He - commanded - all their council to appear - Instead of ελθειν, to come, which we translate, to appear, συνελθειν, to assemble, or meet together, is the reading of ACE, nearly twenty others, the Ethiopic, Arabic, Vulgate, Chrysostom, and Theophylact: this reading Griesbach has received into the text; and it is most probably the true one: as the chief captain wished to know the certainty of the matter, he desired the Jewish council, or Sanhedrin, to assemble, and examine the business thoroughly, that he might know of what the apostle was accused; as the law would not permit him to proceed against a Roman in any judicial way, but on the clearest evidence; and, as he understood that the cause of their enmity was something that concerned their religion, he considered the Sanhedrin to be the most proper judge, and therefore commanded them to assemble; and there is no doubt that he himself, and a sufficient number of soldiers, took care to attend, as the person of Paul could not be safe in the hands of persons so prejudiced, unprincipled, and enraged.
This chapter should end with the twenty-ninth verse, and the following should begin with the thirtieth; this is the most natural division, and is followed by some of the most correct editions of the original text.
On the morrow - After he had arrested Paul. Paul was still a prisoner; and if suffered to go at liberty among the Jews, his life would have been in danger.
And commanded the chief priests - Summoned a meeting of the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the nation. He did this, as he was prevented from scourging Paul, in order to know what he had done, and that he might learn from the Jews themselves the nature of the charge against him. This was necessary for the safety of Paul and for the ends of justice. This should have been done without any attempt to torture him in order to extort a confession.
And brought Paul down - From the elevated castle of Antonia. The council assembled commonly in the house of the high priest.
And set him before them - He brought the prisoner to their bar, that they might have have an opportunity to accuse him, and that thus the chief captain might learn the real nature of the charge against him.
In the midst of the tumult the apostle was calm and self-possessed. His mind was stayed upon God, and he knew that angels of heaven were about him. He felt unwilling to leave the temple without making an effort to set the truth before his countrymen. As he was about to be led into the castle he said to the chief captain, “May I speak unto thee?” Lysias responded, “Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?” In reply Paul said, “I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.” AA 408.1
The request was granted, and “Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people.” The gesture attracted their attention, while his bearing commanded respect. “And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying, Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you.” At the sound of the familiar Hebrew words, “they kept the more silence,” and in the universal hush he continued: AA 408.2
“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” None could deny the apostle's statements, as the facts that he referred to were well known to many who were still living in Jerusalem. He then spoke of his former zeal in persecuting the disciples of Christ, even unto death; and he narrated the circumstances of his conversion, telling his hearers how his own proud heart had been led to bow to the crucified Nazarene. Had he attempted to enter into argument with his opponents, they would have stubbornly refused to listen to his words; but the relation of his experience was attended with a convincing power that for the time seemed to soften and subdue their hearts. AA 409.1Read in context »