God’s Word for You
Acts 23:12-16 The conspiracy
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, January 22, 2021
12 The next morning the Jews conspired together and bound themselves under a curse neither to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who were involved in this conspiracy. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a curse to taste no food until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin need to inform the commanding officer to bring Paul down to you, as if you wanted more accurate information about his case. And we are ready to kill him before he gets there.” 16 But the son of Paul’s sister heard about the plot, so he went into the fortress and told Paul.
A prisoner could be seen pretty freely by family and friends. This passage tells us more than the uncovering of a plot. We learn something about Paul’s family, and we learn something about Paul’s friends.
First, the plot. Forty or more “Jews” were conspiring. This was not the majority of the Sanhedrin, nor all of the priests. It may have involved very few Pharisees, but a large number of Sadducees (recall verses 7-10). They bound themselves by a curse to kill Paul. Since they were men with no scruples at all, we don’t even need to wonder whether they all starved to death when their plan failed. None of them took this or any other oath seriously (notice the wording of Matthew 19:3 for an example of this).
It’s doubtful that this plan of theirs would have worked. It depended on being able to get a number of men armed with daggers into the Roman fortress at just the right moment. It wasn’t even a certainty that the Colonel would agree to yet another meeting. He was more likely to tell them that they had their chance, and that was it.
Second, Paul’s family. This nephew and sister of Paul’s are not the “Andronicus and Junias” of Romans 16:7. Paul wrote Romans just weeks or at most a month or two before this incident in Jerusalem. Paul sent his letter to the Romans with its greeting to Andronicus and Junias before leaving Greece (Cenchrea) to sail back to Judea. So as Paul approached Jerusalem, Paul’s letter traveled to Rome in the hands of the deaconess Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2). The sister and nephew of this verse are not named in the Scriptures, but Paul’s nephew plays a brief but crucial role here, warning the Apostles of the plot the way Jonathan warned David about a plot to take his life (1 Samuel 19:2).
We don’t know much about Paul’s family. When he needed refuge, he returned home to Tarsus (Acts 9:30, 11:35). This was his home, so even after his conversion he anticipated that they would accept him. He greeted relatives in Romans 16, as we have seen. And this sister and nephew were in Jerusalem. The nephew even risked his life to get this message to Paul. With Paul’s family, at least, blood was thicker than water.
Third, Paul’s friends. This incident is so minor and yet so vivid in its details that we must conclude that Luke was present. The physician may have attended Paul for professional (medical) as well as social reasons. But there is little serious doubt about Luke being there physically when the new came.
Paul’s troubles were mounting. But despite a conspiracy to assassinate him, he still had family and friends to help him. He had lots of enemies. Jesus said, “All men will hate you because of me” (Luke 21:17), but he still had some allies, and he had the Lord Jesus himself. When times get the toughest, we pray with David: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). And again: “I will not fear though tens of thousands draw up against me on every side” (Psalm 3:6). And still again: “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1). Keep trusting in God for everything, and God will keep supplying everything you truly need.
Pastor Timothy Smith