Acts 25:1. When Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended to Jerusalem, the metropolis of his government. The Romans evidently paid great attention to Palestine, because they regarded the strong city of Jerusalem as the key of their power in Asia. While the jews submitted peacefully to the yoke, Egypt was awed on the right, and proconsular Asia barricaded on the left. It was wise therefore in Festus to receive their congratulations, to show them favours, and form a good understanding with the Hebrew court.
Ver, 2, 3. Then the highpriest and the chief of the jews informed him against Paul — and desired favour, χαριν, grace, as the Greek and all the versions read, against him. And why should Festus, amidst a cloud of congratulations, refuse equal favour to them, and to Paul, for it was a privilege for a man to be tried by his own judges, and his own laws. Aye, but those demons of murder, arrayed as angels of light, in the garb of equity and honour, told not Festus that they would have more than forty sicarions to assassinate Paul, ere he entered the city; and sicarions, not wandering robbers from Egypt, but zealots of their own religion, who for two years had endured great trouble about a vow, not to eat or drink till they had killed Paul.
Acts 25:4. But Festus answered that Paul should be kept at Cæsarea. For the present he put them off with the promise of a new trial, from which it would appear that he fully knew the cause and character of Paul; his virtues, his talents, his learning, and also that he was a Roman. This was as much as could for the present be expected from a man high in office, and unacquainted with regenerating grace.
Acts 25:7. The jews — laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. The new trial terminated like the old one, in showing their malice and unbelief. But Festus, leaning as far as he could to the jews, asked Paul whether he would wave his privilege as a Roman, and be tried at Jerusalem. This favour Paul refused, having already been at their bar.
Acts 25:10. I stand at Cæsar’s judgment-seat, where I ought to be judged. By this time Paul’s case would be of interest to the oriental world; and all impartial men would espouse his cause. The all-wise God allowed it, that all men might know the glory of Christ, and the glorious gospel for which his servant suffered, as a confessor of the faith. Festus could not disallow his appeal to Cæsar, without depriving him of his prerogative as a Roman citizen, and violating a written law of the Roman people. — We have in Gagnæus’s commentary, a record of St. Chrysogonus, and some other nobles, or citizens of Rome, who made the like appeal to Cæsar.
To the jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. This declaration put Festus in a dilemma between the innocence of Paul, and the eager solicitude of the jews for his destruction. The appeal to Cæsar quite relieved the feelings of Festus.
Acts 25:13. After certain days, king Agrippa and Bernice came — to salute Festus. He was son of Herod Agrippa, whom the angel of the Lord smote in the midst of his festivity at Cæsarea, and not long after he had beheaded James the apostle, and brother of John; both sons of thunder. Of Bernice, we gather from Josephus, and from Tacitus, that she was the sister of Herod, and eldest daughter of Herod the great. In early years, she had been contracted with the approbation of Claudius Cæsar, to Mark, son of Lysimachus, alabarch of Alexandria; but he having died before the consummation of the marriage, her father had given her to his own brother, Herod, king of Chalcis, an incestuous marriage, according to the Hebrew law. Leviticus 18. Calvin, at the end of the pentateuch, reprinted at Geneva in the year 1503 a collocation of the Mosaic and the Roman laws, by Theodore Beza Vezelius, which in very many of the precepts exhibits a striking coincidence. In the twelve tables of those laws, this marriage of Bernice with her uncle is prohibited. Other things are said against her, which, in this place, do not illustrate the case of Paul.
Acts 25:18-21. Against whom they brought — certain questions of their own superstition. Festus speaks here as a profane man. The version of Tremellius reads, their own religion, but he is almost solitary in giving the word that more favourable turn. Festus hoped that, as king Agrippa was a jew, he would assist him in framing a charge against the prisoner; but as the Romans had as yet issued no edict against the christians, it was difficult for him to do so.
Acts 25:22. Then Agrippa said to Festus, I would also hear the man myself. The celebrity of Paul’s case and character had continued to attract universal attention, and made known the glory of Christ, and of his cause. When the passive graces of the christian temper shine out in the day of trial, they resemble the ores in the furnace, which shine with a brilliancy too vivid for the tender eyes of mortals. All men began to feel an interest in Paul’s case, as though it had been their own. When was it ever heard, that a man was tried three times before Roman governors, and then reserved for a fourth hearing at Rome. In all those waves and storms, the everfaithful God was with his faithful witness. But ah, how tremendous the thought, that his judges should be reserved for a final hearing.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Acts 25". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany