Acts 1:12

Matthias Is Chosen to Take the Place of Judas

12 The apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It is almost a mile from the city.

Acts 1:12 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 1:12

Then returned they unto Jerusalem
With great joy, after the angels had told them that he should come again in like manner:

from the mount called Olivet;
which was on the east side of Jerusalem, a mountain Christ much frequented, and from whence he ascended to heaven. This is the hill which in ( 1 Kings 11:7 ) is said to be "before Jerusalem"; and accordingly Jarchi interprets it of the Mount of Olives; and in ( Zechariah 14:4 ) it is expressly said to be "before Jerusalem on the east"; hence, when our Lord sat upon it, he is said to be over against the temple, ( Mark 13:3 ) . It has its name from the multitude of olive trees which grew upon it: it is by the Jewish writers sometimes called (Mytyzh rh) , "the Mount of Olives" F14, as in ( Zechariah 14:4 ) and sometimes (hxvmh rh) F15, and (axvm rwj) F16, "the Mount of Oil"; i.e. of olive oil, which was made out of the olives that grew upon it. It is said, that in an old edition of the Latin version of this text it is called "the Mountain of Three Lights"; and this reason is given for it, because on the west side it was enlightened in the night by the continual fire of the altar in the temple; and on the east side it had the first beams of the sun before the city was enlightened with them; and it produced plenty of olives, by which the light is maintained in the lamps. Josephus F17 relates, that in the earthquake in the times of Uzziah, half part of this mountain, which was to the west, was divided from it, and was rolled four furlongs to the eastern part of it, so that the ways and king's gardens were stopped up.

Which, is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey.
The Syriac version renders it, "about seven furlongs", or near a mile; though Josephus F18 writes, that the Mount of Olives was but five furlongs from Jerusalem: perhaps this may be a mistake in the present copies of Josephus, since Chrysostom on this place cites this passage of Josephus, and reads seven furlongs; which exactly agrees with the Syriac version. A sabbath day's journey, according to the Jews, was two thousand cubits from any city or town, and which they often called, (tbv Mwxt) , "the bound of the sabbath" F19; and which they collect partly from ( Numbers 35:4 Numbers 35:5 ) which they understand thus F20:

``a thousand cubits are the suburbs (of the city), and two thousand cubits the bounds of the sabbath.''

And these were so many middling paces; for so they say F21,

``a walk of two thousand middling paces, this is the bound of the sabbath.''

And that this was the proper space they also gather from ( Joshua 3:4 ) it being the distance between the ark and the people when they marched; and though this was not fixed by the law, yet being a tradition of the elders, was strictly observed by them: so when Ruth desired to become a proselytess, the Targumist on ( Ruth 1:16 ) introduces Naomi thus speaking to her;

``says Naomi, we are commanded to keep the sabbaths, and the good days, (or feasts,) and not to walk above "two thousand cubits";''

i.e. on those days; for to go further was reckoned a profanation of them: so it is said F23,

``the sabbath day is profaned with the hands by work, and with the feet by walking more than "two thousand cubits".''

Yea, this was punishable with beatings F24:

``a man might go on the sabbath without the city two thousand cubits on every side--but if he went beyond two thousand cubits, they beat him with the beating of rebels,''

or in the same manner a rebellious son was beaten. Nay, not only they might not go out of a city or town where they were, further than this, but from whatsoever place they happened to be, as appears by these following rules F25;

``if anyone falls asleep in the way (or on the road), and he does not know that it was dark (and so that the sabbath is begun), he has two thousand cubits (allowed him) on every side.--Whoever is on a journey, and it is dark, and he knows a tree, or a hedge, and says, let my sabbath (or sabbatical seat) be under it, he says nothing; but if he says, let my sabbath be at the root of it, then he may go from the place of his feet, and to the root of it, two thousand cubits, and from the root of it to his house two thousand cubits; by which means he may go four thousand cubits after it is dark. But if he does not know (any), and is not expert in walking, and says, let my sabbath be in my place, (i.e. in which he stands,) then from his place he has two thousand cubits on every side.''

Hence, in some copies it is here inserted, "such being the distance that the Jews could walk"; that is, were allowed to walk by their canons. They call two thousand cubits a mile F26; and if the Mount of Olives was seven furlongs from Jerusalem, it was pretty near a mile; but if but five furlongs, it was little more than half a mile: perhaps the true distance might be six furlongs, since Josephus says F1, the tenth legion was ordered to encamp six furlongs from Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives, which was over against the city to the east; agreeably to which Epiphanius F2, who had been a Jew, and was born in Palestine, says,

``it was not lawful to go on the sabbath day beyond six furlongs,''

which were three quarters of a mile.


F14 Prefat. Echa Rabbati, fol. 40. 4. Jarchi in 1 Kings xi. 7.
F15 Misn. Parah, c. 3. sect. 6. Echa Rabbati, fol. 52. 4. Misn. Roshhashanah, c. 2. sect. 4.
F16 Targum in Cant. viii. 5.
F17 Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 4.
F18 Antiqu. l. 20. c. 7. sect. 6.
F19 Midrash Kohelet, fol. 75. 2. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Sabbat, c. 27. & 28. & Origin. Philocal. p. 14.
F20 Misna Sota, c. 5. sect 3.
F21 T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 42. 1. Maimon. Hilch, Sabbat, c. 27, sect. 4.
F23 Zohar in Exod. fol. 27. 1. & 83. 2.
F24 Maimon. Hiichot Sabbat, c. 97. sect. 1, 2.
F25 Misna Erubin, c. 4. sect. 5, 7, 8.
F26 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 178. 4.
F1 De Bello Jud. l. 5. c. 2. sect. 3.
F2 Centra Haeres. l. 2. Haeres. 66.

Acts 1:12 In-Context

10 While he was going up, they kept on looking at the sky. Suddenly two men dressed in white clothing stood beside them.
11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. But he will come back in the same way you saw him go."
12 The apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It is almost a mile from the city.
13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Peter, John, James and Andrew were there. Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew were there too. So were James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James.
14 They all came together regularly to pray. The women joined them too. So did Jesus' mother Mary and his brothers.
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