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.
And when it was determined - By Festus Acts 25:12, and when the time was come when it was convenient to send him.
That we should sail - The use of the term "we" here shows that the author of this book, Luke, was with Paul. He had been his traveling companion, and though he had not been accused, yet it was resolved that he should still accompany him. Whether he went at his own expense, or whether he was sent at the expense of the Roman government, does not appear. There is a difference of reading here in the ancient versions. The Syriac reads it, "And thus Festus determined that he (Paul) should be sent to Caesar in Italy," etc. The Latin Vulgate and the Arabic also read "he" instead of "we." But the Greek manuscripts are uniform, and the correct reading is doubtless what is in our version.
Into Italy - The country still bearing the same name, of which Rome was the capital.
And certain other prisoners - Who were probably also sent to Rome for a trial before the emperor. Dr. Lardner has proved that it was common to send prisoners from Judea and other provinces to Rome (Credibility, part i. chapter 10, section 10, pp. 248, 249).
A centurion - A commander of 100 men.
Of Augustus' band - For the meaning of the word "band," see the Matthew 27:27 note; Acts 10:1 note. It was a division in the Roman army consisting of from 400 to 600 men. This was called "Augustus' band" in honor of the Roman emperor Augustus (see the notes on Acts 25:21), and was probably distinguished in some way for the care in enlisting or selecting them. The Augustine cohort or band is mentioned by Suetonius in his Life of Nero, 20.
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.
A ship of Adramyttium - A maritime town of Mysia, in Asia Minor, opposite to the island of Lesbos. This was a ship which had been built there, or which sailed from that port, but which was then in the port of Caesarea. It is evident, from Acts 27:6, that this ship was not expected to sail to Italy, but that the centurion expected to find some other vessel into which he could put the prisoners to take them to Rome.
We launched - We loosed from our anchorage, or we set sail. See Acts 13:13.
By the coasts of Asia - Of Asia Minor. Probably the owners of the ship designed to make a coasting voyage along the southern part of Asia Minor, and to engage in traffic with the maritime towns and cities.
One Aristarchus, a Macedonian - This man is mentioned as Paul's companion in travel in Acts 19:29. He afterward attended him to Macedonia, and returned with him to Asia, Acts 20:4. He now appears to have attended him, not as a prisoner, but as a voluntary companion, choosing to share with him his dangers, and to enjoy the benefit of his society and friendship. He went with him to Rome, and was a fellow-prisoner with him there Colossians 4:10, and is mentioned Plm 1:24 as Paul's fellow-laborer. It was doubtless a great comfort to Paul to have with him two such valuable friends as Luke and Aristarchus; and it was an instance of great affection for him that they were not ashamed of his bonds, but were willing to share his dangers, and to expose themselves to peril for the sake of accompanying him to Rome.
And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.
We touched at Sidon - See the notes on Matthew 11:21. Sidon was about 67 miles north of Caesarea, and the passage could be easily accomplished, under favorable circumstances, in 24 hours. It is probable that the vessel, being a "coaster," put in there for purposes of trade. Sidon is the last city on the Phoenician coast in which the presence of the apostle can be traced.
And Julius courteously entreated Paul - Treated him kindly or humanely.
And gave him liberty ... - The same thing had been done by Felix, Acts 24:23.
Unto his friends - In Sidon. Paul had frequently traveled in that direction in going to and returning from Jerusalem, and it is not improbable, therefore, that he had friends in all the principal cities.
To refresh himself - To enjoy the benefit of their care; to make his present situation and his voyage as comfortable as possible. It is probable that they would furnish him with many supplies which were needful for his long and perilous voyage.
And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.
We sailed under Cyprus - For an account of Cyprus, see the notes on Acts 4:36. By sailing "under Cyprus" is meant that they sailed along its coasts; they kept near to it; they thus endeavored to break off the violent winds. Instead of steering a direct course in the open sea, which would have exposed them to violent opposing winds, they kept near this large island, so that it was between them and the westerly winds. The force of the wind was thus broken, and the voyage was rendered less difficult and dangerous. They went between Cyprus and Asia Minor, leaving Cyprus to the left. A sailor would express the idea by saying that they sailed under the lee of Cyprus. Had it not been for the strong western winds, they would have left it on the right.
The winds were contrary - Were from the west, or southwest, which thus prevented their pursuing a direct course.
And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.
The sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia - The sea which lies off the, coast from these two regions. For their situation, see the notes on Acts 6:9, and Acts 13:13.
We came to Myra, a city of Lycia - Lycia was a province in the southwestern part of Asia Minor, having Phrygia and Pisidia on the north, the Mediterranean on the south, Pamphylia on the east, and Carla on the west.
And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.
A ship of Alexandria - A ship belonging to Alexandria. Alexandria was in Egypt, and was founded by Alexander the Great. It appears from Acts 27:38 that the ship was laden with wheat. It is well known that great quantities of wheat were imported from Egypt to Rome, and it appears that this was one of the large ships which were employed for that purpose. Why the ship was on the coast of Asia Minor is not known But it is probable that it had been driven out of its way by adverse winds or tempests.
And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;
Had sailed slowly - By reason of the prevalence of the western winds, Acts 27:4.
Over against Cnidus - This was a city standing on a promontory of the same name in Asia Minor, in the part of the province of Caria called Doris, and a little northwest of the island of Rhodes.
The wind not suffering us - The wind repelling us in that direction; not permitting us to hold on a direct course, we were driven off near to Crete.
Over against Salmone - Near to Salmone. This was the name of the promontory which formed the eastern extremity of the island of Crete.
And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.
And, hardly passing it - Scarcely being able to pass by it without being wrecked. Being almost driven on it. They passed round the east end of the island because they had been unable to sail directly forward between the island and the mainland,
The fair havens - This was on the southeastern part of the island of Crete. It was probably not so much a harbor as an open roadstead, which afforded good anchorage for a time. It is called by Stephen, the geographer, "the fair shore." It still retains the name which it formerly had. It is called in ancient Dutch and French Sailing Directions "the beautiful bay."
Nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea - There was no town or city at the "Fair Havens," but the city of Lasea seems to have been well known, and it is mentioned here to identify the place.
Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
When much time was spent - In sailing along the coast of Asia; in contending with the contrary winds. It is evident that when they started they had hoped to reach Italy before the dangerous time of navigating the Mediterranean should arrive. But they had been detained and embarrassed contrary to their expectation, so that they were now sailing in the most dangerous and tempestuous time of the year.
Because the fast was now already past - By the "fast" here is evidently intended the fast which occurred among the Jews on the great day of atonement. That was on the tenth of the month Tisri, which answers to a part of September and part of October. It was, therefore, the time of the autumnal equinox, and when the navigation of the Mediterranean was esteemed to be particularly dangerous, from the storms which usually occurred about that time. The ancients regarded this as a dangerous time to navigate the Mediterranean. See the proofs in Kuinoel on this place.
Paul admonished them - Paul exhorted, entreated, or persuaded them. He was somewhat accustomed to the navigation of that sea, and endeavored to persuade them not to risk the danger of sailing at that season of the year.
And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.
Sirs - Greek: Men.
I perceive - It is not certain that Paul understood this by direct inspiration. He might have perceived it from his own knowledge of the danger of navigation at the autumnal equinox, and from what he saw of the ship as unsuited to a dangerous navigation. But there is nothing that should prevent our believing also that he was guided to this conclusion by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Compare Acts 27:23-24.
Will be with hurt - With injury or hazard. It is not meant that their lives would be lost, but that they would be jeoparded.
The lading - The freight of the ship. It was laden with wheat, Acts 27:38. Paul evidently, by this, intended to suggest the propriety of remaining where they were until the time of dangerous navigation was past.
Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.
The master - The person who is here meant was the helmsman, who occupied in ancient ships a conspicuous place on the stern, and steered the ship, and gave directions to the crew.
The owner of the ship - Probably a different person from "the master." He had the general command of the ship as his own property, but had employed "the master," or the pilot, to direct and manage it. His counsel in regard to the propriety of continuing the voyage would be likely to be followed.
And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
The haven - The fair havens, Acts 27:8.
Was not commodious to winter in - Not safe or convenient to remain there. Probably it furnished rather a safe anchorage ground in time of a storm than a convenient place for a permanent harbor.
The more part - The greater part of the crew.
To Phenice - In the original this is Phoenix - Φοῖνιξ Foinix. So it is written by Strabo. The name was probably derived from the palmtrees which were common in Crete. This was a port or harbor on the south side of Crete, and west of the fair havens. It was a more convenient harbor, and was regarded as more safe. It appears, therefore, that the majority of persons on board concurred with Paul in the belief that it was not advisable to attempt the navigation of the sea until the dangers of the winter had passed by.
And lieth toward - Greek: looking toward; that is, it was open in that direction.
The southwest - κατὰ λίβα kata liba. Toward Libya, or Africa. That country was situated southwest of the mouth of the harbor. The entrance of the harbor was in a southwest direction.
And northwest - κατὰ χῶρον kata chōron. This word denotes "a wind blowing from the northwest." The harbor was doubtless curved. Its entrance was in a southwest direction. It then turned so as to lie in a direction toward the northwest. It was thus rendered perfectly safe from the winds and heavy seas; and in that harbor they might pass the winter in security. It is sometimes called "Lutro." Of this harbor Mr. Urquhart, in a letter to James Smith, Esq., whose work on this voyage of Paul has obtained so wide a reputation, says, "Lutro is an admirable harbor. You open it like a box; unexpectedly the rocks stand apart, and the town appears within ... We thought we had cut him off, and that we were driving him right upon the rocks. Suddenly he disappeared - and, rounding in after him, like a change of scenery, the little basin, its shipping, and the town presented themselves ... Excepting Lutro, all the roadsteads looking to the southward are perfectly exposed to the south or east."
And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
The south wind - The wind before had probably been a head-wind, blowing from the west. When it veered round to the south, and when it blew gently, though not entirely favorable, yet it was so that they supposed they could sail along the coast of Crete.
Had obtained their purpose - The object of their desire; that is, to sail safely along the coast of Crete.
Loosing thence - Setting sail from the fair havens.
Close by Crete - Near the shore. It is evident that they designed, if possible, to make the harbor of Phenice to winter there. They weighed anchor and passed around Cape Matala. The distance to this point is four or five miles; the bearing west by south. With a gentle southerly wind, the vessel would be able to weather the cape, and then the wind was fair to Phoenix or Phenice (Lutro), which was 35 miles distant from the cape, and bore from thence about west-northwest.
But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.
Arose - Beat violently.
Against it - Against the vessel. Greek: seizing her, and whirling her around.
A tempestuous wind - Turbulent - violent - strong.
Called Euroclydon - Εὐροκλύδων Eurokludōn. Interpreters have been much perplexed about the meaning of this word, which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The most probable supposition is, that it denotes "a wind not blowing steadily from any quarter, but a hurricane, or wind veering about to different quarters." Such hurricanes are known to abound in the Mediterranean, and are now called Levanters, deriving their name from blowing chiefly in the Levant, or eastern part of the Mediterranean. The name euroclydon is derived probably from two Greek words, εῦρος euros, "wind," and κλύδων kludōn, "a wave"; so called from its agitating and exciting the waves. It thus answers to the usual effects of a hurricane, or of a wind rapidly changing its points of compass.
And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.
The ship was caught - By the wind. It came suddenly upon them as a tempest.
Could not bear up ... - Could not resist its violence, or the helmsman could not direct the ship. It was seized by the wind, and driven with such violence, that it became unmanageable.
We let her drive - We suffered the ship to be borne along by the wind without attempting to control it.
And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:
And running under - Running near to an island. They ran near to it, where the violence of the wind was probably broken by the island,
Which is called Clauda - This is a small island about 20 miles southwest of Crete.
We had much work - Much difficulty; we were scarcely able to do it.
To come by the boat - This does not mean that they attempted here to land in the boat, but they had much difficulty in saving the small boat attached to the ship by lifting it into the ship. The importance of securing the small boat is known by all seamen.
Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
Which when they had taken up - When they had raised up the boat into the ship, so as to secure it.
They used helps - They used ropes, cables, stays, or chains, for the purpose of securing the ship. The danger was that the ship would be destroyed, and they therefore made use of such aids as would prevent its loss.
Undergirding the ship - The ancients were accustomed to pass cables or strong ropes around a vessel to keep the planks from springing or starting by the action of the sea. This is now called "frapping" a vessel. 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." An instance of this kind is mentioned in Lord Anson's voyage round the world. Speaking of a Spanish man-of-war in a storm, he says, "They were obliged to throw overboard all their upper-deck guns, and take six turns of the cable round the ship to prevent her opening."
Lest they should fall into the quicksands - There were two celebrated syrtes, or quicksands, on the coast of Africa, called the greater and lesser. They were vast beds of sand driven up by the sea, and constantly shifting their position, so that it could not be known certainly where the danger was. As they were constantly changing their position, they could not be accurately laid down in a chart. The sailors were afraid, therefore, that they should be driven on one of those banks of sand, and thus be lost.
Strake sail - Or, rather, lowered or took down the mast, or the yards to which the sails were attached. There has been a great variety of interpretations proposed on this passage. The most probable is that they took down the mast, by cutting or otherwise, as is now done in storms at sea, to save the ship. They were at the mercy of the wind and waves, and their only hope was by taking away their sails.
And so were driven - By the wind and waves. The ship was unmanageable, and they suffered it to be driven before the wind.
And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;
They lightened the ship - By throwing out a part of the cargo.
And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.
The tackling of the ship - The anchors, sails, cables, baggage, etc. That is, everything that was not indispensable to its preservation, for it seems still Acts 27:29 that they retained some of their anchors on board.
And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.
Neither sun nor stars ... - As they could see neither san nor stars, they could make no observations; and as they had no compass, they would be totally ignorant of their situation, and they gave up all as lost.
But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.
But after long abstinence - By the violence of the storm, by their long continued labor, and by their apprehension of danger, they had a long time abstained from food.
And to have gained this harm - To have procured this harm, or have subjected yourselves to it. Had you remained there you would have been safe. It seems to be bad English to speak of gaining a loss, but it is a correct translation of the original κερδῆσαί kerdēsai, which expresses the idea of acquiring or procuring, whether good or evil. See Acts 27:9-10.
And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.
There shall be no loss - This must have been cheering news to those who had given up all for lost. As Patti had manifested great wisdom in his former advice to them, they might be now more disposed to listen to him. The reason why he believed they would be safe, he immediately states.
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
There stood by me - There appeared to me.
The angel of God - The messages of God were often communicated by angels. See Hebrews 1:14. This does not mean that there was any particular angel, but simply an angel.
Whose I am - Of the God to whom I belong. This is an expression of Paul's entire devotedness to him.
Whom I serve - In the gospel. To whom and to whose cause I am entirely devoted.
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Fear not, Paul - Do not be alarmed with the danger of the loss of life.
Thou must be brought ... - And therefore thy life will be spared.
God hath given thee all ... - That is, they shall all be preserved with thee. None of their lives shall be lost. This does not mean that they would be converted, but that their lives would be preserved. It is implied here that it was for the sake of Paul, or that the leading purpose of the divine interposition in rescuing them from danger was to save his life. The wicked often derive important benefits from being connected with Christians, and God often confers important favors on them in his general purpose to save his own people. The lives of the wicked are often spared because God interposes to save the righteous.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
Howbeit - Nevertheless.
Upon a certain island - Malta. See Acts 28:1.
But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;
The fourteenth night - From the time when the tempest commenced.
In Adria - In the Adriatic Sea. This sea is situated between Italy and Dalmatia, now called the Adriatic Gulf. But among the ancients the name was given not only to that gulf, but to the whole sea lying between Greece, Italy, and Africa, including the Sicilian and Ionian Sea. It is evident from the narrative that they were not in the Adriatic Gulf, but in the vicinity of Malta.
Deemed - Judged. Probably by the appearance of the sea.
And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
And sounded - To sound is to make use of a line and lead to ascertain the depth of water.
Twenty fathoms - 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. The depth, therefore, was about 120 feet.
Fifteen fathoms - They knew, therefore, that they were drawing near to shore.
Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.
They cast four anchors - On account of the violence of the storm and waves, to make, if possible, the ship secure.
And wished for the day - To discern more accurately their situation and danger.
And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,
The shipmen - The sailors, leaving the prisoners.
Under colour - Under pretence. They pretended that it was necessary to get into the boat, and carry the anchors ahead of the ship so as to make it secure, but with a real intention to make for the shore.
Out of the foreship - From the prow, so as to make the fore-part of the ship secure. The reason why they did this was probably that they expected the ship would go to pieces; and, since all on board could not be saved in one small boat, they resolved to escape to a place of safety as soon as possible.
Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.
Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers - The centurion had, it appears, the general direction of the ship, Acts 27:11. Perhaps it had been pressed into the service of the government.
Except these - These seamen. The soldiers and the centurion were unqualified to manage the ship, and the presence of the sailors was therefore indispensable to the preservation of any.
Abide in the ship - Remain on board.
Ye cannot be saved - You cannot be preserved from death. You will have no hope of managing the ship. It will be remembered that Paul had been informed by the angel, and had assured them Acts 27:22-24 that no lives would be lost; but it was only in the use of the proper means that their lives would be safe. Though it had been determined, and though Paul had the assurance that their lives would be safe, yet this did not, in his view, prevent the use of the proper means to secure it. From this we may learn:
(1) That the certainty of an event does not render it improper to use means to obtain it.
(2) that, though the event may be determined, yet the use of means may be indispensable to secure it. The event is not more certainly ordained than the means requisite to accomplish it.
(3) that the doctrine of the divine purposes or decrees, making certain future events, does not make the use of man's agency unnecessary or improper. The means are determined as well as the end, and the one will not be secured without the other.
(4) the same is true in regard to the decrees respecting salvation. The end is not determined without the means; and as God has resolved that his people shall be saved, so he has also determined the means. He has ordained that they shall repent, shall believe, shall be holy, and shall thus be saved.
(5) we have in this case a full answer to the objection that a belief in the decrees of God will make people neglect the means of salvation, and lead to licentiousness. It has just the contrary tendency. Here is a case in which Paul certainly believed in the purpose of God to save these people; in which he was assured that it was fully determined; and yet the effect was not to produce indolence and unconcern, but to prompt him to use strenuous efforts to accomplish the very effect which God had determined should take place. So it is always. A belief that God has purposes of mercy; that he designs, and has always designed, to save some, will prompt to the use of all proper means to secure it. If we had no such evidence that God had any such purpose, effort would be vain. Where we have such evidence, it operates, as it did in the case of Paul, to produce great and strenuous endeavors to secure the object.
Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.
Cut off the ropes ... - It is evident that the mariners had not yet got on board the boat. They had let it down into the sea Acts 27:30, and were about to go on board. By thus cutting the ropes which fastened the boat to the ship, and letting it go, all possibility of their fleeing from the ship was taken away, and they were compelled to remain on board.
And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
And while the day was coming on - At daybreak. It was before they had sufficient light to discern what they should do.
To take meat - Food. The word "meat" was formerly used to denote "food" of any kind.
That ye have tarried - That you have remained or been fasting.
Having taken nothing - No regular meal. It cannot mean that they had lived entirely without food, but that they had been in so much danger, were so constantly engaged, and had been so anxious about their safety, that they had taken no regular meal, or that what they had taken had been at irregular intervals, and had been a scanty allowance. "Appian speaks of an army which for 20 days together had neither food nor sleep; by which he must mean that they neither made full meals nor slept whole nights together. The same interpretation must be given to this phrase" (Doddridge). The effect of this must have been that they would be exhausted, and little able to endure the fatigues which yet remained.
Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.
Not a hair fall from the head ... - A proverbial expression, denoting "that they would be preserved safe; that none of them would be lost, and that "in their persons they should not experience the least damage," 1 Kings 1:52; 1 Samuel 14:45.
And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.
And gave thanks ... - This was the usual custom among the Hebrews. See the notes on Matthew 14:19. Paul was among those who were not Christians; but he was not ashamed of the proper acknowledgment of God, and was not afraid to avow his dependence on him, and to express his gratitude for his mercy.
Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.
And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.
And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
They lightened the ship - By casting the wheat into the sea. As they had no hope of saving the cargo, and had no further use for it, they hoped that by throwing the wheat overboard the ship would draw less water, and that thus they would be able to run the vessel on the shore.
And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.
They knew not the land - They had been driven with a tempest, without being able to make any observation, and it is probable that they were entire strangers to the coast and to the whole island,
A certain creek with a shore - Greek: a certain bosom κόλπος kolpos or bay. By its having a shore is probably meant that it had a level shore, or one that was convenient for landing. It was not a high bluff of rocks, but was accessible. Kuinoel thinks that the passage should be construed, "they found a certain shore, having a bay," etc.
Were minded - Were resolved.
And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
Had taken up the anchors - The four anchors with which they had moored the ship, Acts 27:29. See the margin. The expression may mean that they slipped or cut their cables, and that thus they left the anchors in the sea. This is the most probable interpretation.
And loosed the rudder bands - The rudder, in navigation, is that by which a ship is steered. It is that part of the helm which consists of a piece of timber, broad at the bottom, which enters the water, and is attached by hinges to the stern-post on which it turns (Webster). But what was the precise form of the rudder among the ancients is not certainly known. Sometimes a vessel might be steered by oars. Most ships appear to have had a rudder at the prow as well as at the stern. In some instances, also, they had them on the sides. The word used here in the Greek is in the plural τῶν πηδαλίον tōn pēdalion, and it is evident that they had in this ship more than one rudder. The bands mentioned here were probably the cords or fastenings by which the rudder could be made secure to the sides of the ship, or could be raised up out of the water in a violent storm, to prevent its being carried away. And as, in the tempest, the rudders had become useless Acts 27:15, Acts 27:17, they were probably either raised out of the water, or made fast. Now that the storm was past, and they could be used again, they were loosed, and they endeavored to direct the vessel into port.
The mainsail - ἀρτέμωνα artemōna. There have been various explanations of this word. Luther translates it as "the mast." Erasmus: "the yards." Grotius, who supposes that the mainmast had been cast away Acts 27:17, thinks that this must mean "the foremast" or "the bowsprit." The word usually means the "mainsail." The Syriac and Arabic understand it of a "small sail," that was hoisted for a temporary purpose. Mr. Smith, in his work on this voyage of Paul, supposes that it was "the foresail." Others translate it "a jib." "The mainsail (foresail) being hoisted showed good judgment, though the distance was so small, as it would not only enable them to steer more correctly than without it, but would press the ship farther on upon the land, and thus enable them the more easily to get to the shore" (Penrose).
And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.
And falling - Being carried by the wind and waves.
Into a place where two seas met - Greek: into a place of a double sea - διθάλασσον dithalasson. That is, a place which was washed on both sides by the sea. It refers properly to an isthmus, tongue of land, or a sand-bar stretching out from the mainland, and which was washed on both sides by the waves. It is evident that this was not properly an isthmus that was above the waves, but was probably a long sand-bank that stretched far out into the sea, and which they did not perceive. In endeavoring to make the harbor, they ran into this bar (sand-bank).
They ran the ship aground - Not designedly, but in endeavoring to reach the harbor, Acts 27:39.The hinder part was broken - The stern was broken or staved in. By this means the company was furnished with boards, etc., on which they were safely conveyed to shore, Acts 27:44.
And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
And the soldiers' counsel ... - Why they gave this advice is not known. It was probably, however, because the Roman military discipline was very strict, and if they escaped it would be charged on them that it had been done by the negligence and unfaithfulness of the soldiers. They therefore proposed to kill them, though contrary to all humanity, justice, and laws; presuming, probably, that it would be supposed that they had perished in the wreck. This is a remarkable proof that people can be cruel even when experiencing the tender mercy of God, and that the most affecting scenes of divine goodness will not mitigate the natural ferocity and cruelty of those who delight in blood.
But the centurion, willing 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:
But the centurion, willing to save Paul - He had at first been disposed to treat Paul with kindness, Acts 27:3. And his conduct on board the ship; the wisdom of his advice Acts 27:10; the prudence of his conduct in the agitation and danger of the tempest; and not improbably the belief that he was under the divine protection and blessing, disposed him to spare his life.
Kept them from their purpose - Thus, for the sake of this one righteous man, the lives of all were spared. The instance here shows:
(1) That it is possible for a pious man, like Paul, so to conduct in the various trying scenes of life - the agitations, difficulties, and temptations of this world - as to conciliate the favor of the people of this world; and.(2) That important benefits often result to sinners from the righteous. Paul's being on board was the means of saving the lives of many prisoners; and God often confers important blessings on the wicked for the sake of the pious relatives, friends, and neighbors with whom they are connected. Ten righteous men would have saved Sodom Genesis 18:32; and Christians are in more ways than one the salt of the earth, and the light of the world, Matthew 5:13-14. It is a privilege to be related to the friends of God - to be the children of pious parents, or to be connected with pious partners in life. It is a privilege to be connected with the friends of God in business; or to dwell near them; or to be associated with them in the various walks and dangers of life. The streams of blessings which flow to fertilize their lands, flow also to bless others; the dews of heaven which descend on their habitations, descend on all around; and the God which crowns them with loving-kindness, often fills the abodes of their neighbors and friends with the blessings of peace and salvation.
And commanded - Probably they were released from their chains.
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.
And the rest - Those who could not swim.
They escaped all safe to land - According to the promise which was made to Paul, Acts 27:22. This was done by the special providence of God. It was a remarkable instance of divine interposition to save so many through so long-continued dangers; and it shows that God can defend in any perils, and can accomplish all his purposes. On the ocean or the land we are safe in his keeping, and he can devise ways that shall fulfill all his purposes, and that can protect his people from danger.