September 26, 2016

 

Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

By: Tom Lowe

 

 

Topic #IV: The Church Advancing to the End of the Earth (Acts Chapters 12-28)            

                    

Subtopic G: Paul in Rome (Acts 27:1-Acts 28:31)                                     

                          

                                                                           

         Lesson: IV.G.2: Paul in Malta (Acts 28:1-15)                                       

 

 

 

Acts 28:1-15, KJV

1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.

And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.

And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.

Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.

And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.

So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:

10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.

12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.

13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:

14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.

15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

 

 

 

Introduction

When we left the Apostle Paul and the rest of the crew, they had made it to shore safely after being shipwrecked during a fierce storm. The island on which they were shipwrecked is called Melita (Acts 28:1). They are shown great hospitality by the local populace (Acts 28:2). A viper comes out of the bundle of sticks, laid on the fire, and latches onto Paul's hand (Acts 28:3). The people witnessing the incident, presumed that he must be a thief, murderer, or some great sinner, and therefore they thought what they saw was an act of Divine vengeance (Acts 28:4); but after he shook the creature off his hand without receiving any noticeable injury or ill-effects from its poison, they changed their minds, and supposed him to be a god (Acts 28:5; Acts 28:6). Publius, the governor of the island, treated them courteously, and Paul miraculously heals his father, who is sick with a fever, etc. (Acts 28:7; Acts 28:8). He heals several others also, who show their gratitude by giving them presents (Acts 28:9, Acts 28:10). Paul, the passengers, and ship’s crew stay on Melita for three months before embarking in a ship of Alexandria. Their next stop was at Syracuse where they remained for three days, and then they sailed past the straits of Rhegium, and land at Puteoli. They find some Christians at Puteoli, with whom they fellowshipped for seven days before setting out for Rome (Acts 28:11-14). They are met at Appii Forum by some Christians, and Paul is greatly encouraged (Acts 28:15).

 

Commentary

1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.

“And when they were escaped,or as another version says,“And when they had been brought safely through.” Acts 27:44 tells how they made it to safety: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.”The expression when they were escaped” was a regular way of stating the idea of passing through extreme danger and still being alive. They have drifted for two weeks without any reckoning where they were; the storm was so violent they had to take precaution after precaution just to keep their ship afloat; after it struck on the mud bar and was beginning to break up, they had to swim the last several hundred yards to safety, but they made it and all 276 were still alive!

“Then they knew that the island was called Melita.” They found out that the island was called Melita (modern Malta). Apparently they learned this either from their former acquaintance with the island, or when they asked the people who had come to help, “Where are we?” Remember, while they were still aboard ship they could not tell where they were (27:39).        

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Melita (modern Malta) The island of Melita was originally a Phoenician colony; it is about 20 miles long, about 10-12 miles wide and about 60 miles in circumference. It is located about 60 miles from the coast of Sicily. The word Melita is actually of Canaanite origin and means “refuge,” and for many storm-battered ships it was a true refuge on more than one occasion. It was known for producing large quantities of honey, and is supposed to have been called Melita from the Greek word signifying honey. The island is an immense rock of white soft [1]freestone, with a covering of earth about one foot in depth, which has been brought from the island of Sicily. It produces cotton, excellent fruits, and fine honey; it had excellent harbors on the Eastern and Western shores. The Phaeacians were probably the first inhabitants of this island: they were expelled by the Phoenicians; the Phoenicians by the Greeks; the Greeks by the Carthaginians; the Carthaginians by the Romans, who possessed it in the time of the apostle; the Romans by the Goths; the Goths by the Saracens; the Saracens by the Sicilians, under Roger, earl of Sicily, in 1190. Charles V., emperor of Germany, took possession of it by his conquest of Naples and Sicily; and he gave it in 1525 to the knights of Rhodes, who are also called the knights of St. John of Jerusalem. In 1798, this island surrendered to the French, under Bonaparte, and in 1800, after a blockade that lasted two years, the island succumbed to famine and surrendered to the British, under whose dominion it still remains (1814.)

And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.

And the barbarous people shewed us no little (ordinary) kindness.It was noted in the preceding verse that this island was populated with Phoenicians, or Carthaginians; and their ancient language was no doubt in use among them at the time of the shipwreck, though it was mingled with some Greek and Latin terms; and this language must have been unintelligible to the Romans and the Greeks. With these, as well as with other nations, it was customary to call those barbarians, whose language they did not understand. Paul himself says much the same thing in 1 Corinthians 14:11 (NIV):  If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.” The Egyptians and Greeks called all those ‘barbarians’ who do not speak the same language they do; the Greeks went a step further, applying the name to all other nations but their own. The name does not denote, as it does sometimes with us, people having savage, uncultivated, and cruel habits, for though Heathens, they were a civil and cultivated people. Though the inhabitants could not understand their language, they understood their situation, and were very civil and humane to them, and showed them extraordinary kindness. That is, they rushed down to the beach and immediately tried to make these shipwrecked, wet and exhausted souls comfortable.

 

“For they kindled a fire” (or set fire to a large pile of wood).The rain continued after they made it to shore, and the storm had lowered the temperature making building a large fire the first priority. A large fire was needed because of the great number of people and the condition they were in. They had escaped their ship; some throwing themselves into the sea swam to the island; and the others arrived on shore clinging to boards and planks. There is no doubt about it; they were both cold and wet; so that nothing was more needed and more pleasant to them than a large fire.

“And received us every one.”  They received us all, i.e., took us under their care. At first of course the hospitality would be shown by kind treatment on the beach, evidenced by their lighting a fire. Afterwards, they stayed for three months’ and during that time the sailors and prisoners (all 276 of them) would find quarters in the dwellings of the citizens. Paul, the centurion, and some others were received into the house of the chief magistrate.

“Because of the present rain, and because of the cold.” It was undeniably cold due to exposure to the water in getting to shore, standing in the rain drenched to the skin, and the coldness of the weather; which is a very miserable combination, especially if one is outside, tired and hungry. It was now in the month of October. They must have needed all the kindness that these kind and generous people showed them.

In some parts of Christianized Europe, the inhabitants would have congregated on the beach, and knocked the survivors on the head, so that they might convert the wreck to their own use! This barbarous people did not act in this way: they joined hands with God to make these sufferers live.

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.

“And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks.” The Apostle picked up some sticks—probably driftwood that washed ashore, or brushwood and furze which is said to be the only material growing near St Paul’s Bay of which a fire could be made—and made them into a bundle that he would personally put on the fire, for he did not think such an act was below him. This is further evidence of his great humility and condescension. Paul wasn’t the only one engaged in this activity because everyone was busy helping those exhausted by the long swim to the island. This is another sign of the active spirit of the Apostle. Whatever was to be done, if he were able to take part in it, he never hesitated to get involved, whether it was in consoling about a difficulty, in comforting under danger, or helping by bodily labor to relieve the general distress.

“And laid them on the fire.”In order to keep such a large fire going, fresh fuel is constantly needed and Paul immediately does what he can. Remember, he is probably just as wet, exhausted, sore and cold as everyone else. Paul was not like some modern-day preachers, who take special care not to soil their hands with menial labor, and who expects everybody to be ready to serve him, while he preserves his dignity and looks on.

“There came a viper out of the heat.” The viper was almost certainly in the bundle of sticks or limbs of trees which Paul had gathered, but was concealed, and was lethargic due to the cold weather. But when the bundle was laid on the fire, the viper became warmed by the heat. The viper that has lain motionless because of the cold now became far more active because of the heat given off by the fire. Now when this viper here is said to come out of the heat, the meaning is, that it came out from the sticks, which were laid upon the fire, being forced from hiding by the rapidly increasing heat.

Critics have accused Luke of making a mistake here seeing that there are no poisonous snakes on the island of Malta in the 20th century. Yet, this is due to the growth of human population on the island. The island now has a denser population than at any previous time, and such animals are driven away and destroyed by man as the population increases.

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A “viper” is a kind of serpent, which gives birth to live baby vipers (no eggs). It could have up to twenty baby vipers, with only one born in a day. They are born wrapped up in thin skins, which break on the third day, and set them at liberty to begin life as a viper. It is said, that this remarkable reptile has the biggest and flattest head of all the serpent kind; its usual length is about half an [2]ell, and its thickness is an inch; its snout is like that of a hog; it has sixteen small immovable teeth in each jaw, besides two other large, sharp, hooked, hollow, transparent, canine teeth, situate at each side of the upper jaw, which are those that do the damage: these are flexible and are ordinarily laid flat along the jaw, the animal never raising them except to bite. The roots or bases of these teeth, or fangs, are covered with a [3]vesicle or bladder, containing the quantity of a large drop of a yellow insipid salivinous juice. It has only one row of teeth, whereas all other serpents have two; its body is not at all foul smelling, whereas the inner parts of the bodies of other serpents are intolerable. It creeps very slowly, and never leaps like other serpents, though it is nimble enough to bite when provoked. Its body is of two colors, ash colored or yellow, and the ground (the under belly on which it crawls) is speckled with longish brown spots; the scales under its belly are of the color of well polished steel. Its bite is exceeding venomous, and its poison the most deadly.

“And fastened on his hand.” It might have coiled around his hand and arm, or buried its fangs in his hand. It is not expressly stated that Paul was bitten by the viper, yet it is evidently implied; and it is utterly incredible that a viper, unless miraculously prevented, would fasten himself to the hand without biting.

The devil’s plan here was to destroy Paul, but he was deceived. So he desired to have Peter instead—“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat” (Luke 22:31)—but that was more than he could do.

And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.

“And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand.”We usually apply the word “beast” to an animal much larger than a viper. It is called “venomous,” because its venom is so poisonous that it is one of the most deadly of all serpents. Though the viper fastened on Paul's hand, it does not appear that it really bit him; but those witnessing the event supposed that it had, because they saw it fasten on his hand—either by wrapping itself around it or burying its fangs into it. At least one good Bible commentator suggests that this was God’s way of turning all eyes on Paul right from the first moment on Malta.

“They said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer.”They might see he was a prisoner by the chain attached to his ankle or wrist, or might learn it from some of the ship’s company, and therefore took it for granted he had been guilty of some crime; and since the viper bit him, they concluded he was guilty of murder; for they might look at it in the same way the Jews did, that a murderer that could not be legally convicted, was sometimes punished in this way.The fact that the viper had fastened on him; and that, as they supposed, he must now certainly die, was the proof from which they inferred his guilt. They of course considered all the prisoners as convicts; and this occurrence led them to suppose that Paul had been guilty of some peculiarly atrocious crime.

Notice that these non-Christian natives are not inherently depraved. First they treated the shipwrecked victims with extraordinary kindness and secondly they had a sense of divine justice. These barbarians reasoned from great original principles... that there was a God of justice, and that the guilty (eventually) will be punished. One mistake they did make was to assume that all calamities are directly related to a specific sin in the life of the one suffering (see John 9:1-3). Some feel that by the term justice these natives mean a goddess who was called justice, the daughter of Jupiter; and it was her duty to take vengeance and to inflict punishment for crimes.

"This man is a murderer." Why they thought he was a murderer is not revealed. It might be that murder was one of the most terrible crimes that one could commit and they simply assumed he had done something really bad. It might be that they assumed that justice would punish one in like manner as the type of crime they had committed. Or, seeing that murder is often committed with the hand, and as the viper had fastened to the hand, they inferred that he was guilty of taking a life (with that very hand). It was supposed by the ancients that persons were often punished in the part of the body which had been the instrument of the sin.

They supposed that vengeance and justice would eventually catch up with the guilty; that, though he might escape one form of punishment, yet he would be exposed to another. And this, to a certain extent, is true. These barbarians reasoned from great original principles, written on the hearts of all people by nature, that there is a God of justice, and that the guilty will be punished. They reasoned incorrectly, as many do, only because they supposed that every calamity is a judgment for some particular sin. People often draw this conclusion, and suppose that suffering is to be traced to some particular crime, and to be regarded as a direct judgment from heaven. Jesus refuted this line of reasoning in John 9:1-3: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The general proposition that all sin will be punished at some time is true, but we are not qualified to insist that particular calamities are always direct judgments for sin; though in some cases they may be. In the case of the drunkard, the gambler, and the drug user, we cannot doubt that the loss of property, health, and reputation is the direct result of specific sins. In the ordinary calamities of life, however, it requires a more profound acquaintance with the principles of divine government than we possess to assert of each instance of suffering that it is a particular judgment for some wrongdoing.

 “Whom, though he hath escaped the sea.” They say of Paul that “he hath escaped the sea” meaning that he was not drown, when shipwrecked.

“Yet vengeance suffereth not to live.”The Greek word "Dice" rendered "vengeance," is the name of a goddess worshipped by Heathens, who is said to be the daughter of Jupiter and Themis. She is represented as sitting by her father Jupiter; and when anyone asks a question of another, she informs him of it. She is pictured as sorrowful, and with a sloping forehead, a serious expression, and a rough appearance in order to strike terror in unrighteous persons, and give confidence to righteous ones; her name, which signifies "justice" is fitting. The barbarians supposed this deity pursued Paul; and though she let him escape the sea, she will not allow him to live any longer; for they thought the viper's deadly bite was caused by her for the purpose of causing him immediate death. They supposed the effect of the bite of the viper would be so certainly fatal that they might speak of him as already, as good as dead.

When the Romans took away from the Jews the right to exact capital punishment, the Jews observed that those that deserved to die for their crimes were punished by God in a way equivalent to their crime. For instance, if a man committed a crime for which he deserved to be burnt, either he fell into the fire, "a serpent bit him"; or if he deserved to be strangled, either he was drowned in a river, or died of a [4]quinsy.

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.

 “And he shook off the beast into the fire.” Paul immediately shakes off the creature (a natural reaction) and goes about his business as the snake is devoured by the fire. It doesn’t say, but perhaps he made the mistake of holding it a while as if he had mastered it and was not afraid, though this may provoke it to give him a deadly bite. This remarkably fulfilled the promise of the Savior: “They will pick up snakes with their hands . . .” (Mark 16:18, NIV). The idea conveyed is that Paul kept his composure, and that the beast did not give him any cause for alarm.

“And felt (suffered) no harm.”Some say this is circumstantial evidence that the viper did not bite the Apostle; it merely wrapped itself around his hand, but had no power to injure him or infect him with its poison

Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

 “Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly.”The citizens of Melita when they witnessed the snake bite Paul, expected that he would have swollen from the bite. The poison of the viper acts rapidly, and they expected that he would soon die. The word rendered “swollen” means “to burn; to be inflamed,” and then “to be swollen from inflammation.” This was what they expected to happen to the Apostle.

Swelling is one of the symptoms following the venomous bite of this creature; and if the bite does not cause the victim’s death, the inflamed swelling continues for some time. The symptoms following the bite of a viper are said to be acute pain in the area of the bite; swelling, first red, afterwards livid, spreading by degrees; great faintness; a quick, low, and sometimes interrupted pulse; sick at the stomach; intense convulsions: vomiting; cold sweats; sometimes pains about the navel; and death itself, if the vitality of the patient, or the insignificance of the bite, do not overcome it: if he does overcome it, the swelling continues inflamed for some time; and as the symptoms are abating, a streaming fluid runs from the wound, little pustules are raised around it, and the color of the skin is as if the patient were jaundiced; or had the jaundice. These are the usual effects of the viper’s bite, and they become apparent in a very short time.

Another notable affect is that the victim might “suddenly fall down dead” when the bite is in a vital part. The force of this creature's poison does not always, and in all places, and in all persons operate alike; some die within a few hours, and others live for days.

“But after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him.” The people had seen cases of viper-bite before, and they had no doubt about what was going to happen. But after they had looked a great while”upon the Apostle, perhaps an hour or two, to observe whether any inflammation or swelling occurred, or death ensued, as they expected; and saw no harm come to him”; that he was neither inflamed, nor swollen, nor dead; that it had no effect upon him, and no evil punishment was imposed on him from which they could conclude that he was guilty of any notorious crime.While the natives are waiting for Paul to drop dead at any moment, nothing is happening. Not only was there no swelling or inflammation, but also nothing at all was happening. The poison of the viper acts very quickly, in fact, the venom works so quickly that the antidotes they had could seldom be applied in time. Yet remember that Jesus had promised His apostles protection from such things (Mark 16:18). 

“They changed their minds, and said that he was a god.” Before this, they took him to be a murderer, and now they even ascribe deity to him, which was a common reaction by the Gentiles, when anything extraordinary was performed by men. Here they saw Paul bitten by a viper, but he went on about his business as if nothing had happened.

He had been taken for a god at Lystra—the Lystrians took Paul for Mercury, and Barnabas for Jupiter when the apostle cured the cripple of Acts 14:11—but later on in the same place he was stoned by the Jews (Acts 14:11-19). Now we have the opposite reaction. But the truth was at neither extreme (Paul is neither a murderer nor a god). Instead of being drowned or poisoned by “justice,” Paul had actually been protected from both fates by Jesus.

There can be no doubt that the inhabitants of Melita were idolaters; but it is not known which gods they worshipped, and conjecture would be useless.  However, one commentator has suggested that Hercules was one of the gods of the Phoenicians, and was worshipped in Melita under the nickname ofthe dispeller of evil.” They probably thought that Paul was Hercules because Hercules was famous for having destroyed, in his youth, two serpents that attacked him in his cradle. It was natural that they should attribute such protection to the presence of a divinity.

These Maltese might know the case of Orestes, who had killed his mother, and was bit by a serpent, and died. The Jews also have a record in the Gemara, that when Simeon found a manslayer, but had no witness to convict him, he prayed thus, “May he who knows the thoughts of men punish thee; and presently a serpent bit him and he died.”

In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.

“In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius.  “In the same quarters” means“in that place, or that part of the island which is near the place where the shipwreck occurred.”By design or chance they discovered they were close by lands belonging to the leading man of the island. The word “possessions” is used here to refer to his property, lands, his place of residence.

“Chief man of the island”is known from inscriptions to have been the official title of the governor of Melita; but he was also called “the first man of the island,” and “governor of Melita.” He was probably a Roman magistrate stationed there

“Whose name was Publius” (pronounced puhb lih uhs), or Poplius, as some copies, and the Syriac version read. Publius was a common name with Romans; with them it was a given name, by which they were called. This verse tells us that Publius owned an estate near where the shipwreck occurred. The island of Melita belonged to the province of the Sicilian [5]Prætor, and Publius was probably his representative.

“Who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.” Publius was an outstanding host for he made them feel welcome, and entertained them courteously for three days. This means that he treated them as guests for three days.This was until arrangements could be made for a more permanent dwelling-place. Since they must remain on the island through the stormy weather of winter before they could start out again, it would be necessary to provide them with their own housing. They could not be guests for the whole three months.

Publius showed those poor (having only the clothing on their back) and needy souls (needing food and housing) considerable humanity and hospitality by receiving so many strangers at once into his houses; two hundred three score and sixteen to be exact and give them food and lodging, for three days, and all the time treating them in a way Paul called kind, friendly, and cheerful. Publius, though ignorant of it, entertained an apostle of Christ among those strangers; afterwards he was to receive the benefit of his kindness, which he enjoyed, and which was compensation for his liberality and charity.

The Lord turned the bonds of Paul to glory; he stayed for three months, and many were healed and converted to the Lord. The master was with his servant.

And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and hevealed him.

“And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux.” The combination of the two—“fever and of a bloody flux”(dysentery)—made his case all the more serious. The words are technical, such as a physician like Luke would be likely to use in describing the disease. The inference here is that Publius was not an old man, though he was privileged to have self-respect and wealth. Note that the Arabic version, contrary to all copies, and other versions, reads, "the son of Publius." There is no way to tell whether the father of Publius fell ill after Paul’s arrival, or if he was ill before.

“To whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.” Paul entered the room of this very sick man, no doubt with the consent, if not at the request of Publius. The Ethiopic version adds, “and he entreated him to put his hand upon him”; that is, either Publius asked this favor of the apostle for his father, having heard of the incident with the viper, from which he concluded there was something divine and extraordinary in him; or the father of Publius asked this for himself:

Observe the two things Paul did and what God did in return. When Paul had entered the room and found in what a bad condition the sick man was in, he either kneeled down and prayed by him, or stood and prayed over him, and for him, that God would restore his health. And he did this to let them know that he himself was not a god; and that the cure that would now take place would be from God, and not from him, and therefore all the glory should be given to God. That is the first thing he did. Next he laid his hands on him, which was a sign or symbol, or rite that was used in extraordinary cases, and was in accord with the direction and promise of Christ: “They will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:18). And this was followed by a cure; both diseases left him at once, and he was restored to health.

The Apostle’s prayer was specific and on target; that God would exert his power; and he laid his hands on him, which was the means God ordinarily used to convey the energy of the Holy Spirit, and healed him. God conveyed the healing power by this means. In such a disorder as that mentioned here by Dr. Luke, where the bowels were in a state of inflammation, and a general fever aiding the dysentery in its work of death, nothing less than a miracle could have made an instantaneous cure in the patient. And even the heathens saw that it was the hand of God doing the miraculous.

So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:

So (But) when this was done, that is, after the father of the chief magistrate was healed by God at the touch of the Apostle Paul’s hands, news of this miracle spread like wildfire among the island’s citizens. Luke was a physician; yet we do not find him taking a part in these cures. As a medical man, he might have been of use to the father of Publius; but he is not even consulted on this occasion.

“Others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed.” “Others (the rest) alsocame to be cured. During the three months of their stay all the others who were sick and heard of what had been done for the father of the chief magistrate (and it was sure to be rapidly spread about the island) came to be cured of whatsoever diseases they were afflicted with. There were many who came during the three months of their stay, and they all were healed. How were they healed? They were doubtless healed in the same way Publius’ father was—Paul prayed for him, laid his hands on him, and he was healed. The other diseased persons who are mentioned in this verse were doubtless healed in the same way.

10 Who also honoured us with many honours; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.

“Who also honoured us with many honours.” The response here is a natural one. Paul humbly declares, they honoured us with many honours (marks of respect); not only Paul, but for his sake the rest of the party were honored by the people of the island.This may have taken the form of gifts; such things as would be needed by travelers who had lost everything in a shipwreck. Remember, Paul and his companions had lost everything they brought with them, and only escaped with the clothes on their backs. These very thoughtful gifts would once more increase their wardrobes and pocketbooks. We can assume that there were no divine honors or religious adorations involved, for these are not the kind of honors Paul would have accepted, or recorded for our information.

Please note: nothing is said about Paul charging people to be healed; rather this verse is speaking of gifts freely given as a token of their appreciation. The Greek word here for honored may also mean [6]honorarium, however, the Apostle who prayed and laid his hands on the sick and healed them was not the sort of person to whom men would offer money as a fee.

“And when we departed (sailed), they laded us with such things as were necessary.”They had given them many presents before, and now “they laded us”; rather,they furnished us with things that were necessary for our journey. They supplied us with all we needed, including food and clothing. The bounty must have been large if we consider the number of those for whom it was given. But Publius would set the example, and others would not be slow to follow it. Yet, nothing is said about any of these people obeying the gospel. It could be though that once in Rome Paul would get the message out that someone needed to go to Melita and preach. On the other hand, it’s very likely that many of them were converted under the Apostle's ministry; for it can hardly be thought that the Apostle would be on this island three months, as he was, and fail to preach the Gospel to its inhabitants. His preaching was always met with success, more or less; and the great respect shown him at his departure seems to confirm this; though we have no account of any church, or churches, or preachers of the word in this place, in ecclesiastical history, until the "sixth" century, when mention is made of a bishop of the island of Melita..

11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.

“And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle.” These were probably the winter months when all sailing came to a stand still. Thus, they remained on Melita during the months of November, December and January and now it is late January or early February in the year 61 A.D. Supposing that they had reached Melita about the end of October, as we have already seen, then it appears that they departed about the end of January, or the beginning of February. Though it is still winter, it’s not the worst time for sailing, for even in those seas and at that time, the wind was generally more steady; and, on the whole, the passage was safer.

It seems that there was another Alexandrian ship which had wintered on the island. This is a ship just like the one that sank three months earlier; it is another grain ship, probably bound for Rome. It had got as far as Melita, on its way to Italy, before the stormy weather came on. If the harbor was then where it now is, the ship had wintered in what is now Valetta. They would complete the voyage in this ship.

“Whose sign was Castor and Pollux,”that is, the ship was adorned with figures of Castor and Pollux, two demigods much celebrated in those days among seamen, for they were supposed to have the power to save men in danger at sea; therefore, those who were about to go to sea, first paid their respects, and made vows to them; which they performed when they returned, and were delivered from shipwreck; and when they were in danger at sea, they used to pray unto them.

They were reputed to be twin brothers, sons of Jupiter and Leda, the wife of Tyndarus, king of Sparta. After their death, they are fabled to have been transported to heaven, and made constellations under the name of Gemini, or the Twins. They then received divine honors, and were called the sons of Jupiter. They were supposed to preside over sailors, and to be their protectors; hence it was not uncommon to place their images on the head and stern of ships. We may suppose that this Alexandrian ship had these on either her prow or stern or both, and that these gave the ship its name.

Whether the centurion chose this ship because of its sign, imagining that it might provide more safety, since he had already suffered shipwreck; or whether this was the only one available on the island that was in route to Italy, is not certain, nor very material.

 

12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.

“And landing at Syracuse.” Paul's voyage to Italy on board the Alexandrian ship that had wintered at Melita follows the regular route, sailing north from Valetta to Sicily. He and his companions landed at Syracuse, the capital of the island of Sicily, on the eastern coast. It was on the direct course from Melita to Rome. In order to go to Rome from Melita, their best course was to keep pretty close to the eastern coast of Sicily, in order to pass through the straits of Rhegium and get into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Syracuse is one of the most famous cities of antiquity and was built about 730 years before the Christian era. It lies 72 miles from Messina, and about 112 from Palermo. In its ancient state, it was about 22 English miles in circumference and contained about 18,000 inhabitants. The trip from Melita to Syracuse was a distance of about 80 miles due north. Ships headed from Alexandria to Puteoli, in Italy, where they unloaded their cargo, commonly stopped there.

“We tarried there three days,” but we are not told the reason for the delay; whether it was related to their cargo, or for the sake of publishing the gospel. It is certain there were churches in Sicily very early, because we read of them in the "second" and "third" centuries. In the time of Constantine, at the beginning of the "fourth" century, there was a church at Syracuse, of which Chrestus was bishop. In the "sixth" century, Maximinianus, bishop of this church, was given the task of inspecting all the churches in Sicily.

13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:

“And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to (arrived at) Rhegium.” The term “compass” as it is used here doesn’t refer to the magnetic compass that we are familiar with today, since that was not introduced into Europe until sometime in the twelfth century. In Paul’s time “compass” was a nautical term for a method used by ancient sailors when the wind was not blowing in the direction they wanted to sail; that is to say, ‘due to the wind they may have been forced to sail in the pattern of a half-circle; rather than a straight line.’

“Rhegium,” pronounced ree jee uhm, was a seaport on the coast of southern Italy, across the Strait of Messina from the island of Sicily. This city was situated in the kingdom of Naples, on the coast near the southwest extremity of Italy. It was nearly opposite to Messina, in Sicily. The city takes its name from the promontory nearby.

“And after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli.” They stayed one day at Rhegium, and when they departed from there they took advantage of a change in the wind pattern; now they had a south wind, which was favorable to them. This change in the wind patterns was just what they needed to sail without undue danger between the famous rocks of Scylla and the whirlpool of Charybdis. Thus by a change of wind they were able to go speedily forward, instead of tacking as they had been obliged to do from Syracuse to Rhegium.

Whether the apostle preached there, or not, is not certain, since his stay was so short. In ecclesiastical history there is no account of any church in this place, until the fifth century.

"Puteoli," pronounced poo tee uh lih, was about a hundred and twenty miles from Rome, but it is there that the great grain ships from Alexandria were finally unloaded. The distance between Rhegium and Puteoli is about 180 miles. “Puteoli” was celebrated for its warm baths, and from these and its springs it is supposed to have derived its name, “The Wells.” In Paul’s day it was a principal port of Rome.

14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.

“Where we found brethren,” Christians—What a welcome sight this must have been to Paul!—which should not be a surprise, since it was a busy port, where many from different countries came and went; above all there were many Jews there, to whom the Gospel was first preached, and to some of them it was the power of God unto salvation in many places, and was certainly the case here. There had been many in Italy converted to the Christian faith, quite a while before this, which is evident from Paul's epistle to the Romans, written a number of years before this voyage.

From this, we can safely suppose that there was a Christian Church already established in Puteoli, and that it was to some extent well-known, and that the Apostle learned of its existence immediately after his arrival. It would appear from this that the Christians in Italy had already spread out over the nation to a considerable extent, even though it was now only about 28 years since the death of Jesus. It seems very probable that Christianity had been carried into that country from Jerusalem soon after the first Pentecostal preaching, at which time Roman visitors were present in the Holy City. Of course in such a place as Puteoli, the Jews were likely to congregate due to the potential for making money from the import/export business. It may be that the earliest converts to Christianity were from the Jews living in Puteoli. It is interesting that, without any previous recorded visit by an Apostle, that there already existed in Puteoli a lot of Christians, as evidenced by the zeal with which the new faith was being propagated.

“And were desired to tarry with them seven days”; that is, the Christians at Puteoli desired (pleaded with)the apostle, and those that were with him, to stay a week, so that the Apostle might be present with the Church in Puteoli at least over one Lord’s day, and experience the mutual enjoyment of one another’s company; there being no comfort upon earth, that is more like communion with God, than is the communion of saints: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).

Now, the Christian congregation would be able to gather in its entirety, and to hear from the lips of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, the Gospel for which he was now ‘an ambassador in bonds.’ We do not know whether any circumstances occurred in Puteoli that delayed Julius’ departure, but if that were not the case, it is an indication of the great influence which Paul had gained over the centurion, that he was permitted to stay such a long time with his Christian friends, when the capital was so near at hand. This shows that the centurion treated the Apostle with great civility and courteousness, and was very ready to grant him favors; but, it is not unlikely, considering the entirety of his conduct that he was converted by Paul during this voyage.

“And so we went toward Rome.” After they had stayed seven days at Puteoli, they set out on the final leg of their journey to Rome, which they chose to travel by foot, for the journey could be made by ship. Perhaps there wasn’t a ship that was going to Rome. There is no way at this time to know why they took the land route. Rome was the metropolis of Italy, the seat of the empire, and mistress of the whole world; it is so well known, that it did not need to be described. It was built on seven hills, and some say it got its name from Romulus the founder of it. Romulus and Remus brought it into the form of a city; it was built more than seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ.

At last, Paul’s burning ambition to preach the gospel in Rome is being fulfilled. Rome was approximately 150 miles by the Appian Way highway from Puteoli.

15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.

“And from thence,” that is, from Rome, where they were going.

“When the brethren heard of us.” The Christians who were at Rome are here called, “The brethren.”Word has reached the brethren in Rome that Paul is on his way. Between Puteoli and Rome there was constant communication. The seven days that Paul had spent in Puteoli would have given Christians there plenty of time to make the whole Christian body in Rome aware of his arrival in Italy and of the time when he would set out towards Rome.

The practice of traveling a great distance to meet somebody that men delighted to honor was common enough. When the Christians at Rome heard that the Apostle and his friends had landed at Puteoli, and were on their way to Rome, a number of them decided to head for Puteoli and meet them somewhere along the Appian Way, which runs between the two cities. These were members of the church at Rome; for there was a church in Rome before this time. Before this, the apostle had written a letter to them, called the Epistle to the Romans, in which he treats them as a church.

There is no place in the Word of God where it says who planted the Gospel in Rome. It does not appear that any Apostle was employed in this work. It was probably carried there by some of those who received Christ as their Savior on the day of Pentecost. The following two verses would seem to confirm this:“Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) . . . Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome” (Acts 2:10). And it is a reasonable assumption; since we do not know of any other theory than this—that it was these Christians that planted the Gospel at Rome.

 “They came to meet us as far as Appii forum and The three taverns.” “When the brethren in the city of Rome heard of us (heard we were coming to Rome), they came to meet us” on the great military road, called the Appian Way, which was built by the consul, Appius Claudius. Some came as far as Appii forum,” a distance of fifty miles from Rome, meanwhile, others waited for us at the three taverns,” which was twenty miles nearer to Rome. This outpouring of brotherly love rejoiced the soul of Paul.

We are nowhere told the names of those who made up the reception committee that went to welcome him to Italy, but I suggest that those whose names are mentioned in the sixteenth chapter of Romans (The Epistle to the Romans was written in 57 a.d., or at least five years before this time), which lists some of the Apostle’s friends in Rome, may have been part of that group that went to join Paul and to accompany him the rest of the way to Rome. The names mentioned in Romans 16 are: Aquila and Priscilla, Epænetus; Andronicus and Junias, who are both spoken of as having been formerly fellow-prisoners with the Apostle; Rufus, Herodion and Apelles, who are mentioned there in terms of the greatest affection. They could hardly have failed to be among the company at Appii Forum; that is, if they were there at the time

The “Appii Forum” was a small town about 50 miles from Rome. The remains of an ancient city are still seen there. It is on the borders of the Pontine Marshes. The city was built on the celebrated Appian Way, or the road from Rome to Capua. The road was constructed by Appius Claudius, and probably the city was founded by him also. It was called the forum or marketplace of Appius, because it was a convenient place for travelers on the Appian Way to stop for some rest and refreshment. It was also a famous marketplace of peddlers and merchants; it was near the sea, and was frequented by sailors. Unfortunately, it abounded with shop-keepers of bad character. The older translations use the word taverns, which gives the wrong impression in our time. The Latin word for tavern has a different meaning than the English word; the Latin simply means a shop of any kind, whereas the English word is used for a place where alcoholic beverages are sold. Given that the Appian Way was only one of two ways by which travelers could go from Appii Forum to the Imperial City, it was natural that the Christians from Rome would halt there and wait for the Apostle’s arrival.

“The Three Taverns,” like “Appi Forum” was a small town that was built beside the Appian Way, and it was closer to Rome by about twenty miles than was “Appi Forum.” This place, at first, was probably a place for booths or sheds, three of which were remarkable; other houses were built there in course of time, and the whole place became known as “The Three Taverns,” after the first three remarkable booths set up there.

Probably the greater part of the company of Christians remained at “The Three Taverns,” while the remainder went on to meet Paul, and to rejoice with him on the way to Rome. The Christians at Rome had doubtless heard much of Paul. The interest which the Roman Christians felt in the apostle was made apparent by their coming so far to meet him, though he was a prisoner.

“Whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” “He thanked God” for he had long zealously desired to see the Christians of Rome (Romans 1:9-11; Romans 15:23, Romans 15:32). He was now grateful to God that the object of his long desire was at last granted, and that he was permitted to see them, though in bonds. He had been brought through so many calamities, and was now so near the place that he longed for, and then to be met by a part of that Church to which, some years before, he had written an epistle. He gave thanks to God, who had preserved him, and took fresh courage, in the prospect of bearing there a testimony for his Lord and Master. “When Paul saw them (those who came to meet him), he thanked God (for the sight of them) and took heart and courage" from their friendliness and their counsel. The presence and counsel of Christian brethren is often of immeasurable value in encouraging and strengthening us in the work and trials of life. He went on cheerfully, and in high spirits, towards Rome; in hope of seeing the rest and believing that God had some work for him to do there.

When thinking and writing about his coming to Rome, Paul had never thought that his first visit there would be as a prisoner. He had hoped (Romans 1:11-12) to come as the bearer of some spiritual blessing, and to be comforted by the faith of the Roman brethren. How different was the event from what he had pictured. But yet here were some of the brethren, and their faith and love were made manifest by their journey to meet the Apostle, and no doubt they brought with them the salutations of all the Church. This was something to be thankful for. The prisoner would not be without sympathy, and the spiritual gift might be imparted even though Paul was no longer free. The cause of Christ was advancing; and cheered by the evidence of this the Apostle’s heart revived.

Notice that Paul is grateful to God even though the trip had been anything but smooth. Are we thankful merely to arrive safely or do we demand from God no complications and no discomforts

 

 

Special Notes:

[1] Freestone: Any stone, such as sandstone, that can be freely worked or quarried,

especially one that cuts well in all directions without splitting.

[2] Ell: An ell is a unit of measurement, originally a cubit, i.e., approximating the length of a man's arm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, or about 18 inches.

[3] Vesicle: a small bladder like cavity, especially one filled with fluid.

[4] Quinsy: An abscess in the tissue around a tonsil usually resulting from bacterial infection and often accompanied by pain and fever.

[5] Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army (in the field or, less often, before the army had been mustered); or, an elected magistratus (magistrate), assigned various duties (which varied at different periods in Rome's history). 

[6]Honorarium is a payment in recognition of acts or professional services for which custom or propriety forbids a price to be set:

 

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