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An Exposition Of The Acts Of The Apostles


In this Chapter we have an account of St. Paul’s voyage to Rome whither he was sent by Festus to stand his trial, as he himself desired, before the Emperor Nero. Sailing slowly and cautiously along the coast, they reached “Good-havens,” near the city of Thalassa (1–8). Paul warned them of their danger in case they sailed farther at this season. Unheeding his warning, they made for Crete (9–13). Overtaken by a tempest, Paul comforts them in a state of despair, by telling them on the assurance of an Angel, that no lives would be lost among the number on board, 276 souls. Paul warned the centurion not to allow the sailors to leave the ship (23–36). Nearing an island, the passengers all got safe to shore (40–44).


1. “Determined” by Festus and his council, and the convenient time fixed for sailing having arrived—“he,” Luke, was with St. Paul, though not accused, and accompanied him. Hence, the Greek has “we.”

“With the other prisoners.” These, possibly, may have also appealed to Cæsar, and their case was likely to be tried before the Emperor himself.

“Of the band Augusta.” “Band,” comprised about four or six hundred men (400–600). Very likely, “band” was the same as cohort, sixth part of a legion. The division of the army to which these men belonged was called “Augusta,” in honour of the Emperor Augustus; likely, they were treated with some distinction. The Greek has “band of Sebaste.” It may have been levied or raised in Sebaste.

2. “Adrumetum,” in Mysia, Asia Minor, opposite Lesbos. This ship, built at Adrumetum, was then in the port of Cæsarea. There was but very little direct communication at this time, between Italy and Palestine. The centurion calculated that by availing himself of this trading vessel, he would fall in with some vessel bound for Italy, and so he did at Lystra, or rather Myra (v. 6).

“Launched,” hoisted our sails. “Coasts of Asia” Minor. The owners of the ship, likely, meant to call at the different ports for the purposes of traffic.

“Aristarchus” (c. 19:29), is referred to as Paul’s travelling companion. He now voluntarily attended him, prepared to share his dangers. He went with him to Rome, and was there his fellow prisoner (Col. 4:10; Philemon, v. 24).

3. “Sidon,” over sixty miles north of Cæsarea. “Courteously,” humanely allowing him to visit his friends at Sidon, where he was well known, having called there on his travels to and from Jerusalem.

“Take care of himself,” to receive their attentions, and likely some supplies to lighten the hardships of his voyage.

4. “Under Cyprus,” along the coast, instead of launching into the open sea, they sailed between Cyprus and the main land of Asia Minor, leaving Cyprus to the left.

“Winds.” West and north-west winds prevalent at that season. To escape their violence, they sailed to the left of Cyprus. They were thus saved from the fury of these winds on the open sea.

5. “Cilicia,” &c. The sea off the coasts of these countries. “We came to Lystra.” The Greek and best sustained readings have “Myra.” Lystra being in Lycaonia, and inland (14:6). “Lycia;” in the south-west part of Asia Minor.

6. “Of Alexandria,” bound for Italy. Probably, driven into Myra from stress of weather and the contrary winds referred to. She was a large transport ship, carrying corn or wheat from Egypt to Rome. Two hundred and seventy-six (276) passengers and crew (v. 37) were accommodated in her, not to speak of her cargo (vv. 10, 38).

7. “Slowly.” In consequence of the prevailing west winds. “Gnidus,” a city of Asia Minor, situated on a promontory of the same name. North-west of the Island of Rhodes.

“The wind,” &c. The wind did not allow them to pursue a direct course. They, therefore, sailed close by Crete, to break the violence of the wind.

“Salmone.” A promontory on the eastern extremity of Crete.

8. With much difficulty and danger of shipwreck. “Sailing by it,” &c.

“Good Havens,” on the south-eastern part of the island of Crete.

9. “Much time,” in sailing, owing to the contrary winds, along the coasts of Asia Minor or at “Good Havens” in hopes of good weather and favourable winds. Likely, he expected to reach Italy, before the dangerous period of navigation in the Mediterranean had set in, as happened now when the most tempestuous season of the year had come upon them.

“Because the fast,” &c. It is generally agreed upon, that there is question of the Jewish fast, on the great day of atonement, which took place on the 10th of the month, Tisri, the seventh month of the Jewish ecclesiastical year, corresponding with the end of our September and beginning of October, towards the autumnal Equinoxes. Then, the Etesian winds which partake of the Equinoctial gales, are very violent, and render navigation most dangerous. It was usual with the Jews to fix certain periods of the year, and compute them from great Festivals, The same is usual among Christians also. Hence, we speak of Christmas, Michaelmas, &c.

Some Commentators, among them, A. Lapide, say the fast in question occurred in December, and that St. Luke speaks of the Christian fast of quatuor tense, then celebrated.

“Paul comforted them.” Admonished, warned them of their impending danger. Should they attempt to sail.

10: “Injury,” &c. Should they commence to sail. Not only to the ship, the property and cargo of wheat on board (v. 38) but also imminent danger to the lives of all the passengers, ‘also of our lives.”

Independently of his impressions of the dangers of navigation at this season, and the condition of the ship, he may also have some lights from inspiration, or revelation (22–25).

11. “Pilot,” steersman. “Master of the ship,” who may have been a different person from the pilot, employed by the owner to steer the vessel.

12. “The greatest part” of the crew. “Phenice,” a harbour in the south of Crete, to the west of “Good Havens.”

“Looking towards the south-west.” In Greek, looking towards Lybia or Africa, the country situated south-west of the mouth of the harbour, the entrance to which had a south-westerly aspect.

“North-west.” The Greek, κατα χωρον, means a wind blowing from the north-west. The harbour was curved, with one shore towards the north-west; the other, towards south-west. It was entered in a sout h-west direction, then curved in a north-west direction, thus affording a secure harbour for wintering.

13. “South wind gently blowing.” Thus inspiring them with hope to be able to sail along the coasts of Crete. Likely, it blew from another direction before; and now veered round to the south. “Their purpose” to sail quietly along the coasts of Crete to Phenice.

“Asson,” is supposed by many not be a proper name; but a Greek adverb signifying nearer, and then the words would mean, that they sailed nearer the coasts of Crete, not venturing on the open sea. It was while sailing thus, that the violent storm (next verse) burst upon them.

14. “Against it,” In the Greek “it” is in the feminine gender αυτης. It cannot apply to “ship,” which is in the neuter—πλοιον. It is commonly understood of the Island of Crete.

“Tempestuous wind.” In Greek a Typhonic wind, like the Typhon, a tempestuous wind, then prevalent in these seas, blowing a hurricane, coming not from any one quarter, but from every quarter. “Euro-Aquilo,” the Vulgate reading preferred by the best critics and editors, the north-east wind. It is a Latin term which St. Luke likely learned from the Romans on board the ship. The ordinary Greek reading, Euroclydon.

15. “Caught” by the storm, “and could not bear up,” &c. The Greek is look up, “were driven,” drifted before the storm, unable to guide our course or manage the vessel.

16. “Running under,” quite close to, “Cauda,” a small island south-west of Crete.

“Come by the boat.” Get it on deck and save it from being broken by the violence of the waves.

17. “Helps.” Means of protection against the tempest, viz., ropes, chains, cables to keep her planks and timber together.

“Undergirding” with the helps at hand just referred to, thus preventing her planks from starting under the force of the storm. Likely, these helps were stowed on board against time of danger.

“Quicksands.” There were two great syrtes or sandbanks on the opposite coast of Africa. They were far away. But the violence of the storm might waft the ship thither. They were the more dangerous, as the sandbanks shifting their position moved from one place to another. “Quicksands.” The Greek article prefixed to syrtis, την Συρτιν, the syrtis, shows there was question of a particular syrtis, the great syrtis on the north of Africa to the south-west of Crete, towards which the wind was impelling them.

“Sail-yard.” The sails with the great yard and rigging supporting them were let down to retard the impetuous course of the ship. Some understand it of taking away the mast, which sometimes among the ancients was set in sockets. So, no necessity for cutting it away.

“And so.” In this plight, without sails, “driven,” tossed about at the mercy of the waves.

18. “Lightened.” By throwing out everything on board not necessary; probably also a part of the cargo. They waited, however, for things to become worse before throwing it all out (38).

19. “Tackling.” Sails, cables, &c., and everything that could be dispensed with. Probably, some of the anchors. Some they retained.

20. “Sun,” &c. They could take no observations, and so gave up all for lost. Having no compass, which was unknown at that time, they could not know where they were, or whither they were drifting. So they gave up all for lost.

21. “Fasted.” The fear of impending death took away all relish for food.

“Paul standing forth.” In their extreme dejection, Paul strives to console and inspirit them.

“Gained this loss,” &c. Not have subjected yourselves to this harm, &c. You might have escaped it. The Greek word literally means to “avoid gaining this loss,” a strange form of expression. However, we might be said to gain, what we avoid losing (Kenrick).

22, 23. He predicts the safety of the crew; it having been revealed to him by God. “Stood by me.” Appeared to me. “This night.” Whether in dream or while he was awake cannot be ascertained.

Likely the latter, as he hardly slept in the storm.

24, 25. “Brought before Cæsar,” and thy life therefore spared, “given thee,” &c., and the lives of all the others on your account, in response to your prayers. In the sweet dispensation of God’s adorable Providence, he often spares sinners on account of the just.

26. “Come.” In Greek be cast upon a “certain island.” There by Divine appointment we shall be saved from shipwreck.

27. “Fourteenth night.” After leaving Good Havens, “in Adria.” This, according to the usage of speaking among the ancients, does not refer to what is now called the Adriatic Gulf; but to the sea between Italy, Greece and Africa.

“The ship-men,” or sailors, “that they discovered some country,” were approaching some land.

28. “Sounding.” As is usually done, in such circumstances.

29. “Four anchors.” The better to secure the ship. “Wished for the day,” in order the more accurately to see their position and danger.

30. “Under colour.” That it was necessary to be in the boat in order to cast the anchors more securely, whereas they meant to escape.

31. “Centurion,” who had the direction of the ship, carrying Government prisoners. “Except these” seamen, who alone knew how to manage a ship—the centurion and soldiers knew nothing of such things.

“Stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” The ship will go to pieces and be wrecked. The assurance from Paul that the passengers would be all saved, supposed that proper means would be employed for that purpose, and no tempting of God to perform a miracle; whereas, here these means being neglected, God did not mean to work an unnecessary miracle for the purpose, when ordinary human exertions would suffice.

32. “Fall off.” Go adrift.

33. “Taking nothing.” They may have hurriedly taken some scanty, but no regular meals.

34. “Not an hair,” &c. A common or proverbial form of expression frequently to be met with in SS. Scripture, denoting that no harm whatever even the slightest, would befall them; that they would be perfectly safe.

35. “Gave thanks.” In accordance with the Jewish custom and the example of our Lord Himself (Matthew 14:19; John 6:44), in giving thanks before meals.

38. No hope of saving the cargo. They, therefore, lightened the ship, by throwing it overboard, so that as they were preparing to run the ship on the beach, a light draft of water would make matters easier in nearing the shore.

39. “They knew not,” &c. Likely the Alexandrian sailors, although not strangers to Malta, never saw this side of the island now before them. It was distant from the great and frequented harbour, which alone they may have known.

“They minded.” Resolved.

40. “Taken up.” The Greek clearly means letting go the anchors, cutting the ropes and leaving them in the sea, thus lightening the ship, the more easily to reach land.

“Rudder bands.” The Greek has “rudder” in the plural, conveying that there were more than one rudder. In the large vessels of the ancients they had a rudder at the prow; and another, at the stern. Sometimes, one, at the sides. “The bands” were fastenings binding the rudder to the side of the ship for taking them out of the water in case of storm to prevent them from being carried away. They were useless in the tempest (v. 15–17). Now that the storm was over, they are let loose in order to get the vessel more easily into port.

“Mainsail.” As the mainmast had been flung away, some are of opinion that there is question here of a foremast or bowsprit, having some small sail towards the prow.

41. “A place where two seas met.” In Greek, it literally is “a place of double sea,” meaning a kind of isthmus or tongue of land, extending from the mainland and washed on both sides by the sea. It seems to be a sunken sandbank which they did not perceive. On making their way towards land, they fell in with this hidden sandbank.

“They run the ship aground,” not intentionally. “The forepart” caught in the sand, remained immovable, while the hinder part, being still in deep water, was broken to pieces by the violence of the waves. It was owing to this circumstance they got boards on which they strove to make land (v. 44).

42. “The soldiers” fearing if the prisoners under their charge escaped, they might be chargeable with neglect of duty, which according to Roman law would entail the heaviest punishment-the punishment the prisoners would themselves undergo-gave the barbarous counsel here spoken of. It was, besides, considered disgraceful for Roman soldiers to allow prisoners to escape.

43. “The centurion” who from the outset was favourably disposed towards Paul forbade the execution of this cruel project. No doubt Paul’s conduct on board, his courage, prudence and foresight increased the respect of the centurion for him. To him they were indebted for their lives. He seemed to be specially under the protection of heaven. Frequently to one just man in the designs of God may be due the salvation of thousands. See the case of the Sodomites who would be spared had they even ten just men among them (Genesis 18:32).

“All who could swim.” Likely, all were freed from their chains.

44. “Boards.” Probably, planks which may have been on board the ship.

Others, “on those things that belonged to the ship,” the broken pieces detached from the stern of the ship, when broken to pieces by the violence of the waves (v. 41).

“Every soul,” &c. In accordance with the promise of God to Paul they all providentially were saved after incredible perils and heavy disasters (v. 24).

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