Acts Chapter Twenty-Seven
Read Acts 27:1-12
v.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.”
We don’t know how much longer that
Paul remained in
v.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.
They enter into a ship
from Adramyttium, a seaport of
v.3 “And the next day we touched at
Luke and the Holy Spirit, as has
been the custom, is going to give us another short
geography lesson on the eastern Mediterrean.
The time of year is summer and most commentators will date Paul’s
journey in A.D. 59 or 60.
v.4 “And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.”
For years, as I studied Acts 27, I had thought that when this
ship sailed “UNDER CYPRUS” that it sailed past the south side of the island,
the underneath as it appears on any map that has north at the top. But such is not the case. The Mediterrean can be a stormy and difficult
sea to navigate as we will see before this chapter is completed. If you are using most any translation other
than the KJV, it will say that they sailed “UNDER THE LEE OF CYPRUS”. The lee side is where they were protected
from the contrary winds or between
v.5 “And when we had sailed over the sea of
Their next stop, after sailing along
the coast of
v.6 “And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.”
Here, at this seaport, they change
ships. The ship from Adramyttium is
going to continue along the coast of
v.7 “7And 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;”
At certain times of the
year sailing westward in this region can be difficult due to the winds. There is a current that flows around the
eastern end of
v.8 “8And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.”
The scripture says they “HARDLY”
passed the island, the map tells us that Fair Havens is about midway between
the eastern and western ends of the island on the south or lee coast. At that point the coastline turns northwest
again and is no longer protected from the fierce west and northwest winds
common to the Mediterrean. Again the
note the accuracy and precision of the scripture. The city of
v.9 “Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,”
We’re told by history that ancient mariners considered the Mediterrean to be unsafe from October until about March and extremely dangerous from about the middle of September until the middle of November. Normally ships just laid up and waited until this period was over.
What does the time reference Luke that uses here, “THE FAST” mean? The Day of Atonement, celebrated today as Yom Kippur is fixed by the Law of Moses on the tenth day of Tisri, the seventh month (Leviticus 16:29, Numbers 29:7); which corresponds to late September, early October on the Roman calendar. In A.D. 59 that “FAST” fell on October 5, in A.D. 60 it fell on September 23, during the most dangerous time to be sailing in this area. Luke uses it here to designate a time that was commonly known and used as a reference date by all Jews across the world. Paul knows of the danger that they are facing if they continue.
v.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.”
Whether by means of prophecy or by common knowledge we’re not told but Paul tells the centurion and most probably the ship’s master that if they continue there will be hurt, damage, loss of their cargo and perhaps even of their lives.
v.11 “11Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.”
Of course, the centurion is going to listen to the owner and master of the ship before he will listen to a prisoner, even one with the status of Paul. Like most of us he hears the advice, considers the circumstances and they make a decision, but one that is somewhat of a compromise.
v.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.”
The compromise is that they will not
try to reach
Read Acts 27:13-44
v.13 “And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.”
At the beginning they enjoy a soft, south wind that serves their purpose and all is going well but as is common on the open sea, that changes quickly.
v.14-15 “14But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. 15And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.”
The euroclydon, or
euraguilo, is a strong, cold wind out of the northeast that circles and boils
in this region of the Mediterrean during the late fall and early winter. It catches the ship and pushes it west and
south. It was so strong that the ship
could not tack against it but rather had to batten down and run, letting the
wind carry it. Luke says “WE LET her DRIVE”
which simply means that the wind is driving the ship; driving it toward the
southwest, not the direction to the
v.16 “And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:”
In their running before
the wind, they reach the small
v.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.”
When they had taken up
the boat, they still feared for the ship and used either ropes or chains to
wrap the hull and help protect it from breaking up in the storm. They were afraid that they would be driven
into the “QUICKSANDS”, two places on the north coast of
v.18-19 “18And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship; 19And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.”
As is common during a major storm, one of the first things that you do when things start to get really serious is to lighten the ship. Start putting things overboard that are not required. The first thing to go would be the cargo. As we noted at verse 6, this ship had a load of wheat in addition to the passengers. As their situation became more serious they also threw the “TACKLING” overboard. This word translated “TACKLING” is from the Greek word skeuen and refers to the ships furniture or tackle. Everything is going overboard that is not absolutely required.
v.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.”
The storm continues to
drive them. Before they are shipwrecked
they will have traveled some 400-450 miles without benefit of a sail or
anything to move them except the force of the wind and sea against the hull of their
ship. They didn’t know where they were,
they didn’t know how much longer the ship would hold together, they didn’t know
when the storm would die down and they are to the point psychologically that they
are ready to give up. But Paul is
undaunted. Jesus has promised him that
he will see
v.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.”
In addition to the work
and strain of being driven by the storm, they have not been able to prepare
food. They have been busy fighting the
sea, there was probably no way to have done any cooking, everything is probably
totally soaked and would take a major effort just to have something that would
be marginally edible. Paul reminds them
that he counseled that they not leave
v.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.”
Now Paul tells them that nobody will lose their lives but that the ship will be lost. He goes on to tell them how he knows this.
v.23-24 “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 24Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.”
Just as Jesus has stood
beside Paul and encouraged him in
Daniel “22My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”
God will protect Paul as well and has sent an angel, a messenger to appear
to him in the ship and strengthen his faith.
Paul is to go to
v.25-26 “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I
believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. 26Howbeit we
must be cast upon a certain
Not only has the angel from God assured Paul that they will all be saved when the ship is wrecked; he has told him that they will be cast up on an island. Knowing the nature of Paul the Apostle, he has probably already preached the gospel to everyone on the ship. Paul demonstrates his faith by his assurance and his subsequent actions. He has the same kind of faith that he describes in Abraham when God promised that he would bear a son in his old age:
Romans 4:20-21 “20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”
v.27 “27But 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;”
It’s been 14 days, 14
nights that they have been driven up and down the
v.28-29 “And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. 29Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.”
As they are continuing to be pushed westward, the sailors on the ship are testing the depth of the water to try to keep from being washed up on shore which will destroy the ship. They test or let down an sounding line and find that the water is now only 20 fathoms deep. A fathom is about 6¾ feet so the depth here is about 125 feet as we measure depth today. They sound again and find it is now only a little over 100 feet so they are coming up on something, probably a coast line. It is dark, the middle of the night, so they put out anchors to keep from crashing against the shore that they cannot see and do the only thing they can do; wait for daylight.
v.30 “30And 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,”
Putting anchors out from the stern of the ship was easy; just throw them out and the ship will stop when it reaches the end of the ropes attached to them. These sailors appear to be getting ready to put anchors out to the “FORESHIP” or off the bow of the ship as well; but that’s not their real purpose. Their real purpose is to abandon the soldiers and prisoners and get themselves on whatever shore is nearby, they’ve had enough, they’re leaving. Paul knows this.
v.31-32 “31Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 32Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.”
Paul has devised what the sailors had planned to do, he knows that their help will be required to control the ship when daylight comes and they can see where to try to bring it ashore. He tells the centurion what is going on and he has a very simple solution to the problem. His soldiers cut the ropes holding the small boat and it disappears into the sea. Now the sailors have no choice but to stay on board.
v.33-34 “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. 34Wherefore 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.”
Now Paul encourages them to eat. Throughout this entire ordeal it has been 14 days since they had a regular meal. Now they have the anchors out, within a few miles of a shore and daylight is going to bring some hard work to try to get the ship to shore. They will need their strength. Paul continues to tell them that none will be injured, not even a hair of anyone’s head will be taken. This is an old proverb of safety that we find in the Old Testament I Samuel ; II Samuel , I Kings and Jesus used it in Luke .
v.35-36 “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. 36Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.”
Paul follows his own advice. He takes bread, gives thanks for his meal just as Jesus did in Matthew and John and as we do today and ate. The others followed his example.
v.37-38 “And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. 38And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.”
We are here given by inspiration the population of the ship; 267 people, a large number but then this is one of the largest ships sailing in the Mediterrean at this time.
When they had eaten enough, the Greek would indicate that everyone was completely full, completely satisfied they return to working at lightening the ship further. That cargo which had been saved, perhaps for food, that was not thrown overboard earlier now is removed to help keep the ship afloat until they could reach the shore.
v.39 “39And 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.”
They don’t know where they are. The shoreline is not one that anyone recognizes but they see a creek or, as other translations call it, a bay and determine to try to send the ship into that waterway where it will be protected.
v.40 “40And 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.”
They took up the anchors; other translations indicate that they removed them the easy way by cutting them loose. They remove the bands from the rudder or steering oars, hoist sail and start toward the shore.
v.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 run into a place where Luke says two seas met. They run into currents pushed by the sea is trying to send them in two directions at once and prevents them from reaching the creek or bay that they are trying to reach. The ship runs aground and is destroyed by the sea, just as Paul had told them it would be back in verse 22. Paul stated in II Corinthians that he had been shipwrecked three times so since that epistle was written during his third missionary journey, this now makes the fourth time.
v.42-43 “And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. 43But 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:”
The soldiers are afraid that their prisoners are going to escape, perhaps they feared the usual result when that happened and they would have to take their place. But the centurion keeps his wits about him, veto’s that notion and they are not harmed. Instead he tells them that all who can swim should go overboard and work their way to land.
v.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.”
At this point in time, they don’t have a lot of choices left. Some swim, others who could not get boards or other broken pieces of the ship and eventually all make their way to land safely. No one was lost, just as Paul had assured them.