Then the commander called two of his officers and ordered, “Get 200 soldiers ready to leave for Caesarea at nine o’clock tonight. Also take 200 spearmen and 70 mounted troops. Provide horses for Paul to ride, and get him safely to Governor Felix.”
Then he wrote this letter to the governor: “From Claudius Lysias, to his Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings! This man was seized by some Jews, and they were about to kill him when I arrived with the troops. When I learned that he was a Roman citizen, I removed him to safety. Then I took him to their high council to try to learn the basis of the accusations against him. I soon discovered the charge was something regarding their religious law—certainly nothing worthy of imprisonment or death. But when I was informed of a plot to kill him, I immediately sent him on to you. I have told his accusers to bring their charges before you.”
So that night, as ordered, the soldiers took Paul as far as Antipatris. They returned to the fortress the next morning, while the mounted troops took him on to Caesarea. When they arrived in Caesarea, they presented Paul and the letter to Governor Felix. He read it and then asked Paul what province he was from. “Cilicia,” Paul answered.
“I will hear your case myself when your accusers arrive,” the governor told him. Then the governor ordered him kept in the prison at Herod’s headquarters.Acts 23:23-35
- Really! 200 infantry
- 200 spearmen or lancers
- 70 mounted troops or cavalry.
470 elite Roman soldiers who had been posted to Jerusalem on assignment; Jerusalem being the place Roman soldiers dreaded to be posted because of Jewish reactions. So you can bet that these men were outstanding soldiers to be given such an assignment. They are facing a threat from 40 Jewish opponents. So in all they outnumber them over 10:1 and are armed to the teeth (maximum) to repel them. Some commentators feel this huge force was to leave the impression that this was a major Roman military expedition and not something specifically to guard Paul at all. Something to throw the Jewish opponents off and allow Paul to slip out under the cover of darkness and 470 Roman soldiers.
Just who were the opposition? Josephus tells us that Ananias, the High Priest, regularly used fanatical Jews to carry out plots and schemes of his making. It seems the favourite group Ananias chose were members of the Sicarii, the Assassins. Whenever things didn’t go according to the High Priest’s liking he would call in the Sicarii to carry out his bidding. They were known as assassins because they were ruthless and were prepared to carry out whatever it took to get the job done. They were skilled, professional killers. Not only that but Paul was heading to Felix. Feliz was none other than Antonius Felix, re-knowned for being cruel and merciless and was described by Tacitus as “wielding the power of a king with the mind of a slave”. Just how long did Claudius Lysias (The Tribune) order the soldiers to protect this Roman citizen named Paul?
Notice Lysias has ordered the troops to leave at 9.00 pm under the cover of darkness, when the city had virtually settled down for the night. How would Paul have been guarded? I imagine like he and Silas were guarded in Philippi, by four squads of four soldiers divided into 6 hour shifts over a 24 hour period. That ensured the immediate guards of Paul were always fresh and alert. Theirs was the ultimate responsibility for Paul’s safety on the price of their own heads for failure. But all elite Roman soldiers had a reputation to keep up the standards of how they carried out their work. Hence the Sicarii would have had to get past all 462 men before being confronted by the four immediate soldiers guarding Paul.
Not only that, but Paul has been given several horses to use. I am sure you noticed in the text that these horses were labelled as horses designated for Paul to ride. There are numbers of commentators who feel that the horses were probably pack horses or mules used to carry the supplies for the Roman Battalion. I beg to differ. Luke clearly tells us that the extra horses were for Paul to ride accompanied by some of the seventy riders of the cavalry troop who were attached to this detail. If Paul needed to make an escape quickly and be protected by the Cavalry it could happen. Question: How well did Paul ride a horse? A man who walked most places he went.
How long would it have taken for this huge number of soldiers to get to Caesarea? Well actually the question is how long did it take for these 470 troops to reach Antipatris? The bulk of the troops did not go on to Caesarea. They took him as far as Antipatris, which was located around the midpoint between Jerusalem and Caesarea. So we are talking about a journey of 60 plus kilometres. Roman soldiers were fit and used to long fast marches; Paul was on horseback. So they would have easily managed 10 kms an hour. So they would have delivered Paul to Antipatris by breakfast the next day and then headed back to Jerusalem again. You can bet these Roman soldiers didn’t stop for breaks along the way and Paul was on horseback and could keep up the pace as well. It was the cavalry who were given the task of delivering Paul into the hands of Antonius Felix once the immediate danger from the Sicarii was past.
The thing that shocked me most was that Lysias told the Council where Paul was being taken. The High Priest and the Council were told that Paul was being taken to Caesarea and put into the hands of Felix. Why on earth did Lysias do that? Surely you have blown Paul’s cover man! But then I thought about it and figured out that the Sanhedrin were not stupid. They could have worked out Caesarea was where they were taking Paul. It was the logical place to take him if he was en-route to Rome. The second factor is that Lysias clearly wanted to handle this man by the book. He was still being accused of something, which Lysias didn’t agree was justified. So the thing to do was to pass him on to the next most powerful authority – namely the Governor in Caesarea. Caesarea being the main Roman port and military post in the land of Palestine. Lysias made it very clear in the letter when he was informed of a plot to kill Paul, he had immediately sent him on to Felix and told his accusers to bring their charges before the Governor in Caesarea.
Now the scene is set for the on-going story. . .
Circumstances don’t make the man, they reveal him.James Allen
If you’re not balanced on the inside, you’re not going to be balanced on the outside.T D Jakes
All my friends are but one, but He is all sufficient.William Carey
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.Ralph Waldo Emerson