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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Acts 25

 

 

Verses 1-27

Festus was a different character, a typical Roman, materialistic and matter-of-fact, not a debased type, but skeptical as to anything spiritual. Only three days after taking office he visited Jerusalem, and the Jews took advantage of this to seek to influence him against Paul, urging him to bring Paul to Jerusalem for trial.

Their object however was not to have him put on trial, but to kill him on the way. It would seem after two years that their animosity would have been tempered, but it was just as determined as before.

Festus, for whatever reason, refused this, but told them that when he returned to Caesarea shortly they were welcome to come to make their accusations against Paul before him there, at least if they had any substantial criminal charge to make.

The Jews were ready the day after Festus returned , to bring their accusations to the judgment seat of Festus. This was however only a repetition of the first hearing before Felix. Their many grievous complaints were not backed up by proof of any kind, and Paul answered as before for himself, speaking the truth in his own defense, though again having no opportunity to bear witness to his faith in Christ and the truth of the Gospel. The clear result of the hearing was that the Jews could establish no case against him whatever.

However, Festus, with the motive merely of pleasing the Jews, asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there before him. The chief captain Lysias had shown more discernment than this when he had sent Paul away from Jerusalem. Paul knew too that in the effort of Festus to please the Jews, this could likely issue in his being given up to the Jews to do with him as they pleased.

He answered decidedly therefore. According to Roman law he ought to tried at Caesar's judgment seat, that is, by a Roman court, not Jewish or partly Jewish. He insists that Festus himself knew well that Paul had done no wrong to the Jews. He would not refuse to die, he says, if he had committed any crime worthy of death, but of course Festus knew there was not even an accusation against him that would warrant the death penalty. Such being the case no-one (even Festus) had the right to deliver him to the Jews. Paul recognized only one alternative to this: he appealed to Caesar. Festus with some consultation replied that therefore he would indeed be sent to Caesar.

Festus ought to have realized that there was no reason whatever that Paul should be sent to Caesar's court: he should have been set free, but the expense of imprisonment and a voyage to Rome is added to that of his two years of support by the Roman government, not to speak of the added unrighteousness of it.

King Agrippa is now brought into the picture. He was a professed Jew, having Jewish blood in his lineage, though given his title by the Romans and therefore concerned about maintaining good relations with the Roman governors. His visit to Festus no doubt had this in view. It was natural that Festus should acquaint Agrippa with the circumstances of Paul's imprisonment, knowing that he was conversant with Jewish laws and customs. Bernice was the sister of Agrippa. Festus in giving the information says that the charges against Paul were nothing such as he had supposed would be the case of a man so strongly condemned by the Jews, but were merely questions connected with their own religious superstition and of some disagreement as to Jesus, a man who had died, yet whom Paul affirmed to be alive. He does not even concede the possibility of resurrection.

Agrippa's interest was awakened by this and he asked if he might hear what Paul had to say. This was fully agreeable to Festus, for he thought Agrippa might shed a little light on the problem he faced. The next day Agrippa and Bernice were conducted to the place of hearing with great pomp and ceremony, together with the chief captains and principal men of the city. God was certainly behind this, to bring about an auspicious occasion in which Paul the prisoner could bear a witness to the Lord Jesus with many in attendance. How unusual a situation, where an assemblage of great men is brought together to hear an address by a prisoner!

Every eye is directed to Paul by Festus, as he addresses King Agrippa and all who were present, telling them that the Jews at Jerusalem and also at Caesarea have strongly demanded that Paul should be put to death. Yet he admits his bewilderment at this, for he found that Paul had committed nothing worthy of death. He adds however that Paul had appealed to Caesar Augustus, and though Festus had determined to send him to Rome, he was himself puzzled as to what to write, since there was no specific charge made against him.

He thinks that possibly King Agrippa might discern something that he could be accused of. One would be inclined to agree with his sentiment of verse 27, that it seems unreasonable to send a prisoner to a supreme court without signifying any charge against him!

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 25:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/acts-25.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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