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Ac 23:1-10. PAUL'S DEFENSE BEFORE THE SAMHEDRIM DIVIDES THE RIVAL FACTIONS, FROM WHOSE VIOLENCE THE COMMANDANT HAS THE APOSTLE REMOVED INTO THE FORTRESS.
1. Paul, earnestly beholding the council--with a look of conscious
integrity and unfaltering courage, perhaps also recognizing some of his
early fellow pupils.
2. the high priest . . . commanded . . . to smite him on the mouth--a method of silencing a speaker common in the East to this day [HACKET]. 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].
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 Christ-like" [HACKET].
6-9. when Paul perceived--from the discussion which plainly had by
this time arisen between the parties.
8. the Sadducees say . . . there is no resurrection,
neither angel, nor spirit--(See on
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.
Ac 23:11-35. IN THE FORTRESS PAUL IS CHEERED BY A NIGHT VISION--AN INFAMOUS CONSPIRACY TO ASSASSINATE HIM IS PROVIDENTIALLY DEFEATED, AND HE IS DESPATCHED BY NIGHT WITH A LETTER FROM THE COMMANDANT TO FELIX AT CÆSAREA, BY WHOM ARRANGEMENTS ARE MADE FOR A HEARING OF HIS CAUSE.
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.
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.
16-22. Paul's sister's son--(See on Ac 9:30). 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 Ac 27:22-25; Ac 27:31).
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
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 destination.
31, 32. brought him . . . to Antipatris--nearly forty miles from Jerusalem, on the way to Cæsarea; so named by Herod in honor of his father, Antipater.
32. On the morrow they--the infantry.
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."