Acts 24:23

ESV 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.
NIV He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.
NASB He gave orders to the centurion for Paul to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from providing for his needs.
CSB He ordered that the centurion keep Paul under guard, though he could have some freedom, and that he should not prevent any of his friends from meeting his needs.
NLT He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs.
KJV And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty, and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him.

What does Acts 24:23 mean?

What should have been a quick, easy declaration of innocence has turned into an indefinite imprisonment. The Sanhedrin has charged Paul with starting riots, nearly profaning the temple, and leading a cult (Acts 24:5–6). Paul has proven the claims are ridiculous. But Governor Felix would rather placate the Jewish leaders than give Paul justice, so he keeps him in custody under the pretense that he needs the testimony of the Roman army commander in Jerusalem (Acts 24:22). This tribune, Lysias, has saved Paul's life at least three times (Acts 21:27–36; 23:10, 16–22), but he also chained and nearly beat a Roman citizen (Acts 21:33; 22:24–29). It's in his best interest to forget Paul ever existed.

We don't know who the "friends" are who help Paul. They are in Caesarea Maritima, the major port on the Judean/Samaritan coast and home to Philip and his daughters (Acts 21:8–9). If any of Paul's traveling companions return to their homes, they will undoubtedly sail from Caesarea (Acts 20:4). It's very likely Luke travels back and forth between Caesarea, to visit Paul, and Jerusalem, where he can gather information from the apostles for his Gospel.

For the next two years, Felix periodically requests Paul's presence. Felix is looking for a bribe, but Paul has other plans. Felix stole his wife, Drusilla, Herod Agrippa's daughter, from her husband when she was sixteen. He is corrupt and cruel. Paul warns Felix about his immoral behavior and the coming judgment. Felix's greed exposes him to the truth, but to no avail. At the end of two years, the residents of Caesarea have sent so many complaints that Nero calls him back to Rome and Porcius Festus takes his place (Acts 24:24–27).

When Festus shows no desire to set Paul free, Paul claims his right as a Roman citizen and demands his trial go before a higher court (Acts 25:10–11). Before he can leave, Festus introduces Paul to King Agrippa II. After hearing Paul's story, Agrippa admits Paul should have been set free, but the deed is done—he must go to Caesar (Acts 26:31–32). Luke goes with him, and after a harrowing sea voyage, they finally reach Rome.
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