Acts 11:19

The Church in Antioch

19 1Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.

Acts 11:19 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 11:19

Now they which were scattered abroad
These were not the apostles, but the other ministers of the word; see ( Acts 8:1 ) who were dispersed

upon the persecution that arose about Stephen;
his preaching and miracles, his oration in defence of himself, and his death: these

travelled as far as Phenice;
a country near to Syria and Galilee; its chief towns and cities were Tripolis, Botrys, Biblus, Berytus, Tyre, Sidon, Ecdippa, Ptolemais, and Dora. It was famous, as Pliny says F24, for the invention of letters, and of the constellations, and of naval and warlike arts. It was a maritime country, reaching from Orthosia (now called Tortosa) to Pelusium, or from Sidon to the borders of Egypt: it is the same with Old Canaan, and was so called, and had its name from Canaan; who, according to Sanchuniathon F25, also had the name of Phoenix, from whom this country was called Phoenice, or Phoenicia. Some think the name is the same with (qnep) , "Pahanah", or (qne twap) , "Peoth Anak", the corners of the Anakites; it being the tract of land which the children of Anak, or the giants inhabited, when drove out of Hebron by Caleb, ( Joshua 15:13 Joshua 15:14 ) . Others say, it had its name from the palm trees, with which it abounded; and here, it seems, dwelt some of God's elect, who being made righteous, flourished like the palm trees;

and Cyprus and Antioch;
the former of these was an island, lying between the shores of Syria and Cilicia: it had Syria on the east, Pamphilia on the west, and Phoenice on the south, and Cilicia on the north; (See Gill on Acts 4:36) and the latter was a city of Syria, built by Seleucus, king of Egypt, and called Antiochia, after his father's name Antiochus. The account Josephus gives F26 of it is, that it is the metropolis of Syria, and that for its greatness, and other happy acquirements, it has, without doubt, the third place among the cities in the Roman empire; meaning, that it was the next to Rome and Alexandria: and elsewhere F1 he calls it the palace or royal seat of the Syrians; and the Jews, when they speak of a great city, and would describe one, instance in Antioch, a great city, say they F2, as Antioch; with them, it is the same as Hemath the great, spoken of in ( Amos 6:2 ) on which words Jerom has this note:

``Hemath the great is what is now called Antioch; and it is called the great, to distinguish it from the lesser Hemath, which is called Epiphania''

And so the Jerusalem Targum on ( Genesis 10:18 ) renders the Hamathite, "Antioch": and the Targum of Jonathan on ( Numbers 13:21 ) renders Hamath by "Antioch". Here many Jews dwelt, to whom the ministers of the word preached the Gospel only at first. Josephus F3 speaks of many in this place, and gives reasons for it:

``the nation of the Jews, he says, was much spread throughout the whole world, and great part of Syria, because near, was mixed with them, especially there were many in Antioch; partly because of the greatness of the city, and chiefly because of the liberty of dwelling there, granted them by the successors of Antiochus; for Antiochus, called Epiphanes, having wasted Jerusalem, robbed the temple; but those that reigned after him, whatsoever among the things devoted to sacred use were of brass, they returned to the Jews in Antioch, to be laid up in their synagogue; and they granted to them equally to partake of the city with the Greeks; and many of the Grecians they brought over to their religion, and made them, in some sort, a part of themselves.''

Here the Jews also had schools and taught: it is said F4 R. Samlai taught in Antioch; and here also was a sanhedrim. It is often said {e}, that Nebuchadnezzar came and sat down at Daphne of Antioch, and the great sanhedrim went out to meet him. Now Antioch was formerly called Epidaphne, because it was near a fountain of that name; and in the Targumists on ( Numbers 34:11 ) Daphne answers to Riblah, which was in the land of Hamath, ( 2 Kings 23:33 ) and Riblah, Jerom F6 says, is what is now called Antioch of Syria: and that you may know, says he, that Riblah signifies this city, which is now the most noble in Coele Syria, it follows, over against the fountain, (in Numbers it is, "on the east side of Ain",) which, it is clear, signifies Daphne, out of which fountain the above said city enjoys abundance of water. And so Josephus calls Antioch F7, Antiochia which is by Daphne of Syria; and in:

``Which when Onias knew of a surety, he reproved him, and withdrew himself into a sanctuary at Daphne, that lieth by Antiochia.'' (2 Maccabees 4:33)

Daphne is said to be by Antioch. Some make it to be two hundred and eighty miles from Jerusalem. So far they went who were scattered abroad at Stephen's death, and carried the Gospel to this and other places, in which there was a manifest appearance of divine Providence, and of rich grace.

Preaching the word to none but to the Jews only,
which dwelt in those parts; so little was the commission of Christ, to preach the Gospel to all nations, understood, though it was so plain; or so it was ordered in providence, that as it was to be first preached to them, so it should be only for a while, till the elect of God of that generation were brought in, and until the rest put it away from them, and so were left without excuse.


F24 L. 5. c. 12.
F25 Apud Euseb. Prepar. Evangel. l. 2. p. 39.
F26 De Bello Jud. l. 3. c. 2. sect. 4.
F1 Antiqu. l. 17. c. 5. sect. 7.
F2 T. Hieros. Erubin, fol. 22. 4.
F3 De Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 3. sect. 3.
F4 T. Hieros. Kiddushin, fol. 64. 4.
F5 T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 50. 2. Vajikra Rabba, sect. 19. fol. 161. 1. Prefat. Eccha Rabbati. fol. 41. 1.
F6 Comment. in Ezek. xlvii. fol. 261. C.
F7 Antiqu. l. 17. c. 2. sect. 3.

Acts 11:19 In-Context

17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.
21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.

Cross References 1

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