Acts 23:12-32-A group of Jews (more than 40) formed a plot to kill Paul. They took an oath to neither eat, nor drink until they had done so. The Council (Sanhedrin) was involved in their plot. Their plan was to request that the Roman commander send Paul to them for additional examination and along the way the group would kill him. But the son of Paul's sister heard of the plot and warned him (:16). The commander ordered two centurions to take 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spearmen…and escort Paul to Felix (the Roman procurator of Judea whose headquarters were in Caesarea) in Caesarea during the night. He also sent a letter of explanation with them.
Acts 23:33-35-After Paul arrived, Felix questioned him concerning his citizenship.
Ryrie Study Bible, 23:34 from what province he was. Roman law required that this question be asked at the opening of a hearing, for Paul had the right to be tried in his home province or in the province where the alleged crime was committed. Tarsus was in Cilicia. Felix was a deputy of the legate of Syria and Cilicia, and so claimed the right to conduct the hearing, whichever choice Paul made. Such a detail is strong proof that Luke was with Paul at the hearing.
Felix then said that Paul would be tried when the Jews arrived to present their case to him. He had him kept overnight in Herod’s Praetorium.
The thirty-five-mile nighttime leg of Paul's transfer proceeds without incident. Traversing the Judean hill country, either through Bethel or via the more southerly route to Lydda and then ten miles north, the military contingent comes to Antipatris, identified by most with modern Kulat Ras el Ain. A military station at a trade-route crossroads on the border of Samaria and Judea, just at the foot of the Judean hill country, it signals safety to the troops, both geographically and ethnically. The topography and populace most amenable to Jewish ambush lie behind them now. Ahead lies a flat coastal plain inhabited predominantly by Gentiles. The infantry and spearmen can return home while the cavalry takes Paul the remaining twenty-five miles to Caesarea. There the officers delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. This transfer models God's ability to use even the military might of an empire to protect his gospel messengers.
Paul's movement toward Rome is at the same time a final movement away from Jerusalem. Though he will continue to witness "to the Jew first" (28:17-27), Jerusalem's refusal to receive the gospel message (22:18, 22) and constant intent to destroy its messengers (Lk 13:34; Acts 25:3) seals its judgment from God (Lk 13:35; 21:20, 24).
Felix asks Paul his province of origin, either because he wonders about the need to show courtesy to a monarch of a client kingdom or he seeks a way to be rid of a troublesome case involving a Roman citizen in an imbroglio with the Jews. Paul's reply, however, gives Festus no relief. Eastern Cilicia at that time was part of the united province of Syria-Cilicia. The governor may not have wanted to trouble legate Ummidius Quadratus with the case. Or he is aware that Tarsus is a "free city" whose citizens are exempt from normal provincial jurisdiction. Or he may be wishing not to further antagonize Jerusalem Jews, who would have to take their case to Syria if it is remanded there. In any case, Felix decides to hear the case himself, after the accusers arrive. Herod the Great had built in Caesarea a very costly palace (Josephus Jewish Antiquities 15.331), which now served as the headquarters of the Roman procurator of Judea. Here, literally "in the praetorium of Herod," Paul was kept under guard.
Even in this initial, seemingly tangential interrogation we find God's purposes fulfilled through the thwarting of the governor's desires. Pilate was unable to transfer jurisdiction over Jesus to Herod Antipas. As a result, Jesus' prophetic declaration that he would suffer in Jerusalem was fulfilled. Similarly, Felix does not succeed in sending Paul to Cilicia or Tarsus. As a result, the road to Rome lies more directly before Paul (Acts 23:34-35/19:21; 23:11; compare Lk 23:6-7/9:51; 13:33). God's "fingerprints" are certainly all over what happens to Paul in these last days and hours. These turns of events authenticate his message and mission.
Prayer: Lord, as I read about this incident in the Temple and Paul's arrest...I wonder how many times Paul second-guessed himself. There were probably men that he knew and respected among the Pharisees who accused him...and certainly there was the High Priest. Maybe during times of physical weariness, or when he had been tortured, he would question if he was doing the right thing. “God, if this really is Your will, then why am I going through such a hard time?” And yet, Lord, he continues to be faithful. I pray that You will give me the faith that I need to continue, no matter what takes place. Lord, let Your salvation and Your presence be so absolutely evident and convincing in me...that its reality will be greater than any physical reality. Sometimes, Lord, the things that I face in my daily life can seem to be more real than spiritual matters. Please give me the blessing that Jesus spoke of to Thomas..."blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe".