The Children's Bible
Paul's Narrow Escape From Death
he seven days during which the men had promised to make special offerings were almost over when some Jews from Asia, who saw Paul in the Temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, shouting, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men, everywhere, to despise the Jewish people, the Jewish law, and this sacred place." So the whole city was aroused. The people rushed together, seized Paul, and dragged him outside the Temple; and at once the doors were closed.
The people were trying to kill Paul when it was reported to the commander of the soldiers that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some soldiers and officers and rushed down among them. When they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains, and inquired, "Who is he and what has he done?" Some of the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as the commander could not learn the real truth on account of the uproar, he ordered Paul to be taken to the castle. When Paul reached the steps, he had to be carried by the soldiers on account of the violence of the crowd, for all the people followed, shouting, "Kill him!"
Just as Paul was being taken into the castle, he said to the commander, "May I say something to you?" The commander said: "Do you speak Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago started a rebellion and led four thousand outlaws into the desert?" Paul answered, "I am a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of a great city. I beg of you, let me speak to the people."
So when the commander had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned with his hand to the people, and when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in Hebrew: "Brothers, and fathers, listen to the defense I now make before you." When they heard him speaking to them in Hebrew they were all the more quiet; so he went on to say, "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel in all the strictness of our law. I was as eager to serve God as you all are to-day. I persecuted and even killed the followers of Jesus. I bound and put in prison both men and women, as the high priest himself and all the elders can testify.
"It was also from them that I had letters to our fellow Jews in Damascus, and I was on my way to bring the Christians who were there back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment. While I was on my way not far from Damascus, suddenly, about noon, a bright light from heaven shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 'Who art thou, Lord?' I asked. He answered, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom you are persecuting.' And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Rise, and go to Damascus, and there it shall be told you what you are to do.' And when I could not see because of the bright light, I went to Damascus, led by the hand of those who were with me. And one Ananias, a religious man, well thought of by the Jews, came and, standing beside me, said, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight,' and that very minute I received my sight and saw him. And he said to me, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One. For you shall be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.' And the Lord said to me, 'Go, for I will send you far away to those who are not Jews.'"
Up to this time the people had listened to him, but when they heard these words they shouted, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live," and they threw off their clothes and flung dust into the air until the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the castle and examined, by flogging, to find out why the people had shouted so against him. When they had tied him up with straps, Paul said to the officer who was standing by, "Is it lawful for you to flog a Roman citizen without trial?" When the officer heard this he reported it to the commander and said: "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman citizen." Then the commander came to Paul and said, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" He said, "Yes." The commander answered, "I paid a large sum for this citizenship"; and Paul said, "But I was born a Roman citizen." The men who were to have examined him, at once left him. And the commander, when he learned that Paul was a Roman citizen, was also afraid because he had bound him.
The next day the commander, so as to find out just what charge the Jews had made against Paul, unbound him and ordered the high priests and all the members of the council to come together. Then they brought Paul down and placed him before them. Paul, looking straight at the members of the council, said: "Brothers, I have done my duty, with a clear conscience before God, up to the present moment."
When Paul saw that some of the council were Sadducees and some Pharisees, he cried out, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is because of my hope that the dead will live again that I am on trial!" When he said this a quarrel arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and there was a great difference of opinion among them. For the Sadducees say that there is no life after death, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees believe in all these; so there was a great uproar. Some of the scribes who belonged to the party of the Pharisees sprang to their feet and protested, "We find this man guilty of no crime. What if some spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" When the uproar became so great that the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, he ordered the troops to go down and take him from among them by force and bring him into the castle.
The next night the Lord stood beside Paul and said, "Be of good cheer, for as you have spoken for me at Jerusalem, so you must speak also at Rome."
Early the next morning the Jews plotted together and solemnly promised not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul, and there were more than forty who made this promise. They went to the high priests and elders and said, "We have made a solemn promise to taste no food until we have killed Paul. Now you and the council must tell the commander that you wish him to bring Paul down to you, as though you wanted to examine more carefully the charges brought against him. We shall be ready to kill him before he comes here."
But Paul's sister's son heard of their plot and went to the castle and told Paul. And Paul called one of the officers and said, "Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him." So the officer took him to the commander and said, "Paul the prisoner asked me to bring this young man to you, for he has something to tell you." The commander then took him by the hand, and after he had led him aside, asked him privately, "What is it that you have to tell me?" He said, "The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to-morrow to the council pretending that they wish to examine his case more carefully. Now do not grant their request, for more than forty are lying in wait for him and have solemnly promised not to eat or drink until they have killed him. Even now they are ready, only waiting for your consent."
The commander let the young man go, bidding him, "Tell no one that you have informed me of this." Then he called two officers and said, "Get ready two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen by nine o'clock to-night to go as far as Cesarea." He also told them to provide horses for Paul to ride on so as to bring him safely to Felix the governor. So the soldiers, as they had been commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. The next day the soldiers returned to the castle, leaving the horsemen to go on with him. When they reached Cesarea they brought Paul to the governor.