Acts 23 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 23)

Verse 3

[3] Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

Then said Paul — Being carried away by a sudden and prophetic impulse.

God is about to smite thee, thou whited wall — Fair without; full of dirt and rubbish within. And he might well be so termed, not only as he committed this outrage, while gravely sitting on the tribunal of justice but also as, at the same time that he stood high in the esteem of the citizens, he cruelly defrauded the priests of their legal subsistence, so that some of them even perished for want. And God did remarkably smite him; for about five years after this, his house being reduced to ashes, in a tumult begun by his own son, he was besieged in the royal palace; where having hid himself in an old aqueduct, he was dragged out and miserably slain.

Verse 5

[5] Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.

I was not aware, brethren, that it was the high priest — He seems to mean, I did not advert to it, in the prophetic transport of my mind: but he does not add, that his not adverting to it proceeded from the power of the Spirit coming upon him; as knowing they were not able to bear it. This answer admirably shows the situation of mind he was then in, partly with regard to the bystanders, whom he thus softens, adding also the title of brethren, and justifying their reproof by the prohibition of Moses; partly with regard to himself, who, after that singular transport subsided, was again under the direction of the general command. Exodus 22:28.

Verse 6

[6] But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: for the hope of the resurrection of the dead am I called in question — So he was in effect; although not formally, or explicitly.

Verse 8

[8] For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

The Pharisees confess both — Both the resurrection, and the existence of angels and separate spirits.

Verse 9

[9] And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.

And the scribes of the Pharisees' side arising — Every sect contains both learned and unlearned. The former used to be the mouth of the party.

If a spirit — St. Paul in his speech from the stairs had affirmed, that Jesus, whom they knew to have been dead, was alive, and that he had spoken to him from heaven, and again in a vision. So they add nothing, only they construe it in their own way, putting an angel or spirit for Jesus.

Verse 11

[11] And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

And the night following, the Lord Jesus — What Paul had before purposed in spirit, Acts 19:21, God now in due time confirms. Another declaration to the same effect is made by an angel of God, Acts 27:23. And from the 23d chapter the sum of this book turns on the testimony of Paul to the Romans. How would the defenders of St. Peter's supremacy triumph, could they find out half as much ascribed to him! Be of good courage, Paul - As he laboured under singular distresses and persecutions, so he was favoured with extraordinary assurances of the Divine assistance.

Thou must testify — Particular promises are usually given when all things appear desperate.

At Rome also — Danger is nothing in the eyes of God: all hinderances farther his work. A promise of what is afar off, implies all that necessarily lies between. Paul shall testify at Rome: therefore he shall come to Rome; therefore he shall escape the Jews, the sea, the viper.

Verse 12

[12] And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

Some of the Jews bound themselves — Such execrable vows were not uncommon among the Jews. And if they were prevented from accomplishing what they had vowed, it was an easy matter to obtain absolution from their rabbis.

Verse 15

[15] Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would enquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.

Now therefore ye — Which they never scrupled at all, as not doubting but they were doing God service.

Verse 17

[17] Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.

And Paul — Though he had an express promise of it from Christ, was not to neglect any proper means of safety.

Verse 19

[19] Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?

And the tribune taking him by the hand — In a mild, condescending way. Lysias seems to have conducted this whole affair with great integrity, humanity, and prudence.

Verse 24

[24] And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.

Provide beasts — If a change should be necessary, to set Paul on - So we read of his riding once; but not by choice.

Verse 27

[27] This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.

Having learned that he was a Roman — True; but not before he rescued him. Here he uses art.

Verse 31

[31] Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.

The soldiers brought him by night to Antipatris — But not the same night they set out. For Antipatris was about thirty-eight of our miles northwest of Jerusalem. Herod the Great rebuilt it, and gave it this name in honour of his father Antipater: Cesarea was near seventy miles from Jerusalem, and about thirty from Antipatris.

Verse 35

[35] I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.

In Herod's palace — This was a palace and a court built by Herod the Great. Probably some tower belonging to it might be used for a kind of state prison.