3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?

The Delusion of a Whited Wall

Paul, justifiably indignant at the violence ordered against him by the high priest, challenged this dishonest and irregular conduct. In a brief moment of rashness he addressed his adversary as "Thou whited wall!" Whilst he swiftly apologised for his impulsive comment, many have wondered at the origin of the expression.

Doubtless Paul would have been aware of the Lord's censure of the scribes and Pharisees:

"Ye are like whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness" (Mat. 23:27).

Whilst this expression would fittingly include the corrupt high priest Paul addressed, his expression appears to be founded on the words of Ezekiel. Speaking of the way in which false brethren, the prophets, had "seduced" Yahweh's people - a word which occurs nowhere else, and means "to deviate from what is right" (a fitting description of the priesthood in Paul's day), Ezekiel describes the hypocrisy of their actions:

"One built up a wall, and lo, others daubed it with untempered morter" (Eze. 13: 10).

The simile is that of a ruined city, here the men of the city observe its state and determine that something should be done to rectify the situation. Instead of re-building the wall strongly, with sound foundations, as did Nehemiah - itself a representation of the protection the Word of God provides for His people - the men of this ruined city fabricated merely "a slight wall" (see mg.). Literally, the term is "a thin wall"; wall without any strength or durability, and no more effective than if it had been made of cardboard.

This was purely a "cover-up," a kind of compromise rather than providing something of worth that would endure and withstand any attack, thus providing a sound defence for the people within the city.

Others then came along and "daubed it with untempered morter." The Hebrew indicates the use of "white plaster", or a form of white-wash, which transformed it outwardly into a whited wall, only patching up the cracks and deficiencies in the wall - typical of the spiritual values and attitudes of the Jewish religious leaders in apostolic times.

What was the inevitable fate for such a sham construction? Yahweh tells the foolish people:

"It shall fall! There shall be an overflowing shower! Great hailstones shall fall! A stormy wind shall rend it!" (v. 11).

.... This graphic description is remarkably apt in relation to the Jewish religious leaders of Paul's day. Not long after Paul uttered these words, "Thou whited wall!", the walls of their city were to be literally broken down by the Romans, and their spiritual walls would be exposed their true state.

The Christadelphian Expositor - Acts