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Acts, Chapter 27
Acts 27 (New American Standard Bible)
Paul Is Sent to
1When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius.
At his request, it has been determined
that Paul will travel to
The principal characters in this
story will include Paul, the Centurion Julius, The captain and pilot of the
Alexandrian grain ship, the crew of that ship, Luke and Aristarchus, a friend
and traveling companion of Paul’s from Thessalonica in Macedonia. Paul met
Aristarchus there during his second missionary journey so at this point they
have known each other for many years. The plot of this story will revolve
around a desire by the Centurion, ship’s captain and pilot to get to
One obvious thing to glean from verse
one is that Luke is back with Paul (he uses the word “we” in his
report). Luke tells us that the
solders assigned to escort Paul to
Two possibilities exist for Luke to be on the ship with Paul:
1 – If it were a commercial vessel, he could have purchased a ticket.
2 – However there is an equally likely reason that Luke and Aristarchus could have been given permission to accompany Paul. As a Roman citizen, Paul would have been permitted to bring along his slaves. For Luke and Aristarchus to accompany Paul, they could have claimed to be his slaves. Would they have assumed the role of slave in order to accompany Paul and not just be passengers on the ship?
2And embarking in an
Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of
Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of
next day we put in at
Luke tells us that in addition to him, a man from Thessalonica named Aristarchus accompanied Paul.
has been mentioned two other times in Acts (19:29, 20:4) as one of the men
from Thessalonica who accompanied Paul. He is also mentioned in Colossians
4:10 as a “Fellow prisoner” of Paul and also in Philemon 1:24 as a fellow
worker of Paul’s. Evidently this was a man who cared for Paul and was willing
to take the risk of accompanying his to
distance between Caesarea and
next records that the prevailing wind forced the ship to pass east and north
after the ship reached the Cilician coast could they make headway against the
wind. At that point, they would be aided by currents running along the coast,
as well as by land breezes from
fact that the Centurion allowed Paul to see his friends at
we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we
Adramyttian ship was never intended to be the sole transport to
Luke says that the Centurion “Put us aboard it”. This indicates that he and Aristarchus were not simply paying passengers, but were considered a part of Paul’s group, giving more evidence to indicate that he and Aristarchus were traveling as Paul’s slaves.
7When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone;
Evidently contrary winds slowed the voyage considerable for the next few days and little progress was made.
8and with difficulty
sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the
The great Fast that Luke mentions fell in the year 59 on (our calendar) October 5, and Luke uses it as an indication of the date, since he and Paul and Aristarchus would have observed it. The dangerous season for navigation lasted from Sept. 14 to Nov. 11. During the dangerous season, all navigation on the open sea was discontinued because of the danger of violent storms. Evidently Paul knew about the dangers of sea travel so late in the season because he shares his worry about losing the ship with the travelers. Of course, in addition to loss of ship and cargo, he was also worried about loss of life and he said so.
11But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. 12Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.
Evidently the Centurion had the
authority to determine if and when the ship would sail and, being persuaded
by the pilot and Captain that the harbor in
The decision to attempt to make the
run from Fair Havens to
13When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.
In the opinion of the Captain and pilot, the winds were now favorable for the run to Phoenix, they weighed anchor and began the sail along the shore line toward the port they believed would provide the best protection over the winter months when the sailing conditions were so bad that no ships of the design of those days dared attempt a crossing in that part of the Mediterranean.
It is interesting to note that, according to the Roman
historian Suetonius, the city of
14But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; 15and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along. 16Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship's boat under control.
The trip across to
In Luke’s words, they ran before the wind to avoid being capsized until they found temporary shelter behind the Island Clauda. Even with the island blocking the wind, the velocity was so strong that Luke reports the crew was scarcely able to get the ship’s boat (a small craft, like a row boat that all ships of those days pulled behind, on a rope) under control.
17After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along. 18The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; 19and on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands.
20Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.
In his description of the storm on the craft, Luke leaves no doubt that the conditions the crew and passengers were facing were grim. In an effort to control the craft and hold it into the wind so that it would not turn broadside and be turned over, the crew rigged the craft in a harness and the deployed their sea anchor in an attempt to slow down the craft and hold it into the wind.
Although the American Standard translation used here does not indicate it, the literal translation of Luke’s Greek words indicate that at this point the crew lowered the mail sail of the craft, which indicates that they had given up any hope of attempting to sail the craft through the storm. At that point they allowed the gale force wind to drive the craft along toward the south. This was a crew that had lost control of their ship. Their only hope at this point was to do enough to keep the craft form sinking. To help lighten the vessel, they tossed the cargo overboard, then (on the third day of the storm) they made the decision to throw the ship’s tackle over the side. This was probably the last hope for keeping the craft (which was likely filling with water) light enough to stay afloat. In verse 20, Luke reports that the crew, after many days of fighting the storm, gave up hope.
21When they had gone a
long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said,
"Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from
Paul certainly would have been worried, but in spite of whatever concern he has, he addresses the crew. Perhaps to get them to have faith in his opinion, he reminds them that he did not want to attempt the crossing that has placed them in this peril. Evidently he has been visited by an Angel of God who has assured him a that no lives will be lost, only the ship, that it is God’s will that he will survive the journey to Rome and would eventually stand before Caesar. Although everyone else in laboring with no knowledge of the eventual outcome, Paul knows that the ship will run aground on an island and no lives will be lost. The angel has told him that it is God’s will to give him safety for everyone in the boat.
27But when the fourteenth night came, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. 28They took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak.
Fourteen days in the storm is almost too much to imagine. Then the crew realizes that the water is growing shallower and they are likely approaching land, where the craft would certainly break apart on a rocky shoreline. They drop additional anchors from the back of the craft, and (Luke uses words that cause me to think of the fear that the crew must have been feeling) they wished for daybreak.
Daybreak would have provided no relief from the storm, or the danger, it would have only allowed the crew to see what they believed would kill them as it came on.
30But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship's boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow,
31Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved."
It would be easy to talk about rats deserting a sinking ship, but the men serving on this craft weren’t rats. They had been fighting this storm for over fourteen days. They must have been very tired and certainly knew the chances of surviving a ship’s breaking up on the rocks of an island in a storm were very slight. Their fear was real. The way they were seeking to save themselves while leaving everyone else to face the shore with no sailors on board was less then noble.
When Paul sees what they intend to do (escape in the small ship’s boat) he goes to the Centurion and tells him that the crew is about to desert the craft.
32Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it fall away.
The Centurion does what he can to stop the desertion. He gets rid of the ship’s boat. With no boat, no one will leave the ship.
33Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. 34"Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish."
35Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. 36All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. 37All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons.
These are words of encouragement from Paul to the crew. He knew that they had to be very weak after fourteen days of constant fighting to keep the craft afloat. The worse might well be ahead, but Paul knew that no one would die in the wrecking of the ship that would soon happen. Knowing this, he urges everyone to eat what they can and takes bread and gives thanks to God for food. This act (witness of faith) encouraged the crew and they also took food and ate. At this point, Luke reports the number of people n board the craft as being 276. Suddenly it is apparent that this is no small ship. Historians say it may have been as large as 120 feet long. If Paul is not right, many lives will be lost.
38When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.
A lighter ship will ride higher in the water and will get closer to shore before it strikes bottom and begins to break up. At this point the cargo means little and so the crew begins throwing the wheat they have been transporting into the sea.
39When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could.
Now the crew has a plan. They will do whatever they can to reach the harbor and hope the beach is clear enough to drive the craft onto the bottom without breaking it apart.
40And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach.41But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves.
Any plan is better than no plan, but the plan did not accomplish all that the crew wanted. The ship struck a reef in at the opening of the harbor and ran aground. At that point, the front of the ship stuck fast on the bottom and the craft began to break apart at the rear.
42The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; 43but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.
of whatever conditions the ship and passengers were experiencing, the Roman
soldiers were still in control of the vessel and its passengers. They knew that
for a Roman soldier to lose his prisoner meant that he must suffer their
punishment. There were likely prisoners on board who had been sentenced to
Any plan is better than no plan, but in this case, it was God’s plan that all would be safe at the end of the ordeal. Luke reports that everyone made it safely to the beach.
fourteen days the ship has drifted 476 miles in a westward direction from
This ends Acts Chapter 27.
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