The Agora
Bible Commentary

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Acts 25

Act 25:1

Act 25: "After two years of miserable waiting in the Caesarea prison, and with the change of authority from Felix to Festus, the apostle Paul faces another trial. It is to be a dramatic moment, as Paul appeals to the highest court in the empire. [1] Paul's appeal to Caesar: vv 1-12). [2] Agrippa desires to hear Paul's case: vv 13-22. [3] Before Agrippa, Bernice and Festus: vv 23-27. [4] Paul's defence before Agrippa: 26:1-32.

"The chronology suggests that these events were about AD 59-60 in Caesarea. Porcius Festus died in AD 62. Paul was then about 53-54 years old. The drama of the times is recorded in Act 25:10. His appearance at Caesar's judgment commenced at Caesarea (how appropriate, for Festus represented Caesar!). The literal text has 'I am standing...' He was already standing, and would continue to stand before Caesar until, at the last, judgment would be given. That would require him ultimately to appear in Rome" (GEM).

Act 25:2

THE JEWISH LEADERS: Quite possibly the whole of the Sanhedrin.

Act 25:4

The shrewd Festus sees through their subterfuge.

Act 25:7

WHICH THEY COULD NOT PROVE: That's the problem, when you have no witnesses nor evidence!

Act 25:9

FESTUS, WISHING TO DO THE JEWS A FAVOR: Thus Festus could diplomatically get rid of his problem -- and keep the powerful Sanhedrin happy.

Act 25:11

I APPEAL TO CAESAR!: This was the solemn and guaranteed right of any Roman citizen: to appeal to the highest court in the world. Evidently, Paul now feels this is the only way he can reach Rome.

Act 25:13

AGRIPPA: The only son of Agrippa I and Cypros, he was the last of the royal Herodian line. Marcus Julius Agrippa, as he was named, received a royal education at Rome in the palace of the emperor. Being only 17 when his father died in AD 44, he was considered too young to rule over the difficult kingdom of the Jews. Claudius sent Cuspius Fadus as procurator and thus restored the land of the Jews to a Roman province. In the meantime, the youth was useful to his countrymen at Rome through his influence at the court.

When his uncle, Herod of Chalcis, died (AD 48), Claudius conferred on Agrippa the little province of Chalcis with the oversight of the temple and the right to appoint the high priest. This latter right he exercised from time to time down to AD 66, but his impulsive appointments offended the Jews. Agrippa continued to reside in Rome, for the most part at least, until AD 53, when Claudius, in exchange for Chalcis, bestowed on him the larger tetrarchies which had formerly been held by Lysanias and Herod Philip. Later, Nero added important parts of Galilee and Perea, including Tiberias, Tarichea, and the lands belonging to them. The title of king was permitted.

Agrippa's private life was blighted by scandal. His sister Bernice, widow of Herod of Chalcis, moved to his house in AD 48 and soon had the weak man in her control. Their incestuous relationship was commonly discussed in Rome as well as among the Jews. To stop the report, Bernice married Polemon of Cilicia, but soon returned to her brother and apparently resumed the old relations.

The public policy of his reign reflected complete dependence upon Rome. He provided auxiliary troops in the Parthian campaign of AD 54. When the new procurator Festus arrived in Palestine, he and Bernice hastened with great pomp to offer him a welcome (Acts 25:13,23). His coins, almost without exception, bore the names and images of the reigning emperor (Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian). He seems to have been more of a visitor at Jerusalem than a resident. His gestures toward Jewish law were less extravagant than his father's and proved less convincing to the people.

However, Agrippa did seek to keep on good terms with Judaism. His brothers-in-law, Azizus of Emesa and Polemon of Cilicia, were required to be circumcised. Questions of law were put by the king directly or indirectly to Rabbi Elieser. Even Bernice took a vow in Jerusalem, shaving her head and going barefoot. But the general, undisguised mood was one of indifference. Rather than please the Jews by quick condemnation of Paul, as his father would likely have done, he indulged his curiosity with a hearing (Acts 26:1). Then admitting the force of Paul's argument, he straightway dismissed it (Acts 26:28). His interest was in external matters. He imported wood from Lebanon to support the temple when its foundations began to sink, allowed the psalm-singing Levites to wear the linen garments of the priests, and paved Jerusalem with marble. But he had no reputation for personal piety.

When in AD 66 the revolution broke out, Agrippa earnestly warned the nation against revolt. When the peace party was defeated, Agrippa stood unflinchingly loyal to Rome, even though much of his territory joined the rebellion. He entertained the Roman general Vespasian magnificently in Caesarea Philippi, fought on the Roman side, was wounded at the siege of Gamala, became a companion of Titus (to whom the war had been entrusted), and almost certainly joined in the festive celebration at Caesarea Philippi to rejoice over the destruction of the Jews in the war. His loyalty to Rome was rewarded by additions to his territory. But he and Bernice resided in Rome, where he died in the reign of Trajan in AD 100 without heir. His Kingdom was undoubtedly incorporated in the province of Syria.

BERNICE: The oldest daughter of Herod Agrippa I (Jos Ant 18:5:4). She was born in AD 28 and was early married to Marcus, the son of Alexander (Jos Ant 19:5:1). After his death, Bernice was given by Agrippa to his brother Herod, king of Chalcis. To this union two sons were born (Jos Ant 18:5:4). When Herod of Chalcis died in AD 48, she "lived a widow a long while" and was assumed to have been involved in incestuous relations with her brother Agrippa II (Jos Ant 20:7:3) with whom she appears in the book of Acts 25:13,23; 26:30. "She persuaded Polemo, who was king of Cilicia, to be circumcised and to marry her" (Jos Ant 20:7:3), but soon left him and returned to her brother. Eventually she came into contact with the Roman rulers Vespasian and Titus, to both of whom she became a mistress, according to the historian Tacitus. She was famous as a great beauty, but infamous as an unchaste harlot.

Act 25:15

CONDEMNED: Gr "dike" = a decision in a court case, but only one of its four NT occurrences carries precisely that meaning -- the chief priest pressing Festus for a decision against Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 25:15). In the other instances the ref is to God's judgment against wickedness -- Sodom and Gomorrah suffering the "vengeance" of eternal fire (Jude 1:7), the enemies of the faithful being "punished" (suffering judgment) with everlasting destruction from the Lord's presence (2Th 1:9), and the pagan assessment of Paul with a viper fastening on his wrist: "vengeance (of the gods) suffers him not to live" (Acts 28:4).

Act 25:19

RELIGION: Note, of course, that Agrippa was nominally Jewish.

Act 25:23

This was not, strictly speaking, a trial -- since Festus and Herod Agrippa lacked the necessary authority -- but more in the nature of an entertainment.

AGRIPPA AND BERNICE CAME WITH GREAT POMP: These two children of the first Herod Agrippa displayed their pride and pomp in the very city where their father had been ignominiously eaten by worms because he failed to give glory to God (Act 12:23).

Previous Index Next