Acts: Chapter 27
Let’s begin by reading (Acts 27:1-12).
(Verses 1-2) “And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band. (2) And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.”
Remembering back to the last two chapters (25 & 26), we saw that Paul had “appealed to Caesar” to try his case (Acts 25:12,21,25)(Acts 26:32), and his request was granted. This chapter will focus on his voyage to Rome (“Italy”) to appear before Caesar.
“that “we” should sail” – The “we” here (a change from the 3rd person “they / them” to “we / us”) indicates that Luke, the author of Acts is accompanying Paul on this journey. We last saw Luke with Paul when they had arrived in Jerusalem together (Acts 21:18 – “us”). Shortly after that, Paul was arrested and sent to Caesarea, where he ended up imprisoned for 2 years (Acts 24:27). It is believed (not mentioned in Scripture) that Luke likely followed Paul to Caesarea, and stayed there while Paul was in prison, helping to meet his needs. This would explain why he is immediately ready to leave here (Caesarea) with Paul the moment he is put on a ship to go to Rome.
***Note: There are 4 “we / us” sections in Acts: (Acts 16:10-17)(Acts 20:5-15)(Acts 21:1-18)(here: Acts 27:1 – 28:16).
“certain other prisoners” – (From the Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible”) – “Some of the other prisoners may have also appealed to Caesar, or they may have been under sentence of death and were on their way to Rome to appear as combatants in the arena.”
“Julius” – We know nothing about Julius beyond that he was “a centurion of Augustus band.” However, as we continue on in this chapter, we will see several things that he did:
#1. He was kind and respectful to Paul (verse 3).
#2. He failed to listen to Paul’s advice one time (which was a mistake)(verse 11).
#3. He listened to Paul’s advice the next time (verses 31-32).
#4. He saved Paul’s life (verses 43-44).
“a centurion of Augustus band (“Augustus Regiment / Cohort”) – (From the “Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible”) – “As a centurion, Julius would have been part of a cohort, a regiment of the Roman military. A legion numbered about six thousand men. Each legion had ten cohorts of about six hundred men each. The cohorts were divided into centuries of a hundred men, and each century was commanded by a centurion, something like a modern sergeant.” (***Note: Acts 10:1 says that Cornelius was a “centurion” of the “Italian Regiment.”)
“a ship of Adramyttium” – This was a seaport on the NW coast of Asia Minor. Today, it is known as Edremit, and is located in modern Turkey.
“Aristarchus, a Macedonian” – “Aristarchus” (name means “the best ruler”) is mentioned by name 5 times in the New Testament. The only things we know about him are in the following verses:
(Acts 19:29)(Acts 20:4)(Acts 27:2) He was a “Macedonian of Thessalonica.”
(Acts 19:29) He was a “traveling companion of Paul’s, who was seized by a mob in Ephesus.
(Acts 20:4-5) He “went ahead” of Paul to Troas, and “waited for” him there.
(Acts 27:1-2) He is on this ship taking Paul to Rome.
(Col 4:10) In writing to the Colossians, during his 1st imprisonment in Rome (which lasted for 2 years: Acts 28:30), Paul says that “Aristarchus” is a “fellow prisoner” with him.
(Phile 1:24) In a later letter, written to Philemon while still in his 1st imprisonment (Phile 1:9,22), Paul calls “Aristarchus” a “fellow laborer.”
***NOTE: Going forward, I would urge you to find a map of this journey that Paul took to Rome. “Maps” can often be found at the back of your Bibles, but if yours doesn’t have maps, you can put in a search engine: “map of Paul’s journey to Rome.”***
(Verses 3-6)(NKJV) “And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. (4) When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. (5) And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. (6) There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board.”
“Sidon” – Located in Phoenicia, and just over 70 miles N of Caesarea, Sidon is a very ancient city, founded by “Sidon,” the firstborn son of Canaan (Gen 10:15,19). In the OT, Sidon often received prophecies of judgment because of its wickedness (see: Isa 23:12, Jer 27:3, Ezek 28:20-24, Joel 3:4-8), (In the NT, see: Lk 10:13-14). “Nelson’s Illustrated Dictionary Of The Bible” says of Sidon at this time, “In the first century learned Sidonians were also noted for their study in the sciences of astronomy and arithmetic. Sidon also had a law school that was famed throughout the ancient world.” “Unger’s Bible Dictionary” adds, “The Sidonians were skillful in philosophy, art (particularly “glass blowing”), and astronomy, as indicated by Strabo, the Greek historian of the first century B.C.”
“gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care” – Fellow Christians in Sidon likely gave Paul some supplies for his sailing journey to Rome. Coming from being imprisoned for two years, they may have provided him an opportunity to get “cleaned up,” and receive new clothing. Several commentaries (“Expositor’s / Pulpit”) say that the Greek word used here (“epimeleias“) was used at times in classical Greek writings when speaking of medical care, and that Paul may have required medical care due to his long confinement.
“under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary” – Looking at your map, you can see that Rome is due west of Sidon, However, Cyprus is NW of Sidon. Why did they go NW? During the time of year that they were sailing (late fall), very strong winds came from the west. Sailing into those winds was almost impossible. Therefore, virtually all ships sailing from east to west on the Mediterranean Sea would go north first, and then sail between the island of Cyprus and the mainland (“Cilicia and Pamphylia”), which lessened the force of the westerly winds.
“Cyprus” – Mentioned by name in the NT only in the book of Acts (8 times), it was a large island (about 140 mi. long, and 60 mi. wide [at its greatest width]), located in the northeast Mediterranean Sea. It was the home of Barnabas (Acts 4:36), and had a large Jewish population.
“Cilicia and Pamphylia” – Both were Roman provinces located next to each other in southern Asia Minor (modern Turkey) (the mainland). They were about 45 miles north of Cyprus (the island). (Tarsus, the birthplace of Paul, was one of the principal towns in Cilicia.)
“Myra, a city of Lycia” – Lycia was also a Roman province in southwest Asia Minor. Myra was one of its chief cities. (Patara was another chief city, with Paul stopping there during his 3rd Missionary Journey: Acts 21:1.) (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) – (Myra was)… “one of the main ports of the imperial grain fleet, whose ships brought Egyptian grain to Italy.”
(From “Unger’s Bible Dictionary”) – “It (Myra) was situated about two miles from the sea, upon rising ground, at the foot of which flowed a navigable river (the Andracus) with an excellent harbor. To be seen at Myra today are fascinating rock-cut Lycian tombs, a Roman theater, a Roman bath, a Hellenistic fortress, and at the harbor area the ruins of a temple, a sixth-century church, and a granary of Hadrian. In the nearby town of Demre is the famous church of St. Nicholas, who was martyred in 655. He is the St. Nicholas connected with Christian legend.”
“an Alexandrian ship” – “Alexandria” was / is a city in Egypt. Egypt provided grain for a number of places, including Italy. This was a large cargo ship (big enough to hold 276 people – verse 37), filled with grain (verse 38), that was on its way to Italy to deliver the grain. If you look at the map of this journey, you can see Egypt at the southern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and the ship had to travel all the way to the north Mediterranean Sea, just so it could sail on the water between Cyprus and the mainland (because of the strong west winds).
(Verses 7-8)(NASB) “When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; (8) and with difficulty sailing past it, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.”
“When we had sailed for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived” – Looking at your map, you can see that the travel from Myra to Cnidus is west. The distance between the two is not that far (about 150 mi.), however, the strong winds from the west made this journey “difficult,” and it took “a good many days.”
“Cnidus” – Located in the SW corner of Asia Minor. (From the “Zondervan Bible Dictionary”) – “(It) had two excellent harbors. It had the rank of a free city. Jews lived there as early as the second century B.C. Only ruins are left of a once flourishing city, especially noted for its temple of Venus and a statue of the goddess by Praxiteles.”
“Crete” – Notice on the map that Crete is south (and a little west) of Cnidus. “Since the wind did not permit them” to go directly west (the shortest route to Italy), they went south to the island of Crete, and used it as a “shelter” against the wind.
The island of Crete is about 160 mi long, and from 7 to 30 mi. wide. It was a Roman province, captured by the Romans in 68 – 66 B.C. (From Unger’s Bible Dictionary”) – “The Cretans had a name in ancient times for being good sailors, skilled archers, and experts in ambush.”
Some Cretans were at Pentecost (Acts 2:11). We learn in (Titus 1:5) that Paul sent Titus to the church in Crete to “set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city.” In (Titus 1:12-13), Paul says this, “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true….” (Ouch!). “Unger’s” adds this, “The classics abound with allusions to the untruthfulness of the Cretans; and it was so frequently applied to them that kertizein, “to act the Cretan,” was a synonym for to play the liar.”
“Salmone” – A high cliff, located on the NE point of Crete (not shown on map). They traveled south past it with “difficulty.” Today, it is called Cape Sidero.
“Fair Havens” – A harbor, located almost in the exact center of the south coast of Crete. “Lasea” was a city about 5 miles inland from Fair Havens.
(Verses 9-10)(NASB) “When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul started admonishing them, (10) saying to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo (grain) and the ship, but also of our lives.””
“when considerable time had passed” – Because of all the bad weather they had encountered since leaving Caesarea, they had been at sea much longer than they expected to be. They certainly believed they would be in Italy by now. Because the voyage had taken so long, it was now past the time for safe sailing.
“the voyage was now dangerous, even the fast was already over” – (From the MacArthur Study Bible”) – “Travel in the open sea was dangerous from mid-Sept. to mid-Nov., after which it ceased altogether until Feb. Since the Fast (the Day of Atonement) of late Sept. or early Oct. was past, further travel was already extremely dangerous.” (For more on the Day of Atonement, see Lev 23:26-32.)
***Note: “Ellicott’s Commentary” says the Day of Atonement, which fell on the 10th of Tisri, would have been about our Sept. 24th that year.
***Note: This is the only time the word “dangerous” (Gr. “episphales“) is used in the NT.
“Paul started admonishing them” – Paul had been at sea may times before this, so he had some experience with sailing. We also know from (2 Cor 11:25)(written before this) that he had been in at least 3 shipwrecks, and had been “a night and day in the deep.” He certainly knew when not to sail, and this was one of those times.
“I perceive” – (From the “Cambridge Commentary”) – “The verb rendered “I perceive” implies the results of observation, and does not refer to any supernatural communication which the Apostle had received. This is clear from the end of the verse where Paul speaks of hurt to the lives (loss of life) of those on board, which did not come to pass (Acts 27:44).” (We will soon see Paul was right.)
(Verses 11-12)(NKJV) “Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. (12) And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to set sail from there also, if by any means they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete opening toward the southwest and northwest, and winter there.”
Continuing from “Nelson’s,” “His (Paul’s) counsel was rejected. Because Fair Havens was a little town, the sailors decided to try to reach Phoenix, the major port on the west side of Crete, some 60 miles away (more likely 35-40 mi.). It could be that the owner of the ship wanted to get his grain to a larger port so that he could sell it. Furthermore Julius, the centurion in charge, probably wanted a better place to winter his men. In other words, greed and a desire for comfort may have gotten in the way of good sense.”
“the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship” – We can see here that as a Roman “centurion,” Julius was in charge on this voyage, not the owner of the boat, nor its captain. However, the centurion took the advice of those he considered professionals on such matters, and agreed to sail on to Phoenix.
“Phoenix” – (“Loutro” today) On the south side of Crete, and west of Fair Havens, it was a major city that served as a wintering place for many ships, having a harbor that served as protection against the storms.
Next, let’s read (Acts 27:13-26).
(Verses 13-15) “And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose (“desire”), loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. (14) But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. (15) And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up (head) into the wind, we let her drive.
“when the south wind blew softly, supposing they had obtained their purpose (“desire”)” – Seeing the south wind blowing “softly” gave them confidence that they had made the right decision to travel the short distance to Phoenix, therefore, they set sail. (In ideal conditions, this journey would only have taken a few hours,)
“they sailed close by Crete” – To help protect them from any winds that might come.
“Euroclydon” – (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) – “Euroquilon is the preferred reading, from the Gr. word euros (“east wind”) and the Lat. word aquilo (north wind). It is a strong, dangerous windstorm greatly feared by those who sailed the Mediterranean.” (Today, we would call this a “northeaster.”) (In other words, the “soft” south winds suddenly changed to violent northeast winds.)
These winds would have come over the mountains of Crete (some of which reached up to 7000′ in height), and then blew down to the sea, thereby pushing the ship south.
“could not bear up into the wind” – Literally means could not “look the wind in the eye.”
(Verses 16-17)(NASB) “Running under the shelter of a small island called Cauda (Clauda), we were able to get the ship’s boat under control only with difficulty. (17) After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground (“fall into the quicksands” – KJV) on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and let themselves be driven along in this way.”
“Clauda” – Clauda was 23 about miles south of Crete. The winds had carried them that far! However, they used the small island as some shelter from the wind and waves to do three important things to help them through the storm:
#1. “the ship’s boat… hoisted it” – A small boat was sometimes towed behind the main ship, which could be used to go to shore, or boarded if something happened to the main ship. Because of the bad weather, it was undoubtedly filled with water, which was causing problems for the main ship. Therefore, they pulled it from the water, and brought it aboard.
#2. “used supporting cables in undergirding the ship” – In addition, they undertook a process called “frapping.” The “Barnes Commentary” says this, “The operation of “frapping” a vessel is thus described in Falconer’s Marine Dictionary. “To frap a ship is to pass four or five turns of a large cable-laid rope round the hull or frame of a ship to support her in a great storm, or otherwise, when it is apprehended that she is not strong enough to resist the violent efforts of the sea.””
#3. “let down the sea anchor” – Trying to slow down their movement southward.
“the shallows (or “quicksands”) of Syrtis” – These were two bodies of water (the “Greater Syrtis” and the “Lesser Syrtis”) in the Mediterranean Sea located off of the coast of North Africa. A man from around that time named Chrysostom said this, “But for those who have once sailed into it find egress impossible; for shoals, cross-currents, and long sand-bars extending a great distance out make the sea utterly impassible or troublesome.” These “shallows” were well-known among all sailors for destroying ships.
(Verses 18-20)(NKJV) “And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. (19) On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. (20) Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.”
“lightened the ship” – “Lightening the ship” made it sit up higher in the waves, thereby keeping it from taking on as much water. Sitting up higher would also make it less likely to get stuck in the “shallows / quicksands.” They main thing they likely did here was to toss some of the cargo (grain) they were carrying into the sea (although not all of it v. 38).
“they” / “we” – Notice that the author Luke says, “they” (lightened the ship), but on the “third day, “we” (“threw the ship’s tackle overboard”). This would indicate Luke himself getting involved in the process. ***Note: Some commentaries (i.e. Ellicott’s) say, “The better MSS. give the third person plural, and not the first.”
“tackle” – The Greek word used for “tackle” is “skeue,” and it is defined by “Thayer’s Greek Lexicon” as: “any apparatus, equipment, or furniture.” In other words, they moved beyond tossing grain overboard to tossing all kinds of other things (see Jonah 1:5 for parallel). Thinking about a ship from that time, what do you imagine they tossed over?
“Neither sun nor stars” – (Gill says the “Syriac version” adds “nor moon” as well.) In Bible times, they had no compasses. They navigated by the sun, moon, and stars. Since they could not see them, they didn’t know what direction they were going. (***Note: In those days, they also looked at the sky to know what weather was coming [i.e. Mt 16:2-3, Lk 12:54-55]).
“all hope that we would be saved was finally given up” – They were exhausted, and had been at sea for so many days without finding land (v. 27 “fourteen nights”), that they finally gave up hope, and just figured they would die at sea. Many sources believe their boat likely was leaking as well.
(Verses 21-26)(NASB) “When many had lost their appetites (NKJV – “after long abstinence from food”), Paul then stood among them and said, “Men, you should have followed my advice and not have set sail from Crete, and thereby spared yourselves this damage and loss. (22) And yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. (23) For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong, whom I also serve, came to me, (24) saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has graciously granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ (25) Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. (26) But we must run aground on a certain island.”
“lost their appetites / long abstinence from food” – Because they had been so busy trying to save the ship, and certainly bailing water, they had not eaten (likely meaning “a meal” see v. 34-35) in days. In addition, since they had “given up,” they likely lost their desire to eat. Seasickness may have reduced their appetites as well. We would think, given the conditions, “cooking” was also impossible.
“Men, you should have followed my advice” – (From the “Life Application Bible”) – “Why would Paul talk to the crew this way? Paul was not taunting them with an “I told you so,” but was reminding them that, with God’s guidance, he had predicted this very problem. In the future, they listened to him (27:30-32), and their lives were spared because of it.”
“there will be no loss of life, only of the ship” – What an encouragement this must have been to everyone! This prophecy is exactly fulfilled. “They all escaped safely to land” (verse 44). The ship was destroyed (verse 41).
“For this night an angel… came to me” – As in (Acts 23:11), when I believe Jesus physically appeared to Paul (“stood by him”), I believe an angel physically appeared here as well. (God given dreams and visions were generally connected with sleeping, and it is “highly” unlikely that Paul was sleeping in this storm.) However, others believe this was a “vision.” If so, it was one of several others that happened to Paul (Acts 9:11-12)(Acts 16:9-10)(Acts 18:9-10)(Acts 22:17-21)(2 Cor 12:1-4).
“Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar” – Reaffirming the promise Jesus had made to Paul in (Acts 23:11).
“God has graciously granted you all those who are sailing with you” – Almost certainly indicating that Paul had been praying that God would save the lives of all aboard.
“We must run aground a certain island” – This is Malta, which the ship will purposely run aground on in (verse 41).
Next, let’s read (Acts 27:27-38).
(Verses 27-29)(NKJV) “Now when the fourteenth night had come, as we were driven up and down in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors sensed that they were drawing near some land. (28) And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms. (29) Then, fearing lest we should run aground on the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern, and prayed for day to come.”
“the fourteenth night” – From when they left Fair Havens in (verse 13). Two weeks adrift in the storm!
“the Adriatic Sea” – (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) – “The central Mediterranean Sea, not the present Adriatic Sea located between Italy and Croatia. The modern Adriatic was known in Paul’s day as the Gulf of Adria.”
“sensed they were drawing near some land” – We are not told how they “sensed” this. Perhaps they heard distant waves hitting a shore.
“took soundings” – “Soundings” were used to determine how deep the water was by dropping a long rope with lead attached to the end of it into the water. When the lead end hit bottom, they would pull the rope up, and look at the water line on it.
“twenty fathoms / fifteen fathoms” – (From the “Barnes Commentary”) – “A fathom is six feet, or the distance from the extremity of the middle finger on one hand to the extremity of the other, when the arms are extended.” Therefore, “twenty fathoms” was 120 feet, and “fifteen fathoms” 90 feet.
“dropped four anchors from the stern” – Normally, “two” anchors would be used, thus indicating the strength of the storm. (From the “Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary”) – “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.”
In other words, dropping anchors from the stern would keep the ship’s bow pointed towards the shore so they would be in the best position to run the ship aground the next day when they could see.
(Verses 30-32)(NASB) “But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense that they were going to lay out anchors from the bow, (31) Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men remain on the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” (32) Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away.”
“Sailors were trying to escape the ship” – Using the lie that they were going to “lay out anchors from the bow,” several of the ship’s crew tried to escape from the main boat and get to the shore they “sensed” (v. 27) was near. They likely feared that when the main boat was run aground, they would not make it to shore.
The Greek word for “lay out” here is “ekteino,” and it means to “stretch out.” What they were saying they were going to do was actually a real process. First, the anchors would be let down from the bow, then several men from the crew would get in the “ship’s boat, go to the anchors, and “stretch them out” further from the main boat. This would make the main boat more securely anchored. Volunteering to do this was ordinarily a brave thing, especially in rough weather. However, Paul saw through their deception, and reported it to the centurion. (***Notice [as in verse 12] that Paul goes to the centurion rather than the ship’s owner or captain, again showing that the centurion is in charge.)
“the ship’s boat” – This was the same boat that they had been towing, but hoisted onto the main ship earlier (verse 16).
“Unless these men stay on the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved” – God had already promised (through the angel – verses 22 & 24) that no one on the ship would die when it was run aground. So, why does Paul now say if these men don’t stay, people won’t be saved?
“the soldiers cut away the ropes… and let it fall away” – A pretty huge act of trust on the centurions part! The lifeboat could possibly have saved him and his men too. (In doing this, it seems as though the crew who were planning the escape had only lowered the boat, but not yet boarded it.)
(Verses 33-35)(NKJV) “And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. (34) Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you.” (35) And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.”
“Paul implored them to take food… (for their) nourishment” – Given all of the strenuous activity they had been doing, it is unlikely that they could have gone 14 days without eating at “all.” This likely means they had not had a regular meal for 14 days, but instead had simply subsisted on “snacking” a little.
“this is for your survival” – Running the ship aground, and then getting to the shore afterwards (swimming, or on floating pieces of wreckage – verses 43-44) was going to require a lot of energy. They needed to eat a meal to have the strength to do this.
“not a hair will fall from your head” – This was a common saying that was used by the Jews, which meant complete safety and deliverance (also see: 1 Sam 14:45, 2 Sam 14:11, 1 Kin 1:52, Lk 21:18).
“took bread and gave thanks to God” – The practice of praying before meals is found throughout the Bible (Mt 14:19)(Mt 15:36)(Mt 26:26)(Mk 8:6)(Mk 14:22)(Lk 9:16)(Lk 24:30)(Jn 6:11)(1 Sam 9:13). It was a common practice for Jews to pray before, and after meals (after appears to be based on Deut 8:10).
“gave thanks… in the presence of them all” – Had anyone else on the ship ever seen such a practice? Had they ever prayed before eating? What can we learn from this?
“he (Paul) began to eat” – Paraphrasing John Gill, apparently another Jewish practice was that after praying, the one who prayed would not break the bread until everyone had finished saying “Amen.” After they had, the one who prayed would break the bread, and no one would eat until he had first eaten.
(Verses 36-38)(NASB) “All of them were encouraged (KJV – “of good cheer”) and they themselves also took food. (37) We were 276 people on the ship in all. (38) When they had eaten enough, they began lightening the ship by throwing the wheat out into the sea.”
“All of them were encouraged (“of good cheer”)” – Contrasting with (verse 20), where it said they had “finally given up,” expecting to die.
“276 people” – That the ship could hold this many people shows how big it must have been. However, Josephus, writing in this same time period (Vita, 3), mentions being on a ship to Rome that had 600 people aboard. (On his ship were Jewish priests headed to Rome to appear before Caesar, and their ship was shipwrecked too.)
“lightening the ship by throwing the wheat out into the sea” – Lightening the ship would allow it to get closer to the shore before it ran aground. While they had probably thrown much of the grain (cargo) overboard earlier (Verses 18-19), they kept some to have food for themselves. However, since they were running aground, they no longer needed to keep any of the grain.
***Note: As we mentioned above (Verses 11-12), one of the main reasons why the owner of the ship probably wanted to get to the larger port at Phoenix was so that he could sell his grain to get the best price for it. Ignoring Paul’s advice not to go to Phoenix, the owner’s decision has led them to where they are now, and all of his grain is gone.
Finally, let’s read (Acts 27:39-44).
(Verses 39-41)(NKJV) “When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. (40) And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. (41) But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves.”
“they did not recognize the land” – The sailors were likely acquainted with the island of Malta, which had a very prominent port at Valetta. However, they were well past that port (“Pulpit Commentary” says 7 miles past).
“let go of the anchors, and let them in the sea” – (4 anchors – verse 29) Again, lessening the weight on the ship.
“loosing the rudder ropes” – (NIV) (From the “Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary”) – “Ancient ships were steered by two large paddles, one on each quarter (on each side of the stern). 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].” (As we saw in [verses 27 & 29], these had been useless in the storm winds.)
“a place where the two seas met” – (Paraphrasing several commentaries – JFB, Cambridge, Pulpit) Next to Malta is a small island named Salmone. The distance between the two is about 100 yards, separated by a channel of water. This is likely the “bay” they headed for. Water from the north, and the south meet in this channel (“where the two seas met”). The channel (and outside of it) is filled with deposits of mud and clay, which cannot be seen from the sea. When the ship headed into the channel, the bow (“prow”) of the boat became stuck in the mud and clay, which left the stern vulnerable to the “violence of the waves.”
(Verses 42-44) “And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. (43) But the centurion, willing (wanting) to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: (44) And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.”
“kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out and escape” – (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) – “According to Justinian’s Code (ix. 4:4) [a compilation of Roman law made between 529-534 A.D.], a guard who allowed a prisoner to escape would suffer the same fatal penalty that awaited the prisoner.” (Also see: Acts 12:19, Acts 16:27)
***Note: Regarding the fact that Paul had saved the soldiers lives, the “Geneva Study Bible” says this: “There is nowhere more unfaithfulness and unthankfulness in unbelievers.”
“the centurion, willing (wanting) to save Paul” – Paul had earned the respect and trust of Julius the centurion, and he did not want him to be killed. Because Julius chose to save Paul’s life, it ended up saving the lives of the other prisoner’s too. This is one part of the fulfillment of God’s promise that no one would die (Verses 22 & 24), with the next part being that no one died in the shipwreck (“they all escaped safe to land”).
“they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land” – This was likely so that they could help those who couldn’t swim get to shore.
End question: How many do you suppose were won to the Gospel after seeing all of Paul’s words came to pass?