Acts 22
Benson Commentary
Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.
Acts 22:1-2. Men, brethren, and fathers — Of whatsoever age, rank, or circumstance of life you are; hear ye my defence — Which ye could not hear before for the tumult. And when they heard that he spake in their vulgar tongue, then called the Hebrew dialect, they kept the more silence — Were the more disposed, numerous as the assembly was, to hearken to him attentively.

(And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,)
I 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.
Acts 22:3-5. I am verily a Jew, &c. — This defence answers all that is objected, Acts 21:28. But he speaks closely and nervously, in a few words, because the time was short; born in Tarsus, yet brought up in this city — For my parents were so warmly attached to their religion, and so desirous that I might be well instructed in it, that they sent me to be educated here; at the feet of Gamaliel — That celebrated teacher. See note on Acts 5:34. The phrase of being brought up at his feet, plainly alludes to the posture in which the scholars were usually placed, sitting on low seats, or upon mats, on the floor, at the feet of their masters, whose seats were raised to a considerable height. Taught according to the perfect manner of the law — Or, accurately instructed in the law: which learned education was once, doubtless, the matter of his boasting and confidence; but, not being sanctified, it made his bonds strong, and furnished him with numerous arguments against the gospel. Yet, when the grace of God had changed his heart, and turned his accomplishments into another channel, he was the fitter instrument to serve God’s wise and merciful purposes, in the defence and propagation of Christianity. And I persecuted this way — With the same zeal that ye do now; binding both men and women — Who professed and practised it, without any regard to sex, age, or quality. How much better was his condition now he was bound himself! The high-priest doth bear me witness — Is able to testify; and all the estate of the elders — All the other members of the sanhedrim; from whom also I received letters unto the brethren — The Jews (for this title was not peculiar to the Christians) empowering me to act against those for whom I have now so great a regard. And went to Damascus, &c. — See note on c Acts 9:1-2.

And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
As 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.
And 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.
Acts 22:6-16. And as I made my journey, &c., about noon — For all was done in the face of the sun; suddenly there shone a great light — By whatever method God reveals himself to us, we shall have everlasting cause to remember it; especially when he has gone, in any remarkable manner, out of his common way, for this gracious purpose. If so, we should often dwell on the particular circumstance, and be ready, on every proper occasion, to recount these wonders of power and love for the encouragement and instruction of others. See notes on Acts 9:3-18, where the substance of this paragraph occurs, and is explained. They that were with me heard not the voice — Distinctly, but only a confused noise. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law — A truly religious person, and though a believer in Christ, yet a strict observer of the law of Moses. The God of our fathers hath chosen thee — Ananias’s giving God this appellation, the God of our fathers, shows that he was himself a Jew by birth, who observed the law of the fathers, and relied on the promises made to them: that thou shouldest know his will — By immediate revelation from himself, Galatians 1:12. And see that Just One — The Lord Jesus, called the Just, or Righteous One, with a reference to the conduct of the Jews, who crucified him under a pretence of his being a malefactor. This is an additional proof to what we read, Acts 9:5, (where see the note,) that Saul did really see Christ, appearing even in a human form; and hear the voice of his mouth — And that in such a manner, as to be taught his will immediately from himself. This was a peculiar privilege to which Paul was chosen, namely, to see Christ here on earth, even after his ascension into heaven! Stephen, indeed, saw him at the right hand of God, but Paul saw him standing, as it were, at his right hand. This honour none had but Paul. Be baptized, and wash away thy sins — Baptism, administered to real penitents, was intended to be both a means and a seal of pardon. Nor did God ordinarily, in the primitive church, bestow this on any person till he submitted to baptism; and this may explain, in some measure, in what sense baptism may be said to wash away sins, and elsewhere to save. See Acts 2:28; 1 Peter 3:21.

And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
And 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.
And 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.
And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,
Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him.
And 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.
For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.
And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
Acts 22:17-21. When I was come again to Jerusalem — From Damascus; and prayed in the temple — By this he shows that he still paid the temple its due honour, as the house of prayer; I was in a trance — Or ecstasy. Perhaps he might continue standing all the while, with an intenseness of countenance which, if it were observed by any near him, might be imputed to the fixedness of his mind in his devotions; or, if he fell down, it might be looked upon as an epileptic fit. And saw him — Jesus; saying to me, Get thee quickly out of Jerusalem — Because of the snares that will be laid for thee, and in order to preach where people will hear: for they will not — In Jerusalem; receive thy testimony — But, on the contrary, will rather attempt thy destruction. And — Presuming to expostulate with Christ himself on this occasion; I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned, &c. — They know that I was once of their mind; that I was as bitter an enemy to thy disciples as any of them; that I excited the civil power against them; and imprisoned them — And also raised the spiritual power against them; and beat them in every synagogue — Particularly in Stephen’s case, they know that, when he was stoned, I was standing by — Was aiding and abetting; and consenting to his death and — In token thereof, kept the raiment of them that slew him — That is, Lord, my former zeal against those that believed in thee is so well known to them all, by so many remarkable instances shown among them, that sure they must be convinced it is upon some certain and irresistible grounds of persuasion that I am now become a preacher of that faith I formerly destroyed and persecuted with so great zeal. And he said — Overruling my plea by a renewal of his charge; Depart — Reason no further on this subject, but go thy way immediately, according to my direction; for I will send thee far hence — Into distant countries; unto the Gentiles — And thou shalt preach my gospel, and publish the glad tidings of salvation, with much greater encouragement and success among them. It is not easy for a servant of Christ, who is himself deeply impressed with divine truths, to imagine to what a degree men are capable of hardening their hearts against them. He is often ready to think, with Paul, it is impossible for any to resist such evidence. But experience makes him wiser, and shows that wilful unbelief is proof against all truth and reason.

And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
And 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.
And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
And 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.
Acts 22:22. And they gave him audience — Heard him with quietness and attention; unto this word — Till he began to speak of his mission to the Gentiles, and this in such a manner as implied that the Jews were in danger of being cast off; but no sooner did he mention this, than the multitude, especially such of them as had come from Asia, became instantly perfectly enraged, and cried out with vehemence, Away with such a fellow from the earth — Such an impudent blasphemer; for it is not fit that he should live — Any longer upon it, since he shows himself to be such a traitor to God, and an enemy to his chosen people, in pretending to have a commission to go and preach to the ignorant and reprobated Gentiles. Thus the men that have been the greatest blessings of their age, have often been represented, not only as the burdens of the earth, but as the pests of their generation. He who was worthy of the greatest honours in life is condemned as not worthy of life itself!

And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air,
Acts 22:23-24. And as they cried out — In this furious manner; and cast — Or tore; off their clothes — In token of indignation and horror at this pretended blasphemy: or, as Dr. Whitby thinks, as in the case of Stephen, that they might be ready to stone him; and threw dust into the air — Through vehemence of rage, which they knew not how to give vent to; the chief captain — Not knowing the particulars of what had passed, but perceiving, by the effect, that Paul had rather exasperated than appeased them by the apology which he had been permitted to make, commanded that he should be brought into the castle, and — As no witnesses were produced in a regular way to give information against him, he bade that he should be examined by scourging — In order that he might get to know by his own confession, since he could not learn it any other way; wherefore they cried so against him — That the Romans used this method of scourging to compel real or supposed criminals to make confession, is proved by Dr. Lardner, and several other learned writers.

The 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.
And 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?
Acts 22:25-29. And as they — The soldiers ordered by the tribune; were binding him with thongs — In order to their scourging him; Paul said unto the centurion that stood by — To see the tribune’s orders executed; Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? — A freeman of Rome might be bound with a chain, and beaten with a staff; but he might not be bound with thongs, neither scourged nor beaten with rods. The centurion told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest — Greek, Ορα τι μελλεις ποιειν, consider what thou art about to do; for this man is a Roman — Yea, and there was a stronger reason to stop proceedings, and to consider, for this man was a servant of God. Paul said, I was free born — Not, as some have supposed, because he was born at Tarsus; for, as Dr. Lardner has unanswerably proved, that was not a Roman colony, or what the Romans called municipium, a free town, or a place where all the natives were free of Rome by birth. But, it is probable, either his father, or some of his ancestors, had been made free of Rome for some military service. We learn hence, that we are under no obligations, as Christians, to give up our civil privileges (which we ought to receive and prize as the gifts of God) to every insolent invader. In a thousand circumstances, gratitude to God and duty to men will oblige us to insist upon them, and engage us to strive to transmit them improved to posterity. Then straightway they — Who had bound him, and were about to examine him by scourging; departed from him — Not daring to proceed; and the chief captain — Whom we may justly suppose to have had considerable influence at Rome; also was afraid, because — Though he had not scourged him, yet he had bound him — In order to his being scourged; which was a breach of privilege, for which he might have been accused by Paul to his superiors.

When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.
Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born.
Then 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.
On 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.
Acts 22:30. On the morrow — The chief captain, having become more anxious to know certainly what Paul’s crime was, since he understood that he was a Roman citizen; loosed him from his bands — In which he had laid him a close prisoner; and commanded the chief priests, and all their council — All the members of the sanhedrim; to appear — Or to come together and hold a court; and brought Paul down — From the castle; and set him before them — That he might be examined and tried according to the laws and usages of his own country; in order that the most seditious of the Jews might have no reason to complain of the manner in which they were treated.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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