Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 13:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Saul, who also is - Paul - This is the first time the name Paul occurs, and the last time in which this apostle is called Saul, as his common or general name.

Saul, שאול Shaul, was the name of the first Israelitish king, and signifies asked, sought; from שאל shaal, he asked, inquired, etc.

Paul, Paulus, if derived from the Latin, signifies little, dwarfish: but if from the Hebrew, פלא pala, it signifies extraordinary, wonderful; and this appears to have been the derivation assigned to it by St. Jerome, com. in Ep. Pauli ad Philem., who translates it mirabilis, wonderful, and Hesychius must have had the same in view, for he defines it thus, Παυλος, θαυμαϚος, η εκλεκτος, συμβουλος, Paul, wonderful, or elect, counsellor. The lexicographer had probably here in view, Isaiah 9:6; : his name shall be called (יועיץ פלא pelé yoêts ) wonderful, counsellor; which he might corrupt into paulus, and thus make his θαυμαϚος συμβουλος out of it by way of explanation. Triller, however, supposes the συμβουλος of Hesychius to be corrupted from συνδουλος fellow servant, which is a term not unfrequently applied to apostles, etc., in the New Testament, who are called the servants of God; and it is used by Paul himself, Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:7. The Latin original is the most probable. It is well known that the Jews in the apostolic age had frequently two names, one Hebrew, the other Greek or Roman. Saul was born of Jewish parents, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; he had therefore his first name from that language, שאול Shaul, asked or begged; as it is possible he might have been a child for whom his parents had addressed their fervent petitions to God. The case of Samuel is one in point. See 1 Samuel 1:9-18. As he was born in Tarsus, in Cilicia, he was consequently born a free Roman citizen; and hence his parents would naturally give him, for cognomen, some name borrowed from the Latin tongue, and Paulus, which signifies little, might indicate that he was at his birth a small or diminutive child. And it is very likely that he was low in stature all his days; and that it is to this he refers himself, 2 Corinthians 10:10, for his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible. If he were small in stature, his voice would be naturally low and feeble; and the Greeks, who were fond of a thundering eloquence, would despise him on this very account.

Filled with the Holy Ghost - Therefore the sentence he pronounced was not from himself, but from God. And indeed, had he not been under a Divine influence, it is not likely he would have ventured thus to accost this sorcerer in the presence of the governor, who, no doubt, had greatly admired him.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Saul, (who is also called Paul) - This is the last time that this apostle is called “Saul.” Henceforward, he is designated by the title by which he is usually known, as “Paul.” When, or why, this change occurred in the name, has been a subject on which commentators are not agreed. From the fact that the change in the name is here first intimated, it would seem probable that it was first used in relation to him at this time. By whom the name was given him whether he assumed it himself, or whether it was first given him by Christians or by Romans - is not intimated. The name is of Roman origin. In the Latin language the name Paulussignifies little, dwarfish; and some have conjectured that it was given by his parents to denote that he was small when born; others, that it was assumed or conferred in subsequent years because he was little in stature. The name is not of the same signification as the name Saul. This signifies one that is asked, or desired. After all the conjectures on this subject, it is probable:

(1) That this name was first used here; for before this, even after his conversion, he is uniformly called Saul.

(2) that it was given by the Romans, as being a name with which they were more familiar, and one that was more consonant with their language and pronunciation. It was made by the change of a single letter; and probably because the name Paul was common among them, and pronounced, perhaps, with greater facility.

(3) Paul suffered himself to be called by this name, as he was employed chiefly among the Gentiles. It was common for names to undergo changes quite as great as this, without our being able to specify any particular cause, in passing from one language to another. Thus, the Hebrew name Jochanan among the Greeks and Latins was Johannes, with the French it is Jean, with the Dutch Hans, and with us John (Doddridge). Thus, Onias becomes Menelaus; Hillel, Pollio; Jakim, Alcimus; Silas, Silvanus, etc. (Grotius).

Filled with the Holy Ghost - Inspired to detect his sin; to denounce divine judgment; and to inflict punishment on him. See the notes on Acts 2:4.

Set his eyes on him - Looked at him intently.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Satan is in a special manner busy with great men and men in power, to keep them from being religious, for their example will influence many. Saul is here for the first time called Paul, and never after Saul. Saul was his name as he was a Hebrew; Paul was his name as he was a citizen of Rome. Under the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, he gave Elymas his true character, but not in passion. A fulness of deceit and mischief together, make a man indeed a child of the devil. And those who are enemies to the doctrine of Jesus, are enemies to all righteousness; for in it all righteousness is fulfilled. The ways of the Lord Jesus are the only right ways to heaven and happiness. There are many who not only wander from these ways themselves, but set others against these ways. They commonly are so hardened, that they will not cease to do evil. The proconsul was astonished at the force of the doctrine upon his own heart and conscience, and at the power of God by which it was confirmed. The doctrine of Christ astonishes; and the more we know of it, the more reason we shall see to wonder at it. Those who put their hand to the plough and look back, are not fit for the kingdom of God. Those who are not prepared to face opposition, and to endure hardship, are not fitted for the work of the ministry.
Ellen G. White
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 129-30

Jesus here refers to a class who have no desire to escape from the slavery of sin. By indulgence in the corrupt and vile their natures have become so degraded that they cling to the evil and will not be separated from it. The servants of Christ should not allow themselves to be hindered by those who would make the gospel only a matter of contention and ridicule. MB 129.1

But the Saviour never passed by one soul, however sunken in sin, who was willing to receive the precious truths of heaven. To publicans and harlots His words were the beginning of a new life. Mary Magdalene, out of whom He cast seven devils, was the last at the Saviour's tomb and the first whom He greeted in the morning of His resurrection. It was Saul of Tarsus, one of the most determined enemies of the gospel, who became Paul the devoted minister of Christ. Beneath an appearance of hatred and contempt, even beneath crime and degradation, may be hidden a soul that the grace of Christ will rescue to shine as a jewel in the Redeemer's crown. MB 129.2

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 166-9

This chapter is based on Acts 13:4-52.

“Sent forth by the Holy Ghost,” Paul and Barnabas, after their ordination by the brethren in Antioch, “departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” Thus the apostles began their first missionary journey. AA 166.1

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 516

Those possessed with devils are usually represented as being in a condition of great suffering; yet there were exceptions to this rule. For the sake of obtaining supernatural power, some welcomed the satanic influence. These of course had no conflict with the demons. Of this class were those who possessed the spirit of divination,—Simon Magus, Elymas the sorcerer, and the damsel who followed Paul and Silas at Philippi. GC 516.1

None are in greater danger from the influence of evil spirits than those who, notwithstanding the direct and ample testimony of the Scriptures, deny the existence and agency of the devil and his angels. So long as we are ignorant of their wiles, they have almost inconceivable advantage; many give heed to their suggestions while they suppose themselves to be following the dictates of their own wisdom. This is why, as we approach the close of time, when Satan is to work with greatest power to deceive and destroy, he spreads everywhere the belief that he does not exist. It is his policy to conceal himself and his manner of working. GC 516.2

There is nothing that the great deceiver fears so much as that we shall become acquainted with his devices. The better to disguise his real character and purposes, he has caused himself to be so represented as to excite no stronger emotion than ridicule or contempt. He is well pleased to be painted as a ludicrous or loathsome object, misshapen, half animal and half human. He is pleased to hear his name used in sport and mockery by those who think themselves intelligent and well informed. GC 516.3

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Paul's Journeys
The First Missionary Journey of Paul