Acts 28 – Paul Arrives in Rome

On Paul’s journey to Rome, his ship was wrecked on Melita, or Malta. There he was bit by a poisonous snake, but he didn’t die (Acts 27:39–28:6)

Luke picked up the account after the shipwreck, where they learned that the island they had safely reached is called Malta.  He said that the natives were kind and welcoming, and even helped them with a fire.  But a snake came out because of the heat, and fastened himself to Paul’s hand.  The sight of the deadly creature hanging from his limb just after he had been rescued from a life-threatening shipwreck made them suppose that he must be a murderer, getting his just reward (Greek and Roman tales had long spoken of just such events – “The Argonautica”, for example).  But God was certainly not going to let anything happen to him.  When he neither died nor showed any ill effects from the bite, they then thought Paul himself to be a god.

Publius in verse 7, is described as a “chief man” – the Greek term for which is “protos,” of which term several inscriptions have been found.  Several references to Publius and this chapter, along with photographs can be found in this article at BiblePlaces.com.  Publius’ father was ill with fever and dysentery (the description of which ills fit those of an infection caused by goat’s milk called “Malta fever”).  Paul healed him, as well as others of the island with diseases that were brought to him afterward (verses 8-9).

The shipwreck occurred on Malta, where the ship’s company spent three months. Finally, another ship gave them passage for the 100 miles to Syracuse, capital of Sicily, then sailed on to Rhegium, finally dropping anchor at Puteoli. Paul was taken to the forum on the Appian Way and to The Three Taverns before arriving in Rome.

After three months, they again set sail in a ship from Alexandria that had been wintering there.  Luke describes the ship as having a figurehead of the “twin gods” (Castor and Pollux, the mythological twin sons of Zeus and Leda, were seen as the protectors of seamen).  They put in at Syracuse for three days, then ended up in Puteoli, where they stayed with brethren they had found for seven days, then to Rome.  The brethren there heard, and came from as far away as “The Three Taverns” and the “Forum of Appius” (hence, the name, the Appian Way) (verses 12-16).

Paul spent considerable time preaching and trying to convince the Jews there of the good news of Jesus through the words of Moses and the prophets.  Some believed, but others did not – the latter leaving disagreeably (verses 23-25).  Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to them in verses 26-27; and then told them that now this news of the salvation of God will be brought to the Gentiles, for they will listen.

Verses 30-31 close out the book of Acts with the word that Paul remained there two full years, at his own expense, “teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.”  No further word is given of Paul’s appearance before Caesar, or any confirmation of secular writings that suggest he fulfilled his desire to go and preach in Spain, nor of a second imprisonment before his martyrdom.  As much as we would like to know of the rest of Paul’s story, the inspired word of God does not tell us because the book of Acts is not Paul’s biography, but the word “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

So, one might wonder, if it was so important for Paul to appear before Caesar, why is there nearly a chapter and a half about the journey and shipwreck, and not a word about what was so important about that appearance?  The answer is that first, God had some reason for Paul to go to stand before Caesar that fulfilled His purpose, but there have been countless events since creation important to Him that are not  important for us to know about for teaching, for reproof, for correction, or for training in righteousness.  But the journey and shipwreck teach a couple of important lessons.  One is that when God wants something done, it gets done, period!  Nothing will stop it from completion.  The other is that God, as we have seen since Genesis, always keeps His promises.  Paul was imprisoned, betrayed, the target of assassination, 2,000 miles away from his destination, shipwrecked, stranded on an island, and had a deadly snake bite him severely enough to have hung from his hand.  Yet God wanted him to be in Rome, and had promised that he would get there safely.  We can take comfort, knowing that His will is going to be done, and that He has promised salvation for His faithful.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Acts 27 – Paul Sails for Rome / Shipwreck

Once again, Luke begins the chapter speaking in the first person plural, indicating that he was with Paul all the way to Rome as they set sail for Italy.  The centurion, Julius, that Paul and the other prisoners were delivered to is said to have been “of the Augustan Cohort.”  A cohort generally consisted of six hundred men under the command of six centurions.  However, auxiliary forces of the cohort could push the numbers up to a thousand men.  The cohorts were given names – this one likely given the name for the imperially dedicated regiment founded by the emperor, Augustus, who reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD.

Map of Paul’s second missionary journey (shown to illustrate location of Mysia)

Don’t get confused by verse 2’s statement “embarking in a ship of Adramyttium.”  The ship was from Adramyttium (the Latin name for Edremit), an ancient port city of Mysia in the Roman province of Asia Minor (see first map), near present-day Edremit – Turkey.  But it was carrying them from their starting point in Caesarea – the next stop being Sidon (see second map).  Aristarchus, mentioned as accompanying them in the same verse, is one of the disciples that was dragged into the theater during the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:29).

Verse 9’s “the Fast” refers to the Day of Atonement, which would have been in October.  From this time to about April, Meditteranean sailing is (and was) most dangerous; and Paul was already warning them that the voyage would result in “injury and much loss” (verse 10).  But the centurion sided with the captain and the rest of the crew, who judged the harbor at Fair Havens to be unsuitable for the winter.  So they decided to try to make it to “Phoenix, a harbor of Crete,” (probably present day Phineka Bay) to spend the winter.  This was, after all, a 2,000 mile voyage to Rome.

Paul began his 2,000 mile trip to Rome at Caesarea. To avoid the open seas, the ship followed the coastline. At Myra, Paul was put on a vessel bound for Italy. It arrived with difficulty at Cnidus, then went to Crete, landing at the port of Fair Havens. The next stop was Phoenix, but the ship was blown south around the island of Cauda, then drifted for two weeks until it was shipwrecked on the island of Malta.

When a northeaster – a fearsome storm – arrived, it tossed them about so badly that they began jettisoning cargo and tossing the ship’s “tackle” overboard (the tackle may have been the beam supporting the ship’s mainsail).  Most had lost hope when Paul told them that “an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship” had appeared and told him not to be afraid – that he must stand before Caesar, so they would all be spared.  But, he told them, they would have to run the ship aground on “some island”  (verse 26).

The mention of the men taking a “sounding” refers to measuring the depth of the water by use of a “sounding line.”  When they found that they were nearing land, the sailors (afraid of the ship hitting rocks) were lowering boats to abandon ship under the pretense of laying anchors.  But Paul warned the centurion, saying that they would not make it if the sailors left the ship.  So the soldiers cut the boats loose from the ship to prevent escape.

Having conserved all they could, the fourteenth day without having eaten approached, and Paul urged them all to eat, in order to gather their strength.  He did so himself, giving thanks to God; and they were encouraged, and all ate some.  There were 276 aboard (verse 27) – about the right amount for the vessel to have been a large grain ship , meaning it was probably not worthy of such a voyage.

Verses 39-44 detail the horrific shipwreck on the reefs, and the escape to land that all of them made safely, hanging on to the wreckage.  Verses 42-43 tell us that the soldiers had planned to kill the prisoners, so that none could escape.  But the centurion, wishing to save Paul, prevented them.  God had, as always, made good on his promise to save them.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.