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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles

ANALYSIS

Placed before the Council, Paul is treated contumeliously by the High Priest (1–2). The Apostle reproaches him and then apologizes for having addressed him so as he was ignorant of the character and office of his assailant (3–6). The great dissension between the two leading sects, the Pharisees and Sadducees, that composed the Council. Owing to the great clamour, the Tribune has Paul brought into the Castle (10). A conspiracy entered into by the Jews to murder him, the timely disclosure of it to the Tribune by the son of Paul’s sister (12–22). Energetic means adopted by the Tribune to defeat these wicked designs, and save Paul from assassination who is dispatched at once to Cæsarea under a strong escort, with a letter explaining all to the Governor (23–35).

Commentary

1. Paul looks steadfastly on the council, in order to scan the character of the judges, of whom some were, no doubt, known to him. It was by this council, he was commissioned to go to Damascus to persecute the Christians (9:1, 2). He might have wished to see the relative number of Pharisees and Sadducees.

“Council.” Greek Sanhedrim. “Have conversed,” &c. I so conducted myself during life, believing what I did to be right, as to maintain a good conscience; and this even when persecuting the Christians (26:9). This showed a strong conviction of self-innocence, even after the tumults and furious uproar, that lately took place on his account.

“Before God.” In God’s sight, who searches the heart, “until this present day,” both before and after my conversion Even in persecuting, he acted up to the convictions of his mind.

2. “To strike him,” &c. A glaring violation of every form of law and justice.

“Ananias the high priest.” He had been formerly high priest; but, not so now. The office of high priest was now vacant, after the last high priest, Jonathan, was murdered at the instigation of Felix (Josephus, Antiq., lib. xx. c. 10). Ananias having formerly filled the office of high priest is now termed such; and probably, by the consent of its members, was called on by the Sanhedrim to preside at their deliberations. Paul’s confident assertion of his innocence, as they wished to find him guilty, roused them to fury.

3. “God shall strike.” This was a prediction founded on God’s justice, who would not allow such an outrage to go unpunished. It was verified. Ananias was slain on the occasion of the robbers under Manahen taking possession of the city. He was dragged forth from the aqueduct and slain. (Josephus de Bello, lib. ii., c. xvii. 8).

“Thou whited wall,” conveys the idea of hypocrisy. Pretending to act as a just judge, he glaringly violated the commonest forms of justice. Our Lord applies a similar epithet to the Pharisees (Matthew 23:27).

“According to the Law” of Moses, which gave every man the right to defend himself. With this right the high priest unjustly interfered.

4. “Dost thou revile?” &c. Speak disrespectfully. Though not the high priest, he on this occasion, occupied the place of high priest.

5. “I knew not,” &c. Probably Paul knew who he was, being deposed at this time from the office of high priest. Now he presided at the invitation of others. Thus the words would mean, that he did not address Ananias, as being really high priest. Had he been really high priest, even though guilty of manifest injustice, Paul, out of respect for his office, would not have addressed him as he did. But not being high priest, and having perpetrated an act of gross injustice, the fact of his occupying a place, which was not his own, gave him no claim to the respect due to one who was in reality a ruler of the people. The Greek according to some (Beelen, &c.) should be rendered; “I did not know that there is a high priest.” This he would say from his knowledge of the state of things, the corrupt sale and purchase of the high priesthood, and the vacancy, which occurred, and, as far as Paul could know, not yet filled up. Nor could he recognise as high priest, a man guilty of such gross injustice. “For it is written” (Exod. 22:28). Paul quotes it, to show he would not knowingly violate the law.

“The prince of the people.” This is a general precept inculcating respect to all men in authority, having no particular reference to the high priest. But, as the office of high priest was one of great moment, Paul says he would observe the general precept in regard to him, had he known him to be such.

6. Knowing from his former acquaintance with the members and their character.

“Pharisees” and “Sadducees,” (see Matthew 3:7, Commentary on).

He wishes to enlist in his favour a great number of the members, by a kind of side issue, in introducing the much controverted question, especially among the Pharisees and Sadducees, regarding the Resurrection of the dead.

“A Pharisee,” formerly when professing Judaism.

7. “The multitude,” composing the Sanhedrim.

9. “If a spirit or an angel.” The chief distinctive doctrine of the Pharisees was, the Resurrection of the dead. The opposite was the case with the Sadducees, which Paul well knew. He turns to account on this occasion, his knowledge of their discordant feelings and opinions.

10. It was on account of his knowing, that Paul was a Roman citizen, that the Tribune felt much interest in his safety.

11. “Night following.” How this consoling and encouraging apparition took place is not mentioned. It conveyed an assurance that Paul’s mode of acting before the Sanhedrim was pleasing to our Lord. There is no allusion to a dream or ecstasy. Hence, many hold it occurred while Paul was awake. He ardently desired to visit Rome (19:21). He now receives an assurance that his wishes will be gratified. “Constant,” in Greek “take courage,” “be without fear.”

12. Some of the Jews, over forty in number (v. 13) entered into a wicked conspiracy to “kill Paul,” binding themselves “under a curse,” an anathema, under penalty of divine vengeance, not to eat, &c.

14. This appeal of a band of murderous assassins to the supreme Tribunal of the nation to become sharers in their guilt, shows the low moral condition of the Jewish nation, at the time.

15. “Before he come near.” So that the Sanhedrim might be exonerated from all suspicion of being privy to the murderous design and not be accountable to the Roman authorities.

16. How this young man knew of it, cannot be ascertained. The forty conspirators themselves did not seem to be very reticent, as they disclosed it to the Sanhedrim. “Entered the castle.” Likely, as a Roman citizen, still untried and unconvicted the Apostle was not closely guarded, and might see his friends.

17–21. 21. “Expecting a promise from thee.” Hoping he would send Paul to the council, and then murder him in the passage from the castle to the council room.

23. “Two centurions,” each in command of one hundred men.

“Cæsarea,” where the Roman governor ordinarily resided, about sixty (60) miles from Jerusalem. “Two hundred soldiers,” heavy-armed foot soldiers, who were to guard him and conduct him safely out of Jerusalem. It was not meant they would proceed to Cæsarea. The horsemen only did this (32). “Seventy horsemen.” “Horsemen” were usually attached to foot soldiers and accompanied them. “Two hundred spearsmen.” The Greek δεξιολαβους is found only here in the New Testament, and never in any classical writers. In strict Etymology, it means right hand holders, such as take or apprehend the right hand. The Vulgate understands it of those who hold javelins or spears. Likely, they were armed with darts, and attended on the Tribune personally, as a body guard. He instructed the centurions to have this imposing body of soldiers in readiness for setting out, as he knew the enemies of Paul to be reckless desperadoes, banditti, ready for any crime, however enormous or shocking.

“From the third hour of the night,” which according to Roman computation of time, then adopted in Judea, corresponded with our 9 o’clock. The Tribune wished them to leave Jerusalem by night; for, if such an array of soldiers were seen to accompany Paul, it is hard to say what resistance might be organised.

24. “Provide beasts to set Paul on,” so that, as the journey was long, about seventy miles, there might be an exchange of horses or asses, the more easily and expeditiously to compass their journey.

25. This verse is wanting in all Greek copies and most Latin MSS. of the Vulgate, as far as “and he wrote a letter,” &c., which is acknowledged to be genuine.

26. “Most excellent,” a title of office. “Governor Felix.” He got this title, although he was only deputy. He was a freedman of Antonia, mother of Claudius. His vices are depicted by Tacitus. He governed with all the authority of a king and the insolence of a slave.

“Per omnem sævitiam ac libidinem jus regium servili ingenio in Judeæ Provincia exercuit.

A copy of this letter may have been given to Paul or Luke on their arrival, as the letter given him, purports to be a verbal copy of the original.

27. “I rescued coming in with an army,” the band of soldiers under my command, “understanding,” &c., Lysias claims credit for having rescued a Roman citizen, though, in reality, he did not know him to be such, till he was about scourging him, untried (22:26).

28. “Nothing worthy of death,” acording to Roman law.

31, 32. “Antipatris.” Twenty-six (26) miles from Cæsarea, and about forty-two (42) from Jerusalem.

Their journey continued during the night. They left at 9 o’clock, and reached early the following morning, probably, about 6 or 7 o’clock a.m. As they were now out of the reach of pursuit, these two hundred (200) foot or heavy-armed soldiers, and two hundred (200) spearsmen returned to their barracks, leaving the horsemen to conduct Paul to Cæsarea.

34. Knowing him to be a Roman citizen, he wished to know from what province, as it might involve a question of jurisdiction. Tharsus, the capital of Cilicia; was in the Province of Syria, of which Felix was governor, as well as of Palestine.

35. “Herod’s judgment hall.” This was formerly Herod’s palace, built and magnificently adorned by him. It afterwards became the residence of the Roman Governors. In it, or attached to it, was a place of confinement for special prisoners.








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