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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Acts 23

 

 

Verse 1

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Paul before the Sanhedrim ()

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council - with a look of conscious integrity and unfaltering courage, perhaps also recognizing some of his early fellow-pupils,

Said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. The phrase here rendered "lived before (or 'to') God" [pepoliteumai (G4176) too ( Greek # ) Theoo (Greek #2316)] is understood by Meyer, Lechler, and others to assert no more than the conscientious discharge of his office. But, as the word has a primary reference to 'polity,' or 'citizenship,' there is good reason to think that the apostle here intended to affirm that he had ever been, and since his conversion to Christ, was as much as ever an honest, God-fearing member of "the commonwealth of Israel;" and (as Humphry says) it was probably the boldness of this assertion which called forth the outrage described in the next verse.


Verse 2

And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth - a method of silencing a speaker common in the East (says Hackett) to this day; and our Lord was treated with the same indignity (John 18:22). But for a judge thus to treat a prisoner on his trial, for merely prefacing his defense by a protestation of his integrity, was infamous.


Verse 3

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee - as indeed He did; for he was killed by an assassin during the Jewish war (Josephus J. W. 2: 17. 9),

Thou whited wall - that is, hypocrite! (See Matthew 23:27 ,) This epithet, however, though correctly describing the man, mast not be defended as addressed to a judge; although the remonstrance which follows,

For sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to this law?

ought to have put him to shame.


Verse 4

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?

And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?


Verse 5

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest. All sorts of explanations of this have been given. The high priesthood was in a state of great confusion and constant change at this time (as appears from Josephus), and the apostle's long absence from Jerusalem, and perhaps the manner in which he was habited, or the seat he occupied, with other circumstances to us unknown may account for such a speech. But if he was thrown off his guard by an insult which touched him to the quick, 'what (says Hackett) can surpass the grace with which he recovered his self-possession, and the frankness with which he acknowledged his error? If his conduct in yielding to the momentary impulse was not that of Christ himself under a similar provocation ( John 18:22-23 ), certainly the manner in which he atoned for his fault was Christ-like.'

For it is written (Exodus 22:28), Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Excellent is Humphry's remark at the close of his note on this verse, that 'More edification may be derived from observing how speedily and gracefully he recovered his equanimity, than from contending, against the plain meaning of the words, that he was altogether exempt from human weakness.'

Observing how the parties in the council were balanced, Paul takes advantage of it by proclaiming his agreement with the Pharisees on the subject of the Resurrection, and thus obtains the protection of that party against the Sadducees ()


Verse 6

But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

But when Paul perceived - from the discussion which plainly had by this time arisen between the parties,

That the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out - raising his voice above both parties,

I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee - `a son of Pharisees' is the best attested reading; in which case the meaning is, belonging to a family who from father to son had long been such.

Of the hope and resurrection of the dead - that is (as good critics take it), 'of the hope of a resurrection of the dead;' or (with others), 'of the Messianic hope in general, as Acts 28:20 . The former suits the apostle's object better, as the resurrection was the one point to which he sought to direct attention.

I am called in question. This was not the vague hope of immortality-the utmost to which the pagan could rise-but the definite hope of a resurrection-state. By this adroit stroke Paul engages the whole Pharisaic section of the council in his favour; the doctrine of a resurrection being common to both, though they would totally differ in their application of it. This was of course quite warrantable, and the more so as it was already evident that no impartiality in trying his cause was to be looked for from such an assembly.


Verse 7

And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.

And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.


Verse 8

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit (see the note at Luke 20:37 ); but the Pharisees confess both - that is, both the resurrection of the body and the existence of spiritual beings.


Verse 9

And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.

And there arose a great cry: and the scribes - the true reading appears to be, 'scribes' (without the article);

That were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but - as to those startling things which be brings to our ears,

If a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him - referring, perhaps, to his trance in the temple, of which he had told them (Acts 22:17 ). They put this favourable construction upon his proceedings for no other reason than that they had found him one of their own party; they cared not to inquire into the truth of what he alleged, over and above their opinions, but only to explain it away as something not worth raising a noise about.

[Let us not fight against God]. (This bracketed clause is clearly an addition to the genuine text.) [It is missing in 'Aleph (') A B C E, etc., the Vulgate, etc., and is supported chiefly by two late Uncials, G H.] The sense, then, will be, 'but what if a spirit or angel hath spoken to him?' The clause, "let us not fight against God," seems clearly taken from the similar expression of Gamaliel ( Acts 5:39), in circumstances not dissimilar to those here, in order to complete the sentence. But it is possible that the conclusion of the sentence was drowned in the hubbub, which the next verse shows to have been intense.

The tribune fearing, from the hubbub in the council, that the prisoner's life is in danger, has him removed by force into the barracks, where he is cheered by a night-vision of his Lord, assuring him he should yet testify for Him at Rome, even as he had done at Jerusalem (10,11)


Verse 10

And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

And when there arose a great dissension , [ staseoos (Greek #4714)] - 'uproar' (cf. Acts , Gr.),

The chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle ('the barracks'). This shows that the tribune had not been himself present, and further, that instead of the Sanhedrim trying the cause, the proceedings quickly consisted in the one party attempting to seize the prisoner, and the other to protect him.


Verse 11

And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

And the night following - his heart perhaps sinking in the solitude of his barrack-ward, and thinking, perhaps, that all the predictions of danger at Jerusalem were now to be fulfilled in his death there,

The Lord - THE LORD JESUS, his glorified but ever present Master,

Stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, [Paul]. (This bracketed word is clearly not genuine.)

For as thou hast testified of me , [diemarturoo (Greek #1263) ta ( Greek #3588 ) peri (Greek #4012 ) Emou (Greek #1700 )] - 'as thou hast thoroughly testified the things concerning Me.' In this emphatic sense of 'thorough testimony,' the same compound word is used in Acts 20:21; Acts 20:24 (on which see).

In Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome - q.d., 'Thy work in Jerusalem is done, faithfully and well; but thou art not to die here; thy purpose, next to "see Rome" (Acts 19:21 ), shall not be disappointed, and there also must thou bear witness of Me. As this vision was not unneeded now, so we shall find it cheering and upholding him throughout all that befell him up to his arrival there. A Conspiracy to Assassinate Paul is Providentially Discovered, and Made Known to the Tribune (23:12-21)


Verse 12

And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

And when it was day, [certain of] the Jews - "the Jews" is manifestly the true reading. It was the great body of his enemies who combined, though only a formidable band of them volunteered to act.

Banded together, and bound themselves under a curse - literally, 'anathematized themselves,' or solemnly wished themselves accursed (or damned), if they did not do what they proposed. (See 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 3:35.) This was what poor Peter did when he denied his Lord (see the note at Mark 14:71 , p. 207).

Saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul.


Verse 13

And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 14

And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.

And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse - the words are very emphatic,

That we will eat ('taste') nothing until we have slain Paul.


Verse 15

Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

How therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you [tomorrow], (the bracketed word is clearly not genuine.)

As though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him. That these high ecclesiastics fell in readily with this infamous plot is clear; indeed, what will not unscrupulous and hypocritical religionists do under the mask of religion? The narrative bears unmistakeable internal marks of truth.

And we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him. Their plan was to assassinate him on his way down from the barracks to the council. The case was critical; but He who had pledged His word to him, that he should testify for Him at Rome, provided unexpected means of defeating this well-laid scheme.


Verse 16

And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.

And when Paul's sister's son (see the note at Acts 9:30 )

Heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul. If this lad was then residing at Jerusalem for his education, like Paul himself, he may have gotten at the schools those hints of the conspiracy on which he so promptly acted.


Verse 17

Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.

Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain; for he hath a certain thing to tell him. Observe here, how although divinely assured of safety, Paul never allows this to interfere with the duty he owed to his own life and the work he had yet to do. (See the notes at Acts 27:22-25; Acts 27:27 .)


Verse 18

So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.

So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.


Verse 19

Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?

Then the chief captain took him by the hand. A little lad, then, quite in his boyhood, he must have been, and this small incident throws a pleasing light on the kind-hearted impartiality of this officer.


Verse 20

And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly.

And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul tomorrow into the council, as though they would inquire - `as if thou wert going to inquire' seems the true reading [ melloon (Greek #3195)].


Verse 21

But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.

But do not thou yield unto them; for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink until they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. Thus, as is often the case with God's people, not until the last moment, when the plot was all prepared, did deliverance come.

Upon hearing of this conspiracy, the tribune, enjoining silence on his informer, despatches Paul by night to Caesarea, under a strong escort, with a letter stating the circumstances to Felix the Procurator, that, as civil governor of the province, he might bring him to trial-Arrangements for this are accordingly made ()


Verse 22

So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.

So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast showed these things to me.


Verse 23

And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;

And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen, [dexiolabous (Greek #1187)] - a special word, the sense of which seems well expressed here,

Two hundred - in all, four hundred and seventy men, consisting of heavy-armed and light-armed troops, with a body of cavalry; a formidable guard for such an occasion; but Roman officials felt their honour concerned in the preservation of the public peace, and the danger of an attempted rescue would seem to require it: the depot at Jerusalem was large enough to spare this convoy.

At the third hour of the night (nine o'clock).


Verse 24

And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on - as relays, and to carry baggage;

And bring him safe unto Felix the governor (or 'Procurator'). See the notes at Acts 24:24-25.


Verse 25

And he wrote a letter after this manner:

And he wrote a letter after this manner:


Verse 26

Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.

Claudius Lysias - the former was the Roman name he would take on purchasing his citizenship, the latter his Greek family name,


Verse 27

This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.

This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army , [sun ( Greek #4862) too (Greek #3588) strateumati (Greek #4753 )] - 'with the military' or 'soldiery,' "and rescued him, having understood that he was Roman."


Verse 28

And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 29

Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.

Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. Amidst all his difficulty in getting at the charges laid against Paul, enough, no doubt, came out to satisfy him that the whole was a question of religion, and that there was no case for a civil tribunal.


Verse 30

And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.

And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait - or 'that they laid wait' [ hupo ( G5259) toon (Greek #) Ioudaioon ( G2453 ) being probably not genuine],

For the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee [what they had against him. Farewell]. Since these bracketed words [ta (Greek #3588) pros (Greek #4314) auton (Greek #846 ). Errooso ( G4517 )] are of very doubtful authority, if we reject them, the close of the letter will run thus: 'I sent [him] straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also, to tell their own tale before thee.' Though this was not done when he wrote, it would be done before the letter reached.


Verse 31

Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.

Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris - a town but recently identified; formerly supposed to be about 42 miles from Jerusalem, on the way to Caesarea, leaving 26 miles further to go to their destination: in that case they would have difficulty in reaching Jerusalem again the following day (as they did, Acts 23:32 ); but a much shorter Roman road has been discovered, which entirely removes the difficulty. The town was so named by Herod the Great, in honour of his father, Antipater.


Verse 32

On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:

On the morrow they (the foot soldiers) left the horsemen to go with him, and (they themselves being no longer needed as a guard) returned to the castle ('the barracks').


Verse 33

Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.

Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the letter to the governor, presented Paul also before him.


Verse 34

And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia;

And when the governor - or, 'when he' [ho (Greek #3588) heegemoon (Greek #2232 ) being insufficiently attested]

Had read the letter, he asked of what province he was - the letter having described him simply as a Roman citizen.

And when he understood that he was of Cilicia;


Verse 35

I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.

I will hear thee - the compound word [ diakousomai (Greek #1251 )] implies 'a thorough hearing,'

Said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him, [ keleusas (Greek #2753 ) is preferable to ekeleusen ( Greek #2753) of the Received Text]

To be kept in Herod's judgment-hall - `the praetorium;' that is the palace built at Caesarea by Herod, and now occupied by the Roman procurators, in one of the buildings attached to which Paul was ordered to be kept.

Remark: Though Paul, when insulted before the Sanhedrim by the high priest, appears not free from human infirmity, his calm and fearless bearing as a witness for Christ. conscious of his innocence and superior to all personal and party considerations, stands out only to more advantage. And as the cheering visit which his glorified Lord vouchsafed to him that very night was evidence enough of the estimation in which he was held and the value put on his services by Him to whom they were so cheerfully rendered, so the remarkable discovery and defeat of the plot against his life, and the powerful protection provided for him on his way from Jerusalem to Caesarea, by one who knew nothing of the case, and who intended only the preservation of the peace and the securing of the ends of justice, showed that he and his cause were under a higher guardianship than man's; nor could he well fail to say within himself, as he traveled by night under an escort of nearly 500 hundred troops, to protect him against 40 assassins - "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them."

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Acts 23:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/acts-23.html. 1871-8.

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