What does Acts 22:24 mean?It was the responsibility of the governor of Judea and Samaria to maintain peace in Jerusalem. That was no easy task, especially when the governor spent most of his time in his headquarters in Caesarea Maritima. The work fell to the 600 soldiers barracked in the Antonia Fortress. The barracks were named after Mark Antony and rose from street-level to above the northwest corner of the temple mount. This gave the soldiers an excellent view of the temple and the surrounding courtyard which is presumably how they realized a mob was trying to rip a man limb from limb.
The man under assault was Paul. His attackers thought he had brought a Gentile in to the temple—a capital crime according to both the Mosaic and Roman laws. When the tribune heard of the commotion in the city, he took soldiers and ran down to the mob. The mob stopped beating Paul and the tribute arrested him, ordering his soldiers to chain Paul (Acts 21:27–35). The tribute then let Paul speak to the mob (Acts 21:37–40).
Either the tribune doesn't understand the nuances of why the mob would be upset that Paul associates with Gentiles—like himself—or he doesn't understand Aramaic. At the end of Paul's speech, which inflames the crowd even more, the tribune is still confused. He orders that Paul be flogged to get the truth out of him.
Some English versions use "commander" instead of "tribune." "Tribune" identifies a certain type of officer in the Roman army. He was typically less than thirty years old and served in administration and logistics. He could be called to lead military units in battle if needed. After a year, the tribune could go on to another position in the military or he could move on to political work. "Commander" is a position in the military: it means the person is in command of troops. A centurion, whom the tribune orders to flog Paul, was a career army officer in command of about 100 legionaries. Some translations consider the terms "tribune" and "centurion" linked enough to be the same.
In the noise and the heat of the moment, afraid the mob will turn riotous, the tribune has forgotten something that Paul told him: Paul is from Tarsus (Acts 21:39). Everyone born in Tarsus was automatically a Roman citizen. That means they could not be chained—as the tribune has already done (Acts 21:33)—or beaten without a fair trial. Fortunately for the tribune, Paul manages to stop the centurion before the flagellum lands its first strike (Acts 22:25).