We may observe here,
I. How much ado Paul had to get clear from Ephesus, intimated in the first words of the chapter, after we had gotten from them, that is, were drawn from them as by violence. It was a force put upon both sides; Paul was loth to leave them, and they were loth to part with him, and yet there was no remedy, but so it must be. When good people are taken away by death, they are, as it were, gotten from their friends here below, who struggled hard to have detained them if possible.
II. What a prosperous voyage they had thence. Without any difficulty, they came with a straight course, by direct sailing, to Coos, a famous Grecian island,—the next day to Rhodes, talked of for the Colossus there,—thence to Patara, a famous port, the metropolis of Lycia (Acts 21:1); here they very happily found a ship sailing over into Phenicia, the very course they were steering, Acts 21:2. Providence must be acknowledged when things happen thus opportunely, and we are favoured by some little circumstances that contribute to the expediting of our affairs; and we must say, It is God that maketh our way perfect. This ship that was bound for Phenicia (that is, Tyre) they took the convenience of, went on board, and set sail for Tyre. In this voyage they discovered Cyprus, the island that Barnabas was of, and which he took care of, and therefore Paul did not visit it, but we left it on the left hand (Acts 21:3), sailed upon the coast of Syria, and at length landed at Tyre, that celebrated mart of the nations, so it had been, but was now reduced; yet something of a trade it had still, for there the ship was to unlade her burden, and did so.
III. The halt that Paul made at Tyre; when he had arrived there, he was upon the coast of the land of Israel, and found now that he could compass the remainder of his journey within the time he had fixed.
1. At Tyre he found disciples, some that had embraced the gospel, and professed the Christian faith. Observe, Wherever Paul came, he enquired what disciples were there, found them out, and associated with them; for we know what is the usage with birds of a feather. When Christ was upon earth, though he went sometimes into the coast of Tyre, yet he never went thither to preach the gospel there; nor did he think fit to afford to Tyre and Sidon the advantages which Chorazin and Bethsaida had, though he knew that if they had had them they would have made a better improvement of them, Luke 10:13, 14. But, after the enlarging of the gospel-commission, Christ was preached at Tyre, and had disciples there; and to this, some think, that prophecy concerning Tyre had reference (Isa. 23:18), Her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the Lord.
2. Paul, finding those disciples at Tyre, tarried there seven days, they urging him to stay with them as long as he could. He staid seven days at Troas (Acts 20:6), and here so many days at Tyre, that he might be sure to spend one Lord’s day with them, and so might have an opportunity of preaching publicly among them; for it is the desire of good men to do good wherever they come, and where we find disciples we may either benefit them or be benefited by them.
3. The disciples at Tyre were endowed with such gifts that they could by the Spirit foretel the troubles Paul would meet with at Jerusalem; for the Holy Ghost witnessed it in every city, Acts 20:23. Being a thing that would be so much talked of when it came to pass, God saw fit to have it much prophesied of before, that people’s faith, instead of being offended, might be confirmed. And withal they were endowed with such graces that foreseeing his troubles, out of love to him and concern for the church, especially the churches of the Gentiles, that could ill spare him, they begged of him that he would not go up to Jerusalem, for they hoped the decree was conditional: If he go up, he will come into trouble there; as the prediction to David that the men of Keilah will deliver him up (that is, if he venture himself with them); and therefore they said to him, by the Spirit, that he should not go up, because they concluded it would be most for the glory of God that he should continue at liberty; and it was not at all their fault to think so, and consequently to dissuade him; but it was their mistake, for his trial would be for the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel, and he knew it; and the importunity that was used with him, to dissuade him from it, renders his pious and truly heroic resolution the more illustrious.
4. The disciples of Tyre, though they were none of Paul’s converts, yet showed a very great respect to Paul, whose usefulness in the church they had heard so much of when he departed from Tyre. Though they had had but seven days’ acquaintance with him, yet, as if he had been some great man, they all came together, with their wives and children, solemnly to take leave of him, to beg his blessing, and to bring him as far on his way as the sea would permit them. Note, (1.) We should pay respect, not only to our own ministers, that are over us in the Lord, and admonish us, and, for their work’s sake among us, esteem them highly in love, but we must, as there is occasion, testify our love and respect to all the faithful ministers of Christ, both for his sake whose ministers they are, and for their work’s sake among others. (2.) We must, in a particular manner, honour those whom God hath singularly honoured, by making them eminently useful in their generation. (3.) It is good to train up children in a respect to good people and good ministers. This was particularly remarkable at Tyre, which we have not met with any where else, that they brought their wives and children to attend Paul, to do him the more honour and to receive benefit by his instructions and prayers; and as angry notice was taken of the children of the idolaters of Bethel, that mocked a prophet, so, no doubt, gracious notice was taken of the children of the disciples at Tyre, that honoured an apostle, as Christ accepted the hosannas of the little children. (4.) We should be good husbands of our opportunities, and make the utmost we can of them for the good of our souls. They brought Paul on his way, that they might have so much the more of his company and his prayers. Some refer us to Ps. 45:12; as a prediction of this, The daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; for it is probable that they made some presents to Paul at parting, as usual to our friends that are going to sea, Acts 28:10.
5. They parted with prayer, as Paul and the Ephesians elders had done, Acts 20:36. Thus Paul has taught us by example, as well as rule, to pray always, to pray without ceasing. We kneeled down on the shore and prayed. Paul prayed for himself, prayed for them, prayed for all the churches; as he was much in prayer so he was mighty in prayer. They prayed upon the shore, that their last farewell might be sanctified and sweetened with prayer. Those that are going to sea should, when they quit the shore, commit themselves to God by prayer, and put themselves under his protection, as those that hope, even when they leave the terra firma, to find firm footing for their faith in the providence and promise of God. They kneeled down on the shore, though we may suppose it either stony or dirty, and there prayed. Paul would that men should pray every where, and so he did himself; and, where he lifted up his prayer, he bowed his knees. Mr. George Herbert says, Kneeling never spoiled silk stockings.
6. They parted at last (Acts 21:6): When we had taken our leave one of another, with the most affectionate embraces and expressions of love and grief, we took ship to be gone, and they returned home again, each complaining that this is a parting world. Observe how they disposed of themselves: “We, that had a journey before us, took ship, thankful that we had a ship to carry us; and those, who had no occasions to call them abroad returned home again, thankful that they had a home to go to.” Rejoice Zebulun in thy going out, and Issachar in thy tents. Paul left his blessing behind him with those that returned home, and those that staid sent their prayers after those that went to sea.
IV. Their arrival at Ptolemais, which was not far from Tyre (Acts 21:27): We came to Ptolemais, which some think is the same place with Accho, which we find in the tribe of Asher, Jdg. 1:31. Paul begged leave to go ashore there, to salute the brethren, to enquire of their state, and to testify his good will to them; though he could not stay long with them, yet he would not pass by them without paying his respects to them, and he abode with them one day, perhaps it was a Lord’s day; better a short stay than no visit.