Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
Ac 26:1-32. Paul's Defense of Himself before King Agrippa, Who Pronounces Him Innocent, but Concludes That the Appeal to Cæsar Must Be Carried Out.
This speech, though in substance the same as that from the fortress stairs of Jerusalem (Ac 22:1-29), differs from it in being less directed to meet the charge of apostasy from the Jewish faith, and giving more enlarged views of his remarkable change and apostolic commission, and the divine support under which he was enabled to brave the hostility of his countrymen.
1-3. Agrippa said—Being a king he appears to have presided.
Paul stretched forth the hand—chained to a soldier (Ac 26:29, and see on Ac 12:6).
I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
3. I know thee to be expert, &c.—His father was zealous for the law, and he himself had the office of president of the temple and its treasures, and the appointment of the high priest [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.1.3].
hear me patiently—The idea of "indulgently" is also conveyed.
My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
4, 5. from my youth, which was at the first … at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning—plainly showing that he received his education, even from early youth, at Jerusalem. See on Ac 22:3.
Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
5. if they would—"were willing to"
testify—but this, of course, they were not, it being a strong point in his favor.
after the most straitest—"the strictest."
sect—as the Pharisees confessedly were. This was said to meet the charge, that as a Hellenistic Jew he had contracted among the heathen lax ideas of Jewish peculiarities.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
6, 7. I … am judged for the hope of the promise made … to our fathers—"for believing that the promise of Messiah, the Hope of the Church (Ac 13:32; 28:20) has been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead."
Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.
7. Unto which promise—the fulfilment of it.
our twelve tribes—(Jas 1:1; and see on Lu 2:36).
instantly—"intently"; see on Ac 12:5.
serving God—in the sense of religious worship; on "ministered," see on Ac 13:2.
day and night, hope to come—The apostle rises into language as catholic as the thought—representing his despised nation, all scattered thought it now was, as twelve great branches of one ancient stem, in all places of their dispersion offering to the God of their fathers one unbroken worship, reposing on one great "promise" made of old unto their fathers, and sustained by one "hope" of "coming" to its fulfilment; the single point of difference between him and his countrymen, and the one cause of all their virulence against him, being, that his hope had found rest in One already come, while theirs still pointed to the future.
For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews—"I am accused of Jews, O king" (so the true reading appears to be); of all quarters the most surprising for such a charge to come from. The charge of sedition is not so much as alluded to throughout this speech. It was indeed a mere pretext.
Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?
8. Why should it be thought a thing incredible … that God should raise the dead?—rather, "Why is it judged a thing incredible if God raises the dead?" the case being viewed as an accomplished fact. No one dared to call in question the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, which proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God; the only way of getting rid of it, therefore, was to pronounce it incredible. But why, asks the apostle, is it so judged? Leaving this pregnant question to find its answer in the breasts of his audience, he now passes to his personal history.
I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
9-15. (See on Ac 9:1, &c.; and compare Ac 22:4, &c.)
Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
16-18. But rise, &c.—Here the apostle appears to condense into one statement various sayings of his Lord to him in visions at different times, in order to present at one view the grandeur of the commission with which his Master had clothed him [Alford].
a minister … both of these things which thou hast seen—putting him on a footing with those "eye-witnesses and ministers of the word" mentioned in Lu 1:2.
and of those in which I will appear to thee—referring to visions he was thereafter to be favored with; such as Ac 18:9, 10; 22:17-21; 23:11; 2Co 12:1-10, &c. (Ga 1:12).
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
17. Delivering thee from the people—the Jews.
and from the Gentiles—He was all along the object of Jewish malignity, and was at that moment in the hands of the Gentiles; yet he calmly reposes on his Master's assurances of deliverance from both, at the same time taking all precautions for safety and vindicating all his legal rights.
unto whom now I send thee—The emphatic "I" here denotes the authority of the Sender [Bengel].
To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light—rather, "that they may turn" (as in Ac 26:20), that is, as the effect of their eyes being opened. The whole passage leans upon Isa 61:1 (Lu 4:18).
and from the power of Satan—Note the connection here between being "turned from darkness" and "from the power of Satan," whose whole power over men lies in keeping them in the dark: hence he is called "the ruler of the darkness of this world." See on 2Co 4:4.
that they may receive forgiveness … and inheritance among the sanctified by faith that is in me—Note: Faith is here made the instrument of salvation at once in its first stage, forgiveness, and its last, admission to the home of the sanctified; and the faith which introduces the soul to all this is emphatically declared by the glorified Redeemer to rest upon Himself—"FAITH, even THAT WHICH IS IN Me." And who that believes this can refrain from casting his crown before Him or resist offering Him supreme worship?
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
19-21. Whereupon, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision—This musical and elevated strain, which carries the reader along with it, and doubtless did the hearers, bespeaks the lofty region of thought and feeling to which the apostle had risen while rehearsing his Master's communications to him from heaven.
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
20. showed … to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem—omitting Arabia; because, beginning with the Jews, his object was to mention first the places where his former hatred of the name of Christ was best known: the mention of the Gentiles, so unpalatable to his audience, is reserved to the last.
repent and return to God, and do works meet for repentance—a brief description of conversion and its proper fruits, suggested, probably, by the Baptist's teaching (Lu 3:7, 8).
For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:
22, 23. having obtained help—"succor."
from God—"that [which cometh] from God."
I continue—"stand," "hold my ground."
unto this day, witnessing, &c.—that is, This life of mine, so marvellously preserved, in spite of all the plots against it, is upheld for the Gospel's sake; therefore I "witnessed," &c.
That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
23. That Christ should suffer, &c.—The construction of this sentence implies that in regard to the question "whether the Messiah is a suffering one, and whether, rising first from the dead, he should show light to the (Jewish) people and to the Gentiles," he had only said what the prophets and Moses said should come.
And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
24. Festus said with a loud voice—surprised and bewildered.
Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad—"is turning thy head." The union of flowing Greek, deep acquaintance with the sacred writings of his nation, reference to a resurrection and other doctrines to a Roman utterly unintelligible, and, above all, lofty religious earnestness, so strange to the cultivated, cold-hearted skeptics of that day—may account for this sudden exclamation.
But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.
25, 26. I am not mad, most noble Festus, but, &c.—Can anything surpass this reply, for readiness, self-possession, calm dignity? Every word of it refuted the rude charge, though Festus, probably, did not intend to hurt the prisoner's feelings.
For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.
26. the king knoweth, &c.—(See on Ac 26:1-3).
King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
27-29. believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest—The courage and confidence here shown proceeded from a vivid persuasion of Agrippa's knowledge of the facts and faith in the predictions which they verified; and the king's reply is the highest testimony to the correctness of these presumptions and the immense power of such bold yet courteous appeals to conscience.
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.
28. Almost—or, "in a little time."
thou persuadest me to be a Christian—Most modern interpreters think the ordinary translation inadmissible, and take the meaning to be, "Thou thinkest to make me with little persuasion (or small trouble) a Christian"—but I am not to be so easily turned. But the apostle's reply can scarcely suit any but the sense given in our authorized version, which is that adopted by Chrysostom and some of the best scholars since. The objection on which so much stress is laid, that the word "Christian" was at that time only a term of contempt, has no force except on the other side; for taking it in that view, the sense is, "Thou wilt soon have me one of that despised sect."
And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
29. I would to God, &c.—What unequalled magnanimity does this speech breathe! Only his Master ever towered above this.
not only … almost … but altogether—or, "whether soon or late," or "with little or much difficulty."
except these bonds—doubtless holding up his two chained hands (see on Ac 12:6): which in closing such a noble utterance must have had an electrical effect.
And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them:
30-32. when he had thus spoken, the king rose—not over-easy, we may be sure.
And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.
Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
32. This man might have been set at liberty if he had not appealed to Cæsar—It would seem from this that such appeals, once made, behooved to be carried out.