As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, "May I say something to you?" "Do you speak Greek?" he replied.
"Aren't you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the desert some time ago?"
Paul answered, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people."
Having received the commander's permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:
"Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense."
When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:
"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.
I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,
as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
"About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'8
" 'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. " 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied.
My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
" 'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. " 'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'11
My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
"A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.
He stood beside me and said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him.
"Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'
"When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance
and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'19
" 'Lord,' I replied, 'these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you.
And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'
"Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' "
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!"
As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,
the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.
As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, "Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"
When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "This man is a Roman citizen."
The commander went to Paul and asked, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I am," he answered.
Then the commander said, "I had to pay a big price for my citizenship." "But I was born a citizen," Paul replied.
Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim
said to his mother, "The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you and about which I heard you utter a curse--I have that silver with me; I took it." Then his mother said, "The LORD bless you, my son!"
When he returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, she said, "I solemnly consecrate my silver to the LORD for my son to make a carved image and a cast idol. I will give it back to you."
So he returned the silver to his mother, and she took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to a silversmith, who made them into the image and the idol. And they were put in Micah's house.
Now this man Micah had a shrine, and he made an ephod and some idols and installed one of his sons as his priest.
In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.
A young Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, who had been living within the clan of Judah,
left that town in search of some other place to stay. On his way he came to Micah's house in the hill country of Ephraim.
Micah asked him, "Where are you from?" "I'm a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah," he said, "and I'm looking for a place to stay."
Then Micah said to him, "Live with me and be my father and priest, and I'll give you ten shekels of silver a year, your clothes and your food."
So the Levite agreed to live with him, and the young man was to him like one of his sons.
Then Micah installed the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in his house.
And Micah said, "Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest."
In those days Israel had no king. And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.
So the Danites sent five warriors from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all their clans. They told them, "Go, explore the land." The men entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night.
When they were near Micah's house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, "Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?"
He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, "He has hired me and I am his priest."
Then they said to him, "Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful."
The priest answered them, "Go in peace. Your journey has the LORD's approval."
So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.
When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their brothers asked them, "How did you find things?"
They answered, "Come on, let's attack them! We have seen that the land is very good. Aren't you going to do something? Don't hesitate to go there and take it over.
When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever."
Then six hundred men from the clan of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol.
On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day.
From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah's house.
Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their brothers, "Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, other household gods, a carved image and a cast idol? Now you know what to do."
So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah's place and greeted him.
The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance to the gate.
The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance to the gate.
When these men went into Micah's house and took the carved image, the ephod, the other household gods and the cast idol, the priest said to them, "What are you doing?"
They answered him, "Be quiet! Don't say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn't it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man's household?"
Then the priest was glad. He took the ephod, the other household gods and the carved image and went along with the people.
Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.
When they had gone some distance from Micah's house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites.
As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, "What's the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?"
He replied, "You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, 'What's the matter with you?' "
The Danites answered, "Don't argue with us, or some hot-tempered men will attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives."
So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home.
Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city.
There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob. The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there.
They named it Dan after their forefather Dan, who was born to Israel--though the city used to be called Laish.
There the Danites set up for themselves the idols, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land.
They continued to use the idols Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.
Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.
You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?
Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.