on Acts 13 :20
And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years - This is a most difficult passage, and has been termed by Scaliger, Crux Chronologorum. The apostle seems here to contradict the account in 1 Kings 6:1 : And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign, he began to build the house of the Lord.
Sir Norton Knatchbull, in his annotations upon difficult texts, has considered the various solutions proposed by learned men of the difficulty before us; and concludes that the words of the apostle should not be understood as meaning how long God gave them judges, but when he gave them; and therefore proposes that the first words of this verse, Και μετα ταυτα, ὡς ετεσι τετρακοσιοις και πεντηκοντα, should be referred to the words going before, Acts 13:17, that is, to the time When the God of the children of Israel chose their fathers.
"Now this time wherein God may properly be said to have chosen their fathers, about 450 years before he gave them judges, is to be computed from the birth of Isaac, in whom God may properly be said to have chosen their fathers; for God, who had chosen Abraham out of all the people of the earth, chose Isaac at this time out of the children of Abraham, in whose family the covenant was to rest. To make this computation evident, let us observe that from the birth of Isaac to the birth of Jacob are 60 years; from thence to their going into Egypt, 130; from thence to the exodus, 210; from thence to their entrance into Canaan, 40; from that to the division of the land (about which time it is probable they began to settle their government by judges) 7 years; which sums make 447: viz. 60 + 130 + 210 + 40 + 7 equals 447. And should this be reckoned from the year before the birth of Isaac, when God established his covenant between himself and Abraham, and all his seed after him, Genesis 17:19, at which time God properly chose their fathers, then there will be 448 years, which brings it to within two years of the 450, which is sufficiently exact to bring it within the apostle's ὡς, about, or nearly.
"Some have made the period 452 years; which, though two years more than the apostle's round number, is still sufficiently reconcilable with his qualifying particle ὡς, about. And it may be added that the most correct writers often express a sum totally, but not exactly: so, with Demosthenes and Plautus, we find that called a talent where some drachms were either wanting or abounding." The sacred writers often express themselves in the same way: e.g. He made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about. Now we know that the circumference of any circle is only in round numbers to its diameter as three to one; but, correctly, is considerably more, nearly as 22 to 7. But even the Spirit of God does not see it necessary to enter into such niceties, which would only puzzle, and not instruct the common reader.
Calmet has paraphrased these passages nearly to the same sense: the text may be thus connected; Acts 13:19. And having destroyed; seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot, about one hundred and fifty years after. And afterwards he gave them judges, to the time of Samuel the prophet. The paraphrase of Calmet is the following: "The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers in the person of Abraham; he promised him the land of Canaan; and four hundred and fifty years after this promise, and the birth of Isaac, who was the son and heir of the promise, he put them in possession of that land which he had promised so long before." As this view of the subject removes all the principal difficulties, I shall not trouble my reader with other modes of interpretation.
on Acts 13 :20
He gave unto them judges - Men who were raised up in an extraordinary manner to administer the affairs of the nation, to defend it from enemies, etc. See Judges 2:16.
About the space of four hundred and fifty years - This is a most difficult passage, and has exercised all the ingenuity of chronologists. The ancient versions agree with the present Greek text. The difficulty has been to reconcile it with what is said in 1 Kings 6:1, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel ...he began to build the house of the Lord." Now if to the 40 years that the children of Israel were in the wilderness there be added the 450 said in Acts to have been passed under the administration of the judges, and about 17 years of the time of Joshua, 40 years for Samuel and the reign of Saul together, and 40 years for the reign of David, and three years of Solomon before he began to build the temple, the sum will be 590 years, a period greater by 110 years than that mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1. Various ways have been proposed to meet the difficulty. Doddridge renders it, "After these transactions, (which lasted) 450 years, he gave them a series of judges," etc., reckoning from the birth of Isaac, and supposing that Paul meant to refer to this whole time. But to this there are serious objections:
(1) It is a forced and constrained interpretation, and one manifestly made to meet a difficulty.
(2) there is no propriety in commencing this period at the birth of Isaac. That was in no manner remarkable, so far as Paul's narrative was concerned; and Paul had not even referred to it. This same solution is offered also by Calovius, Mill, and DeDieu. Luther and Beza think it should be read 300 instead of 400. But this is a mere conjecture, without any authority from mss. Vitringa and some others suppose that the text has been corrupted by some transcriber, who has inserted this without authority. But there is no evidence of this; and the mss. and ancient versions are uniform. None of these explanations are satisfactory. In the solution of the difficulty we may remark:
(1) That nothing is more perplexing than the chronology of ancient facts. The difficulty is found in all writings; in profane as well as sacred. Mistakes are so easily made in transcribing numbers, where letters are used instead of writing the words at length, that we are not to wonder at such errors.
(2) Paul would naturally use the chronology which was in current, common use among the Jews. It was not his business to settle such points; but he would speak of them as they were usually spoken of, and refer to them as others did.
(3) there is reason to believe that what is mentioned here was the common chronology of his time. It accords remarkably with that which is used by Josephus. Thus, (Antiq., book 7, chapter 3, section 1), Josephus says expressly that Solomon "began to build the temple in the fourth year of his reign, 592 years after the exodus out of Egypt," etc. This would allow 40 years for their being in the wilderness, 17 years for Joshua, 40 for Samuel and Saul, 40 for the reign of David, and 452 years for the time of the judges and the times of anarchy that intervened. This remarkable coincidence shows that this was the chronology which was then used, and which Paul had in view.
(4) this chronology has the authority, also, of many eminent names. See Lightfoot and Boyle's Lectures, Acts 20. In what way this computation of Josephus and the Jews originated it is not necessary here to inquire. It is a sufficient solution of the difficulty that Paul spake in their usual manner, without departing from his regular object by settling a point of chronology.
on Acts 13 :20