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Paul in Arabia

08-12-2014 - Posted by Andre Piet

images8 In Acts 9, is recorded Luke’s account of the calling of Saul, the three-day blindness that struck him, the meeting with Ananias and his preaching in the synagogues of Damascus. When Saul, after quite some time, heard that an assassination attempt was planned on him, friends helped him to escape in a basket through a window in the city wall. Then Saul goes to Jerusalem. Comparing this report from Luke with Paul’s own report in the letter to the Galatians, one detail is quite noteworthy.  Let’s consider Saul’s calling, in his own words,

16 … I did not immediately submit it to flesh and blood, 17 neither came I up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I came away into Arabia, and I return again to Damascus. 18 Thereupon, after three years, I came up to Jerusalem…

Galatians 1 says that Paul, after his call, went to Arabia and after that returned to Damascus. In Acts 9, on the other hand, nothing is said about Saul’s journey to Arabia and the question arises, Where is that journey to be placed into Luke’s report? Usually, they insert this journey into the “many days” mentioned in Acts 9:23. In that case, Saul would have, after his calling, immediately gone  preaching in the synagogues and during that time also have made a visit to Arabia. However, do we accept the order of events in Galatians 1, then Paul, after his calling, first went to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus. That is, therefore, between Acts 9:19a and 19b. It is at this time in Luke’s account, that Saul, for an unknown time, leaves for Arabia and after that returns to Damascus. We now will continue reading in Acts 9 verse 19b:

Now he came to be with the disciples in Damascus some days. 20 And immediately, in the synagogues, he heralded Jesus, that He is the Son of God.

This is thus, after his stay in Arabia. Why Luke makes no mention of Saul’s visit to Arabia, is not possible to say with certainty. Saul’s stay in Arabia was something between the Lord and Saul. In the earlier quote from Galatians 1, Paul wrote that he did not consult with flesh and blood, but that he went to Arabia. This formulation suggests that he consulted with the Lord Himself, in Arabia. Remember, at Saul’s calling it was said to him:

… I was seen by you for this, to fix upon you before for a deputy and a witness both of what you have perceived AND THAT IN WHICH I WILL BE SEEN BY YOU, -Acts 26:16-

Christ would again appear to Saul, and so Saul did not go to consult with his fellow apostles in Jerusalem, but with the Lord Himself. It is for this reason that he went to Arabia. Is Arabia, in the letter to the Galatians, not a fitting model for the country where the Lord, long ago, appeared to Moses and gave Israel the law (“Mount Sinai in Arabia”; 4:25)? Interestingly, in Arabia was Saul taught by Jesus Christ, Himself, After all, the Evangel that he preached he had not accepted it…

from a man, NOR WAS I TAUGHT IT, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. -Galatians 1:12-

Israel, by Moses on Mount Sinai in Arabia, was taught the covenant that bears children into slavery (Gal.4:24). In that same Arabia, was Paul taught the truth of the Evangel of FREEDOM.

Gal.5:1 For freedom Christ frees us! Stand firm, then, and be not again enthralled with the yoke of slavery.