Paul stayed two years at Ephesus during his “third missionary journey” (Acts 19:10). Near the end of his sojourn, as was often the case in Paul’s ministry, he faced significant conflict (Acts 19:23). He was challenged by a silversmith named Demetrius whose occupation was creating shrines for the goddess Artemis (Acts 19:24). The temple of Artemis at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (pictured). Paul’s monotheism severely threatened the local economy. In modern parlance, Paul went from preaching to meddling.
Artemis was one of the most widely worshiped Greek gods (Acts 19:24, 27, 28, 34, 35). In Greek myth, Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin of Apollo. She is a virgin huntress and is frequently depicted carrying a bow and arrow. She was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, and bringing and relieving disease in women. The Roman equivalent is Diana though this name never appears in the Bible. The temple of Artemis had been at Ephesus for centuries before Paul challenged its authority and would stand until 401.
Though people in the western world seldom worship a pantheon of gods, they do often put other things before God that become false idols.
What idols do people worship today? What do you put ahead of God? Does your religious belief system affect your purchasing patterns? When do you feel preachers go from preaching to meddling, overstepping their bounds into your comfort zone?
Demetrius was able to enlist support in his crusade against Paul and delivered a stirring speech:
“Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.” (Acts 19:25-27 NASB)The plea was effective and a riot ensued (Acts 19:28) before being quelled by the town clerk (Acts 19:35-40). Helmut Koester (b. 1926) speculates that this clerk was perhaps the most powerful Ephesian of his day (Koester, Ephesos: Metropolis of Asia, 130). He was able to restore peace and the incident would prove to be Paul’s final battle against a pagan religion as a free man.
For Demetrius the issue was simple: “our prosperity depends upon this business (Acts 19:25).” Whether Paul spoke truth was not a primary concern.
What would you do if you felt God asked you to change professions? What if God asked you to give up your “prosperity”? What goal do you seek, truth or prosperity?