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Acts Chapter 27
An Understandable Version of ACTS
Translation by William E. Paul
by Charles Dailey

(Black underlined words match words in the Bible text.)
Note from Charles Dailey: The late David Davis took Acts from me at Northwest College of the Bible. He had been a man of the sails, racing as far as Hawaii.
David headed a three man crew on a 37 foot sailboat that was caught in a hurricane 150 miles off the shore of Mexico.
His comments on the text were taken from an audio tape provided by his wife Corrinne following his death by cancer in 1998.
– Luke changes his pace abruptly. Instead of showing Paul standing before judges and kings, he shows him standing before pagans through difficulties on the way to Rome and Caesar.
While the author was along, he refers to himself only indirectly in the whole frightening experience. His experience with nautical terms shows that he had been a world traveler. Some believe that he had once been a ship's doctor.
1) And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and certain other prisoners to the custody of a military officer named Julius, of the Augustan battalion. – This was undoubtedly a decision made by Roman officials. The promise of the Lord that Paul would witness to Caesar is entering another phase.
- Luke is with Paul on this trip to Rome. He could have published his Gospel According to Luke before leaving.
- Julius may have been stationed in Caesarea for a while and had developed confidence in Paul. See verse 3.
2) We boarded a ship [originating] from Adramyttium which was ready to sail [from here in Caesarea], heading out to sea for parts of the coast of [the province of] Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us. – Adramyttium was a ship-building center and the ship was headed back to home port.
- This was a coastal ship. They generally put into port at night.
- Aristarchus has accompanied Paul to Jerusalem. 20:4. Paul called him a "fellow-prisoner" when he wrote Colossians 4:10 from Rome.
3) The next day we stopped at Sidon [i.e., a seaport on the northwest coast of Palestine]. Julius treated Paul with kindness, [even] giving him the opportunity to meet his friends [there] and receive help [from them]. – Sidon is 70 miles north of Caesarea.
- If Julius had known Paul for a while, we can understand why he took the professional risk in releasing him to visit. Remember, Paul is an unconvicted prisoner.
- Undoubtedly his friends are the Christians in Sidon.
- Perhaps he needed food or clothing or a haircut.
4) We headed out to sea from there and sailed along the sheltered side of Cyprus because the wind was against us. – This time, they left the security of the coast.
- It must not have been "normal" weather this year for they encountered different wind than they had expected.
- Their ancient sailing ships required the wind be behind them. Today's sailing ships can face the wind.
5) When we had sailed across the sea, off [the coast of] Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, [a town] of Lycia. – They reached Myra on the mainland of Asia.
- There is a link to sights at Myra at
6) There Julius, the military officer, arranged [passage] for us on a ship, [originating] from Alexandria, [and] bound for Italy, and put us on board. – Julius either booked passage on - or commandeered - a wheat ship traveling from Egypt, the breadbasket, to Italy.
- See the smaller Alexandrian grain ship drawing on page 2.
- David Davis believes the ship was 45' by 180' and carried 1,200 tons of wheat.
7) When we had sailed slowly for many days [and] had trouble passing Cnidus because of an unfavorable wind, we sailed on the sheltered side of Crete and on past Salmone. – Time was passing and it was getting late in the sailing season. Soon it would be dangerous to be out on the high seas.
- They avoided the rough water by letting the land shelter the ship.
8) After making our way along the coast [of Crete] with difficulty, we arrived at a place called Fair Harbors [i.e., the principal seaport of the island], which was near the town of Lasea. – Lasea was and is about five miles from Fair Harbors Bay.
- As it turns out, this was their last hope to save their ship. But they didn't know it. The ship's owner expected payment for one more load of wheat this season, so he took chances.
- About this time, Paul had warned them not to leave Crete. See his own comment in verse 21.
9) After much time had passed, the voyage became more dangerous because it was [now] past the Day of Atonement [Note: This would have been around September or October, when a sea voyage involved rough sailing]. So, Paul began warning the people [aboard ship], – Dangerous is a nautical term meaning that you sail at your own risk from September 14 - November 11. After that, sailing on this part of the Mediterranean was against the law.
- Luke pegs the date to the Jewish Day of Atonement in late fall.
- warning is the word of advice a doctor gives to his patients.
10) saying, "Sirs, I can see that this voyage will result in suffering and much loss, not only to the ship and its cargo, but also to our [very] lives." – Paul is an old hand at shipwrecks by now. 2 Corinthians 11:25 was written before this event. There he mentions three other shipwrecks.
- The cargo includes the precious wheat.
- At this report, their lives were in danger, but Paul hadn't prayed yet.
11) But the military officer paid more attention to the captain and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul was saying. – Julius had treated Paul well, but he did not pay adequate attention to his advice. But the professionals had it wrong and the Lord's man had it right.
12) And, because the harbor was not suitable for staying in all winter, most of those on board were in favor of putting out to sea from there. They were hoping to reach Phoenix, [another] harbor on [the island of] Crete, which faced northwest and southwest, and [then] to spend the winter there. – What do you do with 276 people and a long walk to the nearest town?
- The majority had decided to leave this safe harbor, but they were wrong, too.
- Did they vote?
- Their goal was not Rome, but just to reach Phoenix for the winter. Four good hours would have been sufficient.
13) When the south wind began to blow gently, they raised anchor, thinking this was the opportunity they had hoped for, [then] sailed close to the coastline of [southern] Crete. – This desirable south wind was deceptively brief.
- They thought they "had it made."
- This was only a three or four hour trip.
14) But a short time later, a violent northeasterly wind they called "Euraquilo" swept down, – The Greek text uses typhoon.
- Wind swept down from 7,000 foot Mt. Ida on Crete.
- Euraquilo was a sailor's term.
15) and when the ship was caught [by it], we were not able to face the wind, so had to give in and allow the ship to drift. – There was no way forward and no way back to Fair Harbors.
16) Then, sailing on the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, we experienced difficulty in trying to secure the ship's life-boat. – They took advantage of the sheltered seas to bring the normally trailing boat on board. This was a large boat used to unload the main craft in harbors. It may have been 45' long.
- Luke and other passengers may have worked on getting the boat out of the water and on to the deck.
17) And when they [finally] got the boat hoisted up, they slung [rope] cables underneath [and around] the hull [of the ship to reinforce it]. Then, fearing the ship would run aground on the [shifting], shallow sandbar [called] Syrtis, they lowered their [navigation] gear [Note: This may have been sails, rigging, etc.] and so were driven [as a derelict by the wind]. – They "bandaged" the ship with ropes. It must have been showing signs of leaking.
- As late as World War II, U.S. ships were lost in this area due to the bad weather.
- They rightly feared the North African coast and its quicksand.
- lowered their gear - several translations suggest sea anchor. This was a device that may have been shaped like a giant windsock and pulled behind to slow the ship to the speed of the waves rather than surfing with the speed of the wind. Freighters were not designed to surf from wave to wave.
18) As we were being severely battered by the storm, they began the next day to throw the cargo overboard [i.e., to lighten the ship]. – The waves may have been as high as the ship was wide.
- Jettisoning cargo would allow the ship to ride higher in the water. Lives are more important now than loads. But they did not throw over main paying cargo of wheat - yet.
19) On the third day, they handed [the rest of] the ship's gear to each other, and threw it overboard [Note: This was perhaps furniture, rigging, sails, baggage, etc.]. – This is the third day out of Fair Harbors.
- The gear was thrown overboard in fire-brigade style.
20) When they could see neither the sun nor the stars for many days [due to the storm], and with the wind blowing furiously on them, they gave up all hope of [ever] being saved. – They reckoned their position by the sun and stars, so they did not know exactly where they were since the heavenly bodies could not be seen.
- Seemingly Luke did not give up hope. They did.
21) When they had gone without food for a long time, Paul stood in the middle of the crew and spoke, "Men, you should have listened to me and not sailed from Crete and thereby have to experience such suffering and loss. – They had food on board because It was a grain ship. See verses 35-38. They had lost their appetites.
- Paul the prisoner puts his counsel into historical perspective.
22) But, now I want to encourage you to cheer up, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only the ship [will be lost]. – They are ready to listen now.
- This was bad news for the owner of the ship, but good news for the passengers and crew.
23) For an angel from God, to whom I belong and whom I serve, appeared to me last night, – Paul's source of information: An angel of God. This is a direct revelation. - He specifies which God because most present are pagans.
24) saying, 'Do not be afraid Paul, for you must appear before Caesar, and look, God will grant you [the safety of] all these men aboard ship [along] with yourself.' – Paul must have feared, too. He had been praying for himself and for the rest of the passengers and crew. The Lord granted his request. Compare Paul's earlier comments in verse 10 where he warned of loss of life.
- Paul is reminded of his assignment: to preach to Caesar. That means he will survive this storm. And so will the rest.
25) So men, cheer up, for I believe God, that everything will turn out just as I was told it would. –Paul exudes courage when others are despairing.
- Losing the ship while saving those onboard seems unlikely.
- Faith accepts what God says even if we can't see how it will work out. Note that Paul says "I believe God," not "I believe in God" as some translations have it.
26) But we must be washed onto the shore of a certain island." – The Lord will provide a new audience for Paul. We know now that it was the Island of Malta.
27) When the fourteenth night came, and while we were being tossed around [helplessly] in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the crew suspected they were nearing land. – This is the 14th day since leaving Fair Harbor. - At the time, the Adriatic Sea described the central Mediterranean Sea. See Josephus, Life 3.4 where he is shipwrecked in the Adriatic going from Caesarea to Rome. - The crew could hear breakers on rocks about midnight. Sailors report they can smell land, also.
28) So, they tested for depth and found [they were in] 120 feet [of water]. Then a little later they tested again and found it to be 90 feet. – The ocean floor is rising toward land!
29) So, fearing the possibility of being run aground on a rocky shore, they dropped four anchors from the stern and longed for daylight [to come]. – They had been hearing the waves hitting rocks.
- They did all within their power to slow the ship so they could handle the beaching of the craft in daylight.
30) The crew had [by now] lowered the life-boat into the water, pretending to be dropping anchors from the bow, [but were in reality] attempting to abandon ship. – The sea-going professionals wanted to escape and leave the passengers to drown. They did not believe Paul or his Lord.
- This is the same boat that was brought on board in vs. 17.
- The crew would be needed to cope with the coming crisis.
31) Paul said to the military officer [Julius] and to his soldiers, "Unless these men stay aboard the ship, none of you will be saved." – Paul's leadership surfaces again. He remains calm where others have panicked.
- He used one group (soldiers) to control another group (sailors), just as he did before the Sanhedrin.
32) So, the soldiers cut the ropes securing the life-boat and let it drift away. – "They won't try that again." Now they are indeed all in the same boat together!
33) As it was dawning, Paul urged them [i.e., crew, soldiers and probably passengers] to eat something, saying, "You have been waiting for fourteen days [for the weather to break] and you have continued to fast [all that time], eating nothing [at all]. – Now it's time for everyone to have breakfast. They will need all of their strength when daylight comes and the shoreline is visible.
- Paul knows he is to reach Rome to preach to Caesar.
34) I urge you to eat some food; it will be for your own good, for not one hair from anyone's head will be lost." – This prisoner is taking charge again.
- not one hair . . . A proverbial statement saying that every last person would survive. That should make them feel like eating.
35) And when he had said this he took bread, gave thanks to God for it in front of everyone, then broke it and began to eat. – Paul modeled the right course of action himself. He prayed audibly and had breakfast.
- Paul was not intimidated by the pagans around him. He used the opportunity to credit the God of Heaven for providing food and hope of safety.
36) Then they were all encouraged and they themselves took something to eat also. – They snapped out of their depression and had breakfast along with Paul.
37) (The total number of us aboard the ship was 276 persons). – Josephus the historian had been on a ship that went down just two years later with 600 on board.
38) And when they had eaten sufficiently, they began lightening the ship [so it would float higher] by throwing their wheat overboard. – The crew was fed and cooperative. Everything goes overboard now. They needed maximum freeboard so they could beach the craft closer to shore.
- Imagine the tossing and pitching of the ship. Did they unload the wheat fire-brigade style also?
39) When it got daylight they saw an island they did not recognize, but noticed [it had] a particular bay with a [suitable] beach. So, they discussed whether it would be possible to run the ship aground on the beach. – They were 10 miles west of Valetta, Malta.
- Today this is named St. Paul's Bay. It is a tourist attraction with numerous hotels.
- A beach as opposed to a rocky shoreline.
40) [Finally] they cut the ropes, dropping the anchors into the water and at the same time they released the oars used for steering. Then they hoisted the bow-sail to the wind and headed [straight] for the beach. – A craft on the beach doesn't need anchors so they chopped the ropes that held the anchors.
- They needed their steering oars (like a rudder) and bow-sail so they could hit the beach as hard and high as possible.
- The tiller had been lashed to the straight-ahead position.
- This is where the experienced sailors were needed. Had they left, the preacher, physician and troops would not have known how to work the equipment.
41) Landing where two [strong] currents met, the ship ran aground, its bow lodging [in the sand] while its stern began to break up from the driving surf – They had nearly reached land. The water was shallower here.
- They hit the reef that protected the bay from high waves.
42) [Meanwhile] the soldiers had decided to kill the prisoners so that none of them would swim away and escape. – Traditional discipline: the soldiers would have to pay the penalty of the prisoners, so they planned to kill them.
- Yesterday the sailors planned to cruelly abandon the ship. Now it is the soldiers' turn for cruelty.
43) But the military officer, wanting to save Paul [from being killed], prevented them from doing this. [Instead] he ordered those who could swim to jump overboard and be the first to reach land. – Where is any gratitude for getting them all to land? Julius had some.
- For the sake of one righteous man, Julius spared all of the prisoners. See God's dealings to save Paul.
- The soldiers that could, swam to shore to make sure that no prisoners escaped.
44) The rest [he reasoned] could reach shore by floating on planks or other debris from the ship. And so it happened that all of them escaped safely to land. – God provided for the non-swimmers, too, fulfilling verses 22-24.
- All were saved by the power of Paul's prayers plus doing their best.
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