Drusilla the Beautiful
Acts 24:24-25 “….when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time;…..”
The dramatic scene portrayed here in Acts has three major players. Paul, the apostle, a free born Roman Citizen of Tarsus, Antoninus Felix the Procurator, who ruled over Judea and Samaria from A. D. 53-60. and his wife Drusilla.
Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I. She was aptly named Drusilla, meaning watered by the dew. A beautiful baby no doubt, born circa A.D. 37, she became an even more beautiful girl and woman. Her siblings were her brother Herod Agrippa II and her sisters Mariamne and Bernice, also beautiful, but insanely jealous of Drusilla’s beauty.
Her father, Agrippa I betrothed Drusilla, “which was a Jewess” (Acts 24:24), at age six to Callinicus, the Prince of Commagene, a descendant of Antiochus Epiphanes. The betrothal was annulled as Callinicus did not become circumcised, so she was given in marriage at the tender age of 14 to Azizus, king of Emesa, who had consented to be circumcised for the sake of the alliance. Emesa encompassed most of the Bekaa Valley, where the ruins of the Temple to the Sun God are still to be seen at Baalbek. This territory, now called Lebanon, was under the control of Rome, and Felix the procurator of Judea, first saw Drusilla while on a visit to King Azizus, and fell madly in love with her.
Felix determined to have her, and employed a friend, Simon Atomus, a Cyprian sorcerer to persuade Drusilla to desert Azizus, and become Felix’ wife.
Now married to Felix, she was interested in her Jewish heritage, with its expectation of a coming Messiah, and with the furor surrounding the examination of Paul she asked Felix to arrange a private meeting for them with Paul. Felix knew quite a bit about the Christians, called people of ‘The Way’, but Drusilla wanted to hear Paul explain to her, concerning the faith in Christ. Felix was agreeable, as he wished to know more about the Christians, and felt he could speak more openly with Paul privately than in open court.
When Paul began talking to them, he probably knew much of their history, so instead of talking about the doctrine and differences between Judaism and Christianity, he reasoned with Felix and Drusilla on three subjects. These were Righteousness, Temperance, and Judgment to come!
Josephus notes, “She was, therefore, living in adultery with him, and this was probably the reason why Paul dwelt in his discourse before Felix particularly on “temperance,” or chastity.” Historians note that Felix had been married twice before this.
Acts 24:25 records that Felix trembled. He was both drawn to the subject and horrified at the possible consequences of his past life. The last verses of Acts 24 tell of his frequent meetings with Paul, hoping for a bribe, to set Paul free, and listening to what Paul preached again and again.
Bible Commentator Matthew Henry observes, “Many are fond of new notions and speculations in religion, and can hear and speak of them with pleasure, who yet hate to come under the power and influence of religion, can be content to have their judgments informed but not their lives reformed.”
It is interesting to read that after two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus, who needed to write a letter to Caesar outlining the indictment against Paul. On the Ceremonial visit of Drusilla’s brother King Agrippa II and their sister Bernice, he arranged for them to hear Paul and give him advice on how to form the accusation to Caesar. Paul used the opportunity to present the testimony of his changed life, and to confront King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, who was more than a sister to him, according to the writings of Josephus the Jewish historian.
In the closing days of Drusilla’s life, we are told that she, and a son she had by Felix, lived close to Pompey and were consumed in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius (See Josephus, Antiq. lib. xx. cap. 7). Sadly there is no account of this beautiful woman, who personally listened to Paul the apostle, ever coming to the knowledge of Christ as her Savior.
The Lord told Ananias of Damascus that Paul “Is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15)
He did share the message of salvation through Jesus, to nearly all the Herodian family and finally to Ceasar in Rome. Who have you spoken to about what Jesus has done in your life?