After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice came down to Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus.
I. ITS SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS. It sees no further than the principles of civil right (vers. 13-18). Herod Agrippa.
II. had come to pay his greeting to the new procurator (see Josephus, 'Life,' § 11; and 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:1). It was only after Agrippa had arrived some days, that Festus seized the opportunity of bringing the matter before him, probably hoping, from his acquaintance with Jewish affairs, that he would help him to a decision concerning Paul. Festus states the rule of equity, the Roman custom of impartiality (ver. 16). He makes a parade of justice, but his secret feelings are hardly in harmony with his profession. He wanted to be popular with the Jews (ver. 9), and was only withheld by Paul's appeal to Caesar from sending him to Jerusalem. Festus would trim his sails to the wind. He is worldly in purpose, but would act on plausible grounds and render the show of the forms of justice.
III. ITS CONTEMPTUOUS ATTITUDE TOWARDS RELIGION. (Vers. 19-21.) The word used by him is literally, "fear of divinity," not necessarily conveying the contemptuous sense of "superstition." But his whole tone is that of contempt: "Concerning one Jesus, who had died, whom Paul said was living." He looks upon the turning-point of Paul's preaching and of his contest with the Jews as a trifling matter, unworthy the serious consideration of educated men. And yet - apart from mere personal opinion - how much in the history of the world has turned upon this question! Agrippa's family had had much to do with "this Jesus," and the mention of his Name is like a renewed solicitation to the heart of the king. Festus's bearing is that of a man who rather prides himself upon superiority to all religious and ecclesiastical matters; and perhaps no wonder, considering the mixture of religions in the Roman world of the time.
III. ITS IDLE CURIOSITY. This is represented by the bearing of Agrippa (ver. 22). He would like to listen to this remarkable prisoner, and his story and confession of faith. And, perhaps, there was something more than curiosity - a gleam of higher interest, a presentiment of the truth. The next day Agrippa and his sister enter the audience-chamber of Festus with great pomp, which is soon to pale before the simple majesty of the Divine Word and its messenger.
IV. ITS WANT OF INTELLIGENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. "Behold the man!" (ver. 24; comp. John 19:5). Brought before Agrippa, as Pilate had sent Jesus to Herod (Luke 23:7). It justly seems to the statesman unreasonable to send a prisoner without stating the charges against him (ver. 27). But statesmanship got the better of fairness in the case of Pilate (Matthew 23:3). Unless rulers take care to make themselves fully acquainted with the facts, the show of fairness goes for nothing. How can a man without sympathy for conscientious convictions in religion, judge justly of a man who professes them? Here, then, worldly judgment is called to pronounce on facts which resist the judgment of the world. The hall at Caesarea is the scene of pompous worldly display, soon to be converted into the place of bearing of holy doctrine, and a judgment-scat of the Divine majesty. - J.
And after certain days King Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea.
1. The former closes the line of the Herodian house. He was the son of the Agrippa whose tragic end is related in Acts 12:20-23, and was but seventeen years of age at the time of his father's death, in A.D. 44. He did Hot succeed to the kingdom of Judaea, which was placed under the government of a procurator; but on the death of his uncle Herod, the king of Chalets, in A.D. 48, received the sovereignty of that region from Claudius, and with it the superintendence of the temple and the nomination of the high priests. Four years later he received the tetrarchies that had been governed by his great-uncles Philip and Lysanias (Luke 3:1), with the title of king. In A.D. 55 Nero increased his kingdom by adding some of the cities of Galilee (Jos. "Ant." 19:09, § 1; 20:01, § 3; 8, § 4). He lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem, and died under Trajan ( A.D. 100) at the age of seventy-three.
2. The history of Bernice, or Berenice (the name seems to have been a Macedonian form of Pherenice), reads like a horrible romance, or a page from the chronicles of the Borgias. She was the eldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I, and was married at an early age to her uncle the king of Chalets. Alliances of this nature were common in the Herodian house, and the Herodias of the Gospels passed from an incestuous marriage to an incestuous adultery (See Matthew 14:1). On his death Berenice remained for some years a widow, but dark rumours began to spread that her brother Agrippa, who had succeeded to the principality of Chalcis, and who gave her, as in the instance before us, something like queenly honours, was living with her in a yet darker form of incest, and was producing in Judaea the vices of which his father's friend, Caligula, had set so terrible an example (Sueton. "Calig." c. 24). With a view to screening herself against these suspicions, she persuaded Polemon, king of Cilicia, to take her as his queen, and to profess himself a convert to Judaism, as Azizus had done for her sister Drusilla, and accept circumcision. The ill-omened marriage did not prosper. The queen's unbridled passions once more gained the mastery. She left her husband, and he got rid at once of her and her religion. Her powers of fascination, however, were still great, and she knew how to profit by them in the hour of her country's ruin. Vespasian was attracted by her queenly dignity, and yet more by the magnificence of her queenly gifts. His son Titus took his place in her long list of lovers. She came as his mistress to Rome, and it was said that he had promised her marriage. This, however, was more than even the senate of the empire could tolerate, and Titus was compelled by the pressure of public opinion to dismiss her, but his grief in doing so was matter of notoriety. "Dimisit invitus invitam (Sueton. Titus," c. 7; Tacit, "Hist." 2:81; Jos. "Ant." 20:07, § 3). The whole story furnished Juvenal with a picture of depravity which stands almost as a pendent to that of Messalina ("Sat." 6:155-9).
I. BITTER ANTAGONISM. This is revealed in the Jews. They hated "the one Jesus whom Paul preached as having died and risen again." There are men now who hate Christianity — its principles, author, advocates, and disciples. The opposition, however, is as futile as it is wicked.
II. IDLE CURIOSITY. This is revealed in Agrippa. "I will also hear the man myself." Being a Jew, he could not have been ignorant of Paul, and now an opportunity occurred for him to see the man and hear his tale. His wish was not a wish for spiritual instruction. Multitudes now go to hear preachers from the same motive.
III. PROUD INDIFFERENCE. This is revealed in Festus. He cared nothing about "this one Jesus who was dead, and whom Paul affirmed to be alive." Religious indifferentism is the prevalent sin of Christendom. This is worse, for many reasons, than theoretic infidelity.
IV. VITAL FAITH. This is revealed in Paul.
1. Paul had a faith.
2. His faith was in Christ.
3. His faith was his very life.To it he lived, and for it he was prepared to suffer and to die. "For me to live," he said, "is Christ, and to die is gain."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
I. THE GLORY OF GOD, who sets open doors before His servants even in bonds, and knocks with His Word at palaces as well as huts.
II. THE FIDELITY OF HIS SERVANT who bears testimony to the Lord everywhere undazzled by the splendour of human greatness, and unclogged by the fetters of his own trouble.
(K. Gerok.)I. IT SHOULD DO EVERYTHING WHICH BELONGS TO ITS OFFICE.
1. In respect of accusers: to receive and listen to them patiently (vers. 15-18).
2. In respect of the accused: to hear their defence impartially, and to protect their persons against the craft and violence of their enemies (vers. 16, 18, 21).
II. IT SHOULD OMIT EVERYTHING WHICH DOES NOT BELONG TO ITS OFFICE.
1. It should assume no judgment in matters of faith.
2. It should not arbitrarily anticipate the higher judge (ver. 25), but conscientiously prepare the way.
(K. Gerok.)1. Their highest standpoint is that of civil law, as here with Festus.
2. Their judgment is depreciatory: they reckon them as belonging to the domain of superstition, and pride themselves on not understanding such questions (vers. 19-21).
3. Their sympathy is, as with Agrippa, an affair of curiosity and fashion (ver. 22).
(Lisco.)1. The precious articles of the Christian faith are to it the offspring of superstition, not worth the trouble of being accurately instructed therein (vers. 19, 20).
2. The living Head of the Church is "one Jesus" who is dead, of whose power and presence there is no trace (ver. 19).
3. The chosen servants of God are to it incomprehensible and whimsical men, of whom nothing can be made (vers. 24-27).
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