Antonius Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus as the Roman procurator of Judea from about 59 to 62 AD. During his reign, hostility to Roman rule was heating to a fevered pitch, preceding the “Great Revolt” (the Jewish-Roman war of AD 66) that ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Wasting no time after Festus assumed his role, verse 2 says that “the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews laid out their case against Paul,” trying to persuade him to send Paul to Jerusalem so they could ambush him. These “chief priests and principal men” were most likely of the Sanhedrin, and had conspired with more than 40 others to kill Paul in Acts 23:12-15. In verse 9, Festus was ready to send Paul to Jerusalem as a favor to the Jews, when Paul invoked his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar.
After some days, Festus met with King Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice, who was always by his side (one of his other siblings was Drusilla, who was the wife of Festus’ predecessor, Felix). This Agrippa was educated in the court of the emperor Claudius, and was the son of Herod Agrippa I, who in Acts 12:1-3 had the Apostle James killed and Peter arrested, and who the Lord stuck down dead in Acts 12:21-23. He was also the great-grandson of Herod the Great – who had ordered the killing of all the male children of the region around Bethlehem when Jesus was born. As Festus laid out the case against Paul, he concluded by surmising that the matter was a dispute about their religion, and the death of “a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive” (verse 19).
The next day, Festus introduced Paul, saying in a nutshell that (interestingly enough) he had found no charge deserving of death for Paul, and therefore he thought it wise to have him appear to Agrippa, so that maybe he (Festus) would have “something to write” before sending him to Caesar.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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