Friday, 26 May 2023
But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. Acts 17:5
The verbs of the NKJV just don’t get it. A closer rendering is, “But the unbelieving Jews, having become envious, and having taken to them certain evil men of the market-loungers, and having gathered a crowd, were setting the city in uproar. And having assailed the house of Jason, they were seeking them to bring out to the people” (CG).
The previous verse noted that some of the people were persuaded to believe based on Paul’s reasoning from Scripture, including a great multitude of the Greeks and not a few of the leading women. With that, there would instantly be a church of no small size formed in the city. This would obviously steal attention away from the synagogue. As this is so, the same thing that has happened to Paul previously comes about once again, saying, “But the unbelieving Jews, having become envious.”
Paul had reasoned with the Jews from Scripture. They refused to believe the words of their own writings as they pointed to Jesus. But with so many believing, the congregation of the synagogue would suddenly be significantly reduced. This would obviously mean less attention for them, less revenue coming in, etc. That immediately elicited feelings of jealousy. Because of that, they schemed against Paul and Silas. As it says, “and having taken to them certain evil men of the market-loungers.”
The word translated as market-loungers, agoraios, is found only here and in Acts 19:38. It is derived from agora, the market which is the central hub of the city. Thus, it signifies “relating to the marketplace.” As these are defined as evil men, it is assumed that it means they hung around the market where the magistrates were and sought to stir things up, looking for whatever opportunity they had to do so. One can think of a gaggle of lawyers that hangs around the courthouse today. With such a vulgar bunch now aligned with them, the words continue with, “and having gathered a crowd.”
This is a word found only once in Scripture, ochlopoieó. It is derived from two words signifying crowd and to make. Thus, it gives the sense of raising a public disturbance. With this accomplished, it goes on to say they “were setting the city in uproar.”
With probably no care at all about the cause of the Jew’s discontentment, nor any clue about those they were riling the masses up against, they just went forth agitating the people into a frenzy. Once such an event begins, it will usually take on its own legs and mind. This was the hope of the Jews who had been deprived of their usual Saturday crowds. Next, it says, “And having assailed the house of Jason.”
Paul’s connection to Jason (Greek: Iasón) is seen in verse 17:7. From that verse, it appears that this is where Paul and Silas stayed while in the city. It may be that this is the same Jason as is found in Romans 16:21, where Paul calls him one of “my countrymen.” However, the name was not an uncommon one. It belonged to the hero of the Argonauts of Greek legend. It was also the name of a noted tyrant and of an apostate high priest of Israel seen in the book of 2 Maccabees.
James Strong places his name as coming from the word iaomai, to heal, saying it means “about to cure.” Because of its similarity to the Greek spelling of the name Joshua or Jesus, it may have been adopted by Jews of that name as a Greek equivalent. Of this person, along with Paul and Silas, it says, “they were seeking them to bring out to the people.”
They were probably thinking on just the same lines as those in Philippi. “Let’s get them out into the public while the mob is stirred up and they will get a beating, maybe imprisoned, and maybe even kicked out of the city.”
Life application: This same type of treatment was seen on Paul’s first missionary journey. It was also just seen in Philippi. The Bible is carefully demonstrating the continued theme that the Jews in general were in the process of rejecting their Messiah. This was the case in the land of Israel, and it is continuing throughout Acts.
As such, we are being shown the reason that the Gentiles became the predominant force in furthering the gospel. The rejection of the gospel by Israel did not mean the end of the faith. It meant a new direction was taking place. God didn’t send His Son into the world just to have that marvelous news die off.
But more than this, it isn’t that the main focus of the gospel went to the East or to the South where those who descended from Ham settled. Rather, it has been carefully directed to the area where the sons of Japheth settled. It is from this line of the sons of Noah that the gospel would most completely be accepted and transmitted to the world.
These things do not mean, nor should it be inferred, that the Jews are not welcome to share in the gospel, nor does it mean that the others of the lines of Shem or Ham are not welcome into the church as believers. Rather, it only means that the sons of Japheth are the line by which the most effective acceptance, understanding, and transmission of the gospel would take place.
Further, this also does not mean that the Jewish people have been replaced by the church. Rather, the prophecy of Noah found in the blessing of his sons in Genesis 9 only implies that the Gentiles of Japheth would carry the spiritual banner for a certain amount of time. Eventually, that will revert to the line of Shem, meaning the nation of Israel. Their unfaithfulness to the Lord does not negate His faithfulness to the covenant that He made with them.
God is using the most opportune avenue of sending forth the gospel during this dispensation. He has directed it accordingly, and all who hear the message and believe will be saved. Someday, the church will be taken out at the rapture. At that time, the banner will return to the line of Shem and the care of the Jewish people.
Lord God, Your wisdom is beyond our ability to grasp. But You have given us clues of what You are doing and how You are doing it right in Your word. We are in awe of how You have laid out the world and the ages, bringing all things together to form a body of people for Your own. Thank You for allowing us to be a part of that. Help us to continue to share this message while we can. Amen.
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