In today's study, Paul and his companions still find themselves at sea and things are seemingly going from bad to worse. However, an angel of the Lord appears unto him with encouragement that while the ship was going to sink, all on board would be saved if they did not try to flee, and that he would safely arrive in Rome.
VERSE 1: And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band. The we indicates that Luke was writing this. The fact that Paul is allowed to travel with his friends speaks to the amount of freedom that he had even though he was still technically under house arrest.
VERSE 2: And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. Aristarchus was first introduced in Act_19:29 when he and Gaius were caught up in the riot in Ephesus.
VERSE 3: And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself. Again, it is obvious that Paul's "arrest" was a pretty loose one.
VERSES 4-8: And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. (5) And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. (6) And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein. (7) And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone; (8) And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea. Just a little bit of Paul's travel itinerary.
VERSE 9: Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, The fast that Luke is referring to is the Day of Atonement which would mean this was after the month Tisri which would have been part of September and part of October (Lev 23:27). Barnes said, "Historically, this is the time of the autumnal equinox, and when the navigation of the Mediterranean was esteemed to be particularly dangerous, from the storms which usually occurred about that time. The ancients regarded this as a dangerous time to navigate the Mediterranean.
VERSE 10: And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives. It seems from the passage that Paul was merely speaking out of natural perception of what was going on around him rather than something supernatural.
VERSE 11: Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul. Paul was overruled.
VERSES 12-13: And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west. (13) And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete. Love that word commodiuous. It simply means suitable. Luke filling the details as any good physician would do (Col 4:14). We also see this attention to detail in his Gospel. Many see Acts as just part 2 of Luke's gospel account.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke make up what are called the synoptic gospels because they are so similar. John breaks the mold. However, Luke's has more words and is the most detailed.
VERSE 14: But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. The word used for tempestuous is where we get the word typhoon which might have accounted for the weather conditions. The word Euroclydon simply means that it came from the East. It is what we would call today a Northeaster.
Barnes says that "interpreters have been much perplexed about the meaning of the word, which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The most probable supposition is, that it denotes “a wind not blowing steadily from any quarter, but a hurricane, or wind veering about to different quarters. Such hurricanes are known to abound in the Mediterranean, and are now called Levanters, deriving their name from blowing chiefly in the Levant, or eastern part of the Mediterranean."
VERSES 15-17: And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive. (16) And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat: (17) Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven. To let a ship drive means to let go of the wheel and let it go where it may. The words we had much work to come by the boat just means that they had a hard time saving the lifeboat.
Another navigational term is undergirding the ship which simply means that they pass cables or rope completely around the ship in order for it to hold together. I looked it up and it is called frapping, "To frap a ship is to pass four or five turns of a large cable-laid rope round the hull or frame of a ship to support her in a great storm, or otherwise when it is apprehended that she is not strong enough to resist the violent efforts of the sea.”
VERSES 18-20: And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; (19) And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship. (20) And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. Again, this is just Luke's attention to detail. To lighten the ship means that they began to throw things overboard such as the cargo. As a result, they had all lost hope of surviving the ordeal. Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to see how Paul was responding to this because, after all, God had told him he was going to Rome.
VERSES 21-24: But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. (22) And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. (23) For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, (24) Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. The word abstinence is referring to how long they had gone without food. Some have presumed that this was because of a spiritual fast, however, have been in a typhoon myself, I feel fairly confident it had nothing to do with anything spiritual.
Also, Paul feels compelled to say, "I told you so." However, after that statement, he does say something that an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve has told him that there is really no way he could have known without divine intervention.
Now many Mid-Acts teachers will say that the fact that an angel is speaking to Paul is proof that the time of the Kingdom offer was still on the table. Of course, the assumption is that once the Kingdom is off the table, all of the marks of the Kingdom, tongues, miracles, raising the dead, healing with handkerchiefs, etc, ceases. Again, this why the Mid-Acts approach is not very palatable to Charismatics.
Of course, the message of the angel was Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Apparently, it was very important that Paul take the message to Rome. Can't help but ask, "Why?" Some would say so that the Great Commission could be fulfilled (Mat 28:19-20 and Act 1:8). Rome being the uttermost. Did God use Paul to fulfill this (Act 28:30-31)?
VERSES 25-26: Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. (26) Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island. Paul offers encouragement, but also says that we must be cast upon a certain island. No details as to why, but that is what he was told by the angel. Maybe God already knew that the people on that island would respond and need Paul's ministry, e.g., Publius' father who would have already been sick of a fever (Act 28:8).
VERSES 27-29: But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; (28) And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. (29) Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. I believe the fourteenth night speaks to since the storm started. Notice that they sounded, and found it twenty fathoms, and then again and found fifteen which means they were running into shallower waters, i.e., approaching land. To sound meant to cast a line and a lead into the water to determine the depth. Today, they use sonar. In this case, a fathom is five to six feet, so about 90-120 feet.
VERSES 30-32: And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, (31) Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. (32) Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. Paul must have had a suspicion that the crew was about to make a bolt as they let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship. The word colour means pretense which is to pretend or feign. Notice the words as though. In other words, they were acting as if they were going to do it.
It was at this point that Paul spoke up and told the centurion and the soldiers that Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. At this point, they dropped the lifeboat. Again, they are listening to Paul against all odds.
VERSES 33-38: Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. "For the last fourteen days," he said, "you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven't eaten anything. (34) Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head." (35) After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. (36) They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. (37) Altogether there were 276 of us on board. (38) When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea. Seems that Paul is in charge at this point as he encourages them to eat something since they hadn't in fourteen days since the storm started. Also, very interesting to see who gives the credit to for all that is happening in v.35. This is also one verse that is used for us blessing our food before each meal.
VERSES 39-41: And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. (40) 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. (41) And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. They were still looking for land when they saw what appeared to be a bay with a beach and decided to aim for it. So, they pulled up the anchors (other translations say they cut them loose and the KJV places it in italics), loosed the lowered the rudders back into the water, raised the mainsail, and aimed for the shore. Remember earlier they let go of the wheel (v.15), now they are taking control. Finally, the ship rams ashore with the hinder part of the ship being broken apart by the waves.
VERSES 42-44: And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. (43) But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: (44) And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land. There is no doubt that God granted favor to Paul in the eyes of the centurion in that he goes against the counsel of the others even though his neck was on the line if the prisoners did escape. Remember, it was life-for-life under Roman law. In the end, God miraculously delivered all souls on board.
It reminds me of the favor that God showed Daniel at the hands of Melzar who allowed them to try their vegetarian diet instead of eating the king's meat.