26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
Acts 8:26-40 gives the second narrative (following Acts 8:5-25) about the ministry of Philip. God used him to reach a person in Ethiopia, Africa. The gospel was in the process of spreading to other parts of the world. We can see this in an increasing involvement by the Holy Spirit. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch was a further advance of the gospel.
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip,
After Peter and John left, they continued to minister in Samaria and then returned to Jerusalem. The ministry of Philip resumed at this point. God sent an “angel of the Lord” to speak to Philip. This angel was the Spirit of the Lord (Acts 8:29, 39).
saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
The angel of the Lord gave Philip geographical directions in the desert to meet a man from Ethiopia. The “road” referred to here is a trade highway that connects Jerusalem to the Mediterranean ports of Caesarea, Joppa, and Gaza. Gaza was one of five chief cities in Philistia, the southernmost of them, all about 50 miles southwest of Jerusalem.
So he arose and went.
Philip left a thriving ministry in Samaria to go to a remote, desert location. He obeyed a seemingly illogical directive on the direction of the Holy Spirit.
And behold, a man of Ethiopia,
Philip obeyed the angel and found a man from Ethiopia traveling on the road to the Mediterranean ports. “Ethiopia” here is not the Ethiopia of today but the kingdom of Meroe, an ancient Nubian empire south of Aswan. This area today would be southern Ethiopia and northern Sudan.
a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians,
The Ethiopian held a high position of authority in the court of Queen Candace (a family name and not that of an individual).
who had charge of all her treasury,
This man was in charge of the treasures of Ethiopia or, more specifically, Meroe.
and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
The Ethiopian was returning from worship in Jerusalem. He was probably not a complete convert to Judaism.
was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
As Philip approached the Ethiopian’s chariot with a retinue of support personnel, the eunuch was reading the book of Isaiah. Subsequently to the Isaiah 53 passage, which he was currently reading, he may have read about God’s positive attitude toward eunuchs (Isa 56:3-5).
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
Again, Philip obeyed the Spirit by following a specific command. First, an angel gave direction to Philip; now, the Spirit directed his course. Philip obeyed the Spirit, although he approached an official with his large entourage of servants. The command to “go” is the second in this segment of Scripture.
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
As Philip overtook the Ethiopian, he heard him reading Isaiah out loud and asked if he understood what he had read.
And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
The Ethiopian asked Philip to sit with him in the chariot to interpret Isaiah for him.
God is the ultimate orchestrator of the gospel in the world.
God divinely arranged Philip’s encounter with the eunuch. Interestingly, the Holy Spirit singled out the Ethiopian; it was not at Philip’s initiative that he contacted the eunuch. It was because of God’s sovereignty that the eunuch read a key Messianic passage in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit took the initiative to use Philip to reach an Ethiopian. Ministry is, at heart, a work of God, not man. It was the Spirit who sovereignly placed Philip and the eunuch in proximity to one another.