Online Bible Commentary
An Extreme Reaction
Acts 25:22 Then Agrippa said to Festus, "I also would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you shall hear him." 23 So the next day, when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp, and had entered the auditorium with the commanders and the prominent men of the city, at Festus' command Paul was brought in. 24 And Festus said: "King Agrippa and all the men who are here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole assembly of the Jews petitioned me, both at Jerusalem and here, crying out that he was not fit to live any longer. 25 But when I found that he had committed nothing deserving of death, and that he himself had appealed to Augustus, I decided to send him. 26 I have nothing certain to write to my lord concerning him. Therefore I have brought him out before you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that after the examination has taken place I may have something to write. 27 For it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him." (NKJV)
The time is 59 A.D. Paul has been kept in confinement by the governor in Caesarea for two years as a result of bogus charges filed against him by the Jews in Jerusalem. Caesarea was the political center for the Roman province of Syria, of which Judea was a part.
Paul is being held in light chains in Herod’s Palace. He has not been found guilty of any crimes, to the dismay of the Jews in Jerusalem who want him dead for promoting Christianity.
Felix was the governor of Syria from 53 to 59 A.D., when the Roman Emperor Nero replaced him with Porcius Festus. Paul was given a trial by Felix but Felix withheld his ruling while seeking a bribe from Paul. When Felix left office he left the matter for Festus to resolve.
Now King Herod Agrippa II has come to greet the new governor Festus. Four years earlier, in 55 A.D, Emperor Nero expanded Agrippa’s reign to encompass northern Galilee.
Agrippa is accompanied to Caesarea by his mistress, and sister, Bernice. This relationship caused much unrest in Rome and, finally, Agrippa sent Bernice away.
Agrippa was a Jew, a close friend with the Jewish historian Josephus, and was in charge of appointing Jewish high priests. So it was a smart move for Festus to get him involved with the Jews’ case against Paul.
In this passage, Agrippa, after being briefed on Paul’s situation, has agreed to hear Paul’s testimony “tomorrow” (v. 22). So the next day Agrippa and Bernice make a grand entrance into the “auditorium” in Herod’s palace amidst great pomp and circumstance (v. 23a). Present are Festus, his commanders, and “the prominent men of the city” (v. 23b).
Festus immediately summons Paul and begins the hearing (v. 23c). Festus introduces Paul as the man whom “the whole assembly of the Jews”, both in Jerusalem and Caesarea, had cried out “that he was not fit to live any longer” (v. 24).
Festus continues by stating that he has determined that Paul is not guilty (v. 25a). However, when Paul appealed to the emperor, Festus agreed to send him to Rome (v. 25b). The reference to “Augustus” was a reference to the first Roman Emperor. Roman Emperors often adopted the names of “Augustus” and “Caesar”, a reference to Julius Caesar. The current emperor was Nero.
However, Festus does not know what to write to Nero concerning the charges against Paul (v. 26a). For that reason he has asked for the hearing with Agrippa, “so that…I may have something to write for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner and not to specify the charges against him” (vv. 26b-27).
So Paul’s accusers have deemed that he is “not fit to live.” This is a very serious charge, which is certainly not justified. This is an extreme reaction.
Unfortunately, Christians often meet an extreme reaction when standing up for the Gospel. This should not deter us. Just as Paul, we should continue to share the Gospel with those whom the Lord puts in our path.