What does Acts 13:21 mean?
ESV: Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
NIV: Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.
NASB: Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
CSB: Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
NLT: Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years.
KJV: And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
NKJV: And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
Verse Commentary:
Barnabas and Paul are in Pisidian Antioch, near the center of modern-day Asia Minor, during their first missionary voyage. Paul is giving the message in a synagogue to an audience of Jews and God-fearing Gentiles. He is introducing the spiritual salvation Jesus offers by replaying God's saving work in the history of Israel.

King Saul is an interesting individual for Paul to use. He was not God's choice for a king; the people demanded a king and God allowed them to have the type of king they thought they wanted. Saul's fear, jealousy, and disrespect of God led to Israel's defeat in battle and the deaths of himself and his sons (1 Samuel 31).

But Saul did take an assortment of religiously and historically related tribes and turn them into a coherent political nation. And God did save Israel from several enemies during Saul's reign, even if many of those battles were won by Saul's son Jonathan or by David.

Paul did not need to elaborate on King Saul's flaws. Paul's hearers would know the history of Israel well, and Paul is likely anxious to get to his next point. Paul is trying to communicate to his audience that God's plan all along was to bring salvation not through the people-endorsed Saul but through David, the man after His own heart. It is also interesting to note that Paul's Jewish name is Saul and he, too, is of the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5). Where the Old Testament Saul rejected God and was lost, Paul submitted to Christ and was saved.

It is through David that God intended to establish the kingly line of Israel, culminating in the Messiah—the ultimate Savior. Paul's audience will have to make a choice. Will they put their faith in what looks good—the Law and human effort—like their ancestors did when they took Saul as king? Or will they wait on the Lord, accept that His plan always involved the Messiah born in David's line, and accept Jesus?
Verse Context:
Acts 13:16–41 gives the transcript of Paul's message in Pisidian Antioch. It is the only recording of Paul's many synagogue sermons. Paul's message can be broken into five parts, each identified with a call to heed Paul's words: 1. God's saving work in Israel's history and promise of a future Savior (Acts 13:16–25); 2. The Savior's story (Acts 13:26–31); 3. The prophecies of the Savior (Acts 13:32–37); 4. The nature of ''salvation'' (Acts 13:38–39); 5. A warning to accept the Savior (Acts 13:40–41). Some Jews and many Gentiles do accept the message, but the synagogue leaders drive Paul and Barnabas out of town (Acts 13:42–51).
Chapter Summary:
Acts 13 transitions Luke's account (Acts 1:1) fully into a record of Paul's ministry to spread the news about Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls Paul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey. They teach about Jesus' offer of forgiveness of sins on the island of Cyprus and in the district of Pisidia in modern-day south-central Asia Minor. Along the way, they face opposition, desertion, and persecution: themes that will follow Paul throughout his life. But they also experience the joy of watching the people they'd least expect come to a saving faith in Jesus.
Chapter Context:
The first chapters of Acts, save for a quick account of Paul's conversion (Acts 9:1–31), cover the ministry of the apostles, particularly Peter. Those passages also detail the spread of the news about Jesus from His followers. That message goes to the Jews of Jerusalem (Acts 2—7) and Judea (Acts 8:26–40; 9:32–43), the Samaritans (Acts 8:4–25), and God-fearing Gentiles (Acts 10—11). Now, Paul's contribution to the ''end of the earth'' portion of Jesus' commission in Acts 1:8 begins, as he and Barnabas start their first missionary journey. Luke will record two more of Paul's journeys (Acts 15:36—18:22 and 18:23—20:38) before settling in on his return to Jerusalem, arrest, and sea voyage to Rome (Acts 21—28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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