What does Acts 9:23 mean?
ESV: When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him,
NIV: After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him,
NASB: When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him,
CSB: After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him,
NLT: After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him.
KJV: And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
Verse Commentary:
The timeline here can be difficult to follow. Right after Saul becomes a Jesus-follower, he preaches in Damascus. He also goes to Arabia, which is quite close to Damascus, and returns again to Damascus. This time is described as lasting three years in Galatians 1:17–18. It seems that the Jewish leadership plotted against Paul at some point in Damascus and then later the governor under King Aretas apparently threatens to kill him, or perhaps the Jewish leaders plotted with the help of the governor. In either case, Saul escapes out the wall in a basket (Acts 9:23–25; 2 Corinthians 11:32–33). Finally, he makes his way to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18).

It's not clear if Acts 9:23–25 describes Saul's first or second escape from Damascus. Luke is usually more specific in his timelines, but only when he has exact information to work with or he is with Saul personally. It's possible Saul is forced out of Damascus only once, and both the Jews and the Damascus governor want him gone.

"Jews" is the Greek word Ioudaioi. It does not refer to Jewish citizens or laymen but to Jewish religious leaders and those who follow them. This isn't the first plot Saul will have to survive in his work for God. In Corinth, the Jewish leaders try to charge him before the proconsul; the proconsul dismisses the case, saying it is a matter of religion, not civil unrest (Acts 18:12–17). When Saul is trying to get back to Jerusalem from Macedonia, he must change his travel plans because of a plot (Acts 20:3). And after his arrest in Jerusalem, some Jews (probably from modern-day Asia Minor) plot with the Sanhedrin to murder Saul on his way to the governor's estate in Caesarea. Fortunately, Saul's nephew overhears and tells the centurion who takes precautions (Acts 23:12–35).
Verse Context:
Acts 9:20–25 describes what happens right after Saul, the mortal enemy of the young church, becomes a follower of Jesus Christ. He had come to Damascus to arrest Christians; now he is a Christian. Immediately upon his conversion, he goes to the synagogues and explains how Jesus of Nazareth fits the prophecies of the Jewish Messiah. At some point, he will spend time in Arabia, then return to Damascus (Galatians 1:17–18). Finally, he will return to Jerusalem and attempt to introduce himself to a very wary church. Fortunately, although the apostles will be skeptical, Barnabas will take him under his wing (Acts 9:26–27).
Chapter Summary:
Acts 9 sets the stage for the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. Saul continues the persecution of the church by traveling to Damascus to arrest Jesus-followers. Before he reaches the city, Jesus confronts him. Saul realizes Jesus is the Messiah and immediately starts spreading the news, first in Damascus and later in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Peter travels to modern-day Tel Aviv to heal a paralyzed man and bring a dead woman back to life. The miracles aren't unusual, but the story leaves him in Joppa, poised to take the next step in Jesus' mandate to be His witness (Acts 1:8).
Chapter Context:
The murder of the Jesus-follower Stephen has ignited a fierce persecution against the church, led by a young Pharisee-trained man named Saul (Acts 7:54—8:3; 9:1–2). When he realizes Jesus truly is the Messiah, that fervor fuels his own evangelism (Acts 9:3–30). Meanwhile, Peter travels to the coast of Judea. Soon, he will teach a prominent Gentile household about Jesus and discover that Gentiles can be saved (Acts 10). The stage will be set for Saul to spread the saving news of Jesus to ''the end of the earth'' (Acts 1:8) under the Greek version of his name: Paul.
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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