Gevurot 23

1 3 And as he gazed at the Sanhedrin, Rav Sha’ul said, “Anashim, Achim, I have lived before Hashem until this day with a lev tahor.”
2 And the Kohen Gadol Chananyah ordered the ones standing by Rav Sha’ul to strike his mouth.
3 Then Rav Sha’ul said to him, “Hashem is about to strike you, you white-washed wall! You sit judging me according to Torah and yet in violation of the Torah you command me to be struck?” [Lv 19:15; Dt 25:1,2]
4 And the ones standing by said, “Do you revile the Kohen Gadol of Hashem?”
5 And Rav Sha’ul said, “I was without da’as, Achim, that he is the Kohen Gadol, for it has been written, NASI V’AMMECHA LO TA’OR (“A ruler of your people you will not speak evil of, curse,” Ex 22:27(28)
6 And Rav Sha’ul, having da’as that one kat is of Tzedukim (Sadducees) and the other of Perushim (Pharisees), was crying out in the Sanhedrin, “Anashim, Achim, I am a Parush ben Parush and it is for the tikvah of the Techiyas HaMesim that I am being judged.”
7 Now when Rav Sha’ul said this, there came about a machlochet (controversy) between the Perushim and Tzedukim, and the multitude was divided.
8 Loit (according to) the Tzedukim, there is no Techiyas HaMesim nor a malach nor ruchot, but Perushim acknowledge all these things.
9 And there was a kol gadol and some of the Sofrim of the kat of the Perushim were arguing vigorously, saying, “Nothing rah do we find keneged this ish, and what if a ruach did speak to him or a malach?”
10 And fearing much more machloket was coming, the Roman tribune ordered the troops to go down to take Rav Sha’ul away from the midst of them and to bring him into the barracks lest he be torn to pieces by them.
11 And on the following lailah, HaAdon stood by Rav Sha’ul and said, “Chazak! For as you gave solemn edut about me in Yerushalayim, thus it is necessary for you also to bear solemn eidus in Rome.”
12 In the boker, the Judeans joined in a kesher and bound themselves with a shevu’ah that none of them would eat or drink until they had carried out their plot of retzichah b’seter of Rav Sha’ul.
13 Now there were more than arba’im anashim (forty men) who joined in this kesher.
14 After they approached the Rashei HaKohanim (Chief Priests) and the Zekenim (Elders), they said, "We have bound ourselves with a shevu’ah (oath) to eat nothing until we have killed Rav Sha’ul.
15 "Now, therefore, you with the Sanhedrin notify the tribune so that he may bring Rav Sha’ul down to you as if intending to determine more accurately the things concerning him, and, before he draws near, we are ready to kill him."
16 Now when Rav Sha’ul’s achyon (nephew) heard about the ma’arav (ambush), he went and gained entrance into the barracks and reported this to Rav Sha’ul.
17 And Rav Sha’ul summoned one of the centurions and said, "Bring this bochur to the tribune for he has something to report to him."
18 So the centurion took the bochur and brought him to the tribune and says, "The prisoner Rav Sha’ul has summoned me and asked me to bring this bochur to you; he has something to say to you."
19 The tribune grasped the bochur’s hand and drew him aside privately, inquiring, "What is it you have to report to me?"
20 And the bochur said, "The Judeans agreed to ask you to bring Rav Sha’ul down machar (tomorrow) to the Sanhedrin as if intending to inquire something more accurate concerning him.
21 "Therefore, you should not be persuaded by them, for more than arba’im anashim are lying in wait for him and these took a shevu’ah upon themselves neither to eat nor to drink until they have assassinated him, and now they are ready, waiting for your consent."
22 Therefore, the tribune dismissed the bochur, ordering him, "Tell no one that you reported these things to me."
23 And having summoned two of the centurions, the tribune said, "Prepare to leave for Caesarea by nine o’clock tonight the following: two hundred chaiyalim, seventy horsemen, and two hundred bowmen.
24 "And also provide mounts for Rav Sha’ul to ride, that he may be given safe passage to Felix the Moshel."
25 Then the tribune wrote an iggeret to this effect:
26 "Claudius Lysias to the most excellent Moshel, Felix. Greetings.
27 "This man was seized by the Judeans and was about to be killed by them, but when I learned that he is a Roman citizen, I came with the chaiyalim and rescued him.
28 "Desiring to have da’as of the charge for which they were accusing him, I brought him down to their Sanhedrin.
29 "I found he was being accused about issues of their Torah and the charge was nothing worthy of mavet or of imprisonment.
30 "And when I received information of a kesher (plot) keneged (against) the man, I sent him immediately to you, having given orders also to his accusers to state their case against Rav Sha’ul before your excellency."
31 Therefore, as they were ordered, the chaiyalim took Rav Sha’ul along and brought him under cover of lailah to Antipatris.
32 And on the next day, having allowed the horsemen to go on with Rav Sha’ul, they returned to the barracks.
33 When the horsemen entered into Caesarea, they delivered the iggeret to the Moshel and also presented Rav Sha’ul to him.
34 And having read it, and having asked from what province Rav Sha’ul hailed, the Moshel learned that he was from Cilicia.
35 "I will give you a hearing," Felix said, "when also your accusers arrive." Then the Moshel commanded Rav Sha’ul to be watched by shomrim in the Praetorium of Herod.

Gevurot 23 Commentary

Chapter 23

Paul's defence before the council of the Jews. (1-5) Paul's defence. He receives a Divine assurance that he shall go to Rome. (6-11) The Jews conspire to kill Paul, Lysias sends him to Cesarea. (12-24) Lysias's letter to Felix. (25-35)

Verses 1-5 See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, according to the best of his knowledge, he keeps from whatever is evil, and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God, may, like Paul, have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction, he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults, and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.

Verses 6-11 The Pharisees were correct in the faith of the Jewish church. The Sadducees were no friends to the Scripture or Divine revelation; they denied a future state; they had neither hope of eternal happiness, nor dread of eternal misery. When called in question for his being a Christian, Paul might truly say he was called in question for the hope of the resurrection of the dead. It was justifiable in him, by this profession of his opinion on that disputed point, to draw off the Pharisees from persecuting him, and to lead them to protect him from this unlawful violence. How easily can God defend his own cause! Though the Jews seemed to be perfectly agreed in their conspiracy against religion, yet they were influenced by very different motives. There is no true friendship among the wicked, and in a moment, and with the utmost ease, God can turn their union into open enmity. Divine consolations stood Paul in the most stead; the chief captain rescued him out of the hands of cruel men, but the event he could not tell. Whoever is against us, we need not fear, if the Lord stand by us. It is the will of Christ, that his servants who are faithful, should be always cheerful. He might think he should never see Rome; but God tells him, even in that he should be gratified, since he desired to go there only for the honour of Christ, and to do good.

Verses 12-24 False religious principles, adopted by carnal men, urge on to such wickedness, as human nature would hardly be supposed capable of. Yet the Lord readily disappoints the best concerted schemes of iniquity. Paul knew that the Divine providence acts by reasonable and prudent means; and that, if he neglected to use the means in his power, he could not expect God's providence to work on his behalf. He who will not help himself according to his means and power, has neither reason nor revelation to assure him that he shall receive help from God. Believing in the Lord, we and ours shall be kept from every evil work, and kept to his kingdom. Heavenly Father, give us by thy Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake, this precious faith.

Verses 25-35 God has instruments for every work. The natural abilities and moral virtues of the heathens often have been employed to protect his persecuted servants. Even the men of the world can discern between the conscientious conduct of upright believers, and the zeal of false professors, though they disregard or understand not their doctrinal principles. All hearts are in God's hand, and those are blessed who put their trust in him, and commit their ways unto him.

Gevurot 23 Commentaries

The Orthodox Jewish Bible fourth edition, OJB. Copyright 2002,2003,2008,2010, 2011 by Artists for Israel International. All rights reserved.