Online Bible Commentary
Away with Him
Acts 21:33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, "Away with him!" 37 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?" He replied, "Can you speak Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?" 39 But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people." (NKJV)
The time is 57 A.D. Paul and his travel party, including Luke, has returned to Jerusalem after completing his third and final missionary journey. Paul’s reputation as an opponent of Judaism has grown after his three missionary journeys.
Paul is recognized in the temple and dragged out by the Jews. The Jews are in the process of beating him when he is rescued by Roman soldiers stationed at the garrison, a fortress on the temple mount. The soldiers are commanded by Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26).
After Paul was secured by the Roman soldiers, the commander ordered him “to be bound with two chains”, likely for his safety (v. 33a). Once Paul was secured the commander asked “who he was and what he had done” (v. 33b). The out of control mob responded with differing complaints (v. 34a). Since the commander could not get a straight answer from the mob, he ordered that Paul be taken to “the barracks” (v. 34b).
“The barracks” were the headquarters of the fortress called Antonia which was located on the temple mount, northwest of the temple. It was connected to the temple by two flights of stairs.
Meanwhile the mob continued to press forward and when Paul reached the stairs the soldiers had to carry him up the steps in order to keep him safe (v. 35). The mob cried out "Away with him" (v. 36)!
“As Paul was about to be led into the barracks” he asked the commander "May I speak to you" (v. 37a)? The commander was surprised that Paul spoke Greek (v. 37b).
The commander had assumed that Paul was an Egyptian who, some three years earlier, had “stirred up a rebellion” in Jerusalem. This Egyptian, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, was a self declared prophet who gathered “four thousand assassins” at the Mount of Olives to attack Jerusalem (v. 38a).
They were called assassins because they would mingle in the crowds, striking down their opponents with small daggers hidden under their cloaks. The Roman soldiers routed the group, driving them “out into the wilderness” (v. 38b).
But Paul corrected the commander by informing him that he was “a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia” (v. 39a). Tarsus was “no mean city”, a very important city of culture, education, and commerce (v. 39b).
Paul identified himself as a Jew, not a Roman, perhaps appealing to the Jews in the mob. He then asked the commander if he could speak directly to the mob (v. 39c).
So the Jews continue to persecute Paul, and the Christian movement. The Jewish mob shouted “away with him”, and tried to kill him on the spot. They wished to murder Christians, simply because they believed that their religion was being threatened.
Persecution of Christians still exists today. We will continue to be persecuted until Christ returns. Our charge is to continue to tell the good news of Christ, the Gospel, until He returns in all His Glory.