Acts 27:28

ESV So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms.
NIV They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep.
NASB And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms.
CSB They took soundings and found it to be a hundred twenty feet deep; when they had sailed a little farther and sounded again, they found it to be ninety feet deep.
NLT They dropped a weighted line and found that the water was 120 feet deep. But a little later they measured again and found it was only 90 feet deep.
KJV And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms.

What does Acts 27:28 mean?

Paul has warned the ship's crew and passengers that the ship and its cargo will be lost, but the people will survive (Acts 27:22). They have been amid a ferocious storm for two weeks, only now sensing evidence that land is near (Acts 27:27). It's night, however, and they can't see. They don't know if they're coming on a beach, a harbor, or a reef, so they measure how far down the seabed is.

To take a sounding the sailors lower a rope with a heavy weight on the end. A fathom is about 6 feet, or 2 meters. The first sounding shows the water is relatively deep, but the second is only three-fourths as deep. This means the sea bed is rising quickly. They are rapidly approaching shore. A grain ship, most likely the type of ship they are on, has a deep draft and unseen rocks can tear the hull apart. Because it's night and the clouds cover any available light, the sailors realize they can't go any farther without risking their lives. They lower anchors from the stern so the ship won't go forward, then go to the bow. There, they pretend to set more anchors to keep the boat from spinning. However, they are lowering the lifeboat, intending to escape and abandon their passengers (Acts 27:29–30).

Fortunately, Paul realizes what they're doing. He tells the centurion, who orders his soldiers to cut the boat free. Paul encourages everyone to eat. After they have their fill, they throw the rest of the wheat into the sea to lighten the ship. When the sun rises, they see a beach. The sailors raise the foresail, untie the rudder, and cut away the anchors to try to run ashore on the beach. They hit a reef but it's close enough. The swimmers manage under their own power, and the others grab any part of the destroyed ship that can still float. Everyone makes it out alive (Acts 27:31–44).
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