Indian with peace pipe. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
Saturday, 27 August 2022
So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner. Acts 9:43
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).
This is now the last verse of Chapter 9. The previous verse noted the extent that the news of the miracle of raising Tabitha had traveled, saying that it had “gone throughout all Joppa.” With that, it now says, “So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa.”
The meaning of “many days” is impossible to determine. It could have been weeks, months, or even years. The same expression was seen in verse 9:23 and it was a period of around three years. It is simply an indeterminate amount of time that means Peter stayed and conducted his affairs.
During this time, one can imagine Peter evangelizing those who had not received Jesus, providing doctrine and actual accounts of the work of Jesus, and performing or assisting in baptisms of those who had come to faith in the Lord. These and other things would have eventually led to this location becoming a hub for the word to go out. It is at this location that Jonah attempted to escape from the Lord, and as ships came in and went out, there was always the chance of the word being conveyed to those who were on them. While there in Joppa, it says that Peter stayed “with Simon, a tanner.”
It is the same name as Peter, who is “Simon Peter.” The Greek word translated as tanner is burseus. It will be seen three times in Acts 9 and 10, all associated with this person. In Chapter 10, it will note that his house is “by the sea.” Having a tannery meant a lot of refuse that needed disposal. Being by a flowing river or the sea would be an ideal spot. Further, the salt water of the sea would assist in the treatment process.
As for the job itself, being a tanner, the man would carry around an odor with him. If the tanning was accomplished on site, the whole place would have a really bad stench tied to it. Records of the Jews show that it was considered a lowly, contemptible profession.
The job itself cannot be equated, as some scholars do, with a job that was impure according to the law. That would be dependent on the types of hides he tanned (e.g., see Leviticus 5:2), the way they were obtained, and so on. None of these things are mentioned, and so any such thought would have to be inferred. In the law, the use of hides is explicitly noted –
“And the priest who offers anyone’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has offered.” Leviticus 7:8
Further, the hides of animals were used in the construction of the Tabernacle of Meeting, and they are noted as coverings for people in the Bible, such as John being “clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (Matthew 3:4). These and other references show that being a tanner may have been a stinky, lowly profession, but it was not necessarily something that caused defilement. It was a part of the normal lives of people within the society.
The fact that Peter is with this person, however, does appear to bear on what will transpire in Acts 10. Peter was a Jew who was raised under the law. He saw the law completed in Christ, but he did not yet understand the full extent of what that meant or the scope of its effects. He understood that the legalistic and societal judgments of the Jews were obstacles to interpersonal relationships. He certainly remembered Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, and he was willing to live with a person who was considered contemptible to many. But that is only a step forward toward what he will next learn.
Life application: There are plenty of jobs people do that others might look down on. Treating wastewater might come to mind – “Eeeew, who would want to do that?” Cleaning public toilets would for sure be something many would not dare to do – “Yuuuuck, I’m glad I don’t have to do that!” Picking up trash and cigarette butts probably doesn’t seem too appealing to the folks who are coming into the local store to get their morning coffee – “Egad, I’m glad I’m not him. Off to the office, I go.”
Each of these jobs may seem rather unappealing, but someone must do them. One thing is for sure, if the wastewater doesn’t get properly treated in the nation for one week, the incidents of disease would begin to multiply and would quickly get out of hand. If the public bathrooms were never cleaned, people would be reticent to even go out, lest they had a need to use one! And if things weren’t picked up around the local shops and malls, they would quickly begin to look like third-world nations, or maybe San Francisco or some other liberal city. Rats would quickly move in, and from there disease could easily start to spread.
The people that do these things perform hugely important functions that others look down on with contempt. But without their efforts, society would quickly begin to collapse. When you drive down the road and smirk at the guy blowing off a parking lot, remember that your lawn also needs to be mowed and your drive needs to be blown off. Simon was a tanner and yet Peter stayed with him. Maybe you can spend some time with people you think you’re better than. You might find out that they are, in many ways, above you. A little humility in life goes a long way.
Lord God, there are innumerable jobs to keep a society going. Some don’t pay so well. Some are stinky or dirty. Some are hot and miserable to be accomplished. But each person that does his job is someone who was created in Your image. If he is a believer, then he is way ahead of the richest and most powerful person who has not come to Christ. Help us to make right judgments about the people we see and come into contact with each day. Yes, help us with this. Amen.