Yesterday we saw the Roman commander call an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin in an attempt to get to the bottom of this riot that has now been going for several days. However, his plan did not work because the Sanhedrin desperately wanted to be rid of Paul. In fact, they were so desperate that they were willing to put aside the presumption of innocence granted under the Law and they were willing to put aside the procedures of the Sanhedrin itself. Paul saw this and realizing that there was going to be no justice in this court lights a theological fuse by pitting the Pharisees and the Sadducees against each other. This, however, caused another violent outburst, which in turn caused the Roman commander to have to forcefully extract Paul from this situation. And now what we are going to see today is group of Jewish men, probably leaders in the community, join together in a plot to kill Paul, with the blessing of “the chief priests and elders.”
The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.”—23:12-15
More than 40 Jews formed a conspiracy, but they are not identified. They were not part of the chief priests and elders. The oath-takers involved the Jewish leaders by approaching them and formalizing their oath. The conspirators suggested an illegal and sinister deception that the religious leaders embraced. They were to get the commander to move Paul to a less secure place on the pretense of another, closer, examination. And they would kill Paul on the way. In essence, the conspirators were offering the leaders plausible deniability. The leaders quickly agreed, which demonstrates their treachery.
But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.
Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” So he took him to the commander.
The centurion said, “Paul, the prisoner, sent for me and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
He said: “Some Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.”
The commander dismissed the young man with this warning: “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.”
Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide horses for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.”
He wrote a letter as follows:—23:16-25
We are not told how news of the plot got out, but fortunately it came to the ears of Paul’s nephew. The boy was likely not viewed as a threat and thus was allowed access to the barracks. When sent by Paul to the commander, the boy was taken aside privately. The commander sensed the urgency of the matter by the unusual nature of the request. The commander’s actions suggest that the information regarding the conspiracy against Paul was welcomed. The commander sent Paul to Governor Felix with 470 men. That number was calculated to overwhelm a surprise attack of any legitimate size (not just 40-plus conspirators). The commander was in enough trouble for nearly whipping a Roman citizen, but if Paul were to die in custody, it would have been devastating to the commander’s career and possibly his life. The unit was comprised of infantry, cavalry and a group of spearman (men carrying lances). The provision of mounts enabled quick travel and further fortified the mission to get Paul to Caesarea quickly. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow as we see the letter this Roman commander wrote to his immediate superior and as we also see Paul on trial before Governor Felix.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Job 12-15, 1 Corinthians 15:29-58, Psalm 39:1-13 and Proverbs 21:30-31
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