Matthew Poole's Commentary
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 27:1-8 Paul is conducted in a ship toward Rome.
Acts 27:9-11 He foretells the danger of the voyage, but is not credited.
Acts 27:12-20 The ship setting sail against his advice is tossed
with a tempest.
Acts 27:21-44 Paul comforteth his fellow travellers with assurance
of having their lives saved, but foretelleth a
shipwreck; all which is verified by the event.
It was determined; upon the solemn hearing of Paul’s case, it was resolved by Festus and Agrippa, with the rest that were taken by Festus to advise concerning it.
Julius; thought to have been a freed-man of the family of Julius, who thence took his name.
A centurion of Augustus’ band; as Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian band: see Acts 10:1. This band, or regiment, was called Augustus’s (or the emperor’s) because (as some will) it was part of his guard.
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.Adramyttium; a city in Mysia, a province in the Lesser Asia, almost over against Mitylene, of a pestilent air.
Meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; the ship did belong to Adramyttium, and designed a trading voyage along the coasts of Asia.
Aristarchus; this Aristarthus seems to have been a man of some note, who accompanied St. Paul (together with Luke, the holy penman of this book, and of the Gospel so called) throughout his journey, and none else that we read of. This Aristarchus was one of them that was laid hold on in the uproar at Ephesus, Acts 19:29; and having partook of Paul’s afflictions in all his travels, was at last his fellow prisoner at Rome, Colossians 4:10.
Thessalonica; of this city mention is made, Acts 17:1.
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.Sidon; a city in Phenicia, bordering upon Palestine, mentioned Matthew 11:21, and Acts 12:20.
Julius courteously entreated Paul; as Felix had commanded that centurion to whom he committed him, Acts 24:23.
And gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself; though Paul went with a soldier to guard him, as their manner was, yet it was a great favour that he might converse with his friends, and receive from them such refreshments towards his journey as he stood in need of. Now Paul indeed experienced the truth of God’s word, Acts 18:10, that he was with him: and it is wonderful to consider the presence of God with Paul all along: which things are our examples, that we also may put our trust in God, who hath said he will not leave us nor forsake us, Hebrews 13:5,6.
And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.Launched; or put to sea.
Cyprus; a noted island in the Mediterranean Sea, of which we read, Acts 11:19 13:4. Their nearest way from Sidon to Myra had been to have left Cyprus on the right hand, but by reason of the winds they were forced to go almost round about the island, leaving it on the left hand.
And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.The sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia; that part of the Mediterranean that borders on those provinces.
Cilicia; of which see Acts 6:9 15:23,41.
Pamphylia; mention is made of this province, Acts 2:10 13:13.
Lycia; another province in the lesser Asia, bordering on Pamphylia.
And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.Alexandria; a famous port town in Egypt, formerly called No, of which we read, Jeremiah 46:25: unto this place the ship did belong, which was now in the road or haven of Myra, intending for Italy, whither they carried corn, and Persian and Indian commodities, from thence.
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;Had sailed slowly many days; the wind being contrary, or at least very bare, and, it may be, their ship much laden.
Cnidus; a city or promontory over against Crete, which is now called Candia, a known island in the Mediterranean.
Salmone; a sea town in Candia, or the easterly promontory there, so called.
And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.The fair havens; or, the fair or good shore, that being accounted the best which is safest for ships to ride in or enter into. A place of this name remains to this day (as some tell us) in the island of Candia.
Lasea; called Lasos, and more inland; yet some think that this town is not certainly known, not having been mentioned by any ancient geographer.
Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,This fast was not any necessitated abstinence, but a religious fast, as the word here used does most commonly signify; and the article being put to it, it may well denote some eminent and known fast. We read, that amongst the Jews several fasts were observed; as the fast of the fourth month, of the fifth month, of the seventh, and of the tenth month, Zechariah 8:19. But that of the seventh month did far exceed them all, it being the day in which the priest was to make an atonement for the people; and they were strictly commanded to afflict their souls in it, Leviticus 16:29 23:27. (Thus when we look up to him whom by our sins we have pierced, we must mourn, Zechariah 12:10) Now this fast was to be observed on the tenth day of Tisri, or their seventh month (which is made up of part of September and part of October); and then this day, which might well be called the fast, fell about the beginning of October; after which time, until March, they did not usually venture on the seas, especially their ships not being so able to bear a storm as ours are, and the art of navigation being not yet in any reasonable degree found out amongst them.
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.Paul did not say this so much by reason of the time of the year, and the tempests which do usually attend it, as by a prophetical spirit: God intending to provide for Paul in this tedious and difficult journey, endues him with the gift of prophecy; which (especially when they saw it verified) could not but beget a great respect toward him, and might be a means of salvation to many that were with him.
But also of our lives; so it had been, their lives had been lost as well as the ship and goods, had not God given the lives of all in the ship unto Paul, and saved them for his sake; as Acts 27:24.
Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.The centurion believed those whom he thought best skilled in those things (as every one in his own art); and if he had not heard of Paul’s condition and extraordinary qualification, he was doubtless the more to be excused.
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.This Phenice was a port town in Candia, and not the country in Syria.
Lieth toward the south-west and northwest; being on the south part of that island, having a bay or road like unto a half-moon or crescent, one horn or part of it (admitting entrance into it) toward the south-west, and the other toward the north-west.
And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.The south wind being ordinarily most mild, and at that time not high, they sailed along the shore of Candia, not being afraid to be driven upon it.
But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.There arose against it; Crete or Candia; so that they were in the greater danger, having a sea-shore.
Called Euroclydon; this some will have to have been a whirlwind; but the word signifies only, the tempestuous east, or the north-east, which is a contrary wind unto any that would go from Crete to Italy.
And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.The ship was caught; being forced from Crete, and no longer at the command of the mariners, but in the sole power of the winds.
And could not bear up into the wind; the ship could not keep her course, the winds being contrary, so that her prow or head (part whereof was called the eye of the ship, and on which its name was formerly, as now at the stern, inscribed) could not bear up according as their course did require; whence that expression, antofyalmein tw anemw, which is here used.
Sic quo non voluit, sed quo rapit impetus undae.
And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:Clauda; called also Claudos, and by some Gaudos, and now Gozo, an island near unto Crete.
We had much work to come by the boat; in this stress of weather they would take up the boat, lest it should have been staved or beat in pieces against the ship.
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.They used helps; not only using all instruments fit for their purpose, but all hands were employed too.
Undergirding the ship, with cables, to keep the sides of the ship the closer and faster together.
The quicksands: there were two quicksands especially famous in Africa, the one the greater, the other the lesser, called Syrtes, because these mountabes of sand under water did seem, as it were, to draw and suck up ships, they were so soon swallowed up by them.
Strake sail; by the word here used, sails and their tackle, or the top-mast, may be understood decks.
And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;Casting out the merchandise or lading which was in it, that the ship, being so much lighter, might not so readily strike upon a rock, or be swallowed up of the quicksands, it drawing so much the less water.
And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.All the ship’s furniture which it had either for ornament or defence, and not their ballast or lumber only: so willingly do men part with all things for their lives; which yet are but short, and, at best, mixed with care and sorrow, Job 14:1,2.
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.Neither sun nor stars in many days appeared; which shows the greatness of their misery, which had not the ordinary refreshments from the sight of the sun to relieve it. For what the sun does cheer, is one reason why our Saviour is called the Sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2.
All hope that we should be saved was then taken away; there remained no hope in the eye of reason, or reckoning upon second causes, or natural events.
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.After long abstinence: these did not abstain from their meals for any want; for they had sufficient provision, as appears, Acts 27:38; nor because the storm or tempest tossing the ship, and them in it, took away their stomach, for the sea men, at least, were not so long troubled with that sea sickness: but:
1. Their continually being employed, working for their lives. Or:
2. Their fear of perisiting, and sense of a future state, might take up their thoughts so effectually, that they minded nothing else.
Hence it hath been said, that whosoever cannot pray should go to sea, and there he would learn it; for in their affliction they will seek me early, saith the Lord, Hosea 5:15.
Ye should have hearkened unto me; being Paul had foretold this that now befell them, as Acts 27:10, they were bound to have believed him; which they not doing, are now deservedly punished.
Have gained this harm and loss; harm and loss, misery and calamity, is all that disobedience unto God gets at last, whatsoever it may promise us to tempt us with.
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.Provided they would do as he required of them: see Acts 27:31. In God’s promises there is a tacit condition, which from the nature of the thing is to be understood; as in that which was made to Eli, mentioned 1 Samuel 2:30. Paul did foretell this so particularly, that when it was come to pass, he might gain the more reputation to the truth of the gospel which he preached, and more glory to that God whom he worshipped.
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,A good introduction to recommend the true God, and the gospel of his Son. Paul, who knew the certainty of what he had predicted, owns himself to be now in the service of God, that not unto him, but unto God, may be given the glory.
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.The message which God’s angels bring from God unto his people, is,
Fear not. Thus unto Daniel, Daniel 10:12,19; and thus unto the holy women that attended at our Lord’s sepulchre, Matthew 28:5. There are all ministering spirits, Hebrews 1:14.
Thou must be brought before; it is a forensic word, showing that Paul must be heard and tried by Caesar.
God hath given thee all them that sail with thee; graciously bestowed all thy follow travellers upon thee at thy request: for it is implied, that Paul had prayed for them, and begged their lives of God; as Esther had the lives of her people at the hands of King Ahasuerus, Esther 7:3. There is a remarkable difference between Paul and Jonah in a storm, though Jonah professes as much as Paul does in the preceding verse, Jonah 1:9; but it was little more than a profession in Jonah, but Paul was actually in the fear and service of God; and doubtless there was as great a difference in their breasts during the storm. The true fear and service of God brings with it great peace and inward satisfaction, which, when any leave, they must, at least so long, be strangers unto, for there is no peace unto the wicked, Isaiah 48:22.
Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.Paul, having had experience of the power and faithfulness of God, and known his name, professeth to trust in him; and recommends God’s veracity unto them, as worthy to be relied upon. What a great deal of good does one holy man do in a place. These hundreds of men fare the better both in soul and body for holy Paul.
Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.This was given by Paul as a sign unto them of the truth of what he had said, which, when it came to pass, might induce them to believe the rest; which probably it did, and saved Paul from being killed by the soldiers, Acts 27:42. Thus God preserves his people, and delivers Paul, and brings all his safely off at the last, but it is by tempests and storms. It may be they must suffer shipwreck of all they have in this world first. Augusta per angusta. Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God, as St. Paul had taught others, Acts 14:22, the experienced to be true himself. There was no truth more experimented than this.
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;In Adria; not in the Adriatic Bay, or Gulf of Venice, which divides Italy and Dalmatia, though that be also so called; but this name is sometimes extended to those parts of the Mediterranean Sea which border on Sicily, and Ionia in Greece, and must be passed over by such as go from Crete, or Candia, to Melita, or Malta.
And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.Found it twenty fathoms: a fathom is the distance betwixt the end of the middle finger on the one hand, from the end of the middle finger on the other hand, when the arms are stretched out; which is ordinarily accounted about six feet in measure.
Found it fifteen fathoms; coming into more shallow places they might reasonably conclude that they were near unto the land.
Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.Fallen upon rocks; of which there are very many in these seas, especially about the islands.
Cast four anchors; which show how great the tempest was, that they needed so many anchors.
Wished for the day; that they might the better discover whereabouts they were.
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,Had let down the boat; that they might betake themselves into it, after they had left the ship: for, Acts 27:17, they had taken up the boat, and secured that against this or the like occasion.
As though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship; dissembling the true reason of their going into the boat to make their escape.
Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.Notwithstanding the promise mentioned, Acts 27:24, that they should all be saved, they must use means, so far as means can be used, although the efficaciousness and truth of the promise do no ways depend upon the virtue of the means; but the means are made effectual by virtue of the promise. Yet whosoever neglects means upon any pretext of a promise, he does tempt God, but does not rightly believe in him.
These; as it were pointing unto the mariners, and such as were useful in such a case.
Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.The centurion and soldiers, agreeing to what Paul had said, did this to take away all thoughts of escaping from the mariners, and leaving all upon what Paul had promised to them in the name of his God.
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.While the day was coming on; all the night after the mariners were disappointed in their project to escape. So hard a matter it was to abate their fear of being presently destroyed; and so great influence hath the apprehension of present death, and judgment which follows it, upon the minds of men.
The fourteenth day; not as if they had wholly eaten nothing all that while, (for it is commonly held, that none can fast above half so long without danger of death), but because in all that space they had held no set meal, as they were wont to do; and what they did eat was very little, and only in extreme necessity, without any desire or taste; so great was their anguish.
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.This is for your health; that they might be stronger to endure that pain and perform that labour which was necessary towards their escape; for God would have them to use all means for their deliverance.
For there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you; a proverbial speech used by the Jews, as 1 Kings 1:52, signifying that they should not suffer the least detriment in their bodies, much less the loss of their lives. Thus God numbereth our hairs, and his providence extendeth over every one of them, as Matthew 10:30 Luke 21:18.
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.Paul thanks God for their preservation hitherto: and there is no such encouragement to hope for future deliverances, as when God doth give us hearts to thank him for deliverances already enjoyed. But he thanked God also for giving them in their necessity such food to nourish and strengthen them, Matthew 14:19 15:36 Mark 8:6,19, and one season more to enjoy it. The acknowledging of God in all things we enjoy, doth sanctify them to us: otherwise they do defile us; for we usurp them; we holding them by no other tenor but in franc almoine, from God: neither can they be serviceable unto us, if God withholds his blessing. Hence the Jews would not eat until Samuel had thus blessed their food, 1 Samuel 9:13. And our Saviour himself, to give us an example, gives thanks before he would have the miraculous loaves and fishes distributed, John 6:11.
Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.Believing Paul’s words, promising in the name of that God whom he served, that they should all be preserved; believing, they did rejoice. Now Paul, a prisoner, a neglected and contemned person, comes to be valued and credited. Whilst they sailed with a prosperous gale, neither God, nor his poor prisoner and chained apostle, is thought upon; but in a storm or tempest they are glad to believe and follow his direction. God’s stars shine in the night, and are seen in affliction.
And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.That is, so many persons; as Acts 2:41 7:14 Romans 13:1; the soul being the noblest part, and the body following its condition, whatsoever it be: if the soul be holy, the body shall be glorious. But it is not so on the other side: the soul is not hereafter as the body is here; for Dives’s body fared well, was fed and arrayed sumptuously, and yet his soul was miserably tormented, Luke 16:19,24.
And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.Cast out the wheat, the provision they had for their sustenance. This is the third time that they lightened the ship, being willing that all their goods should perish for them, rather than with them. Or these heathens were so far persuaded by St. Paul, that they ventured their lives upon the credit of what he had foretold them; and parted with their food, and all they had to live upon, only upon his word, that they should want them in the ship no more.
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.They knew not the land; in so long and violent a tempest, thinking every moment to be swallowed up, they could keep no reckoning of the ship’s running or way; neither were charts or maps so usual (if they had any at all) in those times.
A certain creek; a bay, or bosom of the sea, having land on each side, where they judged it most likely for them to get on shore; using still all means for their safety.
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.Loosed the rudder bands; rudders is in the plural number put for the singular: or rather, in those times they having two rudders, (as by several passages amongst the ancients do appear), they were both loosed, that now they might use them to direct the ship to the best advantage in making the shore, they having been tied whilst they were adrift, or at anchor.
Hoised up the mainsail, which they had let down, or struck, Acts 27:17, and now, that they might make some use of the winds, to get nigher to the shore, they hoisted up. As God doth instruct the ploughman, Isaiah 28:26, so he teacheth the mariner, and every one in their calling.
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.A place where two seas met; a shoal, sand or isthmus, where the sea was on both sides of it. They were now in the greatest extremity; and God suffers them to fall into it before he sends them deliverance, that he might have the more glory by it.
And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.This speaks their great ingratitude, that they would take away Paul’s life, who had preserved theirs. But Christ’s apostles and ministers must not look for their reward in this life; though men cannot, or do not, recompense them, they shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:14.
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:The centurion, willing to save Paul; because Paul was a Roman citizen, whose death he durst not be accessory unto. It may be also, that this centurion, (if there were no more), as the Samaritan that was cleansed, did this in thankfulness unto Paul.
Should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land; that they might be helpful to others in getting on shore.
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.Some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship; still using means, though it was of God only that they had them, and that they were effectual to them. In this history is lively verified that of the psalmist, Psalm 107:18-20, Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. And what follows but, Acts 27:21, Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! God hath a tribute of praise which is due unto him from the readers of this story, that they would acknowledge that there is none else who can deliver after this manner, Daniel 3:29; and then to be sure they will desire that this God might be their God for ever and ever, Psalm 48:14.