Paul might well have hoped, by thus complying with the legal ceremonial, to conciliate those, at least, who were only hostile to him because they believed him hostile to their national worship. And, so far as the great body of the Church at Jerusalem was concerned, Paul probably succeeded. But the celebration of the festival had attracted multitudes to the Holy City, and the Temple was thronged with worshippers from every land.
These men, whom a zealous feeling of nationality had attracted from their distant home to the metropolis of their faith, now beheld, where they least expected to find him, the apostate Israelite (Paul), who had opposed their teaching and seduced their converts. An opportunity of revenge, which they could not have hoped for in the Gentile city where they dwelt, had suddenly presented itself. They sprang upon their enemy, and shouted while they held him fast.
"Men of Israel, help! This is the man (Paul) who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place; and furthermore, he has also brought Greeks into the temple, and has defiled this holy place" (Acts 21:28, HBFV where noted).
Then as the crowd rushed tumultously towards the spot, they excited them yet further by accusing Paul of introducing Greeks into the Holy Place, which was profaned by the presence of a Gentile. The vast multitude which was assembled at the temple, and in the immediate neighborhood, was excited to madness by these tidings, which spread rapidly through the crowd.
The pilgrims who flocked at such seasons to Jerusalem were of course the most zealous of their nation; very Hebrews of the Hebrews. We may imagine the horror and indignation which would fill their minds when they heard that an apostate from the faith of Israel had been seized in the very act of profaning the Temple at this holy season.
A furious multitude rushed upon the Apostle Paul. It was only their reverence for the holy place which preserved him from being torn to pieces on the spot.
They riotous temple mob hurried Paul out of the sacred enclosure, and assailed him with violent blows (Acts 21:31 - 32). Their next course might have been to stone him or to hurl him over the precipice into the valley below. They were already in the Court of the Gentiles, and the heavy gates which separated the inner from the outer enclosure were shut by the Levites, when an unexpected interruption prevented the murderous purpose.