Acts 8:26

Acts 8:26

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip
To inquire who this angel was, whether Michael or Gabriel, or the tutelar angel of Ethiopia, or of the eunuch, or of Philip, is too curious; it was one of the ministering spirits sent forth by Christ, to serve a gracious purpose of his, and for the good of one of the heirs of salvation:

saying, arise;
at once, make haste and speed, and quick dispatch; the phrase denotes readiness, alacrity, and expedition:

and go toward the south;
the southern point from the city of Samaria, where Philip now was; or to the south of Jerusalem: the parts of Gaza, Lydda, Jamnia, Joppa were called the "south": hence often mention is made of such a Rabbi and such a Rabbi, that he was (amwrd) , "of the south" F11; so R. Joshua, who was of Lydda, is said to be of the south F12. The Ethiopic version renders it at "noon time", and so the Arabic of De Dieu; as if it respected not the place whither he was to go, but the time when he was to go; and that it might be about the middle of the day, the following narrative seems to confirm:

unto the way which goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is
desert:
this place is sometimes called Azzah, and sometimes Gaza, which is owing to the different pronunciation of the first letter of it; it was first inhabited by the Avim, or Hivites, who being destroyed by the Caphtorim, they dwelt in their stead, ( Deuteronomy 2:23 ) . It fell to the lot of the tribe of Judah, but could not be held by it, because of the giants which remained in it; and was, as Jerom says {m}, a famous city of Palestine in his day; and was formerly the border of the Canaanites towards Egypt; and the way to Egypt lay through it, in which the eunuch was travelling: the way from Jerusalem to this place lay through Bethlehem, as the above ancient writer observes, on ( Jeremiah 31:15 ) where he says

``some of the Jews interpret this place thus; that Jerusalem being taken by Vespasian, through this way (Bethlehem and Ephratah, of which he is speaking) to Gaza and Alexandria, a vast number of captives were led to Rome.''

And as the same writer elsewhere says F14, Bethlehem was six miles from Aella (or Jerusalem) to the south, in the way which leads to Hebron; and it is commonly believed that the way to Gaza was through Hebron, and is the way in which they go to it now; and to a hill near this place Samson, carried the gates of Gaza, ( Judges 16:1-3 ) And this also was to the south of Jerusalem, and two and twenty miles from it F15: and it is also said by the same author F16, that there is a village called Bethzur, and in his time Bethhoron, in the way from Jerusalem to Hebron, about twenty miles from the former, at which there was a fountain, where it was reported the eunuch was baptized by Philip. There was it seems another way from Jerusalem to Gaza, through Diospolis, or Eleutheropolis, and so to Ascalon, and from thence to Gaza F17: and this was the road the eunuch went, if their conjecture is right, that he was baptized in the river Eleutherus; but which way he went is not certain, nor where he was baptized. The situation of Gaza was, according to Arrianus F18, as follows:

``Gaza is distant from the sea at least twenty furlongs (two miles and a half), and the access unto it is sandy and deep, and the sea near the city is all muddy. Gaza was a great city, and was built on high ground, and encompassed with a strong wall: it was the last of those cities inhabited, as you go from Phoenicia into Egypt, (epi th arch thv erhmou) "at the beginning of the desert".''

Which last words seem to furnish out a reason why it is here called Gaza, "which is desert"; because it was situated where the desert began: though this clause is differently understood; some apply it to Gaza; as if the sense was "Gaza the desert", to distinguish old Gaza which was destroyed by Alexander the great, and as Strabo says {s}, "remained desert", from new Gaza, built at some distance from it: Jerom has F20 this distinction of old and new Gaza; there is scarce any appearance, he says, of the foundations of the ancient city; and that which is now seen is built in another place; and an unknown Greek writer makes express mention of new Gaza, which is the city itself; and speaks of another Gaza at some distance, which he calls Gaza, (h erhmov) , "the desert" F21: but the haven, which was seven furlongs distant from Gaza, was not called new Gaza till Julian's time: it was first called Majuma, and afterwards Constantia, by Constantine; either from his son Constantius, or his sister Constantia, it having embraced the Christian religion F23: wherefore, as Beza observes, no regard could be had to this distinction in the times of Luke; and though it was besieged by Alexander and taken, yet it did not become a desolate place; it had its walls, gates, and fortifications afterwards; and was after this taken by Ptolomy, and then by Alexander Janneeus; it was repaired by Gabinius, and given to Herod by Augustus F24: so that it could not be said to be desert, in the times of Philip and the eunuch, with respect to its inhabitants and fortifications: it seems rather therefore to be so called, for the above reason, because situated at the beginning of the desert; and the whole space between the parts of Egypt next the Nile, and Palestina, is called "the desert", both by Arrianus F25 and Josephus F26: others apply this epithet to the way, and read it as do the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, "to the way of the desert which goes from Jerusalem"; meaning the wilderness, which lay in the way from Jerusalem to Gaza. This place was distant from Jerusalem about seventy five miles; for from Jerusalem to Ascalon was, as Josephus F1 says, five hundred and twenty furlongs, which make sixty five miles; and from Ascalon to Gaza were ten miles, as our countryman Mr. Sandes Says F2; though according to the Itinerary of Antoninus F3, the distance was sixteen miles. The Talmudists make mention of this place, they represent it as a very pleasant place to dwell in; they say F4, Gaza is (hpy hywyn) , "a beautiful habitation"; they speak of three famous markets, and one of them was the market of Gaza F5; and very near to this city there was a beast market F6; and to which may be added, though it may not serve to strengthen the reason of its name being called Gaza the desert, there was a place on the border of the city, which was named (atrygo atbrwx) , "the desert of the leper" F7: there were also brooks about the parts of Gaza and Azotus F8; in one of which, if the eunuch was near Gaza, to which he was going, he might be baptized; since it is uncertain whereabout Philip met him, and where the place of water was, in which the ordinance of baptism was administered to him. This city is now called Gazera, or Gazara, and is inhabited by Greeks, Turks, and Arabians.


FOOTNOTES:

F11 T. Hieros. Succa, fol. 53. 4.
F12 Ib. Challa, fol. 57. 2.
F13 De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. K.
F14 Ib. fol. 89. E.
F15 Ib. fol. 87. E.
F16 Fol. 89. G.
F17 Vid. Reland. Palestina Illustrata, l. 2. p. 407. & l. 3. p. 646, 659.
F18 De Expeditione Alexandri, l. 2.
F19 Geograph. l. 16.
F20 De locis Hebraicis, fol. 91. K.
F21 Apud Reland. ib. l. 2. p. 509.
F23 Euseb. de Vita Constantin. l. 4. c. 38. Sozomen. Hist. l. 5. c. 3.
F24 Joseph. Antiqu. l. 13. c. 13. sect. 3. & 14. 5. &. 15. 7.
F25 Ut supra. (De Expeditione Alexandri, l. 2.)
F26 De Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 5. sect. 3.
F1 Ib. l. 3. c. 2. sect. 1.
F2 Travels, p. 151.
F3 Apud Reland. ib. l. 2. p. 419.
F4 T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 37. 3.
F5 Ib. Avoda Zara, fol. 39. 4.
F6 T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 11. 2.
F7 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 71. 1.
F8 Aristeas de 70 Interpret. p. 41.
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