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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament
Acts 27



Verse 1

When It was decided. "We" is Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus. God's promise to Paul (Acts 23:11) was being fulfilled, not by a miracle, but by a combination of ordinary human actions. Over to Julius. We know nothing about the other prisoners. All we learn about Julius is favorable. Paul seemed to always be respected by the Roman officials he met. Sergius Paulus, Gallio, Felix, Festus, and Julius are examples of this. The Emperor's Regiment. This could be an honorary title, but it can be taken literally. He was one of a group of Roman soldiers who did "detached duty," transporting prisoners, etc.

Verse 2

We went aboard a ship born Adramyttium. A town on the seacoast of the province of Asia, northeast of Pergamum. There were no regularly scheduled boats, and Paul had to use three to reach Rome. Aristarchus. See note on Colossians 4:10. He and Luke seem to be the only Christians on the boat with Paul.

Verse 3

The next day we arrived at Sidon. About sixty-seven miles north of Caesarea. Note they allowed Paul to visit his friends there. Paul would never be alone, because all Christians were his brothers and sisters - a bond closer than blood-ties!

Verse 4-5

We sailed on the sheltered side. These boats depended on the wind for motive power. They would normally sail west of Cyprus to Patara, about thirty miles west of Myra on the coast of Lycia. But the winds force them to sail to the east of Cyprus, taking the long way around. The wind must have been from the northwest. They are forced to keep close to the coasts of Cilicia and Pamphylia, to use the local land-breezes to bring them to Myra.

Verses 6-8

Found a ship from Alexandria. Alexandria is on the northern coast of Africa. They are headed for Italy. The map shows what distances they were sailing. Acts 27:38 shows they were carrying wheat. Sail slowly. It was 137 miles to Cnidus, on a narrow point of land sticking out from the southern corner of the Province of Asia. Passing by Cape Salmone. On the most eastern point of Crete. Called Safe Harbors. Also known as Fair Havens. Lasea. About four miles east of Safe Harbors. All this reads like the diary of a man who was making the trip, which of course Luke was.

Verses 9-13

We spent a long time there. They were weather-bound, since the wind would not take them the way they must go. The day of Atonement. Ramsay gives this as October 5, 59 A.D. Paul used the Jewish calendar (1 Corinthians 16:8). It would not be strange for Luke to do this also. The storms of winter made sailing dangerous. Since they navigated by the stars, the clouds and darkness of winter would be a real problem. So Paul gave them this advice. What Paul says is not a revelation from God, but practical experience. But the army officer was convinced. He would be expected to listen to the captain and the owner of the ship. Safe Harbors was not the best place to stay, and they decide to make an attempt to reach Phoenix, less than forty miles along the coast to the west. A soft wind from the sooth. This makes them confident of success.

Verses 14-20

But soon a very strong wind. A "Northeaster," blowing from the northeast, down from the island. It was a violent hurricane! They tried to keep the ship headed into it, to ride out the storm. But when this failed, they could do nothing to help themselves. Cauda. Nearly fifty miles out from Phoenix. The ship's boat. They had been towing it. And then fastened some ropes. These were dropped under the ship and then pulled tight with levers to strengthen the wooden hull. The sandbanks. These were on the coast of Africa, southwest of Crete. The sailors were afraid of these. So they lowered the sail. The big main sail would have been lowered already. A small storm sail would still be up. If the ship were pointed north, the wind from the northeast would make it drift west. They were trying to avoid the sandbanks to the southwest of them. So on the next day. This shows how serious their condition is! Lipscomb thinks huge beams and timbers which would be used to repair the ship, were lying on the deck. These would be thrown overboard first. The ship's equipment. Anything loose on the deck that could be thrown overboard, such as ropes, levers, tools, etc. For many days. They could not tell just where they were, because they could not see the sun or the stars, and there were no compasses. Gave up all hope. They know now that Paul's prediction had been true.

Verses 21-26

21-26. A long time without food. The fires were out, the food water soaked, the men too busy, and they were frightened out of their wits by the storm. Paul stood before them. He is calm and firm, as he finds a place where all can hear. You should have listened to me. He is not taunting them nor scolding them. He simply states this fact to help them believe what he is about to say. Take courage. He says the ship will be lost, but no lives. An angel. He has been given a special message direct from God. To whom I belong. Paul was honored to belong to God. He often spoke of himself as "God's slave." This was the key to all Paul's ministry. Don't be afraid, Paul. They are in a horrible storm, the ship is coming to pieces, but God has not forgotten his servant, Paul. You must stand before the Emperor. Paul would survive to carry out his mission. Has given you the lives. Paul had been praying for these people. Compare Genesis 18:23-33.

Verses 27-32

It was the fourteenth night. Since they sailed from Safe Harbors. The storm is still driving them. The area of the Mediterranean Sea to the south of Italy and Greece was once called the Adria. A look at the map shows that after being driven toward the coast of Africa, the wind carries them back north and west, eventually to land on Malta. So they dropped a line. The roar of the surf may have alerted them. They measure the depth of the water and find they are coming to land. They were afraid. In the light of day, they could steer through the rocks. They drop four anchors, because the ship is very heavy. The sailors tried to escape. They were willing to allow the others to drown. But for the safety of all, they had to stay on the ship. Paul calls this to the attention of the Roman soldiers, and they take direct action.

Verses 33-38

Paul begged them all to eat some food. He seems to have taken charge of things in this crisis. They had eaten nothing for a long time (Acts 27:21), and were weak from hunger. Not even a hair of your heads will be lost. The angel had assured him of this. After saying this. Paul puts his words into action. He takes bread, gives thanks to God so that all can hear, broke off a piece, and began to eat. They took courage. Paul's calm example strengthens their belief of what he has told them. Two hundred and seventy-six of us on board. This shows how large the ship was. [Josephus says there were about 600 in the ship that took him to Italy.] They lightened the ship. In order to go as far up on the beach as possible, the cargo of wheat is taken out of the hold and thrown into the sea. In Acts 27:18 it was the cargo on deck, or at least only a part of the cargo. Egypt then exported much grain to Italy.

Verses 39-44

A bay with a beach. This would be the safest place to run aground. These sailors may have landed on Malta many times before, but did not recognize this part of the coast. So they out off the anchors. They wanted the ship to be as light as possible. The steering oars. The two paddle-rudders which these ships steered by. They had to use these to steer into the bay. Then they raised the sail. Only the small sail at the front of the ship would help in these circumstances. But the ship hit a sandbank. This is a bank or ridge washed up by two seas coming together. The bay turned out to be a narrow channel not more than 300 feet wide, between the island of Salmonetta and the coast of Malta. The ship stuck on the sandbar and the violence of the waves break the ship in pieces. To kill all the prisoners. Roman soldiers would rather kill a prisoner than allow him to escape. But guards who lost their prisoners were killed themselves (see note on Acts 16:27). This shows their attitude toward human life. But the army officer. This man shows a different character. He had treated Paul with respect, and he may now feel some sense of awe toward the one who said his God promised their lives would not be lost, He issues orders for them to abandon ship. They all reach shore safely. This was not Paul's first shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:25). Scholars say Luke's description of the storm and shipwreck accurately show conditions on the ancient sea.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 27:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

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