Acts 21:36-40
Acts 21:36 (KJB)
For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
Here Paul faced the same situation that Jesus faced about thirty years before. The cry of that crowd was also, “away with him.” (John 19:15 KJV) But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Since the crowd could no longer get their hands on Paul, they hoped the Romans would take Paul and crucify him too. If the Romans did not intervene, they would have ripped Paul apart like a pack of hungry lions. (1 Pet 5:8 KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: These Jews only proved the Lord’s words that they were of their father the devil since they wanted to kill anyone and everyone having to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 8:44 KJV) Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. They lied about Paul and wanted to murder him.
Acts 21:37 (KJB)
And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?
Now that the crowd was in the distance and there was now quiet, Paul had asked permission of the Roman tribune if he may speak unto him. The tribune was surprised at the language Paul had spoken and asked him if he could speak Greek? Paul was a very well educated man and he learned to speak Greek so he could bring the Gospel to the Gentiles who spoke Greek and he used Hebrew to bring the Gospel to the Jews. Greek was also the business language of the day, like English is today. Greek was spoken in Israel at that time. Greek was a second language to Jews at that time. The Galilean fishermen had to speak Greek to be able to sell their fish in the Greek speaking cities. Greek was also the language of trade, commerce, education, and government communication all over the Roman Empire.
Acts 21:38 (KJB)
Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
The Tribune also had jumped to a conclusion that Paul was somebody else. The Romans no doubt were looking for an Egyptian who, about 54 A.D., came to Jerusalem claiming to be some kind of prophet and led a great crowd of about 4,000 out to the Mount of Olives and had promised his followers that on his words, the walls of Jerusalem would fall. Governor Felix had sent soldiers to the Mount to break up the gathering and they killed about 400 and had captured about 200 but the Egyptian and some of his fanatical followers escaped into the desert. These men really were dangerous and were considered dagger men who in previous times would roam the streets of Jerusalem and stab pro-Roman Jews, especially at Feasts.
Acts 21:39 (KJB)
But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
Mean - Insignificant or obscure
Paul then gave a little history of himself and where he was from. He speaks of Tarsus as being a city of significance. It was the chief city of Cilicia in the eastern part of Asia minor. It had a university and their schools were in the category of Athens and Alexandria. Anyone who was born there would definitely be fluent in the Greek language. Paul then asks permission of the Tribune if he would be allowed to address the people. Once the Tribune was assured that Paul was not this Egyptian fugitive, he could get the permission he needed. Paul probably figured that if the Roman soldiers were visible, then there would be a semblance of order and he would then be able to be listened to. Paul had no desire for revenge for being beaten and treated harshly, but still showed his love and compassion for his people.
Acts 21:40 (KJB)
And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
Paul received permission to speak with the crowd and was on the stairs where he would have been able to be heard quite well being above the crowd. The crowd had finally calmed down as Paul had made a hand gesture to them, and once there was silence, Paul began to address the crowd in the Hebrew tongue. If the Tribune did not understand Hebrew, I am sure that he had someone translate for him what was being said. There was also a possibility that Paul spoke in Aramaic, which was the type of Hebrew brought back from Babylon five centuries prior. Aramaic was spoken in the home around Galilee and Judaea. No doubt it was Hebrew since the Jews would have known that language hearing the Hebrew Scriptures read every sabbath. Paul then begins his dissertation.