Acts 23:1-5
Acts 23:1 (KJB)
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
Paul knew what he was up against because there is speculation that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. Even if he was not, he knew they could be a very ferocious group. Paul did not flinch and began to speak with them in a very confident manner. He addresses them in a polite way and tells them that he has lived before God with a good conscience to this day. He knew that he was not in opposition to anything in the law and that his life was not lived in opposition to the Scriptures.
Acts 23:2 (KJB)
And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
Paulís declaration that he was not guilty of any of their charges had infuriated the high priest Ananias and he commanded someone to strike Paul on the mouth, no doubt believing that Paul spoke blasphemy. He may have been angry because Paul called them brethren. Whatever the matter was, Ananias was just being himself because he ruled like a tyrant and according to the Jewish Talmud, he was also a glutton. Someone with that type of lifestyle could never believe that anyone could live before God with a clear conscience.
Acts 23:3 (KJB)
Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
Paul then responded to this slap immediately because he had a sense of justice which was now aroused. He then rebuked the High Priest with a very strong phrase ďwhite wallĒ which was used to cover dirt and filth. (Mat 23:27 KJV) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Jesus had spoken of the Pharisees in the same manner telling them they were hypocrites. They looked so religious on the outside but their lives were lived in Satanís kingdom and doing all the sins of the unbelievers they railed against. Having someone smitten was against the law. (John 7:51 KJV) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? This was a question asked by Nicodemus. They wanted to judge according to the law and those who were the judges, were violating the law. Paul even tells them that God will smite them because of their attitudes and actions.
Acts 23:4 (KJB)
And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest?
Revilest - Insult
Then some who were standing by Paul asked him, do you revile or insult Godís High priest? Notice they stated that Ananias was Godís High Priest. In reality, once Christ went to the cross, the Mosaic system was then nullified and the office of high priest in the temple was abolished because now Christ is Godís High Priest. (Heb 8:1 KJV) Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; In essence, Paul rebuked the high priest of a defunct religion. In a few years, God would send General Titus to Jerusalem and he would completely destroy it and the temple, since it was no longer needed nor held any spiritual significance.
Acts 23:5 (KJB)
Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
Wist - Knew
Paul did not know that he was the High priest, and Paul immediately apologized for that comment being a very humble man. (Exo 22:28 KJV) Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. Paul knew that it was forbidden to speak evil of a ruler of the people, whether the ruler deserved to be rebuked or not. It is not certain why Paul did not recognize the high priest, whether it was bad eyesight or he was not dressed in the traditional garb. The Roman tribune may have assembled the rulers in a hurry and maybe Ananias was sitting among them instead of presiding over the assembly. Ananias was appointed to be high priest in 47 A.D. by Herod of Chalcis and Paul was not in Jerusalem many times so he would not have known who Ananias was. Herod of Chalcis was also known as Herod V and the brother of Herod Agrippa I and Herodias. Chalcis was an ancient city in Syria. Herod of Chalcis died in 48 A.D. and was succeeded by Herod Agrippa II. Paulís statement to Ananias that God would smite him came to pass a little over a year later when he was deposed as high priest and in 66 A.D. Jewish zealots had assassinated him for being pro-Roman.