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Bible Commentaries
Acts 27

Godbey's Commentary on the New TestamentGodbey's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-44


1-44. Fortunately Paul is committed to the Roman centurion Julius of the imperial cohort, who, in the finale also shows up a very beautiful character for gentility, so yielding to the Holy Spirit and to God’s Providence as to become the staunch friend and protector of his Apostolical prisoner.

Verse 2

2. Adramyttium is a Mysian port on the Mediterranean, one of whose ships enjoys the first honor of carrying the Rome-bound trio, Paul, Aristarchus and Luke.

Verse 3

3. Sidon is an old Tyrian maritime city celebrated in the days of the prophets along with Tyre for magnificence, wealth and commercial enterprise. At this first stop, as well as throughout the voyage, we see the peculiar kindness of Julius to Paul.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. They now avail themselves of the island Cyprus as a wind-break, sailing up near the western coast of Asia, landing again in the harbor, Myra of Lycia, where they finally disembark from the ship on which they had sailed.

Verses 6-7

6, 7. At that time Alexandria, Egypt, was one of the greatest mercantile cities in the world; at the mouth of the Nile valley, the most productive country on the globe, it becomes the emporium whence vast quantities of wheat are shipped to Rome. Hence Egypt was pronounced the granary of Rome. So here Julius, finding an Alexandrian corn-ship bound for Rome, embarks with all of his prisoners. Cnidus is a peninsula at the entrance of the Aegean Sea between the islands of Cos and Rhodes, around which the ship is awfully impeded in her passage because of contrary winds. After many days of slow and toilsome progress they have succeeded in reaching the island of Crete opposite the city of Salmone, endeavoring to sail round on the north side of it, using it as a protection from the winds.

Verses 8-10

8-10. They seemed to have embarked from Caesarea in August, A. D. 58. Without steam-engines and mariner’s compass, subject to all the caprices and mutations of winds and tides, navigation was regarded as very unsafe after the autumnal equinox, celebrated by the Jews in a fast. Now, having been so detained by contrary winds, they have been caught out in the winter, the equinox having already passed, and Paul avails himself of God’s gift of prophecy to warn them against departing from the harbor called Fair Havens, in the island of Crete, assuring them of great perils and loss awaiting them.

Verse 11

11. Julius thinks the pilot and captain certainly understood navigation better than a preacher utterly ignorant of nautical science. Therefore, he followed their advice rather than the prophetic warnings of Paul, the pilot and captain suffering utter bankruptcy in the wrecking of the ship, and miraculously escaping with their lives.

Verse 12

12. The most of the people concluded they had better reach the harbor Phenice, of the same island, looking down the southwest and northwest winds, believing it to be more secure than Fair Havens.

Verse 13

13. Therefore, awaiting their opportunity, when the south wind was blowing, thus to leave the dangerous shore and get out into the deep, “raising sails and anchor,” they continued to sail along near Crete.

Verse 14

14. Not long afterward a typhoonic wind, called uraquillo, set in against them. The wind had been from the west much of the time since their voyage, and then from the south. Now this awful tempest sets against them from the northeast. The E. V. calls it euroclydon, from euros, “the east wind,” and kludoon, “a wave.” This is a mistake. A wind directly from the east would have dashed them quickly against the mainland of Greece, as Crete is but a short distance. The word is “ euraquillo,” from euros, “the east wind,” and aquilo, “the north wind,” hence it means “the northeast wind,” which is in perfect harmony with the facts in the case, as it drove them directly to the west of Malta.

Verse 15

15. “And the ship, being caught and unable to resist the wind, surrendering, we were carried along.” The tornado was so awful as to prove utterly irresistible. I was in a storm on the Atlantic Ocean five days and nights, aboard a great German steamer with thirty-six boilers, shooting through mountain seas like an arrow.

Verse 16

16. “And running under a certain island called Clauda,” i. e., on the windward side of the island, in order to protect them from the awful violence of the storm, “we were scarcely able to get possession of the boat,” i. e., to get the boat up into the ship, as they had but one, and that their only hope in case of a wreck.

Verse 17

17. “Which lifting up, they use helps, undergirding the ship,” i. e., under the temporary protection of the island Clauda, with the greatest effort and peril they manage to get ropes around the ship, tying it up tight, lest it break all to pieces in the violence of the storm. During the storm above mentioned on the Atlantic Ocean our ship would crack loud as thunder, impressing me that she was breaking in two in the middle. “Fearing lest they may fall into quicksands, lowering the gear, they were thus borne along,

Verse 18

18. “And we being violently tossed by the tempest, forthwith they were making the casting-out,

Verse 19

19. “And on the third day with their own hands cast out the rigging of the ship.” Luke mentions the fact that the sailors themselves, the very ones to use the ship’s rigging, even cast it overboard with their own hands. Why? Because they were utterly incompetent to make any use of it, and it was only in their way and a hindrance to them.

Verse 20

20. “Neither sun nor stars appearing for many days, there being no small tempest on us, finally all hope that we should be saved was taken away.” Now sailors and passengers, soldiers and officers all alike give up in utter desperation, expecting nothing but a watery grave every minute. And why did not the ship go down? Because she carried Paul, and his work was not finished. When John and Charles Wesley were sent by the Episcopal Church to America to preach to the Indians, and an awful storm on the Atlantic, lashing the spars with the billows and opening deep chasms, into which the ship madly plunged, while great seas rolled over the deck, and the oldest sailors gave up in utter despair, the last hope having fled, why could not that ship go down? She carried John Wesley.

Verses 21-24

21-24. “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” All are at their wits’ end, looking out every minute to be swept in watery, winding sheets. This is an auspicious epoch. They are ready now to listen to anybody or anything, as all resources are gone. Despair has come, and they are consequently ready to hail the dawn of hope from any source whatever. “Paul standing up in their midst.” Though a prisoner in chains and guarded by soldiers, he now comes to the front, takes command of the ship, sailors, soldiers and passengers, reminding them of their unfortunate mistake in disobeying him when they loose from Crete, thus incurring the hopeless loss of the ship and cargo. But now, to the unutterable surprise of all, hope for dear life dawns on them. This old prisoner assures them that the God whom he serves has come and stood over them amid the sweeping cyclone, assuring him that he is to stand before Caesar, and that he has given him the lives of all the people sailing with him, two hundred and seventy-six souls, not one of whom shall perish, though the ship shall go down to the bottom of the dark, deep sea.

Verse 25

25. “Wherefore, men, be of good cheer, for I believe God, that it shall be in the manner in which he has spoken to me.” Dr. Cullis, of Boston, one of the brightest saints and most efficient workers in modern times, gave great notoriety to this Pauline watchword in the storm, “I believe God.” How fortunate they were to have God’s prophet on board; otherwise none but perhaps the sailors in the boat would have escaped a watery grave in the sinking ship.

Verse 26

26. In my travels we stopped about half a day at the island of Malta, the Melita here mentioned.

Verse 27

27. This island is not in the Adriatic Sea, but the Mediterranean, opposite the mouth of the Adriatic, and at that time considered as belonging to it. When at midnight the sailors surmise that they are approaching land.

Verse 28

28. “Sounding and finding the sea only twenty fathoms deep and then running on a short distance and sounding again and finding it only fifteen fathoms, they know the land is nigh,

Verse 29

29. “And fearing lest they may fall on rough places, casting forth four anchors from the stern, they prayed that the day might come.”

Verses 30-31

30, 31. As the sailors know the ship is lost and believe that their only hope to save their own lives is to get away in the boat, they are in the act of launching it into the sea, at the same time pretending that they were trying to cast anchors from the prow to help hold the ship. Paul wonderfully enjoyed that gift of the Holy Ghost denominated “discernment of spirits” ( 1

Corinthians 12:10). Consequently, reading the motives and solving the stratagem of the sailors, and knowing that they would be needed to manage the ship, he shouts out to the centurion and soldiers, “If these may not abide in the ship you are not able to be saved.” This prophecy was verified in the manner of their salvation, i. e., they all swam ashore, which would have been impossible if they hadn’t gotten the ship out from the great sea- breakers into the eddy-water up there in the bay, which to this day is called St. Paul’s Bay. Without the sailors to manage the ship, they never could have gotten there, but all must have perished with the wreck.

Verse 32

32. “Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat and let it fall out” [into the sea]. This settled the matter; no possible means now of getting away from the ship.

Verses 33-37

33-37. While lying at anchor from midnight till day, Paul has them all at his command. God has brought him to the front and given him complete audience and obedience of all on board, sailors, soldiers and voyagers. He now exhorts them all to eat, as they have fasted fourteen days and nights. No wonder they did not eat. Amid such awful tossing the stomach is incompetent to digest food. Hence universal nausea prevails. Besides, if you saw death looking you straight in the face you would not eat. By this time they are wonderfully cheered up, believing Paul, who assures them that not a hair of their head shall perish, as his God has given him all of his fellow travelers. So Paul encourages them all now to eat, breaking bread and giving thanks to his God in presence of the entire heathen crowd. He begins to eat, and all the balance joyfully follow his example.

Verse 38

38. “And being regaled with the food, they continued to lighten the ship, casting out their wheat into the sea.” It was absolutely necessary to make the ship as light as possible so they could run it near enough to the shore for them to make their escape. Hence it was impossible to save the wheat or anything else on board. Paul has no trouble with them. The immediate presence of death, fourteen days and nights, has so wrought upon them that they are glad to let everything perish, at the same time unutterably delighted with dear life.

Verse 39

39. At day dawn, behold! the first land they have seen in two weeks bursts upon their delectable vision. No one on board identifies it. However, “they discover a certain bay having a shore into which they mutually agreed if possible to thrust out the ship.

Verse 40

40. “Knocking off the anchors they left them in the sea; at the same time loosing the bands of the rudders and raising up the main sail for the wind, they made toward the shore.

Verse 41

41. “And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow indeed being broken, remained motionless, and the stern was torn off by the violence of the waves.

Verse 42

42. “It was the counsel of the soldiers that they may kill the prisoners lest some one, out-swimming them, may escape.” Roman law was awfully rigid with the guards, taking their lives as a substitute in case they permitted prisoners to escape. They now saw that it would be impossible for them to manage the prisoners in the water, as everyone would have to swim for his life and very probably some of the prisoners would prove more rapid swimmers than the soldiers, thus excelling them in the swimming match, reaching the land first and making their escape.

Verse 43

43. “But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, prohibited them from the Counsel, and commanded those who were able to swim, first casting themselves overboard, to go out to the land,

Verse 44

44. “And the rest, some on planks and others on certain pieces from the ship; and it thus came to pass that all arrived safe to the land.” This deliverance is one of the greatest miracles recorded in the New Testament, illustrating the immortality of God’s saints till their work is done, as in the case of Paul, and the infinite value of the Lord’s saints to other people, as in case of all the balance, whose lives were perpetuated simply because God’s prophet was on board, having the message of life to deliver to many others before he left the world.

Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 27". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/acts-27.html.
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