Ac 24:1-27. Paul,
Accused by a Professional Pleader before
Felix, Makes His Defense, and Is
Remanded for a Further Hearing. At a
Private Interview Felix Trembles under Paul's Preaching, but Keeps Him
Prisoner for Two Years, When He Was
Succeeded by Festus.
1. after five days—or, on the fifth day
from their departure from Jerusalem.
Ananias … with the elders—a
deputation of the Sanhedrim.
a certain orator—one of those Roman
advocates who trained themselves for the higher practice of the
metropolis by practicing in the provinces, where the Latin
language, employed in the courts, was but imperfectly understood and
Roman forms were not familiar.
informed … against Paul—"laid
information," that is, put in the charges.
2-4. Seeing that by thee we enjoy great
quietness, &c.—In this fulsome flattery there was a
semblance of truth: nothing more. Felix acted with a degree of vigor
and success in suppressing lawless violence [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.4; confirmed by
Tacitus, Annals, 12.54].
by thy providence—a phrase applied to
the administration of the emperors.
5-8. a pestilent fellow—a plague,
and a mover of sedition among all the
Jews—by exciting disturbances among them.
throughout the world—(See on Lu 2:1). This was the first charge; and true only
in the sense explained on Ac 16:20.
a ringleader of the sect of the
Nazarenes—the second charge; and true enough.
6. hath gone about—attempted.
to profane the temple—the third
charge; and entirely false.
we … would have judged according to our
7. But … Lysias came upon us, and with great
violence took him out of our hands—a wilful falsehood and
calumnious charge against a public officer. He had commanded the
Sanhedrim to meet for no other purpose than to "judge him according to
their law"; and only when, instead of doing so, they fell to disputing
among themselves, and the prisoner was in danger of being "pulled in
pieces of them" (Ac 23:10)—or as his own letter says "killed
of them" (Ac 23:27)—did he rescue him, as was his
duty, "by force" out of their hands.
8. Commanding his accusers to come unto
thee—Here they insinuate that, instead of troubling Felix
with the case, he ought to have left it to be dealt with by the Jewish
tribunal; in which case his life would soon have been taken.
by examining whom—Lysias, as would
thyself mayest, &c.—referring all,
as if with confidence, to Felix.
9. the Jews assented, &c.—See on Ac 23:15.
10. thou hast been many years a judge to this
nation—He had been in this province for six or seven years,
and in Galilee for a longer period. Paul uses no flattery, but simply
expresses his satisfaction at having to plead before one whose long
official experience of Jewish matters would enable him the better to
understand and appreciate what he had to say.
11. thou mayest understand—canst easily
that there are yet but twelve days since I went
up to Jerusalem—namely, 1. The day of his arrival in
Jerusalem (Ac 21:15-17); 2. The interview with James (Ac
21:18-26); 3. The assumption
of the vow (Ac 21:26);
4, 5, 6. Continuance of the vow, interrupted by the arrest (Ac 21:27, &c.); 7. Arrest of Paul
21:27); 8. Paul before the
Sanhedrim (Ac 22:30; 23:1-10); 9. Conspiracy of the Jews and defeat
of it (Ac 23:12-24), and despatch of Paul from Jerusalem on
the evening of the same day (Ac 23:23, 31); 10, 11, 12, 13. The remaining period
referred to (Ac 24:1)
[Meyer]. This short period is mentioned
to show how unlikely it was that he should have had time to do what was
charged against him.
for to worship—a very different
purpose from that imputed to him.
12, 13. they neither found me … Neither can
they prove the things, &c.—After specifying several
particulars, he challenges proof of any one of the charges brought
against him. So much for the charge of sedition.
14, 15. But this I confess to thee—in
which Felix would see no crime.
that after the way they call
heresy—literally, and better, "a sect."
so worship I the God of my fathers—the
ancestral God. Two arguments are contained here: (1) Our nation is
divided into what they call sects—the sect of the
Pharisees, and that of the Sadducees—all the difference between
them and me is, that I belong to neither of these, but to another sect,
or religious section of the nation, which from its Head they call
Nazarenes: for this reason, and this alone, am I hated. (2) The
Roman law allows every nation to worship its own deities; I claim
protection under that law, worshipping the God of my ancestors, even as
they, only of a different sect of the common religion.
believing all, &c.—Here, disowning
all opinions at variance with the Old Testament Scriptures, he
challenges for the Gospel which he preached the authority of the God of
their fathers. So much for the charge of heresy.
15. And have hope … as they themselves
… allow, that there shall be a resurrection,
&c.—This appeal to the faith of his accusers shows that they
were chiefly of the Pharisees, and that the favor of that party,
to which he owed in some measure his safety at the recent council
23:6-9), had been quite
16. And herein—On this account,
accordingly; that is, looking forward to that awful day (compare 2Co 5:10).
I exercise myself—The "I" here is
emphatic; "Whatever they do, this is my study."
to have always a conscience void of offence,
&c.—See Ac 23:1; 2Co 1:12; 2:17, &c.; that is, "These are the great
principles of my life and conduct—how different from turbulence
17. Now after many—several
years absence from Jerusalem—I came to
bring alms to my of Macedonia and Greece, which he had taken such pains
to gather. This only allusion in the Acts to what is dwelt upon so
frequently in his own Epistles (Ro 15:25, 26; 1Co
16:1-4; 2Co 8:1-4), throws a
beautiful light on the truth of this History. (See Paley's Horæ Paulinæ).
and offerings—connected with his
Jewish vow: see Ac 24:18.
18-21. found me purified in the
temple—not polluting it, therefore, by my own presence, and
neither gathering a crowd nor raising a stir: If then these Asiatic
Jews have any charge to bring against me in justification of their
arrest of me, why are they not here to substantiate it?
20. Or else let these … here
say—"Or, passing from all that preceded my trial, let those
of the Sanhedrim here present say if I was guilty of aught there." No
doubt his hasty speech to the high priest might occur to them, but the
provocation to it on his own part was more than they would be willing
21. Except … this one voice … Touching
the resurrection, &c.—This would recall to the Pharisees
present their own inconsistency, in befriending him then and now
22, 23. having more perfect knowledge of
way—(See on Ac
19:23; and Ac 24:14).
When Lysias … shall come … I will
how, &c.—Felix might have dismissed the case as a tissue
of unsupported charges. But if from his interest in the matter he
really wished to have the presence of Lysias and others involved, a
brief delay was not unworthy of him as a judge. Certainly, so far as
recorded, neither Lysias nor any other parties appeared again in the
24:23, however, seems to show
that at that time his prepossessions in favor of Paul were
24, 25. Felix … with his wife Drusilla
… a Jewess—This beautiful but infamous woman was the
third daughter of Herod Agrippa I, who was eaten of worms (see on Ac 12:1), and a sister of Agrippa II, before whom
Paul pleaded, Ac 26:1,
&c. She was "given in marriage to Azizus, king of the Emesenes, who
had consented to be circumcised for the sake of the alliance. But this
marriage was soon dissolved, after this manner: When Festus was
procurator of Judea, he saw her, and being captivated with her beauty,
persuaded her to desert her husband, transgress the laws of her
country, and marry himself" [Josephus,
Antiquities, 20.7.1,2]. Such was this "wife" of Felix.
he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the
faith in Christ—Perceiving from what he had heard on the
trial that the new sect which was creating such a stir was represented
by its own advocates as but a particular development of the Jewish
faith, he probably wished to gratify the curiosity of his Jewish wife,
as well as his own, by a more particular account of it from this
distinguished champion. And no doubt Paul would so far humor this
desire as to present to them the great leading features of the Gospel.
But from Ac
24:25 it is evident that his
discourse took an entirely practical turn, suited to the life which his
two auditors were notoriously leading.
25. And as he reasoned of
righteousness—with reference to the public character
temperance—with reference to his
and judgment to come—when he would be
called to an awful account for both.
Felix trembled—and no wonder. For, on
the testimony of Tacitus, the Roman
Annalist [Annals, 9; 12.54], he ruled with a mixture of cruelty,
lust, and servility, and relying on the influence of his brother Pallas
at court, he thought himself at liberty to commit every sort of crime
with impunity. How noble the fidelity and courage which dared to treat
of such topics in such a presence, and what withering power must have
been in those appeals which made even a Felix to tremble!
Go thy way for this time; and when I have a
convenient season I will call for thee—Alas for Felix! This
was his golden opportunity, but—like multitudes
still—he missed it. Convenient seasons in abundance he found
to call for Paul, but never again to "hear him concerning the faith in
Christ," and writhe under the terrors of the wrath to come. Even in
those moments of terror he had no thought of submission to the Cross or
a change of life. The Word discerned the thoughts and intents of his
heart, but that heart even then clung to its idols; even as Herod, who
"did many things and heard John gladly," but in his best moments was
enslaved to his lusts. How many Felixes have appeared from age to
26. He hoped … that money should have been
given him … wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed
with him—Bribery in a judge was punishable by the Roman law,
but the spirit of a slave (to use the words of Tacitus) was in all his acts, and his communing with
Paul"—as if he cared for either him or his message—simply
added hypocrisy to meanness. The position in life of Paul's Christian
visitors might beget the hope of extracting something from them for the
release of their champion; but the apostle would rather lie in prison
than stoop to this!
27. after two years—What a trial to this
burning missionary of Christ, to suffer such a tedious period of
inaction! How mysterious it would seem! But this repose would be
medicine to his spirit; he would not, and could not, be entirely
inactive, so long as he was able by pen and message to communicate with
the churches; and he would doubtless learn the salutary truth that even
he was not essential to his Master's cause. That Luke wrote his Gospel
during this period, under the apostle's superintendence, is the not
unlikely conjecture of able critics.
Porcius Festus—Little is known of him.
He died a few years after this [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.9-9.1].
came into Felix' room—He was recalled,
on accusations against him by the Jews of Cæsarea, and only
acquitted through the intercession of his brother at court [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8,10].
Felix, willing to show the Jews a
pleasure—"to earn the thanks of the Jews," which he did
left Paul bound—(Ac 26:29)—which does not seem to have been