Acts 23:12

12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together*, and bound themselves under a curse,[a] saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

Acts 23:12 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 23:12

And when it was day
As soon as it was light, very early in the morning:

certain of the Jews banded together;
these very likely were of the sect of the Sadducees, who had been exceedingly irritated and provoked by what Paul had said the day before in the council; these therefore gathered together, entered into a conspiracy to take away Paul's life, and trailed in it, as one man:

and bound themselves under a curse;
or "anathematized themselves"; the Hebrew word (Mrx) , which answers to "anathema", is sometimes used for an oath, (hewbv ayh Mrx) , "Cherem" or "anathema" is "an oath" F1, a vow made to be punished with an anathema if not kept; so these men swore to it, bound themselves with an oath, or wished they might be an anathema, accursed of God, and cut off from his people; they imprecated the most dreadful evils upon themselves:

saying, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed
it was a common form of a vow or oath with the Jews F2, (lkwa alv) , "that I will not eat"; sometimes they only vowed abstinence from particular things, and then others were lawful; as for instance, if one vowed that he would not eat boiled meat, he might eat roast, or that he would not eat flesh, he might eat broth, or that he would abstain from milk, then he might drink whey, F3; but this oath and vow here were, that they would neither eat nor drink anything, till they had destroyed Paul: these were a set of zealots, who in imitation of Phinehas, and pretending the glory of God, took upon them to take away the lives of men, without any, judicial procedure, or the authority of the civil magistrate; of whom, (See Gill on Matthew 10:4) it may be asked, what became of this vow? or how did they get clear of it, since they did not accomplish the fact? to which it may be answered, that it was a pretty easy thing to be freed from oaths and vows, among the Jews, whose doctors had a power to absolve men from them; and in such cases as this, and such a vow as this, might be loosed upon more accounts than one, as on account of keeping another law, the observing the sabbath and other festivals, when men were obliged to eat and drink: and thus it is said {d},

``if a man swears that he will not drink wine, or that he will not eat flesh, for so many days, then they say to him, if thou hadst known at the time of the oath, that the sabbath or a feast day were within these days, in which thou art obliged to eat flesh and drink wine, as it is said, ( Isaiah 58:13 ) "and call the sabbath a delight"; wouldst thou have swore at all? if he says no, they loose his oath:''

and likewise it might be loosed on account of life, which a man is bound to preserve: for so they likewise say F5,

``if a man vows that he will not eat anything, woe be to him if he eats, and woe be to him if he does not eat; if he eats he breaks his vow, if he does not eat he sins against his own soul, or life; what must he do? let him go to the wise men, (wrdn ta wl wrytyw) , "and they will loose his vow for him", as it is written, ( Proverbs 12:18 ) but the tongue of the wise is health;''

and no doubt but these men very easily got their vow loosed, since it was made on such a design.


F1 Pirke Eliezer, c. 38.
F2 Misna Nedarim, c. 2. sect. 2, 3.
F3 Ib. c. 6. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
F4 Maimon. in Misn. Nedarim, c. 9. sect. 6.
F5 T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 40. 1.

Acts 23:12 In-Context

10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said,Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
13 And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
14 And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. under a curse: or, with an oath of execration
The King James Version is in the public domain.