We begin this article with a quote from Coffman’s Commentary…
PAUL’S VOYAGE TO ROME:
This great chapter is an immortal work of the inspired Luke, worthy in every way as one of the great narrations in all literature, giving, as Dummelow said, “The most detailed account of an ancient voyage which we possess, and is our principal source of knowledge of the ancient art of navigation.” Even scholars inclined to be critical here confess that “Luke’s whole account may be assumed to be accurate and entirely trustworthy.”
Throughout this chapter to the very end, chapter 28, Luke continues to us the plural “we.” This means he was present although there is no indication Luke was ever on trial, a prisoner, or the center of attraction subject to Sanhedrin scorn. It helps to remember that Luke was NOT a Jew or from any of the other eleven Tribes of Israel. He was a doctor and a Gentile who scribes for and traveled with Paul. He was the only non-Israeli to write any of the books of the Bible. Any person who is anti-Semite yet claims to believe in the entirety of the Bible is quite conflicted.
Paul was not the only prisoner aboard this ship… “they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius” (Acts 27:1).
Not too amusing but of historical significance, it was not uncommon for prisoners in other provinces of Rome to be shipped to Rome for the “entertainment” of Roman audiences in the arena. This could be for the famous Lions of prey or for Roman Gladiators to practice their art for the audiences. What a sad and Satanic cruelness. People play with or make light the realities of Satan but do not understand his application throughout history.
They board ship in Acts 27:1 with other prisoners and possibly passengers. After all, Luke was with Paul and went to Rome with Paul. Prisoners at the time were sometimes used as rowers chained to their job at the oars. Every good reason to maintain a stable voyage, but this chapter points out the significance of this comment.
Paul, although a prisoner in the sense of pending trial in Rome, is allowed to disembark and visit friends at ports of call. 27:3 states…”we put in [their ship] at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. Julias was the prisoner charge officer aboard ship; a centurion of the Augustan Cohort or duty soldiers. At verse 6 the prisoners are transferred to a ship already bound for Italy.
Several times Luke mentions that the winds [verses 4, 7, 8, 9, & 10] are an issue to the ship. It is a prelude to pending disaster. Paul warns the ship’s masters and helmsman of the seas eerie waters. Paul states in Acts 27:10… “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.“
But the ship’s Centurion paid no attention to Paul’s warning. Due to the many delays and traveling against the cautioning winds, they sought a winter harbor other than Fair Havens. It was not a suitable harbor to port up in for the winter winds and weather.
Act 27:13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore.
Act 27:14 But soon a tempestuous wind, called the *northeaster, struck down from the land.
Act 27:15 And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.
*Northeasters are dangerous winds even in the Americas including by land and by sea.
The next several verses explains our opening quote as to the travels and dangers so vividly described by Luke in writing the Book of Acts. The Believers Bible Commentary puts it this way.
“They tied cables around the hull of the ship to keep it from being torn apart by the heavy seas. They greatly feared they would be driven south to Syrtis, a gulf on the coast of Africa noted for its dangerous shoals. To prevent this, they struck sail and so were driven. A very real concern as to the known nautical facts of the Mediterranean Sea.
By the third a day of this leg of the journey, they began throwing things overboard to lighten their load; cargo, ship’s tackle, anything but people. Finally Paul after a long struggle to keep his tongue in check and watching the foolishness of this ship’s crew, he lets loose. I warned you in Crete not to venture out this late in the season. You refused my insight (via God). Why do we say via God? In Acts 27:23 Paul proclaims: “For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”
There is a sense of humor, if one would call it that, when Paul assures the crew that all will be well because he is assured by God he will stand trial before Caesar, they will be ship wrecked, the ship will be torn timber from deck and all will need to swim ashore. Other than that and being stranded for awhile, all will be just fine.
On the fourteenth night of battling winter winds on the Adriatic Sea, they sense that they are being blown toward land. They drop the four drag anchors and pray for daylight since it was midnight at this time. Then the old trick of “going for help” but intending to save their own skins alone, they set out the rescue boats under the pretense of “laying out the anchors from the bow.” Apparently it was just the ship’s sailor who were trying to escape in the ONE lifeboat. Paul tells the Centurion guard what is going on and that unless the sailors stay with the boat, they would die in the storm seas [Acts 27:31]. The soldiers cut away the ropes to the lifeboat so all will be forced to stay aboard…now finally following Paul’s directions.
They had all been so busy trying to survive the Mediterranean Sea storm, none had eaten. Paul tells them to “take bread” as they will need it shortly after being washed ashore… “for not a h air will be lost or perish.”
What happens next is amazing. All 276 people on board, believed Paul, stopped worrying, ate food, and in the presence of all, gave thanks to God and ate. They quickly followed suit, all but their own thanksgiving prayers that is. “Now after they had eaten, they tossed the ship’s load of wheat overboard.” The next move of the ship’s crew is normal protocol for any ship in a similar situation. They cut anchors, loosed the tied rudder, set sail with the wind and tried for the shoreline they could now see. Beaching the ship was their intent.
Not to happen! With the assurance Paul had given them a few verses earlier, they could have set back, let the band play on, and still be safe to the last person. They came upon a shoal or offshore reef. The ship started being torn apart plank by plank. Next move, kill the prisoners if at all possible just in case one or more escapes. What a call to duty the Roman soldiers were. Paul was now in charge. First he ordered the soldiers not to kill anyone. The word used by Luke to command or order in Greek is keleuō. It means to give instructions to “do it now.”
First the swimmers dove in and swam to shore. Then those who could not swim grabbed hold of a floating board from the ship’s hull. Next those who hesitated had to take hold of any floating part of the ship that no longer remained below their feet. The ship was totally destroy. This may have been the first surf board race recorded in history. Everyone’s goal was to ride the surf to shore. According to the ESV: and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
Rev Dr. Jstark