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Acts 27

Acts 27:1-44 . THE VOYAGE TO ITALY--THE SHIPWRECK AND SAFE LANDING AT MALTA.

20. neither sun nor stars appeared in many--"several"
days--probably most of the fourteen days mentioned in Acts 27:27 . This continued thickness of the atmosphere prevented their making the necessary observations of the heavenly bodies by day or by night; so that they could not tell where they were.
all hope that we should be saved was taken away--"Their exertions to subdue the leak had been unavailing; they could not tell which way to make for the nearest land, in order to run their ship ashore, the only resource for a sinking ship: but unless they did make the land, they must founder at sea. Their apprehensions, therefore, were not so much caused by the fury of the tempest, as by the state of the ship" [SMITH]. From the inferiority of ancient to modern naval architecture, leaks were sprung much more easily, and the means of repairing them were fewer than now. Hence the far greater number of shipwrecks from this cause.

21-26. But after long abstinence--(See on Ac 27:33 ). "The hardships which the crew endured during a gale of such continuance, and their exhaustion from laboring at the pumps and hunger, may be imagined, but are not described" [SMITH].
Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened to me, &c.--not meaning to reflect on them for the past, but to claim their confidence for what he was now to say:

23. there stood by me this night the angel of God--as in Acts 16:9 , 23:11 .
whose I am--( 1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:20 ).
and whom I serve--in the sense of worship or religious consecration

24. saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought before Cæsar and, lo, God hath given thee all . . . that sail with thee--While the crew were toiling at the pumps, Paul was wrestling in prayer, not for himself only and the cause in which he was going a prisoner to Rome, but with true magnanimity of soul for all his shipmates; and God heard him, "giving him" (remarkable expression!) all that sailed with him. "When the cheerless day came he gathered the sailors (and passengers) around him on the deck of the laboring vessel, and raising his voice above the storm" [HOWSON], reported the divine communication he had received; adding with a noble simplicity, "for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me," and encouraging all on board to "be of good cheer" in the same confidence. What a contrast to this is the speech of Cæsar in similar circumstances to his pilot, bidding him keep up his spirit because he carried Cæsar and Cæsar's fortune! [PLUTARCH]. The Roman general knew no better name for the Divine Providence, by which he had been so often preserved, than Cæsar's fortune [HUMPHRY]. From the explicit particulars--that the ship would be lost, but not one that sailed in it, and that they "must be cast on a certain island"--one would conclude a visional representation of a total wreck, a mass of human beings struggling with the angry elements, and one and all of those whose figures and countenances had daily met his eye on deck, standing on some unknown island shore. From what follows, it would seem that Paul from this time was regarded with a deference akin to awe.

27-29. when the fourteenth night was come--from the time they left Fair Havens.
as we were driven--drifting
up and down in Adria--the Adriatic, that sea which lies between Greece and Italy.
about midnight the shipmen deemed--no doubt from the peculiar sound of the breakers.
that they drew near some country--"that some land was approaching them." This nautical language gives a graphic character to the narrative.

29. they cast four anchors out of the stern--The ordinary way was to cast the anchor, as now, from the bow: but ancient ships, built with both ends alike, were fitted with hawseholes in the stern, so that in case of need they could anchor either way. And when the fear was, as here, that they might fall on the rocks to leeward, and the intention was to run the ship ashore as soon as daylight enabled them to fix upon a safe spot, the very best thing they could do was to anchor by the stern [SMITH]. In stormy weather two anchors were used, and we have instances of four being employed, as here.
and wished--"anxiously" or "devoutly wished."
for day--the remark this of one present, and with all his shipmates alive to the horrors of their condition. "The ship might go down at her anchors, or the coast to leeward might be iron-bound, affording no beach on which they could land with safety. Hence their anxious longing for day, and the ungenerous but natural attempt, not peculiar to ancient times, of the seamen to save their own lives by taking to the boat" [SMITH].

30. as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship--under cover of night.
when they had let down the boat . . . as though they would . . . cast anchors out of the foreship--"bow"--rather, "carry out" anchors, to hold the ship fore as well as aft. "This could have been of no advantage in the circumstances, and as the pretext could not deceive a seaman, we must infer that the officers of the ship were parties to the unworthy attempt, which was perhaps detected by the nautical skill of St. Luke, and communicated by him to St. Paul" [SMITH].

31. Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers--the only parties now to be trusted, and whose own safety was now at stake.
except ye abide in the ship ye cannot be saved--The soldiers and passengers could not be expected to possess the necessary seamanship in so very critical a case. The flight of the crew, therefore, might well be regarded as certain destruction to all who remained. In full assurance of ultimate safety, in virtue of a DIVINE pledge, to all in the ship, Paul speaks and acts throughout this whole scene in the exercise of a sound judgment as to the indispensable HUMAN conditions of safety; and as there is no trace of any feeling of inconsistency between these two things in his mind, so even the centurion, under whose orders the soldiers acted on Paul's views, seems never to have felt perplexed by the twofold aspect, divine and human, in which the same thing presented itself to the mind of Paul. Divine agency and human instrumentality are in all the events of life quite as much as here. The only difference is that the one is for the most part shrouded from view, while the other is ever naked and open to the senses.

32. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat--already lowered.
and let her fall off--let the boat drift away.

33-37. while day was coming on--"until it should be day"; that is, in the interval between the cutting off of the boat and the approach of day, which all were "anxiously looking for" ( Acts 27:29 ).
Paul--now looked up to by all the passengers as the man to direct them.
besought them all to take meat--"partake of a meal."
saying, This is the fourteenth day ye have tarried--"waited for a breathing time."
having eaten nothing--that is, taken no regular meal. The impossibility of cooking, the occupation of all hands to keep down leakage, &c., sufficiently explain this, which is indeed a common occurrence in such cases.

34. I pray you to take some meat, for this is for your health, for there shall not a hair fall from . . . any of you--On this beautiful union of confidence in the divine pledge and care for the whole ship's

35. when he had thus spoken he took bread--assuming the lead.
and gave thanks to God in presence of them all--an impressive act in such circumstances, and fitted to plant a testimony for the God he served in the breasts of all.
when he had broken it, he began to eat--not understood by the Christians in the ship as a love-feast, or celebration of the Lord's Supper, as some think, but a meal to recruit exhausted nature, which Paul shows them by his own example how a Christian partakes of.

36. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat--"took food"; the first full meal since the commencement of the gale. Such courage in desperate circumstances as Paul here showed is wonderfully infectious.

38-40. when they had eaten enough, &c.--With fresh strength after the meal, they make a third and last effort to lighten the ship, not only by pumping, as before, but by throwing the whole cargo of wheat into the

39. when it was day they knew not the land--This has been thought surprising in sailors accustomed to that sea. But the scene of the wreck is remote from the great harbor, and possesses no marked features by which it could be recognized, even by a native if he came unexpectedly upon it [SMITH], not to speak of the rain pouring in torrents ( Acts 28:2 ), which would throw a haze over the coast even after day broke. Immediately on landing they knew where they were ( Acts 28:1 ).
discovered a creek with a shore--Every creek of course, must have a shore; but the meaning is, a practicable shore, in a nautical sense, that is, one with a smooth beach, in contradistinction to a rocky coast (as Acts 27:41 shows).
into which they were minded, if . . . possible, to thrust the ship--This was their one chance of safety.

40. taken up the anchors, they committed themselves to the sea--The Margin is here evidently right, "cut the anchors (away), they left them in the sea."
loosed the rudder bands--Ancient ships were steered by two large paddles, one on each quarter. When anchored by the stern in a gale, it would be necessary to lift them out of the water and secure them by lashings or rudder bands, and to loose these when the ship was again got under way [SMITH].
hoised up the mainsail--her, "the foresail," the best possible sail that be set in the circumstances. How necessary must the crew have been to execute all these movements, and how obvious the foresight which made their stay indispensable to the safety of all on board

41. falling into a place where two seas met--SMITH thinks this refers to the channel, not more than one hundred yards broad, which separates the small island of Salmone from Malta, forming a communication between the sea inside the bay and that outside.
the fore part stuck fast, and remained immovable--"The rocks of Malta disintegrate into extremely minute particles of sand and clay, which, when acted upon by the currents or surface agitation, form a deposit of tenacious clay; but, in still waters, where these causes do not act, mud is formed; but it is only in creeks, where there are no currents, and at such a depth as to be undisturbed by the waves, that the mud occurs. A ship, therefore, impelled by the force of a gale, into a creek, with such a bottom, would strike a bottom of mud, graduating into tenacious clay, into which the fore part would fix itself, and be held fast, while the stern was exposed to the force of the waves" [SMITH].
hinder part was broken--The continued action denoted by the tense here is to be noted--"was fast breaking," going to pieces.

42-44. the soldiers' counsel was to hill the prisoners, lest any . . . should escape--Roman cruelty, which made the keepers answerable for their prisoners with their own lives, is here reflected in this cruel proposal.

43. the centurion, &c.--Great must have been the influence of Paul over the centurion's mind to produce such an effect. All followed the swimmers in committing themselves to the deep, and according to the divine pledge and Paul's confident assurance given them, every soul got safe to land--yet without miracle. (While the graphic minuteness of this narrative of the shipwreck puts it beyond doubt that the narrator was himself on board, the great number of nautical phrases, which all critics have noted, along with the unprofessional air which the whole narrative wears, agrees singularly with all we know and have reason to believe of "the beloved physician";

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