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Bible Commentaries
Acts 27

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

Travelling in a Ship of Adramyttium

Though no guilt had been ascribed to Paul, he had appealed to Caesar. So, Festus, along with Agrippa and Bernice, delivered the apostle and some other prisoners into the hands of a centurion named Julius. Luke went along on this journey to Italy and noted the officer was of the Augustan Regiment, which Ash says was a tenth part of a legion of 6,000 soldiers. The ship they boarded was either flagged out of Adramyttium, located in northwest Turkey, or it was bound there. In either case, Luke told Theophilus that Aristarchus, whose home was in Thessalonica, was with them ( Act_27:1-2 ; Act_19:29 ; Act_20:4 ; Col_4:10 ).

Their first stop was in Sidon, where Julius gave Paul the special privilege of visiting his friends and being refreshed by them. Rather than sailing due west against the wind, the ship's captain sailed northward, using Cyprus as a shelter. The next stop, Myra in Lycia, was frequently used as a port in the Egyptian wheat trade, so Julius looked for a ship bound for Rome ( Act_27:3-5 ).

Verses 6-12

Traveling in an Alexandrian Ship

The ship Julius found was out of Alexandria and bound for Italy. Likely, this ship was part of a large, government regulated, commercial fleet of ships which carried much needed grain to the world's capitol. Julius, Paul and the rest of their company boarded that ship. It sailed, against a late summer, northwesterly wind, for the port of Cnidus. The wind was so unfavorable that the captain sailed along the southern shore of Crete. When they finally reached the port of Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea, a decision had to be made as to the course to be pursued.

Luke noted that the Fast, or Day of Atonement, was now over, so it was around October 1. Paul advised them not to attempt further travel at such a dangerous time of year. In fact, Bruce says "the Mediterranean was not safe for ancient vessels after September 15 until about March 15." The apostle's concern was not just for the cargo but also the lives of those on board. Yet, Julius was inclined to listen more closely to the words of the ship's pilot and the owner than to Paul. The majority of those on board hoped to reach Phoenix and its more accommodating harbor ( Act_27:6-12 ).

Verses 13-38

Troubles Seas

When a soft, south wind began to blow, it was assumed they could easily reach Phoenix within a day, so they set sail. Apparently, they made good headway as they travelled along close to shore. However, a northeaster blew up and ended all hope of reaching a safe harbor as they had to let the ship be driven by the will of the wind. When the ship reached the shelter of an island called Clauda, the sailors, with the help of Luke and some other passengers, secured the skiff which had likely been allowed to trail the ship because they planned to use it to go ashore at Phoenix. The sailors passed cables under the ship to strengthen it against the stormy sea and let the ship drift without aid of sail for fear of being shipwrecked on the shoal west of Cyrene, which was called Syrtis.

The violent seas continued the next day, so the sailors began to throw the cargo overboard. The following day, they threw the tackle overboard as well. Since they could not see the sun or stars, navigation was impossible and crew and passengers gave up hope of living. At this point, Paul reminded them of his earlier warning, possibly to give more credibility to his next words, and then began to reassure them. He said the ship would be lost but God, through an angel, had promised to answer his prayers by saving every life on board. He did tell them they would run aground on an island.

On the fourteenth night, as they were tossed about in the Adriatic Sea, the sailors sensed they were coming close to land. They took soundings and, realizing they might hit the rocks, cast four anchors off the stern and prayed for daylight. The sailors let down the skiff as they pretended to put out more anchors. However, Paul warned Julius that he could not be saved without the sailors on board, so the centurion commanded his soldiers to cut away the ropes to the skiff and let it fall away. Just before dawn, Paul urged all on board to eat and reassured them not one hair on their heads would be harmed. While they all watched, he took some bread, prayed and began to eat. They were encouraged and all 276 on board likewise ate. They then cast the rest of the grain overboard ( Act_27:13-38 ).

Verses 39-44


As day broke, it became clear why Paul had said the sailors needed to stay on board. Though they did not recognize the land which stood nearby, they did know how to guide the ship toward a bay with a beach which they could see. They let go of the anchors, cut loose the rudders' ropes and hoisted the mainsail. Before the ship reached shore, it stuck fast in a sandbar formed by the swirling waters caused by the merging of two seas. The prow stuck firm but the stern began to break apart in the rough seas. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners so that none could escape, but Luke says Julius wanted to save Paul so he forbid this course of action. Instead, all who could swim were told to make their way to shore while the rest used boards and broken pieces of ship to help them float ashore. Just as God's angel had promised, not a single life was lost ( Act_27:39-44 )!

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 27". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-27.html. 2014.
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