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Bible Commentaries
Acts 27

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-8

Acts 27. Paul’ s Journey to Rome. [103]

[103] On the whole chapter see The Voyage and Shipwreck of S. Paul. by James Smith, 1848; a book full of valuable information on the whole subject.

Acts 27:1-8 . To Crete.— Hero we again reach the Travel-document, which accompanies us to Acts 28:16. There is evidence of an Augustan cohort in Syria. A coasting vessel is taken for the first part of the voyage. For Aristarchus, see Acts 19:29, Acts 20:4. The voyage eastwards ( Acts 21:3) passed to the S. of Cyprus; this time the northern route is taken, on account of the W. wind which prevails in the Levant in summer. On reaching the coast of Asia Minor local land breezes carried the ship more slowly westward, the voyage to Myra ( Acts 21:1 *) is said in various MSS to have taken 15 days. The W. wind would enable the corn ship ( Acts 27:38), in which the voyage was continued, to cross the Mediterranean from Alexandria direct to Myra, and it would coast from there along Asia Minor; this was the normal voyage in those days. Progress was slow from Myra to the longitude of Cnidus, the wind being still from the W., and from there the shelter of the S. of Crete was sought, as that wind allowed. Salmone is the NE. point of Crete, on rounding which it was possible, though not easy, to coast along westwards. Fair Havens is a bay sheltered from the W. and the N. winds, and the last shelter in this voyage from the W. wind.

Verses 9-26

Acts 27:9-26 . To Malta.— The Fast of the great Day of Atonement fell on the 10 th of Tishri (Sept.– Oct.). The season for shipping ended November 11 , and opened again March 5 ; but voyages were counted dangerous after the middle of September. Paul speaks as an experienced traveller, and one who has been thrice shipwrecked ( 2 Corinthians 11:25). He is against setting sail again ( Acts 27:21). The centurion, who had authority to control the navigation since the corn ship was a government vessel (Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 321 ), does not listen to him; quite rightly he is guided by the experts who are responsible for the navigation, the master of the ship and the owner. The experts agreed with Paul so far that they did not wish to leave the shelter of Crete ( Acts 27:12); they considered Fair Havens unsuitable for wintering, and were for holding along the S. shore of Crete till they came to a harbour suitable for that purpose. Phoenix, the best harbour of Crete (now Lutro), has an island at its mouth and looks, it is said, down the SW. and the NW. wind ( mg.) , i.e. affords shelter from these winds; it is 40 miles from Fair Havens, over open water. ( Acts 27:12 would, as Wellhausen points out ( Acts, p. 17 ), read better after Acts 27:8.) The hurricane which came down from the mountains of Crete is called in the old text Euroclydon, “ SE.,” which may mean East-billower; in the text followed by RV it is Euraquilo, “ NE.,” which answers well to the circumstances. The bow of the ship could not be brought up to this wind, so they let her away and drove before it. The little island Cauda, or Clauda, gave so much shelter, that the boat the ship had been towing behind her could, though with great difficulty, be hauled on board. The operation next described, “ they used helps (Ramsay, ‘ attempts to ease the ship’ ) undergirding the ship,” is no longer practised since ships are built of iron, but was frequently carried out on wooden ships even in the nineteenth century; the timbers were to be prevented from opening, through the straining of the mast under the great sail, by passing cables round her waist. Acts 27:17 b has been explained in different ways. The ship is now in the open sea, and the NE. wind would of itself drive her upon the Syrtis, the great sands on the N. coast of Africa. To prevent this the rate of drifting might be reduced; most German commentators consider that this was the intention, and that a sea-anchor of something heavy was lowered from the stern. The Gr. words might be used of such an apparatus. But the ship drifted westwards, to Malta, and the operation, if we take “ the gear” to be the yard and sail, was aimed at that result. Sail was shortened, so that the ship could lie to and not be carried to the S. but drift W. This would increase the rolling of the ship, and let the waves wash more freely over her; lightening operations were therefore resorted to, so that she might rise in the water; a beginning was made with the cargo, though enough was left to act as ballast ( Acts 27:38), and the day after, the deck lumber (Smith thinks the great yard) was thrown out. (The AV gives this in the first person; the passengers had to help.) The sun and stars ( Acts 27:20) were the mariner’ s compass in these days; without seeing them he could not tell in what direction he was going; and the wind still blew strong. But Paul, who had been shipwrecked thrice before, and had a fixed conviction that he was yet to see great things, did not yield to the despair that had fallen on the ship’ s company ( Acts 27:21). He is sure all who are in the ship will be saved; he has had a message to that effect; God’ s designs with him will have that consequence. An island will receive them.

Verses 27-44

Acts 27:27-44 . Landing on Malta.—“ Adria” was not then what is now called the Adriatic, but was a general name for the sea between Malta, Italy, Greece, and Crete. After a fortnight’ s tossing on this sea there were signs that “ some land was approaching.” This took place at night when nothing could be seen; distant breakers probably were heard. The surmise was confirmed by the use of the lead, and lest she should go upon the rocks in the dark, the ship was anchored, but in such a way that her bow pointed to the shore. When day broke they would know what kind of a shore it was. The crew may not have wished to desert the ship ( Acts 27:30), but the safety of the party required that they should remain on board, and on Paul’ s initiative, the soldiers secured that they should do so. The exact translation of the first clause of Acts 27:33 is: “ But till it should come to be day,” indicating that the time of waiting was filled up by the action of Paul, which is narrated, and which needs little comment. There was nothing to be done, and the people were hungry ( Acts 27:21); food is hard to come by, and apt to be forgotten, in a storm, and provisions get spoiled. The meal put them in better heart for the efforts still to be made. As for the number ( Acts 27:37), Josephus tells us of a voyage he made to Rome with 600 on board. The discharge of the cargo ( Acts 27:38) would help the ship when run aground to move higher up the beach. The bay with a sandy beach ( Acts 27:39) is identified with St. Paul’ s Bay in the NE. of Malta. For a description, see Smith. The anchors, accordingly, were slipped and left in the sea ( Acts 27:40); the two great oars, one on each side of the stern, by which the ship was steered and which were tied up while she was at anchor, were released from their fastenings; the foresail, the smaller sail, was hoisted to give her steering way, and they made for the beach. The “ place where two seas met” ( Acts 27:41) is probably at the inner side of the island Salmonetta, which lies at the mouth of St. Paul’ s Bay. There is a stiff, muddy bottom, good for anchoring, or for holding fast a ship that runs aground on it. If the ship drew 18 feet, there would be a good deal of rough water between her and the land.

[ Acts 27:38 . In spite of the opening words, “ the wheat” must be the cargo of grain which they were taking to Rome, not the provisions for crew and passengers; to have thrown these overboard would have been improvident and of little use. Naber ( Mnemosyne, 1881 , pp. 293 f.) conjectures histon for siton, “ throwing out the mast.” This involves merely the transposition of two letters. He thinks the mast” is not the main-mast, but a smaller mast in the bows to which the foresail could be attached. The main-mast, ho supposes, may have been cut away several days previously. His discussion is reproduced in Baljon’ s edition of the NT, pp. 421 f. It rests on the (probably incorrect) view that “ the wheat” means the supplies for the voyage; and the emendation cannot be pronounced more than tempting and ingenious.— A. S. P.]

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Acts 27". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/acts-27.html. 1919.
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