Acts 21:31
And as they went about to kill him, tidings came to the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
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(31) The chief captain of the band.—On the word “band,” and its relation to the Latin “cohort,” see Notes on Acts 10:1; Matthew 27:27. On the word for “chief captain” (literally, chiliarch, or “captain of a thousand men,” the cohort being the sixth part of the legion, which consisted of 6, 000), see Note on Matthew 8:29. They were stationed in the tower known as Antonia, built by Herod the Great, and named in honour of the Triumvir, which stood on the north-west side of the Temple area, on a rock, with a turret at each corner, and two flights of stairs leading to the arcades on the northern and western sides of the Temple. The Roman garrison was obviously stationed there to command the crowds of pilgrims, and was likely to be on the alert at a time like the Pentecost Feast. The Procurator Felix, however, was for the time at Cæsarea. The next verse shows that their appearance was sufficient at once to strike some kind of awe into the turbulent mob. Once again the Apostle owed his safety from violence to the interposition of the civil power, (See Notes on Acts 18:14-17.) The “beating” would seem to have been rough treatment with the fists rather than any regular punishment.

Acts 21:31-36. And as they went about to kill him — It was a rule among the Jews, that any uncircumcised person who came within the separating wall, mentioned above, might be stoned to death without any further process. And they seemed to think Paul, who, as they supposed, had brought such in thither, deserved no better treatment. Tidings came unto the chief captain of the band — Greek, τω χιλιαρχω της σπειρης, to the tribune of the cohort, called Lysias. A cohort, or detachment of soldiers, belonging to the Roman legion which lodged in the adjacent castle of Antonia, were stationed on feast days near the temple, to prevent disorders. It is evident Lysias himself was not present when the tumult began. Probably he was the oldest Roman tribune then at Jerusalem, and, as such, was the commanding officer of the legion quartered at the castle. Who immediately took soldiers, &c. — And ran down unto them, namely, to suppress the riot, knowing how much it was his concern to check such proceedings. And when they saw the chief captain and soldiers, they left beating of Paul — Which it appears they had begun to do in such a manner, that, had he not been thus seasonably rescued in this critical moment, his life must soon have fallen a sacrifice to their rage. Then the chief captain — Having made his way through the multitude, came near and took him — Into his custody. And how many great ends of Providence were answered by this imprisonment! It was not only a means of preserving his life, (after he had suffered severely for worldly prudence,) but it gave him an opportunity of preaching the gospel safely, in spite of all tumult, Acts 22:22; yea, and that in those places to which otherwise he could have had no access, Acts 21:40. And commanded him to be bound with two chains — Taking it for granted he was some notorious offender. And thus the prophecy of Agabus was fulfilled, though by the hands of a Roman. And demanded — Of those that seemed most enraged against him; who he was — Against whom such a general outcry was raised; and what he had done — To deserve it. And some cried one thing and some another — So great was the confusion of this riotous assembly, who neither knew one another’s mind, nor their own; though every one pretended to give the sense of the whole body. And when he could not know the certainty for the tumult — For the noise, clamour, and contradictory speeches that were uttered; he commanded him to be carried into the castle — The tower of Antonia, where the Roman soldiers kept garrison. And when he came upon the stairs — Leading to the castle. It was situated on a rock, fifty cubits high, at that corner of the outward temple where the western and northern porticoes joined, to each of which there were stairs descending from it. So it was that he was borne of the soldiers — Up from the ground; for the violence of the people — Who, if they could, would have pulled him limb from limb. And, when they could not reach him with their hands, they pursued him with their clamorous invectives: crying, Away with him — Observe, reader, how the most excellent persons and things are often run down by a popular clamour: Christ himself was so treated, while they cried, Crucify him, crucify him, though they could not mention any evil he had done. 21:27-40 In the temple, where Paul should have been protected as in a place of safety, he was violently set upon. They falsely charged him with ill doctrine and ill practice against the Mosaic ceremonies. It is no new thing for those who mean honestly and act regularly, to have things laid to their charge which they know not and never thought of. It is common for the wise and good to have that charged against them by malicious people, with which they thought to have obliged them. God often makes those a protection to his people, who have no affection to them, but only have compassion for sufferers, and regard to the public peace. And here see what false, mistaken notions of good people and good ministers, many run away with. But God seasonably interposes for the safety of his servants, from wicked and unreasonable men; and gives them opportunities to speak for themselves, to plead for the Redeemer, and to spread abroad his glorious gospel.And as they went about to kill him - Greek: they seeking to kill him. This was evidently done in a popular tumult, as had been done in the case of Stephen, Acts 7:They could not pretend that they had a right to do it by law.

Tidings came - The news, or rumour came; he was told of it.

The chief captain of the band - This band or body of Roman soldiers was stationed in the castle Antonia, on the north of the temple. This was built by John Hyrcanus, high priest of the Jews, and was by him called Baris. It was beautified and strengthened by Herod the Great, and was called Antonia in honor of his friend, Mark Antony. Josephus describes this castle as consisting of four towers, one of which overlooked the temple, and which he says was 70 cubits high (Jewish Wars, book 5, chapter 5, section 8). In this castle a guard of Roman soldiers was stationed to secure the temple and to maintain the peace. The commander of this cohort is here called "the chief captain." Reference is made to this guard several times in the New Testament, Matthew 27:65-66; John 18:12; Acts 5:26. The word translated "chief captain" denotes properly "one who commanded 1,000 men." The band σπεῖρα speira was the tenth part of a legion, and consisted sometimes of four hundred and twenty-five soldiers, at others of five hundred, and at others of six hundred, according to the size of the legion. The name of this captain was Claudius Lysias, Acts 23:26.

In an uproar - That the whole city was in commotion.

31. tidings came—literally, "went up," that is, to the fortress of Antonia, where the commandant resided. See on [2087]Ac 21:32. This part of the narrative is particularly graphic. The chief captain; the commander-in-chief over all the soldiers there; or one that had the command over a thousand. At the three great feasts there was usually a considerable number of soldiers at Jerusalem; the confluence from all parts being then so great, and the Jews so impatient of any yoke or government, the Romans durst not trust such multitudes without some check upon them. Thus at the passover, when they took and crucified our Saviour, these soldiers were made use of, John 18:12. And as they went about to kill him,.... In the manner as zealots did, without bringing him before any court of judicature, without any charge, trial, and condemnation:

tidings came unto the chief captain of the band; the Roman band of soldiers, who were placed near the temple, to keep the peace of the city, and persons in order; and who were more especially needful, at such a time as the feast of Pentecost, when there was such a great concourse of people in the city, and indeed always were in arms at such times (b); this chief captain was Claudius Lysias, as appears from Acts 23:26 to him the report of the disturbance was brought; or as it is in the Greek text, the "fame ascended" to him; who very likely might be in the tower of Antonia, which joined to the temple:

that all Jerusalem was in an uproar; or in confusion, and therefore it became him, as a Roman officer, to take care to quell it, lest it should issue in sedition and rebellion.

(b) Joseph. de Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 1. & l. 5. c. 5. sect. 8.

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

(6) God finds some even amongst the wicked and profane themselves, to hinder the endeavours of the rest.

Acts 21:31-33. But while they sought to kill him (to beat him to death, Acts 21:32), information came up (to the castle of Antonia, bordering on the north-west side of the temple) to the tribune of the (Roman) cohort (Claudius Lysias, xxiii. 26). On φάσις, comp. Dem. 793. 16, 1323. 6; Pollux, viii. 6. 47 f.; Susannah 55; and see Wetstein.

τῷ χιλιάρχῳ] a simple dative, not for πρὸς τὸν χ. See Bornemann and Rosenmüller, Repert. II. p. 253.

ἐπʼ αὐτούς] upon them. On κατατρέχειν, to run down, comp. Xen. Anab. v. 4. 23, vii. 1. 20.

ἐκέλ. δεθῆναι] because he took Paul to be an at that time notorious insurgent (Acts 21:38), abandoned to the self-revenge of the people. In order, however, to have certainty on the spot, he asked (the crowd): τίς ἂν εἴη καὶ τί ἐστι πεποιηκ.] who he might be (subjective possibility), and of what he was doer (that he had done something, was certain to the inquirer). Comp. Winer, p. 281 [E. T. 375]; Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. i. 3. 14.

εἰς τὴν παρεμβολήν] in castra (see Sturz, Dial. Al. p. 30; Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 377), i.e. to the fixed quarters of the Roman soldiery, the military barracks of the fortress. So Acts 22:24; Acts 23:10; Acts 23:16; Acts 23:32.Acts 21:31. ἀνέβη φάσις: “tidings came up,” R.V., vividly, of the report which would reach the Roman officer in the tower of Antonia, overlooking and connected with the Temple at two points by stairs. The ἀνέβη seems to indicate that the writer was well acquainted with the locality. Stier supposes that a report was brought to the Roman authorities by the Christians, or the word may refer to an official report. The troops would be in readiness as always during the Festivals in case of riot, Jos., Ant., xx., 5, 3, B.J., v., 5, 8, etc. φάσις: only here in N.T. Blass and Grimm derive it from φαίνω (in classical Greek, especially of information against smugglers, and also quite generally), but in Susannah ver. 55 (Theod.) φάσις is derived by some from φημί, see Speaker’s Commentary, in loco, while Grimm classes it there also under the same derivation as here.—τῷ χιλ.: “military tribune,” R.V. margin; his thousand men consisted of 760 infantry and 240 cavalry, cf. Acts 23:23, Blass, in loco. This officer who was evidently in command at Fort Antonia is called by Josephus φρούραρχος, Ant., xv., 11, 4, xviii., 4, 3; Schürer, Jewish People, div, ii., vol. ii., p. 55, E.T.—τῆς σπείρης, cf. Acts 10:1, “cohort,” R.V. margin.—συγκέχυται, see p. 238, and also critical note, “was in confusion,” R.V., lit[362] (so Rhem.).

[362] literal, literally.31. And as they went about (Rev. Ver. “were seeking”) to kill him] The object of the mob was clearly, now that they had the Apostle in their power, to beat him to death in the crowd, and thus avoid a charge of murder against any individual.

tidings came unto (Better with Rev. Ver. up to) the chief captain of the band] The chief military officer of the Romans in Jerusalem was stationed in the tower of Antonia, which was situate on the N.W. of the Temple on the hill Acra. It had been built by Herod and was so close to the scene of the tumult that news would be brought at once. The military officer (probably a tribune) is called in the Greek, chiliarch, that is, officer over a thousand men. On the word “band” for a Roman cohort, or troop of soldiers, cf. Acts 10:1. The verb “came up to” shews that the writer was familiar with the locality and had the whole scene in his mind.

that all Jerusalem was in an uproar] Rev. Ver. “in confusion.” At the time of the feast religious party feeling would run very high, and the multitudes of strangers visiting the city would think to shew their zeal for the temple and the law by their eagerness to avenge any supposed profanation.Acts 21:31. Ἀποκτεῖναι, to kill) with strokes and blows: Acts 21:32.—ἀνέβη, came up) to the Antonian tower, where there was wont to be a garrison and camp of the Romans.—φάσις, a report) sudden.Verse 31. - Were seeking for went about, A.V.; up to for unto, A.V.; confusion for an uproar, A.V. Tidings; φάσις, only here in the New Testament. The legal use of the word in Greek is an "information" against any one laid before a magistrate. Here it is the information conveyed to the tribune by the sentinels on guard (Lange; see Hist. of Susanna 55). Came up; viz. to the castle of Antonia, to which steps led up from the temple area on the north-west side (see vers. 32 and 35). The chief captain; the chiliarch, or tribune; literally, the commander of a thousand men (see John 18:12). The band (τῆς σπείρης); the cohort which formed the Roman garrison of Antonia (see Acts 10:1, note; also vers. 32, 33, etc.; Acts 22:24, 26, etc.). Chief captain (χιλιάρχῳ)

A commander of a thousand men. See on Mark 6:21; and on centurion, Luke 7:2.

Band (σπείρης)

Or cohort. See on Mark 15:16. These troops were quartered in the tower of Antonia, which was at the northwestern corner of the temple-area, and communicated with the temple-cloisters by staircases.

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