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16. And when Paul's sister's son heard of their ready to slay him. But Paul's 16 lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and sister's son heard of their ly:
ing in wait, and he came and told Paul.
entered into the castle, and told
Paul. And Paul called un-17 17. Then Paul called one of the centurions unto to him one of the centurions, him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief
and said, Bring this young
man unto the chief captain : captain : for he hath a certain thing to tell him.
for he hath something to tell 18. So he took him, and brought him to the chief him. So, he took him, and 18
brought him to the chief cap. captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto tain, and saith, Paul the pri
soner called me unto him, and him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto asked me to bring this young thee, who hath something to say unto thee.
man unto thee, who hath some.
Bible. They might reckon on the guard being in no great force. The murder would admit of being represented as the result of an accidental tumult, and the Sanhedrim would exert themselves to appease the Roman authorities. — Cook.
THE REASONS FOR THIS PLOT. The plot was necessary either (1) because the Sanhedrim had lost, under Roman rule, its power to inflict capital punishment; or (2) because, even if they possessed that power, the chief captain was not likely to allow its exercise in the case of a Roman citizen; or (3) because the experience of the previous day had shown that the violent party were not likely to obtain a majority in the council. The plot was so far skilfully laid. Even those who had said “ We find no evil in this man" could hardly oppose a proposal for a further investigation. -- Plumptre.
II. The Conspiracy Discovered. — Vers. 16-22. 16. When Paul's sister's son. This is the only direct reference in Scripture to Paul's family. It is uncertain whether Paul's sister resided in Jerusalem, or whether the young man may have come up to Jerusalem with Paul, or had been sent thither for his education, as his uncle was before him. We know not even whether the act of kindness was prompted merely by natural affection, or by Christian sympathy as well. All that we know is that this obscure youth, probably only a lad, rendered to his celebrated uncle a very important service, the mention of which has immortalized his memory. — Meyer, Note of American Editor. He was not a bigoted Jew, at all events: for in that case he would have allowed no tie of blood, no natural affection, to interfere with the supposed claims of his religion. - Hackett. Heard of their lying in wait. We are not informed how Paul's nephew obtained his krowledge of the conspiracy; but as the conspirators were numerous, and as they had given information of their designs to the chief priests and elders, the plot could not have remained long con. cealed. — Gloag. It is difficult to keep a secret in which arty men are sharers. — Plumptre. Entered into the castle. There was no time to be lost, or the Jewish delegation were on their way to the castle (ver. 21). And told Paul. We see, from the fact thus stated, that St. Paul, though in custody, was allowed to hold free communication with his friends. This, perhaps, accounts for the fulness with which the whole history is given. The writer of the Acts had come up with the apostle, and was not likely to desert his friend if he could possibly gain access to him. — Plumptre. llere, as in several other places, the courtesy of the higher Roman officials toward the seemingly friendless and persecuted missionary is noticeable (see especially Acts 16:33; 24:23; 26: 32; 27: 3; 28: 30). — Sihaff.
17. Called one of the centurions unto him. The apostle was under the charge of a military guard, and so would have no difficulty in getting his message conveyed. And the knowledge that he was a Roman citizen, and that by birth, would have spread among the soldiery and would not be without its influence. - Cambridge Bible. Bring this young man unto the chief captain. Although Paul had an express promise from Christ of security, that he would escape the snares of the Jews, and bear witness for him at Rome, yet he did not neglect any proper means of safety, thus proving how far removed he was from the character of an enthusiast. His prudence also is here observable: he does not tell the centurion, but thinks it safer to inform the tribune himself. - Gloag. This simple history is most precious as an inspired commentary on some difficult doctrines. It does not indeed make the doctrines easy of comprehension; it does not relieve them of mystery to our ininds; but it is fitted to show us that no view of the divine purposes can be right that in any measure tends to slacken human zeal and energy. To be assured that it is God that worketh in them, is the best of all motives to induce intelligent Christians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12, 13). --- Arnol.
18. So he took him, etc. The readiness of the centurion to comply with Paul's request, and of the chief captain to give audience to the young man, and the special hced
19. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, thing to say to thee. And 19 and went with him aside privately, and asked him, the hand and going asideas
the chief captain took him by What is that thou hast to tell me?
cd him privately, What is that
thou hast to tell me? And he zo 20. And he said, "The Jews have agreed to desire said, The Jews have agreed to thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow
ask thee to bring down Paul
to-morrow unto the council, as into the council, as though they would inquire some though thou wouldest inquire
somewhat more exactly conwhat of him more perfectly.
cerning him. Do not thou 21 21. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie therefore yield unto them: for
there lie in wait for him of in wait for him of them more than forty men, which them more than forty men, have bound themselves with an oath, that they will when have po
which have bound themselves
under a curse, neither to eat neither eat nor drink till they have killed him : and nor to drink till they have
slain him: and now are they now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.
ready, looking for the promise 22. So the chief captain then let the young man from thee. So the chief cap-22
tain let the young man go, depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that charging him, Tell no man
that thou hast signified these thou hast shewed these things to me.
things to me. And he called 23 23. And he called unto him two centurions, saying, unto him two of the centu
rions, and said, Make ready Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Cæsarea, two hundred soldiers to go as and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two for as Casarea, and horsemen
threescore and ten, and spearhundred, at the third hour of the night;
men two hundred, at the third
1 Ver. 12.
given to his message, in taking him aside privately, indicate the influence which Paul, though a prisoner, had already secured by his personal character. Similar indications are afforded in the account of the shipwreck (chap. 27: 30–37). Observe the promptness, vigor, and wisdom of Paul's course. — Abbott.
19. The chief captain took him by the hand. Bengel remarks, the captain took Paul's nephew by the hand, "in order to confirm the young man's confidence." Seeing, perhaps, that he was nervous and flustered, both from the peril to which he was subjecting himself by revealing this secret, --since suspicion would naturally fall on him, - and also by finding himself in the presence of the most powerful person in Jerusalem, the military delegate of the dreaded procurator, Lysias took him by the hand, and walking with him to a place where they were out of earshot, began to ask him what his message was. — Farrar.
20-22. Compare the account here given by the young man of the conspiracy with Luke's account above. The implication of the language, there lie in wait for nini, is that the ambuscade, as well as the conspiracy, had already been formed. The chief captain enjoins secrecy, because he will avoid all hazard of an assault; for the same reason Je starts Paul and his escort out by night. - Abbott.
22. So the chief captain. The chiliarch is obviously glad of the intelligence. His sympathies are clearly with St. Paul personally as against the high priest and his followers. He welcomes an opportunity for showing his zeal for the safe-keeping of a Roman citizen, and for making a statement of the whole transaction from his own point of view. – Plumptre. See thou tell no man. (1) To avoid any interference with his own plans, or a new conspiracy; (2) to avoid danger to the young man for revealing the secret; (3) to avoid any explanations of his conduct to the Jewish leaders.
III. The Conspiracy Defeated. — Vers. 23, 24. 23. He called unto him two centurions. One was to go no further than Antipatris (ver. 32). Two hundred soldiers. The common foot-soldiers, or legionaries, of the Roman army. - Abbott. To Cesarea. The residence of the Roman governor and the seat of the chief jurisdiction. The distance between Jerusalem and Cesarea is about 70 miles (by the road). — Cambridge Bible. It is 47 miles in a direct line. — McClintock and Strong. Cesarea is on the coast of the Mediterranean (see Lesson IV.). Horsemen. The ordinary Roman cavalry. Spearmen. It probably describes some light-armed troops furnished with spears and javelins, used by the right hand alone. — Abbott. At the third hour of the night. Nine o'clock in the evening. It was evidently the object of the chiliarch to place the prisoner beyond the reach of an attack before daybreak. With this view, all, as well as the horsemen, were to be mounted (ver. 24). -- Plumptre. 470 soldiers seems to have been a large force to have
24. And provide them Paul on, and bring him ernor.
beasts, that they may set! hour of the night: and ke 24
badethem provide beasts, that
and bring him safe unto Felix
guarded a single prisoner from the murderous design of 40 Sicarii, but the disturbed, uneasy state of the entire country must be borne in mind, and the Roman commander in Antonia was perplexed and alarmed about the whole matter. He suspected there was more in the charge against Paul than met the eye, and was anxious to deliver the accused safe into the hands of the superior authority at Cesarea. The fact, too, of the Roman citizenship of the prisoner, whose death was evidently earnestly desired by the Jewish Sanhedrim, made him more cautious. - Schaff.
Then, as we learn from Josephus, the Sicarii abounded, and murders were of daily occurrence. So numerous were these zealots that a few years after this an army of them took possession of Jerusalem and held it for several days, murdering the principal men, and committing great atrocities. Besides, the conspiracy against Paul was of a formidable nature, as it was countenanced and supported by the Sanhedrim; and, as he was a Roman citizen, it was the bounden duty of the tribune to protect him to the utmost of his power. The Roman soldiers were also kept in constant action, and employment was sought for them; and being numerous in Jerusalem, such a number might well be spared for two or three days. — Gloag.
24. And provide beasts. In the oriental a general word which might include camels and asses as well as horses. Relays would be necessary. If the apostle rode, the soldiers to whom his chains were attached must have been mounted also. And from Antipatris tu Cesarea his escort consisted entirely of cavalry. -- Cook.
The whole party went during the night about 45 miles, to Antipatris. From this point the 400 soldiers returned, and the 70 horsemen went on alone with Paul to Cesarea. Felix the governor. Felix and his brother Pallas were originally slaves, and then freedmen in the house of a noble Roman lady, Antonia, mother of the emperor Claudius. Pallas became the favorite, and subsequently minister of the emperor. He procured Felix the important post of procurator of Judea about A.D. 52. Tacitus writes of him as one who, trusting to his brother's powerful influence at court, knew he could commit any wrong with impunity. He was notoriously avaricious, cruel, and licentious, but withal a man of great energy and talent, wielding, however, as Tacitus tells us, “the power of a tyrant in the temper of a slave.” According to Josephus, he was one of the most corrupt and oppressive governors ever despatched from Rome to Judea. -- Rev. Com. According to Suetonius, he was the husband of three queens (Claud. xxviii.); one of them was Drusilla, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I. (see note to Acts, 24: 24); a second, as we learn from Tacitus, was the granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, the niece of the Empress Antonia, and the full cousin of Claudius (Hist. v.9); the third is unknown. After ruling over Judea for the comparatively long period of seven or eight years, he was recalled by Nero, and succeeded by Festus, A.D. 60. - Gloag.
On arriving at Cesarea the next day, Paul was presented to Felix with a letter of explanations from the Roman commander, and then he was placed in the prison of Herod's judgment-hall to await the coming of his accusers, whom Lysias had commanded to lay their complaints before Felix.
PRACTICAL. 1. The Lord protects his people. (1) The need of protection, — for their enemies are powerful. (a) In number 40 to 1; (0) bound by an oath to destroy them; (c) the means, cunning and deceit. (2) The Lord is more powerful. (a) He exposed the plot; (6) he raised up friends; (c) he led him forth unharmed. — Lange.
2. The Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them (Ps. 34:7). (1) As a comforting vision; (2) as a tender friend in the person of Paul's nephew; (3) as a powerful body-guard in the form of the Roman soldiers (comp. 2 Kings 6:17, where the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha). - Lange.
3. Ver. 12. What a shame upon us! The wicked are more earnest in their desires of what is evil than we are of what is good. They make more speed in the way of death than we do in the way of life. — S. Bernard.
4. Truth and righteousness may be found and practised with half the pains that are often employed to “ search out iniquity” and establish error. — Bp. Horne.
5. Other sinners serve the devil for pay; but cursers and swearers are volunteers who get nothing for their pains, Boston. (Fourfold State.)
6. If you have promised what is wrong, be unfaithful to your promise; if your vow be evil, abandon your determination; for that promise must needs be impious which can only be performed by your acting wickedly. — Isidore.
7. He that sweareth to his own hurt should keep his oath, but not he that makes an oath to hurt others.
8. Ver. 15. He that will swear will seldom hesitate to lie. Vices are social, and go in companies."
9. Ver. 17. Though God's promise is apparently unqualified, it does not absolve us from the prompt and energetic use of means. God's promises are fulfilled through the co-operation of human agency with the divine, and both are needful to gain the end. - Wm. M. Taylor.
10. The offering of a prayer binds us to the use of means for the securing of its answer. The trusting of a promise will bring only disappointment to us unless, like Paul, we take measures, such at least as are in our own power, to secure its fulfilment. Effort without prayer is impiety; prayer without effort is a mockery. - Taylor.
11. Vers. 23, 24. God overrules the plots and plans of men to the furtherance of his own plans, and causes all things to work together for good.
LIBRARY REFERENCES. The Commentaries and Lives of Paul hitherto referred to; a parallel to this account may be found in any Life of Luther, where he escaped from Augsburg by night, after his interview with Cajetan.
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. This lesson has an unusually limited amount of practical application, but there are a few points of which good use can be made.
REVIEW briefly the last lesson, in order to bring clearly before the mind the incidents of this.
CONTRAST Paul sleeping restfully in prison and in chains, because God was with him, and his promises shone like the sun's rays into the prison, and into his heart, — while his enemies were wearying the night hours in concocting a plan for his destruction, which after all utterly failed.
THE SUBJECT of the lesson is God's OVERRULING PROVIDENCE, so using even the wickedness of men as to favor his cause and his children.
I. THE CONSPIRACY (vers. 12-15). Here is the evil to be overruled. The plan was plausible, and success seemed easy.
II. THE CONSPIRACY OVERRULED BY BEING DISCOVERED (vers. 16-22). The main practical thoughts here are (1) the overruling Providence by which Paul's nephew learned of the plot, and thus frustrated it. (2) The union of the divine and human agency in fulfilling the promises of God. God had promised Paul that he should be safe, and should go to Rome and preach the Gospel. And yet Paul took every precaution he could for his safety. He knew that true faith in God's promises would lead him to use every means God put in his power.
APPLICATIONS. (1) To using the means for our salvation; believe the promises, and act. (2) To times of sickness or trouble. (3) To our plans and hopes for success in life.
Illustrations. (1) Paul's action in the shipwreck some two years after this, when the whole ship's crew were promised their lives for Paul's sake, and yet they must and did use the means (see Acts 27: 24, and 31, 43, 44). (2) Our lives are like the cloth in a loom, -inade up of the warp of God's endowments and circumstances, and the woof of our own free wills.
III. THE CONSPIRACY MADE TO FURTHER God's PLANS. God had promised that Paul should preach the Gospel in Rome. This conspiracy was one part of the means by which that plan was carried out, and Paul enabled to realize his hopes and desires. It was the way to Rome, though he, at the time, could not see how.
Illustration. During the siege of Sebastopol, a Russian shell buried itself in the side of a hill without the city, and opened a spring. A little fountain bubbled forth where the cannon shot had fallen, and during the remainder of the siege afforded to the thirsty troops, who were stationed in that vicinity, an abundant supply of pure cold water. Thus the missile of death from an enemy, under the direction of an overruling Providence, proved an almoner of mercy to the parched and weary soldiery of the allies. — Congregationalist. So often the efforts of men against God's kingdom have been overruled to its furtherance. Every great attack upon the Bible has opened a new fountain of its truth to supply the wants of God's people.
Illustration. An old Persian fable reads thus: God created the earth a vast, level, barren plain, with not a green thing on it to be seen — not a flower, not a bush, not a tree on it. He came forth to view his new creation, and determined to adorn it with beauty; and he sent his angel to sow broadcast over the world the choicest seeds. In one place they dropped the magnolia; in another the orange; all over the world they scattered the seed that should spring up in beauty. Satan, on his dark, black wing followed, and saw the unburied seed lying all over the earth, and he said: “This is the work of the Almighty, and I will destroy it." So he went to work, and every seed that could be found he buried out of sight in the soil, and as if to make his work complete he summoned the rains of heaven, and they fell upon the earth and saturated it that the seed might rot away. Then, with his arms folded, and a malignant smile of satisfied pride, he looked to see the chagrin of the Almighty when he should behold his work destroyed. But as he gazed the seed germinated; it broke through the shock, shot through the ground, and came up in forms of beauty everywhere; and the apparent ruin had become an Eden of loveliness, of beauty. - Dr. Eddy.
LESSON X. — March 8.
PAUL BEFORE FELIX. — ACTS 24: 10–27. GOLDEN TEXT. – A conscience void of offence toward God and toward men. ACTS 24: 16.
TIME. – Tuesday, May 30. Five days after the last lesson. Paul remained in prison at Cesarea from the last of May, A.D. 58, to midsummer, A.D. 60.
PLACE. - Cesarea, the residence of the Roman governor of Judea. It had a harbor from the Mediterranean. It was 47 miles north-west of Jerusalem. Here a Roman centurion, Cornelius, had been converted. Here lived Philip the evangelist.
RULERS. — Nero, emperor of Rome. Felix, governor of Judea, A.D. 52–60 (see last lesson). Agrippa, king of Trachonitis, etc.
PRONUNCIATIONS. — Azi'zús; Cěsăre'ă; Drůsil'lă; Em'ěsă or Emis'să; Fe'lix; Lys'iăs; Pör' ciús Fěs'tūs;• Tărtăl'lūs.
INTRODUCTION. We left St. Paul in custody at Cesarea. His enemies at Jerusalem lost no time in following him. Within five days the high priest Ananias, accompanied by a deputation from the Sanhedrim, and by a professional advocate, arrived in Cesarea to lay their information against Paul before the tribunal of Felix. The charge brought against the prisoner seems to have included three particulars. (1) That he was guilty of sedition, and so of disloyalty to the Roman government; (2) that he was guilty of heresy, the ringleader of a sect, and so a renegade from Judaism; (3) that he was guilty of profaning the temple, and thus of affront. ing a worship which was under the patronage and protection of Rome. — Vaughn. The object of Tertullus, however, appears to be not the condemnation and punishment of Paul by Felix, but his surrender to the Jewish authorities for trial. The lesson begins with the reply of Paul, made at the sign from the governor. — Riddle.
10. Then Paul, after that the governor had beck- And when the governor had 10
| beckoned unto him to speak, oned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I
Paul answered, know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto Forasmuch as I know that
thou hast been of many years this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for my-1 a judge unto this nation, I do self:
cheerfully make my defence:
EXPLANATORY. 1. The Introduction to Paul's Address. - Ver. 10. Then Paul. After Tertullus had finished his accusation. The governor. Felix, who motioned to Paul to make his reply to the charges. Answered. There is scarcely a more striking contrast in the records of oratory than that between the fulsome harangue of the hired advocate Tertullus, and the manly simplicity of Paul's defence. His own attitude toward Roman magistrates was invariably that of a respectful but independent citizen, — Wm. Smith. Forasmuch as I know