Going to the place of prayer we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination which provided her owners with a considerable income from her soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, proclaiming to you the way of salvation." This she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and eventually turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." It came out there and then. But when her owners saw that their cash flow had dried up, they seized Paul and Silas dragging them into the market place before the rulers (άρχοντας); and when they had brought them to the magistrates (στρατηγοις) they said, "These men are Jews (ύπάρχοντες) and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs which it is not lawful for us Romans to accept or practice." The crowd joined in attacking them; and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Very often employers demand they be allowed to employ those who then earn their living from degrading work. This slave girl provided her owners with an income - she told people's fortunes and she was also a means for their entertainment. Paul bit his lip and said nothing for some days. Was he hoping that her taunts might indicate her desire to be free? She announced to one and all in the Philippi market place: These men are servants of the Most High who will show you the way of salvation. Sounds a bit like free advertising, doesn't it? Paul was alert to what this fortune-teller was saying, even as it troubled and angered him. He let her continue for a few days. At last he could stand it no more, challenging the Delphic spirit directly. Soon enough her owners knew what had happened. They could no longer exploit their Delphic cash-cow. Enraged, they dragged Paul and Silas before the market executive and then on to the magistrate who would judge the case and decide punishment.
The owners accused Paul and Silas of disturbing the peace of the market-place and advocating foreign customs. They assumed it was legal to keep a girl in servitude. Still Paul's exorcism of the possessing spirit posed a difficult problem. Luke indicates that the trial completely ignored the events. Apparently, it was considered quite appropriate for judges to allow the living daylights to be belted out of such prisoners. Maybe it was their clothes gave them away. Paul and Silas were known to be Jews. Only later would these rod-bearing judges be told they had unjustly beaten Roman citizens without a fair Roman trial.
As with many events recorded in this book, we do not always read in the language that was in use - the girl's taunt, Paul's teaching or his exorcism. We imagine the trial - what there was of it - was in Latin or maybe Greek. It became a horrendous physical ordeal. Paul and Silas spent the night in prison, their feet in stocks, under the care of a jailor. We shall read more of him shortly.