What does Acts 26:14 mean?
ESV: And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
NIV: We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
NASB: And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
CSB: We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
NLT: We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will. ’
KJV: And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Verse Commentary:
During Paul's conversion, Jesus promised Paul would bring the message of forgiveness and salvation before kings (Acts 9:15). Now, Paul is telling the story of his conversion to King Agrippa II.

Paul had been a devout Pharisee, idolizing traditional views of the Mosaic law such that he hunted Christians. His goal was either convincing them to deny Christ or convincing the Sanhedrin to execute them for blasphemy (Acts 26:10–11). On Paul's way to arrest Jewish Christians in Damascus, Jesus appeared in a bright light that knocked Paul to the ground (Acts 9:3–4). The men with Paul heard the voice but didn't see Jesus (Acts 9:7).

Paul's phrase about kicking goads is not recorded in the original account in Acts 9. "Goads" is from the Greek root word kentron. These objects resembled a thick, short spear used to poke livestock, to encourage them to move (Judges 3:31). To kick against it is futile; the wielder can simply move it away and stab the ox in another spot. Likewise, there's no action Paul could take to keep God from directing him where He wanted him to go. The phrase was often used in Greek literature to mean it's useless to defy the gods.

Some early theologians suggest the "goads" were doubts Paul felt about Stephen's words (Acts 7) and his own convictions. This suggests that as Paul traveled to Damascus, he was already questioning whether what he was doing was right. His repeated comments that he had held a clear conscience his whole life (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Corinthians 4:4) speak against the idea that he would act contrary to his conscience. The "goads," as in the Greek sense, are the Holy Spirit's nudging.

"Hebrew language" is also rendered "Hebrew dialect" and probably means Aramaic.
Verse Context:
Acts 26:12–23 is Paul's testimony to King Agrippa II, Governor Festus, and the leaders of Caesarea Maritima, of how he started following Jesus. The audience wants to determine if Paul broke a law. Paul wants to offer reconciliation with God. Paul describes how he met Jesus on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus and accepted Jesus' commission to spread His offer of forgiveness to Jews and Gentiles. It is for this reason that the Sanhedrin wants him dead, not because he committed a crime. Paul's conversion is recorded in Acts 9:1–19.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 26 records Paul's testimony before the noblemen of Caesarea Maritima, as well as their reactions. He explains that Jewish leaders want him dead because he once persecuted the church, but now believes Jesus rose from the dead and has been spreading that message. Governor Festus thinks Paul has gone mad. King Agrippa II, however, finds his story compelling. They realize that had Paul not appealed to a higher Roman court, they could have let him go.
Chapter Context:
After being held in custody for two years and, again, hassled by the Sanhedrin who want to kill him, Paul appeals his case to Caesar (Acts 25:7–12). Before he travels to Rome, however, Governor Festus has Paul give his testimony before King Agrippa II and the noblemen of Caesarea Maritima (Act 25:23–27). When Paul is finished, they realize they should have set him free before he appealed to Caesar (Acts 26:30–32). But he must go to Rome, surviving a violent storm and a shipwreck along the way (Acts 27—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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