Paul was ordered to appear before the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Jewish Court) by the commander of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem.
Acts 23:1-3 When Paul stood in front of the Sanhedrin he knew that he had not broken any Jewish law. Ananias, the high priest, was known for his cruelty so it was not surprising that he ordered some of those in the court to strike Paul on the mouth. To strike someone before they had been found guilty was against the Jewish law. Paul compares Ananias to a whitewashed wall meaning that he was a hypocrite. Ananias had accused Paul of breaking the Jewish law but it was actually Ananias himself that had broken the law by commanding others to strike Paul.
Acts 23:4-5 Paul apologised for insulting Ananias when he realised that he was the high priest as it was against the Jewish law to criticise him. Ananias had not behaved like a *high priest so it was not surprising that Paul had not realised who he was. Ananias was a cruel man who supported the Romans against his own people.
Acts 23:6-9 There were both Pharisees and Sadducees in the Sanhedrin. They were all part of the Jewish Court but they had very different beliefs. The Pharisees believed in angels, spirits and resurrection but the Sadducees did not. By announcing that he was a Pharisee and believed in the resurrection Paul was able to divide the court. In this way he had the support of the Pharisees which caused an argument to arise.
Acts 23:10-11 The commander of the garrison was in charge of keeping the peace. When he realised that Paul was at the centre of the argument he took him to safety as he knew that Paul was also a Roman citizen and had a right to be protected. During that night Paul received a message of support from Jesus.
Acts 23:12-13 More than 40 Jews made a vow to kill Paul. Some Bible students think that these were zealots or ‘sicarii’ (1st century terrorists for hire). They may have been encouraged by Ananias and the plot was certainly welcomed by the chief priests and elders as they must have realised that they did not have a strong case against Paul.
Acts 23:16-22 Paul was under house arrest which meant that although he could not go out of the fort he was allowed visitors. Paul’s nephew, who had heard about the plot to kill Paul, was brave enough to visit his uncle and tell both Paul and the commander about the plot. We know that Paul’s nephew was young and was probably about 13 or 14 years old. The Greek word for ‘young man’ (Acts 23:17) has that meaning. The commander knew that Paul was a Roman citizen so it was important that he was protected. The commander ordered 470 soldiers to prepare themselves to travel as a guard for Paul as he was taken to Governor Felix in Caesarea under cover of night. This was a large group of soldiers and probably nearly half of the soldiers stationed at the Jerusalem garrison.
Acts 23:26-30 Through the letter he sent we learn that the name of the commander was Claudias Lysias and that he viewed Felix, the governor of Judea, as a very important man, Lysias calls Felix ‘most excellent.’ In the letter Lysias claimed that he had done everything in his power to protect a Roman citizen. In fact Lysias did not discover that Paul was a Roman citizen until his men had nearly whipped Paul. Nor did Lysias mention that he put Paul in chains probably because he did not want to get into trouble. Lysias was not prepared to take responsibility for Paul’s safety if he stayed in Jerusalem and was happy to hand the problem over to Felix.
Acts 23:31-35 The first part of the journey was the most dangerous part as it was rocky and hilly and there were a number of places suitable for an ambush. Antipatris was nearly 64 kilometres (40 miles) away from Jerusalem. All the soldiers went to Antipatris with Paul but the foot soldiers then returned to Jerusalem. Paul and the other soldiers continued their journey to Caesarea. The distance from Antipatris to Caesarea was about 40 kilometres (25 miles) and was flatter countryside with less danger. Because Felix was the *governor of Judea, he was now responsible for Paul. Usually, a prisoner had his trial in the province where the crime had taken place but sometimes the governor could send the prisoner to that prisoner’s own province. However, Felix decided to have Paul’s trial in Judea so Paul had to wait until the Jewish leaders arrived. Felix lived in a magnificent palace built by Herod the Great, a previous king of Judea. Paul was kept as a prisoner in the palace but was not ill-treated.