Acts 23:12 MEANING

Acts 23:12
(12) Certain of the Jews banded together . . .--The casuistry of the more fanatic Jews led them to the conclusion that a blasphemer or apostate was an outlaw, and that, in the absence of any judicial condemnation, private persons might take on themselves the execution of the divine sentence. So, they may have argued, Mattathias, the founder of the Maccabean dynasty, had slain the apostate Jew who offered sacrifice at the altar at Modin (1 Maccabees 2:24); so ten Zealots of Jerusalem had conspired to assassinate Herod the Great because he had built an amphi-theatre and held gladiatorial games in the Holy City (Jos. Ant. xii. 6, ? 2; xv. 8, ? 3). It is melancholy but instructive to remember how often the casuistry of Christian theologians has run in the same groove. In this respect the Jesuit teaching, absolving subjects from their allegiance to heretic rulers, and the practical issue of that teaching in the history of the Gunpowder Plot, and of the murders perpetrated by Clement and Ravaillac, present only too painful a parallel. Those who now thus acted were probably of the number of the Zealots, or Sicarii.

Under a curse.--Literally, they placed themselves under an anathema. This was the Jewish kherem, and the person or thing on which it fell was regarded as devoted to the wrath of God. (Comp. Notes on 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9.) So also in the Old Testament we find that Jericho and all that it contained was a kherem, or accursed thing, devoted to destruction (Joshua 7:1).

Verse 12. - The Jews for certain of the Jews, A.V. and T.R. Banded together (ποιήσαντες συστροφὴν). This word συστροφή is found in the New Testament only here and Acts 19:40, where it is rendered "concourse." The sense of "a conspiracy," which it has here, is common in the LXX. (see Amos 7:10; 2 Kings 15:15, etc.). The verb συστρέφειν in the LXX. has the sense of "to conspire" (2 Samuel 15:31; 2 Kings 10:9; 2 Kings 15:30, συνέστρεψε σύστρεμμα). Bound themselves under a curse (ἀνεθεμάτισαν ἑαυτοὺς). The word ἀνάθεμα (Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8, 9) corresponds to the Hebrew צּצּצּ, the devotion of anything to destruction; and hence "the thing itself so devoted." And the verb ἀναθεματίζεν corresponds to the Hebrew צּצּצּ, to devote to destruction, without the possibility of redemption. Here they made themselves an ἀνάθεμα if they did not kill Paul before partaking of any food. It seems, however, that there was a way of escape if they failed to keep the vow. Lightfoot, on this passage, quotes from the Talmud: "He that hath made a vow not to eat anything, woe to him if he eat, and woe to him if he do not eat. If he eat he sinneth against his vow; if he do not eat he sinneth against his life. What must such a man do in this case? Let him go to the wise men, and they will loose his vow" ('Hebrews and Talmud. Exercit. upon the Acts').

23:12-24 False religious principles, adopted by carnal men, urge on to such wickedness, as human nature would hardly be supposed capable of. Yet the Lord readily disappoints the best concerted schemes of iniquity. Paul knew that the Divine providence acts by reasonable and prudent means; and that, if he neglected to use the means in his power, he could not expect God's providence to work on his behalf. He who will not help himself according to his means and power, has neither reason nor revelation to assure him that he shall receive help from God. Believing in the Lord, we and ours shall be kept from every evil work, and kept to his kingdom. Heavenly Father, give us by thy Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake, this precious faith.And when it was day,.... As soon as it was light, very early in the morning:

certain of the Jews banded together; these very likely were of the sect of the Sadducees, who had been exceedingly irritated and provoked by what Paul had said the day before in the council; these therefore gathered together, entered into a conspiracy to take away Paul's life, and trailed in it, as one man:

and bound themselves under a curse; or "anathematized themselves"; the Hebrew word which answers to "anathema", is sometimes used for an oath, , "Cherem" or "anathema" is "an oath" (a), a vow made to be punished with an anathema if not kept; so these men swore to it, bound themselves with an oath, or wished they might be an anathema, accursed of God, and cut off from his people; they imprecated the most dreadful evils upon themselves:

saying, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul: it was a common form of a vow or oath with the Jews (b), , "that I will not eat"; sometimes they only vowed abstinence from particular things, and then others were lawful; as for instance, if one vowed that he would not eat boiled meat, he might eat roast, or that he would not eat flesh, he might eat broth, or that he would abstain from milk, then he might drink whey, (c); but this oath and vow here were, that they would neither eat nor drink anything, till they had destroyed Paul: these were a set of zealots, who in imitation of Phinehas, and pretending the glory of God, took upon them to take away the lives of men, without any, judicial procedure, or the authority of the civil magistrate; of whom; see Gill on Matthew 10:4 it may be asked, what became of this vow? or how did they get clear of it, since they did not accomplish the fact? to which it may be answered, that it was a pretty easy thing to be freed from oaths and vows, among the Jews, whose doctors had a power to absolve men from them; and in such cases as this, and such a vow as this, might be loosed upon more accounts than one, as on account of keeping another law, the observing the sabbath and other festivals, when men were obliged to eat and drink: and thus it is said (d),

"if a man swears that he will not drink wine, or that he will not eat flesh, for so many days, then they say to him, if thou hadst known at the time of the oath, that the sabbath or a feast day were within these days, in which thou art obliged to eat flesh and drink wine, as it is said, Isaiah 58:13 "and call the sabbath a delight"; wouldst thou have swore at all? if he says no, they loose his oath:''

and likewise it might be loosed on account of life, which a man is bound to preserve: for so they likewise say (e),

"if a man vows that he will not eat anything, woe be to him if he eats, and woe be to him if he does not eat; if he eats he breaks his vow, if he does not eat he sins against his own soul, or life; what must he do? let him go to the wise men, , "and they will loose his vow for him", as it is written, Proverbs 12:18 but the tongue of the wise is health;''

and no doubt but these men very easily got their vow loosed, since it was made on such a design.

(a) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. (b) Misna Nedarim, c. 2. sect. 2, 3.((c) Ib. c. 6. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. (d) Maimon. in Misn. Nedarim, c. 9. sect. 6. (e) T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 40. 1.

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