After two years - That is, from the time that Paul came prisoner to Caesarea.
Porcius Festus - This man was put into the government of Judea about a.d. 60, the sixth or seventh year of Nero. In the succeeding chapter we shall see the part that he took in the affairs of St. Paul.
Willing to show the Jews a pleasure - As he had not got the money which he expected, he hoped to be able to prevent the complaints of the Jews against his government, by leaving Paul, in some measure, in their hands. For it was customary for governors, etc., when they left, or were removed from a particular district or province, to do some public, beneficent act, in order to make themselves popular. But Felix gained nothing by this: the Jews pursued him with their complaints against his administration, even to the throne of the emperor. Josephus states the matter thus: "Now when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix, by Nero, the principal of the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea went up to Rome, to accuse Felix. And he certainly would have been brought to punishment, had not Nero yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Pallas, who was at that time in the highest reputation with the emperor." - Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 9. Thus, like the dog in the fable, by snatching at the shadow, he lost the substance. He hoped for money from the apostle, and got none; he sought to conciliate the friendship of the Jews, and miscarried. Honesty is the best policy: he that fears God need fear nothing else. Justice and truth never deceive their possessor.
But after two years - Paul was unjustly detained during all this time. The hope of Felix seems to have been to weary his patience, and induce him to purchase his freedom.
Came into Felix‘ room - As governor.
And Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure - Desirous of pleasing them, even at the expense of justice, This shows the principle on which he acted.
Left Paul bound - Left him in custody to the charge of his successor. His object in this was to conciliate the Jews; that is, to secure their favor, and to prevent them, if possible, from accusing him for the evils of his administration before the emperor. The account which Luke gives here coincides remarkably with what Josephus has given. He says that Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero. He does not, indeed, mention Paul, or say that Felix sought to conciliate the favor of the Jews, but he gives such an account as to make the statement by Luke perfectly consistent with his character while in office. He informs us that Felix was unpopular, and that there was reason to apprehend that the Jews would accuse him before the emperor; and, therefore, the statement in the Acts that he would be willing to show the Jews a favor, is in perfect keeping with his character and circumstances, and is one of those undesigned coincidences which show that the author of the Acts was fully acquainted with the circumstances of the time and that his history is true.
The account in Josephus is, that “when Porcius Festus was sent as successor to Felix by Nero, the principal inhabitants of Caesarea went up to Rome to accuse Felix; and he had been certainly brought to punishment unless Nero had yielded to the importunate solicitations of his brother Palias, who was at that time had in the greatest honor by him” (Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 9). The plan of Felix, therefore, in suppressing the enmity of the Jews, and conciliating their favor by injustice to Paul, did not succeed, and is one of those instances, so numerous in the world, where a man gains nothing by wickedness. He sought money from Paul by iniquity, and failed; he sought by injustice to obtain the favor of the Jews, and failed in that also. And the inference from the whole transaction is, that “honesty is the best policy,” and that men in any office should pursue a course of firm, constant, and undeviating integrity.
In his speech, Tertullus charged Paul with crimes which, if proved, would have resulted in his conviction for high treason against the government. “We have found this man a pestilent fellow,” declared the orator, “and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple.” Tertullus then stated that Lysias, the commandant of the garrison at Jerusalem, had violently taken Paul from the Jews when they were about to judge him by their ecclesiastical law, and had thus forced them to bring the matter before Felix. These statements were made with the design of inducing the procurator to deliver Paul over to the Jewish court. All the charges were vehemently supported by the Jews present, who made no effort to conceal their hatred of the prisoner. AA 420.1
Felix had sufficient penetration to read the disposition and character of Paul's accusers. He knew from what motive they had flattered him, and he saw also that they had failed to substantiate their charges against Paul. Turning to the accused, he beckoned to him to answer for himself. Paul wasted no words in compliments, but simply stated that he could the more cheerfully defend himself before Felix, since the latter had been so long a procurator, and therefore had so good an understanding of the laws and customs of the Jews. Referring to the charges brought against him, he plainly showed that not one of them was true. He declared that he had caused no disturbance in any part of Jerusalem, nor had he profaned the sanctuary. “They neither found me in the temple disputing with any man,” he said, “neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.” AA 420.2
While confessing that “after the way which they call heresy” he had worshiped the God of his fathers, he asserted that he had always believed “all things which are written in the law and in the prophets;” and that in harmony with the plain teaching of the Scriptures, he held the faith of the resurrection of the dead. And he further declared that the ruling purpose of his life was to “have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.” AA 421.1Read in context »
2, 3. Felix Base and Contemptible—Tertullus here descended to barefaced falsehood. The character of Felix was base and contemptible.... 6BC 1066.1
An example of the unbridled licentiousness that stained his character is seen in his alliance with Drusilla, which was consummated about this time. Through the deceptive arts of Simon Magus, a Cyprian sorcerer, Felix had induced this princess to leave her husband and to become his wife. Drusilla was young and beautiful, and, moreover, a Jewess. She was devotedly attached to her husband, who had made a great sacrifice to obtain her hand. There was little indeed to induce her to forgo her strongest prejudices and to bring upon herself the abhorrence of her nation for the sake of forming an adulterous connection with a cruel and elderly profligate. Yet the satanic devices of the conjurer and the betrayer succeeded, and Felix accomplished his purpose (Sketches from the Life of Paul, 235, 236). 6BC 1066.2Read in context »
This chapter is based on Acts 24.
Five days after Paul's arrival at Caesarea his accusers came from Jerusalem, accompanied by Tertullus, an orator whom they had engaged as their counsel. The case was granted a speedy hearing. Paul was brought before the assembly, and Tertullus “began to accuse him.” Judging that flattery would have more influence upon the Roman governor than the simple statements of truth and justice, the wily orator began his speech by praising Felix: “Seeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worthy deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness.” AA 419.1Read in context »