Online Bible Commentary
Sailing was Now Dangerous
Acts 27:1 And when it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Regiment. 2 So, entering a ship of Adramyttium, we put to sea, meaning to sail along the coasts of Asia. Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, was with us. 3 And the next day we landed at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him liberty to go to his friends and receive care. 4 When we had put to sea from there, we sailed under the shelter of Cyprus, because the winds were contrary. 5 And when we had sailed over the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing to Italy, and he put us on board. 7 When we had sailed slowly many days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, the wind not permitting us to proceed, we sailed under the shelter of Crete off Salmone. 8 Passing it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea. 9 Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, 10 saying, "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives." (NKJV)
In the spring of 57 A.D., during Pentecost and the Feast of Weeks, the Jews in Jerusalem plotted to kill Paul because of his Christian ministry. The Romans then sent Paul to Caesarea for his safety and also so that he could be tried by the governor. The Jews could not prove Paul guilty but he was still held in the palace in Caesarea for two years. Now, Paul has asked to be tried before the Emperor in Rome and the governor has granted his wish.
In this passage, Paul, and other prisoners, board a ship in Caesarea under the care of a centurion named Julius for the first leg of their journey to Rome (v. 1a). Julius is attached to the “Augustan Regiment”, a distinguished legion of the Roman army (v. 1b). Centurions were known for being men with a just and upstanding character, and Julius is no exception.
The ship they board is based from “Adramyttium”, a city of Mysia which is located in northwest Asia Minor (v. 2a). The ship’s route follows close to the coasts of Syria and then Asia (v. 2b). So the group, which also includes Paul’s friends and fellow disciples Luke and Aristarchus, sails northward up the coast form Caesarea (v. 2c).
The first day they sail to Sidon, some seventy miles north of Caesarea (v. 3a). Julius kindly allows Paul, and likely Luke and Aristarchus, to go ashore and visit with the disciples at Sidon, where they receive “care”, both physical and spiritual (v. 3b).
It is now October, 59 A.D., and the weather is turning harsh. The waterways were closed for travel in the winter months of November through January. Leaving Sidon the winds are so strong that the ship sails north and then west around the island of Cyprus, using the island for “shelter” from the winds (v. 4).
The ship sails along the coast of Asia Minor, with Cyprus to the south, and docks at Myra, a city of Lycia in Asia Minor (v. 5). It is now necessary to switch to another ship for the voyage away from the coast and out into the Mediterranean Sea toward Italy. In Myra, Julius finds a ship based from Alexandria, Egypt and the group boards the ship (v. 6) for the next leg, the long journey to Italy.
For the first “many days” the ship makes poor time because of very strong headwinds as it travels westward along the coast of Asia Minor (v. 7a). “With difficulty” they reach “Cnidus”, another port city of Asia Minor, west of Myra (v. 7b).
The strong westerly winds do not allow the ship “to proceed”, so they now sail south towards the island of Crete (v. 8a). Approaching the east side of the island near the port of “Salmone”, they receive some “shelter” from the winds (v. 8b). But then when they round the island and turn west the westerly winds again slow the ship. “With difficulty” they reach the port of “Fair Havens” on the south coast of Crete.
Now, travel is very slow and “sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over”, referring to the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur which occurs in late September or early October (v. 9). In other words, winter is approaching. Paul is worried and forecasts peril saying "Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives" (v. 10).
Paul’s sailing ship was being buffeted by the winds and sailing was now dangerous. We also have times when we are buffeted by the winds of life. Times of smooth sailing can turn to dangerous times in a heartbeat.
This is why we must stay close to our shelter, Jesus Christ. When we bathe ourselves in prayer and Scripture we strengthen our relationship with the Lord. He alone can get us through the dangerous times in life.