As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress.
That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”Acts 23:10-11
The Plot to Kill Paul
The next morning a group of Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty of them in the conspiracy. They went to the leading priests and elders and told them, “We have bound ourselves with an oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. So you and the high council should ask the commander to bring Paul back to the council again. Pretend you want to examine his case more fully. We will kill him on the way.”
But Paul’s nephew—his sister’s son—heard of their plan and went to the fortress and told Paul. Paul called for one of the Roman officers and said, “Take this young man to the commander. He has something important to tell him.” So the officer did, explaining, “Paul, the prisoner, called me over and asked me to bring this young man to you because he has something to tell you.”
The commander took his hand, led him aside, and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?”
Paul’s nephew told him, “Some Jews are going to ask you to bring Paul before the high council tomorrow, pretending they want to get some more information. But don’t do it! There are more than forty men hiding along the way ready to ambush him. They have vowed not to eat or drink anything until they have killed him. They are ready now, just waiting for your consent.”
“Don’t let anyone know you told me this,” the commander warned the young man.Acts 23:12-22
- Paul is now removed from Jerusalem and moved to Caesarea. Why Caesarea?
- Why not take him straight to Jerusalem now?
- Paul is now out of Jewish hands and firmly in the hands of the Roman occupying forces. Why?
- Because he has appealed to his Roman citizenship. We are at the turning point of a grand plan.
Jesus has already told Paul what is going to happen – “Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.” The next steps in the story are in line with the move to Rome. Why Caesarea? Because Caesarea was the Roman capital of Palestine. Paul was taken from Jewish jurisdiction and placed under Roman jurisdiction. That was a direct result of Paul’s appeal to Caesar. Perhaps in part Paul was aware of this and what would happen if he played his Roman citizenship card. Hence he played it as a last resort.
Why not take Paul straight to Rome?
They are! Jerusalem is landlocked and doesn’t have a port. There were no airports back then so they had to go by ship. To go by ship they had to go to Caesarea. Given Jesus’ word to Paul’s heart it is clear that the following steps will unfold in such a way as to get Paul safely from Jerusalem to Rome. But this is not the first time this prophetic word has been given. Go back to Acts 21:11 where “Agabus came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’ There you are! Isn’t that exactly what happened? None of this caught God by surprise, although it may have shocked the Romans, the Sanhedrin, the High Priest, the disciples maybe and even Paul himself. So Jesus comes and speaks a word to Paul’s heart and gives direction. The story now takes off in the direction that God has set.
Do you see how Luke is telling the story? “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the outer most parts of the earth!” When you faithfully witness to Jesus, He guides your steps and ensures you get safely to where He wants you to go. Interesting isn’t it that in Paul’s case his outer most parts of the earth were the innermost part of the Empire – the centre of Rome.
Oh the intrigue of this story now. It would make a good plot for an action movie. Plot and counter plot. Let me spell out the bare bones:
- A group of forty Jews make an oath.
- and what an oath – no food or drink until Paul is dead.
- These Jews enlist the help of the Sanhedrin
- to pretend they want to examine Paul’s case more fully. Yeah right!
- and clearly the Sanhedrin agreed.
- Paul’s nephew hears of the plot.
- The nephew tells Paul.
- Paul tells an officer.
- The officer takes Paul’s nephew to the Tribune.
- Paul’s nephew tells the Tribune of the plot.
- The Tribune tells him to tell no-one else.
The Commander is careful to keep this information under wraps. He doesn’t even let the officer hear the details. It’s on “a need to know basis”. Like a good military man he doesn’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.
- As Ross wrote in response: Since they had sworn not to eat or drink until Paul had been killed I guess they must have died from hunger and thirst or was an oath easily reneged on? Where was Gamaliel in all of this?
Now the Sanhedrin, in union with the plotters must have arranged an official hearing in the Temple Court. As it was some distance from where Paul as being held in the Anatolia Tower (the fort of the Roman troops) there were plenty of places to ambush Paul and his escort. They didn’t think the Romans would send Paul over on his own did they? Not likely, given all the disturbance over this man. Since he has appealed to his Roman citizenship, the Roman guards would be sent to protect him up to the Temple Court. These forty Jewish plotters must have been prepared to take on the Roman guards. They were prepared to do anything, even die of thirst and starvation. To answer Ross’ question I am sure this oath wasn’t made to God, in which case they would justify whimping out if need be.
Notice how Luke is telling the story – filled with intrigue. Luke didn’t need to give us the details of Acts 23:12-22. He could have just continued from verse 23. But of course Luke always shares with us what is happening on the opposition’s side of the fence as well. Have you realized that? Luke includes a plot line informing us of what the opposition are doing. He did it in Gospel and he tracks the same plot line in Acts as well.
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.Einstein
If your plans don’t generate opposition, you may have set your sights too low.Rick Godwin
If you have no opposition in the place you serve, you’re serving in the wrong place.G. Campbell Morgan
Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. The key is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens.Ian Vail
Show compassion to others not because of who they are, but because of who you are!Ian Vail