Paul in Malta: Page 1 of 6 (series: Lessons on Acts)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

September 26, 2016

The Acts of the Apostles
By: Tom Lowe

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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 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.
5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.

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).

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).
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 1freestone, 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.)

2 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.

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