Acts 21:37–22:5 (ESV)
Paul Speaks to the People
37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand
men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the
steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:
22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus
in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both
men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
The tribune who has arrested Paul obviously had him confused with someone else. The Tribune states: “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four
thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Well, there is a mistake in identity. What do we know about this group? The People’s Bible Commentary on Acts states that Assassins or as the NIV translates as “terrorists”
is literally “dagger men.” These men were extreme Jewish nationalists who were ready to take direct action against Romans or others whom they considered to be enemies of the Jewish people. Their usual method was to assassinate individuals, often
stabbing them at festival gatherings and then disappearing into the crowds. They sparked the revolt of a.d. 66, which finally led to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.
The Jewish historian Josephus writes that
in a.d. 54 an Egyptian led a revolt of four thousand dagger men (sicarii), which the Romans quashed. Hundreds were killed, but the leader escaped. The commander’s question was a probing question, trying to determine why the Jews had turned on Paul with
such murderous fanaticism. Could it be that he was that Egyptian, and the Jews were taking vengeance on the man who had led so many of their countrymen to death while he himself escaped? Paul catches them off guard through his Greek, yet he tells them
that he is a Roman citizen. Paul asks to speak with the people and the tribune allows it. Paul says he is “a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the
law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. There was a famous rabbi by the name of Hillel, and Gamaliel may have been Hillel’s grandson. Gamaliel was also mention in chapter 5. Paul begins laying out his life
and how he came into the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will hear more tomorrow.
I pray: O Lord, we have a lot to learn from Paul. Even when he is confused for someone else,
he takes advantage of the situation to tell others about Jesus. Lord, help us to be bold and to present the Gospel wherever and whenever possible. Amen.