Online Bible Commentary
Acts 27:33 And as day was about to dawn, Paul implored them all to take food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day you have waited and continued without food, and eaten nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take nourishment, for this is for your survival, since not a hair will fall from the head of any of you." 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat. 36 Then they were all encouraged, and also took food themselves. 37 And in all we were two hundred and seventy-six persons on the ship. 38 So when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship and threw out the wheat into the sea. 39 When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. 40 And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. 41 But striking a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. 42 And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. 43 But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44 and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land. (NKJV)
The time is October, 59 A.D. Paul is on board a ship headed to Rome. He is being sent as a prisoner to be tried by Emperor Nero.
So, Paul, along with other prisoners, is on board a wheat cargo ship based from Alexandria, Egypt. Paul’s fellow disciples Luke, the writer of Acts, and Aristarchus have accompanied Paul on the voyage.
With winter approaching the high seas of the Mediterranean have been especially treacherous. The ship has been violently tossed about on the seas for the last few weeks. The ship is lost, due to the storms.
Paul, through the visit of an angel, was told that all the people on the ship would be saved if they all stayed together on the ship. He was also told that they would run aground on an island and that the ship would be broken up.
The Roman centurion in charge of the voyage believed Paul and made sure that no one left the ship, to the extent of having the lifeboat cut away when some sailors attempted to escape. Depth measurements had told the sailors that they were nearing land, even though it was midnight and they could not see the land.
Now, in this passage, “dawn” is approaching and Paul implores the men to eat so that they will have the strength for the work ahead (v. 33a). It has been “fourteen days” since they have eaten (v. 33b). Most of the wheat had previously been thrown overboard in order to lighten the ship. The remainder was conserved for this time. Likely those on board had not eaten a full meal in fourteen days but had eaten small amounts to sustain themselves.
Paul again assures all those aboard that they will be safe (v. 34). He leads the people by example by breaking bread, giving “thanks to God”, and then eating (v. 35). All “two hundred and seventy-six people” on board then follow his example, taking nourishment themselves (vv. 36-37).
Next, they prepare to ground the ship. They lighten it by throwing the wheat cargo overboard (v. 38). Then, at dawn, they sight the land. They do not know where they are but they see “a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible” (v. 39).
So, “they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore” (v. 40). Then, they strike ground, “where two seas met”, possibly meaning a sandbar at the entrance to the bay (v. 41a). The bow sticks, but the stern of the ship is “being broken up by the violence of the waves” (v. 41b).
The sailors had planned “to kill the prisoners” because they did not want them to “escape” (v. 42). But the centurion, who was in charge of the prisoners, wants “to save Paul” and thwarts their plan (v. 43a). He commands everyone who can swim to jump overboard (v. 43b). Then he commands those who cannot swim to find “boards” and “parts of the ship” to float on until they can reach land (v. 44a). And, just as the angel had told Paul, all the people reach land safely (v. 44b).
Thus God has guided the people to safety. He has used Paul greatly in accomplishing this feat. He gave Paul the direction, the strength to take the lead, and the favor with the centurion to accomplish His goal.
In the same way, God can use any Christian to accomplish His goal. We, however, must be usable. We must be open and willing to be used by Him. We must be in tune with God, through a right relationship of prayer and Scripture, in order to know His will. And we must be obedient to His direction.