Ac 28:1-31. The Wintering
at Malta, and Notable Occurrences There—Prosecution of the Voyage to Italy as Far as Puteoli, and
Land Journey Thence to Rome—Summary of the Apostle's Labors There for the Two Following
1. knew the island was called
Melita—(See on Ac 27:39). The opinion
that this island was not Malta to the south of Sicily, but Meleda in
the Gulf of Venice—which till lately had respectable support
among Competent judges—is now all but exploded; examination of
all the places on the spot, and of all writings and principles bearing
on the question, by gentlemen of the highest qualification,
particularly Smith (see on Ac 27:41), having set the question, it may now be
affirmed, at rest.
2. the barbarous people—so called merely
as speaking neither the Greek nor the Latin language.
They were originally Phœnician colonists.
showed us no little—"no ordinary"
kindness, for they kindled a fire, and received
us every one, because of the present rain—"the rain that was
on us"—not now first falling, but then falling heavily.
and because of the cold—welcomed us
all, drenched and shivering, to these most seasonable marks of
friendship. In this these "barbarians" contrast favorably with many
since bearing the Christian name. The lifelike style of the narrative
here and in the following verses gives it a great charm.
3. when Paul had gathered a bundle of
sticks—"a quantity of dry sticks." The vigorous activity of
Paul's character is observable in this comparatively trifling action
[Webster and Wilkinson].
and laid them on the fire, there came a viper
out of the heat—Having laid itself up among the sticks on the
approach of the cold winter season, it had suddenly recovered from its
torpor by the heat.
and fastened—its fangs.
on his hand—Vipers dart at their
enemies sometimes several feet at a bound. They have now disappeared
from Malta, owing to the change which cultivation has produced.
4-6. No doubt this man is a murderer—His
chains, which they would see, might strengthen the impression.
whom … vengeance suffereth not to
live—They believed in a Supreme, Resistless, Avenging Eye
and Hand, however vague their notions of where it
5. shook off the beast and felt no
harm—See Mr 16:18.
6. they looked—"continued looking."
when he should have swollen or fallen down
dead—familiar with the effects of such bites.
and saw no harm come to him, they changed their
minds, and said … he was a god—from "a murderer" to "a
god," as the Lycaonian greeting of Paul and Silas from "sacrificing to
them" to "stoning them" (Ac 14:13, 19). What has not the Gospel done for the
uncultivated portion of the human family, while its effects on the
educated and refined, though very different, are not less marvellous!
Verily it is God's chosen restorative for the human spirit, in all the
multitudinous forms and gradations of its lapsed state.
7, 8. possessions of the chief man—"the
of the island—He would hardly be so
styled in the lifetime of his father, if his distinction was that of
the family. But it is now ascertained that this was the proper
official title of the Maltese representative of the Roman
prætor to Sicily, to whose province Malta belonged; two
inscriptions having been discovered in the island, one in Greek,
the other in Latin, containing the same words which Luke here
who received us—of Paul's company, but
doubtless including the "courteous" Julius.
and lodged us three days
courteously—till proper winter lodgings could be obtained for
8. the father of Publius lay sick of a
fever—"fevers." The word was often thus used in the plural
number, probably to express recurring attacks.
and of a bloody flux—"of dysentery."
(The medical accuracy of our historian's style has been observed
to whom Paul entered in, and
prayed—thereby precluding the supposition that any charm
resided in himself.
and laid his hands on him, and healed
him—Thus, as our Lord rewarded Peter for the use of his boat
4, &c.), so Paul richly
repays Publius for his hospitality. Observe the fulfilment here of two
things predicted in Mr 16:18—the "taking up serpents," and
"recovering of the sick by laying hands on them."
9. this … done, others … came and were
healed—"kept coming to [us] and getting healed," that is,
during our stay, not all at once [Webster and Wilkinson].
10. who also honoured us … and when we
departed they laded us, &c.—This was not taking hire for
the miracles wrought among them (Mt 10:8), but such grateful expressions of
feeling, particularly in providing what would minister to their comfort
during the voyage, as showed the value they set upon the presence and
labors of the apostle among them, and such as it would have hurt their
feelings to refuse. Whether any permanent effects of this three months'
stay of the greatest of the apostles were left at Malta, we cannot
certainly say. But though little dependence is to be placed upon the
tradition that Publius became bishop of Malta and afterwards of Athens,
we may well believe the accredited tradition that the beginnings of the
Christian Church at Malta sprang out of this memorable visit.
11. we departed in a ship of
Alexandria—(See on Ac 27:6).
which had wintered in the isle—no
doubt driven m by the same storm which had wrecked on its shores the
apostle's vessel—an incidental mark of consistency in the
whose sign—or "figurehead"; the
figure, carved or painted on the bow, which gave name to the vessel.
Such figureheads were anciently as common as now.
was Castor and Pollux—the tutelar gods
of mariners, to whom all their good fortune was ascribed. St. Anthony
is substituted for them in the modern superstitions of Mediterranean
(Romanist) sailors. They carry his image in their boats and ships. It
is highly improbable that two ships of Alexandra should have been
casually found, of which the owners were able and willing to receive on
board such a number of passengers (Ac 27:6). We may then reasonably conceive that
it was compulsory on the owners to convey soldiers and state travellers
[Webster and Wilkinson].
12, 13. landing at Syracuse—the ancient
and celebrated capital of Sicily, on its eastern coast, about eighty
miles, or a day's sail, north from Malta.
we tarried there three
days—probably from the state of the wind. Doubtless Paul
would wish to go ashore, to find out and break ground among the Jews
and proselytes whom such a mercantile center would attract to it; and
if this was allowed at the outset of the voyage (Ac 27:3), much more readily would it be now when
he had gained the reverence and confidence of all classes with whom he
came in contact. At any rate we cannot wonder that he should be
regarded by the Sicilians as the founder of the Church of that
13. from thence we fetched a
compass—that is, proceeded circuitously, or tacked,
working to windward probably, and availing themselves of the
sinuosities of the coast, the wind not being favorable [Smith]. What follows confirms this.
and came to Rhegium—now Reggio,
a seaport on the southwest point of the Italian coast, opposite the
northeast point of Sicily, and at the entrance of the narrow straits of
after one day the south wind blew—a
south wind having sprung up; being now favored with a fair wind, for
want of which they had been obliged first to stay three days at
Syracuse, and then to tack and put in for a day at Rhegium.
the next day to Puteoli—now
Pozzuoli, situated on the northern part of the magnificent bay
of Naples about one hundred eighty miles north of Rhegium, a distance
which they might make, running before their "south wind," in about
twenty-six hours. The Alexandrian corn ships enjoyed a privilege
peculiar to themselves, of not being obliged to strike their topsail on
landing. By this they were easily recognized as they hove in sight by
the crowds that we find gathered on the shore on such occasions [Howson].
14, 15. Where we found brethren—not
"the brethren" (see on Ac 21:4), from
which one would conclude they did not expect to find such [Webster and Wilkinson].
and were desired—"requested."
to tarry with them seven days—If this
request came from Julius, it may have proceeded partly from a wish to
receive instructions from Rome and make arrangements for his journey
thither, partly from a wish to gratify Paul, as he seems studiously and
increasingly to have done to the last. One can hardly doubt that he was
influenced by both considerations. However this may be, the apostle had
thus an opportunity of spending a Sabbath with the Christians of the
place, all the more refreshing from his long privation in this respect,
and as a seasoning for the unknown future that lay before him at the
so we went toward Rome.
15. And from thence, when the
heard of us—by letter from Puteoli,
and probably by the same conveyance which took Julius' announcement of
they came to meet us as far as Appii
Forum—a town forty-one miles from Rome.
and the Three Taverns—thirty miles
from Rome. Thus they came to greet the apostle in two parties, one
stopping short at the nearer, the other going on to the more distant
whom when Paul saw, he thanked God—for
such a welcome. How sensitive he was to such Christian affection all
his Epistles show (Ro 1:9,
and took courage—his long-cherished
purpose to "see Rome" (Ac 19:21),
there to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the divine
pledge that in this he should be gratified (Ac 23:11), being now about to be auspiciously
16. when we came to Rome—the renowned
capital of the ancient world, situated on the Tiber.
the centurion delivered the prisoners to the
captain of the guard—the Prætorian Prefect, to
whose custody, as commander of the Prætorian guard, the highest
military authority in the city, were committed all who were to come
before the emperor for trial. Ordinarily there were two such prefects;
but from A.D. 51 to 62, one
distinguished general—Burrus Aframus, who had been Nero's
tutor—held that office; and as our historian speaks of
"the captain," as if there were but one, it is thought that this
fixes the apostle's arrival at Rome to be not later than the year 62
[Wies]. But even though there had been
two when Paul arrived, he would be committed only to one of them, who
would be "the captain" who got charge of him. (At most,
therefore, this can furnish no more than confirmation to the
chronological evidence otherwise obtained).
but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with
soldier that kept him—"guarded" him.
(See on Ac 12:6). This privilege was allowed in
the case of the better class of prisoners, not accused of any flagrant
offense, on finding security—which in Paul's case would not be
difficult among the Christians. The extension of this privilege to the
apostle may have been due to the terms in which Festus wrote about him;
but far more probably it was owing to the high terms in which Julius
spoke of him, and his express intercession in his behalf. It was
overruled, however, for giving the fullest scope to the labors of the
apostle compatible with confinement at all. As the soldiers who kept
him were relieved periodically, he would thus make the personal
acquaintance of a great number of the Prætorian guard; and if he
had to appear before the Prefect from time to time, the truth might
thus penetrate to those who surrounded the emperor, as we learn, from
1:12, 13, that it did.
17-20. Paul called the chief of the Jews
together—Though banished from the capital by Claudius, the
Jews enjoyed the full benefit of the toleration which distinguished the
first period of Nero's reign, and were at this time in considerable
numbers, wealth, and influence settled at Rome. We have seen that long
before this a flourishing Christian Church existed at Rome, to which
Paul wrote his Epistle (see on Ac 20:3), and the
first members of which were probably Jewish converts and proselytes.
(See Introduction to Romans.)
yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into
the hands of the Romans—the Roman authorities, Felix and
19. I was constrained to appeal … not that I
had aught to accuse my nation of—"I am here not as their
accuser, but as my own defender, and this not of choice but necessity."
His object in alluding thus gently to the treatment he had received
from the Jews was plainly to avoid whatever might irritate his visitors
at the first; especially as he was not aware whether any or what
information against him had reached their community.
20. For this cause … have I called for you
… because … for the hope of Israel—(See on Ac 26:6, 7).
I am bound with this chain—"This cause
is not so much mine as yours; it is the nation's cause; all that is
dear to the heart and hope of Israel is bound up with this case of
mine." From the touching allusions which the apostle makes to his
chains, before Agrippa first, and here before the leading members of
the Jewish community at Rome, at his first interview with them, one
would gather that his great soul felt keenly his being in such a
condition; and it is to this keenness of feeling, under the control of
Christian principle, that we owe the noble use which he made of it in
these two cases.
21, 22. We neither received letters out of Judea
concerning thee, &c.—We need not suppose (with Tholuck and others) that there was any
dishonest concealment here. The distinction made between himself,
against whom they heard nothing, and his "sect," as "everywhere spoken
against," is a presumption in favor of their sincerity; and there is
ground to think that as the case took an unexpected turn by Paul's
appealing to Cæsar, so no information on the subject would travel
from Jerusalem to Rome in advance of the apostle himself.
22. we desire—"deem it proper"
to hear of thee what thou
thinkest—what are thy sentiments, views, &c. The apparent
freedom from prejudice here expressed may have arisen from a prudent
desire to avoid endangering a repetition of those dissensions about
Christianity to which, probably, Suetonius alludes, and which had led to the
expulsion of the Jews under Claudius [Humphry]. See on Ac 18:2.
23, 24. there came many—"considerable
into his lodging—The word
denotes one's place of stay as a guest (Phm 22), not "his own hired house," mentioned
28:30. Some Christian
friends—possibly Aquila and Priscilla, who had returned to Rome
16:3), would be glad to
receive him, though he would soon find himself more at liberty in a
house of his own.
to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom
of God—opening up the great spiritual principles of that
kingdom in opposition to the contracted and secular views of it
entertained by the Jews.
persuading them concerning Jesus—as
the ordained and predicted Head of that kingdom.
out of the law … and the
prophets—drawing his materials and arguments from a source
from morning till evening—"Who would
not wish to have been present?" exclaims Bengel; but virtually we are present while
listening to those Epistles which he dictated from his
prison at Rome, and to his other epistolary expositions of Christian
truth against the Jews.
24. and some believed … some
not—What simplicity and candor are in this record of a result
repeated from age to age where the Gospel is presented to a promiscuous
assemblage of sincere and earnest inquirers after truth, frivolous
worldlings, and prejudiced bigots!
25-29. when they—the Jews.
agreed not among themselves—the
discussion having passed into one between the two parties into which
the visitors were now divided, respecting the arguments and conclusions
of the apostle.
they departed—the material of
discussion being felt by both parties to be exhausted.
after Paul had spoken one word—one
solemn parting testimony, from those Scriptures regarded by both alike
as "the Holy Ghost speaking" to Israel.
26. Hearing, ye shall hear, &c.—(See
on Mt 13:13-15 and Joh
12:38-40). With what pain would this stern saying be wrung from him
whose "heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel was that they might
be saved," and who "had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his
heart" on their account (Ro 10:1; 9:2)!
28. the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles,
and they will hear—(See on Ac
13:44-48). "This departure to the Gentiles" he had intimated to the
perverse Jews at Antioch (Ac 13:46), and at Corinth (Ac 18:6); now at Rome: thus in Asia,
Greece, and Italy" [Bengel].
29. the Jews departed, and had
reasoning among themselves—"This verse
is wanting in many manuscripts [and omitted by several recent editors],
but certainly without reason. Probably the words were regarded as
superfluous, as they seem to tell us what we were told before, that
Paul "departed" (see Ac 28:25).
But in Ac
28:25 it is the breaking off
of the discourse that is meant, here the final departure from the
30. in his own hired house—(See on Ac 28:23), yet still in custody, for he only
"received all that came to him"; and it is not said that he went
to the synagogue or anywhere else.
31. with all confidence, no man forbidding
him—enjoying, in the uninterrupted exercise of his ministry,
all the liberty of a guarded man. Thus closes this most precious
monument of the beginnings of the Christian Church in its march from
east to west, among the Jews first, whose center was Jerusalem; next
among the Gentiles, with Antioch for its headquarters; finally, its
banner is seen waving over imperial Rome, foretokening its universal
triumphs. That distinguished apostle whose conversion, labors, and
sufferings for "the faith which once he destroyed" occupy more than
half of this History, it leaves a prisoner, unheard, so far as appears,
for two years. His accusers, whose presence was indispensable, would
have to await the return of spring before starting for the capital, and
might not reach it for many months; nor, even when there, would they be
so sanguine of success—after Felix, Festus, and Agrippa had all
pronounced him innocent—as to be impatient of delay. And if
witnesses were required to prove the charge advanced by Tertullus, that
he was "a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the [Roman]
24:5), they must have seen
that unless considerable time was allowed them the case would certainly
break down. If to this be added the capricious delays which the emperor
himself might interpose, and the practice of Nero to hear but one
charge at a time, it will not seem strange that the historian should
have no proceedings in the case to record for two years. Begun,
probably, before the apostle's arrival, its progress at Rome under his
own eye would furnish exalted employment, and beguile many a tedious
hour of his two years' imprisonment. Had the case come on for hearing
during this period, much more if it had been disposed of, it is hardly
conceivable that the History should have closed as it does. But if, at
the end of this period, the Narrative only wanted the decision of the
case, while hope deferred was making the heart sick (Pr 13:12), and if, under the guidance of that
Spirit whose seal was on it all, it seemed of more consequence to put
the Church at once in possession of this History than to keep it back
indefinitely for the sake of what might come to be otherwise known, we
cannot wonder that it should be wound up as it is in its two concluding
verses. All that we know of the apostle's proceedings and history
beyond this must be gathered from the Epistles of the
Imprisonment—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and
Philemon—written during this period, and the Pastoral
Epistles—to Timothy and Titus, which, in our judgment, are of
subsequent date. From the former class of Epistles we learn the
following particulars: (1) That the trying restraint laid upon the
apostle's labors by his imprisonment had only turned his influence into
a new channel; the Gospel having in consequence penetrated even into
the palace, and pervaded the city, while the preachers of Christ were
emboldened; and though the Judaizing portion of them, observing his
success among the Gentiles, had been led to inculcate with fresh zeal
their own narrower Gospel, even this had done much good by extending
the truth common to both (See on Php 1:12-18; Php 4:22); (2) That as in addition to all his other
labors, "the care of all the churches pressed upon him from day to-day"
11:28), so with these
churches he kept up an active correspondence by means of letters and
messages, and on such errands he lacked not faithful and beloved
brethren enough ready to be employed—Luke; Timotheus;
Tychicus; (John) Mark; Demas; Aristarchus; Epaphras; Onesimus;
Jesus, called Justus; and, for a short time, Epaphroditus
(See on Col 4:7; Col
4:9-12; Col 4:14; Phm 23,
24; see Introduction to Ephesians, Introduction to Philippians, and Introduction to Philemon). That the apostle
suffered martyrdom under Nero at Rome has never been doubted. But that
the appeal which brought him to Rome issued in his liberation, that he
was at large for some years thereafter and took some wide missionary
circuits, and that he was again arrested, carried to Rome, and then
executed—was the undisputed belief of the early Church, as
expressed by Chrysostom, Jerome, and Eusebius,
in the fourth century, up to Clement of
Rome, the "fellow laborer" of the apostle himself (Php 4:3), in the first century. The strongest
possible confirmation of this is found in the Pastoral Epistles, which
bear marks throughout of a more advanced state of the Church, and more
matured forms of error, than can well have existed at any period before
the appeal which brought the apostle to Rome; which refer to movements
of himself and Timothy that cannot without some straining (as we think)
be made to fit into any prior period; and which are couched in a
manifestly riper style than any of his other Epistles. (See Introduction to First Timothy, Introduction to Second Timothy
Introduction to Titus and Notes). All this
has been called in question by modern critics of great research and
acuteness [Petavius, Lardner, De Wette,
Wieseler, Davidson, and others]. But those who maintain the
ancient view are of equal authority and more numerous, while the weight
of argument appears to us to be decidedly on their side.