They Encounter a Massive Storm
When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.
The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard. The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone. No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.”
About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the Sea of Adria, the sailors sensed land was near. They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep. At this rate they were afraid we would soon be driven against the rocks along the shore, so they threw out four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight. Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship.
But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat and let it drift away. Just as day was dawning, Paul urged everyone to eat. “You have been so worried that you haven’t touched food for two weeks,” he said. “Please eat something now for your own good. For not a hair of your heads will perish.” Then he took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, and broke off a piece and ate it. Then everyone was encouraged and began to eat— all 276 of us who were on board. After eating, the crew lightened the ship further by throwing the cargo of wheat overboard.Acts 27:13-38
Let’s investigate a little more the nature of their adjustment of the course and the use of the sea anchor.
It may mean that they dropped the mainsail and set the storm sails, likely lowering the mainsail and setting the sails on the yard arm. By also lowering the sea anchor this would add drag to the ship by towing a bulk of water along with them and slowing the speed. By lowering the mainsails and turning the sails on the yard arm they would have reduced their movement south-westward. By turning the ship side on to the wind they would have slowed the process considerably. Probably down to 1-2 kms per hour, as long as they were not in danger of capsizing, aligned that way against the wind. If they could have kept their course more westward than southward, J, Smith quoted in The Acts of the Apostles – Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol III by Archibald Thomas Robertson suggests the ship would have slowed to about 36 miles per day and in the time frame they would have travelled only 468 miles. The distance from Cauda to Malta is 480 miles. Indicating that indeed if they kept that course by those methods they would have ended up close to Malta as Luke describes.
- What was it they jettisoned? (A new question from me)
- What did they actually throw overboard?
The English translations are rather vague and so is the Greek. “They lowered the gear and so were driven”. KJV
- “the crew began throwing the cargo overboard.“
- “The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.”
By the third day (verse 19) they jettisoned “by their own hand“ [skue] – ship’s equipment that was not needed. Tackle, some rigging, even some of the ship’s furniture such as tables, benches, chests, even beds.
Finally in verse 38 they came to point of beginning to jettison the wheat. But note, it was after they had eaten. What is interesting is that the term for ‘hadn’t eaten’, is the word [asitia] – meaning ‘long without food’. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they had no food left but rather that they hadn’t eaten in a long while. Perhaps because cooking on board in a typhoon was difficult, perhaps because salt water had ruined their supply of grain in the hold or maybe because they were not feeling like eating because of sea sickness or from being too weak and exhausted to eat.
Having reached this stage of the text today it is interesting that I found an email in my inbox this morning from Ross Robertson (ex MP who is currently in Fiji for the Fijian elections and has made a sea voyage to the Lau group of islands to oversee the election process for the NZ Govt) Ross writes in response to the Gem:
“I was not in a good physical condition after sailing for 24.5 hours and did not eat from Sunday lunchtime until Monday dinner, seasickness is not nice. We sailed 137 nautical miles in terrible conditions after leaving Suva harbour. I know how Paul and the others must have felt and their storm raged for 14 nights!
“ you have been so worried you haven’t touched food for two weeks”…….. I believe there was food there Ian only they couldn’t eat it because of sea sickness! Just like happened to me when travelling to the Lau Group in eastern Fiji. That is why there was bread there for Paul to break and give thanks to God. What do you think teacher?”
As I have written in my last paragraph I think that could indeed be the reason. Thanks Ross for your timely input. Is the Robertson I mentioned above, Archibald Thomas, a relative?
Were the sailors going to abandon ship and leave the prisoners and everyone else on the ship? That is how it seems to read.
Yes that it is how the text reads. I believe that was exactly what was happening. It is not that Paul was taking over command of the ship rather drawing attention to what some of the crew were up to and suggesting to the ship’s captain that they needed to stay together in order to save all on board. I.e. don’t allow these renegades to leave the ship with land so close in the only lifeboat.
- How come Paul tells the Commanding Officer and the guard to cut the rope to the life boat?
- Who is in charge here?
Paul wasn’t ordering anyone to do anything. He was simply telling the captain and the soldiers “You will all die unless the sailors stay aboard.”We will investigate Paul’s words when we examine the speech he gave. See the next Gem. I have also included below the next segment – Landing on Malta.
- Seriously, one lifeboat for 276 people and they cut it adrift? Why?
As I have stated above those who were cutting the lifeboat adrift were some of the sailors in an attempt to save themselves to the detriment of everyone else on board. On the matter of how many lifeboats there were: bear in mind we are not talking modern times when the safety of passengers on ships was of importance. We are talking about a time in sea travel when there was only one small boat carried on a ship. Not for the purpose of passenger safe but to ferry some of the people ashore when it was needed or to tend to the ship at sea when needed.
- Are you going to dissect Paul’s speech from 27:21-26? Yes I will
- Really? Paul led them in communion and then they were saved. I can’t get my head around that. How could Paul led a bunch of non-Christian heathen in communion? It doesn’t seem right when he says not to take communion lightly in 1 Corinthians 11:27-31
Shipwrecked by Grounding the Ship
When morning dawned, they didn’t recognize the coastline, but they saw a bay with a beach and wondered if they could get to shore by running the ship aground. So they cut off the anchors and left them in the sea. Then they lowered the rudders, raised the foresail, and headed toward shore. But they hit a shoal and ran the ship aground too soon. The bow of the ship stuck fast, while the stern was repeatedly smashed by the force of the waves and began to break apart. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul, so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to shore.Acts 27:39-44
The trick to creating financial freedom has always been simple, find out where the masses are going and get there first.Thomas Hardaway
Hey Paul, maybe you could have sold the ship’s beds, tackle, wheat and corn on Malta. You’d have made your fortune.Ian Vail
Paul was too busy saving souls to worry about selling off the cargo or the ship’s gear.Ian Vail
What’s your life’s focus? Saving souls or making money? You can take souls with you but not money. Souls and the Word of God are the only truly eternal things.Ian Vail
Paul’s Response: So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.2 Corinthians 4:18