Acts 28:1
And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
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(1) Then they knew that the island was called Melita.—There is no ground for questioning the current belief that this was the modern Malta, It was the only island known as Melita by the Greeks and Romans. The gale, which had been blowing for fourteen days since the ship left Crete, would drive her in that direction. The local features of St. Paul’s Bay agree closely, as has been seen, with the narrative in the Acts. There has from a very early date been a local tradition in favour of the belief. The Bay bears St. Paul’s name. A cave is pointed out as having given him shelter. There has, however, been a rival claimant. In the Gulf of Venice, off the coast of Illyria, there is a small “island, Meleta (now Meleda), which has been identified by some writers with the scene of St. Paul’s shipwreck. The view is first mentioned by Constantino Porphyrogenitus, a Greek writer of the tenth century, and was revived in the last century by Padre Georgi, an ecclesiastic of the island. There is, however, not a shadow of evidence in its favour, beyond the similarity (riot identity) of name, and the mention of Adria in Acts 27:27. It has been shown, however, that that term was used with far too wide a range to be decisive on such a question; and against the view there are the facts (1) that it would almost have required a miracle to get the ship, with a north-east gale blowing strongly, up to the Illyrian coast of the Gulf of Venice; (2) that a ship would not naturally have wintered on that coast on its way from Alexandria to Puteoli (Acts 28:11); (3) that there has been no local tradition in its favour, as at Malta. The island of Malta was originally a Phoenician colony. It came under the power of Carthage in B.C. 402, and was ceded to Rome in B.C. 242. Its temple, dedicated to Juno, was rich enough to be an object of plunder to Verres, the Prætor of Sicily (Cic. In Verr. vv. 46).



Acts 28:1 - Acts 28:16

‘They all escaped safe to land,’ says Luke with emphasis, pointing to the verification of Paul’s assurance that there should be no loss of life. That two hundred and seventy-six men on a wreck should all be saved was very improbable, but the angel had promised, and Paul had believed that it should be ‘even so as it had been spoken unto him.’ Therefore the improbable came to pass, and every man of the ship’s company stood safe on the shore. Faith which grasps God’s promise ‘laughs at impossibilities’ and brings them into the region of facts.

Wet, cold, weary, and anxious, the rescued men huddled together on the shore in the early morning, and no doubt they were doubtful what reception they would have from the islanders who had been attracted to the beach. Their first question was, ‘Where are we?’ so completely had they lost their reckoning. Some of the inhabitants could speak Greek or Latin, and could tell them that they were on Melita, but the most part of the crowd that came round them could only speak in a tongue strange to Luke, and are therefore called by him ‘barbarians,’ not as being uncivilised, but as not speaking Greek. But they could speak the eloquent language of kindness and pity. They were heathens, but they were men. They had not come down to the wreck for plunder, as might have been feared, but to help the unfortunates who were shivering on the beach in the downpour of rain, and chilled to the bone by exposure.

As always, Paul fills Luke’s canvas; the other two hundred and seventy-five were ciphers. Two incidents, in which the Apostle appears as protected by God from danger, and as a fountain of healing for others, are all that is told of the three months’ stay in Malta. Taken together, these cover the whole ground of the Christian’s place in the world; he is an object of divine care, he is a medium of divine blessing. In the former one, we see in Paul’s activity in gathering his bundle of brushwood an example of how he took the humblest duties on himself, and was not hindered either by the false sense of dignity which keeps smaller men from doing small things, as Chinese gentlemen pride themselves on long nails as a token that they do no work, or by the helplessness in practical matters which is sometimes natural to, and often affected by, men of genius, from taking his share in common duties.

The shipwreck took place in November probably, and the ‘viper’ had curled itself up for its winter sleep, and had been lifted with the twigs by Paul’s hasty hand. Roused by the warmth, it darted at Paul’s hand before it could be withdrawn, and fixed its fangs. The sight of it dangling there excited suspicions in the mind of the natives, who would know that Paul was a prisoner, and so jumped to the conclusion that he was a murderer pursued by the Goddess of Justice. These rude islanders had consciences, which bore witness to a divine law of retribution.

However mistaken may be heathens’ conceptions of what constitutes right and wrong, they all know that it is wrong to do wrong, and the dim anticipation of God-inflicted punishment is in their hearts. The swift change of opinion about Paul is like, though it is the reverse of, what the people of Lystra thought of him. They first took him for a god, and then for a criminal, worshipping him to-day and stoning him to-morrow. This teaches us how unworthy the heathen conception of a deity is, and how lightly the name was given. It may teach us too how fickle and easily led popular judgments are, and how they are ever prone to rush from one extreme to another, so that the people’s idol of one week is their abhorrence the next, and the applause and execration are equally undeserved. These Maltese critics did what many of us are doing with less excuse-arguing as to men’s merits from their calamities or successes. A good man may be stung by a serpent in the act of doing a good thing; that does not prove him to be a monster. He may be unhurt by what seems fatal; that does not prove him to be a god or a saint.

The other incident recorded as occurring in Malta brings out the Christian’s relation to others as a source of healing. An interesting incidental proof of Luke’s accuracy is found in the fact that inscriptions discovered in Malta show that the official title of the governor was ‘First of the Melitaeans.’ The word here rendered ‘chief’ is literally ‘first.’ Luke’s precision is shown in another direction in his diagnosis of the diseases of Publius’s father, which are described by technical medical terms. The healing seems to have been unasked. Paul ‘went in,’ as if from a spontaneous wish to render help. There is no record of any expectation or request from Publius.

Christians are to be ‘like the dew on the grass, which waiteth not for man,’ but falls unsought. The manner of the healing brings out very clearly its divine source, and Paul’s part as being simply that of the channel for God’s power. He prays, and then lays his hands on the sick man. There are no words assuring him of healing. God is invoked, and then His power flows through the hands of the suppliant. So with all our work for men in bringing the better cure with which we are entrusted, we are but channels of the blessing, pipes through which the water of life is brought to thirsty lips. Therefore prayer must precede and accompany all Christian efforts to communicate the healing of the Gospel; and the most gifted are but, like Paul, ‘ministers through whom’ faith and salvation come.

The argument from silence is precarious, but the entire omission of notice of evangelistic work in Melita is noteworthy. Probably the Apostle as a prisoner was not free to preach Christ in any public manner.

Ancient navigation was conducted in a leisurely fashion very strange to us. Three months’ delay in the island, rendered necessary by wintry storms, would end about the early part of March, when the season for safe sailing began. So the third ship which was used in this voyage set sail. Luke notices its ‘sign’ as being that of the Twin Brethren, the patrons of sailors, whose images were, no doubt, displayed on the bow, just as to-day boats in that region often have a Madonna nailed on the mast. Strange conjunction-Castor and Pollux on the prow, and Paul on the deck!

Puteoli, on the bay of Naples, was the landing-place, and there, after long confinement with uncongenial companions, the three Christians, Paul, Aristarchus, and Luke, found brethren. We can understand the joy of such a meeting, and can almost hear the narrative of perils which would be poured into sympathetic ears. Observe that, according to what seems the true reading, Acts 28:14 says, ‘We were consoled among them, remaining seven days.’ The centurion could scarcely delay his march to please the Christians at Puteoli; and the thought that the Apostle, whose spirit had never flagged while danger was near and effort was needed, felt some tendency to collapse, and required cheering when the strain was off, is as natural as it is pathetic.

So the whole company set off on their march to Rome-about a hundred and forty miles. The week’s delay in Puteoli would give time for apprising the church in Rome of the Apostle’s coming, and two parties came out to meet him, one travelling as far as Appii Forum, about forty Roman miles from the city; the other as far as ‘The Three Taverns,’ some ten miles nearer it. The simple notice of the meeting is more touching than many words would have been. It brings out again the Apostle’s somewhat depressed state, partly due, no doubt, to nervous tension during the long and hazardous voyage, and partly to his consciousness that the decisive moment was very near. But when he grasped the hands and looked into the faces of the Roman brethren, whom he had so long hungered to see, and to whom he had poured out his heart in his letter, he ‘thanked God, and took courage.’ The most heroic need, and are helped by, the sympathy of the humble. Luther was braced for the Diet of Worms by the knight who clapped him on the back as he passed in and spoke a hearty word of cheer.

There would be some old friends in the delegation of Roman Christians, perhaps some of those who are named in Romans 16:1 - Romans 16:27, such as Priscilla and Aquila, and the unnamed matron, Rufus’s mother, whom Paul there calls ‘his mother and mine.’ It would be an hour of love and effusion, and the shadow of appearing before Caesar would not sensibly dim the brightness. Paul saw God’s hand in that glad meeting, as we should do in all the sweetness of congenial intercourse. It was not only because the welcomers were his friends that he was glad, but because they were Christ’s friends and servants. The Apostle saw in them the evidence that the kingdom was advancing even in the world’s capital, and under the shadow of Caesar’s throne, and that gladdened him and made him forget personal anxieties. We too should be willing to sink our own interests in the joy of seeing the spread of Christ’s kingdom.

Paul turned thankfulness for the past and present into calm hope for the future: ‘He took courage.’ There was much to discourage and to excuse tremors and forebodings, but he had God and Christ with him, and therefore he could front the uncertain future without flinching, and leave all its possibilities in God’s hands. Those who have such a past as every Christian has should put fear far from them, and go forth to meet any future with quiet hearts, and minds kept in perfect peace because they are stayed on God.

Acts 28:1. When they were escaped, they knew — From some of the inhabitants who came to them; that the island — On which they were cast; was called Melita — Or, Malta. This island, which took its name from the abundance of honey found therein, (meli, in Greek, signifying honey,) lies between Africa and Sicily, about sixty miles distant from the latter country, and is about twelve miles broad, and twenty long. It consists of a chalky rock, having not more than between one and three feet depth of earth, and yet is very fertile, producing much cotton and excellent fruits. The Melitese were originally a colony of the Carthaginians, as appears from several old inscriptions in Punic characters, and from the language of the present inhabitants, the number of whom is stated to be above ninety thousand. The place on the island where Paul and his company were driven on shore is, at this day, shown to travellers, and goes by the name of St. Paul’s shore, or haven. His shipwreck here procured a kind of religious veneration to the island among Christian nations; in consequence of which, it was given, in the year of our Lord 1525, by Charles V., emperor of Germany, to the knights of Rhodes, expelled from that island by the Turks, and generally called the knights of St. John of Jerusalem. They are one thousand in number, of whom five hundred always reside on the island. In the year 1798, the French, under Bonaparte, took the island; and, in 1800, being reduced by famine, after a blockade of two years, it surrendered to the English, under whose dominion it still continues.

28:1-10 God can make strangers to be friends; friends in distress. Those who are despised for homely manners, are often more friendly than the more polished; and the conduct of heathens, or persons called barbarians, condemns many in civilized nations, professing to be Christians. The people thought that Paul was a murderer, and that the viper was sent by Divine justice, to be the avenger of blood. They knew that there is a God who governs the world, so that things do not come to pass by chance, no, not the smallest event, but all by Divine direction; and that evil pursues sinners; that there are good works which God will reward, and wicked works which he will punish. Also, that murder is a dreadful crime, one which shall not long go unpunished. But they thought all wicked people were punished in this life. Though some are made examples in this world, to prove that there is a God and a Providence, yet many are left unpunished, to prove that there is a judgment to come. They also thought all who were remarkably afflicted in this life were wicked people. Divine revelation sets this matter in a true light. Good men often are greatly afflicted in this life, for the trial and increase of their faith and patience. Observe Paul's deliverance from the danger. And thus in the strength of the grace of Christ, believers shake off the temptations of Satan, with holy resolution. When we despise the censures and reproaches of men, and look upon them with holy contempt, having the testimony of our consciences for us, then, like Paul, we shake off the viper into the fire. It does us no harm, except we are kept by it from our duty. God hereby made Paul remarkable among these people, and so made way for the receiving of the gospel. The Lord raises up friends for his people in every place whither he leads them, and makes them blessings to those in affliction.They knew - Either from their former acquaintance with the island, or from the information of the inhabitants.

Was called Melita - Now called "Malta." It was celebrated formerly for producing large quantities of honey, and is supposed to have been called Melita from the Greek word signifying honey. It is about 20 miles in length from east to west, and 12 miles in width from north to south, and about 60 miles in circumference. It is about 60 miles from the coast of Sicily. The island is an immense rock of white soft freestone, with a covering of earth about one foot in depth, which has been brought from the island of Sicily. There was also another island formerly called "Melita," now called "Meleda," in the Adriatic Sea, near the coast of Illyricum, and some have supposed that Paul was shipwrecked on that island. But tradition has uniformly said that it was on the island now called "Malta." Besides, the other "Melita" would have been far out of the usual track in going to Italy; and it is further evident that Malta was the place, because from the place of his shipwreck he went directly to Syracuse, Rhegium, and Puteoli, thus sailing in a direct course to Rome. In sailing from the other Melita to Rhegium, Syracuse would be far out of the direct course.


Ac 28:1-31. The Wintering at Malta, and Notable Occurrences There—Prosecution of the Voyage to Italy as Far as Puteoli, and Land Journey Thence to Rome—Summary of the Apostle's Labors There for the Two Following Years.

1. knew the island was called Melita—(See on [2137]Ac 27:39). The opinion that this island was not Malta to the south of Sicily, but Meleda in the Gulf of Venice—which till lately had respectable support among Competent judges—is now all but exploded; examination of all the places on the spot, and of all writings and principles bearing on the question, by gentlemen of the highest qualification, particularly Smith (see on [2138]Ac 27:41), having set the question, it may now be affirmed, at rest.Acts 28:1,2 Paul and his company, after their shipwreck, are

kindly entertained by the barbarians of Melita.

Acts 28:3-6 A viper fastening on his hand without hurting him,

the people, who at first thought ill of him, believed

him a god.

Acts 28:7-10 He healeth the father of Publius, and other sick

persons by the island.

Acts 28:11-16 Paul and his company depart, and arrive at Rome; where

Paul is left with a guard in a house of his own.

Acts 28:17-22 He calleth the Jews together, and showeth the

occasion of his coming.

Acts 28:23-29 He preacheth Christ to them, of whom some believe,

others believe not.

Acts 28:30,31 He continueth for two whole years to preach the

gospel without interruption.

The island; this was foretold by Paul, Acts 27:26; and therefore though the mariners knew not the land, Acts 27:39, and were not able to direct the ship, as Acts 27:15, yet God so ordered it, that not a word spoken by Paul did fall to the ground, but the wind and sea obey him.

Melita; now called Malta, a little island between Sicily and Africa. There is another obscure island in Illyricum that was called by this name, which some have mistook for this place of Paul’s shipwreck, by reason that this tempest was in the Adriatic Sea: but not only the Gulf of Venice, but the sea about Sicily, and this coast, was so called, as Strabo witnesseth. See Acts 27:27.

And when they were escaped,.... From the danger they were exposed to by shipwreck, and were got safe to land; this is omitted in the Syriac version:

then they knew that the island was called Melita; an island toward the African shore, where it is placed both by Pliny (g), and Ptolomy (h); in which, the latter says, was the city Melita: it lies between Sicily and Tripolis of Barbary, and is now called Malta: it was famous for the knights of Rhodes, which are now called the knights of Malta: it has its name from "to escape", it being formerly a refuge to the Phoenicians, especially in stormy weather, in their long voyage from Tyre to Gades; and was indeed a place of escape to the Apostle Paul, and those that were with him. And perhaps it might be so called from its being a refuge for pirates; for Cicero (i) says, here pirates used to winter almost every year, and yet did not spoil the temple of Juno, as Verres did: though some say it was so called from the great abundance of honey found in it; for it was a very pleasant and fruitful island, bringing forth great plenty of wheat, rye, flax, cummin, cotton, figs, wine, roses, thyme, lavender, and many other sweet and delightful herbs, from whence bees did gather great plenty of honey. It was, according to Pliny, distant from Camerina eighty four miles, and from Lilybaeum a hundred and thirteen; and it is said to be distant from the promontory of Sicily an hundred miles, though others say sixty; and that it was so far from Syracuse, which is the next place the apostle came to in this voyage, was from Africa an hundred and ninety miles. On the east side, a little from the chief city of it, now called Malta, was a famous temple of Juno, spoiled by Verres, as before observed; and on the south side another of Hercules, the ruins of both which are yet to be seen. The compass of the island is about sixty miles, the length twenty, and the breadth twelve, and has in it five ports, and about sixty villages.

(g) Nat. Hist. l 3. c. 8. (h) Geograph. l. 4. c. 3.((i) Orat. 9. in Verrem, c. 17.

And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called {a} Melita.

(a) That place which we today call Malta.

Acts 28:1. Τότε] then, after our rescue, we recognised; looks back to Acts 27:39.

That by Μελίτη is to be understood the well-known modern Malta (Diod. Sic. v. 12; Strabo, vi. 2, p. 277; Cic. Verr. vi. 46; Ovid. Fast. iii. 567 f.: Fertilis est Melite, sterili vicina Cosyrae, Insula quam Libyci verberat unda freti), and not—as some of the older commentators, following Constantin. Porph. de administr. imper. p. 36 (see in Wolf, and in Winer, Realw.), would infer partly from ἐν τῷ Ἀδρίᾳ, Acts 27:27, partly from βάρβαροι, Acts 28:2, and partly from the observed fact (which, though true in the present day, cannot at all be made good for those times) that there are no venomous serpents in Malta—the island now called Meleda in the Adriatic Gulf, not far from the Illyrian coast (Apoll. Rhod. Arg. iv. 572), is proved as well by the previous long tossing about of the ship, which was hardly possible with a continued storm in the Adriatic Gulf, as more especially by the direction of the further voyage, Acts 28:11-12. The local tradition, also, in Malta, is in favour of it (Beza on Acts 27:41; Smith, Vömel, Hackett). In the Act. Petri et Pauli 1, the island is called Γαυδομελέτη.

Acts 28:1. διασωθέντες, see on Acts 27:43. Used by Josephus of his own shipwreck and escape, Vita, 3, and in Xen. and Thuc. of coming safely to a place.—τότε ἐπέγ.: not imperfect as in Acts 27:39; here denoting the immediate recognition of the place after they had once gained safety (Weiss, Rendall, C.H.). St. Paul’s Bay is several miles distant from Valetta, the harbour which the sailors doubtless knew previously, see also Breusing, p. 190, Vars, p. 243, and J. Smith, pp. 140 and 148, 4th edition.—Μελίτη, see critical note; Malta, cf. Diod. Sic., v., 12, Strabo, vi., 2, Ovid, Fasti, iii., 567, Sicula Melita as distinct from Melita Illyrica (Meleda). There is no need here to refute the view that the latter, in the Adriatic Sea on the coast of Dalmatia, is meant. This view depends chiefly upon the narrow view of the meaning of the Adria Acts 27:27, see also below on Acts 28:2-3. It was first put forward in the tenth century by Constantine the Porphyrogenite, and was advocated in the last century by a Dalmatian monk, Padre Georgi, himself a native of Meleda, no doubt jealous for the honour of his birthplace and his monastery. Its chief champion may be said to be W. Falconer, in his Dissertation on St. Paul’s Voyage, 1817, republished in 1870 by his nephew, Judge Falconer. This last was an unsuccessful attempt to controvert the arguments of J. Smith in favour of Malta, who may be said to have established his case to demonstration (see for a candid description of Falconers view “Adria” (Dickson), Hastings’ B.D.). More recent nautical authorities have most decisively confirmed the view of J. Smith, cf. Breusing, p. 190, and Vars, p. 242. Quite apart from the strong local tradition in favour of Malta, and the testimony of the Apocryphal Acta Petri et Pauli in favour of Γαυδομελέτη (Gosso-Malta) (for references to Lipsius’ edition, Wendt and Zöckler, in loco), it is not too much to say that Meleda could not have been reached without a miracle under the circumstances of weather described in the narrative, cf. Dean Howson’s “Melita,” B.D.1, ii., pp. 315–317, and Zahn (in answer to Mommsen), Einleitung, ii., p. 422.

Acts 28:1-10. The shipwrecked company hospitably entertained in Malta. Paul, bitten by a viper, feels no hurt. Cure of the father of the chief magistrate

1. And when they were escaped] The oldest MSS. give the first person plural in this verse. Render (with R. V.) “when we were … we knew.”

Melita] They would at once learn what the land was from the natives whom they found on the shore. Tradition has from the earliest times identified Melita with the modern Malta. But Constantine Porphyrogenitus (de Adm. Imp. p. 36) and others after him have attempted to shew that Meleda, a small island in the Adriatic Sea, not far from the coast of Illyria, was the scene of the shipwreck. They have supported this opinion by confining the sense of Adria (Acts 27:27) to the modem Adriatic Sea, by their explanation of “barbarians” in the next verse of this chapter, and by the absence of vipers at the present time from the island of Malta. But the latter circumstance is not without a parallel. The advance of cultivation and alteration of temperature have destroyed poisonous beasts out of other districts besides Malta, and the two first arguments are founded on mistakes. Moreover it is hardly possible to conceive that a ship should be driven for fourteen days in the Adriatic without going ashore, and the direction in which they sailed after finding a fresh vessel (Acts 28:11-12) is also completely opposed to the idea that they were wrecked in the Gulf of Venice.

Acts 28:1. Τότε) then at last.—ἐπέγνωμεν) So the most ancient authorities read. Ἐπέγνωσαν[154] is the reading of the more recent copies, from ch. Acts 27:39. The sailors did not know the land, says Luke, sooner than all the rest of us.—ΜΕΛΊΤΗ) Melita, below Sicily: comp. ch. Acts 27:17 (the Syrtis, off Africa); nor is the Acts 28:27 there an objection (up and down in Adria), for the name of the Adriatic Sea was used in a comprehensive sense among the ancients, extending towards the Ionian Sea.

[154] Ἐπέγνωμεν is read by ABC Vulg. both Syr. Memph. Rec. Text has ἐπέγνωσαν without any very old authority.—E. and T.

Verse 1. - We for they, A.V. and T.R. (twice). Was called. It reads as if it was the answer to their question to the natives, "What is this island called?" Melita. That Melita is the island of Malta, and not Meleda off the coast of Dalmatia, is demonstrated in Smith's ' Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul,' and it is not worth while here to consider the arguments in favor of Meleda. Melita appears to be a Phoenician name, from the root in Hebrew מָלַט, to escape (Bochart, 'Canaan,' 1:26), meaning, therefore, a "refuge," a harbor of refuge so called from sailors often running into Valetta during a gale; or possibly from מֶלֶ, clay, in Italian malta, from the clay which forms the bottom of the sea as you approach Malta, and which makes the anchorage so safe. It was originally colonized by Phoenicians, whether from Tyre or Carthage cannot be pronounced with certainty, though we know it was a Carthaginian possession at the time of the first Punic War. It fell into the hands of the Romans B.C. 218, and at the time of St. Paul's shipwreck was annexed to the province of Sicily. The population, however, was Phoenician or Punic, and probably knew little Greek or Latin. The name of a fountain in St. Paul's Bay, Ayn tal Razzul, "The Apostle's Fountain," is said (Smith, p. 24) to be Phoenician. But this is extremely doubtful. It is far more probably, not to say certainly, the corrupt Africano-Arabic dialect of the island, as I venture to affirm on the high authority of Professor Wright. Gesenius is also distinctly of opinion that there are no remains of Phoenician in the Maltese, and that all the words in the Maltese language which have been thought to be Phoenician are really Arabic. Four genuine Phoenician inscriptions have, however, been found in the island ('Monument. Phoenic,' pars prima, pp. 90-111,252, and 341). Acts 28:1They knew

The best texts read we knew: ascertained or recognized: with a reference to ver. 39.

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