Acts 23



1 “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have

lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”  Looking steadfastly on

for earnestly beholding, A.V.; brethren for men and brethren, Authorized Version;

I have lived before God, etc., for I have lived, etc., before God, Authorized Version.

Looking steadfastly; ἀτενίσαςatenisaslooking intently as in ch. 1:10; 3:4, 12;

6:15; 7:55; 10:4; 11:6; 13:9; 14:9. It governs a dative here, as in ch. 3:12; 10:1; 14:9;

Luke 4:20; 22:56; elsewhere it is followed by εἰς -  eisto; into. Brethren. He omits

here the "fathers" which he added in ch. 22:1. If there is any special significance in

the omission, it may be that he meant now to assume a less apologetic tone, and to

speak as an equal to equals. Howson and Lewin think that he spoke as being, or

having been, himself a member of the Sanhedrim. But he may have meant merely

a friendly address to his countrymen. I have lived, etc. (πεπολέτευμαι τῷ Θεῷ -

pepoleteumai to Theo – have been citizen to the God; to live as a citizen to God);

compare Philippians 3:20; I have had my conversation (vitam degi) unto God,

or, for God, i.e. according to the will of God, with a view to God as the end of all

my actions. So Josephus ('De Maccabeis,' sect. 4) says that Antiochus Epiphanes

made a law that all Jews should be put to death οἵτινες φάνριεν τῷ πατοίω νόμω

πολιτευόμενοιhoitines phanrien to patoio nomo politeuomenoi - who were seen

to live according to the Law of their fathers.  And so in II Maccabees 6:1 it is said

that he sent to compel the Jews to forsake the Law of their fathers - καὶ τοῖ τοῦ

Θεοῦ νόμοις μὴ πολιτεύεσθαιkai toi tou Theou nomois mae politeuesthai

and not live agreeably to the laws of God. And once more, in III Maccabees  3:3-4

the Jews are said to fear God and to be τῷ τούτου νόμῳ πολιτευόμενοι – to toutou

nomo politeuomenoi - living according to His Law. Here, then, πολιτεύεσθι τῷ Θεῷ -

politeuesthi to Theo means to live in obedience to God. Paul boldly asserts his

undeviating compliance with the Law of God, as a good and consistent Jew

(Philippians 3:6).




Good Conscience before God  (v. 1)


Those first words of Paul’s defense, which so greatly excited and angered

the high priest, are capable of being taken in more senses than one. We

may regard them in:



Paul did not intend to say that he had never been conscious of defect and

guilt in his relation to God. The time had been when he might have said so.

As a scrupulous Pharisee, who was, “touching the righteousness which is

in the Law, blameless,” he would consider himself without any reason for

remorse. But “what things were gain to him,” those he “counted loss for

Christ” (Philippians 3:7). He had come to the conclusion that the “way

of peace” was not by faultlessness, but by forgiveness of sins through Jesus

Christ; he had sought and found “the righteousness which is of God by

faith (Philippians 3:9). And there is no living man who can look back

upon all that he has said and done, and look in on all that he has been, and

declare that he is conscious of no defect and no guiltiness before God,

except, indeed, he is one whom sin has blinded, and who does not know

how “poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17)he is, in the sight of

absolute purity.  Comparing our conduct and examining our hearts in the

light of God’s” exceeding broad commandment, “WE ALL ALL INCLUDED UNDER SIN!” (Romans 3:9; Galatians 3:22)  We have all to acknowledge

much in the matter of positive transgression, and far more in that of

unfulfilled RIGHTEOUSNESS!.



true of Paul in this respect, that from the beginning of his Jewish course up

to the time when he became a Christian, he had acted in accordance with

his convictions; that his change of view was purely conscientious; and that

from the beginning of his Christian career till that day he had steadfastly

pursued the path in which God had directed him to walk. Every Christian

man ought to be able to affirm this of himself, having regard to his entire

Christian course. This conscious spiritual integrity:


Ø      Includes a sense of continued reconciliation and fellowship with God.

Ø      Includes unbroken uprightness of conduct, freedom from presumptuous

and scandalous sin, and general conformity to the will of God in all the

relations of life.

Ø      Admits of many failures and infirmities, which are acknowledged and


Ø      Results from that gracious influence from heaven which attends the

waiting upon God (Isaiah 1:2-3;  40:31).



ANY ONE. Paul may have been able to use these words of every period of

his life; but they can only be applied to the earlier part with a reservation.

He could only feel that he had been honestly and earnestly pursuing a

mistaken course during those years. Happy are they who, when the end

arrives, are able to look back on a whole life devoted to truth, to heavenly

wisdom, to holy usefulness; who, from childhood to old age, have spent

their powers in the service of Christ. These have not to set off one part of

their career against another part, but can rejoice to feel that, from the

beginning “until this day,” they have, in the fullest sense, “lived in all good

conscience before God.” (v. 1)  Here is an argument:


Ø      for beginning at the earliest point;

Ø      for continuing through the special temptations of mid-life;

(“There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to

man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted

above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a

way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  II Corinthians 10:13)

Ø      for persisting through the infirmities of later years, in the beauty

of a holy Christian life, in the excellency of earnest work.


2  And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite

him on the mouth.”  Ananias, the son of Nebedaeus, successor of Joseph the son

of Camel, or Camydus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 1:3; 5:2), appears to have been actually

high priest at this time. He was a violent, haughty, gluttonous, and rapacious man,

and yet looked up to by the Jews ("tres considere," Renan). He had probably lately

returned from Rome, having been confirmed, as it seems, in his office by Claudius,

to whom Quadratus, the predecessor of Felix, has sent him as a prisoner, to answer

certain charges of sedition against him. He seems to have been high priest for the

unusually long period of over ten years - from A.D. 48 to A.D. 59 (see Josephus,

'Ant. Jud.,' 20. 5:2; 6:2, 3; 8:8). But, on the other hand, Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8:5)

speaks of a certain Jonathan being high priest during the government of Felix, and

being murdered by the Sicarii (a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots who, in the decades

preceding Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A. D. were opposed to the Roman occupation of Judea

and attempted to spur on zealous movements and their sympathizers via covert combat. (Wikipedia)

at his instigation; which looks as if Ananias's high priesthood had been interrupted.

It would appear, too, from ibid. 20. 8:8, that Ismael the son of Fabi succeeded to

Jonathan, not to Ananias, as is usually supposed. But the question is involved in

great obscurity.


3 “Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest

thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to

the law?”  And for for, Authorized Version; according to for after, Authorized

Version. God shall smite thee (τύπτειν σε μέλλειtuptein se melleito be beating

you is being about). A distinct announcement of something that would happen.

(For the incident itself, compare I Kings 22:24-25; Jeremiah 28:15, 17; and here,

ch.12:1-2, 23) Ananias perished by the daggers of the Sicarii (Josephus, 'Bell.

Jud,' 2. 17:9), at the beginning of the Jewish war under the procuratorship of

Florus, in the year A.D. 66 . He had been previously deposed from the high

priesthood by King Agrippa toward the close of the government of Felix

('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8:8), about A.D. 59, or early in A.D. 60, less than two years from

the present time. Thou whited wall. This expression is admirably illustrated by the

quotations from Seneca in Kuinoel: "These base and sordid spirits are like the walls

of their own houses, only beautiful on the outside." "What are our gilt roofs but lies?

for we well know that under the gilding unseemly beams are concealed." "It is not

only our walls which are coated with a thin outward ornament; the greatness of

those men whom you see strutting in their pride is mere tinsel; look beneath the

surface, and you will see all the evil that is hid under that thin crust of dignity"

('De Provid.,' 6, and 'Epist.' 115). Ananias was sitting in his priestly robes of office,

presiding over the council in power and dignity, and presumably a righteous judge,

but his heart within was polluted with injustice, selfishness, and a corrupt

disposition, which made him act unrighteously (compare Matthew 23:27).

Contrary to the Law; or, acting illegally; παρανομῶν paranomon - illegally,

only found here in the New Testament, but common in classical Greek. Paul's

temper was very excusably roused by the brutality and injustice of Ananias.

But we may, perhaps, think that he did not quite attain to "the mind that was

in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5),who "when he was reviled, reviled not again"

(I Peter 2:23), but was "led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb

before his shearer, He opened not His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32).





Passion under Insult (v. 3)


We may at once say that, though much excuse may be found for Paul,

he was quite below the Christian standard in making such an answer to the

official. He was certainly far below his Divine Master, who, “when He was

reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but

committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously.” (I Peter 2:23)  A

probable explanation of Paul’s failure to recognize the high priest is given

by Michaelis: “Soon after the holding of the first council at Jerusalem,

Ananias, son of Nebedaeus, was deprived of the high priest’s office for

certain acts of violence, and sent to Rome, whence he was afterwards

released, and returned to Jerusalem. Between the death of Jonathan, who

succeeded him and who was murdered by Felix, and the high priesthood of

Ismael, who was invested with this office by Agrippa, an interval elapsed in

which this dignity was vacant. This was at the time when Paul was

apprehended, and the Sanhedrim, being destitute of a president, Ananias

undertook the office. It is probable that Paul was ignorant of this

circumstance.’’ The incident may suggest to us:



anger,” which is generally used for quick passionate temper, often both

unreasoning and unreasonable, and “indignation,” which is the proper

uprising of our nature against wrong. We seldom do well to be “angry;” we

always do well to be “indignant.” Anger suggests feeling mastering

judgment; indignation suggests judgment giving character to feeling. Every

man ought to be sensitive to wrong, whether it be done to others or to

himself. The question for him concerns, not the feeling of indignation, but

the forms in which such indignation may find expression. Paul ought to

be indignant at the offering of such an insult, by one who occupied the

position of a judge. Paul’s prompt and stern utterance perhaps

anticipated compliance with this direction, which was quite illegal in itself,

and must have been considered to be aggravated as given against a Roman

citizen, placed at a Jewish bar by the Roman commandant. For a similar

insult offered to our Lord, see John 18:22.



FOR HIS RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATIONS. At once, in the spirit of the

Christian gentleman, as soon as the official position of the person whom he

had answered was pointed out to him, he expressed his regret. Some have,

indeed, thought that he meant to say such conduct as that of Ananias made

it impossible to regard him as the high priest, but it is more simple to read

in his words some sense of his having yielded to his sensitive and intense

feelings. Impulsive men are usually quick to acknowledge their faults, and

to remove any evil impressions which their conduct or language may have

produced. The highest virtue is the self-mastery that keeps us from making

such mistakes; but the next virtue is a cheerful and humble readiness to

make amends when our mistakes, or our hasty language, have injured





Just as there is a “righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the

scribes and Pharisees,” so there is a righteousness which exceeds the

worldly maxims and moral rules which guide ordinary men. It may be right

to resent insult, but, from the Christian standpoint, it is much more right to

bear it, and be patient under it, and forgive it. And such righteousness is

illustrated in the scenes of our Lord’s trial, when contumely was heaped

upon Him. Few things offer a severer test of Christian virtue than

unprovoked and unreasonable insult. By it even the watchful man may be

taken at unawares, and be suddenly moved to passion. Only the constant

habit of thinking before we speak, and letting the moments of thinking be

moments of prayer, can keep us in the trying hour. Paul’s reset for his

hasty words would be more profound before God than before men. He

found a serious and humbling lesson in this mistake. Impress how often we

err, and disgrace our Christian profession, by the tone and temper in which

we “answer back.”


4 “And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?”

God's high priest. This seems to show that Ananias actually was high priest,

though some think that he had thrust himself into the office after his return from

Rome, without due authority, and that this was the reason why Paul excused

himself by saying, in v. 5, "I wist not that he was high priest."



5 “Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is

written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”  And Paul said

for then said Paul, Authorized Version; high for the high, Authorized Version;

a ruler for the ruler, Authorized Version. I wist not, etc. These words express,

as distinctly as words can express anything, that Paul was not aware, when he

called Ananias a "whited wall," that he was addressing the high priest. Different

reasons for this ignorance have been given. Some think that it arose from the

uncertainty that existed whether Ananias really was high priest or not at this time,

or whether the office was not in abeyance. Others attribute to Paul's weakness of

sight the fact that he did not see that Ananias was sitting in the presidential chair,

neither was able to recognize his features. Others, giving to οὐκ ἤδεινouk aedein

I was not aware α sense  which it never has, render, "I did not reflect," or "bear in

mind, that he was high priest." What is certain is that for some reason or other

Paul did not know that he was speaking to the high priest. Had he known it,

he would not have said what he did say, because the Law is express which says,

Ἄρχοντα τοῦ λαοῦ σου οὐ κακῶς ἐρεῖςArchonta tou laou sou ou kakos ereis

 nor curse the ruler of thy people (Exodus 22:28, Septuagint).


6 “But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other

Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee,

the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called

in question.”  Brethren for men and brethren, Authorized Version (as in v. 1);

a son of Pharisees for the son of a Pharisee, Authorized Version and Textus

Receptus; touching for of, Authorized Version. When Paul perceived, etc.

Possibly the Pharisees in the Sanhedrim were disgusted at the brutal act of

Ananias, and were not sorry to hear him called "a whited wall;" and Paul's quick

intelligence saw at a glance that the whole council did not sympathize with their

president, and divined the cause. With a ready wit, therefore, he proclaimed

himself a Pharisee, and, seizing upon the great dogma of the resurrection,

which Christians held in common with the Pharisees, he rallied to his side all

who were Pharisees in the assembly. Of Pharisees. The Received Text has

Φαρισαίων  - Pharisaion -  Pharisees (in the plural), which gives the sense that

his ancestors were Pharisees (compare Philippians 3:5). Touching the hope, etc.

(see ch. 24:21). The words are somewhat difficult to construe. Some take

"the hope and ressurection of the dead" for a hendiadys, equivalent to

"the hope of the resurrection of the dead." Some take ἐλπίδος elpidos

expectation - by itself, as meaning "the hope of a future life." Perhaps the

exact form of the words is, "Touching the hope and (its ultimate object) the

resurrection of the dead I am called in question." The article is omitted after the

preposition (Alford). As regards Paul's action in taking advantage of the strong

party feeling by which the Sanhedrim was divided, there is a difference of opinion.

Some, as Alford, think that the presence of mind and skill with which Paul divided

the hostile assembly was a direct fulfillment of our Lord's promise (Mark 13:9-11;

see Homiletics, 1-11) to suggest by His Spirit to those under persecution what

they ought to say. Farrar, on the contrary, strongly blames Paul, and says," The

plan showed great knowledge of character... but was it worthy of Paul?... Could

he worthily say, 'I am a Pharisee'? Had he any right to inflame an existing animosity?"

 and more to the same effect (vol. it. pp. 325-328). But it could not be wrong for 

Paul to take advantage of the agreement of Christian doctrine with some of the

tenets of the Pharisees, to check the Pharisees from joining with the Sadducees

in crushing that doctrine. He had never thrown off his profession as a Jew, and

if a Jew, then one of the straitest sect of the Jews, in any of its main features; and

if he claimed the freedom of a Roman citizen to save himself from scourging,

why not the fact of being a Pharisee of Pharisees to save himself from an

iniquitous sentence of the Sanhedrim?



The Hope of the Living and the Resurrection of the Dead (v. 6)


“The hope and resurrection of the dead.” The chapter in which these words

are found offers a striking illustration of the irresistible force of providence,

or of providence and the direct acts of the Spirit in co-operation. The day

was dark for Paul, nor did there seem a glimmer of hope of any justice for

him at the hands of the council before whom he stood. But words and

wisdom were found either by him or for him. Those words of wisdom were

the weighty words of the text. The mere utterance of them rent the council

in twain; soon compelled the chief captain to come again to the rescue, in

place of shirking his duty, as by a side move he had wished to do; left an

enraged populace no chance, as they thought, of disposing of Paul except

by a murderous conspiracy; necessitated the removal of Paul by the

governor under a sufficient military escort to another place and another

court of trial, which in its turn led on directly to Paul’s appeal to Caesar

and arrival in the capital of the world. And weighty indeed were those

words — words which may be numbered as two; for they were weighted

with the solemn meaning and inscrutable mystery of a whole world. They

touch all that, is deepest in questions between God and man. They hold, in

fact, the one question that lies hidden down in some of its aspects in

mystery unfathomably deep. Notice, then:


  • THE HOPE HERE INTENDED. The expression may mean simply “the

hope of Israel (ch. 26:6-8; 28:20). But if it do mean this, it is

instanced as having for its chief implication the revelation of immortality in

and by Jesus. Or it may mean more specifically Israel’s “hope in and for the

resurrection of the dead,” though for obvious reasons Paul omits the word

Israel— a wider resurrection than that of Israel merely being deep in his

heart (ch. 24:15). The expression says the hope,” either absolutely or

of the dead.” The ambiguity of expression is immaterial, because there is

none of meaning. And grand indeed are the suggestions that come of the

language employed.


Ø      “The hope” must be universal. The laborious and far-fetched exceptions

that possibly might be produced would be infinitely insignificant, and might

be accounted for in, perhaps, every case by moral reasons, though the most


Ø      “The hope” must be of the very chiefest that can stir human hearts.

Ø      “The hope” carries in it the highest argument and testimony of the

Creator of those hearts.

4. “The hope” must determine the great leading tracks of our thoughts of

God and thoughts toward Him. If He is only our God up to the grave, the

greatest feeders of human regard, awe, devotion, are ruthlessly cut off at

one stroke. Wonder because of Him, fear toward Him, love for Him, wither

away rootless and profitless. According as we find ground for this hope or

were to fail to find it, our notions of God must be trustful or doubting,

loving or callous, aspiring or ruinously baffled, and our own life rearing

itself to air and light or cruelly beaten down to earth. Yes, the hope of

universal man, his deepest hope, his last hope, his highest kind of hope, his

most governing hope, is the hope that those called “the dead” are not dead,

but that they “all live.” For “the dead” the living hope this, and they hope it

for themselves, ere they, too, shall be numbered among that number. Upon

the basis of this hope rises the superstructure of our leading views of God,

as of our forecasts of self.



resurrection of the dead (in the sense of the resurrection in any tenable

philosophical sense of the body) is, beyond doubt, the specific revelation of

Christianity. The Christian revelation of the resurrection of the body avails:


Ø      To guide human thoughts as to the method of the transition from

mortality to immortality. Whatever may be the facts as to the disembodied

and intermediate state, the resurrection of the body sufficiently fixes for us

the form of the immortal life, and gives definiteness to our conception of it.


Ø      This revealed method evidently guarantees the maintenance of

individuality in the immortal life.


Ø      For quite similar reason it postulates the continuous identity of the



Ø      It surely infers the responsibility of the individual. No one for one

moment contends for human responsibility or for human irresponsibility in

this poor lower life. That those who have known it for the years of life’s

brief span should ignore it, at the first moment when its commanding

character would receive forcible illustration, is incredible.


Ø      The resurrection of the dead indefinitely enlarges the entire character of

man. Were the truth now conceivably subtracted from the wealth of truth

which is our present possession, it would condemn us to a poverty of

distressing misery. No more appalling type of the truncated could be found

the world around. When Paul introduced with powerful voice and

distinctest of utterance this twofold expression of the grandest and the

most fundamental fact of human nature, he threw, doubtless, the apple of

discord into the midst of Pharisees and Sadducees, and he did it designedly.

But he was gaining a hearing for the truth that carries humanity’s highest

outlook in it. He was making a fresh appeal to all that is greatest and

deepest in human nature. He was reminding a hardened multitude of what

should most raise them and endear the Christ who came from God to them.

And he was preaching to them, not what could be construed into “a hard

saying,” but what was fitted to be perennial inspiration. Let us see to it that

it may be to us what it should have been, but was not, to them.





The Resurrection a Dividing Doctrine (v. 6)


If the supposition be a correct one that, just at this time, there was no high

priest, we can well understand how easily divisions and contentions might

be aroused in the mixed council, where party feeling was always strong.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were really more political than ecclesiastical

parties; they had distinct lines of thought, and conflicted for the positions

of supreme influence in the ecclesiastico-political life of the nation. Both

parties vigorously opposed Christianity, but the Pharisees on the ground of

its teachings — as they thought them — against Mosaism, and of its

degrading the national hope of Messiah, by affirming that He had come in

the person of the Galilaean Jesus. The Sadducees on the ground chiefly of

the disciples’ affirmation that Jesus had risen from the dead, which, they

were quick to see, it once admitted, involved the truth of our Lord’s claim

to the Messiahship. Paul evidently estimated, quickly and skillfully, the

character of the judges before whom he was brought, and easily turned

them from the consideration of his case to mere party wrangling. He saw,

plainly enough, that there was no chance of a fair judgment from either

party. If we must recognize some guilefulness in Paul’s conduct on this

occasion, we must remember that he had to deal with party prejudice and

unreasoning hatred, and he was justified in securing his deliverance by such

a quick-witted device. We observe:



DOCTRINE, To the Sadducees a mere superstitious dream, to the

Pharisees an important doctrine. Hints of it are found in the earlier

Scriptures, but the Old Testament has no clear testimony on the subject.

This is not really remarkable, because Mosaism did not take this point of

view; it did not demand obedience upon the promise of the “life to come,”

but upon promise of “the life that now is.” Thoughts of resurrection and

eternal life do not properly come to a Jew as a Jew, only to a Jew as a

personally devout, God-fearing man, with an individual spiritual life of

fellowship with God. Therefore the psalmists and prophets alone give us

hints of resurrection. See what helps come to the idea:


Ø      from the translations of Enoch and Elijah;

Ø      from the resurrections to natural life wrought by Elijah and Elisha;

Ø      from the expressions used in the Book of Job, and in the Psalms; and

Ø      from allusions in the prophets.


Exactly in what sense the Pharisees believed in resurrection it is difficult to

say. Clearly they had no notion of that spiritual body in which Christ

reappeared among men, and we also must appear. Probably they held the

doctrine very much as we hold some of our doctrines, merely for a

battleground. The Sadducees had not much difficulty in showing that such

a resurrection was a mere dream.



HOPE. Paul calls it here a hope, but it is really a truth upon which we

may build our hopes. Illustrate by showing what Paul writes about it —

about its foundations and about its vital importance to the Christian — in

I Corinthians 15. To him it was no mere dividing doctrine, though among

foes he ventured so to use it; to him it was infinitely sure and infinitely

precious — the message to him of his Redeemer’s own resurrection, He

labored, if “by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the

dead.”  (Philippians 3:11)




only note one of the more important differences. Pharisees had only, as

aids to their conception, cases of resurrection which were merely a

temporary restoration of bodily life. All the risen ones they could know of

died a natural death. Christians take their conception from the resurrection

of their Lord, which was to a spiritual, incorruptible, and eternal life.


7 “And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees

and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.”  Sadducees for the

Sadducees, Authorized Version; assembly for multitude, Authorized Version.


8 “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor

spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.”  Neither angel, etc. Is there any

connection between this expression and that in ch. 12:15, "It is his angel" (see

ibid. v. 9)? For the statement regarding the Pharisees and Sadducees, see

Luke 20:27.


9 “And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees'

part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit

or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”

Clamor for cry, Authorized Version; some of the for the, Authorized Version;

of the Pharisees part for that were of the, etc., Authorized Version; stood up

for arose, Authorized Version; and what for but, Authorized Version; a spirit

hath spoken to him, or an angel for a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him,

Authorized Version; the Received Text omits the clause in the Textus Receptus,

let us not fight against God. The scribes (compare Luke 20:39). We find no evil

in this man (compare John 18:29-33; Luke 23:14-15, 22). What if a spirit, etc.;

alluding to what Paul had said in ch. 22:17-18.


10 “And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest

Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers

to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring

him into the castle.”  Be torn for have been pulled, Authorized Version;

by for of, Authorized Version; take for to take, Authorized Version;

bring for to bring, Authorized Version. A great dissension; στάσεως

staseos - commotion, as in ch. 15:2. and above, v. 7. The state of things here

described is exactly what the pages of Josephus and of Tacitus disclose as to

the combustible state of the Jewish mind generally just before the

commencement of the Jewish war. The Roman power was the one element

of quiet and order. The tower of Antonia was the one place of safety in





Things Dubious and Things Certain (vs. 3-10)


There are few passages of Scripture in which there are so many doubtful

points in a small space.


  • THREE DOUBTFUL POINTS. It is uncertain:


Ø      What Paul meant by his apologetic remark (v. 5; see Exposition).


Ø      Whether he was justified in administering such a scathing rebuke, “God

shall smite thee,” etc. It certainly looks much like the utterance of a man

who for the moment has lost his self-control, and there seems to be ground

for contrasting it with the calm dignity of the Master when he was smitten

(John 18:22-23). The apostle laid no claim to perfection (Philippians 3:13 “perfect,” in v.15, signifies mature, instructed, disciplined), and he may

well have been provoked, at this time, into a resentment which he afterwards wished he had been able to master.


Ø      Whether he was right in classing himself with the Pharisaic party (v. 6).

Though with them in those respects in which they differed from the

Sadducees, and though, therefore, his words were formally correct, his

spirit was so different from theirs, his principles were so opposite to theirs,

his energies were so spent in combating theirs, that there was (or at least

seems to have been) more of falsity than truth in his declaration. It is

always a doubtful thing to say under pressure what we should never dream

of saying under ordinary circumstances. But we may look at:


  • THREE CERTAIN TRUTHS. It is certain:


Ø      That only intrinsic worth can long hold the honor of our fellow-men. If

Paul was ready, as he was, to pay outward deference to “God’s high

priest(v. 4); if he was unwilling to “speak evil of the ruler of the

people (v. 5); he certainly held in small honor the particular high priest

then presiding. Kings, judges, statesmen, ministers, may enjoy a

temporary deference and an outward tribute as public officers; but if they

are corrupt, if they are self-seeking, if they are indulgent, they will soon

sink into dishonor and even into contempt. Only the worthy will continue

to enjoy the esteem of their kind. Possibly a few of the shrewdest and most

cunning have carried their honors to the grave, though they have deserved

public reprobation, but these have passed to a scene where the veil will be

torn off, and the long-outstanding penalty be required; but these are the

few and not the many. Usually the pretender is unmasked here, and the iron

hand of indignation comes down on the guilty head.


Ø      That it is an honorable and excellent thing to explain or apologize when

one or the other is demanded.


o        It is the right thing; it is due to those who have been misled or injured.

o        It is the manly thing; it requires more courage, and courage of a higher

order, to withdraw with expressions of regret than to maintain with the

appearance of rectitude.

o        It is the Christian thing; though, indeed, our Lord needed not to do

this Himself, yet we are sure it is in perfect accordance with His will:

“If thy brother sin against thee, and he repent, forgive him, etc.

(Luke 17:3-4)

o        It is the peaceful thing; to defend one’s position is to foment strife;

to acknowledge error is to disarm resentment and promote peace.


Ø      That straightforwardness is the best course to pursue. It is very doubtful

whether Paul gained anything by his adoption of this expedient; he was in

the greatest danger of being “pulled in pieces” (v. 10). Such expediency

as that which he employed may sometimes be rewarded by a temporary

success. But the deepest and the longest success is the reward of sincerity

and unswerving truth: the deepest, because our own self-respect is

preserved inviolate and our integrity strengthened; the longest, for that

which is founded on truth is built upon a rock, and is likeliest to endure.


11 “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good

cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear

witness also at Rome.”   The Received Text omits Paul, in the Textus Receptus

and Authorized Version; concerning for of, Authorized Version; at for in,

Authorized Version. The Lord stood by him. The jaded, harassed, and

overwrought spirit needed some unusual support. The Lord whom Paul loved,

and for whom he was suffering so much, knew it, and in His tender care for

His servant stood by him and spake a word of gracious encouragement to him.

Paul felt that he was not forgotten or forsaken. There was more work for him to do,

in spite of all the hatred of his countrymen. The capital of heathendom must hear

his testimony as well the metropolis of the circumcision.



Paul Before the High Council (ch. 22:30 - ch. 23:11)




Ø      This gives manly courage and confidence.


Ø      It acts as a touchstone upon his foes, exposing their injustice, bringing

those passionate and unfair in spirit to light. Ananias’s answer to Paul’s

dignified statement is a blow on the mouth.


Ø      At the same time, it imparts childlike humility. Great was the

provocation to a high spirit like that of Paul. His first passionate answer

contrasts with that of Jesus on the same occasion (John 8:23). But on

the remonstrance of the bystanders, he apologizes for the exclamation.

Either he did not recognize Ananias for the presiding high priest; or,

recognizing, he meant to intimate that, while he had all respect for the

office, he had none for the person who thus abused it. “If Paul,” says

Luther, “thus assails the priest who was ordained according to the Law of

Moses, why should I dread to assail the painted bishops and ghosts who

come from the pope, without any command from God and man?”


Ø      Self-possession and prudence, with sincerity (v. 6). Paul is the sheep

among the wolves (Matthew 10:16). There was both tact and truth in

this confession. He was a Pharisee by birth and education, and also by

present position, as he upheld the authority of the Divine Law in

opposition to the frivolity of the Sadducees. That was the common ground

on which he and the Pharisees Stood. Paul says what is simply true. It is

only self-control, sincerity, and simplicity which can give true firmness

and consistency.



was a split in the assembly, occasioned by Paul’s confession. It is a picture

of what is ever going on in the world. Sects and parties fall asunder, and

make free space and passage for the truth of God. Party spirit drew the

Pharisees over to Paul; yet God’s wisdom reaches its end by this means.

He makes the wrath of man to praise Him. The Roman officer takes, as

usual, the part of an indifferentist, and orders the removal of the prisoner.

Thus the contending parties are silenced, and their objects are defeated by

their own passion and violence, while the cause of right prevails.


  • THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN. Great need brings great comfort.

God is content with the witness he has borne. Greater than the trials from

foes are those which arise from the self-doubts of a sensitive conscience.

Have we said and done our best? The disappointment of the result reflects

itself in the trouble of the conscience. But the results are not of our

command; the purpose is. We cannot command success; but we may

deserve it, and enjoy the testimony of a good conscience. The “comfort

wherewith I am comforted of God.” (II Corinthians 1:4)  It compensates

for the unjust judgment of the world; for the insults to one’s office; for the

griefs of self-condemnation.  Above all, it strengthens for the conflicts of

the future. It is a laurel on the brow of the hero of God, the word: “Thou

shalt bear witness again.” (v. 11)  Henceforward the apostolic history

turns upon the witness which Paul is to fulfill at Rome.


  • Lessons:


Ø      The true Christian witness must have, first of all, the good conscience within his breast. The violence of the foes of truth will then be a

certificate in his favor;

Ø      he will enjoy the sympathy of the honest and unprejudiced on earth,


Ø      the assurance of the Divine Judge in heaven.




Policy (vs. 1-11)


The characteristic quality of an Israelite indeed, as our Lord has taught us,

is to be without guile. All kinds of trickery, deceit, false pretences,

disguises, dissimulation, as well as downright falsehood, are entirely alien

from the true Christian spirit. The man of God walks habitually in an

atmosphere of transparent truth. He has nothing to conceal, nothing to

simulate. He has to do with the God of truth, who searches all hearts, and

from whom no secrets are hid. His one great object is to please God, and

to live in all good conscience toward Him. And it is a small thing with him

to be judged of man’s judgment. And then, as regards one fruitful source of

falsehood, fear — fear of evil, of danger, of blame, the man of God is

comparatively free from its influence, because he trusts in God, and

commits the keeping of his soul to Him as to a faithful Creator. God’s

faithfulness and truth are His shield and buckler. Hid under the shadow of

His protecting wings, he is safe. Even in the valley of the shadow of death

he fears no evil, because God is with him. His only fear is lest he forfeit

that omnipotent protection by conduct displeasing to God and unworthy of

a Christian man. But is the man of God therefore to take no steps to secure

his own safety? is he to use no sagacity, no wisdom, no prudence, to

follow no line of good policy, by which danger may be avoided, and the

enemies who seek to hurt him may be baffled and eluded? Surely this

cannot be affirmed except on principles of fatalism, which equally preclude

the taking of any steps towards the accomplishment of any end. To act

wisely and discreetly, to take advantage of circumstances and opportunities

as they arise, to bring about good results, and to avert evil ones, is as much

the duty of a Christian as to sow in order that he may reap, or to take

medicine in order that he may be healed. In the case before us, Paul was

in imminent danger of being condemned by unrighteous judges. He saw

that their passions and their prejudices were inflamed against him, and that

his own integrity was no security against an unjust sentence. But he saw

also that, though for the moment his judges were incited by their common

hatred towards himself, there were strong elements of discord among them.

He saw that on one of the leading truths of that gospel which he preached

the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting beyond the grave

the division between his enemies was at its height, and a large portion of

his judges were on his side. It was therefore an act, not of guile or deceit,

but of sagacity and policy, to take advantage of this circumstance, and to

divide his opponents, and, under cover of their division, to save himself.

And he did so with signal success. In doing so he has added one to many

other examples, that the safety of the righteous lies in the disunion of

sinners. It may be added that the vision, with its message, in v. 11, does

not look as if Paul had sullied his bright conscience by any unworthy

shifts when he stood before the council.




The Sympathizing and Mindful Master (v. 11)


We may justly suppose that, after the life, activity, and intense excitement

of that day, a reaction set in for Paul with the time of darkness and

enforced rest. Those who toil for their Lord all day will not find themselves

forgotten in their night of darkness, of uncertainty, of trouble. The comfort

of Jesus is in this night brought to Paul, and the way in which it was

brought to him must have been most grateful. That comfort offered itself in

several degrees.


  • THE LORD HIMSELF APPEARS. What an honor! What a kindness!

What a comfort!



condescension! What a really brotherly helping!



What a help for Paul, that voice! He had known different tones of voice of

Jesus. What a gracious variety, this! What a close suggestion also of the

faithful watching of the Lord over His faithful servant! He “had seen”

the sorrowing, wearied, grieved spirit of Paul, and had come to

stay his affliction by the direct exhortation, “Be of good cheer.”










1. This will put to flight all cares and anxieties as to the result of this trial,

as to the fear of assassination, as to the uncertainty of his future career on


2. It puts to flight all self-reproaching fears as to whether, “for his

unworthiness,” he was now to he cast aside. No; he is still a vessel meet for

the Master’s use — a weapon, polished, and not to be cast aside or laid





bear witness also at Rome.” His Lord needs him and relies on him. And

says He can depend on him who had done his work so well “in Jerusalem.”




Divine Cheer in Anxious Hours (v. 11)


One of Paul’s marked peculiarities was sensitiveness to Divine visions

and communications. Such visions are indeed granted only in the

sovereignty of Divine grace; but we may see that they are granted only to

such persons as are receptive, and likely to be influenced aright by them.

The same remark may be made concerning “visions” and miraclesand all

special modes of Divine communication. They are conditioned as truly by

what man can receive as by what God can grant; and this may sufficiently

explain why we have no visions or miracles now. On Paul’s sensitiveness

to the Divine nearness, note:


(1) that his Christian life began in a vision and revelation;

(2) that his labors had been directed in a special manner; and

(3) that the culture of his spiritual life involved the quick, clear vision of

the “unseen.”


This had been an anxious day to the apostle. He estimated the malice of the

Jewish party, and knew well that nothing short of his death would satisfy these

zealots. No doubt he spent much time in prayer, and, as a response, there came

this vision of his glorified Lord, and the cheering and assuring message. Our Lord

gave His personal comfort to Paul — by manifestation and message — on all the

great occasions of perplexity and danger in the apostle’s career (see ch. 18:9;

17:22-25, etc.). We may see that, in this instance before us, the grounds on which

the apostle should be of “good cheer” were partly expressed and partly assumed.



WITNESS. No joy to Paul could be compared with this, that he might

be longer spared to work for his Divine Master. True, he could say that “to

die is gain,” but he could unfeigned]y rejoice with his disciples that he was

to continue with them all for their furtherance and joy in faith.” On this

occasion, taken back to the castle in the charge of the Roman guard, he

might reasonably have felt despondent. “To human apprehension there was

at this time nothing between the apostle and death but the shelter afforded

in the Roman barrack.” He might fear that his work was done. All earnest

Christian workers know what times of depression and despondency mean.

Even after successful work there may come the feeling of exhaustion, and

we may say, like Elijah, “Let me die, for I am not better [more successful]

than my fathers” (I Kings 19:4).  To Elijah, to Paul, and to us, at such times,

the best of all cheer is the message, “The Lord hath need of thee” yet awhile. With such cheer the clouds pass; we can smile again on life. We are lifted up

above our difficult circumstances and our exceeding perils. We learn that if

bearing and battling have to be our lot, it is but for a while; we shall battle

through, and we shall even serve God in the battling. This is good cheer

indeed. Christ shall still be magnified in our body, whether it be by life or

by death.”  (Philippians 1:20)


  • “BE OF GOOD CHEER;” FOR I AM WITH YOU. This is the

comforting which is assumed rather than expressed. Christ “stood by” the

apostle, but it was only His coming out of the invisible into the visible.

Paul only saw what was the permanent fact. The Lord was always standing

by him, always within the visions of his soul. And there is no cheer for us

like this. Compare the intense anxiety of Moses to be sure that Jehovah

was present in the camp. “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up

hence (Exodus 33:15) it was perfect rest for anxious Moses to hear Jehovah respond, saying, My presence shall go with thee” (ibid. v. 14).What is in

this case assumed is actually expressed to Paul in some of his other visions. At Corinth Christ had said, “Be not afraid… for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.” (ch. 18:9-10)  Still, we know that trial is nothing, if Jesus is with us, helping us to bear; and work is nothing, if Jesus is with us, helping us to do. I can do all things, and can bear all sufferings, if my Lord

 be there.”  (Philippians 4:13)  What is for us the real cheer of life are:


Ø      Work.

Ø      God’s presence is the inspiration and the strength of our working.

Ø      The inward consciousness that God’s approval rests upon our work.


In our text Christ did but assure Paul, what He also assures us, that

man is immortal until his work is done.” (George Whitefield)  No arrow can pierce any one of us until our last battle has been fought, and it is enough that

our Lord knows when our bit of service for Him is complete.


12 “And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound

themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till

they had killed Paul.”  The Jews for certain of the Jews, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus. Banded together (ποιήσαντες ...συστροφὴν poiaesantes...

sustrophaenmaking...conspiracy). This word συστροφή - sustrophaerolled

together; a turning together; banded -  is found in the New Testament only here

and ch.19:40, where it is rendered "concourse." The sense of "a conspiracy," which

it has here, is common in the Septuagint (see Amos 7:10; II Kings 15:15, etc.). The

verb συστρέφειν in the Septuagint has the sense of "to conspire" (II Samuel 15:31;

II Kings 10:9;  15:30, συνέστρεψε σύστρεμμα sunestrepse sustremmamade a

conspiracy). Bound themselves under a curse (ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς - anethematisan

heautousanathamatize themselves). The word ἀνάθεμα  - anathema - anathema

(Romans 9:3; I Corinthians 12:3; 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9) corresponds to the Hebrew

צּצּצּ, the devotion of anything to destruction; and hence "the thing itself so devoted."

And the verb ἀναθεματίζεν anathematizen - corresponds to the Hebrew צּצּצּ,

to devote to destruction, without the possibility of redemption. Here they made

themselves an ἀνάθεμα – anathema -  if they did not kill Paul before partaking

of any food. It seems, however, that there was a way of escape if they failed to

keep the vow. Lightfoot, on this passage, quotes from the Talmud: "He that hath

made a vow not to eat anything, woe to him if he eat, and woe to him if he do not

eat. If he eat he sinneth against his vow; if he do not eat he sinneth against his life.

What must such a man do in this case? Let him go to the wise men, and they will

loose his vow" ('Hebrews and Talmud. Exercit. upon the Acts').


13 “And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.”

Made for had made, Authorized Version. Conspiracy; συνωμοσίανsunomosian

conspiracy, in Latin conjuratio. It only occurs here in the New Testament, but is

used occasionally by Diodorus Siculus and other Greek writers. The kindred

word συνωμότης  - sunomotaes is found in the Septuagint of Genesis 14:13,

rendered "confederate," Authorized Version.


14 “And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have

bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until

we have slain Paul.  The elders for elders, Authorized Version; to taste

for that we will eat, Authorized Version; killed for slain, Authorized Version.

The chief priests, etc. Meaning, no doubt, those who were of the party of the

Sadducees, to which the chief priests mainly belonged at this time. A great curse.

There is nothing in the phraseology of this verse, as compared with that of v. 12,

to warrant the introduction of the word "great." It is simply, "We have

anathematized ourselves with an anathema."


15 “Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he

bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something

more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to

kill him.”  Do ye for ye, Authorized Version; the Received Text omits tomorrow,

in the Authorized Version; judge of his case more exactly for inquire something

more perfectly concerning him, Authorized Version; slay for kill, Authorized

Version. With the council. Either the temporary feeling of the Pharisees had

subsided, and their old hatred come to the front again, or the high priest and

Sadducees, by some plausible excuse, persuaded the Pharisees of the council

to join with them in asking that Paul might be brought before them again.

Signify. The word ἐμφανίσατε emphanisatesignify; disclose ye -  only occurs

here and at v. 22, in this sense of "signifying" or "making known" something,

which it has in Esther 2:22, of the Septuagint. Codex Alexandrinus (as the

rendering of אָמַר, to tell), and in II Maccabees 3:7, and in Josephus, as also in

classical Greek. Elsewhere in the New Testament it means "to manifest," or "show,"

as in John 14:21-22; in the passive voice "to appear," as in Matthew 27:53;

Hebrews 9:24; and in a technical legal sense "to give information" (ch. 24:1;

25:2, 15). Judge of his case more exactly; διαγινώσκειν κ.τ.λ. – diaginoskein k.t.l. -  

to be investigating, etc.  The word only occurs here and in ch. 24:22. The classical

use of the word in the sense of "deciding," "giving judgment," is in favor of the

Revised Version; διαγινώσκειν, like διάγνωσιςdiagnosis -  diagnosis (ch.  25:21),

is a word of very frequent use in medical writers, as is the ἀκριβέστερον

akribesteronmore accurately; more perfectly, which here is joined with it

(ch. 24:22, note).


16 “And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and

entered into the castle, and told Paul.”  But for and when, A.V.: and he came

for he went, Authorized Version. Lying in wait; ἐνέδραenedra ambush -only

here and in ch. 25:3 in the New Testament; but common in the Books of Joshua

and Judges in the Septuagint, and also in classical Greek.




Providential Protections (v. 16)


There is a time for miracle to work, and a time for providence to work, and

the appropriate times the Lord of infinite wisdom and knowledge alone can

arrange. It seems very strange to us that Peter should have been

brought out of prison by the miraculous deliverances of an angel, and that

Paul should be left dependent on the accident, as some would call it, of

his nephew’s overhearing the plot against his life. Yet, perhaps, there is no

real difference between a “miraculous” and a providential deliverance.

Both are Divine interventions on behalf of God’s servants, and both are

simply adaptations of the intervention to particular cases. When we can get

a fuller and worthier conception of God’s working in the “natural,” we

shall probably lose sight of the distinction which we now make between the

natural and the supernatural. And this we shall do, not by losing the

supernatural,” but by losing the “natural,” and seeing that ALL DIVINE

WORKINGS ARE BEYOND nature,  beyond mere human energy.

I recommend Genesis 17 – Names of God – El Shaddai by Nathan Stone this website –

CY – 2018)  We shall find Divine energy in the flowers, and trees, and sunshine,

and storms, and in the genius, art, and poetry of man. We shall not “level down,”

but “level up;” and, forgetting how men would drag us down to the operations of

dead law, we shall find everywhere the working of the living God, and all

life will seem to us GOD’S GREAT MIRACLE!   While we have to make a

distinction between the “miraculous” and the “providential,” we may notice




ORDINARY AGENCY. We know that our fellow-men, and we ourselves,

have ordinary and regular methods of working, and that both we and they,

under pressure of circumstances, sometimes transcend ourselves, and act

with an energy, promptitude, skill, and power which quite surprises those

who seem to know us most intimately. May not this suggest to us the

distinction in God between the miraculous and the providential? The

miraculous is the Divine working to meet sudden and unusual

circumstances. Then we may see that there was no need for extraordinary

intervention in Paul’s case, because this was no sudden calamity,

breaking in upon and interfering with the Divine order; it was but a step in

the regular course of providential dealings with Paul, and ordinary

resources of providence sufficed to overcome the seeming danger.



AGENCY. God’s providences have been working through all the ages, and

they have sufficed to secure the safety of His servants under all kinds of

perils. From the Old Testament numerous illustrations may be taken; e.g.

notice how David was preserved while he was pursued by Saul; or see how

events were providentially ordered for Joseph. Remarkable stories of

wonderful providences are given in modern books; e.g. that of the man

pursued by soldiers, who searched the house where he had found refuge,

and quarreled outside the door of the room in which he was secreted, as to

whether that room had been searched; the quarrel resulting in their going

away and never entering it. God’s miracles have been wrought in almost

every age, but they have always been temporary phenomena, special

occasions of necessity, and having some unusual testimony to make. By

their very nature miracles must be occasional only.




wonders. They are not, indeed, wonders only; they are works; they are

signs and wonders. Still, it is their chief characteristic that they arrest,

arouse, surprise, excite attention. On the other hand, God’s providences

need to be watched for and observed and thought about. “Whoso will

observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the

Lord.”  In life, human agencies that seem to bring about results for us,

as his nephew’s intervention brought about Paul’s safety, must never take

our interest merely for their own sake. We must ever look behind them and

see that they are but working out the Divine plan and Divine will. God

delivered Paul from peril by the aid of his nephew just as truly as if He had rescued him by the hand of an angel.

7 “Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this

young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.”

And for then, Authorized Version; called unto him one, etc., for called one, etc.,

 unto him, Authorized Version; something for a certain thing, Authorized Version.


18 “So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the

prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto

thee, who hath something to say unto thee.”  Saith for said, Authorized Version;

asked for prayed, Authorized Version; to for unto, Authorized Version.


19 “Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside

privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?”

And for then, Authorized Version; going aside asked him privately for went

with him aside privately, and asked him, Authorized Version. Took him by the hand

(ἐπιλαβόμενος τῆς χειρὸς epilabomenos taes cheirostaking hold of the hand);

see above, ch. 17:19, note. The action denotes a kindly feeling towards Paul, as

indeed his whole conduct does (compare ch. 24:23; 27:3; also Daniel 1:9 and

Psalm 106:46).


20 “And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest

bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire

somewhat of him more perfectly.”  Ask thee to bring for desire thee that then

wouldest bring, Authorized Version; unto for into, Authorized Version; thou

wouldest for they would, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; more exactly

concerning him for of him more perfectly, Authorized Version. Have agreed.

συνέθεντο sunethentoagreed; occurs four times in the New Testament, of

which three are in Luke's writings (Luke 22:5; this passage; and ch. 24:9), and

the fourth in John 9:22.


21 “But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them

more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they

will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready,

looking for a promise from thee.”   Do not thou therefore for but do not thou,

Authorized Version; under a curse for with an oath, Authorized Version; neither

to eat nor to drink for that they will neither eat nor drink, Authorized Version;

slain for killed, Authorized Version; the for a (promise), Authorized Version.

Do not... yield (μὴ πεισθῇςmae peisthaesshould not be being persuaded);

be not persuaded by them; do not assent unto them (see Luke 16:6; ch. 5:40;

17:4, etc.). The promise, etc.; τὴν ἀπὸ σοῦ ἐπαγγελίανtaen apo sou epaggelian

the promise from you. The word occurs above fifty times in the New Testament,

and is always rendered "promise" in the Authorized Version, except in I John 1:5,

where it is rendered both in the Authorized Version and the Revised Version

"message," which is the literal meaning of the word. In Polybius it means

"a summons." Either of these meanings suits this passage better than "promise."


22 “So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him,

See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.”

Let for then let, Authorized Version; go for depart, Authorized Version;

charging for and charged, Authorized Version; tell for see then tell,

Authorized Version; signified for showed, Authorized Version (see v. 15,

note). Charging (as in ch. 1:4;  4:18;  5:28, 40, etc.).


23 “And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred

soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen

two hundred, at the third hour of the night;”  Of the centurions for centurions,

Authorized Version; and said for saying, Authorized Version; as far as for to,

Authorized Version. Two hundred soldiers; one hundred for each centurion;

στρατιώταςstratiotas -  foot-soldiers, who alone would be under the command

of the centurions. The ἱππεῖς hippeishorsemen and the δεξιολάβους

dexiolabousslingers; spearmen - would be under the command perhaps of a

τουρμάρχης tourmarchaes - tourmarchaes, or decurio, captain of a turma, or

squadron.  Here there would seem to be two turmae because a turma consisted

of thirty-three men - here possibly of thirty-five. Spearmen; δεξιολάβοι

dexiolaboi. This word occurs nowhere else in Scripture or in any ancient Greek

author. It is first found in" Theophylactus Simocatta, in the seventh century, and

then again in the tenth century in Constantine Porphyrogenitus" (Meyer). It seems

most probable that it was the name of some particular kind of light infantry. But it

is not easy to explain the etymology. Perhaps they were a kind of skirmishers thrown

out on a march to protect the flanks of an army; as Plutarch speaks of javelin-men

and slingers being placed to guard, not only the rear, but also the flanks of the army

on the march (Steph., 'Thesaur.,' under οὐραγία). "Holding or taking the right"

might be the force of the compound, somewhat after the analogy of δεξιόσειρος

dexioseirosright hand;  δεξιοστάτηςdexiostataes -  etc.; which agrees with the

explanations of Phavorinus παραφύλακας pharaphulakas -, and with that of Beza,

"Qui alicui dextrum latus [meaning simply latus] munit." Only, instead of the

improbable notion of these men being a body-guard of the tribune - which their

number makes impossible - it should be understood of the troops which protect

the flank of an army on the march. Other improbable explanations are that

δεξιολάβος dexiolabos - means the soldier to whom the right hand of prisoners

was fastened, or those who grasp with the right hand their weapon, the lance or

javelin. The object of Lysias in sending so large a force was to guard against the

possibility of a rescue in the feverish and excited state of the Jewish mind. And

  no doubt one reason for sending Paul away was his dread of a Jewish riot.


24 “And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe

unto Felix the governor.”  He bade them provide for provide, Authorized Version,

(the infinitive παραστῆσαιparastaesaito present); might for may, Authorized

Version; thereon for on, Authorized Version. Beasts (κτήνη ktaenae - here

riding-horses, as Luke 10:34. In Revelation 18:13 it is applied to "cattle;"

in I Corinthians 15:39 it means "beasts" generally. In the Septuagint it is used

for all kinds of beasts - cattle, sheep, beasts of burden, etc. Beasts is in the plural,

because one or more would be required for those who guarded Paul.





The Powers that Act on Us from Without (vs. 11-24)


Manifold are the powers which are acting upon our spirit and deciding our

course and destiny. Some of these are suggested by this narrative.


  • THE MALEVOLENT HUMAN. (vs. 12-15.) In this case human

malevolence took a very violent and malignant form: it sought to compass

Paul’s death by a dark and shameless stratagem. More often it seeks to do

us injury for which we shall suffer, but from which we may recover. The

very worst form which it assumes is that of aiming at our spiritual integrity,

leading us into sin and so into shame and death.


  • THE INDIFFERENT HUMAN. (vs. 18-24.) The Roman-centurion,

chief captain, soldier — took no special interest in Paul, and had no

prejudice against him. he regarded the whole matter in a professional light,

and acted in simple and strict accordance with his habits of obedience and

command. Around us is human law, human custom, human society — with

this we must lay our account. It will proceed on its usual course, like a

train upon the lines laid down for it, with small concern for our hopes and

fears, our joys and sorrows. If we take heed, we may avail ourselves of its

help; if we are indiscreet, it wilt dash against us unpityingly. So far as we

may do so and can do so, we must order ourselves so as to benefit by its

strong force.


  • THE KIND AND BENEVOLENT HUMAN. (Vers. 16-21.) Paul’s sister induced her son to interpose, and the young man (or, youth) played his delicate and dangerous part well, intervening between these bloody schemers and

their illustrious victim. We may hope for positive sympathy and active aid



Ø      those who are closely and tenderly related to us;

Ø      those who are young, and therefore open to many admirable

inspirations (obedience, pity, courage, aspiration, etc.);

Ø      those who have spiritual affinities with us, to whom we are brethren or

fathers “in the Lord.”


  • THE DIVINE. (v. 16.) At this troublous and anxious time, when

Paul was cut off from fellowship with the disciples, the Master Himself

drew near to him. He came with His comforting presence and His cheering

word. He did not fail His servant then; nor will He fail His faithful followers

now. We may reckon upon:


Ø      His comforting presence with us;

Ø      His word of promise and cheer;

Ø      His summons to bear witness in the future as in the past: “As thou hast

testified… so must thou,” etc. While all these powers are acting upon us,

we must play our own part manfully, or the issue will be unfavorable

(v. 17). When all is done for or against us, we must make our own choice,

decide for ourselves which of the two paths we will pursue, at which gate

we shall be found when the journey of life is over (Galatians 6:4-5).


25 “And he wrote a letter after this manner:  Form for manner, Authorized

Version.   After this form. Luke does not profess to give the letter verbatim, but

merely its general tenor, which Lysias might have communicated to Paul, or which

Paul might have learned at Caesarea.


26 “Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.”

Greeting for sendeth greeting, Authorized Version. Governor; ἡγεμώνhaegemon

governor, as v. 24; propraetor of an imperial province, as distinguished from the ἀνθύπατος anthupatos - proconsul, who governed the provinces which were in the patronage of the senate. Sergius Paulus (ch. 13:7-8) was a proconsul, and so was Gallio (2); Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:2) and Felix were procurators, ἡγεµόνι

hagemoni - governor, only in a looser sense, as the more exact name of their office was ἐπίτροποςepitropos - procurator. Only, as they were appointed by the emperor, and often exercised the full functions of a legatus Caesaris, they were called ἡγεμόνες as well as proprietors. Felix, called by Tacitus, Antonius Felix ('Hist.,' 5:9), was the brother of Pallas, the freedman and favorite of Claudius. He as well as his brother Felix had originally been the slave of Antonia the mother of the Emperor Claudius; and hence the name Antonins Felix, or, as he was sometimes otherwise celled, Claudius Felix. Tacitus, after mentioning that Claudius appointed as governors of Judaea sometimes knights and sometimes freedmen, adds that among the last Antonius Felix ruled this province with boundless cruelty and in the most arbitrary manner, showing by his abuse of power his servile origin. He adds that he married Drusilla, the granddaughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, so that he was Mark Antony's grandson-in-law, while Claudius was Antony's grandson. But see ch. 24:24, note. In the 'Annals' (12. 5) Tacitus further speaks of the incompetence of Felix to govern, stirring up rebellions by the means he took to repress them, and of the utter lawlessness and confusion to which the province was reduced by the maladministration of Felix and his colleague, Ventidius Cumanus ("cut pars provinciae habebatur"). He adds that civil war would have broken out if Quadratus, the Governor of Syria, had not interposed, and secured the punishment of Cumanus, while Felix, his equal in guilt, was continued in his government. This was owing, no doubt, to the influence of Pallas. The same influence secured the continued government to Felix upon Nero's accession, Pallas being all-powerful with Agrippina. Such was "the most excellent governor Felix." For further accounts of him, see Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 2. 12:8; 13.), who ignores his share in the government as the partner of Cumauus, and dates his appointment subsequently to the condemnation of Cumanus at Rome, and is also

there silent as to his misdeeds. (For further accounts of Felix, see 'Ant. Jud.,' 20. 7:1, 2; 8:5-7, which relate his adulterous marriage with Drusilla, and some of his murders and cruelties.)


27 “This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.”

Seized by for taken of, Authorized Version; was about to be slain for should have been killed, Authorized Version; when I came for then came I, Authorized Version; upon

them with the soldiers for with an army, Authorized Version; learned for understood, Authorized Version. The soldiers (τῷ στρατεύματι to strateumatiwar troop, as

v. 10). The army of the Authorized Version is out of place. Having learned, etc. Lysias departs here from strict truth, wishing, no doubt, to set off his zeal in defense of a

Roman citizen, and also to anticipate any unfavorable report that Paul might give as to

his threatened scourging.)


28“And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I

brought him forth into their council:”  Desiring to know for when 1 would have

known, Authorized Version; down unto for forth into, Authorized Version.


29 “Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.”  Found for perceived, Authorized Version; about for of, Authorized Version. Questions; ζητημάτωνzaetaematon, only

in the Acts, where it occurs five times (ch. 15:2; 18:15; 25:19; 26:3). Luke also uses ζήτησιν zaetaesin - questioning (ch.  25:20), as does Paul four times in the pastoral Epistles (I Timothy 1:4, Textus Receptus; 6:4; II Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9).





Strangers’ Testimonies to God’s Servants (v. 29)


The moral influence exerted by Paul on this Roman,, captain was so

decided that he is compelled to send to his superior this report, whom I

perceived… to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of

bonds.” Such a man as this captain would judge fairly matters of character

or of conduct. He had no blinding and bewildering ecclesiastical prejudices

which made crimes where there were none. So his testimony to the apostle

is important. Indeed, it is always well for us to feel that the world and the

stranger are sure to judge us, and form impressions from our character and

conduct. We cannot be indifferent to their opinion. Our walk and

conversation ought to do honor to our Master. Men should “take

knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.” (ch. 4:13)  The words

used by the captain here remind us of two things.



THEIR OPINIONS. About opinions a Roman soldier could be supremely

indifferent. With opinions human laws and magistracies have nothing to do.

In opinions men may have the fullest liberty and toleration. Only when

opinions influence conduct in a way that imperils social order, or the safety

of the state, does the law or the magistrate concern himself with it. So we

find that, in order to bring so-called heretics under the civil power, it has

always been necessary to accuse them of rebellion against the law; the

judge condemns them as anarchists, not as heretics. In these times we are

beginning to learn more fully that opinion had better not be interfered with,

and that every man may have full “liberty of prophesying,” of persuading

men to adopt his views. And all wrong teachings are to be met by right

teaching, by the moral force of argument, and not by the physical forces of

the law. Though still we properly keep the liberty to matters of simple

opinion; when men express their views in their conduct, we are bound to

consider whether their conduct tends to preserve the public peace and the

social order.



FOR THEIR OPINIONS. Even the sectarian Jews knew that Paul had

done no wrong. They trumped up a charge against him of defiling the

temple, but they knew well enough that it was a groundless charge. They

were offended with his opinions and teachings, as opposing their own.

Illustrate from the assumptions of the Papal Church, and her efforts to

crush all who held other opinions than she sanctioned. Modern illustrations

of the bitterness of sectarian prejudice may be mentioned. A man may, like

the apostle, have the truth of God, but he must be rejected unless his

message rings in exact harmony with the received opinions. Show, in

conclusion, that the strangers judgment of us is the only really important

one. They ask what we are in character, conduct, life, and relations; and

they can best judge about the value of our opinions by those things in

which the opinions find their practical expression. Let, then, those outside

our circles, the strangers, judge us as Christians. Will they say of us as the

Roman officer said of Paul, “About their opinions we know little or

nothing; bat this we can say, They are good men and true”?


30 “And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before

thee what they had against him. Farewell.”  Shown to for told, Authorized Version;

that there would be a plot against for how that the Jews laid wait for, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus; I sent him to thee forthwith for I sent straight- way to

thee, Authorized Version; charging for and gave commandment to, Authorized Version; to speak against him before thee for to say before thee what they had against him, Authorized Version; the Received Text omits farewell, in the Authorized Version. That there would be a plot, etc. Two constructions are mixed up either by the writer of the letter, or by the transcriber. One would be Μηνυθείσης δέ μοι ἐπιβουλῆς τῆς μελλούσης ἔσεσθαιMaenutheisaes de moi epiboulaes taes mellousaes esesthai -  When I was informed of the plot which was about to be laid against him; the other, Μηνυθέντος μοι ἐπιβουλὴν μέλλειν ἔσεσθαιMaenuthentos moi epiboulaen mellein esesthai - When I was informed that a plot was going to be laid, etc. Against the man; πρὸς αὐτόνpros

autontoward him, as ch. 6:1; I Corinthians 6:1. But λέγειν πρός legein pros (instead of κατά - katato; about;), to speak against any one, is an unusual phrase. The Textus Receptus, which is retained by Mill, Alford, Wordsworth, Meyer, etc., is far more probable. Other readings are


31 “Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.”   So for then, Authorized Version. Antipatris; "forty-two Roman miles from Jerusalem, and twenty-six from Caesarea, built (on the site of Kaphor Saba) by Herod the Great, and named in honor of Antipater, his father" (Alford). According to Howson, following the American traveler, the Rev. Eli Smith, the route lay from Jerusalem to Gophna, on the road to Nablous, and from Gophna, leaving the great north road by a Roman road of which many distinct traces remain, to Antipatris, avoiding Lydda or Diospolis altogether. Gophna is three hours from Jerusalem, and, as they

started at 9 p.m., would be reached by midnight. Five or six hours more would bring

them to Antipatris, most of the way being downhill from the hill country of Ephraim

to the plain of Sharon. After a halt of two or three hours, a march of six hours would bring them to Caesarea, which they may have reached in the afternoon.


32 “On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:  But on for on, Authorized Version. On the morrow, after their departure from Jerusalem, not, as Alford suggests, after their departure from Antipatris. It was a forced march, and therefore would not occupy two days and a night.


33 “Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.”  And they for who, Authorized Version; letter for epistle, Authorized Version. Presented Paul; πάρεστησαν parestaesan - present. This is a word particularly used of setting any one before a judge (see Romans 14:10, and the subscription of II Timothy, Ὅτε ἐκ δευτέρου παρέστη Πῦλος τῷ Καίσαρι ΝέρωνιHote ek deuterou parestae Pulos to Kaisari NeroniWhen Paul was brought before Nero for

the second time. 


34 “And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia;  He for the governor, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus; it for the letter, Authorized Version. Province;

ἐπαρχίαςeparchias - province, only here and in ch. 25:1. A general word for a government, most properly applied to an imperial province.


35 “I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.”  Thy cause for thee, Authorized Version; also are for are also, Authorized Version; palace for judgment hall, Authorized Version. I will hear thy cause; διακούσομαί σουdiakousomai souI shall be giving a hearing

of you, found only here in the New Testament; but used in the same sense as here for "hearing a cause," in Deuteronomy 1:16, Διακούσατε... καὶ κρίνετεDiakousate....kai

krinete - Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously, Authorized Version. See also Job 9:33, Διακούων ἀναμέσον ἀμφοτέρων Diakouon anameson amphoteron - That might lay his hand upon us both, Authorized Version, i.e. judge between us. Palace (ἐν τῷ πραιτωρίῳ - en to praitorio - the praetorium - for it is a Latin word - was originally the proctor's tent in a Roman camp. Thence it came to signify the abode of the chief magistrate in a province, or a king's palace. Herod's palace seems to have been a palace originally built by King Herod, and now used, either as the residence of the procurator or, as the mode of speaking rather indicates, for some public office. (For the use of the word πραιτώριον, see Matthew 27:27; John 18:28,33; 19:9;

Philippians 1:13.)




Special Providence (vs. 12-35)


It is difficult to define exactly what we mean by a special providence. Not

one sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father (Matthew 10:29),

who works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11), and

makes all things “work together for good to them that love Him, to them who are

the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). And yet there are times and

occasions when the overruling and controlling hand of God is seen more

clearly and more markedly than usual, and when the interposition of human

will and intention is more conspicuously absent. And perhaps this is what

we mean when we speak of a special providence. Let us mark some of the

circumstances detailed in this section, which seem to bring Paul’s

escape from the Jews at this time under the category of a special

providence. The danger was great and imminent. In the feverish excited

state of the Jewish mind at this time, and when they were unable, through

their weakness, to give effect to their intense hatred of their heathen

masters, they were all the more ready to wreak their vengeance upon any

more helpless victim who might fall into their hands. Such a victim was

Paul; and already in the temple court and on the castle stairs, he had nearly

forfeited his life to their violence. Again, in the council-chamber he was on

the point of being torn in pieces by them. The danger, therefore, was very

great which he had already escaped. But a greater was at hand. More than

forty Jews, in whom guile, hatred, and fanaticism were a triple cord not

easily to be broken, bound themselves together by a terrible curse to

remove that obnoxious life, and seemed to make their own lives

dependent upon the fulfillment of their atrocious vow. It was nearly certain

that a request, coming to Lysias from the chief officers of the Sanhedrim,

to bring Paul down again for some further inquiry into his case, would be

complied with, and, if so, his death was certain also. Now mark the

providential circumstances by which this plot was defeated. Paul had a

sister, and this sister had a son. We hear nothing and know nothing of

either of these persons except on this critical occasion. Where the young

man lived, how he happened to be at Jerusalem (unless it were to keep the

Feast of Pentecost), whether he had been influenced by his uncle to

embrace the Christian faith, or whether, as seems more probable, he was a

zealous Jew, and as such entrusted with the secrets of the party, we know

not. All we know is that he became acquainted with the conspiracy, and

went immediately to the castle to inform Paul of it. His ready admission to

the prisoner, the good-natured compliance of the centurion with Paul’s

request to him to bring the young man to the chief captain, the chief

captain’s courteous attention to the young man’s tale, and his instant

determination to send Paul off by night to Caesarea, were the further links,

each absolutely necessary, in the chain of providence, by which Paul’s

escape was accomplished. But one other circumstance must be noted. It

seems strange at first sight that the tribune of the Roman garrison should

take so much trouble about one poor Jew, whom, moreover, he had only

to keep a close prisoner in the castle to ensure his safety. But we have a

ready explanation of this in Lysias’s own letter, and in what happened the

day before, as recorded in ch. 22:24-26. Lysias, not a Roman by birth,

had committed a grave mistake in threatening Paul, a Roman citizen, with

scourging. Such a mistake might have had grave consequences to himself.

He therefore adroitly and promptly took a step to show his respect and

reverence for the dignity of a Roman citizen, and also for the office of the

Roman procurator, by sending Paul off to Caesarea. At the same time, by

so doing he avoided the chance of a riot at Jerusalem, and threw the whole

responsibility of dealing with Paul and his Jewish enemies upon Felix.

Nothing could be more politic. What, however, it is to our purpose to

observe is that, by this tangled tissue of motives and interests, and by this

accidental combination of circumstances, God’s gracious purpose was

brought about which he had announced to Paul in a vision of the night,

saying, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast borne witness of me in

Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” The violence of the

Sanhedrim (though they knew it not); the conspiracy of the Jews (though

they knew it not); the courtesy and policy of Lysias (though he knew it

not); as afterwards the intrigues of Felix, the weakness of Festus, and the

urgent malice of the Jews, — were all necessary steps, moving in a

direction that they little suspected, for brining the apostle of the Gentiles to

the capital of the Gentile world.




Paul at Caesarea (vs. 12-35)


  • “THE LORD IS MINDFUL OF HIS OWN. Recall the beautiful song in

Mendelssohn’s ‘St. Paul.’


Ø      The craft of their foes. They conspire against the righteous with a zeal

worthy of a better cause (vs. 12-13); and cloak their designs under pious

pretexts (vs. 14-15).


Ø      The Divine protection. He brings the counsels of

wickedness to light (v. 16). The young man, whoever he was, Christian

Or otherwise, became, in Divine providence, a guardian angel of the



“Nothing so fine is spun,

But comes to light beneath the sun,”


to the help of the good and the confusion of the wicked (compae Psalm

7:15; 34:8). Sincerity and good faith are found where they are least

expected, when God is guiding the hearts of men (v. 18).




Ø      They are withdrawn from the snares of their foes. Paul, surrounded by

the military guard, seems a visible picture of the angels of God

encamping about those who fear him. “Against forty bandits he sends

five hundred protectors.”


Ø      Testimony to the truth is furnished on their behalf (v. 27, etc.). The

honorable and straightforward dealing of the heathen Romans stands in

contrast to that of the orthodox Jews. Better have the spirit of the Law

without the letter than the letter without the spirit. The very indifference

of the Romans becomes overruled for the deliverance of Paul. Guarded

in the palace of Herod, Paul has time for reflection and prayer. The intervals of arduous labor, the moments of respite from toil and conflict, — in these we may find proofs of the nearness and tenderness of God.





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