Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
Ac 25:1-12. Festus, Coming to Jerusalem, Declines to Have Paul Brought Thither for Judgment, but Gives the Parties a Hearing on His Return to Cæsarea—On Festus Asking the Apostle if He Would Go to Jerusalem for Another Hearing before Him, He Is Constrained in Justice to His Cause to Appeal to the Emperor.
1-3. Festus … after three days … ascended … to Jerusalem—to make himself acquainted with the great central city of his government without delay.
Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
2. Then the high priest—a successor of him before whom Paul had appeared (Ac 23:2).
and the chief of the Jews—and "the whole multitude of the Jews" (Ac 25:24) clamorously.
informed him against Paul …
And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.
3. desired favour—in Ac 25:15, "judgment."
against him—It would seem that they had the insolence to ask him to have the prisoner executed even without a trial (Ac 25:16).
laying wait … to kill him—How deep must have been their hostility, when two years after the defeat of their former attempt, they thirst as keenly as ever for his blood! Their plea for having the case tried at Jerusalem, where the alleged offense took place, was plausible enough; but from Ac 25:10 it would seem that Festus had been made acquainted with their causeless malice, and that in some way which Paul was privy to.
But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.
4-6. answered that Paul should be kept—rather, "is in custody."
at Cæsarea, and … himself would depart shortly thither.
Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
5. Let them … which among you are able, go down—"your leading men."
And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.
And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
7. the Jews … from Jerusalem—clamorously, as at Jerusalem; see Ac 25:24.
many and grievous complaints against Paul—From his reply, and Festus' statement of the case before Agrippa, these charges seem to have been a jumble of political and religious matter which they were unable to substantiate, and vociferous cries that he was unfit to live. Paul's reply, not given in full, was probably little more than a challenge to prove any of their charges, whether political or religious.
While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?
9, 10. Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure—to ingratiate himself with them.
said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and … be judged … before me—or, "under my protection." If this was meant in earnest, it was temporizing and vacillating. But, possibly, anticipating Paul's refusal, he wished merely to avoid the odium of refusing to remove the trial to Jerusalem.
Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.
10. Then said Paul, I stand at Cæsar's judgment seat—that is, I am already before the proper tribunal. This seems to imply that he understood Festus to propose handing him over to the Sanhedrim for judgment (and see on Ac 25:11), with a mere promise of protection from him. But from going to Jerusalem at all he was too well justified in shrinking, for there assassination had been quite recently planned against him.
to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou knowest very well—literally, "better," that is, (perhaps), better than to press such a proposal.
if there be none of these things … no man may deliver me unto them—The word signifies to "surrender in order to gratify" another.
For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.
11. I appeal to Cæsar—The right of appeal to the supreme power, in case of life and death, was secured by an ancient law to every Roman citizen, and continued under the empire. Had Festus shown any disposition to pronounce final judgment, Paul, strong in the consciousness of his innocence and the justice of a Roman tribunal, would not have made this appeal. But when the only other alternative offered him was to give his own consent to be transferred to the great hotbed of plots against his life, and to a tribunal of unscrupulous and bloodthirsty ecclesiastics whose vociferous cries for his death had scarcely subsided, no other course was open to him.
Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.
12. Festus—little expecting such an appeal, but bound to respect it.
having conferred with the council—his assessors in judgment, as to the admissibility of the appeal.
said, Hast thou—for "thou hast."
to Cæsar shalt thou go—as if he would add perhaps "and see if thou fare better."
And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.
Ac 25:13-27. Herod Agrippa II ON A Visit to Festus, Being Consulted by Him on Paul's Case, Desires to Hear the Apostle, Who Is Accordingly Brought Forth.
13. King Agrippa—great-grandson of Herod the Great, and Drusilla's brother (see on Ac 24:24). On his father's awful death (Ac 12:23), being thought too young (seventeen) to succeed, Judea, was attached to the province of Syria. Four years after, on the death of his uncle Herod, he was made king of the northern principalities of Chalcis, and afterwards got Batanea, Iturea, Trachonitis, Abilene, Galilee, and Perea, with the title of king. He died A.D. 100, after reigning fifty-one years.
and Bernice—his sister. She was married to her uncle Herod, king of Chalcis, on whose death she lived with her brother Agrippa—not without suspicion of incestuous intercourse, which her subsequent licentious life tended to confirm.
came to salute Festus—to pay his respects to him on his accession to the procuratorship.
And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:
14, 15. when there many—"several"
days, Festus declared Paul's cause—taking advantage of the presence of one who might be presumed to know such matters better than himself; though the lapse of "several days" ere the subject was touched on shows that it gave Festus little trouble.
About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him.
To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
16-21. to deliver any man to die—On the word "deliver up," see on Ac 25:11.
Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.
Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed:
18. as I supposed—"suspected"—crimes punishable by civil law.
But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
19. questions … of their own superstition—rather, "religion" (see on Ac 17:22). It cannot be supposed that Festus would use the word in any discourteous sense in addressing his Jewish guest.
one Jesus—"Thus speaks this miserable Festus of Him to whom every knee shall bow" [Bengel].
whom Paul affirmed—"kept affirming."
to be alive—showing that the resurrection of the Crucified One had been the burden, as usual, of Paul's pleading. The insignificance of the whole affair in the eyes of Festus is manifest.
And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters.
20. because I doubted of such manner of questions—The "I" is emphatic. "I," as a Roman judge, being at a loss how to deal with such matters.
But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.
21. the hearing of Augustus—the imperial title first conferred by the Roman Senate on Octavius.
Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.
22-27. I would also hear—"should like to hear."
the man myself—No doubt Paul was fight when he said, "The king knoweth of these things … for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner" (Ac 26:26). Hence his curiosity to see and hear the man who had raised such commotion and was remodelling to such an extent the whole Jewish life.
And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth.
23. when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp—in the same city in which their father, on account of his pride, had perished, eaten up by worms [Wetst].
with the chief captains—(See on Ac 21:32). Josephus [Wars of the Jews, 3.4.2] says that five cohorts, whose full complement was one thousand men, were stationed at Cæsarea.
principal men of the city—both Jews and Romans. "This was the most dignified and influential audience Paul had yet addressed, and the prediction (Ac 9:15) was fulfilled, though afterwards still more remarkably at Rome (Ac 27:24; 2Ti 4:16, 17) [Webster and Wilkinson].
And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.
But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.
Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.
26. I have no certain—"definite"
thing to write my lord—Nero. "The writer's accuracy should be remarked here. It would have been … a mistake to apply this term ("lord") to the emperor a few years earlier. Neither Augustus nor Tiberius would let himself be so called, as implying the relation of master and slave. But it had now come (rather, "was coming") into use as one of the imperial titles" [Hacket].
For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.