And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. (Acts 23:12-13)
Forty Men Died Of Hunger
Paul was in a lot of trouble with the people of Jerusalem. Almost in fulfillment of what he told the elders from Ephesus he would almost be killed. Coming to Jerusalem he had been arrested under false charges and nearly beaten to death. The Roman Commander rescued the apostle from the mob but Paul begged the commander to allow him to speak to the crowd. This did not go well either and after the crowd grew to an intense frenzy of hysteria the commander ordered Paul to be scourged to find out what was going on. Learning they were about to scourge a Roman citizenship the soldiers withdrew from him.
The next day the commander brought Paul together with the chief priests and council to again sort out the problem. It turned into another riot. This preacher is really causing some uproar in the city. Meanwhile forty men have had enough. They are no longer in the mood to talk. Time has come to put an end to this blasphemer from Tarsus. Meeting in a smoke filled room dimly lit by a flickering candle (you know it was like that) they made a vow to not put a morsel of food in their mouth or take another drink until this Paul was d-e-a-d! Grasping their sweaty hands together a vow was made. Oaths were confirmed. Paul would die.
In an amazing twist (what we call the providence of God) the nephew of Paul overhead the plot and told Paul. The apostle relayed the news to the commander and that night two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearman conducted God’s preacher to Caesarea. My only guess is that forty men must have died from hunger and thirst. I suspect they finally gave in and ate something. Their plan was to no avail. Sadly their oath could not override the power of God. Now that is a great story.
The key to this story is what the Lord told Paul the night after he stood before the Sanhedrin. “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11). This is a great story because of the action and drama. But more importantly it is a great story because we can believe in the providence of God also. We know that God will take care of us in His will. And that is the greatest story of all. Have a great Saturday today. Tomorrow is the Lord’s day. Worship.
The New Testament is the history of the life and the testimony of common men who rallied to the fellowship of Jesus Christ and who by their faith and preaching remade a world that was under the thrall of a Roman army. (Woodrow Wilson, Address, May 1911)