Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
DEFENSE BEFORE THE
REMOVED INTO THE
1. Paul, earnestly beholding the council--with a look of conscious
integrity and unfaltering courage, perhaps also recognizing some of his
early fellow pupils.
I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day--The
word has an indirect reference to the "polity" or "commonwealth of
Israel," of which he would signify that he had been, and was to that
hour, an honest and God-fearing member.
2. the high priest . . . commanded . . . to smite him on the mouth--a
method of silencing a speaker common in the East to this day
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.
3, 4. God shall smite thee--as indeed He did; for he was killed by an
assassin during the Jewish war [JOSEPHUS,
Wars of the Jews, 2.17.9].
thou whited wall--that is, hypocrite
This epithet, however correctly describing the man, must not be
defended as addressed to a judge, though the remonstrance which
follows--"for sittest thou," &c.--ought to have put him to shame.
5. I wist not . . . 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 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
(Joh 18:22, 23),
certainly the manner in which he atoned for his fault was
6-9. 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--The true reading seems to be,
"the son of Pharisees," that is, belonging to a family who from father
to son had long been such.
of the hope and resurrection of the dead--that is, not the vague hope
of immortality, but the definite expectation of the resurrection.
I am called in question--By this adroit stroke, Paul engages the whole
Pharisaic section of the council in his favor; 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.
8. the Sadducees say . . . there is no resurrection,
neither angel, nor spirit--(See on
the scribes . . . of the Pharisees' part . . . strove, saying, We find
no evil in this man, but--as to those startling things which he 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
They put this favorable construction upon his proceedings for no other
reason than that they had found him one of their own party. They care
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. (The following words, "Let us not fight against
God," seem not to belong to the original text, and perhaps are from
In this case, either the meaning is, "If he has had some divine
communication, what of that?" or, the conclusion of the sentence
may have been drowned in the hubbub, which
shows to have been intense).
10. the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled to
pieces . . . commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force,
&c.--This shows that the commandant was not 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.
CHEERED BY A
NIGHT WITH A
LETTER FROM THE
MADE FOR A
11. 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--that is, Jesus.
stood by him . . . Be of good cheer, Paul; for as thou
hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou . . . also at
Rome--that is, "Thy work in Jerusalem is done, faithfully and well
done; but thou art not to die here; thy purpose next to 'see Rome'
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
12-14. bound themselves under a curse . . . that they would neither eat
. . . fill they had killed Paul--Compare
15. Now . . . ye with the council signify to the chief captain . . .
as though, &c.--That these high ecclesiastics fell in readily with
this infamous plot is clear. What will not unscrupulous and hypocritical
religionists do under the mask of religion? The narrative bears
unmistakable internal marks of truth.
or ever he come near--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.
16-22. Paul's sister's son--(See on
If he was at this time residing at Jerusalem for his education, like
Paul himself, he may have got at the schools those hints of the
conspiracy on which he so promptly acted.
17. Then Paul called one of the centurions--Though divinely
assured of safety, he never allows this to interfere with the duty he
owed to his own life and the work he had yet to do. (See on
19. took him by the hand--This shows that he must have been quite in
his boyhood, and throws a pleasing light on the kind-hearted
impartiality of this officer.
21. and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee--Thus, as
is so often the case with God's people, not till the last moment, when
the plot was all prepared, did deliverance come.
23, 24. two hundred soldiers--a formidable guard for such an occasion;
but Roman officials felt their honor concerned in the preservation of
the public peace, and the danger of an attempted rescue would seem to
require it. The force at Jerusalem was large enough to spare this
the third hour of the night--nine o'clock.
24. beasts . . . set Paul on--as relays, and to carry baggage.
unto Felix, the governor--the procurator. See on
Ac 24:24, 25.
26-30. Claudius--the Roman name he would take on purchasing his
Lysias--his Greek family name.
the most excellent governor--an honorary title of office.
27. came I with an army--rather, "with the military."
29. perceived to be accused of questions of their law, &c.--Amidst
all his difficulty in getting at the charges laid against Paul, enough,
no doubt, come out to satisfy him that the whole was a question of
religion, and that there was no case for a civil tribunal.
30. gave commandment to his accusers . . . to say before thee--This
was not done when he wrote, but would be before the letter reached its
31, 32. brought him . . . to Antipatris--nearly forty miles from
Jerusalem, on the way to Cæsarea; so named by Herod in honor of his
32. On the morrow they--the infantry.
left the horsemen--themselves no longer needed as a guard. The
remaining distance was about twenty-five or twenty-six miles.
34, 35. asked of what province he was--the letter describing him as
a Roman citizen.
35. I will hear thee--The word means, "give thee a full hearing."
to be kept in Herod's judgment hall--"prætorium," the palace built
at Cæsarea by Herod, and now occupied by the Roman procurators; in one
of the buildings attached to which Paul was ordered to be kept.