on Acts 4 :36
Joses - Or, Joseph, as many excellent MSS. read; but who he was, farther than what is here said, we know not.
Surnamed Barnabas - Or, Barsabbas, according to the Coptic.
The son of consolation - Υἱος παρακλησεως; As παρακλησις signifies exhortation, as well as consolation, and is indeed distinguished from the latter, 1 Corinthians 14:3, the original name was probably בר נבא Bar naba, or בר נביא Bar nebia, which signifies the son of prophecy or exhortation; and this is certainly one sense which prophecy has in the New Testament; and in this way Barnabas distinguished himself among the apostles. See Acts 11:23. And Barnabas Exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord.
A Levite, and of the country of Cyprus - Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, off Cilicia, and not very distant from the Jewish coast. The Jews were very numerous in that island: see Dion. Cas. lib. 68, 69. Though he was a Levite, he might have had land of his own by private purchase. The Levites, as a tribe, had no land in Israel; but the individuals certainly might make purchases any where in the country: but, as Barnabas was of Cyprus, his land probably lay there; and as it is likely that he was one of those strangers that came up to Jerusalem to the late feast, and was there converted, he might have sold his land in the island to some of his own countrymen who were at Jerusalem at this time; and so, being called to the work of the ministry, continued to associate with the apostles, travelling every where, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. He was the constant companion of St. Paul, till the separation took place on account of John Mark, mentioned Acts 15:36-39.
It is worthy of remark that the two apostles of the Gentiles, though of Jewish extraction, were both born in Gentile countries; Paul in Cilicia, Barnabas in Cyprus: this gave them many advantages; served to remove prejudices from the heathens; and gave them no doubt much facility in the Greek tongue, without which they could have done but little in Asia Minor, nor in most parts of the Roman empire where they traveled. How admirably does God determine even the place of our birth, and the bounds of our habitation! When under the influence of the grace of Christ, every thing is turned to a man's advantage. The man whom he calls to his work he will take care to endue with every necessary qualification. And is it too much to say that God never did call a man to preach the Gospel whom he did not qualify in such a manner that both the workman and the work should appear to be of God?
Some have said that ignorance is the mother of devotion. Devotion and religion are both scandalized by the saying. Enlightened piety has ever been the most sincere, steady, and active. God makes those wise who turn unto him; and by experimental religion all the powers of the mind are greatly improved. Every genuine minister of Christ has an enlightened heart; and, to this, it is his duty to add a well-cultivated mind. Ex quovis ligno Mercurius non fit: A blockhead never did, and never can, make a minister.
on Acts 4 :36
And Joses - Many manuscripts, instead of "Joses," here read "Joseph." The reasons why this individual is selected and specified particularly were, doubtless, because he was a foreigner; because it was a remarkable instance of liberality; and because he subsequently distinguished himself in the work of the ministry. He gave himself, his property, his all, to the service of the Lord Jesus, and went forth to the self-denying labors of the gospel. He is mentioned elsewhere with honor in the New Testament Acts 11:24, Acts 11:30, and usually as the companion of the apostle Paul. The occasion on which he became connected with Paul in the ministry was when he himself was sent forth by the church at Jerusalem to Antioch. There, it seems, he heard of the fame of Paul and went to Tarsus to seek him, and brought him with him to Antioch, Acts 11:22-26. Before this he had been acquainted with him, and had introduced him to the other apostles at a time when they were afraid of Paul, and unwilling to acknowledge him as an apostle, Acts 9:26-27. At Antioch, Barnabas was led into dissimulation by Peter in regard to the Gentiles, and was reproved by his friend and companion, Paul, Galatians 2:13. He and Paul continued to travel in fellowship until a dispute arose at Antioch about Mark, and they separated, Paul going with Silas through Syria and Cilicia, and Barnabas, with Mark, sailing for his native place, Cyprus, Acts 15:35-41. See the following places for particulars of his history: Acts 11:22, Acts 11:25, Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25; Acts 13:1-2, Acts 13:50; Acts 14:12; Acts 15:12; 1 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 2:1, Galatians 2:9.
Who by the apostles was surnamed ... - The practice of giving surnames, as expressive of character, was not uncommon. Thus, Simon was called Peter, or Cephas, John 1:44; and thus James and John were surnamed Boanerges, Mark 3:17.
Barnabas, which is ... - This word properly denotes "the son of prophecy." It is compounded of two Syriac words, the one meaning "son," and the other "prophecy." The Greek word which is used to interpret this παράκλησις paraklēsis, translated "consolation," means properly exhortation, entreaty, petition, or advocacy. It also means "consolation or solace"; and from this meaning the interpretation has been given to the word "Barnabas," but with evident impropriety. It does not appear that the name was bestowed on account of this, though it is probable that he possessed the qualification for administering comfort or consolation in an eminent degree, but on account of his talent for "speaking," or "exhorting" the people to holiness, and his success in preaching. Compare Acts 11:23.
A Levite - One of the descendants of Levi employed in the lower services of the temple. The whole tribe of Levi was set apart to the service of religion. It was divided into priests and Levites. The three sons of Levi were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Of the family of "Kohath" Aaron was descended, who was the first high priest. His oldest son succeeded him, and the remainder of his sons were "priests." All the others of the tribe of Levi were called "Levites," and were employed in the work of the temple, in assisting the priests in performing sacred music, etc., Numbers 3; Deuteronomy 12:18-19; Deuteronomy 18:6-8; 1 Chronicles 23:24.
Of the country of Cyprus - Cyprus is the largest island in the Mediterranean; an island extremely fertile, abounding in wine, honey, oil, wool, etc. It is mentioned in Acts 13:4; Acts 15:39. The island is near to Cicilia, and is not far from the Jewish coast. It is said by Dion Caccius (lib. 68, 69) that the Jews were very numerous in that island - Clark. Barnabas afterward became, with Paul, a distinguished preacher to the Gentiles. It is worthy of remark, that "both" were born in pagan countries, though by descent Jews; and as they were trained in pagan lands, they were better suited for their special work. The case of Barnabas is that of a man who had property when he entered the ministry, and who gave up all for the Lord Jesus. The great mass of ministers, like very many who have been distinguished in other professions, have been taken from among the poor, and from humble ranks in life. But all have not been. Many have been wealthy, and have devoted all to Christ; and in regard to others, it is to be remarked, that a very considerable proportion of them could have gained more "wealth" in some other profession than they do in the ministry. The ministry is a work of self-denial, and none should enter it who are not prepared to devote all to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
on Acts 4 :36
4:36 A son of consolation - Not only on account of his so largely assisting the poor with his fortune; but also of those peculiar gifts of the Spirit, whereby he was so well qualified both to comfort and to exhort.