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Acts 27: 18-20

Acts 27: 18 (NIV)

We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard.

Note 50:  “WE” took such a violent battering

Again, Luke’s precise choice of words paints such a clear mental picture of what these people enduring at this moment.  First he chose the term “we took”, instead of “the ship took”, which I believe shows the personal nature of their suffering.  Quite often in shipwreck survival accounts you will see that during the process of long storms, many survivors internalize the struggle and it becomes about them personally and no longer just about the ship.  Thus, Luke’s choice of words is yet another indication that this text is indeed a true first-hand account of the events.

Next he chooses the words “violent battering”.  This description gives us a double dose of inflicted punishment on people and vessel, but then as if not enough he completes the verbal picture by making the phrase “such a violent battering”.  Keep in mind that verse 27:17 seemed to have a ray of hope hidden in the words; however, the words used here are certainly losing that positive tone.

Note 51:  (a Personal Note)  The psychology of personalizing the storm

The concept of personalizing catastrophic events is not uncommon. One of the worse times in my life was from 2000 – 2002, otherwise known as the “tech bubble burst”.  I was riding pretty high before the burst but when the recession hit, I felt as if the “burst”, the recession and the downward trend in the economy were personally directed at me.  It was a financially devastating time for me during which I often, OFTEN wondered if I had done something wrong.  Had I failed to be a good steward with the money God had given me?  Was God angry with me for some other failure on my part?  I know now that these thoughts weren’t logical.  God did not bankrupt entire industries and send the world into recession just because he was mad at me.  I know how ridiculous it must sound to someone to hear that these thoughts ran through my head.  I really do know in my brain that these were all silly thoughts of a man during a moment of weakness.  But, silly though they may be, even thinking about those times now makes me shake inside.  And to think, I wasn’t even facing eminent death by drowning.  The men in these verses were.

Note 52: The things people throw overboard in a storm.

Luke tells us that they take additional action in any attempt to improve the situation.  He states “…they begin to throw the cargo overboard”.  The reason for undertaking the voyage in the first place was to make money by moving the cargo of grain from Egypt to Rome.  There is no indication that the grain was in any way ruined at this point.  It is possible that the grain was wet and may have been unsalvageable at this point, but the text does not indicate that as fact.  As far as we know the cargo was still in perfect condition.  Jettisoning cargo was a common act among crews during this type of event.  It helped lighten the load on the ship and gave it some extra buoyancy to stay afloat.  It is amazing what people are willing to part with during times of crisis.

I believe he is referring to the crew when he says “they” in this case.  The order to dump cargo would have come from the owner or captain directly to the crew.

Acts 27:19 – (NIV)

On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.

Note 53:

I believe that Luke is again referring to the crew when he says “they threw” because the order to throw tackle overboard would have come from the owner or captain and would have been directed toward the crew.  This theory is reinforced when he adds ” ‘with’ their own hands” at the end.

There are various theories as to what tackle this might refer to.  It could be broken equipment, spare equipment, or gear that is not in use at that moment.  Basically it could be anything not vital to this ship making it to the next port.  The equipment thrown overboard may very well have been in good condition but was also extra weight.  On the other hand, the dumping of the ship’s tackle may also indicate deterioration in the overall condition of the ship.  The more the ship deteriorates, the more items can be removed from it.  Regardless of whether the items thrown overboard were in good condition or bad, this statement CLEARLY indicates that the crew is continuing to do anything that might help them survive.

Actions such as this are quite common during shipwrecks throughout history, especially those of ships embarked on a long journey.  This fact lends credence, yet again, to the assertion that this chapter of Acts is indeed an accurate and first-hand account of these events.

Acts 27:20 – (NIV)

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

Note 54:

Like many of the statements in this chapter, Acts 27:20 is one of those that could be taken from almost any storm related shipwreck account ever written by a survivor.  First, Luke will justify a decision that was made by first providing the reasoning behind it:

“When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging,”

Can you imagine what a desperate situation this must have been?  Pure misery with no end in sight.  Anyone that has ever been sea sick for hours on end (or, for that matter, sick with any illness that seemingly had no end) may be able to appreciate the way these passages read.  I personally have been so seasick on some dive trips that I have actually thought death was preferable to the condition I was enduring.

The next sentence is the worst mental state of all: “… we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

Again, notice that by using the pronoun “we”, Luke is again including himself in the group he is describing (i.e. those who gave up all hope of being saved).  I do not know whether Paul had given up hope at this point; I don’t think so.  However, Luke certainly sounds like he includes himself as part of “we”.  By using the phrase “we finally gave up ALL hope of being saved”, Luke paints a complete visual and emotional picture of the conditions through which these men were suffering and the state of mind that had begun to take hold of them.  Again, comments and recorded testimony exactly like this are common to other shipwreck accounts of a long duration.  Survivors’ narrations often clearly indicate the very moment that people give up.  On an interesting note, experts who study and teach survival skills all agree that the moment a person gives up hope of rescue, the chance for survival drop dramatically.

Note 55:

One final note here, remember the tone of optimism we read in verse 27:17, after they made preparation to face the storm.  The events described in verses 18 – 20 seem to have zapped all such optimism from those on the ship.

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