What does Acts 28:6 mean?
ESV: They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
NIV: The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
NASB: Now they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
CSB: They expected that he would begin to swell up or suddenly drop dead. After they waited a long time and saw nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
NLT: The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.
KJV: Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
NKJV: However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
Verse Commentary:
Paul and 275 others have survived a raging storm on the Mediterranean Sea. This culminated in a shipwreck which destroyed everything but the lives of the people (Acts 27). The castaways find themselves on the island of Malta, south of Sicily and not far from Italy. They are so close to their destination—Rome—but they'll have to wait out the winter before they can find another ship to give them passage. For now, they just want to get warm (Acts 28:1–2).

The locals have kindly built a fire for them in the rain. Paul reaches to grab sticks to place on the flames when a snake, attracted to the heat, fastens onto his hand. Malta has little history of venomous snakes, and the ones living there today are likely an invasive species. The reaction of the locals suggests one of two things. One possibility is that they think of this snake as extremely dangerous. This would either be because it is—and such snakes were in Malta before being formally recorded by western scientists—or because it looks like the more dangerous snakes found in Africa.

The other likelihood is that the locals know Paul is a prisoner. His bad luck suggests he must be a murderer: since the sea couldn't take him, perhaps the gods have sent the serpent. Paul, however, shakes the animal into the fire, completely unharmed (Acts 28:2–5).

In the minds of the islanders, a criminal might have escaped one intended judgment but fall to another; a god would be immune to any calamity. This is not the first time Paul has been mistaken for a god. On his first missionary trip, he healed a man who had been crippled from birth in Lystra. The people determined he was Hermes and Barnabas was Zeus. The two were horrified. They tore their garments and insisted they were merely men. In fact, they barely managed to keep the people from sacrificing to them (Acts 14:8–18).

Herod Agrippa I had a different response to being called a god. He established games in his capital of Caesarea Maritima in honor of Caesar. One day, he appeared in a cloak threaded with silver. The sunlight reflected off the metal, and the people declared him to be a god. Despite normally showing great respect for the Jewish God, Agrippa took a little too long to refute their worship. He died a few days later of intestinal worms (Acts 12:20–23).

Undoubtedly, Paul corrected the islanders, but he did accept the leader's invitation to stay with him. After Paul healed the leader's father and several other islanders, the castaways found all their needs filled for their three-month stay as well as their journey to the mainland (Acts 28:7–11).
Verse Context:
Acts 28:1–6 describes the people of Malta's impression of Paul. He and others traveling on an Alexandrian ship have wrecked on the shores of the small island. As soon as they reach land, the weather turns cold and rainy. Paul surprises the islanders by surviving a viper bite unharmed. The locals quickly surmise he must be a god, and the island's leader invites him to stay in his home. Paul heals the leader's father and several others from the island, and the locals see to the survivors' needs (Acts 28:7–10).
Chapter Summary:
Acts 28 records Paul's three-month stay on the island of Malta and two-year house arrest in Rome. On Malta, God empowers Paul to perform healing miracles which endear him to the locals. Once he reaches the shores of Italy, many other believers accompany him on his last leg to Rome. In Rome, he finds the Jews just as accepting of Jesus as elsewhere; some believe, but many don't. Paul reaffirms his mission to the Gentiles and spends his time preaching while under house arrest.
Chapter Context:
Acts 28 is the end of Luke's story of the witness of Jesus' story (Acts 1:8). After his wrongful imprisonment in Caesarea Maritima, Paul appealed his case to Caesar (Acts 25:1–12). He, Aristarchus, and Luke survived a raging winter storm before finally reaching Rome (Acts 27). Again under house arrest, Paul is able to share Jesus' offer of forgiveness with any who wish to visit. While there, he writes the letters Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. After two years, Paul is released; tradition says he takes one more evangelistic tour before being arrested and eventually martyred around AD 67.
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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