Acts 26:1-32-Agrippa now gives Paul permission to state his defense to himself and Festus. First, Paul tells Agrippa that he is glad that Agrippa is the one who is about to hear his defense since he is well versed in the customs and traditions of the Jewish religion.
Why did Paul think that Agrippa II would have an understanding of Judaism? It is because of his family’s Jewish connections. Speaking of his grandfather, Herod the Great, one author writes:
Herod the Great was a Roman puppet king in the province of Judea. He was elected to the post of "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate in approximately 40BC. This was just after a coup against the former king of the province, Hyrcanus II which had been led by that King's nephew. Herod ruled the province from between 37-4 BC.
Herod was not a Jew by birth, but was instead what was known as a Judaised Edomite. Although he adopted the customs and practices of the Jews, he was not considered Jewish by the Pharisees of the time.
Another author writes:
The first Herod that is mentioned in the Bible is “Herod the Great”. He was the son of Antipater the 2nd and he reigned from 40-4 B.C. Information about Herod the Great can be found in the Bible in Matthew 2:1-22 and Luke 1:5. Herod’s father was an Idumean who converted to Judaism. According to T. Bryant, an Idumean was both a Greek and Roman term for an Edomite (Mark 3:8, Mark 34:5-6) [New Compact Bible Dictionary, p.239.].
Also see: Biographies of the Herods’…
Paul then begins his defense by detailing his devotion as a Pharisee to the Jewish religion…even to the extent of punishing those who were followers of Jesus (:4-11). This was to establish himself as a committed Jew and not someone who was trying to start a new religion. He states that ultimately, he is being charged for his belief in the resurrection…a teaching that did not originate with him, but which God had given to the founding fathers of the Jewish religion. Next, he speaks of his conversion on the road to Damascus while he was engaged in his pursuit of this punishment of the followers of Jesus. It was “midday” (noon) when he suddenly saw a light brighter than the sun shining from Heaven. He and those with him fell to the ground. Paul then heard a voice speaking to him. Notice that Luke correctly quotes the voice as saying, “Saul, Saul”…Paul’s name before it was changed. The voice says, “…why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” The word “goads” (KJV-“pricks”) speaks of a tool, or instrument (long with a pointed tip) used by a farmer to poke an oxen or cow in order to keep them moving and to give them direction. The voice is telling Paul that is it useless for him to fight against His will and that it will only cause him pain when he does so. Paul asks the voice to identify itself, “Who art Thou, Lord.” Notice Paul’s submissive use of the word, “Lord”…meaning “master”. Luke writes, “And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus who you are persecuting.” (:12-15). Finally, Paul explains his ministry to the Jews and Gentiles. Paul had begun his defense by stating that he was being accused by the Jewish leaders for his belief in the resurrection (something that they themselves believed in)…and now, he concludes his defense with a reaffirmation of that fact (:16-23). When Festus (a thoroughly pagan Roman), hears Paul mention the resurrection, he says that Paul is crazy. But Paul replies that the resurrection of Jesus was true and that word of it had spread widely since it had been a very public fact and not something that no one had heard about. He then asks King Agrippa if he believes in the resurrection since the prophets spoke of it (:24-27). Agrippa seems slightly caught off guard and perhaps a little embarrassed in front of the crowd of people…and perhaps especially in front of Festus. You can almost hear the uneasiness in his voice as he says that if he isn’t careful…in just a short time Paul will have actually convinced him to become a Christian. Paul responds that it doesn’t matter to him if it takes a short time, or a long time…but his only concern is that Agrippa and all of the rest who were listening would become Christians. But Paul is an intelligent man. He realizes that he has placed Agrippa in an uncomfortable position in front of the other dignitaries and guests. So, he provides a little comic relief to the moment in order that Agrippa’s ego will not be bruised to the extent that he will totally shut down the thought process. Paul makes a humorous statement at the end of his defense. He tells Agrippa that he wishes that he would become like him (a Christian) with the exception of being in chains. You can almost see Paul hold his wrists bound in shackles up in front of him, shrug his shoulders, and smile whimsically. The tension is relieved (:28-29). The hearing is over…and the dignitaries leave. As they exit, they agree that from what they had heard, Paul is guilty of nothing (:30-31). Agrippa tells Festus that if Paul had not appealed to Caesar he could be released (:32).
Prayer: What great boldness Paul showed here, Lord. It didn't matter if he was in the house of a common man, or before a king, he proclaimed the Gospel. He even took the risk of calling Agrippa out...to give a public opinion about what he had said. Please give me this courage...to always be ready and willing to tell others about You...no matter who they are…no matter what the cost.