Acts 23:2
And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
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(2) The high priest Ananias.—See Note on Acts 22:5. The son of Nebedæus was conspicuous for his cruelty and injustice, and had been sent to Rome as a prisoner to take his trial before Claudius (A.D. 52). He had been acquitted, or at least released, and had returned to Judæa. To him this assertion of a life so utterly unlike his own seemed almost like a personal insult. He fitted the cap, and raged with a brutal cruelty which reminds us of Jeffreys’ treatment of Baxter.

23:1-5 See here the character of an honest man. He sets God before him, and lives as in his sight. He makes conscience of what he says and does, and, according to the best of his knowledge, he keeps from whatever is evil, and cleaves to what is good. He is conscientious in all his words and conduct. Those who thus live before God, may, like Paul, have confidence both toward God and man. Though the answer of Paul contained a just rebuke and prediction, he seems to have been too angry at the treatment he received in uttering them. Great men may be told of their faults, and public complaints may be made in a proper manner; but the law of God requires respect for those in authority.And the high priest Ananias - This Ananias was doubtless the son of Nebedinus (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 5, section 3), who was high priest when Quadratus, who preceded Felix, was president of Syria. He was sent bound to Rome by Quadratus, at the same time with Ananias, the prefect of the temple, that they might give an account of their conduct to Claudius Caesar (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 6, section 2). But in consequence of the intercession of Agrippa the younger, they were dismissed and returned to Jerusalem. Ananias, however, was not restored to the office of high priest. For, when Felix was governor of Judea, this office was filled by Jonathan, who succeeded Ananias I((Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 10). Jonathan was slain in the temple itself, by the instigation of Felix, by assassins who had been hired for the purpose. This murder is thus described by Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 5): "Felix bore an ill-will to Jonathan, the high priest, because he frequently gave him admonitions about governing the Jewish affairs better than he did, lest complaints should be made against him, since he had procured of Caesar the appointment of Felix as procurator of Judea. Accordingly, Felix contrived a method by which he might get rid of Jonathan, whose admonitions had become troublesome to him. Felix persuaded one of Jonathan's most faithful friends, of the name Doras, to bring the robbers upon him, and to put him to death."

This was done in Jerusalem. The robbers came into the city as if to worship God, and with daggers, which they had concealed under their garments, they put him to death. After the death of Jonathan, the office of high priest remained vacant until King Agrippa appointed Ismael, the son of Fabi, to the office (Josephus, Antiq., book 20, chapter 8, section 8). It was during this interval, while the office of high priest was vacant, that the events which are here recorded took place. Ananias was then at Jerusalem; and as the office of high priest was vacant, and as he was the last person who had borne the office, it was natural that he should discharge, probably by common consent, its duties, so far, at least, as to preside in the Sanhedrin. Of these facts Paul would be doubtless apprised; and hence, what he said Acts 23:5 was strictly true, and is one of the evidences that Luke's history accords precisely with the special circumstances which then existed. When Luke here calls Ananias "the high priest," he evidently intends not to affirm that he was actually such, but to use the word, as the Jews did, as applicable to one who had been in that office, and who, on that occasion, when the office was vacant, performed its duties.

To smite him on the mouth - To stop him from speaking; to express their indignation at what he had said. The anger of Ananias was aroused because Paul affirmed that all he had done had been with a good conscience. Their feelings had been excited to the utmost; they regarded him as certainly guilty; they regarded him as an apostate; and they could not bear it that he, with such coolness and firmness, declared that all his conduct had been under the direction of a good conscience. The injustice of the command of Ananias is apparent to all. A similar instance of violence occurred on the trial of the Saviour, John 18:22.

2. the high priest … commanded … to smite him on the mouth—a method of silencing a speaker common in the East to this day [Hacket]. But for a judge thus to treat a prisoner on his "trial," for merely prefacing his defense by a protestation of his integrity, was infamous. Them that stood by him; the officers, probably.

To smite him on the mouth; thus Micaiah was smote by Zedekiah the false prophet, 1 Kings 22:24, and Jeremiah by Pashur, Jeremiah 20:2; and our blessed Lord escaped not this suffering and indignity, John 18:22. Now this was the rather inflicted on Paul, because of his protesting of his innocency, which did reflect upon the council, as being injurious; but it was indeed no more than what was necessary in his own just defence, and for the glory of the gospel.

And the high priest Ananias,.... This could not be the same with Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, but rather Ananus his son; though this is more generally thought to be Ananias the son of Nebedaeus, whom Josephus (m) speaks of. There is one R. Ananias, the sagan of the priests, often spoken of in the Jewish writings (n), who lived about these times, and was killed at the destruction of Jerusalem; and in the times of King Agrippa, there was one Chanina, or Ananias the priest, who was a Sadducee (o); and from the number of Sadducees in this sanhedrim, who very likely were the creatures of the high priest, one would be tempted to think he might be the same with this: who

commanded them that stood by him: that is, by Paul, who were nearest to him, some of the members of the sanhedrim; unless they should be thought to be some of the high priest's officers, or servants, as in John 18:22 though if they were, one would think they would be so called: these he ordered

to smite him on the mouth: or give him a slap on the face, by way of contempt, and as if he had spoken what ought not to be said, and in order to silence him; the reason of which might be, either because Paul did not directly address him, and give him such flattering titles as he expected, or because he set out with such declarations of his innocence, and spotless behaviour, and with so much courage and boldness.

(m) Antiqu. l. 18. c. 2. sect. 1. & l. 20. c. 8. sect. 1.((n) Misna Shekalim, c. 4. sect. 4. & 6. 1. & Pesachim, c. 1. sect. 6. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 8. 1. & 21. 2. & Juchasin, fol. 24. 2.((o) Juchasin, fol. 142. 2.

{2} And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.

(2) Hypocrites are forced at length to betray themselves by their violence.

Acts 23:2. Ἀναν.: not the Ananias of Acts 4:7, Luke 3:2, John 18:13, but the son of Nebedæus, appointed to his office by Herod of Chalcis, high priest from c. 47–59. He was sent to Rome on account of the complaints of the Samaritans against the Jews, but the Jewish cause prevailed, and there is no reason to suppose that Ananias lost his office. The probabilities are that he retained it until he was deposed shortly before the departure of Felix. Josephus gives us a terrible picture of his violent and unscrupulous conduct, Ant., xx., 9, 2. But his Roman sympathisers made him an object of hatred to the nationalists, and in A.D. 66, in the days of the last great revolt against the Romans, he was dragged from a sewer in which he had hidden, and was murdered by the weapons of the assassins whom in his own period of power he had not scrupled to employ, Jos., B.J., ii., 17, 9, “Ananias,” B.D.2, and Hastings’ B.D., O. Holtzmann, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte, pp. 130, 146.—τύπτειν: because Paul had forgotten that he was before his judges, and ought not to have spoken before being asked, cf. Luke 6:29, John 18:22, 2 Corinthians 11:20, 1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7. The act was illegal and peculiarly offensive to a Jew at the hands of a Jew, Farrar, St. Paul, ii., p. 323.

2. And the high priest Ananias] This was Ananias the son of Nebedæus. (Joseph. Ant. xx. 5, 2.) In the time of the Emperor Claudius he had been suspended from his office for some offence and sent to Rome (Ant. xx. 6, 2) but afterwards seems to have been held in great reputation in Jerusalem (Ant. xx. 9, 2).

to smite him on the mouth] No doubt St Paul’s address, before the high priest gave this order, had extended much beyond the single sentence which St Luke records, and he only preserves for us that which appears to have moved the anger of the authorities, by his claim to have led a life of which in God’s sight he was not ashamed. The action was intended to put a stop to what would be counted the presumptuous language of St Paul.

Acts 23:2. Δὲ, but) No one, however unfavourable (prejudiced against the speaker), ought to have been displeased at Paul’s speech. He interrupts him when about to speak more fully, [or even attempts to accuse him of a lie (in laying claim to a “good conscience”).—V. g.]—ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς), the High Priest: not one of the many “chief priests,” of whom ch. Acts 22:30 treats.—ἐπεταξε, commanded) without any cause.—αὐτῷ, himself) Ananias [not Paul].—στόμα, the mouth) as speaking unworthy things.

Verse 2. - Ananias, the son of Nebedaeus, successor of Joseph the son of Camel, or Camydus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 1:3; 5:2), appears to have been actually high priest at this time. He was a violent, haughty, gluttonous, and rapacious man, and vet looked up to by the Jews ("tres considere," Renan). He had probably lately returned from Rome, having been confirmed, as it seems, in his office by Claudius, to whom Quadratus, the predecessor of Felix, has sent him as a prisoner, to answer certain charges of sedition against him. He seems to have been high priest for the unusually long period of over ten years - from A.D. to A.D. (see Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 20. 5:2; 6:2, 3; 8:8). But, on the other hand, Josephus ('Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8:5) speaks of a certain Jonathan being high priest during the government of Felix, and being murdered by the Sicarii at his instigation; which looks as if Ananias's high priesthood had been interrupt el. It would appear, too, from 20. 8:8, that Ismael the son of Fabi succeeded to Jonathan, net to Ananias, as is usually supposed. But the question is involved in great obscurity. Acts 23:2Ananias

He is described as a revengeful and rapacious tyrant. We are told that he reduced the inferior priests almost to starvation by defrauding them of their tithes, and sent his creatures to the threshing-floors with bludgeons to seize the tithes by force.

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