What does Acts 27:28 mean?
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 and 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.
NKJV: And they took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and when they had gone a little farther, they took soundings again and found it to be fifteen fathoms.
Verse Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Acts 27:27–32 continues the story of a fierce storm, which has battered Paul's ship for a full two weeks. Paul has announced that the ship and cargo will be destroyed, but the people will live. When the sailors realize they're getting close to shore, they plan their escape in the lifeboat. Paul warns the centurion who orders his soldiers to cut the boat loose. Paul then encourages the crew and passengers to eat for the first time in fourteen days before the ship hits the reef and everyone swims for their lives.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 27 is an account of a famous sea voyage. Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus travel from Caesarea Maritima on their way to Rome. False charges and two years of imprisonment in Caesarea led Paul to appeal his case to a higher Roman court, and he is now on his way to that court. The chapter can be divided into seven paragraphs, alternating between descriptions of the sea voyage and Paul trying to keep everyone alive during a horrific storm. Eventually, they shipwreck on Malta. The ship and cargo are a complete loss, but no one dies.
Chapter Context:
Twice the Sanhedrin brought unfounded charges against Paul. In both cases, the ruling governor knew Paul was innocent but refused to let him go. Finally, Paul appealed his case to Caesar (Acts 24:22–27; 25:1–12). He, Luke, Aristarchus, and 273 others sail for Rome. But they shipwreck on a reef off the island of Malta. When they finally reach Rome, Paul will meet with Jewish leaders and tell them how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. Some will believe and some won't. This leads Paul to resolve, once again, to focus his efforts on the Gentiles (Acts 28).
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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