Acts 16:29

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Acts 16:29

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).

Note: The NKJV follows the six translational errors of the KJV for this verse and cannot be salvaged. A more precise reading would be – “And having called for lights, having rushed in, and having become terrified, having fallen down before Paul and Silas…” (CG).

The translation requires the words of the following verse to be fully appreciated. Together there is a constant stream of verbs, mostly participles, revealing one action following another.

Paul had just called out loudly to the jailor, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” With those words called out, the sequence of actions by the jailor commences, beginning with, “And having called for lights.”

The word is plural, phōta. The use of the singular by the KJV, which is followed by the NKJV, robs the intent of what is occurring. It is certain that the jailor carried in his own torch or other such source of light. However, as was seen in verse 27, it was insufficient to see anything other than the fact that the prison doors were open. Having seen this, he assumed that the prisoners had escaped.

Now, he calls for lights to be brought. Despite the prisoners having called out, he could not know if this was a trap. If he walked into the cell alone and with insufficient lighting, would he be overwhelmed? That would be contrary to the loud call made by Paul, but if they were still bound in their chains, his suicide outside of the cell would still leave them bound. But if they could get him into the cell, they would have a better chance of getting free by possibly 1) using keys if he had them, 2) using his sword to pry at the locks, or 3) using his life as leverage to get freedom.

Therefore, he cautiously called for lights. The meaning is that he would not only have sufficient lighting but also the guards who held the lights. Only then would it be safe to enter. With that, it next says, “having rushed in.”

The word translated as “rushed in” is eispédaó. It was seen in Acts 14:14 and it literally means “to leap in,” or “to spring in.” This shows that the jailor surely thought it was a trap. He rushed in expecting to be pounced upon by those inside the cell. But with the area now lit and seeing the prisoners all there, without any chains restricting them and yet having not attempted to escape, he was floored. As it next says, “and having become terrified.”

The obvious thought to be deduced from this is that the jailor had heard the conversation between Paul and Silas and probably with the other prisoners as well. This will become more evident when the words of the next verse are presented. But for now, this is a valid assumption.

The jailor had surely heard the words that Paul and Silas spoke concerning salvation, judgment, etc. He may not have paid much attention, but he was aware of the general sense of what they were saying. Now, realizing that these men’s words were backed up by their actions, he felt the weight of judgment having fallen upon him and it terrified him.

The jailor wasn’t terrified of the threat of being overwhelmed by prisoners any longer. Rather, he was terrified that his life had almost ended by his own hand, and he was not ready to meet his Maker on the terms determined by Him. Therefore, he was overwhelmed by the moment, terrified of looming judgment, and now hoping for mercy from the Creator. This begins to be seen in the next words, “having fallen down before Paul and Silas…”

The man who has custody of the prisoners assigned to him now places himself under them and into their care. He is about to place his request before them, hoping that they will have a suitable answer to the terrifying dilemma that is facing him, and which has been brought to light by the events that have just taken place.

Life application: The active nature of Luke’s writing brings the reader directly into what is occurring. Step by step, the thoughts are presented to have us carefully consider each event as it occurs before moving to the next one.

Likewise, a proper translation of the word “lights” rather than “light” makes an amazing difference in what one will perceive concerning what is happening. If Luke had said “light,” it would mean that the jailor stupidly walked into a darkened prison area without his own light. Calling for a light would mean he needed it to see anything at all.

But by calling for lights, it does not exclude him having already brought his own. He just needs more lights and more guards to prepare for whatever lies ahead. As noted above, the KJV and the later NKJV provide six errors in translation in this single verse. The NKJV also changed the translation of the KJV from “sprang in” to “ran in.” Both thoughts are acceptable, but “sprang in” is closer to the original than “ran in.” It was as if the guards leaped into the cell, ready to pounce on whoever was in there waiting to attack them.

All these nuances help us to rightly discern what is being said. Thus, our conclusions will be closer to what Luke truly intended to convey. There is a need in the human soul that cannot be fixed by us. Each of us is just one heartbeat away from having that need forever removed from us.

Be sure to get out and tell people what they need to know. From there, each person can then decide if what he or she has heard is acceptable to them. At least they will have this chance. But if we don’t speak, they may never have it. Go forth and speak!

Heavenly Father, how desperately we need to be reconciled to You! Thank You that You have sent Jesus to bring this about. May we not withhold the precious words of restoration from those we meet along life’s path. Help us to be faithful in this. Amen.