Acts 21 – Paul Goes to Jerusalem

We left the book of Acts after chapter 20, as Paul was in Miletus, with his tearful goodbye to the Ephesian elders.  While in that area, Paul wrote the letters to the Corinthians and to the Romans.  Now, as he said in his letter to the latter, he is leaving for Jerusalem.  They sailed past Cos, Rhodes, Patera, Cyprus and landed at Tyre, where they remained for seven days, then on to Ptolemais and finally Caesarea  before setting off on foot to Jerusalem.  While in Caesarea, they stayed at the house of Philip, who Luke says was “one of the seven.”  Most likely he means that he was one of the seven chosen to serve in Acts 6:1-6, and was the same Philip who converted the Ethiopian eunuch.   And after that event, he did end up in Caesarea (Acts 8:40).

Agabus (the prophet who predicted the famine in Acts 11:2-28) came from Judea to tell how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind and deliver Paul into the hands of the Gentiles (verses 10-14).  Luke and the others present tried to persuade Paul not to go, but he told them that he was not only ready for prison, but even to die for the Lord Jesus.  Notice though, that the words from the prophet were not quoted in these verses as a warning to prevent him from going – but as a statement of fact (verse 11); and Luke and the others finally said “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

Mamertine Prison, Rome, Italy. Carcere Mamertino according to tradition was the jail where St Peter and St Paul was imprisoned. It consists of two levels and was the most horrible part of the ancient state prison located in the caves under the Capitoline Hill. Numerous illustrious enemies of Rome died here. The higher part of the prison was built in the 2nd century BC and was named Mamertino.

After arriving in Jerusalem, Paul went to see James and told him and the elders about his travels and the many Gentile conversions, for which they glorified God.  They then asked Paul to demonstrate that he was not preaching that Jews had to become like Gentiles and give up all of their customs in order to be a Christian, as many were falsely reporting.  So Paul participated with four men under a vow in a purification ritual.  This event is the subject of much confusion and controversy.  But it does not have to be.  Paul never preached that Jews had to give up their entire way of life or never participate in any ritual or feast (remember Romans 14 and 15), nor that they should not circumcise their young.  Remember that he circumcised Timothy to avoid offending the Jews they were going to visit in Acts 16:3.

But still Paul was arrested, having been dragged from the temple first and beaten by a mob that had gone wild with accusations and fervor.   Until Paul spoke Greek to him, the tribune that arrested him was under the impression that he was an Egyptian revolutionary (verse 38).  The event he mentions in that verse was written about by the historian, Josephus.  At Paul’s urging, the tribune allows him to speak to the mob; and he does so in Hebrew, as the chapter closes.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.


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