1-2 We know that Luke was with Paul on the voyage to Italy,112 because Luke uses the word “we” throughout his account of the voyage: We boarded a ship … we put out to sea (verse 2). Thus Luke was a firsthand witness of all that happened. Also with them was Aristarchus (Acts 19:29; 20:4; Colossians 4:10). There were also other prisoners on the ship who were being taken to Rome. The first ship they boarded was bound for the province of Asia.
21-22 Everyone on the ship had given up hope (verse 20). Because of the tossing to and fro of the ship, no one on board felt like eating; many no doubt were seasick. Perhaps the food had been soaked by sea water.
But during the period of deepest despair Paul stood up among them and said, “I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost.”
23-26 An angel of God had appeared to Paul in the night. “You will reach Rome unharmed, because you must stand trial before Caesar,” the angel said to Paul (see Acts 23:11). Not only would Paul be saved, but also, said the angel, “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” No person on board would be lost! But the ship itself would be destroyed; it would run aground on some island (verse 26).
There have been many times in history when God has shown special mercy to men because of the presence among them of one or more of God’s servants (Genesis 18:22-32). Thus, because of Paul’s presence on the ship, God spared the lives of everyone on board.
“I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me,” Paul said (verse 25). With God, to speak and then to accomplish what He has spoken is one and the same thing. With us also, to believe and then to receive God’s promise should be one and the same thing.
27 In New Testament times, a large central portion of the Mediterranean Sea was called the Adriatic Sea.116 One night, as the ship was reaching the western part of the sea, the sailors sensed that they were approaching land. They couldn’t see the land, but they could probably hear the surf breaking against the shore. They measured how deep the water was by letting down a sound, and found that the water was only thirty meters deep. This proved that they were indeed near land.
28-29 It was still the middle of the night. The sailors feared that the ship would be dashed against the large rocks along the shore. Therefore, they let down four anchors to stop the ship from getting any closer to land. In the morning, they would be able to see the shore and find a safe place to beach the ship.
30-32 Then, fearing that the ship would not last through the night, the sailors began to lower the lifeboat with the intention of deserting the ship and escaping to shore. But Paul knew their intention. He told the soldiers guarding the prisoners, “Don’t let the sailors desert the ship, or else you cannot be saved” (verse 31). The sailors would be needed in the morning to get the ship closer to shore. The ship was still so far from the shore that, with the lifeboat gone, no one else could have gotten to land. Therefore, to prevent the sailors from escaping, the soldiers cut the ropes holding the lifeboat and let it float away.
33-38 After everyone had eaten, the sailors, in order to lighten the ship further, threw overboard all the grain which the ship had been carrying (see verse 6 and comment). The lighter the ship, the higher in the water it would sit and the closer it could get to shore before running aground. This would make it easier for everyone to get to land safely.
39-41 When daylight came, the sailors saw a sandy beach without rocks and decided to try and run the ship aground there. But before the ship reached the beach, it ran into a sandbar that had not been visible.117 With the front of the ship stuck fast in the sand, the waves very quickly broke up the back part of the ship.
42-44 According to Roman law, whenever a prisoner escaped, the soldier guarding him was given the prisoner’s punishment (see Acts 12:19). Therefore, to prevent the prisoners from escaping, the soldiers decided to kill them all! But the centurion in charge of the soldiers