Online Bible Commentary
Bound with this Chain
Acts 28:11 After three months we sailed in an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island. 12 And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. 13 From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, 14 where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. 15 And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. 16 Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him. 17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain." (NKJV)
The time is February, 60 A.D. The apostle Paul is on his way to Rome to be tried by Emperor Nero. Paul is traveling with Luke, the writer of Acts, and Aristarchus. He is with other prisoners, under guard of Roman soldiers headed by a Roman centurion.
Their ship was shipwrecked on the island of Malta, and since winter was approaching the shipping lanes were closed for three months. Now, three months later, the people from the ship are able to board a ship and continue their journey to Rome (v. 11a).
The ship was “an Alexandrian ship whose figurehead was the Twin Brothers, which had wintered at the island” (v. 11b). Grain was regularly shipped from Alexandria, Egypt to the region. The “Twin Brothers” was a reference to the two gods Castor and Pollux. These were the patron gods of mariners.
The ship first sails to Syracuse, some eighty miles northeast of Malta and docks there for three days (v. 12). They then sail about seventy miles north to Rhegium, a port located on the toe of Italy (v. 13a). “After one day”, with a south wind at their backs they next sail 180 miles north along the west coast of Italy to the port of Puteoli (v. 13b). Puteoli was about 150 miles southeast of Rome.
In Puteoli, Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus are met by a group of Christians and “were invited to stay with them seven days” (v. 14a). The home in which they are staying is on the way “toward Rome” (v. 14b). It is likely that they are accompanied by one or more Roman soldiers.
Next, Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus travel towards Rome to “Appii Forum”, The Market of Appius, located forty-three miles southeast of Rome (v. 15a). They then travel ten miles down the road, the Appian Way, to “Three Inns” (v. 15b). At each stop Paul is met by Christians, and thanks God for their encouragement (v. 15c).
Upon arriving in Rome, “the centurion” delivers “the prisoners to the captain of the guard”, but Paul is “permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier” who is guarding him (v. 16). Unlike the other prisoners, Paul has not been convicted of anything. Paul then rents his own house, where he will stay under house arrest bound with a chain (v. 20), in Rome for the next two years (Acts 28:23,30).
“After three days”, Paul calls “the leaders of the Jews together”, to meet him at his home (v. 17a). He says to them that he is innocent of doing anything against the Jewish people or their customs (v. 17b). He also says that the Romans in Judea have tried him and “wanted to let me go” but that he has appealed “to Caesar”, meaning the current emperor, Nero, because the Jews in Judea objected to his release (vv. 18-19).
Paul then tells the Jews that he has asked them to come to him “for the hope of Israel”, which is fulfilled by the resurrection of the dead (v. 20a), and it is for this reason that he is “bound with this chain” (v. 20b).
Since Paul was found not guilty by the Romans in Judea, he could have remained a free man. Albeit, he would have to protect himself from the Jews who wanted to kill him.
Instead, he has allowed himself to be transported to Rome and lived under house arrest, “bound with this chain”. Paul sacrificed much to fulfill the ministry that the Lord had given him.
As Christians, we have also been given a ministry. There may be a sacrifice connected with that, but usually not as severe as Paul’s sacrifice. Inconveniences should not keep us from serving the Lord. It is our duty to the Lord.