Ac 23:1-10. Paul's Defense
before the Sanhedrin Divides the Rival Factions, from Whose Violence
the Commandant Has the Apostle Removed into the Fortress.
1. Paul, earnestly beholding the
council—with a look of conscious integrity and unfaltering
courage, perhaps also recognizing some of his early fellow pupils.
I have lived in all good conscience before God
until this day—The word has an indirect reference to the
"polity" or "commonwealth of Israel," of which he would signify that he
had been, and was to that hour, an honest and God-fearing member.
2. the high priest … commanded … to
smite him on the mouth—a method of silencing a speaker common
in the East to this day [Hacket]. But
for a judge thus to treat a prisoner on his "trial," for merely
prefacing his defense by a protestation of his integrity, was
3, 4. God shall smite thee—as indeed He
did; for he was killed by an assassin during the Jewish war [Josephus, Wars of the Jews,
thou whited wall—that is,
hypocrite (Mt 23:27).
This epithet, however correctly describing the man, must not be
defended as addressed to a judge, though the remonstrance which
follows—"for sittest thou," &c.—ought to have put him
5. I wist not … that he was the high
priest—All sorts of explanations of this have been given. The
high priesthood was in a state of great confusion and constant change
at this time (as appears from Josephus),
and the apostle's long absence from Jerusalem, and perhaps the manner
in which he was habited or the seat he occupied, with other
circumstances to us unknown, may account for such a speech. But if he
was thrown off his guard by an insult which touched him to the quick,
"what can surpass the grace with which he recovered his
self-possession, and the frankness with which he acknowledged his
error? If his conduct in yielding to the momentary impulse was not that
of Christ Himself under a similar provocation (Joh 18:22, 23), certainly the manner in which he
atoned for his fault was Christ-like" [Hacket].
6-9. when Paul perceived—from the
discussion which plainly had by this time arisen between the
that the one part were Sadducees, and the other
Pharisees, he cried out—raising his voice above both
I am a Pharisee, the son of a
Pharisee—The true reading seems to be, "the son of
Pharisees," that is, belonging to a family who from father to son had
long been such.
of the hope and resurrection of the
dead—that is, not the vague hope of immortality, but the
definite expectation of the resurrection.
I am called in question—By this adroit
stroke, Paul engages the whole Pharisaic section of the council in his
favor; the doctrine of a resurrection being common to both, though they
would totally differ in their application of it. This was, of
course, quite warrantable, and the more so as it was already evident
that no impartiality in trying his cause was to be looked for from such
8. the Sadducees say … there is no
resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit—(See on Lu 20:37).
the scribes … of the Pharisees' part
… strove, saying, We find no evil in this man, but—as
to those startling things which he brings to our ears.
if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to
him—referring, perhaps, to his trance in the temple, of which
he had told them (Ac 22:17).
They put this favorable construction upon his proceedings for no other
reason than that they had found him one of their own party. They care
not to inquire into the truth of what he alleged, over and above
their opinions, but only to explain it away as something not worth
raising a noise about. (The following words, "Let us not fight against
God," seem not to belong to the original text, and perhaps are from
Ac 5:39. In this case, either the meaning
is, "If he has had some divine communication, what of that?" or,
the conclusion of the sentence may have been drowned in the hubbub,
23:10 shows to have been
10. the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should
have been pulled to pieces … commanded the soldiers to go down
and take him by force, &c.—This shows that the commandant
was not himself present, and further, that instead of the Sanhedrim
trying the cause, the proceedings quickly consisted in the one party
attempting to seize the prisoner, and the other to protect him.
Ac 23:11-35. In the Fortress
Paul Is Cheered by a Night Vision—An Infamous Conspiracy to Assassinate Him Is Providentially
Defeated, and He Is Despatched by Night with a Letter from the
Commandant to Felix at Cæsarea, by Whom Arrangements Are Made for a Hearing of His
11. the night following—his heart
perhaps sinking, in the solitude of his barrack ward, and thinking
perhaps that all the predictions of danger at Jerusalem were now to be
fulfilled in his death there.
the Lord—that is, Jesus.
stood by him … Be of good cheer, Paul; for
as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou … also at
Rome—that is, "Thy work in Jerusalem is done, faithfully and
well done; but thou art not to die here; thy purpose next to 'see Rome'
19:21) shall not be
disappointed, and there also must thou bear witness of Me." As this
vision was not unneeded now, so we shall find it cheering and upholding
him throughout all that befell him up to his arrival there.
12-14. bound themselves under a curse … that
they would neither eat … fill they had killed
Paul—Compare 2Sa 3:35; 1Sa 14:24.
15. Now … ye with the council signify to the
chief captain … as though, &c.—That these high
ecclesiastics fell in readily with this infamous plot is clear. What
will not unscrupulous and hypocritical religionists do under the mask
of religion? The narrative bears unmistakable internal marks of
or ever he come near—Their plan was to
assassinate him on his way down from the barracks to the council. The
case was critical, but He who had pledged His word to him that he
should testify for Him at Rome provided unexpected means of defeating
this well-laid scheme.
16-22. Paul's sister's son—(See on Ac 9:30). If he was at this time residing at
Jerusalem for his education, like Paul himself, he may have got at the
schools those hints of the conspiracy on which he so promptly
17. Then Paul called one of the
centurions—Though divinely assured of safety, he never allows
this to interfere with the duty he owed to his own life and the work he
had yet to do. (See on Ac 27:22-25; Ac 27:31).
19. took him by the hand—This shows that
he must have been quite in his boyhood, and throws a pleasing light on
the kind-hearted impartiality of this officer.
21. and now are they ready, looking for a promise
from thee—Thus, as is so often the case with God's people,
not till the last moment, when the plot was all prepared, did
23, 24. two hundred soldiers—a
formidable guard for such an occasion; but Roman officials felt their
honor concerned in the preservation of the public peace, and the danger
of an attempted rescue would seem to require it. The force at Jerusalem
was large enough to spare this convoy.
the third hour of the night—nine
24. beasts … set Paul on—as
relays, and to carry baggage.
unto Felix, the governor—the
procurator. See on Ac 24:24, 25.
26-30. Claudius—the Roman name he would
take on purchasing his citizenship.
Lysias—his Greek family name.
the most excellent governor—an
honorary title of office.
27. came I with an army—rather, "with
29. perceived to be accused of questions of their
law, &c.—Amidst all his difficulty in getting at the
charges laid against Paul, enough, no doubt, come out to satisfy him
that the whole was a question of religion, and that there was no case
for a civil tribunal.
30. gave commandment to his accusers … to
say before thee—This was not done when he wrote, but would be
before the letter reached its destination.
31, 32. brought him … to
Antipatris—nearly forty miles from Jerusalem, on the way to
Cæsarea; so named by Herod in honor of his father, Antipater.
32. On the morrow they—the infantry.
left the horsemen—themselves no longer
needed as a guard. The remaining distance was about twenty-five or
34, 35. asked of what province he
was—the letter describing him as a Roman citizen.
35. I will hear thee—The word means,
"give thee a full hearing."
to be kept in Herod's judgment
hall—"prætorium," the palace built at Cæsarea by
Herod, and now occupied by the Roman procurators; in one of the
buildings attached to which Paul was ordered to be kept.