The Week of Purification: Acts 21:27-36
“27) When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28) crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29) For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30) Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31) While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32) At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33) Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began asking who he was and what he had done. 34) But among the crowd some were shouting one thing and some another, and when he could not find out the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35) When he got to the stairs, he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob; 36) for the multitude of the people kept following them, shouting, “Away with him!”” Acts‬ ‭21‬:‭27‬-‭36‬ ‭
Things went from peace and calm to disorder and chaos in a hurry. Paul was nearing the end of his seven days of purification. Some scholars believe this had something to do with the vow of a nazarite. Acts 18:18 makes mention of his making a vow and cutting his hair. This may have marked the beginning of the days of his separation to the Lord. (Read Numbers Chapter 6)
The person under this vow would abstain from wine and strong drink, any grape juice or fresh or dried grapes during the time of his separation. The vow had a starting day and an ending time that included a time of purification and some sacrifices on his behalf at the tabernacle or later in the temple. According to Numbers 6:8: “all the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord.”
It was Paul’s goal to end his vow of separation in Jerusalem during the celebration of Pentecost. (See Acts 20:16) It is significant that he picked Pentecost to end his vow. This celebrated the giving of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the church age. The Promise of the Father was fulfilled. (See Acts 1:3-8)
The other four men designated by James were under the same vow and going through the purification week to end their vow of separation as well. They were almost done with their week of purification in the temple when the riot occurred. Contrary to the charges against him, Paul was devoted to a very solemn and holy week of solitude and purification in the temple. It included a focused time of prayer and fasting. It is likely that he did not leave the temple day or night during his week of purification. He was not mixing with people. He was in complete solitude with God.
The Jews from Asia failed to get their facts straight. They assumed Paul had brought Greeks past the court of the gentiles and into the temple with him. They assumed Paul was despising and defiling the temple. They assumed Paul was opposed to the Law. To the contrary, he picked Pentecost to honor God and celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit by keeping a holy vow of separation to God found in the Law. It had to be ended in the temple.
This also helps explain Paul’s insistence on going to Jerusalem despite multiple warnings. He was determined to keep his personal vow to God. The timing between Acts 18:18 and Acts 21:26 argue that Paul was under his vow of separation for three years.
The irony of Paul’s arrest now comes into full focus. Every charge against him was false. He was innocent as was Jesus a number of years earlier. Ironically, this time it was Jewish believers seeking to put a fellow Christian to death. The craziest twist to the whole story was that Paul was saved from death by the intervention of pagan Roman soldiers.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global