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Acts Twenty-Seven

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 27:1 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.

Acts 27:2 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.

we launched. Luke's description of the sea voyage, storm and shipwreck in this chapter is very realistic, obviously written by an eyewitness. All of its geographical and other references have been determined by authorities to be accurate in description, location and time setting. It has been called perhaps the best record of nautical practice from ancient times.

Aristarchus. Aristarchus (Acts 19:29), as well as Luke, traveled with Paul on this long voyage from Caesarea to Rome. Possibly they were acting as Paul's servants, as this would help assure more considerate treatment of Paul. As a Roman citizen, as well as a highly educated religious leader, it was appropriate, in the eyes of the centurion and ship officers, that Paul have attendants, and this may well account in part for the courtesies he was shown.

Acts 27:3 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.

Acts 27:4 And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.

Acts 27:5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.

Acts 27:6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.

Acts 27:7 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;

Acts 27:8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.

The fair havens. “Fair havens,” a harbor on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, is still identified by that name in the modern Greek language.

Acts 27:9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,

the fast. The “fast” mentioned here is probably that associated with the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) in October. Sailing after that date on the Mediterranean was hazardous at best, and Paul's advice was wise.

Acts 27:10 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.

I perceive. In addition to his natural wisdom and traveling experience, Paul had, by God's grace, the gift of prophecy, and they should have heeded him.

Acts 27:11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

Acts 27:12 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.

if by any means. This seemingly insignificant phrase (Greek ei pos) actually is used to express the urgency of an object sought, and the means for its attainment. Its only four occurrences seem to follow a significant order. Note: Search for physical comfort (Acts 27:12) Search for spiritual ministry (Romans 1:10-11) Search for conversion of others (Romans 11:13-14) Search for Christ-centered life (Philippians 3:10-11).

Acts 27:13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.

Acts 27:14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.

tempestuous wind. The “tempestuous” (literally, “typhonic”) wind was not unusual for that time of year. It was characterized by fierce whirling of the clouds and ocean, its name meaning literally “north wind-east wind.” They had been trying to sail along the coast of Crete to reach the harbor of Phenice (i.e., Phoenix), but the sudden storm drove them out into the open sea.

Acts 27:15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

Acts 27:16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:

the boat. The “boat” was a dinghy, normally pulled along behind the ship. As the latter was for a short while on the leeward side of the small island of Clauda, they were able to haul the dinghy up on board.

Acts 27:17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, struck sail, and so were driven.

helps. These “helps” were probably cables for bracing the hull.

quicksands. The “quicksands” were off the African coast, west of Cyrene.

Acts 27:18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;

Acts 27:19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.

Acts 27:20 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.

Acts 27:21 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.

Acts 27:22 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.

Acts 27:23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

Acts 27:24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

before Caesar. Once before, Paul had received this direct assurance from God that he would bear witness at Rome (Acts 23:11). Furthermore, the angelic messenger assured him that all on board would also be saved from death. It is often that God will spare the ungodly because of godly men in their midst (note Genesis 18:23-32; 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.

Acts 27:25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

I believe God. It is important to “believe God,” not just to “believe in God” (notes James 2:19). To “believe God,” of course, means to believe God's Word.

Acts 27:26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.

Acts 27:27 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;

Acts 27:28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.

Acts 27:29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.

Acts 27:30 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,

Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

Acts 27:32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.

let her fall off. This time the centurions insisted that Paul's advice be followed. The sailors, ostensibly to help orient the casting of the anchors, were apparently preparing to use the dinghy to get to shore, leaving all the rest to fend for themselves, whereas the skills of these sailors would be needed to get the ship closer to shore the next day.

Acts 27:33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.

Acts 27:34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.

Acts 27:35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

Acts 27:36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.

Acts 27:37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.

Acts 27:38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.

Acts 27:39 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.

a certain creek. The small bay on the island of Malta where the ship finally grounded, behind a small island where “two seas met” (Acts 27:41), has been called St. Paul's Bay since that time.

Acts 27:40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoisted up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.

Acts 27:41 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.

Acts 27:42 And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

Acts 27:43 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:

Acts 27:44 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.

all safe to land. Thus, all 276 men (Acts 27:37) on the ship were saved, just as God had promised through Paul (Acts 27:24, 34), but the ship and its cargo were lost, just as Paul had warned (Acts 27:10). God keeps His Word!