Read: Acts 19: 32-41
Yesterday we left Paul in the midst of huge riot that was growing with passing moment, today we read that this potentially dangerous mob makes its way to the theater and Alexander, a Jew tries to calm the crowd. As Ephesians and loyal to their goddess and their way of life, the sense of patriotism soared and the rioting mob seeing the Jew, Alexander began to show for two hours straight, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Two hours of dizzying hysteria. Finally the city clerk was able to calm the shouting before things got completely out of hand. The little speech that the city clerk gives us an indication that this man was given to justice and wasn’t about to let the angry mob do anything rash. The charges brought against Paul were that he was threatening their way of life and attacking their worship. But, this city clerk is quick to point out the preaching of Paul was not illegal and the trouble they would be in if this mob didn’t disband immediately would be worse than they could imagine, for they would have to answer to Rome. The city clerk notes that if Demetrius and his rabble rousing crew would like to press charges against Paul, that was fine but they must do so legally.
In my Social Psychology class I had to take in college, one of the phenomenon we looked at was what happens when a group of people get together and how likely they are to not respond to certain situations. One experiment was conducted where researches sent smoke through a door way, and they marveled as not a soul in the class room tried to do anything about the potential fire or danger they were in. Another case for “group think” occurred in a New York alley, where a young woman was mugged, and then murdered. The people living above the alley heard her cries, even turned the apartment lights on, but no one helped. The lights scared away the attacker, but when he noticed that no one was coming proceeded to attack. I am reminded of this “group think” phenomenon here in
Ephesus as Luke notes that this group of rioters was such in an uproar that half the crowd was shouting one thing, and the other half was shouting something different. The point is this, the crowd was gathered, and many in the crowd were conforming to the mood and desire of the whole group. This rioting mob could have turned violent, I think that is where this mob was headed had the city clerk not intervened, and who knows what would have happened to Paul and his traveling crew.