Laid Down Their Clothes At A Young Man’s Feet.

From the Category, “The Eastern Eye”

[The Bible is an “Eastern” book. It was written many years ago in the “East” which today we refer to as “The Middle East.”  As such, there are many customs and idioms that are not familiar to the “Western” mind.

In understanding the Scriptures it is important for us to understand the culture, but it doesn’t mean that we should necessarily follow that culture. Rather, it is in the understanding of the Eastern culture that we gain light and understanding about many things in the Bible.]

After a very remarkable presentation by Stephen to his accusers, the record in Acts 7 ends with those religious leaders executing this wonderful man.  They stoned him to death.  There is a part of verse 58 that is often misunderstood.

Verse 58 reads, “And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” Why would the witnesses lay down their clothes at Saul’s feet?  What clothes?

First of all, a better translation of “clothes” would be “cloak.”  The word in Greek means a type of clothing; a mantle or wrap.  It was a large rectangle of fabric, draped in different ways as a shawl, a cloak, or a head covering. It was normally worn over other clothing and thus is best understood as a cloak.

The verse tells us the witnesses laid down their cloaks at Saul’s feet.  They were not the ones doing the stoning, but rather the witnesses of the execution.  In Bible times, laying your cloak at someone’s feet indicates you are a witness of the event, and you vow yourself to be a true and faithful witness; you will tell the whole truth regarding that matter.

Spearheading The Persecutio

We learn from the first part of the next chapter that Saul (who is also called Paul) was consenting or approving of Stephen’s death.  He was spearheading the persecution against the followers of Jesus Christ. He ravaged the church, entering into houses and dragging men and women to prison.

In other scriptures we learn he had authority to do all of this from the chief priests.  He not only put them in prison, but compelled them to blaspheme, and gave his vote to put many of them to death.

Of course if you are familiar with the Bible, then you know Paul had a life changing experience on his way to Damascus in pursuit of persecuting even more followers of Jesus. The very man spearheading the persecution converted to Christianity.  Who would have ever thought that was possible?

He Accepted It

Paul accepted what Christ accomplished for all believers, including God’s forgiveness.  He spent the rest of life walking with the power of God, preaching the gospel concerning Jesus Christ, and writing much of the New Testament. Speaking of what God had done for him and in him, he wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

At the end of his life, this man, once a vicious religious terrorist who accepted Christ, and then dedicated his life to reaching others with the gospel, wrote in II Timothy, chapter 4, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”

Considering Paul, I’m inspired not to prejudge or prequalify anyone from accepting Jesus Christ, even if they are engaged in killing God’s people and the witnesses are laying cloaks at their feet. How about you?

Acts 7:58
And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

Acts 8:1-3
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

Acts 9:1 and 2
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Acts 22:3-6
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.

As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.

Acts 26:9-12
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

Galatians 1:13
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

Acts 9:1-30
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:

14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

I Corinthians 9 and 10
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

II Timothy 4:7
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

Mike Verdicchio
2014

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Resources
There are a number of books that you can read to get insight on customs, manners, idioms and meanings from the Eastern culture in which the Bible was written.  The best I know of were written by Bishop K. C. Pillai.  I have had the pleasure of listening to many recorded teaching by him.

He wrote three books, and they are hard to find, and are usually over priced.  But, if you want to you can check this link to see what Amazon has to offer. Light Through an Eastern Window

Another great resource that I have used for years is a book called, “Manners and Customs of the Bible,” by James Freeman. Mine was printed in 1972 and I know they have newer additions. For the newest edition, just click the link and it will take you to Amazon. The New Manners and Customs of the Bible (Pure Gold Classics)

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