Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Acts 9:5

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? - The word “Lord” here, as is frequently the case in the New Testament, means no more than “sir,” John 4:19. It is evident that Saul did not as yet know that this was the Lord Jesus. He heard a voice as of a man; he heard himself addressed, but by whom the words were spoken was to him unknown. In his amazement and confusion, he naturally asked who it was that was thus addressing him.

And the Lord said - In this place the word “Lord” is used in a higher sense, to denote “the Saviour.” It is his usual appellation. See the notes on Acts 1:24.

I am Jesus - It is clear, from this, that there was a personal appearance of the Saviour; that he was present to Saul; but in what particular form - whether seen as a man, or only appearing by the manifestation of his glory, is not affirmed. Though it was a personal appearance, however, of the Lord Jesus, designed to take the work of converting such a persecutor into his own hands, yet he designed to convert him in a natural way. He arrested his attention; he filled him with alarm at his guilt; and then he presented the truth respecting himself. In Acts 22:8, the expression is thus recorded: “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” etc. There is no contradiction, as Luke here records only a part of what was said; Paul afterward stated the whole. This declaration was suited especially to humble and mortify Saul. There can be no doubt that he had often blasphemed his name, and profanely derided the notion that the Messiah could come out of Nazareth. Jesus here uses, however, that very designation. “I am Jesus the Nazarene, the object of your contempt and scorn.” Yet Saul saw him now invested with special glory.

It is hard … - This is evidently a proverbial expression. Kuinoel has quoted numerous places in which a similar mode of expression occurs in Greek writers. Thus, Euripides, Bacch., 791, “I, who am a frail mortal, should rather sacrifice to him who is a god, than, by giving place to anger, kick against the goads.” So Pindar, Pyth., 2:173, “It is profitable to bear willingly the assumed yoke. To kick against the goad is pernicious conduct.” So Terence, Phome., 1,2,27, “It is foolishness for thee to kick against a goad.” Ovid has the same idea, Tristam, ii. 15. The word translated “pricks” here κέντρον kentronmeans properly “any sharp point which will pierce or perforate,” as the sting of a bee, etc. But it commonly means an ox-goad, a sharp piece of iron stuck into the end of a stick, with which the ox is urged on. These goads among the Hebrews were made very large. Thus, Shamgar killed 600 men with one of them, Judges 3:31. Compare 1 Samuel 13:21. The expression “to kick against the prick” is derived from the action of a stubborn and unyielding ox kicking against the goad. And as the ox would injure no one by it but himself; as he would gain nothing, it comes to denote “an obstinate and refractory disposition and course of conduct, resisting the authority of him who has a right to command, and opposing the leadings of Providence, to the injury of him who makes the resistance.” It denotes “rebellion against lawful authority, and thus getting into greater difficulty by attempting to oppose the commands to duty.” This is the condition of every sinner. If people wish to be happy, they should cheerfully submit to the authority of God. They should not rebel against his dealings. They should not complain against their Creator. They should not resist the claims of their consciences. By all this they only injure themselves. No man can resist God or his own conscience and be happy. People evince this temper in the following ways:

(1) By violating plain laws of God.

(2) by attempting to resist his claims.

(3) by refusing to do what their conscience requires.

(4) by attempting to free themselves from serious impressions and alarms.

(5) by pursuing a course of vice and wickedness against what they know to be right.

(6) by refusing to submit to the dealings of Providence. And,

(7) In any way by opposing God, and refusing to submit to his authority, and to do what is right.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
So ill informed was Saul, that he thought he ought to do all he could against the name of Christ, and that he did God service thereby; he seemed to breathe in this as in his element. Let us not despair of renewing grace for the conversion of the greatest sinners, nor let such despair of the pardoning mercy of God for the greatest sin. It is a signal token of Divine favour, if God, by the inward working of his grace, or the outward events of his providence, stops us from prosecuting or executing sinful purposes. Saul saw that Just One, ch. 22:14; 26:13. How near to us is the unseen world! It is but for God to draw aside the veil, and objects are presented to the view, compared with which, whatever is most admired on earth is mean and contemptible. Saul submitted without reserve, desirous to know what the Lord Jesus would have him to do. Christ's discoveries of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low, in mean thoughts of themselves. For three days Saul took no food, and it pleased God to leave him for that time without relief. His sins were now set in order before him; he was in the dark concerning his own spiritual state, and wounded in spirit for sin. When a sinner is brought to a proper sense of his own state and conduct, he will cast himself wholly on the mercy of the Saviour, asking what he would have him to do. God will direct the humbled sinner, and though he does not often bring transgressors to joy and peace in believing, without sorrows and distress of conscience, under which the soul is deeply engaged as to eternal things, yet happy are those who sow in tears, for they shall reap in joy.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Who art thou, Lord? - Τις ει, Κυριε ; Who art thou, Sir? He had no knowledge who it was that addressed him, and would only use the term Κυριε, as any Roman or Greek would, merely as a term of civil respect.

I am Jesus whom thou persecutest - "Thy enmity is against me and my religion; and the injuries which thou dost to my followers I consider as done to myself." The following words, making twenty in the original, and thirty in our version, are found in no Greek MS. The words are, It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks: and he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? and the Lord said unto him. It is not very easy to account for such a large addition, which is not only not found in any Greek MS. yet discovered, but is wanting in the Itala, Erpen's Arabic, the Syriac, Coptic, Sahidic, and most of the Slavonian. It is found in the Vulgate, one of the Arabic, the Ethiopic, and Armenian; and was probably borrowed from Acts 26:14, and some marginal notes. It is wanting also in the Complutensian edition, and in that of Bengel. Griesbach also leaves it out of the text.

It is hard for thee, etc. - Σκληρον σοι προς κεντρα λακτιζειν . This is a proverbial expression, which exists, not only in substance, but even in so many words, both in the Greek and Latin writers. Κεντρον, kentron, signifies an ox goad, a piece of pointed iron stuck in the end of a stick, with which the ox is urged on when drawing the plough. The origin of the proverb seems to have been this: sometimes it happens that a restive or stubborn ox kicks back against the goad, and thus wounds himself more deeply: hence it has become a proverb to signify the fruitlessness and absurdity of rebelling against lawful authority, and the getting into greater difficulties by endeavoring to avoid trifling sufferings. So the proverb, Incidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdim. Out of the cauldron into the fire. "Out of bad into worse." The saying exists, almost in the apostolic form, in the following writers. Euripides, in Bacch. ver. 793: -

Θυοιμ 'αν αυτῳ μαλλον, η θυμουμενοςπ

Προς κεντρα λακτιζοιμι, θνητος ων, Θεῳ .

"I, who am a frail mortal, should rather sacrifice to him who is a God, than, by giving place to anger, kick against the goads."

And Aeschylus, in Agamemnon, ver. 1633: -

Προς κεντρα μη λακτιζε .

Kick not against the goads.

And again in Prometh. Vinct. ver. 323: -

Προς κεντρα κωλον εκτενεις, ὁρων ὁτιπ

Τραχυς μοναρχος ουδ 'ὑπευθυνος κρατει .

"Thou stretchest out thy foot against goads, seeing the fierce monarch governs according to his own will."

Resistance is of no use: the more thou dost rebel, the more keenly thou shalt suffer. See the Scholiast here.

Pindar has a similar expression, Pyth. ii. ver. 171-5: -

Φερειν δ 'ελαφρως<-144 Επαυχενιον λαβονταΖυγον γ 'αρηγει. Ποτι κεντρον δε τοιΛακτιζεμεν, τελεθειΟλισθηρος οιμος .

"It is profitable to bear willingly the assumed yoke.

To kick against the goad is pernicious conduct."

Where see the Scholiast, who shows that "it is ridiculous for a man to fight with fortune: for if the unruly ox, from whom the metaphor is taken, kick against the goad, he shall suffer still more grievously." Terence uses the same figure. Phorm. Act i. scen. 2, ver. 27: -

Venere in mentem mihi istaec: nam inscitia est,

Adversum stimulum calces. - "

These things have come to my recollection, for it is foolishness for thee to kick against a goad."

Ovid has the same idea in other words, Trist. lib. ii. ver. 15: -

At nunc (tanta meo comes est insania morbo)

Saxa malum refero rursus ad icta pedem.

Scilicet et victus repetit gladiator arenam;

Et redit in tumidas naufraga puppis aquas.

But madly now I wound myself alone,

Dashing my injured foot against the stone:

So to the wide arena, wild with pain,

The vanquish'd gladiator hastes again;

So the poor shatter'd bark the tempest braves,

Launching once more into the swelling waves.

Intelligent men, in all countries and in all ages of the world, have seen and acknowledged the folly and wickedness of fighting against God; of murmuring at the dispensations of his providence; of being impatient under affliction; and of opposing the purposes of his justice and mercy. The words contain a universal lesson, and teach us patience under affliction, and subjection to the sovereign will of God; and they especially show the desperate wickedness of endeavoring, by persecution, to hinder the dissemination of the truth of God in the earth. He that kicks against this goad does it at the risk of his final salvation. The fable of the viper and the file is another illustration of this proverb: it gnawed and licked the file, till it destroyed its teeth and wasted away its tongue. The maxim in the proverb should be early inculcated on the minds of children and scholars; when chastised for their faults, resistance and stubbornness produce increased coercion and chastisement. And let parents and masters learn that the oft-repeated use of the goad and ferula seldom tend to reclaim, but beget obduracy and desperation. The advice of Columella to the ploughman, having some relation to the proverb in the text, and a strong bearing on this latter part of the subject, is worthy of the most serious regard: "Voce potius quam verberibus terreat: ultimaque sint opus recusantibus remedia plagae. Nunquam stimulo lacessat juvencum, quod retrectantem calcitrosumque eum reddit: nonnunquam tamen admoneat flagello." Columella, De Re Rustica, lib. ii. cap. 2, in fine. "Let the husbandman intimidate his oxen more by his voice than by blows, to which he should never have recourse but in extreme cases. A young steer should never be goaded, for this will induce him to kick and run back; but on proper occasions the whip, as an incentive to activity, may be profitably used." In reference to the same subject, which all concerned should feel to be of the greatest importance I shall close with the advice of one greater than the Roman agriculturist: Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged, Colossians 3:21; but bring them up (εν παιδειᾳ και νουθεσιᾳ Κυριου ) in the discipline and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4, using the authority that God has given you with a steady hand, actuated by a tender and feeling heart.

Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 626

I appeal to the youth at ----- to consider their ways and change their course of action before it shall be too late. Some of you pride yourselves on your capabilities; but the more valuable the talents entrusted to your keeping, the greater will be your condemnation if these gifts of heaven are employed in the service of Satan. God can do without you, but you cannot do without God. It is you who will suffer without Jesus. The commands of God are as briers and thorns to some of the youth in -----. Their knowledge of the truth makes it hard for them to indulge in sinful pleasures, for they cannot altogether put out of the mind the claims of God upon them. There is a feeling of impatience at the restraint which is thus imposed. They try to get away from this admonitory voice; but they find themselves kicking against the pricks, piercing themselves through with many sorrows. Oh, that they would come to the Fountain of living waters before they shall have grieved away the Spirit of God for the last time! 4T 626.1

A few words more to the church members. Said Christ: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” We are not to make crosses for ourselves, by wearing sackcloth, by pinching our bodies, or by denying ourselves wholesome, nourishing food. We are not to shut ourselves in monasteries, away from the world, and do no good to our fellow beings, thinking this is the cross of Christ; neither are we required to expose health and life unnecessarily, nor to go mourning up the hill of Christian life, feeling it a sin to be cheerful, contented, happy, and joyful. These are all self-made crosses, but not the cross of Christ. 4T 626.2

To bear the cross of Christ is to control our sinful passions, to practice Christian courtesy even when it is inconvenient to do so, to see the wants of the needy and distressed and deny ourselves in order to relieve them, and to open our hearts and our doors to the homeless orphan, although to do this may tax our means and our patience. Such children are younger members of God's family and are to receive love and care, and to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This is a cross which, if lifted and cheerfully borne for Christ, will prove a diadem of glory in the kingdom of God. 4T 627.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 110

Brother V, I was shown that you had a proud heart, and when you thought your writings were slighted at the Review office, your pride was touched, and you commenced a warfare which has been like Saul's kicking against the pricks. You have joined hands with those who turn the truth of God into a lie. You have strengthened the hands of sinners and opposed the counsel of God against your own soul. You have been warring against that of which you had no knowledge. You have not known what work you were doing. I saw your wife wrestling with God in prayer, her faith firmly grasping you and at the same time fixed upon the throne, pleading the never-failing promises of God. Her heart has ached as she has seen you persisting in your warfare against the truth. I was shown that you were doing this ignorantly, blinded by Satan. While engaged in this warfare you were not increasing in spirituality and devotion to God. You had not the witness that your ways pleased God. You had a zeal, but not according to knowledge. You had no experience in my calling, had scarcely seen me, and had no knowledge of my work. 2T 110.1

Brother V, you possess qualifications which would make you of special service in the church at -----, or in any other church, were your talents devoted to the upbuilding of the cause of God. I saw that your children were now in a state to be impressed with the truth, and Jesus was pleading for you, Brother V: “Spare him a little longer.” I was shown that if you were converted to the truth, you would make a pillar in the church, and could honor God by your influence, sanctified through the truth. 2T 110.2

I saw angels of mercy hovering about Brother V. I was shown that he was greatly deceived in the moral worth and standing before God of that class who have withdrawn from the body. A few honest ones are among them; these will be rescued; but the most of them have long been unconsecrated in heart, and the close testimonies have been in their way, a yoke of bondage to them. They have thrown off the yoke and retained their corrupt ways. God calls upon you to separate from them. Cut loose from these whose delight it is to war against the truth of God. A little from this, true character will be developed. They are of that class who love and make a lie. 2T 111.1

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Ellen G. White
The Acts of the Apostles, 112-23

This chapter is based on Acts 9:1-18.

Prominent among the Jewish leaders who became thoroughly aroused by the success attending the proclamation of the gospel, was Saul of Tarsus. A Roman citizen by birth, Saul was nevertheless a Jew by descent and had been educated in Jerusalem by the most eminent of the rabbis. “Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,” Saul was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:5, 6. He was regarded by the rabbis as a young man of great promise, and high hopes were cherished concerning him as an able and zealous defender of the ancient faith. His elevation to membership in the Sanhedrin council placed him in a position of power. AA 112.1

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 314

In the vision that came to Isaiah in the temple court, he was given a clear view of the character of the God of Israel. “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy,” had appeared before him in great majesty; yet the prophet was made to understand the compassionate nature of his Lord. He who dwells “in the high and holy place” dwells “with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15. The angel commissioned to touch Isaiah's lips had brought to him the message, “Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah 6:7. PK 314.1

In beholding his God, the prophet, like Saul of Tarsus at the gate of Damascus, had not only been given a view of his own unworthiness; there had come to his humbled heart the assurance of forgiveness, full and free; and he had arisen a changed man. He had seen his Lord. He had caught a glimpse of the loveliness of the divine character. He could testify of the transformation wrought through beholding Infinite Love. Henceforth he was inspired with longing desire to see erring Israel set free from the burden and penalty of sin. “Why should ye be stricken any more?” the prophet inquired. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well.” Isaiah 1:5, 18, 16, 17. PK 314.2

The God whom they had been claiming to serve, but whose character they had misunderstood, was set before them as the great Healer of spiritual disease. What though the whole head was sick and the whole heart faint? what though from the sole of the foot even unto the crown of the head there was no soundness, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores? See Isaiah 1:6. He who had been walking frowardly in the way of his heart might find healing by turning to the Lord. “I have seen his ways,” the Lord declared, “and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him.... Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.” Isaiah 57:18, 19. PK 315.1

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