WHAT DOES “KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS” MEAN?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“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” (Acts 9:5). What did the Lord Jesus mean here when He said Saul of Tarsus was “kicking against the pricks?”
The King James Bible uses the term “pricks” thrice—Acts 9:5; its parallel verse, Acts 26:14; and Numbers 33:55. “Pricks” is defined in the last reference. God instructed Moses to advise Israel when she would enter into her Promised Land: “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:55). Notice that “pricks” and “thorns” are associated with one another (cf. Ezekiel 28:24). They are very similar. In fact, our King James translators rendered the Greek word for “pricks” (Acts 9:5; Acts 26:14) as “sting” in 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 and “stings” in Revelation 9:10.
Prior to Paul’s salvation, God had been forming the nation Israel (often likened unto a flock of sheep). God had also sent His Son, Israel’s Messiah-King, Jesus, as the “good shepherd” (John 10:11), to lead wayward Israel back to Him. Jesus declared, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24; cf. Matthew 10:6; Luke 15:1-10). Saul of Tarsus was one of those lost Jews, bitterly opposed to Jesus Christ: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). He imprisoned and murdered Jewish Messianic believers, men and women (Acts 26:10-11; cf. Acts 7:58–8:4; Acts 22:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13-14,23; 1 Timothy 1:13).
God described Saul’s activities as “kicking against the pricks.” “Pricks” (or, goads) resemble thorns; they are pointed objects used to prod and drive rebellious livestock or other animal herds. Essentially, Jesus Christ referred to Saul as a disobedient sheep, sinfully opposing God’s will for Israel (Saul rejected Christ, and was killing those who accepted and trusted Him). Saul was a mighty instrument that Satan used to keep Israel from becoming the nation God had intended her to become. She was to be “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:3-6) and yet she could not become it because she refused to accept her King, Jesus!
On the road outside of Damascus in Acts chapter 9, Saul of Tarsus learned his fighting against the Creator God was futile, for he was unsuccessful in annihilating believing Israel. In fact, hell-bound Saul eventually quit striving against God. He trusted Christ, and ultimately became the Apostle Paul, God’s apostle to us Gentiles!