Acts 27:42
And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
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(42) And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners.—The vigour of Roman law, which inflicted capital punishment on those who were in charge of prisoners and suffered them to escape (see Notes on Acts 12:19; Acts 16:27), must be remembered, as explaining the apparently wanton cruelty of the proposal. In putting the prisoners to death the soldiers saw the only chance of escaping death themselves.

Acts 27:42-44. And — In this critical juncture, as there were several prisoners on board, who were to be conveyed in custody to Rome; the soldiers’ counsel was to kill them — A counsel most unjust, ungrateful, and cruel; lest any of them should swim out and escape — Out of their hands; of which they were unwilling to run the hazard, as they knew how severe the Roman law was in such cases, where there was any room to suspect the guards of connivance or negligence. But the centurion, willing — Or rather, desirous; to save Paul — For though he had despised his advice, (Acts 27:11,) yet he afterward saw much cause to respect him, and therefore prevented the soldiers from executing their purpose. Thus God, for Paul’s sake, not only saved all the rest of the ship’s company from being lost in the sea, but preserved the prisoners from being murdered, according to the unjust and barbarous proposal of the soldiers, who could have thought of no worse a scheme, had they all been condemned malefactors, and had these guards, instead of conveying them to their trial, been carrying them to the place of execution. Commanded that they who could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land — That they might be helpful to others in getting on shore; and the rest, some on boards, &c. — Still using means, though it was of God only that they had those means, and that the means were made effectual for their preservation. And it came to pass — Through the singular care of Divine Providence, and according to the prediction of Paul; that they escaped all safe to land — And there was not one single life lost; and some of them, doubtless, received the apostle as a teacher sent from God. These would find their deliverance from the fury of the sea but an earnest of an infinitely greater deliverance, and are, long ere this, lodged with him in a more peaceful harbour than Malta, or than earth could afford. 27:39-44 The ship that had weathered the storm in the open sea, where it had room, is dashed to pieces when it sticks fast. Thus, if the heart fixes in the world in affection, and cleaving to it, it is lost. Satan's temptations beat against it, and it is gone; but as long as it keeps above the world, though tossed with cares and tumults, there is hope for it. They had the shore in view, yet suffered shipwreck in the harbour; thus we are taught never to be secure. Though there is great difficulty in the way of the promised salvation, it shall, without fail, be brought to pass. It will come to pass that whatever the trials and dangers may be, in due time all believers will get safely to heaven. Lord Jesus, thou hast assured us that none of thine shall perish. Thou wilt bring them all safe to the heavenly shore. And what a pleasing landing will that be! Thou wilt present them to thy Father, and give thy Holy Spirit full possession of them for ever.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. 42-44. the soldiers' counsel was to hill the prisoners, lest any … should escape—Roman cruelty, which made the keepers answerable for their prisoners with their own lives, is here reflected in this cruel proposal. This speaks their great ingratitude, that they would take away Paul’s life, who had preserved theirs. But Christ’s apostles and ministers must not look for their reward in this life; though men cannot, or do not, recompense them, they shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:14. And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners,.... Paul, and the rest: this they had not only an inclination to, but they declared it, and gave it as their opinion, and what they thought advisable to be done directly:

lest any of them should swim out and escape; and they should be accountable for them: but this was dreadful wickedness in them to seek to take away the lives of others, when they themselves were in so much danger; and monstrous ingratitude to the Apostle Paul, who had been so much concerned for their lives, and careful of them, and had been the means of saving them, and for whose sake they were saved: the devil must have had a great hand in this.

{12} And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

(12) There is nowhere more unfaithfulness and unthankfulness in unbelievers.

Acts 27:42-44. Now, when the loss of the ship was just as certain, as with the proximity of the land the escape of those prisoners who could swim was easily possible, the soldiers were of a mind to kill them; but the centurion was too much attached to Paul to permit it.[175] Not sharing in the apprehension of his soldiers, he commanded that all in the ship who knew how to swim should swim to land, and then the rest (to whom in this way assistance was ready on shore) were to follow partly on planks and partly on broken pieces of the ship.

βουλὴ ἐγένετο, ἵνα,] there took place a project (in the design), that, etc.; comp. on Acts 27:1, and see Nägelsb. on the Iliad, p. 62, ed. 3, who on such modes of expression appropriately remarks that “the will is conceived as a striving will.”

ἀποῤῥίπτειν, to cast down, intransitive, in the sense of se projicere. See Schaefer, ad Bos Ell. p 127.

καὶ τοὺς λοιπούς] sc. ἐξιέναι (e mari) ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.

ἐπὶ σανίσιν] on planks, which were at hand in the ship.

ἐπί τινων τῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ πλοίου] on something from the ship, on pieces which had partly broken loose from it by the stranding, so forming wreck (ναυά γιον, ἐρείπιον), and were partly torn off by the people themselves for that purpose. ἐπί denotes both times the local being upon, and the change between dative and genitive is to be regarded as merely accidental. See Bernhardy, p. 200 f.; Kühner, § 624, ad Xen. Mem. i. Acts 1:20.

In the history of this final rescue, Baumgarten, II. p. 420, has carried to an extreme the arbitrariness of allegorico-spiritual fiction.

[175] In this remark (ver. 43) Zeller conjectures very arbitrarily a later addition to the original narrative, which was designed to illustrate the influence of the apostle upon the Roman.


The extraordinarily exact minuteness and vividness in the narrative of this whole voyage justifies the hypothesis that Luke, immediately after its close, during the winter spent in Malta, wrote down this interesting description in the main from fresh recollection, and possibly following notes which he had made for himself even during the voyage—perhaps set down in his diary, and at a later period transferred from it to his history.


The transition from the first person—in which he narrates as a companion sharing the voyage and its fortunes—into the third is not to be considered as an accident or an inconsistency, but is founded on the nature of the contents, according to which the sailors specially come into prominence as subject. See Acts 27:13; Acts 27:17-19; Acts 27:21; Acts 27:29; Acts 27:38-41.


If the assumption of the school of Baur as to the set purpose animating the author of the Acts were correct, this narrative of the voyage, with all its collateral circumstances in such detail, would be a meaningless ballast of the book. But it justifies itself in the purely historical destination of the work, and confirms that destination.Acts 27:42. τῶν δὲ στρατ.: only the soldiers, since they and not the sailors were responsible for the safety of the prisoners, cf. Acts 12:7, Acts 16:27; C. and H., small edit., p. 236.—ἐκκολ.: “swim away” (Ramsay), literally “out,” Eur., Hel., 1609, Dion H., v., 24.—διαφ.: only here in N.T., LXX, Joshua 8:22, Jdg 7:19, Proverbs 19:5, 1Ma 15:21, 2Ma 12:35, etc., so absolutely in Herod., i., 10.42. to kill the prisoners] This was the advice of the soldiers because, by the Roman law, they were answerable with their own lives for the prisoners placed under their charge.Acts 27:42. Βουλὴ, counsel) A cruel, unjust, and ungrateful one. [The soldiers no longer reflected how much they owe to Paul.—V. g.]Verse 42. - The soldiers' counsel, etc. The same stern sense of duty in the Roman soldier as moved the keeper of the jail at Philippi to destroy himself when he thought his prisoners had escaped (Acts 16:27). The prisoners; by which we learn, as also in ver. 1, that there were other prisoners beside Paul going to be tried before Caesar at Rome (comp. Josephus's account ('Life,' sect. 3) of certain priests, friends of his, who were sent as prisoners to Rome, to be tried). Swim out; ἐκκολυμβάω, only here, but not uncommon in the same sense in classical Greek (see next verse). Escape; διαφύγοι, peculiar to St. Luke here, but it is the common medical word for a narrow escape from Illness.
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