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The shipwrecked passengers and crew were all saved alive, fulfilling Paul's prophecy made at a moment when all hope had perished. The population of Malta aided in the rescue, building a fire and "receiving" them kindly. Paul was snakebitten (Acts 28:1-6).
Hospitality was extended to the victims of shipwreck by the first man of the island; and Paul wrought many cures of the sick and suffering of Malta (Acts 28:7-10).
The voyage to Rome was continued after three months, ending very shortly at Puteoli, terminal port of the grain ship; and, thence by land, Paul soon arrived in Rome, being greeted by brethren on the way (Acts 28:11-16).
As always, Paul sought and obtained first an interview with Jewish leaders who set a day to hear him a week later (Acts 28:17-22).
The Jews of Rome, as invariably throughout Paul's ministry, rejected Christ, despite the fact that some believed (Acts 28:23-28).
The Book of Acts is concluded by a brief summary of the two whole years of Paul's imprisonment; and the curtain rings down with Paul still in prison, because, when Luke wrote, the apostle's release, although pending, had not yet occurred (Acts 28:30-31).
And when we were escaped, then we knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarians showed us no common kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. (Acts 28:1-2)
Melita ... This island is the one now known as Malta. Mention of the "Sea of Adria" in Acts 27:27 led some to suppose that Meleda, an island off the Dalmatian coast in the Adriatic sea, was meant; but there is abundant proof that the whole Mediterranean was called "Adria" by the sailors. "There is no reasonable doubt that Malta is the island in question."
The barbarians ... Such a designation of the people meant merely that they did not speak Greek. "They spoke a language derived from Phoenician, and were little affected by the Greek-Roman culture." Their conduct at once proved them not to be barbarians in the usual sense of the word.
This island of Malta Isaiah 12 miles wide, 20 miles long, and 60 miles distant from Sicily. "It yields an abundance of honey, whence its name."
Rain and cold ... Such storms as they had encountered always dump large quantities of water; and late in the autumn the weather was very disagreeable. The survivors needed and received help.
 G. H. C. MacGreggor, The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1954), Vol. IX, p. 341.
 Everett F. Harrison, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 337.
 John Wesley, Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House), in loco.
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped from the sea, yet Justice hath not suffered to live.
Venomous creature ... Although the adjective is not in the Greek text, the meaning surely is. The statement of the islanders that "Justice hath not suffered to live" regarded Paul's death so certain that they already referred to it in the past tense! It is hard not to lose patience with scholars like Ramsay who called this snake "harmless," saying "it was not, as Luke calls it, a viper, which does not occur on Malta." As if this were not enough, he even took a couple of passes at guessing what kind it really was! As Bruce said:
The objections that have been advanced, that there are now no vipers in the island, and only one place where any wood grows, are too trivial to notice.
As Hervey pointed out, the population density of Malta is now over 1,200 people to the square mile, and this alone accounts for the disappearance of vipers from Malta.
Justice ... The capitalization of this word in the English Revised Version (1885) indicates that the islanders referred to the goddess Justice. "Justilia was the daughter and assessor of Zeus, and the avenger of crime."
 Sir William M. Ramsay, Pictures of the Apostolic Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1959), p. 310.
 F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publisher, 1954), p. 522.
 A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary, Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publisher, 1950), 2p. 319.
Howbeit he shook off the creature into the fire, and took no harm. But they expected that he would have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly; but when they were long in expectation and beheld nothing amiss come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
The intelligence and understanding of such native peoples as those of Malta make it impossible to believe that they were mistaken regarding the deadly nature of the snake that bit Paul. It is preposterous to suppose that Paul's being snakebit was the only case of such a thing that the people had ever seen! The critics who delight in rationalizing all of the New Testament miracles will have to come up with something better than a denial that this snake was poisonous.
Shook ... into the fire ... People who are impressed with efforts to impose humane methods of killing rattlesnakes in Texas should take note of this. Burning the viper alive appeared to Paul as a suitable form of extermination; and none of the people who had to contend with such reptiles complained of it.
Changed their minds ... said he was a god ... This is a strange reversal of what had happened at Lystra (Acts 14:12ff), where Paul was first hailed as a god, and later stoned. The carnal man loves extremes, either worshiping himself in the person of his heroes, or by killing those who do not conform to his prejudices.
Before leaving this, we cannot resist including the homely comment of McGarvey:
Paul was not a preacher after the style of a modern clergyman, who is particular not to soil his hands with menial labor, expects everybody to be ready to serve him, while he preserves his dignity and looks on.
Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius; who received us, and entertained us three days courteously. And it was so that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery: unto whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laying his hands on him healed him. And when this was done, the rest also that had diseases in the island came, and were cured.
Publius ... chief man ... "This exact word has been found in two inscriptions as a title of an official in Malta." Although once disputed, Luke's accuracy is again proved.
Entertained us ... If this refers to the entire 276 survivors, it would probably mean that many of the population opened their homes to the shipwrecked; but if Luke is speaking of Paul's company and the centurion and ship's officers, which is not unlikely, then it would appear that Publius himself entertained them.
Fever and dysentery ... Malta fever is a malady known in the United States at the present time, caused by drinking infected milk. The word "dysentery" is a strict medical term used by the physician Luke.
Paul healed him ... Thus Publius' kindness was repaid. In being able to work such a wonder, Paul verified the truth of Jesus' promise that his apostles should suffer no hurt from deadly serpents, and that they should lay hands on the sick and recover them. As Dummelow noted, "Here we have first hand evidence of a competent medical witness to the reality of Paul's miraculous cures."
We agree with Trenchard that, "Although Luke does not mention preachings and conversions, the analogy of the Ephesian ministry ... suggests that miracles always opened the way for the Word." One likes to suppose that the centurion himself might have been converted, as his subsequent behavior would certainly suggest, and that some of those unfortunate prisoners on the way to the bloody sands of the Coliseum might, through their conversion to Christ, have been enabled to face such a wretched death in the strength of their hope of eternal life in Christ.
 G. H. C. MacGreggor, op. cit., p. 343.
 J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 852.
 E. H. Trenchard, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 338.
Who also honored us with many honors; and when we sailed, they put on board such things as we needed.
The "honors" here were not "honorariums" as understood today, not gifts at all, but honors of public favor, expressed in many ways. "Paul did not receive any remuneration for the exercise of his gift of healing ... (which) would have been at variance with the command of Christ (Mark 10:8)." This is proved by the contrast with material gifts placed on board the ship for the benefit of all.
And after three months we set sail in a ship of Alexandria which had wintered in the island, whose sign was The Twin Brothers.
The ship of Alexandria was more fortunate than the first, for it had made the port of Malta and waited until spring to depart, or at least until the most dangerous part of the winter was past.
After three months ... This would still have been somewhat early for Mediterranean sailing vessels; but the relatively short part of their voyage remaining, coupled with the probability of an early spring or an atypical spell of good weather, enabled their sailing, as it would appear, about the middle of February.
The Twin Brothers ... The Greek word here is "the Dioscuri," the mythical twin sons of Jupiter, pagan deities also called Castor and Pollux, and honored especially by sailors. The constellation Gemini is named for them, being one of the twelve sectors of the sky identified with the signs of the zodiac.
Two coincidences of interest in this section are (1) both ships carrying Paul were ships of Alexandria, and (2) The Twin Brothers was the name and figurehead not only of the new ship, but also of Rhegium, their second port of call on the way to Rome.
This prevalence of the evidence in which the old pagan deities appeared still to dominate the hearts of the people must have been particularly offensive to Paul and Luke.
And touching at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. And from thence we made a circuit, and arrived at Rhegium: and after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli.
Made a circuit ... indicates that the voyage from Syracuse to Rhegium required sailing in a circle, due to the direction of the wind. Rhegium is "the modern Reggio dis Calabria on the "toe" of Italy," and thus at the eastern extremity of the Strait of Massena, site of the famed rock of Scylla and the whirlpool of Charybdis. Passing through the strait would avoid a voyage around Sicily; but the wind had to be just right.
A south wind sprang up ... This was exactly the break they needed, for Puteoli is due north of Rhegium, and the final leg of the voyage was quickly made in a little over a day.
Puteoli ... was a regular port of entry for the fleet of grain ships operating between Rome and Egypt, and was in those days a seaport of great importance. "Just eight miles Northwest of Naples, it was the greatest port in Italy. The large pier had twenty-five arches, of which thirteen ruined ones remain."
At Puteoli, "now Puzzuoli," where frequently "the whole population" went out to welcome the arrival of the wheat ships, Paul and his companions left the ship, accompanied, of course, by the centurion Julius and his command, with the purpose of continuing the final part of the trip by land.
 G. H. C. MacGreggor, op. cit., p. 345.
 J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 853.
 Don DeWelt, Acts Made Actual (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1953), p. 339.
 A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 321.
Where we found brethren, and were entreated to tarry with them seven days, and so we came to Rome.
Ramsay was inclined not to believe this, noting that Paul was a prisoner who could not have tarried there seven days without the consent of Julius the centurion; but as Trenchard pointed out,
A delay of seven days would enable him (Julius) to equip himself and his men, after the loss of everything in the wreck, before entering Rome.
Furthermore, it is not amiss to see in this seven days waiting in Puteoli an evidence, not certain of course, but probable, that Julius himself might have become a Christian. Certainly, SOMETHING induced him to honor the request of the Christians in Puteoli for Paul to remain with them over a Sunday in order to observe the Lord's supper with them.
"Thus Paul and his party would be with the Christians at the Lord's table on the Lord's Day, as they had been at Troas (Acts 20:6,7) and at Tyre (Acts 21:4)." There can hardly be any doubt that all three instances of these seven-day periods of waiting were caused by the apostle Paul's arrival on a Monday, in each case, and that a week's delay was necessary to afford the opportunity of taking the Lord's supper on the Lord's Day. In this fact, such conceits as the Thursday observance of the Lord's supper, or the daily observance of it, or any departure from the apostolic custom of observing it "on a fixed day," must be rejected out of hand, as being contrary to the word of the Lord.
 E. H. Trenchard, op. cit., p. 338.
 Orrin Root, Acts (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1966), p. 202.
 Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 6.
And from thence the brethren, when they heard of us, came to meet us as far as The Market of Appius and The Three Taverns; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. And when we entered into Rome, Paul was suffered to abide by himself with the soldier that guarded him.
The Market of Appius ... This place was "forty-three miles from Rome," and the travel of some of the saints in Rome such a distance to welcome the beloved apostle was a source of great joy. He had written them several years earlier of his intention of coming, but neither any of them nor Paul could have supposed that the manner of his arrival would be as it came to pass. He entered as a prisoner, chained to a soldier, and filled with apprehension lest the brethren might be ashamed of his bonds. No wonder he "thanked God, and took courage." The Lord had not forsaken him; faithful brethren stood by to cheer and welcome him.
As for a description of this place on the old Appian Way, we shall leave it to the travelogues; but one priceless line from the poet Horace, for which we are indebted to Plumptre, is as follows:
"With sailors filled, and scoundrel publicans!"
Three Taverns ... was ten miles closer to Rome, indicating that some, possibly including women and children, had not traveled as rapidly as others. One should read the last chapter of Romans in connection with this welcoming scene, wondering if some of the names there might not have been those of persons appearing here. A mist comes in our eyes as we meditate upon all the emotions that swept over the hearts of the Christians at this historic meeting.
This place was no better than The Market of Appius, both of them being typical commercial stops between the port of Puteoli and the "eternal city."
 H. Leo Boles, Commentary on Acts (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1953), p. 436.
 E. H. Plumptre, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), Vol. VII, p. 181.
And it came to pass after three days he called together those that were the chief of the Jews: and when they were come together, he said unto them, I, brethren, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, yet was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
As Paul always did, he addressed himself to the Jews, "to the Jew first" (Romans 1:16); and the mention of this having been "after three days" suggests that the three days had been required for getting him settled in his quarters and perhaps visiting with personal friends, of whom he had many in Rome.
As one appealing to Caesar, Paul might naturally have been supposed by the Jews in Rome to have been appealing against Jews; but it was the other way around. Paul was appealing against Roman courts to which the Jews had delivered him, and by their protests had prevented his acquittal.
From Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans ... How could Paul say that the Jews had delivered him to the Romans, when it was a Roman, Lysias, who had first arrested him? Both Felix and Festus would have released Paul, except for Jewish protests against it. He promptly explained that.
Who, when they had examined me, desired to set me at liberty, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught whereof to accuse my nation.
Paul's forbearance here is notable, in that he made no mention of the repeated attempts against his life, aided and abetted by the high priest himself. His message to his countrymen in Rome was designed to be as conciliatory as possible.
This passage sheds further light on what happened under Festus. It was the protest of the Jews that led Festus to withhold from Paul the liberty which was his right.
For this cause therefore did I entreat you to see and to speak with me: for because of the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
For the hope of Israel ... "By this, Paul meant that the Christian faith was the true fulfillment of the hope of God's people." Throughout his speeches and epistles, Paul ever insisted upon the identity of the New Covenant with all that had been prophesied and typified in the Old.
Bound with this chain ... McGarvey observed that:
Paul remained chained day and night, the guard being changed according to uniform custom every three hours, unless an exception was made of the sleeping hours in this case.
The chain itself was a strong, relatively light one, fastened on one end to Paul's arm, and to the soldier on the other.
 Everett F. Harrison, op. cit., p. 488.
 J. W. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 287.
And they said unto him, We neither received letters from Judaea concerning thee, nor did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.
Acts 28:21 signals the end of any prosecution whatever against Paul in Rome, leading inevitably to his release from this first imprisonment. The speculation of some who would have it otherwise, to the effect that insufficient time had elapsed for the charges to arrive, is ridiculous. If they had wished to press charges, Paul's three months delay after shipwreck gave them plenty of time to have crawled to Rome, if they had had any intention whatever of appearing.
As to why the Sanhedrin decided not to send any charges, this was due to a number of possible reasons, any one of which was more than enough: (1) Only recently, the Jews had been expelled from Rome, and although the ban had by this time been relaxed, the Jerusalem hierarchy would have been loathe to open old wounds. (2) Having already failed miserably to convince the lower courts of Felix and Festus, they knew they had no case worthy of the name. (3) They had, at that time, no powerful advocate in Rome who could have aided their plea. The date here Isaiah 60 A.D., two whole years prior to Poppaea Sabina's marriage to Nero. (4) They were as busy as beavers with the intrigues leading to the outbreak of the Jewish war. (5) They could also count on Paul's being held in prison for two more years without any charges being pressed by them; and they could have taken that option of keeping him in prison.
As MacGreggor said, "There is some evidence that if the prosecution failed to put in an appearance within two years, they lost their case by default." Therefore, it is the confident conclusion of this writer that Luke, by Acts 28:21, signals that the freedom of Paul was momentarily expected when he concluded this report.
Paul was doubtless pleased with the indication that no further appearance of his old enemies from Jerusalem could be expected, else they would already have appeared. It was an additional bonus that the leaders of the Jews in Rome decided to hear his arguments on behalf of Christianity and promptly set a date.
ISRAEL'S FINAL REJECTION
 F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 530.
 G. H. C. MacGreggor, op. cit., p. 349.
And when they had appointed him a day, they came to him into his lodging in great number; to whom he expounded the matter, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning until evening.
This was a long and thorough presentation by Paul, in which he doubtless covered all of the arguments previously recorded by Luke in Acts. The exposition went on "from morning until evening."
And some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.
Here occurred what always occurs when the gospel is preached: men are polarized with reference to it, some believing, some not believing (see 2 Corinthians 2:15,16).
And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed after that Paul had spoken one word.
As Bruce said, "It would be a great, mistake to suppose the exposition took the form of a monologue. The debate must have been keen and impassioned." There is no need, then, to view the "one word" of this verse as being composed of Paul's quotation from Isaiah which immediately follows, which is, in fact, not "one word" in any sense. What, therefore, is that "one word" which broke up this meeting? Luke had already related how the temple mob heard Paul patiently until a single word, the word "Gentiles" (Acts 22:21,22), the strong likelihood being that it was exactly that same word which signaled the end of the meeting here. Luke did not spell it out again; but Paul's appeal to the prophecy of Isaiah as foretelling their rejection strongly infers this.
Well spake the Holy Spirit through Isaiah the prophet unto your fathers, saying, Go thou unto this people, and say, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them.
This is Isaiah 6:9,10; and although spoken "through" Isaiah, it is clearly presented here as the word of the Holy Spirit.
This same passage was applied to Israel by Christ, as affirmed in all four gospels (Matthew 13:15,15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; and John 12:37-41). The significance of its being repeated here lies in the fact that the same blindness that closed the hearts of Israel to the Christ was still operative in closing their hearts against the gospel. Paul had already written in Romans a detailed prophecy of the hardening of Israel, proving by many Old Testament passages that their rejection had been foreknown of God from of old. Paul already had the most extensive knowledge of that self-induced blindness to the truth on the part of the chosen people, but he had no doubt hoped until now that some change in the pattern might come to pass in Rome. The interview just concluded blasted any such hopes.
Up until this time, Paul had ever gone "to the Jew first," but in the light of this final rejection in the heart of civilization, he promptly announced in the next verse the termination of that phase of Christianity.
Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles: they will also hear.
In this, the book of Acts reaches a magnificent climax: rejection on the part of secular Israel, unlimited and glorious success among the Gentiles. This, however, is not the only climax, because the undeniable implication of Paul's innocence, as proved by the absence of any charges against him in Rome, implies that his freedom was expected momentarily. Luke did not state that it was expected, any firm declaration having to wait on the event itself; but the anticipation of it is surely here.
Any allegation that the charges would have been sent to the government, and not to the Jewish leaders, is refuted by the obvious truth that the charges would have been sent to both. Even at Caesarea, it will be recalled, the local Jews joined in the clamor for Paul's death; and the fact that the Jerusalem priests had instigated no movement against Paul among their own in Rome proves that they had also failed to instigate any charges against him before their emperor. The fantasy that "the charges were lost in the wreck" dies of its own weight; for Festus would most certainly have exonerated Paul in any official report that might have been on board the wrecked ship.
And he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received all that went in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him.
Two whole years ... Luke had just revealed that no letters or charges of any kind had been received from Judaea; and, as any case before the emperor which was not prosecuted in two years was judged to be defaulted, this indicates an air of expectancy that the release might come any day.
His own hired dwelling ... Here again the question of Paul's undeniable financial ability comes to mind, but we have no certain solution. Luke may very well have been wealthy; or Paul himself, as Ramsay believed, might have inherited wealth. The extreme and unusual courtesy extended to Paul could not have come about except, partially at least, through the favorable report of Festus, the same fact giving the falsehood to the notion that "the papers were lost in the wreck." The papers would have been preserved in spite of the wreck.
Received all that went in unto him ... Paul preached to all comers; and there soon were "saints in Caesar's household." Intended by the Jews as a frustration of Paul's efforts, keeping him imprisoned two years without charges, his imprisonment actually helped the gospel. Paul himself said, "The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).
Preaching the kingdom of God ... MacGreggor said, "This comes near to being a synonym for the Christian church"; but, in context, the expression is not "nearly" a synonym for Christianity, but exactly so! Many New Testament passages use "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably, as here. See my Commentary on Hebrews under Hebrews 12:29.
With all boldness, none forbidding him ... Safe from any efforts to assassinate him, Paul preached fearlessly and boldly to all who came near; and, in addition to those who came to him, he had a new prospect every three hours, every time the guard was changed.
This brings us to the end of this magnificent sacred history. "The narrative ends as it does, because it has caught up with history, and at the moment there was nothing more to report." Like all conservative scholars, we think that "From 62 to 65 A.D., Paul was a free man, visiting Crete and points around the Aegean Sea (Titus 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:13,20), possibly even fulfilling his desire to go to Spain."
During the two full years mentioned here, Paul wrote "the epistle to the Ephesians, the epistle to the Colossians, and those to Philemon and the Philippians," according to Hervey; and it may also be assumed that he gave Luke some help on the book of Acts. How strange it is that Luke did not mention any of Paul's writings. If Acts were all that we had, we would not even know that Paul was an author, despite the fact that his writings "have moved the world of mind and spirit more than all the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and Bacon all combined."
The sacred authors are unlike any others. How strange, for example, that there is no mention of the virgin birth of Christ in Acts; and if we did not also have the gospel of Luke by the same author, the radical critics would be screaming to high heaven that "Luke knew nothing of it!" Nothing? Well, read Luke, second chapter. This teaches Christians to be on guard against deductions based upon the silence of the Holy Scriptures.
Long, and patiently, we have labored in these studies in Acts; and it is with a certain reluctance that we have come to the end of so profitable and delightful a pursuit. We shall honor the immortal J.W. McGarvey by repeating his final words on Acts, thus:
We bid Paul adieu until the resurrection morning, well pleased that the course of the narrative on which we have commented has kept us for so long a time in his company.
 G. H. C. MacGreggor, op. cit., p. 348.
 Everett F. Harrison, op. cit., p. 490.
 A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 325.
 J. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 292.
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Acts 28". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24