Fancy Gov’s meeting room. Texas Capitol.
Tuesday, 14 June 2022
But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, Acts 8:9
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 account has been focused on Philip and his preaching and signs. They brought great joy to the city. Now, the account brings in a new figure, saying, “But there was a certain man.” This is stated to reveal a contrast between Philip, and his work on behalf of the Lord, and this person and his work. This man is “called Simon.”
It is the same name as several others, including Simon Peter. The name means “Hearing,” or “He who hears.” A great deal has been written about who this may be in relation to extrabiblical history, but these commentaries are speculative. The person is described here in Acts and the account stands alone as sufficient to describe him and what occurs. Luke says he is a person “who previously practiced sorcery in the city.”
The verb is a present participle. It reads, “who had been formerly in the city practicing sorcery.” He went around doing it, probably as his profession or as a way of making money. The word translated as “sorcery” is found only here in the Bible, mageuó. It signifies to practice magic or sorcery. It is derived from magos (which we translate as Magi). It is for this reason that he is often called Simon Magus, or Simon the Magician.
He was probably comparable to someone who goes around today and does things that bewilder the senses of the people, like Houdini, David Copperfield, and the like. By using sleight of hand, or maybe by practicing black arts, he did such things “and astonished the people of Samaria.”
The Greek word translated as “astonished” is existémi. It signifies “to remove from a standing (fixed) position” or “put out of place” (HELPS Word Studies). As such, it is like saying, “He blew the people off their feet.” They were utterly amazed.
The KJV uses a most unfortunate “bewitched” here. This is not at all what is being said. There was no spell cast upon the people. Rather, they were simply astonished. The same word is used in 8:13 when referring to Simon being amazed at Philp’s miracles and signs, thus demonstrating a contrast between the two.
Again, it is a present participle. He was “amazing the people of Samaria.” As he went out and performed, the people would watch and be stupefied at the incredible things he was doing, just as would be the case with our current magicians.
They would be captivated by how things disappeared and then reappeared, how there might be a fire that wouldn’t burn, or how something might suddenly turn into a white dove. Whatever tricks he could flabbergast the people with, they would stand amazed. And more, because he could do these things, he was also “claiming that he was someone great.”
This is a natural attitude for people who can bewilder others. They get cocky and think more highly of themselves than they ought. These words, then, are set in contrast to the work of Philip and the others who exalt not themselves, but the greatness of Jesus Christ.
Life application: Regardless of the source of Simon’s magic, whether it was demonic or simply out of his own skills and cunning, it was intended for self-exaltation. He surely profited off of his skills and maybe in a great way. Successful magicians today can make millions of dollars. In the end, however, what they do has no lasting value.
There are people around the world living in very poor conditions and who are dependent on the goodness of others to simply pay their bills from month to month, but they are doing it as missionaries and teachers of the word and sharers of the good news about Jesus. What they are doing, if with the right intent, will someday be rewarded by the Lord.
Let us not squander our lives chasing the sensational and chasing after people like Simon Magus, but rather, let us remember to assist those who are doing what is truly of value. If those people will be rewarded for their efforts, then it logically follows that God will reward those who support them so that they can continue.
Remember to pray for your church’s missionaries and be sure to let them know that they are appreciated.
Lord God, today we lift up those who are out doing service for others in missionary work and in the work of evangelism. Be with them, bring comfort and happiness to their souls, and reveal to them things that will let them know their work is of value to those they minister to. Yes, Lord, be with these people of Yours. Amen.