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1 Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
Ver. 1. Now when Festus ] Who succeeded Felix in the government, as after Festus came Albinus, and after him Florus, under whom Jerusalem was sacked and ruined. That heavy curse was executed upon this wretched people, Leviticus 26:17 ; "If ye still trespass against me, I will set princes over you that shall hate you," mischievous, odious princes; odious to God, oppressive to the people. After the revolt of the ten tribes, they had not one good king. And a Popish writer complains, that for many successions the see of Rome non merita est regi nisi a reprobis, had deserved to be ruled by none but reprobates. When Phocas had slain Mauricius, there was an honest poor man (saith Cedrenus) who was wonderfully importunate at the throne of grace, to know a reason why that wicked man prospered so in his design; he was answered again by a voice, that there could not be a worse man found, and that the sins of Christians did require it.
2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
Ver. 2. Informed him against Paul ] ενεφανισαν , they gave him private intelligence (so the word signifies, saith Erasmus), they buzzed false reports into his ears: an old practice of persecutors. Proprie significat tacite et clam indicare. Truth seldom goes without a scratched face. The Arminians endeavoured to persuade the States of Holland that the orthodox pastors sought to diminish the authority of the civil magistrates, and to affect and arrogate to themselves a power collateral or equal to their power. a
a Act. Synod. Dordrecht. proefatione.
3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.
Ver. 3. Desired favour ] Or a good turn, χαριν : such was their impudence.
4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither .
Ver. 4. That Paul should be kept, &c. ] How easily can God defeat the most cunning contrivances of his Church’s enemies! He sees and smiles, he looks and laughs. Commit we therefore ourselves to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator, 1 Peter 4:19 .
5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me , and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
Ver. 5. That are able ] Or well appointed, well provided of moneys and other necessaries for such an enterprise. He that prosecutes another need be well underlaid.
6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.
Ver. 6. Commanded Paul to be brought ] This is now the third time: and what if it had been the thirtieth? Cato (the very best of the Romans) as he was thirty-two times accused, so he was thirty-two times cleared and absolved.
7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
Ver. 7. Laid many and grievous complaints against Paul ] Whereby to take away his precious life: which because they could not, they had little comfort of their own. Some of their own Talmudists have observed that the devil was as much wounded with that restraint that he should not take away Job’s life, as Job was with all those wounds that the devil inflicted on his body.
8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
Ver. 8. Neither against the law of the Jews ] Quam multa quam paucis! how much, how little, said Cicero of Brutus’ laconical epistle: and the same may I say of this defence, How much in a little! See Trapp on " Act 24:12 "
9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?
Ver. 9. Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem? ] Irreligious persons that are not acted by the Spirit of God, we see how flexible and inclinable they are to corrupt counsels and courses. Before, he would not yield to the Jews’ motion; now he would. "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways," αστατος , James 1:6 .
" Et tantum constans in levitate sua. "
But should not the chief posts in a building be heart of oak? should not the standard be made of metal of proof? Fabricius is famous for his well knit resolution; sooner might a man turn the sun out of his course than draw him to do anything that was not just and equal. As, on the other side, those Athenian judges shall be infamous to all posterity, who when they had determined to condemn Phryne (that stinking strumpet), were yet drawn to acquit her, after that they beheld her beautiful bosom, which Hyperides (her advocate) had purposely laid open (pulling her clothes aside) to move them to show her mercy. (Plut. in Hyperid.)
10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.
Ver. 10. I stand at Coesar’s judgment seat ] We may safely make our just defence when falsely accused, and take the benefit of the law. Ambrose would be judged at Milan, where he was known; and Athanasius refused to be censured by corrupt councils.
11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.
Ver. 11. I appeal to Coesar ] Who though a lion, 2 Timothy 4:17 , yet I hope to be tutus sub umbra leonis, against a manifest violence of a corrupt judge, notoriously forestalled and preoccupated. Iudex, locusta civitatis est, malus. (Scaliger.)
12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.
Ver. 12. Hast thou appealed, &c. ] Elegans loquendi forma, saith Piscator: such as are those, 1Co 7:18 ; 1 Corinthians 7:21 ; 1Co 7:27 Romans 13:3 . A cutted kind of speech, say others, savouring of discontent.
13 And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.
Ver. 13. King Agrippa and Bernice ] Son and daughter to that Herod mentioned Acts 12:1 . They were known, saith Josephus, to live in detestable incest. It pleased God that his faithful servant Paul should plead for his life before these two filthy beasts; which he did freely and modestly.
14 And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:
Ver. 14. A certain man left in bonds ] Wherein he glorieth more than others in their gold chains,Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:1 ; Philemon 1:1 . Non ita beatum Paulum puto, saith Chrysostom, Ephesians 3:1 , quod in coelum raptus, quam quod in carcerem coniectus: I hold not Paul so happy in his rapture as in his captivity.
15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me , desiring to have judgment against him.
Ver. 15. To have judgment against him ] Damnationem, saith Beza. This was the favour they craved of Festus, Acts 25:3 . So a writ came down while the Lady Elizabeth was in the tower, subscribed with certain hands of the council for her execution, Stephen Gardiner being the chief engineer; but God prevented them. The Lord Paget in a certain consultation said that King Philip should never have any quiet commonwealth in England unless Lady Elizabeth’s head were stricken from her shoulders. The Spaniards thereto answered, God forbid that their king and master should have such a mind to consent to such a mischief. (Acts and Mon.)
16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
Ver. 16. Have the accusers face to face ] Here was no oath ex officio to force a man to accuse himself. Among the Romans the accusers sat in those seats that were at the left hand of the judge; the accused and his advocate at the right hand. The accuser had three hours allotted him, the defendant six. And if he were found guilty, yet was he not given up to his adversaries to be punished at their pleasure (as these Jews would have had it) but as the judge appointed it.
17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.
Ver. 17. Without delay ] This was well; judges should dismiss timely those whom they cannot presently despatch, as Jethro adviseth,Exodus 18:13-26; Exodus 18:13-26 . It is recorded of Sir Thomas Moore, to his eternal commendation, that when he was Lord Chancellor, and sat in the Court of Chancery, he called for the next cause, and there was none remaining. But what meaneth Festus here to crack so much of his diligence in doing justice?
" Cur ego, si nequeo, ignoroque, Poeta salutor. "
What is the honour of this world, or the applause of men (though well deserved), but a puff of stinking breath? and what advantageth it a man to have the world’s Euge, well done, and God’s Apage? Away with you.
18 Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed:
Ver. 18. Of such things as I supposed ] They accused Paul of sedition; but because they failed in the proof, he makes it nothing. This is said by the historian (Tacitus) to be the commune crimen eorum qui crimine vacabant, the innocent man’s crime.
19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
Ver. 19. But had certain questions ] See how basely this profane fellow speaketh of God’s true service. These cocks on the dunghill know not the price of that pearl, and do therefore avile it. They took occasion also from the contentions of the Church’s doctors, to condemn their doctrine. It was therefore a devilish device of Julian the Apostate, to call home those heterodox and heretical bishops that had been banished by Constantine, that they might embroil and darken the Church by their mutual discords among themselves, and so bring the Christian religion into disgrace.
20 And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters.
Ver. 20. And because ] He tells not Agrippa, that to gratify the Jews (who in all likelihood had bribed him) he asked, whether he would go up to Jerusalem; but pretends another matter. Nature need not be taught to tell her own tale, or to make the best of her own case, bad though it be. And this is incident to the very best, as to do what we can to hide our bodily deformities, so our moral defects and frailties. What dost thou here, Elias? saith God. I have been very zealous for the Lord of hosts, saith he. He had rather say so, than, I was fearful of Jezebel, and here I hide me from her malicious pursuit. But were it not better to speak out, and to acknowledge all with aggravation of circumstances? since such only find mercy as in confession show the Lord the iniquity of their sin, the filthiness of their lewdness, the abomination of their provocations.
21 But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.
Ver. 21. Send him to Caesar ] That is, to Nero. But for memory of their two first emperors, Caesar and Augustus, all their successors bore these two names. Many other swelling titles they had; but all or most of them, till Constantine, died unnatural deaths, and got nothing by their adoption or designation, nisi ut citius interficerentur, but to be sent out of the world the sooner.
22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.
Ver. 22. I would also hear the man ] More for his mind’s sake, and to see what he would say for himself, than out of any desire to learn from him. So Herod desired to see Christ, as a man would see some magician act his feats, and make him sport.
23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth.
Ver. 23. With great pomp ] Gr. μετα πολλης φαντασιας , with great fantasy, or vain show. For no better is all worldly pomp and state. Of Cardinal Wolsey’s twenty great mules passing through London, laden with roasted eggs, and rotten shoes, and other like treasure, as was discovered by the fall of one mule that cast his burden, read Acts and Monuments, fol. 899. My Lord Cardinal, said Bayfield, the martyr, is no good man; for Christ never taught him to follow riches, promotions, worldly pomp, as he doth; to wear shoes of silver and gold, set with pearls and precious stones. Christ had never two crosses of silver, two axes, nor pillars of silver and gold, &c.
24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.
Ver. 24. That he ought not to live any longer ] All malice is bloody, and is therefore called murder; because it wisheth him out of the world whom it maligneth. See Trapp on " Act 25:7 "
25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.
Ver. 25. Nothing worthy of death ] What an honour and comfort was this to the apostle! Lysias acquits him, so doth Felix, and now Festus; neither doth Agrippa dissent. See Trapp on " Act 25:6 "
26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.
Ver. 26. To write unto my lord ] Κυριος signifieth one that hath rule or dominion, being a word of relation, a This title was first affected by tyrants; but afterwards the good princes suffered it to be given unto them, as appeareth by Pliny’s Epistle to Trajan. The emperors disclaimed only the name of king, to avoid the hatred of the people, and yet sought the full right of kings, and to destroy the liberty of the people. But God calls them kings,1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 2:13 ; 1 Peter 2:17 . God hateth hypocrisy in whomsoever; and will unmask even kings, if they dissemble.
a Deducitur a κυρος , authoritas.
27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.
Ver. 27. For it seems to me unreasonable ] And should not God’s people be as careful to perform unto him a reasonable service, Romans 12:1 , such as whereof they can render a sound and intelligible reason out of the word of God? Should they not prove what that good, and holy, and acceptable will of God is, Acts 25:21 , by taking warrant from his word, and doing all to his glory? Is not this to do the works of God, John 6:28 , and to do them in God, John 3:22 , and for God, according to that, Quicquid agas propter Deum agas? καλον καλως . And is not the contrary will worship, Colossians 2:22 ; spiritual fornication, Psalms 106:39 ; idol worship, Exodus 32:4 ; devil worship, 1 Corinthians 10:20 ; cf. Acts 17:23 ; Revelation 9:20 ;
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 25". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29