Wesley's Notes on the Bible
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
23:1 And Paul earnestly beholding the council - Professing a clear conscience by his very countenance; and likewise waiting to see whether any of them was minded to ask him any question, said, I have lived in all good conscience before God till this day - He speaks chiefly of the time since he became a Christian. For none questioned him concerning what he had been before. And yet even in his unconverted state, although he was in an error, yet he had acted from conscience, before God - Whatever men may think or say of me.
And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
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?
23:3 Then said Paul - Being carried away by a sudden and prophetic impulse. God is about to smite thee, thou whited wall - Fair without; full of dirt and rubbish within. And he might well be so termed, not only as he committed this outrage, while gravely sitting on the tribunal of justice but also as, at the same time that he stood high in the esteem of the citizens, he cruelly defrauded the priests of their legal subsistence, so that some of them even perished for want. And God did remarkably smite him; for about five years after this, his house being reduced to ashes, in a tumult begun by his own son, he was besieged in the royal palace; where having hid himself in an old aqueduct, he was dragged out and miserably slain.
And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?
Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
23:5 I was not aware, brethren, that it was the high priest - He seems to mean, I did not advert to it, in the prophetic transport of my mind: but he does not add, that his not adverting to it proceeded from the power of the Spirit coming upon him; as knowing they were not able to bear it. This answer admirably shows the situation of mind he was then in, partly with regard to the bystanders, whom he thus softens, adding also the title of brethren, and justifying their reproof by the prohibition of Moses; partly with regard to himself, who, after that singular transport subsided, was again under the direction of the general command. Exod 22:28.
But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
23:6 I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: for the hope of the resurrection of the dead am I called in question - So he was in effect; although not formally, or explicitly.
And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
23:8 The Pharisees confess both - Both the resurrection, and the existence of angels and separate spirits.
And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.
23:9 And the scribes of the Pharisees' side arising - Every sect contains both learned and unlearned. The former used to be the mouth of the party. If a spirit - St. Paul in his speech from the stairs had affirmed, that Jesus, whom they knew to have been dead, was alive, and that he had spoken to him from heaven, and again in a vision. So they add nothing, only they construe it in their own way, putting an angel or spirit for Jesus.
And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.
And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.
23:11 And the night following, the Lord Jesus - What Paul had before purposed in spirit, Acts 19:21, God now in due time confirms. Another declaration to the same effect is made by an angel of God, Acts 27:23. And from the 23d chapter the sum of this book turns on the testimony of Paul to the Romans. How would the defenders of St. Peter's supremacy triumph, could they find out half as much ascribed to him! Be of good courage, Paul - As he laboured under singular distresses and persecutions, so he was favoured with extraordinary assurances of the Divine assistance. Thou must testify - Particular promises are usually given when all things appear desperate. At Rome also - Danger is nothing in the eyes of God: all hinderances farther his work. A promise of what is afar off, implies all that necessarily lies between. Paul shall testify at Rome: therefore he shall come to Rome; therefore he shall escape the Jews, the sea, the viper.
And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.
23:12 Some of the Jews bound themselves - Such execrable vows were not uncommon among the Jews. And if they were prevented from accomplishing what they had vowed, it was an easy matter to obtain absolution from their rabbis.
And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy.
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.
Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or ever he come near, are ready to kill him.
23:15 Now therefore ye - Which they never scrupled at all, as not doubting but they were doing God service.
And when Paul's sister's son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle, and told Paul.
Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him.
23:17 And Paul - Though he had an express promise of it from Christ, was not to neglect any proper means of safety.
So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee.
Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me?
23:19 And the tribune taking him by the hand - In a mild, condescending way. Lysias seems to have conducted this whole affair with great integrity, humanity, and prudence.
And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly.
But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee.
So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me.
And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;
And provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor.
23:24 Provide beasts - If a change should be necessary, to set Paul on - So we read of his riding once; but not by choice.
And he wrote a letter after this manner:
Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting.
This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman.
23:27 Having learned that he was a Roman - True; but not before he rescued him. Here he uses art.
And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council:
Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.
And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell.
Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris.
23:31 The soldiers brought him by night to Antipatris - But not the same night they set out. For Antipatris was about thirty - eight of our miles northwest of Jerusalem. Herod the Great rebuilt it, and gave it this name in honour of his father Antipater: Cesarea was near seventy miles from Jerusalem, and about thirty from Antipatris.
On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle:
Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.
And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia;
I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod's judgment hall.
23:35 In Herod's palace - This was a palace and a court built by Herod the Great. Probably some tower belonging to it might be used for a kind of state prison.