Online Bible Commentary
He Was a God
Acts 28:1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. 2 And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live." 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. 7 In that region there was an estate of the leading citizen of the island, whose name was Publius, who received us and entertained us courteously for three days. 8 And it happened that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him. 9 So when this was done, the rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed. 10 They also honored us in many ways; and when we departed, they provided such things as were necessary. (NKJV)
In October, 59 A.D. Paul was on board a ship headed to Rome. He was being sent as a prisoner to be tried by Emperor Nero.
Paul, along with other prisoners, was on board a wheat cargo ship based from Alexandria, Egypt. Paul’s fellow disciples Luke, the writer of Acts, and Aristarchus also accompanied Paul on the voyage.
Now, it is late October and the ship is shipwrecked on the island of Malta (v. 1a). All of the people on board the ship have escaped unharmed but the ship itself is no longer seaworthy(v. 1b). Not only that, the shipping lanes are closed for the winter months of November, December and January. Therefore, the people will have no way to leave the island for three months.
Upon swimming ashore from the damaged ship, the people from Paul’s ship are met with “unusual kindness” by the natives on the island (v. 2a). Some scholars have suggested that the natives are Phoenicians and speak Punic or Phoenicia, not Greek. The people from the ship are wet and cold from a pouring rain and the natives build them a fire (v. 2b).
Paul is helping with the fire when he is bitten by a snake that is driven out of the wood by the heat of the fire (v. 3). When the natives see him being bitten they say "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live"(v. 4). This statement indicates that the natives know that the snake is a poisonous snake.
Paul then shakes the snake off him into the fire, and appears not to be harmed by the bite (v. 5). The natives expect him to “swell up or suddenly fall down dead”, but when he doesn’t they begin to call him “a god” (v. 6).
“In that region” of the island the “leading citizen”, probably the Roman governor, is named Publius (v. 7a). He owns a large estate in the area and he “received us and entertained us courteously for three days” (v. 7b). Since Luke is writing this, it appears that Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus are entertained by Publius. Also, it seems likely that the Roman centurion and some of his soldiers also accompany Paul, since he is a prisoner.
During the visit, the father of Publius lies sick with “fever and dysentery” (v. 8a). Paul prays and lays hands on the man and he is healed (v. 8b). Seeing this miracle and believing him to be a god, “the rest of those on the island who had diseases” come to Paul over the three months he is on the island and they are all healed (v. 9).
In return for Paul’s kindness, Paul and his companions are “honored… in many ways” (v. 10a) The Greek word translated “honored” is “timais” which means “price, value, honor, respect”. In the context used here it refers to honor and respect, not money or anything of large value.
Also, in return for Paul’s kindness, when they depart the island they are “ provided such things as were necessary” (v. 10b). Likely, this includes food and clothing.
Clearly, Paul was not “a god.” But he was used by THE God to heal the sick. God is the only One who can heal the sick. No one else can do this.
Like Paul, doctors are also not gods. Even doctors can not heal someone who God does not allow to be healed. But, like Paul, they can be used by God to heal.
God is the Great Healer. He is the one we should honor when our loved ones are healed.