After Paul had been held in the Caesarea prison for two years (59 AD), the Roman procurator Felix was removed from his position for incompetence and was replaced with Festus. During his first few days in office King Agrippa II and Bernice traveled to Caesarea to welcome Festus and “to pay their respects to Festus” (Acts 25:13), since they would be working alongside him to assist Rome in its rule of the land.
King Herod Agrippa II had succeeded Agrippa I’s (his father) reign in 44 AD when Agrippa I was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:21-23). Since Agrippa was only 17 years old at the time, Rome appointed a series of procurators to rule for the young Agrippa. By 52 AD portions of his territory were gradually being transferred to Agrippa. Eventually, Agrippa II would rule all of Israel which included land north of Galilee, Galilee, Samaria, Perea, Judea. When the Jewish wars began in 66 AD Agrippa II sided with Rome. King Herod Agrippa II was the great grandson of Herod the great, he lived until around 100 AD. With his death, the line of Herod ceased.
Bernice, was Herod Agrippa I’s daughter, and a year younger than her brother Agrippa II. She had a tasteless life beginning when she was 13 when she married her uncle, Herod of Chalcis (and, had two sons). When Chalcis died, Bernice moved in with her brother Agrippa II. According to Josephus and the Roman poet, Juvenal, Bernice lived in an incestuous relationship with her brother Agrippa II. Later Bernice became the lover of Titus, the Roman General who would destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD and would eventually become the emperor. When Titus died in 81 AD Bernice dropped out of the historical record.
While Agrippa and Bernice were visiting Festus in Caesarea in 59 AD, Paul’s court case came up as a topic of conversation and Agrippa said he would like to hear Paul present his defense. In 48 AD, Agrippa II had been given a portion of land north of Galilee to rule, but he also was given the responsibility to superintend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and appoint the high priest. So, it would be clear that Agrippa II would like to hear Paul’s case since it involved a violation on the Temple Mount. Luke, who was in the audience, records the great pomp and fanfare that occurred in the courtroom when Agrippa and Bernice entered (Acts 25:23). And, then, Paul was brought in. Agrippa gave Paul permission to speak, and for the third time in the book of Acts, Luke records Paul’s testimony of his experience on the road to Damascus. Festus, Agrippa and Bernice listen to Paul until Paul says:
“I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” – Acts 26:22-23
At that point Festus interrupts Paul and shouts:
“You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great leaning is driving you insane.”
Paul then claims before Festus that his presentation is “true and reasonable.” And, Paul calls on King Agrippa to defend the truth of what Paul had just spoken, saying:
“King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.”
King Agrippa realizes that he has just been invited by Paul to make a confession of faith, and rejects the invitation to become a believer, but Agrippa does make a ruling in regard to the Jews case against Paul. Since Agrippa II had been given the right of jurisdiction on the Temple Mount he declares that Paul is innocent and could be set free, except for the fact that Paul had already appealed his case to Nero in
Rome to avoid being ambushed or tried before the Jews in Jerusalem:
“This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”