Acts 27:40

40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

Read Acts 27:40 Using Other Translations

And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.
So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders. Then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach.
So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore.

What does Acts 27:40 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Acts 27:40

And when they had taken up the anchors
The four anchors they cast out of the stern, ( Acts 27:29 ) or "when they had cut the anchors", as the Syriac and Arabic versions render it; that is, had cut the cables to which the anchors were fastened:

they committed themselves unto the sea;
or left them, the anchors, in the sea; or committed the ship to the sea, and themselves in it, endeavouring to steer its course to the place they had in view:

and loosed the rudder bands;
by which the rudder was fastened to the ship.---The rudder, in navigation, is a piece of timber turning on hinges in the stern of a ship, and which opposing sometimes one side to the water, and sometimes another, turns or directs the vessel this way or that. The rudder of a ship is a piece of timber hung on the stern posts, by four or five iron hooks, called "pintles", serving as it were for the bridle of a ship, to turn her about at the pleasure of the steersman.---The rudder being perpendicular, and without side the ship, another piece of timber is fitted into it at right angles, which comes into the ship, by which the rudder is managed and directed: this latter is properly called the "helm" or "tiller", and sometimes, though improperly, the rudder itself.---A narrow rudder is best for a ship's sailing, provided she can feel it; that is, be guided and turned by it, for a broad rudder will hold much water when the helm is put over to any side; yet if a ship has a fat quarter, so that the water cannot come quick and strong to her rudder, she will require a broad rudder.---The aftmost part of the rudder is called the "rake" of the rudder. This is the account of a rudder with the moderns F26: with the ancients, the parts of the rudder were these, the "clavus" or "helm", by which the rudder was governed; the pole of it; the wings or the two breadths of it, which were as wings, and the handle: some ships had but one rudder, most had two, and some three, and some four; those that had but one, seemed to have it in the middle of the stern; and those that had two had them on the sides, not far from the middle; and there were some ships which had them not only in the stern, but also in the prow or head of the ship F1: that the ancients had sometimes more rudders than one in a ship, has been abundantly proved by Bochartus and Scheherus; take only an instance or two. The Carthaginians, as F2 Aelianus reports, decreed two governors to every ship saying it was absurd that it should have (duo phdalia) , "two rudders", and that he who was most useful to the sailors, and had the government of the ship, should be alone, and without successor and companion; and so Apuleius F3 says, the ship in which we were carried was shook by various storms and tempests, "utroque regimine amisso", and having lost both its rudders, sunk at the precipice. Some of the Indian ships have three rudders; that of Philopator's had four rudders: how many this ship had, in which the apostle was, cannot be said: but this is certain, that it had more than one; for the words are, "and loosed the bands of the rudders"; and since it is a clear case, that the ships of the ancients had more rudders than one to each, there is no need to suppose a figure in the text, and that the plural number is used for the singular, as Beza thinks: and "the bands" of them were those by which they were fastened; and they were "loosed", as Schefferus conjectures, because when the anchors were cast out, they fastened the rudders higher, that they might not be broken by the dashing of the waves, especially as they were in a storm; but now having taken up the anchors, they loosed these bands: and certain it is, that not only oars but rudders were fastened with cords or ropes to the ship F4: according to the notion of modern navigation, the rudder band might be thought to be the rope which is turned round the tiller, and made fast to the ship's side, and as the tiller is moved, "surges" round the end of the tiller; and very likely might be made fast, when the ship was at anchor, on one side, to keep the ship from breaking her sheer; but now being loosed, and the helm "a midship", and the mainsail hoisted, the ship ran to the shore before the wind.

And hoised up the main sail to the wind:
which they had before struck or let down, ( Acts 27:17 ) . The main sail is that which is upon the main mast. The Ethiopic version renders it, "the great sail". The great sail was that which is called "acatius", which is another word than is here used: so Isidore F5 says "acatius" is the greatest sail, and is placed in the middle of the ship; "epidromos" is the next in size, and is placed at the stern; and "dolon" is the least sail, and is fixed at the head: and both the Syriac and Arabic versions here render it, "the little sail"; and which sailors put up when they are afraid to use large sails, which would carry too much wind; but the word here used is "artemo", which the above writer says is commended rather for the sake of directing the ship, than for swiftness. And this seems to be the use that was now made of it, namely, to guide the ship into the creek or bay.

And made toward the shore;
which was in the creek, or to the haven in it.


F26 Chambers's Cyclopaedia in the word "rudder".
F1 Scheffer. de Militia Navali Vetorum, l. 2. c. 5. p. 145, 146.
F2 Var Hist. l. 9. c. 40.
F3 Metamorphos. l. 2. p. 24.
F4 Vegetus apud Scheffer. de Militia Navali Veterum, l. 2. c. 5. p. 139.
F5 Originum, l. 19. c. 3. p. 163.
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