Yesterday we saw Paul give his impassioned plea to the crowd, as a way to quell their anger and their violence. And we read yesterday that God had clearly directed Paul to go the Gentiles, but as we are going to see today this caused massive problems with an already riotous mob.
The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air,—22:22-23
At the mention of Gentiles, the crowd became incensed. It is possible that the crowd leapt to the conclusion that this confirmed the likelihood that a Gentile had been brought into the Temple. However, the response is similar to that of the crowd that was offended when Jesus mentioned that God’s work included Gentiles (Luke 4:24-29), so we cannot say for certain why they were so angry. The crowds frenzy is reminiscent of traditional gestures of indignation. While they were shouting, they were casting off their cloaks and throwing dust in the air. This may be similar to shaking dust off one’s feet, though more likely, Luke is portraying the crowd being overcome by their rage and then displaying it without much thought.
the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.—22:24-29
In the face of chaos, the commander sought to examine Paul, which involved flogging him to get the truth. The traditional posture for a victim of flogging was to be stretched out, exposing the back for whipping. The procedure, though brutal, was legal for noncitizens, but only convicted citizens were flogged. When Paul asserted the privilege of Roman citizenship, the response was near panic. Often Roman soldiers were granted citizenship on retirement. Under the reign of Emperor Claudius, the practice of selling citizenship was rampant. Since Paul was born a Roman citizen, his parents or grandparents had received this privilege (exactly how is unknown). Binding a Roman citizen was a big problem. On learning of his status, the examiners withdrew immediately, which means that the Roman commander must pursue other means of investigation. And that is what we are going to see tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Job 4-7, 1 Corinthians 14:18-40, Psalm 37:30-40 and Proverbs 21:27
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