God’s Word for You
Acts 13:20 The Twelve Consolations
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 20, 2020
20 This took about 450 years. After that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
Various ancient witnesses to the text shift the phrase “about 450 years” here and there in the verse, sometimes at the front, sometimes after “judges,” and sometimes omitting “after that.” Does the number 450 refer to the time of Moses up to the time of Samuel, or does it only refer to the time of the judges until Samuel? The manuscript evidence is heavily weighted in favor of 450 coming first, that is to say, the period including the whole sojourn in Egypt up to the time of the judges. But we should look at two other passages to see how this verse agrees (or not) with the rest of Scripture.
(1) Judges 11:26. “For three hundred years Israel occupied Heshbon, Aroer, the surrounding settlements and all the towns along the Arnon.” This statement is from Jephthah. He was one of the last of the judges. His “300 years” traces back to the days of Joshua and the original conquest of Canaan, which took seven years (1406-1399 BC). This would place Jephthah’s statement in about 1100 BC, fifty years or so before Saul became king.
(2) 1 Kings 6:1. “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.” Certain external sources corroborate the date of Solomon’s reign as well as the reigns of his descendants, and we can say with certainty that the temple was begun in 966 BC. This places the Exodus 480 years earlier, in 1446 BC. If the oppression of the Hebrew slaves happened, as we believe, shortly before Moses’ birth in 1526 BC, then the 450 years Paul mentions in Acts 13:20 would have lasted from 1530 BC until about 1080, a little more than 30 years before Saul became king and well within the adult lifetime of Samuel the prophet—assuming Paul is talking about the years of oppression in Egypt up to the time of Samuel. In this case, even though Paul is using a round number (“about,” Greek hos, ὡς), his number fits the overall chronology with remarkable precision. However, if Paul means the total time in Egypt until the time of the judges, then the number 450 would take us from the death of Jacob (in Egypt) in about 1855 BC to the entrance into Canaan after the exodus in 1406 BC.
The key point Paul makes in this verse is that during that time, God gave his people judges, who held the nation together and defended it from many enemies, until the time when he gave his people the prophet Samuel, who was more than a prophet and certainly one of Israel’s greatest prophets. It was Samuel who would anoint both Saul and David, Israel’s first two kings.
No matter what troubles and setbacks we face in life, no matter how dreadful and painful our lives can be, we have the God who gives us everything we need constantly watching out for us. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16). He is loving toward all he has made (Psalm 145:17). In fact, we have what one Lutheran pastor (David Chytraeus, 1530-1600) called The Twelve Consolations:
1, The necessity of obeying God. We must humble ourselves and never resist his wisdom and justice. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
2, The dignity of virtue and godliness toward God, and the confession which must anticipate both favorable and adverse situations. “Anyone who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
3, A good conscience and the healing of a wounded conscience through faith in the Son of God. “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).
4, Examples of the Son of God, of Abel, of the apostles, of the martyrs, of the entire church which must become similar to the likeness of the Son of God. [“We are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18)].
5, The comparison of outcomes, for in favorable circumstances all people become more secure and more wanton [Job 21:23-24].
6, [Chytraeus here references ten causes for the misfortunes of the church: (1) God blesses us with calamities (2) That the virtues of the saints—the fear of God, faith, patience, etc.—may be searched out. (3) That the church may know (i.e., see proof of) the wrath of God against sin. (4) That their afflictions may be witnesses of the immorality of the godly, for the of God’s justice is fixed and immoveable so that it goes well with the godly and badly for the ungodly. (5) That they may be witnesses of the certainty of doctrine and to be opportunities for the more diligent learning of doctrine (Psalm 119:71). (6) That the godly may be made similar to the image of the Son of God (1 Peter 4:12). (7) That they may correct their inward sins, doubts, pride, security, etc., and be careful of future lapses (Isaiah 27:8-9). (8) That it may be clear that the church is obedient, not because of some favorable conditions of bodies, but only because of the glory of God. (9) That one may see [all] the more clearly the presence and help of Christ in miraculous liberations, as Daniel amid the lions. The Lord does not abandon those who love him. (10) That we may receive the very generous rewards promised in calamitous situations. “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure” (2 Corinthians 4:17).]
7, The knowledge of the good will of God promised with certainty for Christ’s sake, or of the benevolence of God to us, “for the LORD reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12).
8, The presence of God in tribulations: “I will be with him in trouble” (Psalm 91:15); “I will live with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).
9. The promise of God’s help strengthening hearts in tribulations so that they are able to bear their burdens. “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble” (Nahum 1:7), “God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
10, The promise of the easing of calamities in his life, and of a definite liberation either in this life or in eternal life. “You have set aside all your wrath” (Psalm 85:3), “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 103:13).
11, When faith comes to these promises, that faith which judges that God is with us and [eases] our hardships, and when united with those promises have been invocation, obedience, the hope of help and deliverance, patience, etc., then they become a sacrifice [offering] very pleasing to God. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
12, The final and most important point of consolation is the immortality of the Church, the resurrection of the body, and the harbor of eternal life in which the Church, freed from all miseries rests very pleasantly as God will fill it with divine light, wisdom, righteousness, glory and joy. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
May these be a help to you in these troubled times.
Pastor Timothy Smith