps the river Strymon, which was near; the Alexandrian copy and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version read,
without the gate;
and the Syriac version, "without the gates of the city"; all to the same sense: it looks as if there was no synagogue of the Jews in this place, or otherwise the apostle and his companions would have gone into that, according to their custom; and this the rather seems to be the case, since it is so particularly remarked, that at Thessalonica, the next place they stayed at there was one, ( Acts 17:1 ) and the reason might be, because that Philippi being a Roman colony, the Jews were not suffered to have one in it; wherefore Paul and his company, whether on the Jewish sabbath, or on any other day of the week, took a walk out of the city; either for the sake of a walk, or rather to converse together, and consider what was to be done, or to look out for an opportunity to preach the Gospel; and they came to a place,
where prayer was wont to be made;
or as the words may be rendered, "where was thought to be a place of prayer"; a "proseucha", an oratory, or a place built and made use of for prayer; that is, as they walked along, they saw a place, which in their opinion looked like a religious house, or a place for prayer, and so made up to it, where they found some persons assembled together on that account: this sense is confirmed by several versions; the Vulgate Latin version reads, "where there seemed to be prayer", and so reads Beza's most ancient copy; and the Syriac version is very express, "for there was seen" (atwlu tyb) , "an house of prayer"; to which agrees the Arabic version, "we went out to a certain place, which was thought to be a place of prayer"; to which may be added the Ethiopic version, "and we thought there was prayer there"; and that the Jews had their oratories, or prayer houses, is certain; (See Gill on Luke 6:12) and that these were without the cities, and in the fields, appears from a passage of Epiphanius F6, who says,
``there were anciently places of prayer, both among the Jews, "without the city", and among the Samaritans, there was a place of prayer at Sichem, which is now called Neapolis, "without the city", in the field, about two stones distance, in form of a theatre, open to the air, and without covering, built by the Samaritans, who in all things imitated the Jews:''and if these were commonly built by fountains and rivers, and as some think, in imitation of Isaac, who went out into the field, "to meditate"; which the Chaldee paraphrase renders, "to pray"; and is also in the same place said to come, as the Jerusalem paraphrase renders it, (arabl) "to a well", or "fountain", ( Genesis 24:62 Genesis 24:63 ) then this clause may be rendered, "where it was usual for a prayer house to be": and then the sense is, there being no synagogue in the city, the apostle and those with him went out of it, to the river side, to look out for a prayer house; where such places were wont to be built, and they accordingly found one:
and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither;
who seem to have been Jewish women, who met here to attend public prayer, there being no religious worship of the true God in the city; and among these worshippers of God was Lydia, hereafter mentioned; and worship not being begun, the apostle and his companions sat down among them, and entered into some religious conversation with them, and took the opportunity of preaching the Gospel, which was what they wanted, and were seeking after.
F6 Contr. Haeres. Tom. 2. l. 3. Haeres. 80.