Notes and References

ACTS 21 n 22

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Acts of the Apostles

A Bible Study

Acts Chapter 21 n 22


Now remember the whole purpose of Paul's visit to Jerusalem was to bring a large gift from the Gentile churches to the "poor saints". From Acts 21:24, Paul must demonstrate that he keeps the law and walks orderly in order to appease the Jews and fend off accusation. In Acts 18:18 Paul "shaved his head for he had a vow". I did not delve into that scripture verse then because I knew we would address it in this chapter. Numbers 6:1-21 is a complete description of the Nazarite vow.

Nazarite Vow Synopsis from William Barclay:
Four men were in the middle of observing the Nazarite vow. This was a vow taken in gratitude for some special blessing from the hand of God. It involved abstention from meat and wine for thirty days, during which the hair had to be allowed to grow. It seems that sometimes at least the last seven days had to be spent entirely in the Temple courts. At the end certain offerings had to be brought--a year old lamb for a sin-offering, a ram for a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil and a meat offering and a drink offering (wine). Finally, the hair had to be shorn and burned on the altar with the sacrifice. It is obvious that this was a costly business. Work had to be given up and all the elements of the sacrifice had to be bought. It was quite beyond the resources of many who would have wished to undertake it. So it was considered an act of piety for some wealthier person to defray the expenses of someone taking the vow. That was what Paul was asked to do in the case of these four men and he consented. By so doing he could demonstrate so that all could see it that he was himself an observer of the Law.

Once complete they may drink wine or strong drink and eat meat.

1 Corinthians 9:20
20And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law

Paul kept the law in order to teach in the synagogues. He had to be a Jew to reach the Jews. There was no faking this one. Remember the gospel went to the Jew first then the Gentiles. Rom 1:16

Acts 21:26-40
26Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
27And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
28Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
29(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

Passover, Pentecost or Feast of Weeks, and Tabernacles were required of the Jews to attend. There was a 15 mile exception, but most foreign Jews attended. We see here there were Jews from Asia in attendance who recognized Paul. In Acts 2, we studied all the languages present at that Pentecost day, some 30 years previous.

From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary FESTIVALS
Pentecost there was to be a holy convocation, on which no manner of work was to be done; all the able-bodied men of the congregation were to be present (unless legally precluded) at the sanctuary; and a special sacrifice was to be offered (Leviticus 23:15-22; Numbers 28:26-31).

Observance, Postexilic. From Acts (Acts 2:9-11) we infer that, perhaps more than to any other great festival, the Jews came from distant countries to Jerusalem.

International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia PENTECOST
It was a festival of good cheer, a day of joy. Free-will offerings were to be made to the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:10), and it was to be marked by a liberal spirit toward the Levite, the stranger, and orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 16:11,14).

How fitting that the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost, the day of free will gifts. Often called the "gift" of the Holy Spirit, Acts 11:17, this gift was freely given by the One on the day of gifts. Not only the gift of the Holy Spirit, but through this gift came the gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17), the gift of justification (Rom 5:16), and the gift of everlasting life (Rom 6:23)

Acts 21
30And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

Adam Clarke's Commentary Acts 21:30
[They took Paul] They tumultuously seized on him; and drew him out of the temple, out of the court of the Israelites, where-he was worshipping: and-the doors were shut; the doors of the court of the Gentiles, probably to prevent Paul from getting any succour from his friends in the city; for their whole proceedings show that they purposed to murder him: they brought him out of the court of the Israelites, that court being peculiarly holy, that it might not be defiled by his blood; and they shut the court of the Gentiles, that they might have the opportunity unmolested of killing him in that place; for the court of the Gentiles was reckoned to be less holy than than that of the Israelites.

Acts 21
31And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

This is the second time the word "all" is used, referring to Jerusalem. The crowd must have been in the tens of thousands, a throng of humanity about to kill Paul. This is also again a witness against the Jews for rejecting Jesus Christ as we shall see in the next chapter.

Acts 21
32Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
33Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.
34And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.
35And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.
36For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
37And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?
38Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

Adam Clarke's Commentary Acts 21:38
The history to which Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, refers is taken from Josephus, Ant. lib. 20 cap. 7, sec. 6, and War, lib. 2 cap. 13, sec. 5, and is in substance as follows: An Egyptian, whose name is not known, pretended to be a prophet, and told his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would fall down before them, if they would assist him in making an attack on the city. He had address enough to raise a rabble of 30,000 men, and with these advanced as far as the Mount of Olives; but Felix, the Roman governor, came suddenly upon him, with a large body of Roman troops, both infantry and cavalry: the mob was speedily dispersed, four hundred killed, two hundred taken prisoners, and the Egyptian himself, with some of his most faithful friends, escaped; of whom no account was ever afterwards heard.

Acts 21
39But 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.
40And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,


Acts 22
1Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you.
2(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
3I 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.
4And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
5As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.
6And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.
7And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
8And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
9And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
10And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.
11And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.
12And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
13Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
14And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
15For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
16And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
17And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
18And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
19And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
20And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
21And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
22And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

Ok, now we know why Paul did not stay in Jerusalem but 15 days and saw only the apostles Peter and briefly James (the brother of our Lord) during that time (Gal 1:19) some 20-21 years ago and was sent to the Gentiles. Also we know that the men did not hear the voice, that were with Paul on the road to Damascus, but they did see the light from heaven.

Acts 22
23And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,

The Jews not only reject the gospel, but show contempt for it. Judgment for Jerusalem is only 9 years away. I cannot help but imagine chimpanzees throwing a fit as a group or more specifically like scenes from Planet of the Apes!

Acts 22
24The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.
25And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?
26When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
27Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
28And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
29Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.
30On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.

Paul's Roman citizenship holds sure and offers him benefits with his arrest.

  • He was not allowed to be scourged or whipped uncondemned
  • Due process of law
  • Face his accusers

Jesus Christ bore our condemnation on the cross, for the accusations against us were true. Through his sacrifice and gift of righteousness, we will have everlasting life.