Acts 1:23

Monday, 18 October 2021

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Acts 1:23

Note: You can listen to today’s introduction courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

Peter has proposed the selection of another apostle to replace Judas. This is in accord with the Scriptures he cited, and therefore it is an appropriate step to take. Before proceeding to the verse, it should be noted that many take this decision by Peter and the others as an aberration. If a twelfth is now selected, then it – presumably – makes the selection of Paul problematic. How can he be chosen as an apostle and yet there be twelve apostles?

The reasoning is that there were twelve sons of Israel. To maintain the pattern, there should then only be twelve apostles. The thinking is flawed. The twelve sons of Israel as recorded in Genesis are at first twelve –

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin.

However, in Genesis 48, the following is recorded –

“Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, ‘Indeed your father is sick’; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And Jacob was told, ‘Look, your son Joseph is coming to you’; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph: ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession.” And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” Genesis 48:1-5

Thus, the sons of Israel are fourteen –

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin, Manasseh, and Ephraim.

Throughout the rest of Scripture, even in the New Testament, various listings of the sons of Israel are given based on the number twelve. At times, one name or another is given in replacement of another name, but the list is given as twelve.

Of the apostles, Luke lists twelve –

“Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.” Luke 6:14-16

With the selection of another apostle now in Acts 1, and with the designation of another apostle – Paul – beginning in Acts 9, the number is fourteen –

Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John; Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas the son of James, Judas Iscariot, Matthias, and Paul.

With this pattern set forth and understood, there is no reason to assume that the selection of Matthias (as will occur in verse 1:26) is inappropriate. Judas, being dead, does not discount that he was a named apostle. Nor does the adoption of Manasseh and Ephraim mean that these two sons are not “sons of Israel.” The pattern is set forth for us to learn from.

Having said that, the verse set before us begins with, “And they proposed two.” Of those who had been with Jesus “from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up” (Acts 1:22), two qualified men have been identified. The first is “Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus.”

The name “Joseph” essentially means, “He shall add,” coming from the Hebrew verb yasaph, “to add.” However, it is also connected to the word asaph, “to take away.” Therefore, the name is actually a double entendre.

The name Barsabas (Barsabbas) is probably a patronymic. The word bar is Aramaic, meaning “son.” Thus, he is “Son of Sabas.” The Greek Sabas is derived from one of various Hebrew words, depending on which transliteration is accepted. The name could mean Son of the Host, Son of the Imbiber, Son of Pleasure, Son of an Oath, or something similar. If the name is not a patronymic, the term “son of” may be relating to his character. This is common in the Bible. A person is known as a “Son of XXX” because his character exemplifies that quality. Thus, the term “Son of Sabas” designates either his father, or his personal character.

Finally, Justus is a name of Latin origin meaning “just.” It was not uncommon for people to have both a Hebrew name and a Latin or Greek name at this time. It was also common to be called “Son of XXX,” as well. Hence, he was known by any of these names.

The second nominee is “Matthias.” This is believed to be a shortened form of the name Mattathias. If so, it is a transliteration from the Hebrew name Mattithyah (or Mattithyahu). The Hebrew word mattah signifies a gift or reward. The Hebrew Yah is an abbreviation for Yehovah. Thus, the name means “Gift of Yah (Yehovah).”

Life application: Peter quoted Scripture to demonstrate that God’s plans were not upset by the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, but that this was in accord with what God knew would occur. He again cited Scripture to demonstrate that another person should replace him.

Peter’s thinking was not in error. It was in accord with what was set forth in the word. The selection of the two men was in accord with what was just and right concerning the knowledge of Jesus’ ministry.

In other words, the events in Acts 1 concerning the replacement of Judas are not an error as many claim. Instead, they are a part of what occurred. They are documented by Luke to show that this was what was decided, and in the conduct of this selection – and the later selection of Paul – a set pattern is brought forth that matches what occurred already in the Old Testament in relation to the sons of Israel.

As such, EW Bullinger defines the number fourteen as

“…being a multiple of seven, partakes of its significance; and, being double that number, implies a double measure of spiritual perfection.

“The number two with which it is combined (2×7) may, however, bring its own significance into its meaning, as in Matthew 1, where the genealogy of Jesus Christ is divided up and given in sets of 14 (2×7) generations, two being the number associated with incarnation.”

Be sure to carefully read the word, think on what is occurring as you do, and then continue to meditate on the word as you conduct your other affairs. The word is active and alive, and it will reward those who diligently ponder its truths, patterns, structure, and so on.

Glorious Heavenly Father, what a treasure Your word is. Thank You for the richness it contains. We have one life to live before we stand before You. Help us not to squander it on that which is temporary and futile, but to direct our hearts, minds, thoughts, and actions to a study and contemplation of Your precious word. To Your glory! Amen!