Acts 16:35

ESV But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.”
NIV When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: 'Release those men.'
NASB Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their officers, saying, 'Release those men.'
CSB When daylight came, the chief magistrates sent the police to say, "Release those men."
NLT The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, 'Let those men go!'
KJV And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

What does Acts 16:35 mean?

Paul and Silas have been attacked by a crowd, beaten by the city magistrates, and imprisoned overnight (Acts 16:22–23). This was standard procedure for crimes that did not warrant capital punishment. Giving the accused the option to go into exile was also standard; the accused avoids more punishment, and the magistrates don't have to hold a formal trial.

The message the police bring is not unexpected. However, the magistrates will find it is not so simple to apply. When they looked at Silas and Paul, they saw two itinerant Jewish teachers, possibly magicians. They didn't bother to ask if they were Roman citizens. Few people in the Roman Empire were actual citizens; such a status was granted to children of citizens, residents of particular cities, those who were honored by the Empire, and those who could buy it (Acts 22:28).

Besides legal, political, and religious advantages, citizens could only be placed under house arrest on command. They could not be punished or fully imprisoned without a fair trial; they could not even be bound. Later, a tribune in Jerusalem will be deeply afraid to learn this law has been violated (Acts 22:29), revealing how seriously the magistrates in the current situation in Philippi have erred.

Paul and Silas's response is worthy of being imitated. The magistrates have denied them their legal rights; in defense of those rights and to avoid future incidents, Paul and Silas demand an apology. But they do not formally accuse the magistrates with the crime. For justice and for the protection of their church plant, they demand respect. For peace, they will accept the apology and leave the city (Acts 16:36–40).
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