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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Acts 27

 

 

Verse 1

1 And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band.

Ver. 1. It was determined] First by God, Acts 23:11, and then by the ordinary magistrate guided by God.


Verse 2

2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.

Ver. 2. One Aristarchus, &c.] St Paul’s fellow traveller first, and then fellow prisoner too, yea, fellow worker unto the kingdom of God, and a great comfort to him, Colossians 4:10-11, Acts 19:29; Acts 20:4, Optimum solatium, sodalitium. The best comfort was his co-workers. Therefore David so bewails the loss of Jonathan. St Paul counts it a singular mercy to him that Epaphroditus recovered, Philippians 2:27. And St John found himself furthered and quickened by the graces of the elect lady, 2 John 1:12.


Verse 3

3 And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself.

Ver. 3. Liberty to go to his friend] A great favour: there is no small comfort in the communion of saints. This heathen persecutors knew, and therefore banished and confined the Christians to isles and mines, where they could not have access one to another. (Cyprian.)


Verse 4

4 And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.

Ver. 4. Because the winds, &c.] The Straits of Magellan is such a place, that which way soever a man bendeth his course (saith one) he shall be sure to have the wind against him.


Verse 5

5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.

Ver. 5. And when we had sailed] These things are therefore particularly set down, that we may see Paul’s perils by sea no less than by land; and say with Solomon, "No man knoweth either love or hatred" by all that befalleth him, Ecclesiastes 9:1. {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 9:1"}


Verse 6

6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.

Ver. 6. Sailing into Italy] To show that they had a terrible tempestuous time of it all along, from Sidon to Malta. So have the saints of God here, for the most part, ab utero ad urnam, from the womb to the tomb, from the birth to the burial. This made Solomon prefer his coffin before his cradle, Ecclesiastes 7:1, yea, before his crown; as Queen Elizabeth also did; for indeed, this life is pestered with so many miseries and molestations, satanical and secular, that it were to be accounted little better than hell were it not for the hopes of heaven, that sweetest harbour and haven of happiness. (Bernard.)


Verse 7

7 And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;

Ver. 7. Salmone] A high cliff of Crete. See Strabo, lib. ii., and the use of geography and other sciences, to the better understanding of the Scriptures.


Verse 8

8 And, hardly passing it, came unto a place which is called The fair havens; nigh whereunto was the city of Lasea.

Ver. 8. Called The fair havens] Which name it retains also at this day, Calos Limenas: for better cause, I believe, than the sea called Pacific, or calm, which Sir Francis Drake ever found rough and troublous above measure.


Verse 9

9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,

Ver. 9. Now when much time was spent] Not spilt; for that Paul was not idle all that while, see Titus 1:5, and Beza’s annotations thereupon. Nolite tempus in nugis conterere, Do not waste time on trifles, saith one. Time is a precious commodity. Of all other possessions a man may have two at once; but two moments of time together no man could ever have. Therefore Cato held, that a wise man should be able tam otii quam negotii rationem reddere, to give an account of his leisure as well as of his labour. (Cic. de Senectute.) Nullus mihi per otium dies exit, saith Seneca, I spend no day idly. And Pliny said to his nephew when he saw him walk out some hours without studying, Poteras has horas non perdere, You might have better bestowed your time. The common complaint is, we lack time; but the truth is, we do not so much lack it as waste it; Non parum habemus temporis, sed multum perdimus. (Sen.)

Because the fast was now past] The Jews’ yearly fast, Leviticus 23:27, which occured in the seventh month, that answereth to our October, when navigation is dangerous. This yearly fast (or feast of expiation, as it is called) was instituted, that they that had committed heinous offences worthy of death, and could not by offering up particular sacrifices for them, and confessing them, but hazard the loss of their lives, might have this day of expiation for all their sins whatsoever; God of his goodness so providing for the worst of his people.


Verse 10

10 And said unto them, Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives.

Ver. 10. But also of our lives] Which every creature, from the highest angel to the lowest worm, maketh much of. Why is living man sorrowful? Lamentations 3:39. As if the prophet should say, He hath cause to rejoice that he is yet alive amidst all his sorrows. A living dog is better than a dead lion. "Joseph is yet alive." This was more worth to Jacob than all Joseph’s honour. It is the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed. Skin for skin, &c. It should not be grievous to any man to sacrifice his estate to the service of his life.


Verse 11

11 Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul.

Ver. 11. Nevertheless the centurion] Profane persons, trusting more to their own carnal wisdom than to God’s word, cast themselves wilfully into the greatest dangers. Believe the prophets, and ye shall prosper. The wicked pass on and are punished, Proverbs 22:3. We cannot get men to believe, till they feel, as Pharaoh.


Verse 12

12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.

Ver. 12. And lieth toward the south-west] It is a just complaint that a modern writer maketh of many men’s spirits among us today; that they lie like this haven, toward the south-west and north-west, two opposite points. (Mr Burroughs, Heart Div.) Methinks it should lie heavy upon those men’s spirits that first divided us, by publishing and pressing their new fangled fancies.


Verse 13

13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.

Ver. 13. Supposing that they had, &c.] God maketh many times the strongest sinew of the arm of flesh to crack.

" Fallitur augurio spes bona saepe suo."


Verse 14

14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.

Ver. 14. Called Euroclydon] A stormy blast coming from the east,

" Una Eurusque Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis

Africus, et vastos volvunt ad littora fluctus."

(Virg. Aeneid. ii. 28.) This wind is by Pliny called Navigantium pestis, the mariner’s misery. How happy is the Church to whom, what wind soever bloweth, blows good and comfort, Song of Solomon 4:16. As for others, like as here, after a soft south wind arose Euroclydon; so to them after a false peace will be a sad storm, Tranquillitas ista tempestas erit.


Verse 15

15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

Ver. 15. Could not bear up] Or direct the eye against the wind, could not look it in the face. There is an elegance in the original, because part of the foreward of the ship is by mariners called the "ship’s eye," αντοφθαλμειν. ( Verbum Polybiauum. Hist. iv.)


Verse 16

16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:

Ver. 16. To come by the boat] i.e. To recover, take up, and save the boat, that the waves should not break it.


Verse 17

17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.

Ver. 17. Undergirding the ship] With trusses or strong ropes, for fear lest she should split.


Verse 18

18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;

Ver. 18. And being exceedingly tossed] Seneca speaking of such as have lived long to little purpose, not improving their time and their talents, he saith that their lives are like ships in a storm, mullam iactati sunt, non navigarunt, tossed much, but have sailed nothing; or like a mill stone, that is ever moving, but removes not at all; or as when men make imperfect dashes, they are said to scribble, but do not write.


Verse 19

19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.

Ver. 19. The tackling of the ship] eth hacchelim, Jonah 1:15, which is almost our word "tackling."


Verse 20

20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

Ver. 20. All hope that we, &c.] God delights to help those that are forsaken of their hopes: he reserveth his hand for a dead lift. Good therefore and worthy of all acceptation is the prophet’s counsel, Isaiah 50:10-11. A child of light walking in darkness must do as these here, when neither sun nor star appeared for many days, cast the anchor of hope within the veil of heaven, pray and wait till the day dawn, and the day star appear in his heart.


Verse 21

21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.

Ver. 21. Gained this harm] i.e. Prevented it. Prevision (foresight) is the best way of prevention, but for lack of prudent forecast "men pass on and are punished." Leo cassibus irretitus dixit, si praescivissem. Men might by wisdom redeem many miseries.


Verse 22

22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.

Ver. 22. Be of good cheer] So Bishop Ridley being once tossed by a sad tempest, Be of good cheer, said he to the boatmen, and ply your oars; for this boat carrieth a bishop that must be burned, not drowned. So Caesar said to the ferryman in a storm, Noli timere; Caesarem fers, et fortunam Caesaris: Never fear; Caesar is of better fortune than to die by drowning. That was a memorable speech of a philosopher, who being in danger of shipwreck in a light starry night, said, "Surely I shall not perish, there are so many eyes of providence over me." Much more may a saint say so.


Verse 23

23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

Ver. 23. Whose I am, and whom I serve] Lo, how holily he speaks, and like a Christian, among a company of profane and rude soldiers and seamen; so doth Jacob in his intercourse with Esau: these, saith he, are the children whom God of his grace hath given me, Genesis 33:5. Ubiquity is a sure sign of sincerity. An upright man is the same in all companies and in all conditions; as a pearl is a pearl, though cast into a puddle; as gold will glister whether cast into the fire or the water. Good blood will not belie itself; neither will a good spiritual constitution show itself otherwise than by suitable both communication and conversation.


Verse 24

24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

Ver. 24. God hath given thee all] It is for the godly’s sake that the wicked are spared and favoured. To the wicked, God saith concerning his servants, as the prophet once said to Jehoram, "Surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee," 2 Kings 3:14.


Verse 25

25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

Ver. 25. For I believe God] The believer walks about the world as a conqueror. Faith drinks to him in a cup of nepenthes, and bids him sing away sorrow; "But if ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established," Isaiah 7:9.


Verse 26

26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.

Ver. 26. We must be cast] Where our ship being broke, we shall be brought safe to land by an all-powerful hand of God, who delights to help at a dead lift. And this is here foretold, that it may not be thought to happen by hap-hazard.


Verse 27

27 But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country;

Ver. 27. In Adria] That is, in the Adriatic Sea.


Verse 28

28 And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.

Ver. 28. Fifteen fathoms] A sign they were nearer shore than before.


Verse 29

29 Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.

Ver. 29. Wished for the day] Wish we as much for the day of redemption, when after much tossing on this glassy sea, we shall safely land at the haven of happiness, at the quay of Canaan, the kingdom of heaven.

" Discupio solvl, tecumque, o Christe, manere;

Portio fac regni sim quotacunque tui."


Verse 30

30 And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship,

Ver. 30. And as the shipmen] So to shift for themselves, not caring what became of the passengers. A private spirited man is totus in se, entirely in himself, like the snail, still within doors, at home; and though he may look abroad sometimes, and seem well affected to others, yet he seeks himself; as the snail creeping abroad out of the walls and hedges, yet still keeps within its own house.


Verse 31

31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

Ver. 31. Ye cannot be saved] God must be trusted, but not tempted, by wilful neglect of due means. He is not tied to them, but yet doth usually work by them. {See Trapp on "Matthew 4:4"}


Verse 32

32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off.

Ver. 32. Then the soldiers] According to St Paul’s counsel, who was now somebody with them. Indeed he was grown, by much exercise and experience, harum rerum callentissimus, et vir in omnibus rebus excellentissimus, as one saith of him, a most gallant man, and every way accomplished.


Verse 33

33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.

Ver. 33. Having taken nothing] i.e. Having made no set meal but by snatches and catches. When life is in danger, all is laid aside till that be secured. Oh that we were likewise wise for our souls; surely if we knew our danger, we should neither eat nor drink till we had made our peace with God. For is it nothing to lose an immortal soul? to purchase an everliving death?


Verse 34

34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.

Ver. 34. Not an hair] A proverbial speech, Luke 21:18. See Matthew 10:30. {See Trapp on "Matthew 10:30"}


Verse 35

35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

Ver. 35. In presence of them all] He was not ashamed of God’s service before those heathens. No more was Abraham who built an altar to his God wherever he came. That was the first work he did, not fearing the idolatrous Canaanites. A bold and wise profession is required of every Christian. It is no gold that glitters not.


Verse 36

36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.

Ver. 36. Then were they all of good cheer] By Paul’s good example. For as one bad man may hinder much good, Ecclesiastes 9:18, so on the contrary.


Verse 37

37 And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.

Ver. 37. We were in all two hundred, &c.] And that not one of this "all" should miscarry, was a miracle of God’s mercy; since all of them could not swim (likely), and being so low brought with fear and fasting, how could they so bestir themselves, as in that case was requisite? Or being so many on a cluster, how did they not one hinder another? But God was in the shipwreck; and if he command deliverance, it shall be done with ease and expedition. In case their skill or strength fail, "he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim," Isaiah 25:11; with great facility he shall do it: the motion in swimming is easy, and with a slight; strong, violent strokes in the water, would rather sink than support.


Verse 38

38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.

Ver. 38. Cast out the wheat] Fastidientes divinum verbum, et damnum et dedecus pall oportet. "Behold! they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?" Jeremiah 8:9.


Verse 39

39 And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship.

Ver. 39. They discovered a creek] Then chiefly are we to look for tempests when we draw nighest to the shore, to the haven. Our last encounter at death is like to be the sharpest. The Israelites never met with such opposition as when they were to take possession of the land. Then all the kings of Canaan combined against them.


Verse 40

40 And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore.

Ver. 40. Hoised up the mainsail] Which before they had struck by reason of the violence of the storm. If God afflict, we must carry our sail accordingly, Ruth 1:20.


Verse 41

41 And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves.

Ver. 41. Where two seas met] The men of Malta show a certain place at this day which they call lascala di San Paulo, Saint Paul’s arrival.


Verse 42

42 And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

Ver. 42. To kill the prisoners] An ill requital of Paul’s kindness. But soldiers make but a sport of killing men. "Let the young men arise and play before us," said Abner.


Verse 43

43 But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:

Ver. 43. Willing to save Paul] By whom he had been hitherto saved; and in whom he saw that goodness that could not but attract all hearts not congealed into steel and adamant. I read of a monster, who that night that his prince pardoned and released him, got out and slew him; this was Michael Balbus. (Zonaras in Annal.) Such another was bloody Bonner, active in bringing the Lord Cromwell (who had been his great patron) to an untimely death. In like sort dealt Bishop Watson by Mr Rough, and Bishop Bourn by Mr Bradford, who had saved their lives with the hazard of their own. William Parry was for burglary condemned to die, but saved by Queen Elizabeth’s pardon; this ungrateful man afterwards sought to requite her, by vowing her death, A. D. 1584, and was therefore worthily executed as a traitor; and indeed hanging was too good for him. (Speed.) The senate of Basil first tortured, and then burnt to ashes, a villain called Paulus Sutor, that murdered an old man that had done him many fatherlike courtesies, A.D. 1565, as judging, that to render evil for evil is brutish, but to render evil for good is devilish. (Lonicer.) Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian lawgiver would make no law against such, quod prodigiosa res esset beneficium non rependere, because it could not be imagined that any would be so unworthy as not to recompense one kindness with another. If this centurion should have done otherwise than he did in saving Paul, by whose prayers and for whoso sake he and his company had escaped, no time would have worn out his utter disgrace and infamy.


Verse 44

44 And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.

Ver. 44. Hominum malitiam vincit Dei bonitas, saith Beza here. God’s goodness overcometh man’s badness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 27:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/acts-27.html. 1865-1868.

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