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Acts 27:40

Act 27:40

Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.

In verse 39, the crew saw the spot where they would attempt to ground the ship.  Notice how the wording of Luke’s dialog changes here. It is short, quick and to the point.  It projects the rapid actions and urgency of the crew as they take the necessary actions to get the ship to the beach.

Note 96: Cutting loose the anchors

The very first action the crew undertook was to cut all the anchor ropes.  Notice they cut them and did not pull them up, which is exactly what any crew would do.  If they are successful in grounding the ship, they won’t need the anchors anymore.  If they are unsuccessful in grounding the ship, then they won’t need the anchors either.  This is a time critical event, so the faster they could get the bow around the better their chances. So, they cut those babies loose. Again, Luke’s version of events is logical and historically accurate.

Note 97: left them in the sea

Notice the short, quick phrasing describing the actions. The actions described were being done with urgency. The phrase “they left them in the sea” is music to a shipwreck hunters ears.   As a result of leaving the anchors we now know, off the coast of Malta, in less than 90 feet of water, this ship left four anchors. In modern times, quite a few Roman anchor stocks have been recovered from the waters off  Malta.  In fact, the largest Roman era anchor stock ever recovered in the Mediterranean, was brought up in Malta.  Another Roman anchor stock was found by diver, Mark Gatt from Malta.  It was found and recovered with the names of two Egyptian gods of ISIS and SARAPIS still visible on them.  (check the map section for a photograph of this anchor)

Note 98: untied the ropes that held the rudders

Notice in the narrative, where Luke says “and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders.” This phrase indicates this action was done as they were cutting the anchors.  This is a logical move and actually vital to the success of the intended maneuver.  The anchors were controlling the ships movements, or rather it’s lack of movement, but as the anchors were cut loose they no longer held the ship and therefore the crew would need a way to steer the ship.  On a personal note, we often dive in the dark rivers of  South Carolina, searching for fossils and artifacts.  The current is very swift and can change while divers are submerged. If a diver surfaces and can’t reach the boat the captain must go get them.  The procedures we use is to first start the motor, then untie the anchor.  Likewise in this situation, the crew must be able to control the vessel once it becomes free. The act of securing the oars on deck was a procedure necessary under the circumstances of the voyage, as the oars would likely have  been destroyed by the violence of the storm. We are not told when the crew actually tied up the steering oars (they were not actually rudders, but long oars near the stern), but we know they untied them as they cut the anchors.

Note 99: the foresail

The verse describes for us what they did next, Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind” The foresail (the artemon) here is a smaller sail in front of the mainmast closer to the bow of the ship.  In the earliest days, the function of this foresail is thought to be primarily  an aid to steering, and not providing power for sailing. The context here would seem to agree with that functionality. The foresail would not only help provide control, but would also provide some extra speed that might help in pushing the ship farther onto the beach, if they made it that far.  It seems clear that the foresail is important to the over all mission of grounding the ship, whether by steering control or providing extra speed.

Note 100: committed

I love the entire phrase and the tenseness it injects into the narrative.  But my favorite part of the entire text is the last four words. After fourteen days at sea, almost no food, rain, wind, cold, seasickness, they put a plan in motion and then they “made for the beach.” I know I sound like a movie critic, but this gives me the impression that they were all of one mind at this point –  They were determined, anxious, desperate, and holding on with white knuckles. I can visualize how everyone on board must have been leaning forward in grim determination to reach that beach. All eyes were focused on the common goal. At this point, there was no rich or poor, slave or free, soldier or prisoner, only desperate individuals moving with a single purpose –  to be saved.  Right or wrong, the moment for action was here. Live or die they had passed the point of no return. They were committed.

I love shipwreck stories!

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