Acts 10:9

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Monday, 5 September 2022

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Acts 10:9

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary 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).

The previous verse noted that Cornelius sent his servants and one of his soldiers off to Joppa. With that noted, it now says, “The next day.” At this point, it may seem that these messengers actually started their journey the next day, but this is not likely.

They had immediately left the house of Cornelius, eventually stopped for the night, and are now continuing on the journey. Depending on where the starting and stopping points are in the cities, the journey is 35-40 miles, or even more. This would take 10-13 hours to walk at a normal pace. If they had donkeys, it could go a little quicker. If they had horses, they would have to tire them out to meet the time stated in this verse if it was on the same day of their departure. For now, it continues with, “as they went on their journey.”

The verb is a present participle, “as they are journeying on the way.” Luke is taking us through a methodical set of steps concerning what occurred to show us how the Lord perfectly timed everything that will transpire. In this journeying, it next says, “and drew near the city.”

It is another present participle, “and are approaching the city.” Again, Luke is drawing the reader directly into the events as they unfold. They have left Caesarea. They are journeying on the way. They are approaching the city. Now, at that same time as these things are coming to their conclusion, it says that “Peter went up on the housetop to pray.”

The timing of the two events coincides at this moment. The people who have been sent by Cornelius, because of the visitation of a messenger when he was seeing a vision, are coming near the city just as Peter is going up to the housetop to pray. The housetop was most likely unoccupied at this time. If it was a sunny day, the sun would be high. Unless there was a purpose in going up there, people would more likely remain in the shade.

But more to the point, the housetop was a place people would go for various reasons, including worship. This is seen, for example in these passages from the Old Testament –

“And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah shall be defiled like the place of Tophet, because of all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the host of heaven, and poured out drink offerings to other gods.” Jeremiah 19:13

“Those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops;
Those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord,
But who also swear by Milcom.” Zephaniah 1:5

Despite these people improperly worshiping the Lord or other gods, these verses show us that the housetops were used for “getting closer to God,” just as the people would go to the high places for worship throughout all of the Old Testament. The idea is that of being elevated and in the open so that God could supposedly be more accessible. With Peter now having gone to the housetop, Luke records that it is “about the sixth hour.”

This would be right at midday. This shows that the journey most probably began on the day before. Unless they got up extremely early in the morning when it was still pitch black, they could not have arrived this quickly at Joppa. Hence, they immediately left Caesarea, they traveled until evening, and then they resumed travel again the next day. This is all to be considered in how the events will come together at the same time.

Life application: Don’t be afraid to read various versions of the Bible. One can really miss out on the actual feeling of what is happening if the translators are wrong in their wording, choice of verbiage, the tense of verbs, and so on.

Luke is purposefully drawing his readers into the narrative, leading them as if they are following along as the events take place. Using the past tense in place of the present tense may still convey the same general idea, but it loses the flavor of what is presented. Being captivated by one version, especially when it is wrong in such ways, means you may miss out on the delight of the moment.

So, feel free to read several versions as in a parallel Bible. You are sure to get a fuller appreciation for what is said. If you have a real question that develops between the versions, then you can research more fully to find out what is nagging at you. Most Bibles convey the same overall thought, and so the passage is clearly understood, but the subtleties can make a difference in how you might enjoy what is being presented.

Heavenly Father, help us to be attentive to the little differences in translations of Your word. We might get a different sense from one than from another, even if they convey the same overall meaning. Help our study of Your word to be a delightful experience where we find real intimacy with You through Your wonderful word. Amen.