And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Twenty fathoms.—The Greek noun so rendered was defined as the length of the outstretched arms from hand to hand, including the chest. It was reckoned as equal to four cubits—i.e., to about six feet—and is therefore fairly represented by our “fathom.” The soundings here given agree with those that have actually been taken among the breakers off Cape Koura.
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.
as we were driven—drifting
up and down in Adria—the Adriatic, that sea which lies between Greece and Italy.
about midnight the shipmen deemed—no doubt from the peculiar sound of the breakers.
that they drew near some country—"that some land was approaching them." This nautical language gives a graphic character to the narrative.Found it twenty fathoms: a fathom is the distance betwixt the end of the middle finger on the one hand, from the end of the middle finger on the other hand, when the arms are stretched out; which is ordinarily accounted about six feet in measure.
Found it fifteen fathoms; coming into more shallow places they might reasonably conclude that they were near unto the land.
And found it twenty fathoms; or "orgyas"; a fathom is a measure which contains six feet, and is the utmost extent of both arms, when stretched into a right line: the fathom, it seems, differs according to the different sorts of vessels; the fathom of a man of war is six feet, that of merchant ships five feet and a half, and that of fly boats and fishing vessels five feet: if the fathom here used was the first of these, the sounding was an hundred and twenty feet; the Ethiopic version renders it, "twenty statues of a man".
And when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms; or ninety feet; by which they imagined that they were near the continent, or some island: in some places, as the coasts of Virginia, for instance, by the use of the deep sea line, it is known how far it is from land; for as many fathoms of water as are found, it is reckoned so many leagues from land.And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Acts 27:28. βολίσαντες: having let down the sounding-lead (βολίς), elsewhere only in Eustath., in active voice, but see also Grimm-Thayer, sub v.—ὀργυιὰς: five or six feet, a fathom, Grimm; Breusing compares Herod., iv., 41, and gives six feet; on the accent see Winer-Schmiedel, p. 72. “The ancient fathom so nearly agrees with the English that the difference may be neglected,” J. Smith, p. 131.—βραχὺ δὲ διαστήσαντες: “and after a little space,” so Ramsay, Rendall; the phrase may refer to space or time; if we understand to τὸ πλοῖον or ἑαυτούς we should take it of the former (Grimm); but if we explain = βραχὺ διάστημα ποιήσαντες (Blass), it may be taken of either. διΐστημι is only found in Luke for signifying any space of time, Luke 22:59, cf. Acts 5:7; but Luke 24:51, διέστη ἀπʼ αὐτῶν. J. Smith shows how exactly the geographical details in the traditional St. Paul’s Bay correspond with the description here. Before a ship drifting from Cauda could enter the bay it would not only pass within a quarter of a mile of Point Kaura, north-east of Malta, but the measurements of 20 and 15 fathoms exactly correspond to ascertained soundings according to the vessel’s average of speed.28. and sounded] In ancient times, this must have been the only means of feeling their way in dark and stormy weather. The lead must have been in constant use.
found it twenty fathoms] The original has no word for “it,” which is therefore omitted by R. V. What is meant is “they found twenty fathoms’ depth of water.” The same omission is found at the end of the verse also.
and when they had gone a little further] The verb has no sense of “going,” but only implies that they allowed an interval to elapse. The movement of the vessel meanwhile is of course understood, but the simpler rendering of the R. V. “after a little space” is to be preferred.
fifteen fathoms] So rapid a decrease in the depth of the water shewed them that they would soon be ashore.Verse 28. - They sounded for sounded, A.V.; found for found it, A.V. (twice); after a little space for when they had gone a little further, A.V. After a little space (βραχὺ διαστήσαντες); literally, having interposed a short interval of time or space (comp. Luke 22:58, 59, μετὰ βραχύ κ.τ.λ., and then follows διαστάσης ὡσὲι ὥρας μιᾶς "after an interval of about an hour").
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