God's Kingdom Ministries
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Chapter 18: Paul’s Detainments

Paul was taken by night out of Jerusalem and brought first to Antipatris (Acts 23:31), a city about 40 miles away built by Herod the Great, which he had named after his father, Antipater. From there Paul was taken to Caesarea, the Roman city, where was stationed a Roman cohort that could protect him. It was also the residence of Felix.

Felix is called the “governor” in Acts 23:33. More specifically, he was the Procurator of Judea (like Pontius Pilate twenty years earlier), appointed by Claudius in 52 and retained by Nero when Claudius died in 54. Felix continued as Procurator until 60 A.D. when he was replaced by Festus.

When Paul arrived in June of 58 A.D. (shortly after the feast of Pentecost), he was kept in the guard room attached to King Herod’s palace called in the KJV “Herod's judgment hall” (Acts 23:35).

Five days after Paul's arrival in Caesarea, Ananius the high priest arrived with his delegation to accuse Paul before Felix (24:1). Both sides presented their cases. Paul based his case again upon his belief in the resurrection of the dead—specifically of Jesus Christ—which, he said, was the fulfillment of all that Moses and the prophets had prophesied. Then 24:22 says,

{Acts 24:22} 22 But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about The Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.”

Why did Luke tell us about Felix's “more exact knowledge” about Christianity—then called “The Way”? How is it that a Roman would know about this teaching? Well, Felix had married Drusilla, whose brother was King Herod Agrippa II. Drusilla, Bernice, and Herod were the children of Herod Agrippa I, who had killed James and imprisoned Peter in 44 A.D. (Acts 12). After the angel assisted in Peter's prison break, Peter had fled to Caesarea. Herod had followed him and died there while being proclaimed a god (Acts 12:23).

There is little doubt that the children of Herod Agrippa I would have known something about Christianity and especially about Peter, for it had to be clear to them that God not only had done a great miracle with Peter, but had also brought about the death of their father for blasphemy and for pursuing Peter. Those circumstances seem to have made the biggest impression on Drusilla.

Drusilla herself had first married Azizus, King of Emesa, but later she was enticed (many believe) by Simon Magus to leave him and marry Felix. (Drusilla and her child by Felix ultimately perished in the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. which destroyed Pompeii.)

As for her brother, Herod Agrippa II, he was too young in 44 A.D. to be made king at the death of his father. But in 50 A.D. Claudius gave him the Kingdom of Colchis, since the previous king (his uncle, who was also named Herod) had died two years previously. Soon afterward, however, Herod Agrippa II was made Tetrarch of Abilene and Trachonitis and given the title of “King.”

Given his history and the manner in which his father had died in 44 A.D., Herod Agrippa II had an interest in Christianity. He may also have known of his great-grandfather's massacre of the children in Bethlehem, attempting to prevent the coming of the Messiah.

Whatever this Herod may have known, his sister Drusilla would also have known. And she was now married to Felix after leaving her first husband. So later Felix called Paul for a special interview to learn more about The Way itself. Acts 24:25-27 says,

{Acts 24:25} 25 And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.” {Acts 24:26} 26 At the same time, too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. {Acts 24:27} 27 But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.

As an open adulterer, Felix perhaps had reason to be frightened over the prospect of a future judgment. But Felix did not release Paul, though he knew he was innocent, because he did not want to anger the high priest and create a powerful enemy. Luke tells us that he would have done so, however, if Paul had paid him some ransom money (a bribe). But two years passed, and Paul did not come up with any cash. Finally, after two years, Felix was replaced by Festus in June of 60 A.D.

This political appointment, occurring two years after Paul's arrival in Caesarea, fixes the historical date of Paul’s arrest two years earlier. It tells us that Paul had come to Jerusalem in 58 A.D. Prior to that time, he had spent three years ministering in Ephesus (54-57). He then spent some time in Antioch before traveling to Jerusalem in 58.

So Paul was arrested at the feast of Pentecost in 58 but was sent to Caesarea almost immediately under protective custody. Two years later, Felix was replaced by Festus in 60 A.D. At that point, Festus wanted to send Paul back to Jerusalem to secure favor with the high priest. Paul knew that if he went to Jerusalem, he would surely be killed. So he appealed to Caesar, and Festus had no choice but to send him to Rome.

But before Paul left Caesarea, he had a visit from Herod Agrippa II and his sister, Bernice. Bullinger tells us in his notes on Acts 25:13, “His relations with his sister Bernice were the occasion of much suspicion.” Bernice was beautiful, and the affection between her and her brother aroused public suspicion of incest.

Amidst such rumors, Herod came with his sister to pay a social visit to the new procurator, who had replaced his brother-in-law, Felix. Herod also wanted to meet Paul and hear what he had to say. When Paul told him his testimony and expounded the law and the prophets to him, he concluded by saying in Acts 26:27, “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do.”

Herod had to admit, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian” (NASB). Paul responded to this king of the Idumean dynasty,

{Acts 26:29} 29 . . . I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.

I want to add one more historical comment about this interview. The Herodian dynasty was Idumean—that is, they were descendants of Esau (Edom). The Idumeans had been incorporated into Jewry when conquered by John Hyrcanus in 126 B.C. Idumea then forever ceased to exist as a nation separate from Jewry, and so all of the end-time Bible prophecies about Edom and Idumea (such as Mal. 1:1-4; Ezekiel 35, 36; Isaiah 34; Obadiah) would have to be fulfilled from within Jewry itself.

The Idumean heritage of the Herodian family, however, did not prevent Paul from sharing the Gospel with Herod Agrippa II, nor is there any indication that salvation would have been denied him if he had believed. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that although Bible prophecy is not so kind to Edom-Idumea as a nation in general, this does not mean that individual Edomites are excluded from salvation if and when they believe. In fact, by their conversion, they may avoid the judgments prophesied to come upon the nation itself, because by faith their citizenship is transferred from the jurisdiction of darkness to “the Kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

Hence, Herod Agrippa II, by his own testimony, knew that Paul’s testimony was true and would like to have become a Christian, except that it may have disrupted his personal life and his professional career.