Online Bible Commentary
Understanding the Bible
Acts 8:32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth." 34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, "I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?" 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea. (NKJV)
Philip was directed by an angel to witness to this man that is referred to as the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip caught up with the eunuch’s chariot on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, which was located southwest of Jerusalem on the coast.
The eunuch had been to Jerusalem and now was returning to Ethiopia, where he worked for the queen. He had previously been converted to Judaism and had traveled to Jerusalem to worship.
When Philip caught up with the eunuch’s chariot, the man was reading scripture, specifically the book of Isaiah. Philip struck up a conversation with the eunuch who immediately expressed that he did not understand what he was reading.
Now, in this passage, the eunuch reads to Philip the scripture that he does not understand (vv. 32-33). The eunuch is reading from Isaiah 53:7-8. The eunuch’s question to Philip is whether Isaiah was writing of himself or someone else (v. 34).
This gave Philip the opening he needed to explain that Isaiah was writing of Jesus. Philip then “preached Jesus to him” (v. 35). As they continued to travel down the road they came to a body of water (v. 36a). Seeing the water, the eunuch asked what he needed to do to be baptized (v. 36b). Philip responded "If you believe with all your heart, you may" (v. 37a). The eunuch answered "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (v. 37b).
Philip then baptized the eunuch by immersion (v. 38). As they came up out of the water the Holy Spirit magically “caught Philip away” from the eunuch (v. 39a). It was as if the Lord wanted the eunuch to now focus on God rather than man. The Eunuch then went on his way rejoicing in finding the Lord (v. 39b).
Philip was next seen at Azotus, also known as Ashdod, which is located north of Gaza and south of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean coast west of Jerusalem (v. 40a). Philip preached at Azotus and then continued his ministry, northward, up the coast to Caesarea where he apparently remained for several years (v. 40b). Philip was living in Caesarea when Paul visited on his third missionary journey (Acts 21:8).
The eunuch was like so many people we encounter in our lives today. He was trying to understand scripture but he could not. None of it made sense to him.
Many people have tried to read the Bible throughout their lives without success. They do not understand it and they are unable to apply it to their lives. They give up and look to other ways of finding meaning in life.
The eunuch was Jewish, not Christian. He did not have the Holy Spirit as his helper, helping him to understand scripture. He was lost.
In the same way today so many people we encounter are lost. They say they will become a Christian when they understand the Bible, but they will never understand the Bible until they become a Christian and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It is a catch 22 situation.
This is why the Bible calls for us to come to Christ in faith, as children. Children do not have to understand everything before committing to Christ.
As Christians, we can help the lost understand, just as Philip helped the eunuch. Part of our advice should be that they will not understand everything about the Bible until they first become a Christian.