The Philippian slave girl made her living by soothsaying for her masters. She earned them great gain. She also was possessed with a spirit of divination. When Paul commanded this spirit of divination out of her it left. That stopped their ability to earn money as a soothsayer for her masters. What happened to this damsel once she had been made clean is not known. It does give us pause to think what we do when we have been made clean by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul and Silas were in Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony. When they went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met them. It is the mention of “a damsel” that tells us this young girl was a maid-servant or a young female slave. She was a said-servant who had charge of the door of the house. (#3814, Strong, 2001).
This young girl had brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. She delivered an oracle, prophesy for money. (#3132, Strong, 2001). A soothsayer has negative connotation in the Old Testament. They were classed with sorcerers or magical practices they were forbidden to Israel. (Achtemeier, 1985, p. 982). Act 16:16 soothsaying is used to indicate the art of pythoness of Philippi. It is called a spirit of Python (Greek text), after the snake that guards the sacred shrine at Delphi. (Faw, 1993. P 184). A priestess of Apollo at Delphi Greek Mythology. ‘Soothsayer,’ in this case, is used of one who professes to indicate the future truthfully by a writer who does not believe that the soothsayer possesses such a power. (Clark, 1916-1918. P. 519).
This damsel followed Paul and Silas crying out saying that these men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. She had followed them for many days proclaiming these men are the servants of the most high God. This woman grieved and displeased Paul and said to the spirit, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” (Acts 16:18). That spirit came out of her that same hour.
It is not clear whether her owners hoped to be paid by the apostles for this free advertising, or whether this was a demonic attempt to label and hence gain power over Paul and Silas. Paul recognized the source as demonic and expelled the spirit “in the name of Jesus” (Acts 16:18). (Hawthorne, 1993. Pp. 210-211).
When her masters saw that there was no more spirit and that their hope of their gains were gone Paul and Silas were brought to the magistrates and accused of being Jews, and they do exceedingly trouble in the city of Philippi. They were accused of teaching customs which were not lawful for the Philippian to receive or observe because they were Romans. Paul and Silas were beat and cast into prison. (Acts 16:19-23).
There is no mention of what happens to the damsel. We do know that she was yelling the truth about Paul and Silas being servants of the Most High God. She got that right as well as they were preaching and teaching to the Philippians the way of salvation. It might be she was suggesting that Paul and Silas was the way of salvation instead of Jesus being the way of salvation and that is the reason for the annoyance Paul felt. Once commanded in the name of Jesus Christ the spirit left her and so did the ones who were profiting from her spirit of divination.
This damsel was free to go her own way and to start over. She is an example of so many people who have had a second chance for a life change. It is not for sure she did seek another way of life. She is probably not much different than so many other people who have had a weakness healed or some circumstance had changed where a burden had been lifted from them. Instead of turning toward Jesus Christ there are far too many continue in the way of life they are most familiar. It does give us pause to think what we do when we have been made clean by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul and Silas could not change this damsel, only the LORD can. Paul and Silas could not open her heart to know the truth of the LORD only the LORD can do that. She was responsible to walk away from the soothsaying and the wickedness her life had produced. The spirit of divination had been commanded out of her. Only Christ gives life only Christ can heal and change life. The damsel had to turn to the LORD.
She had been cleaned by the blood of Jesus Christ yet there is no indication she knew the Word of God. We do know that the damsel did walk in darkness. The Scripture tells us that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. We must remember if we say that we have fellowship with the LORD, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7).
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. “(1 John 1:8-10).
Achtemeier, Paul J. (1985). Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Clark, P. A. Gordon. (1916-1918) “Soothsaying” vol. 2, Dictionary of the
Apostolic Church ed. James Hastings. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Faw, Chalmer Ernest Faw, (1993). Acts, Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.
Hawthorne, Gerald F. , Martin, Ralph P. and Reid, Daniel G. (1993). Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Strong, J. (2001). The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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MLA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne “The Philippian Slave Girl:.” Becker Bible Studies Library Jan 2015.< https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=2149,>.
APA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015, January) “The Philippian Slave Girl:.” Becker Bible Studies Library. Retrieved from https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=2149,.
Chicago Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015) “The Philippian Slave Girl:.” Becker Bible Studies Library (January), https://guidedbiblestudies.com/?p=2149, (accessed).