The Sea Voyage to Rome.
SUMMARY.--The Centurion in Charge of Paul Embarks
with Him for Rome.
At Myra Take an Alexandrian Corn Ship.
The Weather Tempestuous Paul Advises the Centurion to Go into Harbor
for the Winter.
Caught by the Euroclydon and Driven.
After Fourteen Days of Drifting Paul Assures Them That All Will Escape.
The Ship Runs Ashore on the Island of Malta and Is Destroyed.
The Men All Saved.
1. When it was determined. When all was settled that Paul should
go to Italy, and the time appointed had come.
Delivered Paul and certain other prisoners. No information is
given concerning these companions in bonds.
To a centurion named Julius. All we learn of this Roman officer
is favorable. It is remarkable how uniformly Paul commanded the respect
of the Roman officials with whom he came in contact. Sergius Paulus,
and Julius are examples of this.
Of the Augustan band. Rather, "cohort." Josephus says that this
period one of the cohorts stationed at Cæsarea took the name of
Augustus (Wars, 2:12, 7 and 2:12, 5).
2. A ship of Adramyttium. This city was on the Asiatic coast of
the Ægean Sea. In those days there were no regular lines of
passenger ships, and in making a voyage from Judea to Rome several
ships might be necessary to complete the voyage. Paul took three before
he reached Rome.
Aristarchus, a Macedonian. He is named in
19:29 and in 20:4.
Luke and Aristarchus are the only fellow-Christians who attended Paul
on the journey, as far as we know. In
written while a prisoner at Rome, Paul calls Aristarchus his
3. The next day we touched at Sidon. The next after sailing.
Sidon was about sixty-seven miles north of Cæsarea. Here the
centurion suffered Paul to go ashore to see his
friends, the disciples in Sidon.
4, 5. Sailed under Cyprus. Near the eastern coast, where, by
keeping near the shore, the contrary winds would be less felt, being
broken by the highlands of the great island. The wind must have been
from the northwest. The geographical details of this voyage are so
accurate that they must have been written by an eye-witness.
Myra, a city of Lycia. Reached by sailing over the seas of
Cilicia and Pamphylia. Myra was a well-known port of that period.
6-8. Found a ship of Alexandria. The object was to meet a vessel
on a voyage to Italy. Here
was found such a ship, one of the great grain ships that sailed from
Egypt. These were often large, of from 500 to 1,000 tons burden.
Sailed slowly. On account of contrary winds. From Myra to Cnidus
was only 137 miles, yet it required "many days." The language seems to
imply that the ship was not able to come into the port of Cnidus, a
good harbor, fit for wintering, on the Carian coast.
We sailed under Crete. From Cnidus, they ought to have sailed
west, but the headwinds compelled them to direct their course to the
south, where they took shelter under the lee of Crete. The winds were
still evidently from the northwest.
With difficulty they reached a place called
Fair Havens. On the south coast of Crete. It retains the same
name to this day. It is a roadstead, near
the city of Lasea. It was supposed that all trace of this city
was lost until recently, but it is now known that the natives apply
this name to the ruins of an ancient town about five miles from Fair
9-13. When much time was spent. How long a time had passed since
the embarkation cannot be told, but so long that
sailing was now dangerous. On account of the season of year. In
the winter, not only the storms, but the clouds and darkness,
interfered with navigation. Mariners, in the absence of the compass,
needed the sun and stars to direct their course.
Because the fast was . . . past. That of the
Atonement, which came in October.
Sirs, I perceive. Paul's experience taught him the danger of
proceeding. It was the stormy and tempestuous season. He therefore
volunteered his advice.
Centurion gave more heed. The master, or captain, and the owner,
were both aboard, and it was but natural that their wishes would
prevail with the centurion. The chief argument for proceeding was that
Fair Havens was not a good harbor, and they hoped to reach a better
Phenice. This place, Phoenix in the Revision, was never reached,
but would have been a good place for wintering, for the excellent
harbor there remains to this day.
When the south wind blew. When this wind arose, they supposed
they could attain their purpose, and sailed along the southern shore of
Crete to reach, if possible, Phoenix.
14-20. Rose a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. "Euraquilo"
in the Revision; a
terrible northeast gale. The word and the description imply a
When the ship was caught. Seized by the wind and hurled out of
her course. All that could be done was to drift before it. The ship was
Running under a certain island. Getting in the shelter of it.
Here they tried to put the ship in better shape for the storm.
Called Clauda. Now named Gozo. It lies a little south of Crete.
Come by the boat. Drew it up on deck. It had been in tow when
they set out with the gentle wind.
Used helps. The hull showed signs of giving way, and was
undergirded, by ropes or chains, that were dropped so as to pass
under the hull, and then were tightened with levers. The process is
still common in wooden vessels in times of great peril. The British
call it "frapping."
Should fall into the quicksands. The Syrtis, or quicksands, on
the African coast to the southwest of Crete, were greatly feared by
ancient sailors. The fact that they expected to be driven there shows
that the storm, at first, came from the northeast.
Strake sail. Nautical men say that this language implies that
most of their sails were furled, only a small sail remaining set. The
ship was "laid to," endeavoring to ride out the storm.
So were driven. A ship "laid to" will drift. "Laid to," she
would not drift directly before the wind, but if the wind was from the
northeast, and her bow laid to the north, she would drift to the west.
Their aim was to keep from being driven into the quicksands (the Great
Next day they lightened the ship. Cast heavy things overboard,
in order that it might ride the waves better.
The third day. On this, the third day of the storm, the
Christians aided to cast off the tackling, the spars, etc. It is
evident that the situation was dangerous.
Neither sun nor stars in many days appeared. Hence they could
neither tell where they were nor direct their course. No such thing as
the compass was then known.
All hope. All hope of saving the ship or cargo was gone, and the
mariners despaired of their own safety.
21-26. After long abstinence. Anxiety and necessity would
enforce abstinence. The fires were all put out, the provisions
watersoaked, the men constantly employed, their fear too great to
prepare regular meals. If there was eating at all, it would be by
Paul stood forth. He chose some place on deck where all could
Ye should have hearkened. He reminds them of his advice, not to
taunt, but to secure confidence for what he shall now say. The vessel
and cargo shall be lost, but no man's life.
An angel. He gives the grounds of his hope. An angel of God, the
God he served, Jehovah, stood by him and declared it.
Whose I am, and whom I serve. This short
sentence is a sermon. It is the key-note of all Paul's ministry.
Fear not. They were in the midst of terrible peril, in a ruined
ship, on an unknown sea, tossed by the storm, surrounded by angry waves
beneath, and angry heavens above. But God had not forgotten his
God hath given thee all, etc. Paul had then prayed for his
Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island. Their safety and
wreck on a certain island were assured; the details were not yet
27-32. Driven up and down in Adria. The central basin of the
Mediterranean, between Sicily on the west and Greece on the east, was
called by the old geographers "Adria," or the Adriatic Sea. The name is
now confined to the Gulf of Venice.
The shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country. They
probably heard the awful roar of the breakers.
Sounded, and found it twenty fathoms. One hundred and twenty
feet. The shallowness showed that they approached a coast, especially
as it grew shallower every time the lead was cast.
Fearing . . . rocks. It was night, and they could hear
the sound of the breakers. By day they might avoid the rocks. Hence
they cast anchor, and "wished for day."
Four anchors. Because so many were needed to hold the ship.
As the shipmen were about to flee. The sailors were about
to take the boat, under false pretence, and abandon the ship. For the
safety of all it was needful that they remain, in order to manage the
ship when it was run ashore. Hence the centurion, at Paul's request,
cut off the boat and let it drift away.
33-38. Paul besought them all to take meat. At dawn of day. He
seems to have really had charge in this hour of peril. They needed the
strength of the food for the work before them.
Having taken nothing. The thought is, that for fourteen days
they had had no regular meals.
This is for your
health. Essential to your welfare and safety.
There shall not a hair, etc. A promise of absolute safety.
He took bread and gave thanks. As Paul was wont to do before
eating; as Christ himself did
(Matt. 14:19; John 6:11).
Began to eat. To encourage them by his example. It had its
effect, for "they were all of good cheer, and they also took meat."
We were . . . two hundred threescore and sixteen
souls. It can be seen from this fact that merchant vessels of that
period were of large size.
They lightened the ship. It was needful to beach it in just as
shallow water as possible, and hence the cargo was thrown overboard.
As might be expected in an Alexandrian ship, the cargo was wheat. Egypt
was then the granary of Rome.
39-44. They discovered a certain creek with a shore. Rather, "A
certain bay with a beach," as in the Revision; a sloping beach. Into
this they determined to try to thrust the ship, because here the force
of the waves would be broken, the water shallow, and the beach
favorable for the men's lives.
Taken up the anchors (see
The Revision says, "Cast off their anchors." Cut the ropes and let them
Loosed the rudder bands. When anchored by the stern
the rudder was lifted up out of the water by
rudder bands to keep it out of the way of the anchor cables. Now it was
let down again in order to steer the vessel.
A place where two seas met. Where two bodies of water joined.
This was due to a small island on the coast of the larger, Salmonetta
on the coast of Malta. When they moved into the bay, they did not see
the inlet coming in on the other side of Salmonetta, but when they saw
it, they saw that "two seas met."
Ran the ship aground. This was what they purposed, but the
violence of the waves was such as to break the stern in pieces.
The soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners. We have here an
illustration of the extreme brutality of the rank and file of the Roman
army. They would rather kill the prisoners than to run the risk of
The centurion. The interference of the centurion was in harmony
with all we have stated of him.
Commanded. The centurion took command. Those that could swim,
cast themselves into the sea. Others floated on any buoyant object
that could be secured, and thus all came to shore. This was not Paul's
first shipwreck. Compare
2 Cor. 11:25,
which was written at an earlier period of his life.
Luke's description of the management of the ship in the storm and
shipwreck is pronounced by scholars the best description of ancient
nautical methods extant.