English: A coin bronze minted by Herod of Chalcis depicting Herod with his brother Agrippa of Judaea crowning Roman Emperor Claudius I. On display at the british museum. CM 1985.10-2.1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As the chapter opens, Agrippa has given Paul permission to speak in his defense. In verses 2-3, Paul speaks of feeling fortunate to be appearing before Agrippa, since he was familiar with “the customs and controversies of the Jews.” In fact, Agrippa’s reputation was that of a pious Jew, though much of the rest of his reputation was not so good. Still, he was (like his uncle Herod) in control of the temple treasury, and the Romans consulted him on religious matters.
Paul then tells Agrippa of his persecution of Christians before his conversion, then gives us the third account in this book of his vision – his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus (the other two being in Acts 9 and Acts 22), and ending with the charge that Jesus gave him (verses 15-18). From this chapter’s account, we have more details about what Jesus said to him on that first occasion. “To kick against the goads” in verse 14 is an old proverbial saying that refers to use of a pointed instrument to prod oxen as they plowed. A stubborn ox that continued to kick would only injure itself if it continued to do so – making its resistance futile.
The outburst of Festus during Paul’s reference to the fulfilling of all that Moses and the prophets said would take place would seem to affirm his alignment with the Jewish accusers. But Paul seems pretty confident that Agrippa is not so inclined. Note verse 27 – “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa is no fool, and Paul is surely not foolish enough to speak hastily when he says in verse 26: “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner.” Indeed, regarding that last phrase, Coffman summed it up beautifully:
“That earthquake which accompanied the Son of God in his visitation of our planet is still sending shock waves around the earth. The fact of his birth split human history into B.C. and A.D.; his crucifixion bruised the head of Satan himself; his resurrection brought life and immortality to light through the gospel; his teachings monitor the deeds and thoughts of all men; and his word shall judge the living and the dead at the Last Day. Done in a corner? Yes, in a little corner of the universe known as the Planet Earth; but that earth can never forget him, or get rid of him. As some of the Sadducees and Pharisees were able to see while he was among them: “The world is gone after him (John 12:19).“
King Agrippa judged Paul, but Paul had already appealed to Caesar, so Agrippa could not set him free
Verse 28 is difficult in translation, but regardless of the translated version, it says that Agrippa was not quite ready to accept the fact of Jesus as Lord and Christ; and is the inspiration for the hymn, “Almost Persuaded.” Paul’s response is that he would have Agrippa and all who hear him to be as Paul himself is (minus the chains, of course) – that is, to believe in the Lord.
Agrippa’s statement to Festus after he, Bernice and the others had met outside Paul’s presence (verses 30-32) is a sort of vindication, but not the end of Paul’s ordeal. Agrippa could have set Paul free if he had not appealed to Caesar, but he had no choice by law but to send him to so appear before the emperor.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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