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Acts 27:4-5

Acts 27:4 (NIV)– “From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us.”

Note 14:

The writer states that they left Sidon “and passed on the lee side of Cyprus because the winds were against us”. (Emphasis added.) The KJV phrases the passage as follows:  “And when we had launched from thence, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.”

The lee side of an island is the side away from the wind.  On the lee side of an island, a ship is protected from the force of a strong wind by the island itself.  Ships and boats often take shelter from a storm by anchoring on the lee side of an island.

When I first read the King James version and it said we sailed under Cyprus, I assumed that meant they sailed to the south (under), meaning Cyprus stays on the right side of the ship.  (We always orient maps and language to what we are used to.)  Thus, in this case, NIV reads better than the KJV or, at the least, it reads more modern and more accurate.  The lee side of Cyprus in this case must have been around the northeast corner, with Cyprus staying on the left side (port side for you lubbers….arrrrg!) of the ship.  The writer also notes the weather and the fact that the wind was against them.

Note 15:

The writer clarifies any misunderstanding about the route in the next verse.

Acts 27:5 (NIV) – “When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia.”

The lee side of Cyprus was along the north side and both of the countries referenced in this verse are north of Cyprus.  Therefore, the ship had to pass between these two countries and Cyprus.

Note 16:

Myra is due north of Alexandria Egypt.  By virtue of its location, Myra was a major port in the eastern empire.  Ships sailing from Alexandria to Rome could not go directly northwest to Rome at this time of year because the prevailing winds would be from the west.  Thus, many would have to follow an indirect route by first sailing north to Myra then southwest toward Italy.    The Greek writer Lucian records that it took nine days for his ship to sail from Sidon to Myra by this route.

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