The Jews Plot to Murder Paul
Having failed in their efforts to kill Paul by mob attack and trial before the tribune, a group of 40 Jews took an oath to kill him by ambush. The would not eat or drink until Paul was dead. This is how much they hated Paul and how much they hated the gospel.
Paul’s nephew heard about the plot, however. (Here we learn one of the few facts about Paul’s family: he had a sister and a nephew.) The nephew told Paul, then the tribune about it. The tribune instructed the nephew to keep quiet about informing the him, then made plans to move Paul and keep him safe.
Paul Goes to Felix
The tribune took the threat seriously. He sent 470 men to move Paul: 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen. The soldiers took Paul by night to the city of Antipatris, about half way to Caesarea, where Felix ruled as governor. Paul spent the night there. The soldiers then returned to Jerusalem and the horsemen took Paul on to Caesarea. (31-32)
The horsemen delivered Paul to Felix with a letter from the tribune. (33) The letter absolved Paul of any crimes. But the tribune did send the Jews to Felix for another trial. Felix agreed to hear the case and had Paul confined in the praetorium. The praetorian was the governor’s mansion built by Herod. It also contained quarters to confine citizens who awaited trial.
The praetorian is being excavated today. You can see how it was built with a view of the ocean.
The Jews State Their Case
The Jews chose a man named Tertullus to make their case. Since this name is Roman, the man was likely a lawyer hired by the High Priest to present the case. He accused Paul of stirring up riots all over the world as the ringleader of the Nazarenes. He also accused him of attempting profane the temple.
Paul denied that he disputed with anyone or stirred up trouble. He, in fact, believed everything the Jews did. (15) (Of course, he believed more than they did.) Not only that, but he brought alms to give to his people and to make offerings.
Then Paul turned the tables, accusing the Jews from Asia, who conveniently had not come before Felix, of stirring up trouble.
Paul In Custody
Felix put off making a decision until the tribune made it to Caesarea. Paul was kept in prison, but given some liberty and allowed to have friends contribute to his needs. (23) Since there were believers in Caesarea, including Philip and his family, it is likely Paul did have visitors.
Interestingly, Luke records that Felix had accurate knowledge of the Way. (22) He and his wife, who was Jewish, had Paul speak to them about faith in Christ. (24) So Paul spoke to them, including talk about the coming judgment. (25) Talk of the judgment alarmed Felix and he sent Paul away. (25)
So we see that Felix heard the gospel and experienced fear of judgment, but did not believe unto salvation. His carnal nature was in play also, as he hoped to get a bribe from Paul. (26) Paul ended up staying in prison for 2 years. When Felix was removed from his position, he left Paul in prison to do the Jews a favor, maybe at the request of his Jewish wife. The next governor was Festus.
The Jews Press Their Case
Time did not lesson the desire of the Jews for Paul’s death. When Festus visited Jerusalem, they presented their case to him. They asked that Paul be brought to Jerusalem because they intended to ambush and kill him. Festus kept Paul at Caesarea, though, and invited the Jews come go there and present their charges against Paul.
Paul Before Festus
Festus began a new trial. Likely, he could do this because Felix never rendered a verdict. The Jews made their case, but could not prove anything against Paul. Paul presented his case of innocence.
Festus tried to use Paul for political advantage while not going so far as to violate Roman law. He could not force Paul to submit to a trial in Jerusalem, but he could offer it to gain favor with the Jews. (9)
Paul was too smart for that, knowing that they plotted to ambush and kill him. He appealed to Caesar to deprive Festus of further jurisdiction to act. (11) Festus was evidently not happy about that, for he conferred with his council before ruling. But he could find no way out, so he agreed that Paul would go to Caesar. (12)
“Caesar” at this point is Nero, the Emperor, who reigned from 54-68.
Agrippa Comes to Town
Agrippa II was a king, but not of this region. He is sometimes referred to Herod Agrippa II because he was a descendant of Herod the Great. He was actually the last Herodian king.
Agrippa did not have jurisdiction, but came at the request of Festus to help sort out the Jewish issues. He as a Hellenistic Jew.
He came to Caesarea with his sister Bernice. Festus presented Paul’s case to Agrippa. He cast it as a theological dispute that he was unable to investigate. All of this interested Agrippa and arrangements were made for Paul to stand before Agrippa the next day. (22)
The next day, amid much ceremony, Festus presented Paul to to Agrippa, stating that he found nothing worthy of death in Paul’s behavior and that Paul had appealed to Caesar. And, so, Paul was able to make his defense.
Yet, Paul did not waver. He stood strong in the faith, using every opportunity to witness to the Lord Jesus. His eyes were on Christ, not his circumstances. He was faithful.
May we all seek to imitate his faithfulness.