Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.Acts 25:1-7 The Jews accuse Paul to Festus, first at Jerusalem,
and afterwards at Caesarea.
Acts 25:8-12 He answereth for himself, and appealeth to Caesar;
his appeal is admitted.
Acts 25:13-22 Festus being visited by king Agrippa openeth the
matter to him, who desireth to hear Paul.
Acts 25:23-27 Paul is brought forth; Festus declareth he found
nothing in him worthy of death.
Province; so the Romans called any country which they had conquered with their arms, and unto which they sent a governor, which at this time was Festus, being now set over Judea in Felix’s room.
Caesarea had been the place of residence for the Roman governors, by reason of its strength and situation, in Acts 23:23.
Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,The chief of the Jews; the same who are called the elders, in Acts 24:1.
Informed him against Paul; continued their accusation and prosecution of Paul. So restless is the rage and enmity, the adversaries of truth have against the professors of it.
And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him.Desired favour; though it seems to have been but justice, that they might be allowed to try Paul for such crimes as were within their cognizance; yet that they might the more easily obtain their desire, they beg it as a favour.
Laying wait in the way to kill him; which did worse become magistrates and priests than any men, to act thus against the law of nature, and to be sure also against the law of the land, to hire ruffians to assassinate Paul.
But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither.It is most probable that Festus had been informed by Felix of the Jews’ malice against Paul; for Felix having been accused by the Jews unto the emperor, might be supposed to have recriminated wheresoever he had any opportunity; and in all the time of his government they were not guilty of a worse fact than their design against Paul, it being sedition, and intended murder of one who had the privilege of a Roman citizen.
He himself would depart shortly thither; the governors kept their courts wheresoever they came.
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.Which among you are able; fit to prosecute Paul in your behalf; as Tertullus was, whom the Jews had carried with them formerly, Acts 24:1.
Go down with me; because Jerusalem was in a mountainous part of the country, and much of it built upon a hill.
Wickedness; the word properly signifies a foolish thing; but it is also taken for a wicked thing; all sin being folly, and grace wisdom; as they are frequently called in Scripture, though the world hath another opinion of them, many abhorring to be accounted fools, and yet are not though they appear most wicked.
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.More than ten days; the margin gives an account of a diverse reading, unto which might be added another, viz. eight or ten days; which reading many follow, and is according unto the usual expression of such a short space of time, which need not to be exactly set down. Thus though God hath provided so, as there is little or no variety in setting down those truths or doctrines in Scripture which concern faith and manners, or our believing and holy living; yet in circumstances which (though they pertain to complete the history or genealogies in Scripture) are not necessary to be so exactly known, God left them not so, designed to exercise us in this state, wherein we know but in part, \ 1 Corinthians 13:9. Fundamental truths are not of such a depth but a lamb may wade or walk in them; but there are less material things of such a profundity, that an elephant may swim in them, and men of the highest understanding and deepest reach must cry out, w Bayov.
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.When he was come; the judge sat, and the prisoner brought.
The Jews which came down from Jerusalem; his accusers, which were many, and came with a full cry against him,
stood round about him, or about the judgment seat.
Many and grievous complaints; what these accusations were, appears in the next verse by Paul’s answer; but they could not demonstrate them, or make them evident; and if it were sufficient to accuse, no man could be innocent.
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.Paul answers unto the three crimes which he was charged with:
1. He had not offended against the law, having been always a religious observer of it: nor:
2. Against the temple, which he went into devoutly, and upon a religious account: nor:
3. Against Caesar; having never taught any rebellion, nor said or done any thing against his government.
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?Willing to do the Jews a pleasure; as his predecessor, Felix, before him, Acts 24:27, to gain popular applause, and the good will of that nation; especially Felix having been displaced upon the complaint of the Jews against him.
Answered, or spake to Paul; as Acts 3:12.
Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, &c.: Festus apparently inclines to favour the Jews, though he does not command, but ask this of Paul; he being privileged as a Roman, could not against his will be forced to acknowledge the Jews for competent judges.
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.Paul might justly suspect his judges, and the place where they would have him judged, and also his journey thither, knowing with what difficulty, and not without a great guard, he came from thence.
I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat; he was now before Caesar’s tribunal, whose vicegerent Festus was; and he only ought to judge a Roman citizen.
As thou very well knowest; Festus might know that Paul had done the Jews no wrong, from the relation Felix had made unto him, as also from such as were with Felix when Paul’s case was heard.
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.If I be an offender; if I have injured the Jews, and my fault be worthy of death, such as by law deserves death, I beg no favour.
No man may deliver me unto them; according to law, (which the Romans did punctually observe), before sentence was passed.
I appeal unto Caesar: it was lawful for any that had that privilege of the Roman citizens, to appeal; neither might they be tried against their wills in any province out of Rome. Now Paul might appeal unto Caesar:
1. To make Caesar more favourable unto himself, and to other Christians.
2. Because he thought it more safe for himself and for the church.
3. He was in part admonished to do it by Christ himself, who had told him that he must bear witness of him at Rome, Acts 23:11.
Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.Conferred with the council; either of the Jews, and those of the sanhedrim, that he might inform them of the law or custom of the Romans, and how that he could not but admit of St. Paul’s appeal; or with his own council; it being usual with the Roman presidents to do nothing of moment without the advice of their council, or assistants.
Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Or without an interrogation: Thou hast appealed unto Caesar; which Festus was glad of, that without danger on the one hand, or ill will on the other, he might get rid of that difficult business.
And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.This Agrippa is called by Josephus, the younger, and was the son of Herod Agrippa, or Agrippa the Great, who in this book of the Acts is called Herod, whose death is mentioned, Acts 12:23. But this Agrippa was brother to Drusilla and Bernice, here spoken of, and lived in incest with her, whom Juvenal in his satire speaks of:
Barbarus incestae dedit hunc Agrippa sorori.
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:Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king; either amongst common discourse, or matter of novelty, and for the strangeness of it, or for his advice about it. Howsoever, by this means the wickedness of the Jews was published, and the safety of St. Paul provided for, and God’s design of publishing the gospel at Rome itself furthered.
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 wit, judgment of death upon Paul, that he might be sentenced according to the crimes they had laid against him; dikh being put for katadikh. Neither do they at all mind that St. Paul’s case was not yet heard; they would rather have had him condemned unheard, as they had gotten our Saviour to be condemned, though the judge declared that he found no fault in him, Luke 23:4; which their unjust desire appears by Festus’s answer.
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.To condemn any man indicta causa, without sufficient cause alleged and proved, is not only against the laws of the Romans, but of the Jews, Deu 17:4; nay, against the law of nature and of all nations. Yet malice had so far blinded the enemies of St. Paul, that they go about such things as a heathen reproves, and the very light of nature condemns.
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.Festus had gratified the Jews in what lawfully he might, not detaining them at charges from their habitations: and that not only commends Festus’s own justice, but Paul’s innocence; for if Paul had not appeared guiltless, he would have left him to the rage of the Jews, whom he desired to gratify what he could.
Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed:For Festus, knowing how Paul had been prosecuted by the Jews before Felix, and what charge they had been at, and what journeys they had made about him, could not think less than that he was a capital offender.
But had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.Superstition; so this heathen governor profanely calls the religion and worship of God’s own institution, and that in the presence of Agrippa and Bernice, who were both Jews, or, at least, brought up amongst them.
To be alive; to have been raised again from the dead; acknowledging, with them, that he had been indeed dead.
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.Festus pretends, that he knew not by what rule those cases were to be decided, nor before what judges; whether before himself or the Jewish sanhedrim. But this is only his pretension: the true cause why he would not acquit Paul, though he knew him to be innocent, we read, Acts 25:9, viz. that he might do the Jews a pleasure. He asked Paul this question, Whether he would go to Jerusalem? But with a resolution to have sent him whether he would or not, had he not appealed; but then he durst not: for in certain cases none could hinder appeals, from any judge, to the people in the former times, or to their emperor in the latter times.
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.Augustus: the emperor who now reigned, and to whom Paul appealed, was Nero, who was called Augustus; this title being at first appropriated to Octavius, who succeeded Julius Caesar; but out of honour unto him, or because of its signification, it became an appellative, and was given unto all the emperors successively: nay, the emperor of Germany to this day is called Semper Augustus.
Caesar; as from Octavius the emperors of Rome had the name of Augustus, so from the first emperor, Julius, they have the name of Caesars. This word Caesar, which was the proper name of the first emperor, is, in acknowledgment of him, made an appellative to all his successors.
Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.Agrippa being well acquainted with the Jewish religion, if not a Jew, could not but have heard of our Saviour, his doctrine, death, and resurrection; and yet makes this desire but out of curiosity; as Herod desired to hear John Baptist, Mark 6:20, and to see our Saviour, Luke 23:8.
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.With great pomp; the state, attire, and retinue used in this solemnity is much undervalued by the term the Holy Ghost here gives it (fantasia); intimating, that all worldly glory is but in opinion and appearance merely, and that as a show it passeth away.
Paul was brought forth; here is a great difference indeed between these great persons thus adorned and accompanied on the one side, and Paul, the prisoner, (desmiov, the chained, as he is called, Acts 23:18), on the other side; yet holy Paul, with great reason, prefers his condition before theirs. He does not desire to partake with them in their ease and splendour, but with Christ in his disgrace and sufferings, Philippians 3:10.
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.Well might Paul be aghast, to be friendless in so great a multitude, and to be shown and pointed at as a monster, being made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men, as 1 Corinthians 4:9. But he found surely the benefit and efficacy of that promise, Matthew 28:20, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
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.The calumny of the Jews adds to the reputation of St. Paul: so many enemies, and so long in finding or making a fault that might reach his life, and yet to be disappointed! Paul and his religion are vindicated by the testimony of Lysias, the chief captain, Acts 23:29, and of Felix, the governor, Acts 24:25, and here by Festus, as afterwards by Agrippa too, Acts 26:32. So mighty is truth and innocence, that they do prevail sooner or later.
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.My lord; Nero, the present emperor, whose deputy Festus was in this province; though some of the former emperors refused this name, as savouring of too much arbitratiness, the latter did accept of it.
Specially before thee; Agrippa, being brought up in the knowledge of the Jewish law, though it was not his business to judge Paul’s case, yet he might instruct and inform the judge about it.
For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him.So great a clamour, so hot a pursuit, and yet after all this the judge (who would willingly have condemned Paul, and gratified the Jews) knows not wherefore all this stir had been: but the more must he have been self-condemned, that durst not absolve or free a prisoner who was detained only by the power and multitude of his adversaries.