Acts Jewish New Testament and comments of David H. Stern
1. Once it had been decided that we should set sail for Italy, they handed Sha’ul and some other prisoners over to an officer of the Emperor’s Regiment named Julius.
2. We embarked in a ship from Adramyttium which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica.
Aristarchus from Thessalonica was with Sha'ul in Ephesus (19:29) and accompanied him with the collection from the Gentile congregations to Yerushalayim (20:4). He went with Sha'ul to Rome (Co 4:10. Pm 24).
3. The next day, we landed at Tzidon; and Julius considerately allowed Sha’ul to go visit his friends and receive what he needed.
4. Putting to sea from there, we sailed close to the sheltered side of Cyprus because the winds were against us,
5. then across the open sea along the coasts of Cilicia and Pamphylia; and so we reached Myra in Lycia.
6. There the Roman officer found an Alexandrian vessel sailing to Italy and put us aboard.
7. For a number of days we made little headway, and we arrived off Cnidus only with difficulty. The wind would not let us continue any farther along the direct route; so we ran down along the sheltered side of Crete from Cape Salmone;
8. and, continuing to struggle on, hugging the coast, we reached a place called Pleasant Harbor, near the town of Lasea.
9. Since much time had been lost, and continuing the voyage was risky, because it was already past Yom-Kippur, Sha’ul advised them,
It was already past Yom-Kippur, literally, "past the Fast." It is as a matter of course that Luke writes of the Jewish holiday Yom-Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This is evidence that Sha'ul continued observing Jewish practices, keeping the Law until the end of his life (see 13:9N, 21:2IN, 22:3N). It also lends strength to the contention that Luke himself was Jewish or a proselyte to Judaism: he would otherwise be unlikely to measure time for his Gentile reader (1:1-4) by the Jewish calendar.
Shipping became increasingly risky after mid-September and was rarely engaged in after mid-October because of the likelihood of storms. Yom-Kippur can occur between September 14 and October 14.
For a Jewish believer Yom-Kippur has a different significance than for the unbeliever. A Messianic Jew knows that Yeshua the Messiah, by his death on behalf of all sinners (Yn 3:16; Ro 3:21-26,5:8), has become the final kapparah ("atonement," literally "covering"; the word is a cognate oVkippur"). For this reason no further sacrifices for sin are necessary; this is the subject of Messianic Jews 7-10&NN.
10. “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be a catastrophe, not only with huge losses to the cargo and the ship but with loss of our lives as well.”
It is possible that Sha'ul was prophesying, in the sense of giving forth a word of God. Or he may simply have been offering his opinion as an experienced sea-goer who had seen disasters before — he had been shipwrecked three times and been adrift overnight on wreckage (2C 11:25). But his advice went unheeded.
11. However, the officer paid more attention to the pilot and the ship’s owner than to what Sha’ul said.
12. Moreover, since the harbor was not well suited to sitting out the winter, the majority reached the decision to sail on from there in the hope of reaching Phoenix, another harbor in Crete, and wintering there, where it is protected from the southwest and northwest winds.
13. When a gentle southerly breeze began to blow, they thought that they had their goal within grasp; so they raised the anchor and started coasting by Crete close to shore.
14. But before long there struck us from land a full gale from the northeast, the kind they call an Evrakilon.
A full gale, Greek anemos tuphonikos (the first means "wind"; the latter gives us the English word "typhoon"). They tried lo hug the south coast of Crete; but the northeast wind, blowing from shore, drove them out to sea, where the larger waves were more difficult to deal with.
15. The ship was caught up and unable to face the wind, so we gave way to it and were driven along.
16. As we passed into the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with strenuous effort to get control of the lifeboat.
17. They hoisted it aboard, then fastened cables tightly around the ship itself to reinforce it. Fearing they might run aground on the Syrtis sandbars, they lowered the topsails and thus continued drifting.
18. But because we were fighting such heavy weather, the next day they began to jettison non-essentials;
19. and the third day, they threw the ship’s sailing equipment overboard with their own hands.
20. For many days neither the sun nor the stars appeared, while the storm continued to rage, until gradually all hope of survival vanished.
21. It was then, when they had gone a long time without eating, that Sha’ul stood up in front of them and said, “You should have listened to me and not set out from Crete; if you had, you would have escaped this disastrous loss.
You should have listened to me. We cannot know whether Sha'ul was indulging himself in a well-earned but all-too-human "I told you so," or reminding his hearers of their mistake so that they would be more willing now to hear his message of hope.
22. But now, my advice to you is to take heart; because not one of you will lose his life — only the ship will be lost.
23. For this very night, there stood next to me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve.
24. He said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Sha’ul! you have to stand before the Emperor. Look! God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’
25. So, men, take heart! For I trust God and believe that what I have been told will come true.
26. Nevertheless, we have to run aground on some island.”
Even in a storm at sea, as cargo is being thrown overboard, Sha'ul loses no occasion to communicate the Gospel, or at least to arouse the curiosity of his shipmates. Verse 26 is predictive prophecy, fulfilled at v. 41.
27. It was the fourteenth night, and we were still being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, when around midnight the sailors sensed that we were nearing land.
28. So they dropped a plumbline and found the water one hundred and twenty feet deep. A little farther on, they took another sounding and found it ninety feet.
29. Fearing we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight to come.
30. At this point, the crew made an attempt to abandon ship — they lowered the lifeboat into the sea, pretending that they were about to let out some anchors from the bow.
31. Sha’ul said to the officer and the soldiers, “Unless these men remain aboard the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.”
Unless these men remain on board the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved. But hadn't God already promised that not one life would be lost (vv. 22,24)? Think of it this way: the prophecy includes God's foresight concerning decisions which are nevertheless made by free will. If the sailors had left the boat, would the centurion's and his soldiers' lives have been saved? This is a hypothetical question which need not be answered, since that is not what happened, and we have no framework for dealing with such questions. Once again we are reminded of Rabbi Akiva's summary of the paradox, "All is known, yet free will is given" (Avot 3:15).
Moreover, in the Holy Scriptures, even what appears to be an absolute prediction ("X will happen") may be implicitly conditional ("If you disobey God, X will happen"). Jonah's apparently unconditioned prediction of Nineveh's destruction (Jonah 3:4) is a good example — the prophet was wrong (and angry about it) because the people of Nineveh repented (which, rather than the city's ruin, is what God actually wanted). Why did the sailors have to stay on board? It was a practical matter: had they left, there would not have been enough skilled personnel left to operate the ship in the storm.
32. Then the soldiers cut the ropes holding the lifeboat and let it go.
33. Just before daybreak, Sha’ul urged them all to eat, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day you have been in suspense, going hungry, eating nothing.
34. Therefore I advise you to take some food; you need it for your own survival. For not one of you will lose so much as a hair from his head.”
35. When he had said this, he took bread, said the b’rakhah to God in front of everyone, broke it and began to eat.
Said the b'rakhah which Jews normally make over bread. "Barukh Attah, Adonai Eloheynu, Melekh-ha 'olam, haMotzi lechem min ha 'aretz" ("Praised be you, Adonai our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth"). See Mt 14:19N.
36. With courage restored, they all ate some food themselves.
37. Altogether there were 276 of us on board the ship.
38. After they had eaten all they wanted, they lightened the ship by dumping the grain into the sea.
39. When day broke, they didn’t recognize the land; but they noticed a bay with a sand beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could.
40. So they cut away the anchors and left them in the sea; at the same time, they loosened the ropes that held the rudders out of the water. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and headed for the beach.
41. But they encountered a place where two currents meet, and ran the vessel aground on the sandbar there. The bow stuck and would not move, while the pounding of the surf began to break up the stern.
This verse says, literally, "And coming upon a place between two seas they drove the vessel; and while the prow, having run aground, remained immovable, the stem was broken by the force." The sense is not exactly clear from the text. I have surfed for over thirty years; and this gives me some knowledge of how the sea works, which, 1 hope, helps solve the mystery. When a swell reaches an island, its waves split to pass it, and they may meet head-on at the far end of the island. At this place, the sand carried along by the currents from both directions is deposited as a sandbar or sand spit, on which the waves break from two nearly opposite directions, sometimes even running straight into each other. Such a spot makes for lively surfing but is very treacherous for ships and boats. My translation reflects this understanding, based on my experience surfing the islands off the coast of Southern California.
42. At this point the soldiers’ thought was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim off and escape.
43. But the officer, wanting to save Sha’ul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and head for shore,
44. and the rest to use planks or whatever they could find from the ship. Thus it was that everyone reached land safely.
This account of Sha'ul's trip to Rome is considered one of the finest ancient descriptions of a sea voyage.
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