What does Acts 27:42 mean?
ESV: The soldiers ' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape.
NIV: The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping.
NASB: The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape;
CSB: The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners so that no one could swim away and escape.
NLT: The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim ashore and escape.
KJV: And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.
NKJV: And the soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape.
Verse Commentary:
Several weeks prior, Paul stood in Caesarea Maritima before Festus, the new governor. There, he heard the Sanhedrin re-introduce unfounded charges they hoped would lead to Paul's execution. Barring that, Paul's enemies hoped he'd be transferred to Jerusalem so they could murder him along the way. When Paul realized Festus was more concerned with pleasing the Sanhedrin than justice, he berated the governor for not doing his job and appealed his case to Caesar. Festus had no choice but to agree (Acts 25:1–12).

Now, Paul is with a group of fellow prisoners on the quickly disintegrating remains of an Alexandrian ship, likely transporting grain to Rome. The vessel has only just survived a two-week typhoon. The bow is stuck in a muddy clay reef. The waves are tearing apart the stern. The beach is just a swim away (Acts 27:6, 33, 41).

Between Paul and land, however, is a cadre of soldiers who know they will likely be executed if any prisoner escapes. If the ship had reached the beach, they could have guarded the prisoners as they climbed down the hull. As it is, they can't keep everyone under tight control while they're swimming and paddling and kicking for the shore. So, they resolve to kill them, instead.

Fortunately, their centurion, Julius, has always liked Paul and has grown to respect him greatly over the previous two weeks (Acts 27:3, 31–32). He calls the soldiers off and orders as orderly an evacuation as possible. Everyone makes it to shore, and presumably no prisoners escape (Acts 27:43–44).
Verse Context:
Acts 27:39–44 describes dawn breaking as Paul's ship finally succumbs to the sea and wrecks. The 276 crew members and passengers can see the island they've reached. But it's still a dangerous trek to the shore. Paul and the other prisoners face a hidden reef, strong surf, and murderous Roman soldiers. They finally make it to land—where it promptly starts raining. Fortunately, the locals are friendly and helpful, and after another three months, Paul finally makes it to Rome (Acts 28).
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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