Ac 27:1-44. The Voyage to
Italy—The Shipwreck and Safe
Landing at Malta.
1. we should sail, &c.—The "we" here
reintroduces the historian as one of the company. Not that he had left
the apostle from the time when he last included himself (Ac 21:18), but the apostle was parted from him by
his arrest and imprisonment, until now, when they met in the ship.
delivered Paul and certain other
prisoners—State prisoners going to be tried at Rome; of which
several instances are on record.
Julius—who treats the apostle
throughout with such marked courtesy (Ac 27:3, 43; Ac 28:16), that it has been thought [Bengel] he was present when Paul made his
defense before Agrippa (see Ac 25:23),
and was impressed with his lofty bearing.
a centurion of Augustus' band—the
Augustan cohort, an honorary title given to more than one legion of the
Roman army, implying, perhaps, that they acted as a bodyguard to the
emperor or procurator, as occasion required.
2. a ship of—belonging to.
Adramyttium—a port on the northeast
coast of the Ægean Sea. Doubtless the centurion expected to find
another ship, bound for Italy, at some of the ports of Asia Minor,
without having to go with this ship all the way to Adramyttium; and in
this he was not disappointed. See on Ac 27:6.
meaning to sail by the
of Asia—a coasting vessel, which was
to touch at the ports of proconsular Asia.
one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of
Thessalonica, being with us—rather, "Aristarchus the
Macedonian," &c. The word "one" should not have been introduced
here by our translators, as if this name had not occurred before; for
we find him seized by the Ephesian mob as a "man of Macedonia
and Paul's companion in travel" (Ac 19:29) and as a "Thessalonian"
accompanying the apostle from Ephesus on his voyage back to Palestine
20:4). Here both these places
are mentioned in connection with his name. After this we find him at
Rome with the apostle (Col 4:10; Phm 24).
3. next day we touched at Sidon—To reach
this ancient and celebrated Mediterranean port, about seventy miles
north from Cæsarea, in one day, they must have had a fair
Julius courteously—(See on Ac 27:1).
gave him liberty to go to his
friends—no doubt disciples, gained, it would seem, by
degrees, all along the Phœnician coast since the first preaching
there (see on Ac 11:19 and Ac
to refresh himself—which after his
long confinement would not be unnecessary. Such small personal details
are in this case extremely interesting.
4. when we had launched—"set sail."
from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the
winds were contrary—The wind blowing from the westward,
probably with a touch of the north, which was adverse, they sailed
under the lee of Cyprus, keeping it on their left, and
steering between it and the mainland of Phœnicia.
5. when we had sailed over the Sea of Cilicia and
Pamphylia—coasts with which Paul had been long familiar, the
one, perhaps, from boyhood, the other from the time of his first
we came to Myra, a city of Lycia—a
port a little east of Patara (see on Ac
6. there … found a ship of Alexandria,
sailing into Italy, and he put us therein—(See on Ac 27:2). As Egypt was the granary of Italy, and this
vessel was laden with wheat (Ac 27:35),
we need not wonder it was large enough to carry two hundred seventy-six
souls, passengers and crew together (Ac 27:37). Besides, the Egyptian merchantmen,
among the largest in the Mediterranean, were equal to the largest
merchantmen in our day. It may seem strange that on their passage from
Alexandria to Italy they should be found at a Lycian port. But even
still it is not unusual to stand to the north towards Asia Minor, for
the sake of the current.
7. sailed slowly many days—owing to
and scarce—"with difficulty."
were come over against Cnidus—a town
on the promontory of the peninsula of that name, having the island of
Coos (see on Ac 21:1) to the west of it. But for
the contrary wind they might have made the distance from Myra (one
hundred thirty miles) in one day. They would naturally have put in at
Cnidus, whose larger harbor was admirable, but the strong westerly
current induced them to run south.
under—the lee of
Crete—(See on Tit
over against Salmone—the cape at the
eastern extremity of the island.
8. And hardly passing it—"with
difficulty coasting along it," from the same cause as before, the
westerly current and head winds.
came to … the Fair Havens—an
anchorage near the center of the south coast, and a little east of Cape
Matala, the southern most point of the island.
nigh whereunto was the city
Lasea—identified by the Reverend
George Brown [Smith, Voyages
and Shipwreck of St. Paul, Appendix 3, Second Edition, 1856]. (To
this invaluable book commentators on this chapter, and these notes, are
9, 10. when much time was spent—since
leaving Cæsarea. But for unforeseen delays they might have reached
the Italian coast before the stormy season.
and when sailing—the navigation of the
was now dangerous, because the fast was now
… past—that of the day of atonement, answering to the
end of September and beginning of October, about which
time the navigation is pronounced unsafe by writers of authority. Since
all hope of completing the voyage during that season was abandoned, the
question next was, whether they should winter at Fair Havens, or move
to Port Phenice, a harbor about forty miles to the westward. Paul
assisted at the consultation and strongly urged them to winter where
10. Sirs, I perceive, that this voyage will be
with hurt and much damage, &c.—not by any divine
communication, but simply in the exercise of a good judgment aided by
some experience. The event justified his decision.
11. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master
and owner … more than … Paul—He would naturally
think them best able to judge, and there was much to say for their
opinion, as the bay at Fair Havens, being open to nearly one-half of
the compass, could not be a good winter harbor.
12. Phenice—"Phenix," now called
which lieth toward the southwest and
northwest—If this means that it was open to the west, it
would certainly not be good anchorage! It is thought therefore to mean
that a wind from that quarter would lead into it, or that it lay
in an easterly direction from such a wind [Smith]. Ac 27:13
seems to confirm this.
13. when the south wind blew softly, supposing
they had attained their purpose—With such a wind they had
every prospect of reaching their destination in a few hours.
14, 15. a tempestuous—"typhonic"
wind—that is, like a typhon or
tornado, causing a whirling of the clouds, owing to the meeting of
opposite currents of air.
called Euroclydon—The true reading
appears to be Euro-aquilo, or east-northeast, which answers all
the effects here ascribed to it.
15. could not bear up into—"face"
the wind, we let her drift—before the
16, 17. under—the lee of.
island … Clauda—southwest of
Crete, now called Gonzo; about twenty-three miles to
we had much work to come by—that is,
to hoist up and secure.
the boat—now become necessary. But why
was this difficult? Independently of the gale, raging at the time, the
boat had been towed between twenty and thirty miles after the gale
sprang up, and could scarcely fail to be filled with water [Smith].
17. undergirding the ship—that is,
passing four or five turns of a cable-laid rope round the hull or frame
of the ship, to enable her to resist the violence of the seas, an
operation rarely resorted to in modern seamanship.
fearing lest they should fall into the
quicksands—"be cast ashore" or "stranded upon the Syrtis,"
the Syrtis Major, a gulf on the African coast, southwest of
Crete, the dread of mariners, owing to its dangerous shoals.
sail—This cannot be the meaning, for
to strike sail would have driven them directly towards the Syrtis. The
meaning must be, "lowered the gear" (appurtenances of every kind);
here, perhaps, referring to the lowering of the heavy mainyard with the
sail attached to it [Smith].
19, 20. cast out with our own
hands—passengers and crew together.
the tackling of the ship—whatever they
could do without that carried weight. This further effort to lighten
the ship seems to show that it was now in a leaking condition,
as will presently appear more evident.
20. neither sun nor stars appeared in
days—probably most of the fourteen
days mentioned in Ac 27:27.
This continued thickness of the atmosphere prevented their making the
necessary observations of the heavenly bodies by day or by night; so
that they could not tell where they were.
all hope that we should be saved was taken
away—"Their exertions to subdue the leak had been unavailing;
they could not tell which way to make for the nearest land, in order to
run their ship ashore, the only resource for a sinking ship: but unless
they did make the land, they must founder at sea. Their apprehensions,
therefore, were not so much caused by the fury of the tempest, as by
the state of the ship" [Smith]. From the
inferiority of ancient to modern naval architecture, leaks were sprung
much more easily, and the means of repairing them were fewer than now.
Hence the far greater number of shipwrecks from this cause.
21-26. But after long abstinence—(See on
Ac 27:33). "The hardships which the crew endured
during a gale of such continuance, and their exhaustion from laboring
at the pumps and hunger, may be imagined, but are not described" [Smith].
Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said,
Sirs, ye should have hearkened to me, &c.—not meaning to
reflect on them for the past, but to claim their confidence for what he
was now to say:
23. there stood by me this night the angel of
God—as in Ac 16:9; 23:11.
whose I am—(1Co 6:19, 20).
and whom I serve—in the sense of
worship or religious consecration (see on Ac 13:2).
24. saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought
before Cæsar and, lo, God hath given thee all … that sail
with thee—While the crew were toiling at the pumps, Paul was
wrestling in prayer, not for himself only and the cause in which he was
going a prisoner to Rome, but with true magnanimity of soul for all his
shipmates; and God heard him, "giving him" (remarkable expression!) all
that sailed with him. "When the cheerless day came he gathered the
sailors (and passengers) around him on the deck of the laboring vessel,
and raising his voice above the storm" [Howson], reported the divine communication he had
received; adding with a noble simplicity, "for I believe God
that it shall be even as it was told me," and encouraging all on board
to "be of good cheer" in the same confidence. What a contrast to this
is the speech of Cæsar in similar circumstances to his pilot,
bidding him keep up his spirit because he carried Cæsar and
Cæsar's fortune! [Plutarch]. The
Roman general knew no better name for the Divine Providence, by which
he had been so often preserved, than Cæsar's fortune [Humphry]. From the explicit
particulars—that the ship would be lost, but not one that sailed
in it, and that they "must be cast on a certain island"—one would
conclude a visional representation of a total wreck, a mass of human
beings struggling with the angry elements, and one and all of those
whose figures and countenances had daily met his eye on deck, standing
on some unknown island shore. From what follows, it would seem that
Paul from this time was regarded with a deference akin to awe.
27-29. when the fourteenth night was
come—from the time they left Fair Havens.
as we were driven—drifting
up and down in Adria—the
Adriatic, that sea which lies between Greece and Italy.
about midnight the shipmen deemed—no
doubt from the peculiar sound of the breakers.
that they drew near some country—"that
some land was approaching them." This nautical language gives a graphic
character to the narrative.
29. they cast four anchors out of the
stern—The ordinary way was to cast the anchor, as now, from
the bow: but ancient ships, built with both ends alike, were
fitted with hawseholes in the stern, so that in case of need they could
anchor either way. And when the fear was, as here, that they might fall
on the rocks to leeward, and the intention was to run the ship
ashore as soon as daylight enabled them to fix upon a safe spot, the
very best thing they could do was to anchor by the stern [Smith]. In stormy weather two anchors were used, and
we have instances of four being employed, as here.
and wished—"anxiously" or "devoutly
for day—the remark this of one
present, and with all his shipmates alive to the horrors of their
condition. "The ship might go down at her anchors, or the coast to
leeward might be iron-bound, affording no beach on which they could
land with safety. Hence their anxious longing for day, and the
ungenerous but natural attempt, not peculiar to ancient times, of the
seamen to save their own lives by taking to the boat" [Smith].
30. as the shipmen were about to flee out of the
ship—under cover of night.
when they had let down the boat … as
though they would … cast anchors out of the
foreship—"bow"—rather, "carry out" anchors, to hold the
ship fore as well as aft. "This could have been of no advantage in the
circumstances, and as the pretext could not deceive a seaman, we must
infer that the officers of the ship were parties to the unworthy
attempt, which was perhaps detected by the nautical skill of St. Luke,
and communicated by him to St. Paul" [Smith].
31. Paul said to the centurion and to the
soldiers—the only parties now to be trusted, and whose own
safety was now at stake.
except ye abide in the ship ye cannot be
saved—The soldiers and passengers could not be expected to
possess the necessary seamanship in so very critical a case. The flight
of the crew, therefore, might well be regarded as certain destruction
to all who remained. In full assurance of ultimate safety, in virtue
of a DIVINE pledge, to all in the
ship, Paul speaks and acts throughout this whole scene in the exercise
of a sound judgment as to the indispensable HUMAN conditions of safety; and as there is
no trace of any feeling of inconsistency between these two things in
his mind, so even the centurion, under whose orders the soldiers acted
on Paul's views, seems never to have felt perplexed by the twofold
aspect, divine and human, in which the same thing presented itself to
the mind of Paul. Divine agency and human instrumentality are in all
the events of life quite as much as here. The only difference is
that the one is for the most part shrouded from view, while the other
is ever naked and open to the senses.
32. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the
and let her fall off—let the boat
33-37. while day was coming on—"until it
should be day"; that is, in the interval between the cutting off of the
boat and the approach of day, which all were "anxiously looking for"
Paul—now looked up to by all the
passengers as the man to direct them.
besought them all to take
meat—"partake of a meal."
saying, This is the fourteenth day ye have
tarried—"waited for a breathing time."
having eaten nothing—that is, taken no
regular meal. The impossibility of cooking, the occupation of all hands
to keep down leakage, &c., sufficiently explain this, which is
indeed a common occurrence in such cases.
34. I pray you to take some meat, for this is for
your health, for there shall not a hair fall from … any of
you—On this beautiful union of confidence in the divine
pledge and care for the whole ship's health and safety see on Ac 27:31.
35. when he had thus spoken he took
bread—assuming the lead.
and gave thanks to God in presence of them
all—an impressive act in such circumstances, and fitted to
plant a testimony for the God he served in the breasts of all.
when he had broken it, he began to
eat—not understood by the Christians in the ship as a
love-feast, or celebration of the Lord's Supper, as some think, but a
meal to recruit exhausted nature, which Paul shows them by his own
example how a Christian partakes of.
36. Then were they all of good cheer, and they
also took some meat—"took food"; the first full meal since
the commencement of the gale. Such courage in desperate circumstances
as Paul here showed is wonderfully infectious.
38-40. when they had eaten enough,
&c.—With fresh strength after the meal, they make a third and
last effort to lighten the ship, not only by pumping, as before, but by
throwing the whole cargo of wheat into the sea (see on Ac 27:6).
39. when it was day they knew not the
land—This has been thought surprising in sailors accustomed
to that sea. But the scene of the wreck is remote from the great
harbor, and possesses no marked features by which it could be
recognized, even by a native if he came unexpectedly upon it [Smith], not to speak of the rain pouring in
28:2), which would throw a
haze over the coast even after day broke. Immediately on landing they
knew where they were (Ac 28:1).
discovered a creek with a shore—Every
creek of course, must have a shore; but the meaning is, a
practicable shore, in a nautical sense, that is, one with a
smooth beach, in contradistinction to a rocky coast (as Ac 27:41 shows).
into which they were minded, if …
possible, to thrust the ship—This was their one chance of
40. taken up the anchors, they committed
themselves to the sea—The Margin is here evidently
right, "cut the anchors (away), they left them in the sea."
loosed the rudder bands—Ancient ships
were steered by two large paddles, one on each quarter. When anchored
by the stern in a gale, it would be necessary to lift them out of the
water and secure them by lashings or rudder bands, and to loose these
when the ship was again got under way [Smith].
hoised up the mainsail—her, "the
foresail," the best possible sail that be set in the circumstances. How
necessary must the crew have been to execute all these movements, and
how obvious the foresight which made their stay indispensable to the
safety of all on board (see on Ac 27:31)!
41. falling into a place where two seas
met—Smith thinks this refers
to the channel, not more than one hundred yards broad, which separates
the small island of Salmone from Malta, forming a communication between
the sea inside the bay and that outside.
the fore part stuck fast, and remained
immovable—"The rocks of Malta disintegrate into extremely
minute particles of sand and clay, which, when acted upon by the
currents or surface agitation, form a deposit of tenacious clay; but,
in still waters, where these causes do not act, mud is formed; but it
is only in creeks, where there are no currents, and at such a depth as
to be undisturbed by the waves, that the mud occurs. A ship, therefore,
impelled by the force of a gale, into a creek, with such a bottom,
would strike a bottom of mud, graduating into tenacious clay, into
which the fore part would fix itself, and be held fast, while the stern
was exposed to the force of the waves" [Smith].
hinder part was broken—The
continued action denoted by the tense here is to be
noted—"was fast breaking," going to pieces.
42-44. the soldiers' counsel was to hill the
prisoners, lest any … should escape—Roman cruelty,
which made the keepers answerable for their prisoners with their own
lives, is here reflected in this cruel proposal.
43. the centurion, &c.—Great must
have been the influence of Paul over the centurion's mind to produce
such an effect. All followed the swimmers in committing themselves to
the deep, and according to the divine pledge and Paul's confident
assurance given them, every soul got safe to land—yet without
miracle. (While the graphic minuteness of this narrative of the
shipwreck puts it beyond doubt that the narrator was himself on board,
the great number of nautical phrases, which all critics have
noted, along with the unprofessional air which the whole
narrative wears, agrees singularly with all we know and have reason to
believe of "the beloved physician"; see on Ac