A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 25:1-22. c). Festus asks Agrippa’s advice.
Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I of Acts 12 and the great grandson of Herod the Great. Bernice was his sister, and rumors were rife that their relationship was incestuous. Because he had been only 17 years old when his father died, he was considered too young to assume the kingdom of Judea, which therefore reverted to rule by procurator. Instead, he was given a tiny and insignificant northern kingdom within what is now Lebanon, and this was later augmented by territory in Galilee. He was nevertheless influential in Jewry because the Emperor Claudius had committed to him both the care of the temple and the appointment of the high priest. He and Bernice came to Caesarea to pay their respects to the new procurator, and during their stay Festus raised Paul’s case, which he had inherited from Felix. He told the king three things which he had done.
First, on his visit to Jerusalem, he had heard the Jewish leaders accuse Paul and request his condemnation, but insisted that according to Roman custom the accused must be allowed to face his accusers and defend himself against them (15-16). Secondly, when the Jewish leaders came to Caesarea, Festus had immediately convened the court, only to discover that Paul was not being charged with crimes against the state, but with religious offenses, and with the claim that ‘a dead man named Jesus…was alive’ (17-19). Thirdly, because Festus was out of his depth in religious questions like these, he had asked Paul if he was willing to be tried in Jerusalem, but instead he had appealed to Caesar, and Festus had granted his appeal (20-21).
Intrigued by Festus’ summary of the case, Agrippa said that he would like to hear Paul himself, and Festus agreed (22). Paul had aroused his curiosity, much as Jesus had aroused the curiosity of his great-uncle Herod Antipas (Lk. 9:9; 23:8).
Tomorrow: Acts 25:23 – 26:32 3). Paul before Agrippa.