The DEEP

The Funniest Passage in the Bible

The conspirators get outfoxed.

Acts 24:22-23 (ESV)

But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

Remember the vow? When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. – Acts 23:12-13

When the tribune learned of the plot, he sent Paul to Felix with 470 soldiers to guard his safety, and a letter which included this line. And when it was disclosed to me that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him. – Acts 23:30 (ESV)

Felix knows about the plot. His actions indicate he knows about the vow behind the plot too. His delaying tactic is particularly hard on those who made the vow.

The Jewish law says that when a vow becomes impossible to fill, it’s no longer binding. But Felix frustrated them by neither taking a final action that would break the vow, nor giving them a shot at fulfilling it. He put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

So, the conspirators died and/or shamed themselves by sneaking a snickers bar or something. But Felix’s plan is even more mischievous than that. He knows that they don’t know what was in the letter from Lysias (it would have been sealed), and they act like they don’t know that their plot has been divulged. So, by feigning to put his decision on Lysias, he’s cueing the conspirators to race back to Jerusalem to try to get him to come down to Caesarea before they keel over.

Imagine them, still trying to keep their vow, urging Lysias to go to Caesarea ASAP, all the while avoiding mentioning why. Meanwhile, Lysias is watching this (knowing full well the real reason they’re in such a rush) and trying not to bust out laughing.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.


Yes, it’s amusing to think about these conspirators getting their comeuppance, but it’s wrong to have that attitude when it involves anyone in our personal sphere of influence. Real schadenfreude just ain’t right.

We’re commanded to love our enemies, which is as hard as it sounds. Without the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit, it’s almost impossible. Let’s ask for that intervention. No matter how bad someone is, the world would be a better place if they found salvation. No one is worse than Saul was.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.