Problems at sea (Acts 27:17)

“After hoisting

The lifeboat up,

They took cable lines

To undergird the ship.

Then,

Fearing

That they would run

Into the Syrtis,

They lowered

The ship’s gear.

Thus,

They were driven along.”

ἣν ἄραντες βοηθείαις ἐχρῶντο, ὑποζωννύντες τὸ πλοῖον· φοβούμενοί τε μὴ εἰς τὴν Σύρτιν ἐκπέσωσιν, χαλάσαντες τὸ σκεῦος, οὕτως ἐφέροντο.

The author of Acts indicated that after hoisting (ἣν ἄραντες) the lifeboat up, they took cable lines (βοηθείαις ἐχρῶντο) to undergird the ship (ὑποζωννύντες τὸ πλοῖον).  Then, fearing (φοβούμενοί τε) that they would run into Syrtis (μὴ εἰς τὴν Σύρτιν ἐκπέσωσιν), they lowered (χαλάσαντες) the ship’s gear or main sail (τὸ σκεῦος).  Thus, they were driven along (οὕτως ἐφέροντο).  Acts was the only Greek biblical writing that used this word ὑποζωννύντες, that means to undergird or strengthen a ship against the waves.  Syrtis was the name of two large sandbanks or quicksand off the Libyan coast of North Africa that made it dangerous for ships.  The sailors were afraid that they would be blown into these Syrtis sandbanks. They would be faced with the eventual possibility of the ship’s wrecking on the north African coast in these Syrtis sand banks or quicksand.  They did not face the ship away from the wind, because in that case they would have drifted slowly to the southwest, to the African coast.  Instead, they decided to secure the ship, point it into the wind, and drift slowly westward into the teeth of the storm.  They also took ropes and undergirded the ship to strengthen it against the waves.  Then they trimmed the sail and the ship’s gear.  They were ready to go.  What do you do when an emergency hits you?

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