Paul at Rome.
SUMMARY.--Thrown on the Island of Malta.
The Kindness of the People.
A Viper Fastens on Paul's Hand, but Hurts Him Not.
Paul Heals the Father of Publius.
After Three Months Leave in the Castor and Pollux.
Land and Meet Brethren at Puteoli.
Met at Apii Forum by Brethren from Rome.
Paul Suffered to Dwell by Himself Under Charge of a Soldier.
Preaches to the Jews of Rome.
Preaches with Full Liberty for Two Years in His Own Hired House.
1-6. The island was called Melita. They had no idea where they
were cast until they were ashore, but were told by the inhabitants. It
is conceded by scholars that it is the island so well known in our time
as Malta. It is sixty miles from the southern point of Sicily, 200
miles from Africa, and is about sixty miles in circumference.
The barbarians. So called because they were neither Greeks
nor Romans. The word did not anciently mean uncivilized. The island
was governed by the Romans, but the people were of African and Asiatic
stock. The modern Maltese speak Arabic, mixed with Italian and English.
Kindled a fire. It was winter, stormy, and the shipwrecked
strangers were drenched. The fire was what a considerate kindness would
Paul had gathered . . . sticks. Instead of looking on, he
helped. So while on the ship he helped to throw out the tackling.
A viper came out of the heat. In the bundle of driftwood or
brush the serpent lay, chilled with the cold, but as soon as it was
carried to the fire it was awakened to activity by the heat and struck
its fangs into the hand that was disposing of the sticks.
This man is a murderer. The people pronounced it a judgment.
Though he had escaped the sea, divine justice would not let him escape.
They waited to see his hand swell, and him
to fall dead, but when he shook it off in the fire and experienced no
harm they changed their minds and in their superstition called him a
We are hear reminded of the sudden revulsion of feeling among the
It is said that there are now no venomous serpents in Malta, but this
is due to the enormous increase of the population and their extinction.
The same fact has occurred in many places.
7-10. The chief man of the island. His name, Publius, is Roman, and
he was doubtless the Roman governor of the island. It would be simply
his duty to take care of the Roman officer Julius and his company.
Hence, he "lodged them courteously" for three days until they could
provide for themselves.
Lay sick of a fever, etc. Dysentery was the disease. Paul, by
prayer and laying on of hands, healed him. This miracle naturally was
followed by others, and it is not strange that Paul was honored, and
that the people "laded them with all things necessary" for their
11-14. After three months. They remained here most of the
winter. As soon as the weather would justify they would go forward. It
was probably February or March when they departed.
A ship of Alexandria. So was the one shipwrecked. This, no
doubt, was also laden with wheat. It had put into Malta, driven by bad
weather, and wintered there in the excellent harbor.
Castor and Pollux. Two favorite sea gods of the Greeks and
Romans. Their figures were carried on the prow, and probably gave name
to the vessel. "The great twin brothers" were famous in Roman
Landing at Syracuse. Then the leading city of the great island
of Sicily, about eighty miles north of Malta.
Three days. Probably waiting for a fair wind.
Fetched a compass. Did not sail a straight course.
To Rhegium. On the Italian side of the straits of Messina,
opposite Messina on the Sicilian side. At this place they waited one
day and then
the south wind blew, just the wind they wanted, as their course
Came the next day to Puteoli. About 180 miles north of Rhegium,
on the bay of Naples, near the city of Naples. It is now called
Pozzuoli. Ostia, near Rome, and Puteoli were the two ports where the
Egyptian corn ships landed with their cargoes. In one of Seneca's
letters (he was then living) he describes the crowds that would gather
at the wharf of Puteoli when a great corn ship came in.
Where we found brethren. We know from the Epistle to the Romans
that there was a church at Rome that Paul was anxious to visit, and
that the brethren were numerous (see
Here we find also a church at a great seaport on the route from
Palestine to Rome.
Were desired to tarry with them seven days. Compare also
20:6, 7 and 21:4.
In all these cases the object must have been to pass
a Lord's day and to celebrate the Lord's Supper. The courteous Julius
consenting, there was no difficulty in Paul's delay here.
15, 16. After the week they started toward Rome. Their route
was along one of the great roads for which the Romans were so famous,
the Consular Way to Capua, and the along the celebrated Appian Way to
When the brethren heard of us. The church in Rome. They
determined to meet the great apostle on the way. They had already
received from him the Epistles to the Romans. No doubt some of his
Asiatic or European converts were in the church. Aquila and Priscilla
had returned to their old home
in the Imperial city, and perhaps were of those who met him on the way.
As far as Appii Forum. Some met them at Appii Forum, which is
forty-three miles from Rome, and another band met them at the
Three Taverns, which is ten miles nearer the great city. Both
these places are mentioned by Horace and Cicero (Hor. Sat. 1:5,
4; Cic. Letters to Atticus 2:12).
Thanked God. As the apostle traveled as a prisoner amid these
strange scenes, along the crowded Appian Way, with so many evidences of
colossal power on every hand, and of such luxury and corruption, it was
a glad sight to meet a welcome from loving brethren, already numerous
in Rome. See
Rom. chap. 16.
It seemed a cheering omen that the church of the capital of the world
should meet and greet him. The distance traveled by land from Puteoli
to Rome as about 135 miles.
Delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard. The
commander of what was called the Prætorian Guard, the
Prætorian Prefect; at this time this great officer was named
Burrhus. The Prætorian camp was the permanent garrison of Rome.
But Paul was suffered to dwell by himself. Sometimes state
prisoners, sent from the provinces, awaiting trial, were thrown into a
prison adjoining the Prætorian camp, and sometimes were allowed
to choose their own residence under the guard of a soldier. Paul was
permitted the latter course, no doubt on account of the kindly reports
sent from Cæsarea by Festus and King Agrippa to Rome. The soldier was
fastened to the prisoner by a chain. See
17-22. After three days. We see indicated his restless activity. In
three days after his arrival as a prisoner he begins his work. The
first three days had probably been devoted to the brethren.
Called the chief of the Jews. The leading Jews. Josephus says
that fifty years earlier there were 8,000 Jews in Rome. A quarter of
the city north of the Tiber was given up to them. In A. D. 49,
they had been banished by decree of the Emperor Claudius, but shortly
after were allowed to return. At this time they enjoyed favor,
Poppæa, the wife of Nero, being a proselyte to the Jewish faith.
These chiefs would
include the rulers of the synagogues, the scribes, and the heads of the
Men, brethren. In a short speech, of which we have only an
abstract, he told them how he came to be there as a prisoner. No doubt
he fully explained the ground of enmity and his appeal; so fully that
when he said,
For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. They knew
that it was the hope of Christ and the resurrection. This chain
is a reference to the one that bound him to the soldier.
We neither received letters, etc. They mean official letters
from the authorities at Jerusalem. They have no official tidings
warning them against him. They must have known of him, and of the
charges made against him.
His fame was such that they
desire to hear what he thinks, or holds; to hear him
explain the gospel.
For as concerning this sect, we know that it is every where spoken
against. Everywhere the Jews "spoke against" the Christians with
malignant hatred. Paul's treatment illustrates this. The Jews of Rome
had known but little of the Christians, but they knew the odium of the
church elsewhere. The Pagans also were beginning to regard the
Christian religion as "a detestable superstition" (Tacitus), and
matters were shaping for the bitter persecution of Nero, which came a
few years later.
23-29. When they had appointed him a day. On the appointed day
"many" came. The whole day was spent
persuading them concerning Christ. Arguing from Moses and the
prophets, that Jesus was he of whom the law and the prophets spoke.
Some believed, . . . and some believed not. As usual,
some accepted and some rejected, and this difference of opinion was
openly expressed among themselves. Probably the majority expressed
themselves with extreme bitterness. Paul's
seems to imply this.
Well spake . . . Esaias the prophet. The
passage quoted is found in
Isa. 6:9, 10.
It is quoted six times: in the
here in Acts, and in
No other Old Testament passage is so often quoted in the New Testament,
and it is always applied to Jewish unbelief. The terrible prediction of
the stubborn, willful unbelief of the nation was fulfilled in Isaiah's
time, in the time of Christ, in that of his apostles, and eighteen
centuries of Jewish history illustrate the same fact to our times. For
notes on the passage, see
These are the one final word of Paul to the Jews before
beginning his work among the Gentiles in Rome.
Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves, we can
hope that the result was that they believed and consorted with Paul and
30, 31. Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house. His
expense was met during this period by the church in Rome and elsewhere.
where the Philippian contributions are acknowledged. Here he was
permitted to see and preach freely to all who came unto him. Here he
wrote four of his epistles; the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians,
Philippians, and the short letter to Philemon. Here, from notices in
these epistles, we know that Luke,
were with him at least part of the time. Nor is there doubt but these
two years produced great results in Rome. It was at a later period,
when Nero fell under the influence of the cruel Tigellinus, that he
became a persecutor, and Paul had at this time full liberty. A few
years after, at the time of the Neronian persecutor, the church
embraced vast numbers in the city of Rome. The Roman historian, Tacitus
says: "An immense multitude" were converted and put to death.
ACTS comes to an end with these two years, and was
almost certainly completed during this time. Why it paused here is
unknown. We cannot repress a regret that it was not continued to the
end of the career of its great missionary hero. His subsequent life and
work can only be learned from incidental allusions in his later
epistles and from tradition. The testimony of the primitive church
affirms that he was acquitted when his appeal, after long delay, came
to trial, probably in A. D. 63; that for several years he labored
earnestly in other lands, visiting the old scene of his labors in Asia
Minor once more. Prior to this visit he is supposed to have gone west
to Spain, and crossed from thence into North Africa, then one of the
most flourishing parts of the empire. Somewhere about A. D. 65-67
he visited once more the Greek and Asiatic churches he had founded, and
from Macedonia wrote the First Epistle to Timothy, then at Ephesus, and
also to Titus at Crete. The incidental allusions in these epistles
confirm the view that he had been acquitted, and was at work for
Christ. At Nicopolis, in Epirus, he was again arrested and taken to
While in prison awaiting trial, he wrote Second Timothy, his last
words, solemn with the shadow of death. From hence he was sent to the
scaffold by Nero in A. D. 67 or 68, and entered his eternal rest.
While we cannot be certain of the facts of this Post-Actian
outline, they are so probable that they may be reasonably accepted as
the outline of the last years of the greatest hero of the faith that
ever fought the good fight and won the crown.