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Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

Paul in the Storm

Acts xxvii: 1, to xxviii: 1.

dropcap image HEN Paul chose to be tried before Caesar the emperor which was his right as a Roman, it became necessary to send him from Caesarea in Judea to Rome in Italy, where Caesar lived. In those years there were no ships sailing at regular times from city to city, but people who wished to go to places over the sea waited until they could find ships with loads sailing to those places. Paul and some other prisoners were given into the charge of a Roman centurion or captain named Julius, to be taken to Rome. Julius found a ship sailing from Caesarea to places on the shore of Asia Minor, which would take them a part of the way to Rome. He took Paul and the other prisoners on board this ship, and with Paul went his friends, Luke the doctor and Aristarchus from Thessalonica. Perhaps Timothy also was with them, but of this we are not certain.

They set sail from Caesarea, after Paul had been in prison more than two years; and they followed the coast northward to Sidon. There they stopped for a day; and Julius the centurion was very kind to Paul, and let him go ashore to see his friends who were living there. From Sidon they turned to the northwest and sailed past the island of Cyprus, and then westward by the shore of Asia Minor. At a city called Myra they left the ship, and went on board another ship, which was sailing from Alexandria to Italy with a load of wheat from the fields of Egypt.

Soon a heavy wind began to blow against the ship, and it sailed very slowly for many days; but at last came to the large island of Crete, and followed its southern shore in the face of the wind until they found a harbor, and they stayed for a few days. But this harbor was not a good one, and they thought to leave it and sail to another.

Paul now said to them, "Sirs, I see that this voyage will be with great loss to the load and the ship, and with great danger to the lives of us all."

And he urged them to stay where they were at anchor. But the owner of the ship and its captain thought that they might sail in safety; and Julius the centurion listened to them rather than to Paul. So when a gentle south wind began to blow, they set sail once more, closely following the shore of the island of Crete. But soon the wind grew into a great storm, and the ship could not face it, and was driven out of its course. Behind the ship was a little boat, and this they drew up on board; and as the ship creaked and seemed in danger of going to pieces, they tied ropes around it to hold it together.

The storm grew and drove the ship away from the island into the open sea. To make the vessel lighter they threw overboard a part of the load; and the next day they cast into the sea all the loose ropes and everything on the ship that could be spared.

Day after day went on, with no sight of the sun, and night after night with no sight of the stars. The great waves rolled over the ship and beat upon it, until those on board hardly hoped to save their lives. In their fear, for days the men and the prisoners had eaten nothing. But in the midst of the storm, Paul stood up among them and said:

"Sirs, you should have listened to me, and not have set sail from Crete, for then we might have been saved much harm and loss. But even as it is, be of good cheer; for though the ship will be lost, all of us on board shall be saved. This night there stood by me an angel of the Lord, to whom I belong, and whom I serve, and the angel said to me, 'Fear not, Paul; you shall yet stand before Caesar; and God has given to you all those who are sailing with you.'


Paul in the storm at sea.

"Now friends, be of good cheer; for I believe God, that it shall be even as the angel said to me. But we must cast upon some island."

When the storm had lasted fourteen days, at night the sailors thought that they were coming near to land. They dropped down the line and found that the water was twenty fathoms deep: then after a little they let down the line again and found the water only fifteen fathoms deep. They were sure now that land was near, but they were afraid that the ship might be driven upon the rocks; so they threw out from the stern or rear-end four anchors to hold the ship; and then they longed for the day to come.

The sailors let down the little boat, saying that they would throw out some more anchors from the bow, or front of the ship, but really intending to row away in the boat and leave the ship and all on board to be destroyed. But Paul saw their purpose, and he said to the centurion, "Unless these sailors stay in the ship none of us can be saved."

Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it fall off, so that the sailors could not get away. And as it drew toward daylight, Paul urged them all to take some food. He said:

"This is the fourteenth day that you have waited without any food. Now I beg of you to eat, for you need it to keep your lives safely. You will all be saved; not an hair shall fall from the head of one of you."

He took some bread and gave thanks to God before them all; then he broke it and began to eat. This encouraged all the others, so that they too took food. There were in all on board the ship, sailors, and soldiers, and prisoners, and others, two hundred and seventy-six people. After they had eaten enough they threw out into the sea what was left of its load of wheat, so that the ship might be less heavy upon the waves, and might go nearer to the shore.

As soon as the day dawned, they could see land, but did not know what land it was. They saw a bay with a beach, into which they thought that they might run the ship. So they cut loose the anchors, leaving them in the sea, and they hoisted up the foresail to the wind, and made toward the shore. The ship ran aground and the front end was stuck fast in the sand, but the rear part began to break in pieces from the beating of the waves.

Now came another danger, just as they were beginning to hope for their lives. By the Roman law, a soldier who had charge of a prisoner must take his prisoner's place if he escaped from his care. These soldiers feared that their prisoners might swim ashore and get free. So they asked the centurion to let them kill all the prisoners, while they were still on board the ship. But Julius the centurion loved Paul, and to save Paul's life, kept them from killing the prisoners. He commanded that those who could swim should leap overboard and get first to the land. Then the rest went ashore, some on planks, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And all came safe to the shore, not one life being lost.

And then they found that they were on the island of Melita, which is in the Great Sea, south of the larger island of Sicily.