on 2-corinthians 11 :32
In Damascus the governor under Aretas - For a description of Damascus see the note on Acts 9:2. And for the transaction to which the apostle refers see Acts 9:23. As to King Aretas, there were three of this name. The first is mentioned 2 Maccabeans Acts 9:8. The second by Josephus, Antiq. l. xiii. c. 15, sec. 2; and l. xvi. c. 1, sec. 4. The third, who is the person supposed to be referred to here, was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas, of whom see the notes, Acts 9:23, etc.
But it is a question of some importance, How could Damascus, a city of Syria, be under the government of an Arabian king? It may be accounted for thus: Herod Antipas, who married the daughter of Aretas, divorced her, in order to marry Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. Aretas, on this indignity offered to his family, made war upon Herod. Herod applied to Tiberius for help, and the emperor sent Vitellius to reduce Aretas, and to bring him alive or dead to Rome. By some means or other Vitellius delayed his operations, and in the meantime Tiberius died; and thus Aretas was snatched from ruin, Joseph., Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 5. What Aretas did in the interim is not known; but it is conjectured that he availed himself of the then favorable state of things, made an irruption into Syria, and seized on Damascus. See Rosenmuller; and see the introduction to this epistle, Section 2.
The governor - Εθναρχης· Who this ethnarch was, we cannot tell. The word ethnarch signifies the governor of a province, under a king or emperor.
Desirous to apprehend me - The enemies of the apostle might have represented him to the governor as a dangerous spy, employed by the Romans.
on 2-corinthians 11 :32
In Damascus - This circumstance is mentioned as an additional trial. It is evidently mentioned as an instance of peril which had escaped his recollection in the rapid account of his dangers enumerated in the previous verses. It is designed to show what imminent danger he was in, and how narrowly he escaped with his life. On the situation of Damascus, see the note, Acts 9:2. The transaction here referred to is also related by Luke Act 9:24-25, though without mentioning the name of the king, or referring to the fact that the governor kept the city with a garrison.
The governor - Greek, ὁ ἐθνάρχης ho ethnarchēs, "The ethnarch;" properly a ruler of the people, a prefect, a ruler, a chief. Who he was is unknown, though he was evidently some officer under the king. It is not improbable that he was a Jew, or at any rate he was one who could be influenced by the Jews, and he was doubtless excited by the Jews to guard the city, and if possible to take Paul as a malefactor. Luke informs us Acts 9:23-24 that the Jews took counsel against Paul to kill him, and that they watched the gates night and day to effect their object. They doubtless represented Paul as an apostate, and as aiming to overthrow their religion. He had come with an important commission to Damascus and had failed to execute it; he had become the open friend of those whom he came to destroy; and they doubtless claimed of the civil authorities of Damascus that he should be given up and taken to Jerusalem for trial. It was not difficult, therefore, to secure the cooperation of the governor of the city in the case, and there is no improbability in the statement.
Under Aretas the king - There were three kings of this name who are particularly mentioned by ancient writers. The first is mentioned in 2 Macc. 5:8, as the "king of the Arabians." He lived about 170 years before Christ, and of course could not be the one referred to here. The second is mentioned in Josephus, Antiquities 13, xv, section 2. He is first mentioned as having reigned in Coele-Syria, but as being called to the government of Damascus by those who dwelt there, on account of the hatred which they bore to Ptolemy Meneus. Whiston remarks in a note on Josephus, that this was the first king of the Arabians who took Damascus and reigned there, and that this name afterward became common to such Arabian kings as reigned at Damascus and at Petra; see Josephus, Antiquities 16, ix, section 4. Of course this king reigned some time before the transaction here referred to by Paul. A third king of this name, says Rosenmuller, is the one mentioned here. He was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. He made war with his son-in-law Herod because he had repudiated his daughter, the wife of Herod. This he had done in order to marry his brother Philip's wife; see the note, Matthew 14:3. On this account Aretas made war with Herod, and in order to resist him, Herod applied to Tiberius the Roman emperor for aid. Vitellius was sent by Tiberius to subdue Aretas, and to bring him dead or alive to Rome. But before Vitellius had embarked in the enterprise, Tiberius died, and thus Aretas was saved from ruin. It is supposed that in this state of things, when thus waging war with Herod, he made an incursion to Syria and seized upon Damascus, where he was reigning when Paul went there; or if not reigning there personally, he had appointed an ethnarch or governor who administered the affairs of the city in his place.
Kept the city ... - Luke Act 9:24 says that they watched the gates day and night to kill him. This was probably the Jews. Meantime the ethnarch guarded the city, to prevent his escape. The Jews would have killed him at once; the ethnarch wished to apprehend him and bring him to trial. In either case Paul had much to fear, and he, therefore, embraced the only way of escape.
With a garrison - The word which is used here in the original (φρουρέω phroureō) means simply to watch; to guard; to keep. Our translation would seem to imply that there was a body of people stationed in order to guard the city. The true idea is, that there were men who were appointed to guard the gates of the city and to keep watch lest he should escape them. Damascus was surrounded, as all ancient cities were, with high walls, and it did not occur to them that he could escape in any other way than by the gates.
on 2-corinthians 11 :32
11:32 The governor under Aretas - King of Arabia and Syria of which Damascus was a chief city, willing to oblige the Jews, kept the city - Setting guards at all the gates day and night.