Acts 23 – A Plot to Kill Paul

Paul appeared before the Jewish council

Paul had just begun to speak to the Sanhedrin council, when the high priest unlawfully ordered him to be struck (it was unlawful to strike a man who had not yet been condemned).  Paul correctly predicts Ananias’ demise in verse 3, as he will be killed by his own people at the start of the Jewish war.  There are a lot of theories (total speculation, of course) about verses 4-5 and Paul’s disrespect for Ananias, but whatever the case, we should take Paul at his word that he did not know who he was addressing.  It is noteworthy, however, how quick they were to point out that fact, yet ignore the willful violation made against Paul.  At that point, he would have no question (if there was doubt before) about whether he would receive a fair hearing from them.

Paul then uses the fact that the Sanhedrin council was made up of both Pharisees and Sadducees to his advantage.  The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, but the Pharisees did – and the division between them because of it was great.  Paul’s statement in verse 6 makes that division so sharp that it became violent.  The Roman tribune then feared that Paul would be torn to pieces, and had the soldiers remove him and take him to the barracks.  Paul’s statement that set it in motion was “brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial;” and every word of it was true.  Paul had been raised a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5-9), and it was indeed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the hope, that he was on trial.  The following night, the Lord stood by him for encouragement and told him that he must go to Rome to testify the facts about Him (verse 11).

Antipatris was the Old Testament Philistine city of Aphek (1 Samuel 4: 1; 29: 1). The New Testament city was built by Herod the Great in 9 BC. Antipatris was named for Antipater, Herod the Great’s father. Ras el-‘Ain is the site of the ruins of the ancient city. The spring at Antipatris is the source of the River Auja. Paul was taken here (Acts 23: 31) on the way to his imprisonment in Caesarea.

The Jews then sensed that Paul’s fate was slipping away, so more than forty of them conspired to kill him, taking an oath not to eat or drink until they had done so.  Such an oath was a serious matter – not made flippantly (and reminds us of Jezebel in 1 Kings 19:2).  Verse 14  leaves no doubt of the extent of corruption there, as we learn that the chief priests and elders were involved in this despicable plot.  But Paul’s sister learned of the plot and sent her son to warn him.  Paul then sends his nephew to tell the tribune (whose name we learn in verse 26 is  Claudius Lysias).  Lysias then composed a letter to Felix the governor (verse 26-30), putting himself, of course, in a favorable light.  At his orders, Paul gets an escort of two hundred soldiers to deliver him and the letter to Antipatris by the dark of night.  Upon reading the letter and questioning Paul as to his birthplace, he ordered Paul held in Herod’s praetorium (one of Herod’s palaces that the governor used for his quarters), as he awaits his accusers for a hearing.

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

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