Acts 27:17

17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchora and let the ship be driven along.

Read Acts 27:17 Using Other Translations

Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.
After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.
Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.

What does Acts 27:17 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Acts 27:17

Which when they had taken up
When they had got the boat into the ship:

they used helps;
the mariners made use of other persons, called in the assistance of the soldiers, and passengers, and prisoners; or for the help of the ship, they made use of cords, chains, and such like things:

undergirding the ship:
with cords and ropes, which they drew under the keel of the ship, and so bound both sides of the ship, that it might not split and fall to pieces; which may be what is now called "frapping", and is done by putting large ropes under the keel, and over the gunwale; and is used when a ship by labouring hard in the sea breaks the bolts in her sides, and this keeps her from parting. Horace F26 refers to this use of ropes in tempests, when he says, "Nonne vides ut--sine funibus vix durare carinae possint imperiosius Aequor?" do not you see that without ropes the keels can scarcely endure the more imperious sea? Isidorus F1 makes mention of several sorts of ropes made use of in storms; "spirae", he says, are ropes that are used in tempests, which the mariners after their manner call "curcubae; tormentum" is a long rope in ships, according to the same writer, which reaches from head to stern, by which they are bound faster together:

and fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands:
which were on the African coast, here called "Syrtes"; either from the conflux of sand and slime, and such like things, which made them very dangerous for shipping, and being covered with water, could not be seen and guarded against, and especially in a storm; or from their drawing of vessels into them, which they retain, suck in, and swallow up; and such the mariners might know were not far off: there were two very remarkable ones on the coast of Africa, the one is called the greater "Syrtes", the other the lesser F2; the greater was more to the south than the lesser, and also more to the east, and the lesser was to the west: of these "Syrtes", Jerom F3 says, they are sandy places in the great sea very terrible, and to be feared, because they use to draw all into them; they are near the Egyptian sea; the Lybian sea, which washes the African shore, is by Seneca called from them the "Syrtic sea" F4: wherefore,

they strake sail;
let down their sails; so read some manuscripts in New College, Oxford; in the Greek text it is, "they let down the vessel"; not the boat they had taken in, of which we read after; nor an anchor, or anchors, which would have been improper in a storm; nor the mast, it can hardly be thought that should be the first thing they should cut down, when they did not cast out the tackling till the third day; the storm was vehement on the first, more vehement on the second, when they lightened the ship, and most vehement on the third, when they cast out the tackling; and as Scheffer F5 observes, the mast is never cut down before the loss of other things; wherefore this is to be understood of letting down the sail yard, and contracting the sails; the Syriac version renders it, "we let down the main sail"; or, "the sail", using the Greek word "Armenon", which signifies "a sail":

and so were driven;
about in the sea, wheresoever the winds and waves carried them; or very likely the ship was driven before the wind under her bare poles.


FOOTNOTES:

F26 Carmin. l. 1. ode 14.
F1 Originum, l. 19. c. 4. p. 163.
F2 Vid. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 4. Sallust. in Jugurtha Melam. l. 1. c. 7.
F3 De locis Hebraicis, fol. 96. I.
F4 De Militia Naval Veterum, l. 1. c. 4. p. 35.
F5 Scheffer, ib. p. 297-300.
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