Paul before Festus, he appeals to Caesar. (1-12) Festus confers with Agrippa respecting Paul. (13-27)
Verses 1-12 See how restless malice is. Persecutors deem it a peculiar favour to have their malice gratified. Preaching Christ, the end of the law, was no offence against the law. In suffering times the prudence of the Lord's people is tried, as well as their patience; they need wisdom. It becomes those who are innocent, to insist upon their innocence. Paul was willing to abide by the rules of the law, and to let that take its course. If he deserved death, he would accept the punishment. But if none of the things whereof they accused him were true, no man could deliver him unto them, with justice. Paul is neither released nor condemned. It is an instance of the slow steps which Providence takes; by which we are often made ashamed, both of our hopes and of our fears, and are kept waiting on God.
Verses 13-27 Agrippa had the government of Galilee. How many unjust and hasty judgments the Roman maxim, ver. ( 16 ) , condemn! This heathen, guided only by the light of nature, followed law and custom exactly, yet how many Christians will not follow the rules of truth, justice, and charity, in judging their brethren! The questions about God's worship, the way of salvation, and the truths of the gospel, may appear doubtful and without interest, to worldly men and mere politicians. See how slightly this Roman speaks of Christ, and of the great controversy between the Jews and the Christians. But the day is at hand when Festus and the whole world will see, that all the concerns of the Roman empire were but trifles and of no consequence, compared with this question of Christ's resurrection. Those who have had means of instruction, and have despised them, will be awfully convinced of their sin and folly. Here was a noble assembly brought together to hear the truths of the gospel, though they only meant to gratify their curiosity by attending to the defence of a prisoner. Many, even now, attend at the places of hearing the word of God with "great pomp," and too often with no better motive than curiosity. And though ministers do not now stand as prisoners to make a defence for their lives, yet numbers affect to sit in judgment upon them, desirous to make them offenders for a word, rather than to learn from them the truth and will of God, for the salvation of their souls But the pomp of this appearance was outshone by the real glory of the poor prisoner at the bar. What was the honour of their fine appearance, compared with that of Paul's wisdom, and grace, and holiness; his courage and constancy in suffering for Christ! It is no small mercy to have God clear up our righteousness as the light, and our just dealing as the noon-day; to have nothing certain laid to our charge. And God makes even the enemies of his people to do them right.
Acts 25:1-12 . FESTUS, COMING TO JERUSALEM, DECLINES TO HAVE PAUL BROUGHT THITHER FOR JUDGMENT, BUT GIVES THE PARTIES A HEARING ON HIS RETURN TO CÆSAREA--ON FESTUS ASKING THE APOSTLE IF HE WOULD GO TO JERUSALEM FOR ANOTHER HEARING BEFORE HIM, HE IS CONSTRAINED IN JUSTICE TO HIS CAUSE TO APPEAL TO THE EMPEROR.
1-3. Festus . . . after three days . . . ascended . . . to Jerusalem--to make himself acquainted with the great central city of his government without delay.
2. Then the high priest--a successor of him before whom Paul had appeared ( Acts 23:2 ).
and the chief of the Jews--and "the whole multitude of the Jews" ( Acts 25:24 ) clamorously.
informed him against Paul . . .
3. desired favour--in Acts 25:15 , "judgment."
against him--It would seem that they had the insolence to ask him to have the prisoner executed even without a trial ( Acts 25:16 ).
laying wait . . . to kill him--How deep must have been their hostility, when two years after the defeat of their former attempt, they thirst as keenly as ever for his blood! Their plea for having the case tried at Jerusalem, where the alleged offense took place, was plausible enough; but from Acts 25:10 it would seem that Festus had been made acquainted with their causeless malice, and that in some way which Paul was privy to.
4-6. answered that Paul should be kept--rather, "is in custody."
at Cæsarea, and . . . himself would depart shortly thither.
5. Let them . . . which among you are able, go down--"your leading men."
7. the Jews . . . from Jerusalem--clamorously, as at Jerusalem; see Acts 25:24 .
many and grievous complaints against Paul--From his reply, and Festus' statement of the case before Agrippa, these charges seem to have been a jumble of political and religious matter which they were unable to substantiate, and vociferous cries that he was unfit to live. Paul's reply, not given in full, was probably little more than a challenge to prove any of their charges, whether political or religious.
9, 10. Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure--to ingratiate himself with them.
said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and . . . be judged . . . before me--or, "under my protection." If this was meant in earnest, it was temporizing and vacillating. But, possibly, anticipating Paul's refusal, he wished merely to avoid the odium of refusing to remove the trial to Jerusalem.
10. Then said Paul, I stand at Cæsar's judgment seat--that is, I am already before the proper tribunal. This seems to imply that he understood Festus to propose handing him over to the Sanhedrim for with a mere promise of protection from him. But from going to Jerusalem at all he was too well justified in shrinking, for there assassination had been quite recently planned against him.
to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou knowest very well--literally, "better," that is, (perhaps), better than to press such a proposal.
if there be none of these things . . . no man may deliver me unto them--The word signifies to "surrender in order to gratify" another.
11. I appeal to Cæsar--The right of appeal to the supreme power, in case of life and death, was secured by an ancient law to every Roman citizen, and continued under the empire. Had Festus shown any disposition to pronounce final judgment, Paul, strong in the consciousness of his innocence and the justice of a Roman tribunal, would not have made this appeal. But when the only other alternative offered him was to give his own consent to be transferred to the great hotbed of plots against his life, and to a tribunal of unscrupulous and bloodthirsty ecclesiastics whose vociferous cries for his death had scarcely subsided, no other course was open to him.
12. Festus--little expecting such an appeal, but bound to respect it.
having conferred with the council--his assessors in judgment, as to the admissibility of the appeal.
said, Hast thou--for "thou hast."
to Cæsar shalt thou go--as if he would add perhaps "and see if thou fare better."
Acts 25:13-27 . HEROD AGRIPPA II ON A VISIT TO FESTUS, BEING CONSULTED BY HIM ON PAUL'S CASE, DESIRES TO HEAR THE APOSTLE, WHO IS ACCORDINGLY BROUGHT FORTH.
13. King Agrippa--great-grandson of Herod the Great, and Drusilla's On his father's awful death ( Acts 12:23 ), being thought too young (seventeen) to succeed, Judea, was attached to the province of Syria. Four years after, on the death of his uncle Herod, he was made king of the northern principalities of Chalcis, and afterwards got Batanea, Iturea, Trachonitis, Abilene, Galilee, and Perea, with the title of king. He died A.D. 100, after reigning fifty-one years.
and Bernice--his sister. She was married to her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis, on whose death she lived with her brother Agrippa--not without suspicion of incestuous intercourse, which her subsequent licentious life tended to confirm.
came to salute Festus--to pay his respects to him on his accession to the procuratorship.
14, 15. when there many--"several"
days, Festus declared Paul's cause--taking advantage of the presence of one who might be presumed to know such matters .better than himself; though the lapse of "several days" ere the subject was touched on shows that it gave Festus little trouble.
16-21. to deliver any man to die--On the word "deliver up,"
18. as I supposed--"suspected"--crimes punishable by civil law.
19. questions . . . of their own superstition--rather, "religion" the word in any discourteous sense in addressing his Jewish guest.
one Jesus--"Thus speaks this miserable Festus of Him to whom every knee shall bow" [BENGEL].
whom Paul affirmed--"kept affirming."
to be alive--showing that the resurrection of the Crucified One had been the burden, as usual, of Paul's pleading. The insignificance of the whole affair in the eyes of Festus is manifest.
20. because I doubted of such manner of questions--The "I" is emphatic. "I," as a Roman judge, being at a loss how to deal with such matters.
21. the hearing of Augustus--the imperial title first conferred by the Roman Senate on Octavius.
22-27. I would also hear--"should like to hear."
the man myself--No doubt Paul was fight when he said, "The king knoweth of these things . . . for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner" ( Acts 26:26 ). Hence his curiosity to see and hear the man who had raised such commotion and was remodelling to such an extent the whole Jewish life.
23. when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp--in the same city in which their father, on account of his pride, had perished, eaten up by worms [WETST].
with the chief captains--(See on Ac 21:32 ). JOSEPHUS [Wars of the Jews, 3.4.2] says that five cohorts, whose full complement was one thousand men, were stationed at Cæsarea.
principal men of the city--both Jews and Romans. "This was the most dignified and influential audience Paul had yet addressed, and the prediction ( Acts 9:15 ) was fulfilled, though afterwards still more remarkably at Rome ( Acts 27:24 , 2 Timothy 4:16 2 Timothy 4:17 ) [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
26. I have no certain--"definite"
thing to write my lord--Nero. "The writer's accuracy should be remarked here. It would have been . . . a mistake to apply this term ("lord") to the emperor a few years earlier. Neither Augustus nor Tiberius would let himself be so called, as implying the relation of master and slave. But it had now come (rather, "was coming") into use as one of the imperial titles" [HACKET].