Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 21:30-40; 22:1-4
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday Acts 21:30, 31
v30: Within an instant, a wave of anger swept through the temple and out into the city. A mass of people ran toward Paul, laid hold of him, and dragged him out of the temple. The levitical temple police quickly shut the doors (“beautiful gate”) that separated the temple itself from the Court of the Gentiles (Rienecker/Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan, 1980, p.322). v31: Then, while the mob was trying to beat Paul to death, someone ran up into the Roman fortress, located on the northwest corner of the Court of the Gentiles, and reported to the commander (Claudius Lysias, Ac 23:26) that a riot was underway and the whole city was in turmoil.

Monday Acts 21:31, 32
v31(continued): Herod had constructed a fortress on that site when he built the temple. He’d named it the Antonia Fortress in honor of his patron, Mark Anthony. It was connected to the temple grounds by two flights of stairs that ran directly into the covered walkways lining the outer walls of the Court of the Gentiles so that soldiers could pour onto the courtyard at a moment’s notice. The Romans kept a legion (1,000-3,000 soldiers) stationed in that fortress at all times (Josephus, Wars, 5.5.8). v32: As soon as he heard the report, the commander himself led a group of soldiers and centurions (officers in charge of a hundred soldiers) down the stairs, across the courtyard, and straight toward the mob. When they saw him coming, they stopped beating Paul.

Tuesday Acts 21:33-36
vs33, 34: The commander grabbed Paul and ordered his soldiers to chain both his arms, and then turned to the crowd and asked who this man was and what he had done that caused such an uproar. But different people in the crowd shouted out different things and there was so much noise he couldn’t determine anything for certain, so he ordered his men to take Paul into the fort. vs35, 36: When they reached the stairway that led up to the fort, the soldiers had to pick Paul up and carry him because the crowd followed them across the courtyard and became violent when they saw Paul was being taken away. Apparently, they reached out and grasped at him, and were screaming, “Away with him!” (Lk 23:18), which meant “kill him!” not “take him out of here!”

Wednesday Acts 21:37, 38
vs37, 38: They had reached the top of the stairs and were about to go into the fort when Paul turned to the commander and asked him politely, “Am I permitted to say something to you?” His respectful tone, and eloquent Greek, surprised the commander who, based on the violent reaction of the crowd, assumed Paul was a notorious criminal who had been caught trying to sneak into the temple. Several years earlier, a Jewish false prophet had come up from Egypt, organized a large band of followers, and had led an attack on the Roman fortress. The attempt failed, but during the confusion the leader himself had conveniently disappeared, leaving his followers to face the Roman soldiers alone. Four hundred men had died in that tragedy and two hundred were taken captive, so the commander thought Paul might be that Egyptian, and had been discovered by the crowd trying to sneak into the temple, and the place was in an uproar because people were all venting their fury at him (F.F. Bruce, Acts, Eerdmans, 1974, p.436; Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.6; Wars 2.13.5).

Thursday Acts 21:37, 38
v37, 38 (continued): The commander also mentioned that this Egyptian leader was associated with a group called the “Assassins” (Lit. Sicarii, “dagger-men”). At that time, there was a growing movement in Israel of radical Jews who carried razor-sharp daggers hidden in their robes and would attack their victim suddenly in the middle of the day, and then when the person fell down dead they would quickly mix into the surrounding crowd and pretend to be shocked at what had just happened. The process often worked, and they would escape undetected. Many Romans, and pro-Roman Jews, were being slain this way every day (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.8.6; Wars, 2.13.3). Suspicion and fear were rampant in the city.

Friday Acts 21:39-40
v39: Paul wasted no time trying to deny he was the Egyptian. Instead he rapidly presented his credentials, saying, “I am indeed a Jew, a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, a well-respected city,” and then he quickly added, “I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” Amazingly, the commander gave him permission. Perhaps he felt there was nothing Paul could say that would make matters worse, and that he might even help calm things down. He may have thought the crowd had made the same mistake he did. v40: He allowed Paul to stand at the top of the steps in order to address the crowd, presumably, still handcuffed between two soldiers. He motioned with his hand for silence, and the crowd became very quiet. Many were probably hoping to discover why they were rioting. Paul spoke in a loud voice, using Aramaic, the Hebrew dialect that was commonly spoken in Israel. His accusers from Ephesus were primarily Greek-speakers, and may have had some difficulty understanding him, but Paul knew what he was doing. This was the chance of a lifetime to preach Christ to tens of thousands of Jews, in their heart-language. So he didn’t scold, and he didn’t argue for his innocence. Filled with compassion and respect, he gave his testimony.

Saturday Acts 22:1-4
vs1-4: Paul said, “Men, brothers and fathers, hear my defense which I now present to you.” Luke notes that when they heard him address them in their Hebrew dialect (Aramaic), a hush fell over the crowd. Paul then went on to tell them that he was a Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but raised in Jerusalem, and that he had been taught a very strict interpretation of the Law. Gamaliel the Elder, a highly respected rabbi (Ac 5:34-40) was his mentor. He said he had been as uncompromisingly devoted to God as “all of you are today.” In fact, he had been so zealous that he had tried to destroy the movement made up of the followers of Jesus, called “the Way.” He hunted them down, arrested them and put women in prison as well as men. 

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