Acts 27:13
And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing there, they sailed close by Crete.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) And when the south wind blew softly.—There was a change at once in the force and the direction of the wind. With a gentle and favourable breeze from the south, the pilot and the owner thought that all was smooth sailing, and the ship left the Fair Havens and made across the bay, a distance of thirty-four miles, for Phænice. They still, however, hugged the coast, as afraid to venture too far into the open sea. The Greek adverb asson, which is rightly rendered “close” in the Authorised version, has been mistaken, in the Vulgate and some other versions, for the accusative case of Assos, as though it were a proper name, and the words have been variously rendered “when they had left Assos,” or “when they had made for Asses,” or “when they had come in sight of Assos.” The island Assos, however, lay far to the north (see Note on Acts 20:13), and there is no evidence of the existence of any town of that name in Crete. Of the English versions, Wiclif and the Rhemish follow the Vulgate, “when they had removed” (W.), or “parted” (Rh.), “from Assos”; Tyndale and Cranmer, following Luther, “they loosed unto Asson.” The Geneva translation was the first to give the true meaning, and is following by the Authorised version. The tense of the Greek verb for “they sailed close,” implies that they were in the act of doing this when the storm burst upon them, as in the next verse.

Acts

TEMPEST AND TRUST

Acts 27:13 - Acts 27:26
.

Luke’s minute account of the shipwreck implies that he was not a Jew. His interest in the sea and familiarity with sailors’ terms are quite unlike a persistent Jewish characteristic which still continues. We have a Jew’s description of a storm at sea in the Book of Jonah, which is as evidently the work of a landsman as Luke’s is of one who, though not a sailor, was well up in maritime matters. His narrative lays hold of the essential points, and is as accurate as it is vivid. This section has two parts: the account of the storm, and the grand example of calm trust and cheery encouragement given in Paul’s words.

I. The consultation between the captain of the vessel and the centurion, at which Paul assisted, strikes us, with our modern notions of a captain’s despotic power on his own deck, and single responsibility, as unnatural.

But the centurion, as a military officer, was superior to the captain of an Alexandrian corn-ship, and Paul had already made his force of character so felt that it is not wonderful that he took part in the discussion. Naturally the centurion was guided by the professional rather than by the amateur member of the council, and the decision was come to to push on as far and fast as possible.

The ship was lying in a port which gave scanty protection against the winter weather, and it was clearly wise to reach a more secure harbour if possible. So when a gentle southerly breeze sprang up, which would enable them to make such a port, westward from their then position, they made the attempt. For a time it looked as if they would succeed, but they had a great headland jutting out in front which they must get round, and their ability to do this was doubtful. So they kept close in shore and weathered the point. But before they had made their harbour the wind suddenly chopped round, as is frequent of that coast, and the gentle southerly breeze turned into a fierce squall from the north-east or thereabouts, sweeping down from the Cretan mountains. That began their troubles. To make the port was impossible. The unwieldy vessel could not ‘face the wind,’ and so they had to run before it. It would carry them in a south-westerly direction, and towards a small island, under the lee of which they might hope for some shelter. Here they had a little breathing time, and could make things rather more ship-shape than they had been able to do when suddenly caught by the squall. Their boat had been towing behind them, and had to be hoisted on deck somehow.

A more important, and probably more difficult, task was to get strong hawsers under the keel and round the sides, so as to help to hold the timbers together. The third thing was the most important of all, and has been misunderstood by commentators who knew more about Greek lexicons than ships. The most likely explanation of ‘lowering the gear’ {Rev. Ver.} is that it means ‘leaving up just enough of sail to keep the ship’s head to the wind, and bringing down everything else that could be got down’ {Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 329}.

Note that Luke says ‘we’ about hauling in the boat, and ‘they’ about the other tasks. He and the other passengers could lend a hand in the former, but not in the latter, which required more skilled labour. The reason for bringing down all needless top-hamper, and leaving up a little sail, was to keep the vessel from driving on to the great quicksands off the African coast, to which they would certainly have been carried if the wind held.

As soon as they had drifted out from the lee of the friendly little island they were caught again in the storm. They were in danger of going down. As they drifted they had their ‘starboard’ broadside to the force of the wild sea, and it was a question how long the vessel’s sides would last before they were stove in by the hammering of the waves, or how long she would be buoyant enough to ship seas without foundering. The only chance was to lighten her, so first the crew ‘jettisoned’ the cargo, and next day, as that did not give relief enough,’they,’ or, according to some authorities, ‘we’-that is passengers and all-threw everything possible overboard.

That was the last attempt to save themselves, and after it there was nothing to do but to wait the apparently inevitable hour when they would all go down together. Idleness feeds despair, and despair nourishes idleness. Food was scarce, cooking it was impossible, appetite there was none. The doomed men spent the long idle days- which were scarcely day, so thick was the air with mist and foam and tempest-crouching anywhere for shelter, wet, tired, hungry, and hopeless. So they drifted ‘for many days,’ almost losing count of the length of time they had been thus. It was a gloomy company, but there was one man there in whom the lamp of hope burned when it had gone out in all others. Sun and stars were hidden, but Paul saw a better light, and his sky was clear and calm.

II. A common danger makes short work of distinctions of rank.

In such a time some hitherto unnoticed man of prompt decision, resource, and confidence, will take the command, whatever his position. Hope, as well as timidity and fear, is infectious, and one cheery voice will revive the drooping spirits of a multitude. Paul had already established his personal ascendency in that motley company of Roman soldiers, prisoners, sailors, and disciples. Now he stands forward with calm confidence, and infuses new hope into them all. What a miraculous change passes on externals when faith looks at them! The circumstances were the same as they had been for many days. The wind was howling and the waves pounding as before, the sky was black with tempest, and no sign of help was in sight, but Paul spoke, and all was changed, and a ray of sunshine fell on the wild waters that beat on the doomed vessel.

Three points are conspicuous in his strong tonic words. First, there is the confident assurance of safety. A less noble nature would have said more in vindication of the wisdom of his former advice. It is very pleasant to small minds to say, ‘Did I not tell you so? You see how right I was.’ But the Apostle did not care for petty triumphs of that sort. A smaller man might have sulked because his advice had not been taken, and have said to himself, ‘They would not listen to me before, I will hold my tongue now.’ But the Apostle only refers to his former counsel and its confirmation in order to induce acceptance of his present words.

It is easy to ‘bid’ men ‘be of good cheer,’ but futile unless some reason for good cheer is given. Paul gave good reason. No man’s life was to be lost though the ship was to go. He had previously predicted that life, as well as ship and lading, would be lost if they put to sea. That opinion was the result of his own calculation of probabilities, as he lets us understand by saying that he ‘perceived’ it {Acts 27:10}. Now he speaks with authority, not from his perception, but from God’s assurance. The bold words might well seem folly to the despairing crew as they caught them amidst the roar of tempest and looked at their battered hulk. So Paul goes at once to tell the ground of his confidence-the assurance of the angel of God.

What a contrast between the furious gale, the almost foundering ship, the despair in the hearts of the sleeping company, and the bright vision that came to Paul! Peter in prison, Paul in Caesarea and now in the storm, see the angel form calm and radiant. God’s messengers are wont to come into the darkest of our hours and the wildest of our tempests.

Paul’s designation of the heavenly messenger as ‘an angel of the God whose I am, whom also I serve,’ recalls Jonah’s confession of faith, but far surpasses it, in the sense of belonging to God, and in the ardour of submission and of active obedience, expressed in it. What Paul said to the Corinthians {1 Corinthians 6:19} he realised for himself: ‘Ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price.’ To recognise that we are God’s, joyfully to yield ourselves to Him, and with all the forces of our natures to serve Him, is to bring His angel to our sides in every hour of tempest and peril, and to receive assurance that nothing shall by any means harm us. To yield ourselves to be God’s is to make God ours. It was because Paul owned that he belonged to God, and served Him, that the angel came to him, and he explains the vision to his hearers by his relation to God. Anything was possible rather than that his God should leave him unhelped at such an hour of need.

The angel’s message must have included particulars unnoticed in Luke’s summary; as, for instance, the wreck on ‘a certain island.’ But the two salient points in it are the certainty of Paul’s own preservation, that the divine purpose of his appearing before Caesar might be fulfilled, and the escape of all the ship’s company. As to the former, we may learn how Paul’s life, like every man’s, is shaped according to a divine plan, and how we are ‘immortal till our work is done,’ and till God has done His work in and on and by us. As to the latter point, we may gather from the word ‘has given’ the certainty that Paul had been praying for the lives of all that sailed with him, and may learn, not only that the prayers of God’s servants are a real element in determining God’s dealings with men, but that a true servant of God’s will ever reach out his desires and widen his prayers to embrace those with whom he is brought into contact, be they heathens, persecutors, rough and careless, or fellow-believers. If Christian people more faithfully discharged the duty of intercession, they would more frequently receive in answer the lives of ‘all them that sail with’ them over the stormy ocean of life.

The third point in the Apostle’s encouraging speech is the example of his own faith, which is likewise an exhortation to the hearers to exercise the same. If God speaks by His angel with such firm promises, man’s plain wisdom is to grasp the divine assurance with a firm hand. We must build rock upon rock. ‘I believe God,’ that surely is a credence demanded by common sense and warranted by the sanest reason. If we do so believe, and take His word as the infallible authority revealing present duty and future blessings, then, however lowering the sky, and wild the water, and battered the vessel, and empty of earthly succour the gloomy horizon, and heavy our hearts, we shall ‘be of good cheer,’ and in due time the event will warrant our faith in God and His promise, even though all around us seems to make our faith folly and our hope a mockery.Acts 27:13-15. And when the south wind blew softly — Ordinarily a wind very mild, and at that time not high; supposing they had obtained their purpose — And would soon arrive at the harbour they wished to reach; loosing, they sailed close by Crete — That is, sailed along the shore of the island, not being afraid to be driven upon it by that side wind. But not long after there arose against it — Against the ship; a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon — This expression comes from ευρος and κλυδων, an eastern storm, as the word signifies. A kind of tempest this which is called by those who now frequent those seas, a Levanter. It was a kind of hurricane, not carrying them any one way, but tossing them backward and forward: for these furious winds blow in all directions, from the north-east to the south-east. And when the ship was caught — Συναρπασθεντος, was violently hurried away; and would not bear up against the wind — Or face it, as the word αντοφθαλμειν signifies; we let her drive — Gave her up to the wind, to be driven before it.27:12-20 Those who launch forth on the ocean of this world, with a fair gale, know not what storms they may meet with; and therefore must not easily take it for granted that they have obtained their purpose. Let us never expect to be quite safe till we enter heaven. They saw neither sun nor stars for many days. Thus melancholy sometimes is the condition of the people of God as to their spiritual matters; they walk in darkness, and have no light. See what the wealth of this world is: though coveted as a blessing, the time may come when it will be a burden; not only too heavy to be carried safely, but heavy enough to sink him that has it. The children of this world can be prodigal of their goods for the saving their lives, yet are sparing of them in works of piety and charity, and in suffering for Christ. Any man will rather make shipwreck of his goods than of his life; but many rather make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, than of their goods. The means the sailors used did not succeed; but when sinners give up all hope of saving themselves, they are prepared to understand God's word, and to trust in his mercy through Jesus Christ.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.

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. The south wind being ordinarily most mild, and at that time not high, they sailed along the shore of Candia, not being afraid to be driven upon it. And when the south wind blew softly,.... Or moderately, which was a good wind for them:

supposing that they, had obtained their purpose; that things would succeed according to their wish, and favour their design:

loosing thence; from the Fair Havens; the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions render it, "loosing from Assos"; which could not be Assos of Troas, mentioned in Acts 20:13 which was many miles from hence; rather Asum, a town in Crete, of which Pliny (r) makes mention, though, according to him, it seems to be an inland town; wherefore it is best to take the word to be an adverb, and render it "thence", as we do; or join it with the next word, and render it,

they came near, or they sailed close by Crete; along the shore, the wind favouring them, that they were in no danger of being dashed upon it, it being a soft gentle wind.

(r) Nat. Hist. l. 4. c. 12.

And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 27:13. But when gentler south wind had set in (ὑποπνεύσ., Arist. probl. viii. 6; Heliodor. iii. 3)—this was the motive of the following δόξαντες. As, namely, Fair Havens, where they were, and also Phoenix farther to the west, whither they wished to go, lay on the south coast of the island, the south wind was favourable for carrying out their resolution, because it kept them near to the coast and did not allow them to drift down into the southern sea.

κεκρατηκέναι] to have become masters of their purpose, that is, to be able safely to accomplish it. Examples in Raphel, Polyb.

ἄραντες] namely, the anchor, which is understood of itself in nautical language: they weighed anchor. See Bos, Ellips., ed. Schaefer, p. 14 f.

ἆσσον παρελέγ. τ. Κρήτ.] they sailed closer (than could previously, Acts 27:8, be done) along the coast of Crete. ἆσσον, nearer, the comparative of ἄχρι, is not only found in poetry from the time of Homer, but also in prose; Herod, iii. 52, iv. 5; Joseph. Antt. i. 20. 1, al. The Vulgate, which Erasmus follows, has: cum sustulissent de Asson, so that thus ΑΣΣΟΝ is connected with ἄραντες and regarded as the name of a city of Crete (Ἄσος in Steph. Byz., Asus in Plin. H. N. iv. 12); hence also Elz., Mill., Scholz have Ἄσσον (as a proper name). But as this translation is at variance with the words as they stand, Luther, Castalio, Calovius, and several older expositors have taken Ἄσσον as the accusative of direction: cum sustulissent Assum. But, even if the little town had really been situated on the coast (which does not agree with Plin. l.c.), the expression would have been extremely harsh, as ἅραντες does not express the notion of direction; and not only so, but also the mere accusative of direction without a preposition is only poetical (Kühner, II. p. 204), and is foreign to the N.T.Acts 27:13. ὑποπνεύσαντος: leniter afflante, aspirante, Cf. ὑποκινέω, ὑπομειδιάω, a moderate breeze from the south arose which would favour their westerly course. cf. Luke 12:55, not in LXX or Apocrypha, but see Heliod., iii., 3 (Wetstein).—δόξαντες, Acts 12:9, τῆς προθ. κεκρατηκέναι: their purpose, i.e., of starting from Fair Havens for the more desirable anchorage of Lutro some forty miles distant. προθέσεως, cf. Acts 11:23; in N.T. only in Luke and Paul in this sense; cf. 2Ma 3:8. κεκρατ.: only here in this sense in N.T., cf. Diod. Sic., xvi. 20, κεκρατηκότες ἤδη τῆς προθέσεως (Grimm-Thayer, Page), and for instances of the same collocation of words in Galen, and in Polyb. (κατακρατεῖν), see Wetstein and Blass, in loco. Breusing, p. 164, takes the phrase to refer here to their purpose of continuing their voyage to the end (so too Goerne).—ἄραντες: “they weighed anchor,” R.V. So Ramsay, J. Smith, pp. 65, 97; only here in N.T. in this sense, sc. τὰς ἀγκύρας, cf. Thuc., i., 52, and ii., 23, but the word may imply simply profecti, of movement, whether by sea or by land, of armies or ships; so Breusing takes it intransitively, no need of any noun, Thuc., iv., 129; vii., 26 (p. 164): see also Acts 27:17. For aorist participle of an action antecedent in time to that of the principal verb cf. Acts 14:19 : Burton, pp. 63, 64.—ἆσσον παρελ. τὴν Κ.: “sailed along Crete, close in-shore,” R.V., i.e., as they rounded Cape Matala, about six miles west of Fair Havens; the statement so emphatically introduced by St. Luke seems to imply that their ability to weather the point was for some time doubtful, Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 326. ἆσσον: “if the wind went round a point towards the west they would fail; and the anxious hour has left its record in the single word of Acts 27:13, ‘ἆσσον,’ ” Ramsay, u. s. See critical note, and above on Acts 27:8. ἆσσον, an adverb comparative of ἄγχι; the comparative degree makes it more emphatic (see above), as they had been coasting for weeks, and they now went “closer” in shore (see R.V.); Wendt (1899) takes it, however, not as a comparative with reference to Acts 27:8 (so Meyer, Weiss), but as a superlative, cf. Acts 24:22, Acts 25:10.13. the south wind blew softly] The storm appeared to have in some degree abated, and the change of wind must have been very complete, for (see Acts 27:7-8) they had previously sailed under the lee of Crete to get shelter from the north wind.

loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete] (R. V. “They weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close in shore).” The word for “close in shore” is asson, and it has been by some taken for a proper name and endeavours been made to discover traces of some place so named in Crete. But though the translation “when they had loosed from Assos” is as old as the Vulgate, there can be little doubt that the Greek word is really the comparative degree of an adverb signifying “near.” So it literally means “nearer,” and is probably used to indicate that the coasting voyage now being made was one in which the coast was hugged more closely than usual. This is intended by R. V. “close in shore.”Acts 27:13. Δόξαντες, having supposed) as the south wind blew in their favour.—ἄραντες) having moved. Where there is motion, there the mass is raised from the support beneath on which it rests. Thence αἴρειν, to move, by a Metonymy of the consequent for the antecedent.—ἆσσον) nearer. The comparative contracted from ἐγγὺς, which Herodotus also uses everywhere, and Josephus, l. i. Ant. c. 20. See Beza, E. Schmidt, and Raphelius. It is not in this place the name of a town, otherwise unknown, that they were seeking [as if ἆσσον were a town]; for it was Phenice which they had sought.[151]

[151] Rec. Text accents it, ἄσσον. Vulg. makes it a town: cum sustulissent de Asso.—E. and T.Verse 13. - They weighed anchor and for loosing thence, they, A.V.; along Crete, close in shore for close by Crete, A.V. Blew softly; ὑποπνεύσαντος, only here in the New Testament, and not found elsewhere. Supposing that they had obtained their purpose. A south wind would be quite favorable for sailing east or east by north, from Fair Havens to Phoenix. They not unreasonably, therefore, thought they could effect their purpose of wintering at Phoenix. And so they at once weighed anchor; ἄραντες, without an objective case following, "having lifted up," understand τὰς ἀγκύρας, as in Julius Pollux, quoted by Smith. It was the nautical phrase. Sailed along (παρελέγοντο); see ver. 8, note. Close in shore (ᾶσσον, comparative of ἄγχι, nearer, meaning "very near "). For the earlier part of their voyage they would be obliged to keep very near the shore, to enable them to weather Cape Matala, which lay a little to the south of west from Fair Havens. Some take ᾶσσον as the name of a town on the coast, but the grammar of the sentence makes this impossible. Loosing thence (ἄραντες)

Lit., having taken up. It is the nautical phrase for weighing anchor. So Rev.

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