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Bible Commentaries
Acts 23

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-10

Paul's Second Defense

As he stood before the council, or Sanhedrin, Paul told them he had lived in good until that very time (Compare 1Co_4:4 ; 2Ti_1:3 ). At this, Ananias commanded the man next to Paul to strike him, which was a violation of their law. Paul, likely with the voice of prophecy, told Ananias that God would strike him because he sat to judge the apostle by the law but violated it by having a man struck before he had been tried and found guilty ( Deu_25:1-2 ). Coffman says Ananias was murdered by his own people just a few years later at the beginning of the Jewish war. Those standing by asked Paul if he was reviling the high priest, who, of course, was one with certain authority. It might seem improbable that the apostle could fail to recognize the high priest. However, since the Sanhedrin was not in formal assembly, Ananias may not have had on official dress. Further, Ananias may not have been the actual high priest at that time, since the title was also used for former high priests and those who were merely from the family out of which he was chosen. Once the apostle knew who he spoke against, he immediately apologized noting that it was against the law to speak against a ruler of God's people ( Act_23:1-5 ; Exo_22:28 ).

When Paul saw the council was comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees, he began his defense by saying he was a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee and brought up on charges because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead. Actually, this was the center piece of the gospel, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His statement immediately created a division between the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees, who did not. Some of the scribes who were Pharisees actually stood up and said they could not find any fault in Paul, even wondering if the apostle had been spoken to by a spirit or an angel. The dissention between the two groups was so great that the chief captain had Paul withdrawn to the castle, afraid he would be torn apart by them ( Act_23:6-10 ).

Verses 11-22

The Lord Protected Paul From the Jews

With all the hostility the Jews had shown him since his arrival in Jerusalem, Paul may have doubted if he would ever escape that city and fulfill his desire to preach in Rome. The Lord appeared to him at night and encouraged him to continue to be of good cheer, which is the meaning of the imperative used in Act_23:11 , according to Lenski. The Lord assured the apostle that he would get to give the same testimony in Rome as he had in Jerusalem.

The next morning, more than forty Jews took an oath to neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. Bruce believes their vow may have been something like the following, "So may God do to us, and more also, if we eat or drink until we have killed Paul." He also noted that the "Mishnah makes provision for relief from such vows as could not be fulfilled 'by reason of constraint.'" The forty plus men reported their plan to the chief priests and elders and enlisted their help in the conspiracy by asking time to get the captain to bring Paul before the council again on the pretext of more thoroughly judging his case. They hoped to kill Paul as he was being brought from the barracks to the council meeting place ( Act_23:12-15 ).

God, in his providence, had Paul's sister's son in a position to hear the plot. He then entered into the barracks where the apostle was being kept and informed him of the intention of the conspirators. Paul immediately called for a centurion and asked him to take his nephew to the chief captain. The centurion did just as requested and brought this young man to the commander. The fact that he took the young man by the hand may indicate how young he really was. At any rate, the commander asked Paul's nephew what he had to tell him. He revealed the entire plot against his uncle. The chief captain then asked him to tell no one what he had reported to him in private and let the young man go ( Act_23:16-22 ).

Verses 23-35

Paul Sent to Felix

The chief captain, whose name was Claudius Lysias, immediately called two centurions to him. He commanded them to ready 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen to escort Paul to Caesarea. Their departure time was the third hour of the night, or 9 p.m. They were also instructed to provide mounts for Paul and take him to the governor, Felix, who occupied much the same position as Pilate had in Christ's day. Coffman reports, "The epitaph which history has written by his name is this: 'With savagery and lust, he exercised the powers of a king with the disposition of a slave.'" Since we know Festus took his place in 59 A.D. and Paul was with him two years, we would conclude Paul was sent to him in 57 A.D.

Lysias, according to Luke, sent a letter to Felix. Luke reported the gist of its contents, noting that Lysias slightly embellished the story, as he told Felix that he learned Paul was a Roman and so saved him from the mob. He also wrote that, in his opinion, Paul had done nothing worthy of either prison or death. Since he had learned of the conspiracy to murder Paul, Lysias informed Felix that he sent the apostle to him and commanded the Jews to appear before the governor to present their case.

The soldiers took Paul and the letter and marched between 12 and 16 miles to Antipatris. The next day, the soldiers and spearmen returned to their barracks and the horsemen went with Paul to Caesarea, some 26 miles further north. They presented Paul to the governor, along with the letter. Felix asked what province Paul was from. After the apostle told him he was from Cilicia, he told him he would hear from him after his accusers came. Paul was then kept in Herod's Praetorium, or palace ( Act_23:23-35 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 23". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-23.html. 2014.
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