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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - ACTS 27
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    CHAPTER 27

    Ac 27:1-44. THE VOYAGE TO ITALY--THE SHIPWRECK AND SAFE LANDING AT MALTA.

    1. we should sail, &c.--The "we" here reintroduces the historian as one of the company. Not that he had left the apostle from the time when he last included himself (Ac 21:18), but the apostle was parted from him by his arrest and imprisonment, until now, when they met in the ship.
    - delivered Paul and certain other prisoners--State prisoners going to be tried at Rome; of which several instances are on record.
    - Julius--who treats the apostle throughout with such marked courtesy (Ac 27:3, 43; Ac 28:16), that it has been thought [BENGEL] he was present when Paul made his defense before Agrippa (see Ac 25:23), and was impressed with his lofty bearing.
    - a centurion of Augustus' band--the Augustan cohort, an honorary title given to more than one legion of the Roman army, implying, perhaps, that they acted as a bodyguard to the emperor or procurator, as occasion required.

    2. a ship of--belonging to.
    - Adramyttium--a port on the northeast coast of the Ægean Sea. Doubtless the centurion expected to find another ship, bound for Italy, at some of the ports of Asia Minor, without having to go with this ship all the way to Adramyttium; and in this he was not disappointed. See on Ac 27:6.
    - meaning to sail by the coasts--"places."
    - of Asia--a coasting vessel, which was to touch at the ports of proconsular Asia.
    - one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us--rather, "Aristarchus the Macedonian," &c. The word "one" should not have been introduced here by our translators, as if this name had not occurred before; for we find him seized by the Ephesian mob as a "man of Macedonia and Paul's companion in travel" (Ac 19:29) and as a "Thessalonian" accompanying the apostle from Ephesus on his voyage back to Palestine (Ac 20:4). Here both these places are mentioned in connection with his name. After this we find him at Rome with the apostle (Col 4:10; Phm 24).

    3. next day we touched at Sidon--To reach this ancient and celebrated Mediterranean port, about seventy miles north from Cæsarea, in one day, they must have had a fair wind.
    - Julius courteously--(See on Ac 27:1).
    - gave him liberty to go to his friends--no doubt disciples, gained, it would seem, by degrees, all along the Phœnician coast since the first preaching there (see on Ac 11:19 and Ac 21:4).
    - to refresh himself--which after his long confinement would not be unnecessary. Such small personal details are in this case extremely interesting.

    4. when we had launched--"set sail."
    - from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary--The wind blowing from the westward, probably with a touch of the north, which was adverse, they sailed under the lee of Cyprus, keeping it on their left, and steering between it and the mainland of Phœnicia.

    5. when we had sailed over the Sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia--coasts with which Paul had been long familiar, the one, perhaps, from boyhood, the other from the time of his first missionary tour.
    - we came to Myra, a city of Lycia--a port a little east of Patara (see on Ac 21:1).

    6. there . . . found a ship of Alexandria, sailing into Italy, and he put us therein--(See on Ac 27:2). As Egypt was the granary of Italy, and this vessel was laden with wheat (Ac 27:35), we need not wonder it was large enough to carry two hundred seventy-six souls, passengers and crew together (Ac 27:37). Besides, the Egyptian merchantmen, among the largest in the Mediterranean, were equal to the largest merchantmen in our day. It may seem strange that on their passage from Alexandria to Italy they should be found at a Lycian port. But even still it is not unusual to stand to the north towards Asia Minor, for the sake of the current.

    7. sailed slowly many days--owing to contrary winds.
    - and scarce--"with difficulty."
    - were come over against Cnidus--a town on the promontory of the peninsula of that name, having the island of Coos (see on Ac 21:1) to the west of it. But for the contrary wind they might have made the distance from Myra (one hundred thirty miles) in one day. They would naturally have put in at Cnidus, whose larger harbor was admirable, but the strong westerly current induced them to run south.
    - under--the lee of
    - Crete--(See on Tit 1:5).
    - over against Salmone--the cape at the eastern extremity of the island.

    8. And hardly passing it--"with difficulty coasting along it," from the same cause as before, the westerly current and head winds.
    - came to . . . the Fair Havens--an anchorage near the center of the south coast, and a little east of Cape Matala, the southern most point of the island.
    - nigh whereunto was the city Lasea--identified by the REVEREND GEORGE BROWN [SMITH, Voyages and Shipwreck of St. Paul, Appendix 3, Second Edition, 1856]. (To this invaluable book commentators on this chapter, and these notes, are much indebted).

    9, 10. when much time was spent--since leaving Cæsarea. But for unforeseen delays they might have reached the Italian coast before the stormy season.
    - and when sailing--the navigation of the open sea.
    - was now dangerous, because the fast was now . . . past--that of the day of atonement, answering to the end of September and beginning of October, about which time the navigation is pronounced unsafe by writers of authority. Since all hope of completing the voyage during that season was abandoned, the question next was, whether they should winter at Fair Havens, or move to Port Phenice, a harbor about forty miles to the westward. Paul assisted at the consultation and strongly urged them to winter where they were.

    10. Sirs, I perceive, that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, &c.--not by any divine communication, but simply in the exercise of a good judgment aided by some experience. The event justified his decision.

    11. Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and owner . . . more than . . . Paul--He would naturally think them best able to judge, and there was much to say for their opinion, as the bay at Fair Havens, being open to nearly one-half of the compass, could not be a good winter harbor.

    12. Phenice--"Phenix," now called Lutro.
    - which lieth toward the southwest and northwest--If this means that it was open to the west, it would certainly not be good anchorage! It is thought therefore to mean that a wind from that quarter would lead into it, or that it lay in an easterly direction from such a wind [SMITH]. Ac 27:13 seems to confirm this.

    13. when the south wind blew softly, supposing they had attained their purpose--With such a wind they had every prospect of reaching their destination in a few hours.

    14, 15. a tempestuous--"typhonic"
    - wind--that is, like a typhon or tornado, causing a whirling of the clouds, owing to the meeting of opposite currents of air.
    - called Euroclydon--The true reading appears to be Euro-aquilo, or east-northeast, which answers all the effects here ascribed to it.

    15. could not bear up into--"face"
    - the wind, we let her drift--before the gale.

    16, 17. under--the lee of.
    - a certain--"small"
    - island . . . Clauda--southwest of Crete, now called Gonzo; about twenty-three miles to leeward.
    - we had much work to come by--that is, to hoist up and secure.
    - the boat--now become necessary. But why was this difficult? Independently of the gale, raging at the time, the boat had been towed between twenty and thirty miles after the gale sprang up, and could scarcely fail to be filled with water [SMITH].

    17. undergirding the ship--that is, passing four or five turns of a cable-laid rope round the hull or frame of the ship, to enable her to resist the violence of the seas, an operation rarely resorted to in modern seamanship.
    - fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands--"be cast ashore" or "stranded upon the Syrtis," the Syrtis Major, a gulf on the African coast, southwest of Crete, the dread of mariners, owing to its dangerous shoals.
    - they strake--"struck"
    - sail--This cannot be the meaning, for to strike sail would have driven them directly towards the Syrtis. The meaning must be, "lowered the gear" (appurtenances of every kind); here, perhaps, referring to the lowering of the heavy mainyard with the sail attached to it [SMITH].

    19, 20. cast out with our own hands--passengers and crew together.
    - the tackling of the ship--whatever they could do without that carried weight. This further effort to lighten the ship seems to show that it was now in a leaking condition, as will presently appear more evident.

    20. neither sun nor stars appeared in many--"several"
    - days--probably most of the fourteen days mentioned in Ac 27:27. This continued thickness of the atmosphere prevented their making the necessary observations of the heavenly bodies by day or by night; so that they could not tell where they were.
    - all hope that we should be saved was taken away--"Their exertions to subdue the leak had been unavailing; they could not tell which way to make for the nearest land, in order to run their ship ashore, the only resource for a sinking ship: but unless they did make the land, they must founder at sea. Their apprehensions, therefore, were not so much caused by the fury of the tempest, as by the state of the ship" [SMITH]. From the inferiority of ancient to modern naval architecture, leaks were sprung much more easily, and the means of repairing them were fewer than now. Hence the far greater number of shipwrecks from this cause.

    21-26. But after long abstinence--(See on Ac 27:33). "The hardships which the crew endured during a gale of such continuance, and their exhaustion from laboring at the pumps and hunger, may be imagined, but are not described" [SMITH].
    - Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened to me, &c.--not meaning to reflect on them for the past, but to claim their confidence for what he was now to say:

    23. there stood by me this night the angel of God--as in Ac 16:9; 23:11.
    - whose I am-- (1Co 6:19, 20).
    - and whom I serve--in the sense of worship or religious consecration (see on Ac 13:2).

    24. saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought before Cæsar and, lo, God hath given thee all . . . that sail with thee--While the crew were toiling at the pumps, Paul was wrestling in prayer, not for himself only and the cause in which he was going a prisoner to Rome, but with true magnanimity of soul for all his shipmates; and God heard him, "giving him" (remarkable expression!) all that sailed with him. "When the cheerless day came he gathered the sailors (and passengers) around him on the deck of the laboring vessel, and raising his voice above the storm" [HOWSON], reported the divine communication he had received; adding with a noble simplicity, "for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me," and encouraging all on board to "be of good cheer" in the same confidence. What a contrast to this is the speech of Cæsar in similar circumstances to his pilot, bidding him keep up his spirit because he carried Cæsar and Cæsar's fortune! [PLUTARCH]. The Roman general knew no better name for the Divine Providence, by which he had been so often preserved, than Cæsar's fortune [HUMPHRY]. From the explicit particulars--that the ship would be lost, but not one that sailed in it, and that they "must be cast on a certain island"--one would conclude a visional representation of a total wreck, a mass of human beings struggling with the angry elements, and one and all of those whose figures and countenances had daily met his eye on deck, standing on some unknown island shore. From what follows, it would seem that Paul from this time was regarded with a deference akin to awe.

    27-29. when the fourteenth night was come--from the time they left Fair Havens.
    - as we were driven--drifting
    - up and down in Adria--the Adriatic, that sea which lies between Greece and Italy.
    - about midnight the shipmen deemed--no doubt from the peculiar sound of the breakers.
    - that they drew near some country--"that some land was approaching them." This nautical language gives a graphic character to the narrative.

    29. they cast four anchors out of the stern--The ordinary way was to cast the anchor, as now, from the bow: but ancient ships, built with both ends alike, were fitted with hawseholes in the stern, so that in case of need they could anchor either way. And when the fear was, as here, that they might fall on the rocks to leeward, and the intention was to run the ship ashore as soon as daylight enabled them to fix upon a safe spot, the very best thing they could do was to anchor by the stern [SMITH]. In stormy weather two anchors were used, and we have instances of four being employed, as here.
    - and wished--"anxiously" or "devoutly wished."
    - for day--the remark this of one present, and with all his shipmates alive to the horrors of their condition. "The ship might go down at her anchors, or the coast to leeward might be iron-bound, affording no beach on which they cou

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