Acts 23:14
And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) They came to the chief priests and elders.—It will be remembered that the high priest Ananias had already shown the rough brutality of his nature in his treatment of St. Paul, and was now, we can scarcely doubt, impelled by the spirit of revenge. It lies on the surface that those to whom the conspirators went were the Sadducean party in the Council, not the more moderate and cautious Pharisees.

We have bound ourselves under a great curse.—The Greek follows the Hebrew idiom in expressing intensity by the reduplication of the leading word. laterally, We have anathematised ourselves with an anathema.

Acts 23:14-15. And they came to the chief priests and elders — Who were of the sect of the Sadducees, and Paul’s greatest enemies, telling them what they had done; and desiring them to ask the chief captain to bring Paul down to the council on the morrow, as if they wished to inquire something more perfectly concerning him, and we, (said they,) or ever he come near, are ready to kill him — And we will manage the attack in such a manner, that you shall not appear at all concerned in it; nor have any alarm about the matter, till you hear that he is actually dead. Josephus mentions a case not much unlike this, of some that bound themselves with an oath to kill Herod; in which they gloried as a laudable intention, because he had violated the ancient customs of their nation. It is no wonder, therefore, that these Jews should make no scruple of acquainting the chief priests and elders with their conspiracy against the life of Paul; who, indeed, were so far from blaming them for it, that not long after they renewed the same design themselves. See Acts 25:2-3.23:12-24 False religious principles, adopted by carnal men, urge on to such wickedness, as human nature would hardly be supposed capable of. Yet the Lord readily disappoints the best concerted schemes of iniquity. Paul knew that the Divine providence acts by reasonable and prudent means; and that, if he neglected to use the means in his power, he could not expect God's providence to work on his behalf. He who will not help himself according to his means and power, has neither reason nor revelation to assure him that he shall receive help from God. Believing in the Lord, we and ours shall be kept from every evil work, and kept to his kingdom. Heavenly Father, give us by thy Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake, this precious faith.And they came ... - Probably by a deputation.

To the chief priests and elders - The members of the Great Council, or Sanhedrin. It is probable that the application was made to the party of the Sadducees, as the Pharisees had shown their determination to defend Paul. They would have had no prospect of success had they attacked the castle, and they therefore devised this mode of obtaining access to Paul, where they might easily despatch him.

Under a great curse - Greek: "We have anathematized ourselves with an anathema." We have made the vow as solemn as possible.

12-14. bound themselves under a curse … that they would neither eat … fill they had killed Paul—Compare 2Sa 3:35; 1Sa 14:24. They came to the chief priests and elders, whose place and office it was to have dissuaded such an abominable murder: For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, Malachi 2:7. And they could not but have been guilty of the blood of St. Paul, had it been shed, who by encouraging the design became accessory unto it. But they had drank blood very largely before now; viz. the blood of St. Stephen, and the blood of our Saviour; and it is no wonder that they thirst for more: such wild beasts, (rather than men), when they have once tasted of blood, are never satisfied with it. But at what a low ebb was religion, when the chief priests themselves combine with assassins! And they came to the chief priests, and elders,.... Who were members of the sanhedrim, to acquaint them with their designs:

and said, we have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul: these chief priests and elders, had they acted according to the character they bore, on such an information, would have taken up those men, and punished them, at least would have dissuaded them from so vile an action; but they knew the men to whom they applied, and very likely they were all of them of the sect of the Sadducees, whom Paul had so much offended the day before; and therefore were pleased with what they had done, approved of their scheme, and readily fell in with the following proposal.

And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 23:14. τοῖς ἀρχ., cf. Acts 4:23, see critical note on reading in [373] (Blass).—ἀναθέματι ἀνεθεμ.: “we have bound ourselves under a great curse,” thus representing the emphatic Hebrew idiom, cf. Acts 5:28, and for the same phrase cf. Deuteronomy 13:15; Deuteronomy 20:17. The conspirators may have been instigated by the knowledge that the Sanhedrim could no longer inflict capital punishment, and from despair of obtaining the sanction of the Roman authorities for violence against Paul. It is quite certain that sentence of death must at all events be ratified by the procurator. Another serious restriction of the Jewish powers lay in the fact that the Roman authorities could step in at any moment and take the initiative, as in the case of Paul. Moreover the incidents before us illustrate the strange fact that even the chiliarch of the Roman force stationed in Jerusalem seems to be able to summon the Sanhedrim for the purpose of submitting to it any question upon which the Jewish law had to be learnt, cf. Acts 22:30, Schürer, Jewish People, div. ii., vol. i., p. 188 ff., with which, however, should be compared O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, pp. 175, 176.—γεύσασθαι: “to taste nothing,” R.V. “Hoc certe tam præposterum concilium nunquam probassent sacerdotes, si qua in illis fuisset gutta pii rectique affectus, imo sensus humani,” Calvin. Edersheim quotes a curious illustration of the rash vow before us, which shows how easily absolution from its consequences could be obtained, Jewish Social Life, p. 229, J. Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.

[373]
R(omana), in Blass, a first rough copy of St. Luke.14. they came to the chief priests and elders] Who were most likely of the Sadducees’ part, and who therefore would have no wish to save St Paul’s life.

We have bound ourselves under a great curse] Lit. “with a curse have we cursed ourselves.” A Hebrew mode of expressing the intensity and earnestness of any action. Cp. “to die the death, &c.”

that we will eat nothing] More literally (with Rev. Ver.) “to taste nothing.”Acts 23:14. Τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσι, to the chief priests) whose duty however was to have prevented it.—μηδενὸς, nothing) either of food or drink.Verse 14. - The elders for elders, A.V.; to taste for that we will eat, A.V.; killed for slain, A.V. The chief priests, etc. Meaning, no doubt, those who were of the party of the Sadducees, to which the chief priests mainly belonged at this time. A great curse. There is nothing in the phraseology of this verse, as compared with that of ver. 12, to warrant the introduction of the word "great." It is simply, "We have anathematized ourselves with an anathema." We have bound ourselves under a great curse (ἀναθέματι ἀνεθεματίσαμεν ἑαυτοὺς)

Lit., we have anathematized ourselves with an anathema. A very strong expression. For similar expressions, see Luke 22:15; John 3:29; Acts 4:17.

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