Wesley's Notes on the Bible
And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
28:1 Melita or Malta, is about twelve miles broad, twenty long, and sixty distant from Sicily to the south. It yields abundance of honey, (whence its name was taken,) with much cotton, and is very fruitful, though it has only three feet depth of earth above the solid rock. The Emperor Charles the Fifth gave it, in 1530, to the knights of Rhodes, driven out of Rhodes by the Turks. They are a thousand in number, of whom five hundred always reside on the island.
And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
28:2 And the barbarians - So the Romans and Greeks termed all nations but their own. But surely the generosity shown by these uncultivated inhabitants of Malta, was far more valuable than all the varnish which the politest education could give, where it taught not humanity and compassion.
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
28:4 And when the barbarians saw - they said - Seeing also his chains, Doubtless this man is a murderer - Such rarely go unpunished even in this life; whom vengeance hath not suffered to live - They look upon him as a dead man already. It is with pleasure that we trace among these barbarians the force of conscience, and the belief of a particular providence: which some people of more learning have stupidly thought it philosophy to despise. But they erred in imagining, that calamities must always be interpreted as judgments. Let us guard against this, lest, like them, we condemn not only the innocent, but the excellent of the earth.
And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
28:5 Having shaken off the venomous animal, he suffered no harm - The words of an eminent modern historian are, No venomous kind of serpent now breeds in Malta, neither hurts if it be brought thither from another place. Children are seen there handling and playing even with scorpions; I have seen one eating them. If this be so, it seems to be fixed by the wisdom of God, as an eternal memorial of what he once wrought there.
Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
28:6 They changed their minds, and said he was a god - Such is the stability of human reason! A little before he was a murderer; and presently he is a god: (just as the people of Lystra; one hour sacrificing, and the next stoning:) nay, but there is a medium. He is neither a murderer nor a god, but a man of God. But natural men never run into greater mistakes, than in judging of the children of God.
In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
28:7 The chief man of the island - In wealth if not in power also. Three days - The first three days of our stay on the island.
And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
28:11 Whose sign was - It was the custom of the ancients to have images on the head of their ships, from which they took their names. Castor and Pollux - Two heathen gods who were thought favourable to mariners.
And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
28:15 The brethren - That is, the Christians, came out thence to meet us - It is remarkable that there is no certain account by whom Christianity was planted at Rome. Probably some inhabitants of that city were at Jerusalem on the day of pentecost, Acts 2:10; and being then converted themselves, carried the Gospel thither at their return. Appii - Forum was a town fifty - one miles from Rome; the Three Taverns about thirty. He took courage - He saw Christ was at Rome also, and now forgot all the troubles of his journey.
And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
28:16 With the soldier - To whom he was chained, as the Roman custom was.
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
28:17 And after three days - Given to rest and prayer, Paul called the chief of the Jews together - He always sought the Jews first; but being now bound, he could not so conveniently go round to them. Though I have done nothing - Seeing him chained, they might have suspected he had. Therefore he first obviates this suspicion.
Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
28:19 When the Jews opposed it - He speaks tenderly of them, not mentioning their repeated attempts to murder him. Not that I had any thing to accuse my nation of - Not that I had any design to accuse others, but merely to defend myself.
For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
28:20 The hope of Israel - What Israel hopes for, namely, the Messiah and the resurrection.
And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
28:21 We have neither received letters concerning thee - There must have been a peculiar providence in this, nor has any of the brethren - The Jews, related - Professedly, in a set discourse, or spoke - Occasionally, in conversation, any evil of thee - How must the bridle then have been in their mouth!
But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
28:22 This sect we know is every where spoken against - This is no proof at all of a bad cause, but a very probable mark of a good one.
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
28:23 To whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus - These were his two grand topics, That the kingdom of the Messiah was of a spiritual, not temporal nature: That Jesus of Nazareth was the very person foretold, as the Lord of that kingdom. On this head he had as much need to persuade as to convince, their will making as strong a resistance as their understanding.
And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
28:24 And some believed the things that were spoken - With the heart, as well as understanding.
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
28:25 Well spake the Holy Ghost to your fathers - Which is equally applicable to you.
Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
28:26 Hearing ye shall hear - That is, ye shall most surely hear, and shall not understand - The words manifestly denote a judicial blindness, consequent upon a wilful and obstinate resistance of the truth. First they would not, afterward they could not, believe. Isaiah 6:9, and c; Matt 13:14; John 12:40.
For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
28:28 The salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles - Namely, from this time. Before this no apostle had been at Rome. St. Paul was the first.
And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
28:30 And Paul continued two whole years - After which this book was written, long before St. Paul's death, and was undoubtedly published with his approbation by St. Luke, who continued with him to the last, 2Tim 4:11. And received all that came to him - Whether they were Jews or Gentiles. These two years completed twenty - five years after our Saviour's passion. Such progress had the Gospel made by that time, in the parts of the world which lay west of Jerusalem, by the ministry of St. Paul among the Gentiles. How far eastward the other apostles had carried it in the same time, history does not inform us.
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.
28:31 No man forbidding him - Such was the victory of the word of God. While Paul was preaching at Rome, the Gospel shone with its highest lustre. Here therefore the Acts of the Apostles end; and end with great advantage. Otherwise St. Luke could easily have continued his narrative to the apostle's death.