After three months we put out to sea in an Alexandrian ship that had wintered at the island and had the “Heavenly Twins” as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there we cast off and arrived at Rhegium, and after one day a south wind sprang up and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found some brothers and were invited to stay with them seven days. And in this way we came to Rome. The brothers from there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. When he saw them, Paul thanked God and took courage. When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him —Acts 28:11-16
I am not going to spend too much time here. Luke is telling us how they made it from Malta to Rome. They found another Alexandrian wheat ship that had wintered nearby where they could book passage. Why does Luke bother to tell us that this ship had, as it were, a “hood ornament” of twin gods, who were worshiped as sons of Zeus? These were the gods the sailors looked to for safety when navigating the seas. My question is why does Luke mention them? I don’t know, but there could be a couple of reasons. First, when you combine it with what we read regarding the snake episode, we see that these Gentiles are truly pagans. They are deeply entrenched in idol worship. Second, people desperately need the gospel and are blessed by the unexpected arrival of Paul, Luke, and Aristarchus. Third, more ironically—or maybe I should say, sadly—these heathen idolaters are far more receptive and gracious toward Paul than the Jewish leaders are in Rome.
After spending the winter on Malta, they set sail again, and make port first at Syracuse, which was an important city of Sicily, then sail to Rhegium, which on the very “toe” of Italy. They then arrived in Puteoli in only a couple days. This city was apparently the place where the Egyptian wheat ships made port and unloaded their cargo. The great part is that there were believers in Puteoli, so Paul and his companions were allowed to stay with them for a week. Now it it is easy to forget that is technically a prisoner traveling with other prisoners, and not cruise ship vacationer. From this point, Paul and the others traveled by land, along the great Appian Way. Believers in Rome had received Paul’s epistle (Romans) some time before, so when they heard he was coming, several of them went out to meet him, traveling some 30 to 40 miles to do so. Paul was encouraged to see them and gave thanks to God.
Luke mentions something in verse 16 that, at first glance, appears rather insignificant. Paul was allowed to live by himself in Rome, with a soldier guarding him. As I said, we some times forget that Paul was a prisoner, and this was pretty special treatment. Do you think the other prisoners (especially any who may have been condemned to death) would have been allowed this kind of freedom? They were probably herded into a crowded prison. When are not specifically told this, but Paul’s rented accommodations must have been big, because it had to accommodate the large groups that came to hear him. This seemingly insignificant detail is God’s provision of a place for Paul to entertain and teach people without any problems.