Paul Addresses the Jewish Mob
"Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, 'May I speak to you?' He replied, 'Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?' But Paul said, 'I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.' So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying, 'Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.' And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: 'I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished" (Acts 21:37-22:5).

As Paul was being carried to safety by the Roman soldiers, his concern was not for himself but for the souls of the people! This is made clear by his address to the mob which covers most of Acts 22, which we will begin considering shortly. Paul's attitude is amazing and worthy of imitation. He wants to speak to the people, not to rebuke them for their unjust acts against him (remember they were trying to kill him for something he did not do), but to educate them with the gospel so they would understand his change religiously and make the same change themselves. He is not bitter against those who would murder him but has compassion for them. He wants their zeal to be coupled with proper knowledge (cf. Rom. 10:1-3). He must get permission from Lysias before speaking, however, and the commander is willing to grant it after Paul's identity is cleared up. Lysias mistakenly thought he was a criminal--specifically an Egyptian rebel leader--but now, after learning Paul is a Jew, is probably quite perplexed and hopeful Paul's words will help him make sense of this situation.

Paul, while standing on the stairs leading to the barracks, motioned to the people to be silent. They comply and become mostly quiet. He, beaten and likely bloody, addresses his persecutors respectfully in the Hebrew language and gives his "defense." After they realize he is speaking in Hebrew, they become even quieter still.

This great apostle begins with common ground and with facts to which these unbelieving Jews could relate. His presentation here is a masterpiece of diplomacy. They should have known he was a Jew, but many in the mob may have been unaware of his education in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, a highly regarded teacher. Paul's background was strict Judaism and zeal toward God. In fact, earlier in his life he persecuted the church of Christ (i.e., "the Way") as the unbelieving Jews were still doing at that time. Paul understood their animosity toward Christianity for he once bound and delivered such disciples (both men and women) into prison (cf. Acts 26:10). Paul's zeal was so intense that he secured permission to travel away from Jerusalem, arrest Christians, and bring them back in chains for punishment. Paul mentioned traveling to Damascus to do that very thing years ago. He is about to explain how he, as a life-long passionate Jew, could forsake Judaism for Christianity.