Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 23:12-24
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday: Acts 23:12-13
vs12-13: During the night, while Paul was receiving comfort from the Lord, somewhere else in the city a band of more than forty men were meeting to devise a plot to assassinate him. We’re not told who they were, but most likely they were not Pharisees, since the Pharisees had rallied to his side during the meeting of the Sanhedrin (v9). Luke calls them “the Jews”—which points toward the Sadducees or others associated with the high priest. Paul’s nephew identified the same group when he reported the plot to the commander. He specifically said the intended killers “came out of them,” so most, or all, may have been Sanhedrin members. Undoubtedly, many of them were very frustrated when Paul was taken out of their midst by the soldiers, and some may have briefly huddled afterward to arrange a private meeting where the matter could be discussed more freely.

Monday: Acts 23:12-13
vs12-13 (continued): At that gathering more than forty men swore an oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. To take an oath meant that each one prayed that God would curse him if he ate or drank anything before Paul was dead. We should keep in mind that during those years assassination had become a daily event in Jerusalem (Ac 21:37-38), so had they succeeded they might easily have blamed religious zealots and pretended to be shocked. Since the plot failed (vs31-33), we’re left to wonder how they backed their way out of this curse later on.

Tuesday: Acts 23:14-16
vs14-15: When morning arrived they approached the chief priests and elders, and told them, “We cursed ourselves with a curse, (swearing) to taste nothing until we killed Paul. Now, therefore, you appear before the commander with (the rest of) the Sanhedrin, to request that he bring him down to you, as if you were going to investigate the matters concerning him more thoroughly, and before he comes near (where you’re meeting) we’ll be ready to kill him.” v16: Then Luke reports a fact that is very surprising. He says Paul’s nephew, the son of his sister, heard about the planned ambush. It would have been a very carefully guarded secret, known only to those who planned it or were going to carry it out, or the chief priests and elders to whom they later revealed it (v14). Paul would have an armed escort on his way to that meeting, so Roman soldiers were likely to be killed in the process and that would bring a terrible retaliation from Rome on any who were caught, which raises the question of how Paul’s nephew could have heard about it.

Wednesday: Acts 23:16
v16 (continued): Luke calls Paul’s nephew a “young man,” but he used the same term to describe Saul of Tarsus (Paul) when he oversaw the stoning of Stephen (Ac 7:58), and Paul had to have been in his late twenties or even thirties to have risen to that level of authority. So, it’s possible that his nephew, who came from the same prestigious family he did, may also have been involved with the Sanhedrin, just as he had been at that age. But, surely people would have known that this young man was Paul’s nephew, so either he accidentally overheard a whispered conversation, or someone on the Council wanted to stop the assassination and leaked the information to him. Up to this point, Luke has made no mention of any of Paul’s family, but that could be because most were estranged from him over his new faith, not because he had no relatives in the city. He at least had a nephew who was willing to risk his life to rescue him. The young man went into the fort, asked to meet with his uncle, and then reported the plot to Paul.

Thursday: Acts 23:17-21
vs17-18: Paul asked one of the centurions to come near so he could speak to him. He told him, “Lead this young man to the commander because he has something to report to him.” The centurion did as Paul asked. He took him to the commander and said, “Paul, the prisoner, called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.” vs19-21: The commander took him by the hand and led him back to a place where they could talk privately. Then he asked him, “What is it you have to report to me?” and the young man said, “The Jews have agreed together to ask you to bring Paul down to the Council tomorrow morning, as if they were going to investigate something about him more thoroughly. So, don’t be persuaded by them because more than forty of them are waiting to ambush him, men who have cursed themselves (by swearing) that they would neither eat nor drink until they kill him. And they are ready now, waiting for the order from you.”

Friday: Acts 23:22-24
vs22-24: The commander responded by dismissing the young man after ordering him to “tell no one that you reported these things to me.” Then he selected two centurions whom he trusted to perform this task, and ordered them to “prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea (70 miles).” He told them they would leave Jerusalem about nine o’clock in the evening and were to have “beasts standing by,” meaning there were to be horses or mules saddled and ready for Paul and the soldier to whom he was chained. The plan was to bring Paul out at the last minute, put him on one of the mounts, and then leave immediately so no one would know he had been transported out of the city until it was too late. They wanted to move him secretly, at night, so he would be miles away and surrounded by a large armed force before any attack could be arranged. The commander was rescuing Paul by sending him to the Roman governor in Caesarea.

Saturday: Acts 23:24
v24 (continued): At that time the governor of Judea was a man named Marcus Antonius Felix, who had been installed in that office in A.D. 52. He was a brutal and greedy man whom the Roman historian Tacitus described this way, “With savagery and lust he exercised the powers of a king with the disposition of a slave” (Tac., Hist. v.9). During his stay there he married Drusilla, a daughter of Herod Agrippa I (E.M.B. Green, The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, ed., Eerdmans, 1971, p.421). Finally, in either A.D. 59 or 60, the emperor Nero recalled him to Rome. That helps us put a date on these events. Since Luke tells us Felix imprisoned Paul for two years, and then we observe Felix being replaced by Festus (Ac 24:27), we can be reasonably sure that Paul’s night time journey to Caesarea took place in either A.D. 57 or 58. 

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