on Acts 2 :17
In the last days - The time of the Messiah; and so the phrase was understood among the Jews.
I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh - Rabbi Tanchum says, "When Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, the holy blessed God said, In the time of the old text, each individual prophet prophesied; but, in the times of the Messiah, all the Israelites shall be prophets." And this they build on the prophecy quoted in this place by Peter.
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy - The word prophesy is not to be understood here as implying the knowledge and discovery of future events; but signifies to teach and proclaim the great truths of God, especially those which concerned redemption by Jesus Christ.
Your young men shall see visions, etc. - These were two of the various ways in which God revealed himself under the Old Testament. Sometimes he revealed himself by a symbol, which was a sufficient proof of the Divine presence: fire was the most ordinary, as it was the most expressive, symbol. Thus he appeared to Moses on Mount Horeb, and afterwards at Sinai; to Abraham, Genesis 15:1-21; to Elijah, 1 Kings 19:11, 1 Kings 19:12. At other times he revealed himself by angelic ministry: this was frequent, especially in the days of the patriarchs, of which we find many instances in the book of Genesis.
By dreams he discovered his will in numerous instances: see the remarkable case of Joseph, Genesis 37:5, Genesis 37:9; of Jacob, Genesis 28:1, etc.; Genesis 46:2, etc.; of Pharaoh, Genesis 41:1-7; of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:10-17. For the different ways in which God communicated the knowledge of his will to mankind, see the note on Genesis 15:1.
on Acts 2 :17
It shall come to pass - It shall happen, or shall occur.
In the last days - Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, after these things, or afterward. The expression the last days, however, occurs frequently in the Old Testament: Genesis 49:1, Jacob called his sons, that he might tell them what should happen to them in the last days, that is, in future times - Heb. in after times; Micah 4:1, "In the last days (Hebrew: in later times) the mountain of the Lord's house," etc.; Isaiah 2:2, "in the last days the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the tops of the mountains," etc. The expression then properly denoted "the future times" in general. But, as the coming of the Messiah was to the eye of a Jew the most important event in the coming ages - the great, glorious, and crowning scene in all the vast futurity, the phrase came to be regarded as properly expressive of that. It stood in opposition to the usual denomination of earlier times.
It was a phrase in contrast with the days of the patriarchs, the kings, the prophets, etc. The last days, or the closing period of the world, were the days of the Messiah. It does not appear from this, and it certainly is not implied in the expression, that they supposed the world would then come to an end. Their views were just the contrary. They anticipated a long and glorious time under the dominion of the Messiah, and to this expectation they were led by the promise that his kingdom should be forever; that of the increase of his government there should be no end, etc. This expression was understood by the writers of the New Testament as referring undoubtedly to the times of the gospel. And hence they often used it as denoting that the time of the expected Messiah had come, but not to imply that the world was drawing near to an end: Hebrews 1:2, "God hath spoken in these last days by his Son"; 1 Peter 1:20, "Was manifested in these last times for you"; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:18, "Little children, it is the last time," etc.; Jde 1:18. The expression the last day is applied by our Saviour to the resurrection and the day of judgment, John 6:39-40, John 6:44-45; John 11:24; John 12:48. Here the expression means simply "in those future times, when the Messiah shall have come."
I will pour out of my Spirit - The expression in Hebrew is, "I will pour out my Spirit." The word "pour" is commonly applied to water or to blood, "to pour it out," or "to shed it," Isaiah 57:6; to tears, "to pour them out," that is," to weep, etc., Psalm 42:4; 1 Samuel 1:15. It is applied to water, to wine, or to blood, in the New Testament, Matthew 9:17; Revelation 16:1; Acts 22:20, "The blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed." It conveys also the idea of "communicating largely or freely," as water is poured freely from a fountain, Titus 3:5-6, "The renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly." Thus, Job 36:27, "They (the clouds) pour down rain according to the vapor thereof"; Isaiah 44:3, "I will pour water on him that is thirsty"; Isaiah 45:8, "Let the skies pour down righteousness"; Malachi 3:10, "I will pour you out a blessing." It is also applied to fury and anger, when God intends to say that he will not spare, but will signally punish, Psalm 69:24; Jeremiah 10:25. It is not infrequently applied to the Spirit, Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:10. As thus used it means that he will bestow large measures of spiritual influences. As the Spirit renews and sanctifies people, so to pour out the Spirit is to grant freely his influences to renew and sanctify the soul.
My Spirit - The Spirit here denotes the Third Person of the Trinity, promised by the Saviour, and sent to finish his work, and apply it to people. The Holy Spirit is regarded as the source or conveyer of all the blessings which Christians experience. Hence, he renews the heart, John 3:5-6. He is the source of all proper feelings and principles in Christians, or he produces the Christian graces, Galatians 5:22-25; Titus 3:5-7. The spread and success of the gospel is attributed to him, Isaiah 32:15-16. Miraculous gifts are traced to him, especially the various gifts with which the early Christians were endowed, 1 Corinthians 12:4-10. The promise that he would pour out his Spirit means that he would, in the time of the Messiah, impart a large measure of those influences which it was his special province to communicate to people. A part of them were communicated on the day of Pentecost, in the miraculous endowment of the power of speaking foreign languages, in the wisdom of the apostles, and in the conversion of the three thousand,
Upon all flesh - The word "flesh" here means "persons," or "people." See the notes on Romans 1:3. The word "all" here does not mean every individual, but every class or rank of individuals. It is to be limited to the cases specified immediately. The influences were not to be confined to any one class, but were to be communicated to all kinds of persons - old men, youth, servants, etc. Compare 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
And your sons and your daughters - Your children. It would seem that females shared in the remarkable influences of the Holy Spirit. Philip the Evangelist had four daughters which did prophesy, Acts 21:9. It is probable also that the females of the church of Corinth partook of this gift, though they were forbidden to exercise it in public, 1 Corinthians 14:34. The office of prophesying, whatever was meant by that, was not confined to the people among the Jews: Exodus 15:20, "Miriam, the prophetess, took a timbrel," etc.; Judges 4:4, "Deborah, a prophetess, judged Israel"; 2 Kings 22:14. See also Luke 2:36, "There was one Anna, a prophetess," etc.
Shall prophesy - The word "prophesy" is used in a great variety of senses:
(1) It means to predict or foretell future events, Matthew 11:13; Matthew 15:7.
(2) to divine, to conjecture, to declare as a prophet might, Matthew 26:68, "Prophesy who smote thee."
(3) to celebrate the praises of God, being under a divine influence, Luke 1:67. This seems to have been a considerable part of the employment in the ancient schools of the prophet, 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 30:15.
(4) to teach - as no small part of the office of the prophets was to teach the doctrines of religion, Matthew 7:22, "Have we not prophesied in thy name?"
(5) it denotes, then, in general, "to speak under a divine influence," whether in foretelling future events, in celebrating the praises of God, in instructing others in the duties of religion, or "in speaking foreign languages under that influence." In this last sense the word is used in the New Testament, to denote those who were miraculously endowed with the power of speaking foreign languages, Acts 19:6. The word is also used to denote "teaching, or speaking in intelligible language, in opposition to speaking a foreign tongue," 1 Corinthians 14:1-5. In this place it means that they would speak under a divine influence, and is specially applied to the power of speaking in a foreign tongue.
Your young men shall see visions - The will of God in former times was communicated to the prophets in various ways. One was by visions, and hence one of the most usual names of the prophets was seers. The name seer was first given to that class of men, and was superseded by the name prophet, 1 Samuel 9:9, "He that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer"; 1 Samuel 9:11, 1 Samuel 9:18-19; 2 Samuel 24:11; 1 Chronicles 29:29, etc. This name was given from the manner in which the divine will was communicated, which seems to have been by throwing the prophet into an ecstasy, and then by causing the vision, or the appearance of the objects or events to pass before the mind. The prophet looked upon the passing scene, the often splendid diorama as it actually occurred, and recorded it as it appeared to his mind. Hence, he recorded rather the succession of images than the times in which they would occur. These visions occurred sometimes when they were asleep, and sometimes during a prophetic ecstasy, Daniel 2:28; Daniel 7:1-2, Daniel 7:15; Daniel 8:2; Ezekiel 11:24; Genesis 15:1; Numbers 12:6; Job 4:13; Job 7:14; Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:3.
on Acts 2 :17
2:17 The times of the Messiah are frequently called the last days, the Gospel being the last dispensation of Divine grace. I will pour out of my Spirit - Not on the day of pentecost only, upon all flesh - On persons of every age, sex, and rank. And your young men shall see visions - In young men the outward sense, are most vigorous, and the bodily strength is entire, whereby they are best qualified to sustain the shock which usually attends the visions of God. In old men the internal senses are most vigorous, suited to divine dreams. Not that the old are wholly excluded from the former, nor the young from the latter.