Acts 23:3
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?
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(3) God shall smite thee, thou whited wall.—The phrase is interesting as showing either that our Lord, in likening the Pharisees to “whitened sepulchers” (see Notes on Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44), had used a proverbial comparison, or else, as seems equally probable, that it had become proverbial among His disciples as having been so used by Him. The whole utterance must be regarded by St. Paul’s own confession as the expression of a hasty indignation, recalled after a moment’s reflection; but the words so spoken were actually a prophecy, fulfilled some years after by the death of Ananias by the hands of the sicarii. (Jos. Wars, ii. 17, §§ 2-9).

23:1-5 See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, according to the best of his knowledge, he keeps from whatever is evil, and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God, may, like Paul, have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction, he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults, and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.God shall smite thee - God shall punish thee. God is just; and he will not suffer such a manifest violation of all the laws of a fair trial to pass unavenged. This was a remarkably bold and fearless declaration. Paul was surrounded by enemies. They were seeking his life. He must have known that such declarations would only excite their wrath and make them more thirsty for his blood. That he could thus address the president of the council was not only strongly characteristic of the man, but was also a strong proof that he was conscious of innocence, and that justice was on his side. This expression of Paul, "God shall smite thee," is not to be regarded in the light of an imprecatio, or as an expression of angry feeling, but of a prediction, or of a strong conviction on the mind of Paul that a man so hypocritical and unjust as Ananias was could not escape the vengeance of God. Ananias was slain, with Hezekiah his brother, during the agitation that occurred in Jerusalem when the robbers, or Sicarii, under their leader, Manahem, had taken possession of the city. He attempted to conceal himself in an aqueduct, but was drawn forth and killed. See Josephus, Jewish Wars, book 2, chapter 17, section 8. Thus, Paul's prediction was fulfilled.

Thou whited wall - This is evidently a proverbial expression, meaning thou hypocrite. His hypocrisy consisted in the fact that while he pretended to sit there to do justice, he commanded the accused to be smitten in direct violation of the Law, thus showing that his character was not what he professed it to be, but that of one determined to carry the purposes of his party and of his own feelings. Our Saviour used a similar expression to describe the hypocritical character of the Pharisees Matthew 23:27, when he compares them to whited sepulchres. A whited wall is a wall or enclosure that is covered with lime or gypsum, and that thus appears to be different from what it is, and thus aptly describes the hypocrite. Seneca (De Providentia, chapter 6) uses a similar figure to describe hypocrites: "They are sordid, base, and like their walls adorned only externally." See also Seneca, Epis. 115.

For sittest thou ... - The Law required that justice should be done, and in order to that, it gave every man an opportunity of defending himself. See the note, John 7:51. Compare Proverbs 18:13; Leviticus 19:15-16; Exodus 23:1-2; Deuteronomy 19:15, Deuteronomy 19:18.

To judge me after the law - As a judge, to hear and decide the case according to the rules of the Law of Moses.

Contrary to the law - In violation of the Law of Moses Leviticus 19:35, "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment."

3, 4. God shall smite thee—as indeed He did; for he was killed by an assassin during the Jewish war [Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.17.9].

thou whited wall—that is, hypocrite (Mt 23:27). This epithet, however correctly describing the man, must not be defended as addressed to a judge, though the remonstrance which follows—"for sittest thou," &c.—ought to have put him to shame.

Thou whited wall; an excellent similitude to represent wicked men, especially hypocrites, by, who counterfeit God’s glory and worship, whilst they intend only their own profit or grandeur. Thus our Saviour compared the scribes and Pharisees unto whited sepulchres, Matthew 23:27. Whited sepulchres and walls, though they seem fair and comely, have within nothing but rottenness and useless rubbish. Now these words are not to be looked upon as a curse or imprecation upon the high priest, which does not consist with the temper of the gospel; but they are rather to be taken as a prophecy or prediction, St. Paul having on occasion had the gift of prophecy amongst the other gifts of the Holy Ghost. And accordingly it is observed, that this high priest either died, or was put out of his place, soon after. And thus Paul’s imprecation upon Alexander the coppersmith, mentioned 2 Timothy 4:14, is to be understood; as also several other curses (seemingly wished) by holy men, especially in the Psalms, as Psalm 109:6,7, &c., and many other places, which are by no means for our imitation; neither were they spoken so much as the wishes or prayers of such as uttered them, as their prophecies or prections; which we know came to pass; as that now mentioned was fulfilled in the person of Judas.

Contrary to the law; it was contrary to all law, Divine and human, that any should be punished before that he was heard; and especially to their own judicial law, which in matters of this nature they were yet governed by under the Romans. Now the Jews were first to hear and inquire diligently, whether the matter any were accused of were true, before they might give sentence, or inflict any punishment upon them, Deu 17:4.

Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee,.... Which may be considered either as a prophecy of what would be, that God would smite him with some judgment here, or with death quickly, or with eternal damnation hereafter; taking up his own words, and suggesting that a retaliation would be made, and that the measure he meted, would be measured to him again; or else as an imprecation upon him; for the words may be rendered, "may God smite thee"; the future tense being often used by the Jews for the imperative, and that in this very phrase; for certain it is, that this is the form of an imprecation with them: for it is said, if anyone should say, , "may God smite", or "so may God smite"; this is "a curse", written in the law (p); though this instance of the apostle ought not to be drawn into example, any more than those of other saints, who might be under a direction of the Holy Ghost to deliver out such things, which would come to pass in righteous judgment: and if this was Ananias, the son of Nebedaeus, as is generally thought, it is remarkable, that five years after this, in the beginning of the wars of the Jews with the Romans, this Ananias, hiding himself under the ruins of a conduit, was discovered, and taken out, and killed (q): and no doubt but he very fitly calls him

thou whited wall; or hypocrite, in like manner as Christ compares the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees to whited sepulchres, Matthew 23:27.

for sittest thou to judge me after the law; the law of Moses, which was the rule of judgment in the sanhedrim, at least professed to be, and which was allowed of by the Romans, especially in matters relating to the Jewish religion:

and commandest me to be smitten contrary to law? which condemns no man before he is heard, and much less punishes him, John 7:51 and which is contrary not only to the Jewish laws, but to the Roman laws, and all others founded upon the law of nature and reason.

(p) Misn. Shebuot, c. 4. sect. 13. & Maimon. in ib. (q) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 17. sect. 9.

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

(3) It is lawful for us to complain of injuries, and to summon the wicked to the judgment seat of God, but yet we must do it without hatred, and with a quiet and peaceable mind.

(b) This is a vehement and severe speech, but yet not reproachful: for the godly may speak severely, and yet be void of the bitter affection of a severe and angry mind.

(c) For the Law commands the judge to hear the person that is accused patiently, and to pronounce the sentence judiciously.

Acts 23:3. The words contain truth freely expressed in righteous apostolic indignation, and require no excuse, but carry in themselves (καὶ σὺ κάθῃ κ.τ.λ.) their own justification. Yet here, in comparison with the calm meekness and self-renunciation of Jesus (John 18:22; comp. Matthew 5:39), the ebullition of a vehement temperament is not to be mistaken.

τύπτειν[143] σὲ μέλλει ὁ Θεός is not to be understood as an imprecation (Camerarius, Bolten, Kuinoel), but—for which the categorical μέλλει is decisive—as a prophetic announcement of future certain retribution; although it would be arbitrary withal to assume that Paul must have been precisely aware of the destruction of Ananias as it afterwards in point of fact occurred (he was murdered in the Jewish war by sicarii, Joseph. Bell. ii. 17. 9).

τοῖχε κεκον.] figurative designation of the hypocrite, inasmuch as he, with his concealed wickedness, resembles a wall beautifully whitened without, but composed of rotten materials within. See Senec. de provid. 6; Ep. 115; Suicer, Thes. II. p. 144. Comp. Matthew 23:27.

καὶ σύ] thou too, even thou, who yet as high priest shouldest have administered thine office quite otherwise than at such variance with its nature.

κρίνων] comprises the official capacity, in which the high priest sits there; hence it is not, with Kuinoel, to be taken in a future sense, nor, with Henry Stephanus, Pricaeus, and Valckenaer, to be accented κρινῶν. The classical παρανομεῖν, to act contrary to the law, is not elsewhere found in the N.T.

[143] Observe the prefixing of tie τύπτειν, which returns the blow just received in a higher sense on the high priest. That the command of the high priest was not executed (Baumgarten, Trip), is an entirely arbitrary assumption. Luke would have mentioned it, because otherwise the reader could not but understand the execution as having ensued.

Acts 23:3. Wetstein sees in the words the customary formula of malediction among the Jews. But we need not regard Paul’s words as an imprecation of evil on the high priest, but only an expression of the firm belief that such conduct would meet with punishment, cf. Knabenbauer, in loco. The terrible death of Ananias was a fulfilment of the words. On the paronomasia and other instances of the same figure see Blass, Gram., p. 292.—τοῖχε κεκον., cf. Matthew 23:27, Luke 11:44, the expression may have been proverbial, in LXX, cf. Proverbs 21:9. A contrast has been drawn between St. Paul’s conduct and that of our Lord under provocation, as, e.g., by St. Jerome, Adv. Pelag., iii., 1, but there were occasions when Christ spoke with righteous indignation, and never more severely than when He was condemning the same sin which St. Paul censured—hypocrisy.—καὶ σύ, emphatic, cf. Mark 4:13, Luke 10:29. καὶ at the commencement of a question expressing indignation or astonishment (Page).—κάθῃ κρίνων, later form for κάθησαι, cf. for the phrase Luke 22:30.—παρανομῶν: only here in N.T., but cf. LXX, Ps. 75:4, 118:51; the verb also occurs several times in 4 Macc.

3. God shall smite thee, thou whited wall] Here we may see how very far even the excellence of St Paul comes short of the behaviour of the Divine Master, who when he suffered threatened not, and when reviled, reviled not again. We need not however consider that St Paul’s language here was a wish for evil upon the high priest, but only an expression of confidence in God that such conduct as that of Ananias would not be allowed to go unpunished. We know from Josephus (Wars, ii. 17. 9) that Ananias did come to a violent end. St Paul calls him “whited wall” because he bore the semblance of a minister of justice, but was not what he seemed. Cp. “whited sepulchres” (Matthew 23:27).

for sittest thou, &c.] The original has merely the copulative conjunction, which the Rev. Ver. consequently represents by “and sittest thou, &c.” The translation misses the force of the Greek, which has the pronoun emphatically expressed. The connexion seems to be this. The Apostle had just named the high priest “a whited wall;” he then continues “and dost thou (such an one) sit, &c.”

after the law] i.e. according to the law (as Rev. Ver.). Cp. Pr. Bk. “Deal not with us after our sins.”

contrary to the law] For St Paul had not yet been heard. Cp. John 7:51.

Acts 23:3. Τύπτειν μέλλει, shall smite thee) Retribution in kind is predicted by Paul.—τοῖχε κεκονιαμένε) Thou whited wall, having outside a white coating of chalk, but within clay. The chalk is the appearance and colour of justice; the part within is injustice. The High Priest himself had his eyes so dulled (held fast) by the whiteness of that chalk, that he embraced wrong rather than right. Perhaps also he had hoary hairs or a white robe.—καὶ, dost thou also) Καὶ in the very beginning of a reproving speech is equivalent to therefore: but here at the beginning, it has the strict meaning, also. Dost thou also, not merely the rest; thou, who dost wish to be looked upon as a defender of the law.

Verse 3. - And for for, A.V.; according to for after, A.V. God shall smite thee (τύπτειν σε μέλλει). A distinct announcement of something that would happen. (For the incident itself, comp. 1 Kings 22:24, 25; Jeremiah 28:15, 17; and Acts 12:1, 2, 23) Ananias perished by the daggers of the Sicarii (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud,' 2. 17:9), at the beginning of the Jewish war under the procuratorship of Florus, in the year A.D. . He had been previously deposed from the high priesthood by King Agrippa toward the close of the government of Felix ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8:8), about A.D. , or early in A.D. , less than two years from the present time. Thou whited wall. This expression is admirably illustrated by the quotations from Seneca in Kuinoel: "These base and sordid spirits are like the walls of their own houses, only beautiful on the outside." "What are our gilt roofs hut lies? for we well know that under the gilding unseemly beams are concealed." "It is not only our walls which are coated with a thin outward ornament; the greatness of those men whom you see strutting in their pride is mere tinsel; look beneath the surface, and you will see all the evil that is hid under that thin crust of dignity" ('De Provid.,' 6, and 'Epist.' 115). Ananias was sitting in his priestly robes of office, presiding over the council in power and dignity, and presumably a righteous judge, but his heart within was polluted with injustice, selfishness, and a corrupt disposition, which made him act unrighteously (comp. Matthew 23:27). Contrary to the Law; or, acting illegally; παρανομῶν, only found here in the New Testament, but common in classical Greek. St. Paul's temper was very excusably roused by the brutality and injustice of Ananias. But we may, perhaps, think that he did not quite attain to "the mind that was in Christ Jesus," who "when he was reviled, reviled not again," but was "led as a sheep to the slaughter, and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, he opened not his mouth" (Acts 8:32). Acts 23:3Shall smite thee (τύπτειν σε μέλλει)

More strictly, is about to smite. The words are not an imprecation, but a prophecy of punishment for his violent dealing. According to Josephus, in the attack of the Sicarii upon Jerusalem, he was dragged from his hiding-place, in a sewer of the palace, and murdered by assassins.

Thou whited wall

Compare Matthew 23:27.

Contrary to the law (παρανομῶν)

A verb. Lit., transgressing the law.

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