From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Among the earliest shipbuilders were the Phoenicians, whose commerce and voyages made them foremost in the maritime science of early ages, and traces of whose ships are frequently met with. (On Paul'S Voyage, See Euroclydon; Melita; Cnidus; Crete; Fair Havens.) Paul was first in the Adramyttian coasting vessel from Caesarea to Myra; then in the large Alexandrian grain ship wrecked at Malta; then in another Alexandrian grain ship from Malta by Syracuse and Rhegium to Purcell. Luke shows accurate nautical knowledge, yet not professional, but of an observer, telling what was done but not the how or the why.

Fourteen different verbs he uses of the progression of a ship, peculiar to himself and appropriate to each case: Pleoo ;  Luke 8:23;  Acts 21:3; Apopleo ;  Acts 13:4;  Acts 14:26;  Acts 20:15;  Acts 27:1; Bradupleoo ;  Acts 27:7; Diapleoo ;  Acts 27:5; Ekpleoo ;  Acts 15:39; Katapleoo ;  Luke 8:26; Hupopleoo ;  Acts 27:4;  Acts 27:7; Parapleoo ;  Acts 20:16; Euthudromeoo ;  Acts 16:11;  Acts 21:1; Hupotrechoo ;  Acts 27:16; Paralegomai ;  Acts 27:8;  Acts 27:13; Feromai ;  Acts 27:15; Diaferomai ;  Acts 27:27; Diaperaoo ;  Acts 21:2. Paul's ship, besides cargo of wheat, carried 276 persons, so she would be of 600 tons. Lucian (Ploion e Euche) describes an Alexandrian wheat ship, 180 ft. long (including end projections) by 45 ft. broad, i.e. 1,300 tons.

The largest on record was Ptolemy Philopator's war galley, 420 ft. long by 57 ft. broad, under 5,000 tons. "The governor" in  James 3:4 is the "helmsman" ( Kuberneetees ; The "Owner" Was Naukleeros ) . There were two paddle rudders, one on each quarter, acting in a rowlock or through a porthole. As the helmsman used only one at a time, "the helm" is in the singular in  James 3:4. In  Acts 27:29;  Acts 27:40, after letting go the four anchors at the stern, they lashed up both the rudder paddles lest they should interfere with the ground tackle. When they wished to steer again and the anchor ropes were cut (margin), they unfastened the lashings or bands of the paddles. The ship's run from Rhegium to Puteoli, 180 miles in two days, the wind being full from the S., illustrates the rate of sailing. The bow and the stern were much alike, except that on each side of the bow was painted "the sign" ( Paraseemon ), as for instance "Castor and Pollux" ( Acts 28:11).

An eye was painted on each side of the bow; so Luke's phrase ( Antofthalmein ), "bear up into," literally, "eye the wind" directly ( Acts 27:15). The imperfect build of ships caused the need of "undergirders" to pass round the frame, at right angles to its length, when the planks were in danger of starting. The anchors resembled ours, but had no flukes. Spiritually they symbolize the Christian hope ( Hebrews 6:19). The soul is the ship; the world the sea; the bliss beyond the distant coast; hope resting on faith the anchor which prevents the vessel being tossed to and fro; the consolation through God's promise and hope is the cable connecting the ship and anchor. The soul clings, as one in fear of shipwreck, to the anchor, and sees not where the cable runs, where it is fastened; she knows it is fastened behind the veil which hides the future glory; if only she hold on to the anchor, she shall in due time be drawn in where it is, into the holiest, by the Saviour.

Anchoring by the stern, the ancients were prepared to anchor in the gale such as Paul encountered; and Purdy (Sailing Directions, 180) says that the holding ground at Malta where Paul was wrecked is quite good enough to have secured the anchors and ship in spite of the severe night. In  Acts 27:40, for "mainsail" translated "foresail," which was needed to put the ship about and to run it aground. Vessels were propelled by oars as well as by sails ( Ezekiel 27:29;  Isaiah 33:21;  Jonah 1:13). Of the 32 parts or points of the compass card a modern ship will sail within six points of the wind. The clumsier ancient ship probably could sail within seven points. In a heavy gale the ship would lie to, with the right side to the storm, the object being not progress but safety; as under the lee of Clauda ( Acts 27:14-17).

To anchor was impossible; to drift would have brought the ship to the fatal Syrtis off Africa. The wind was E.N.E. (Euraquilo); the direction of drift being W. by N., and the rate of drift one mile and a half an hour; the shipwreck must have been off Malta. Having no compass or charts, they seldom ventured voyaging in winter ( Acts 27:9), and the absence of visible sun or stars seriously embarrassed them ( Acts 27:20). In the intricate passages between islands and mainland they did not sail by night when the moon was dark ( Acts 20:13-16;  Acts 21:1). Thomson (Land and Book, 401-404) mentions seeing but one rickety boat on the sea of Galilee, which was once covered with fishermen's boats; contrast the fact that Josephus (B. J., 2:21, section 8-10) mentions his collecting here 280 boats, with four men in each.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Ship. No one writer in the whole range of Greek and Roman literature has supplied us with so much information concerning the merchant-ships of the ancients as St. Luke in the narrative of St. Paul's voyage to Rome. Acts 27,28. It is important to remember that he accomplished it in three ships: first, the Adramyttian vessel which took him from Caesarea to Myra, and which was probably a coasting-vessel of no great size,  Acts 27:1-6, secondly, the large Alexandrian corn-ship, in which he was wrecked on the coast of Malta,  Acts 27:6-28; and thirdly, another large Alexandrian corn-ship, in which he sailed from Malta by Syracuse and Rhegium to Puteoli.  Acts 28:11-13.

Size of ancient ships. - The narrative which we take as our chief guide affords a good standard for estimating this. The ship, in which St. Paul was wrecked had persons on board,  Acts 27:37, besides a cargo of wheat,  Acts 27:10;  Acts 27:38, and all these passengers seem to have been taken on to Puteoli in another ship,  Acts 28:11, which had its own crew and its own cargo. Now, in modern transport-ships, prepared far carrying troops, it is a common estimate to allow a toll and a half per man. On the whole, if we say that an ancient merchant-ship might range from 500 to 1000 tons, we are clearly within the mark.

Steering apparatus. - Some commentators have fallen into strange perplexities from observing that in  Acts 27:40, ("the fastenings of the rudders"); St. Luke uses the plural. Ancient ships were, in truth, not steered at all by rudders fastened or hinged to the stern, but by means of two paddle-rudders one on each quarter, acting in a rowlock or through a port-hole as the vessel might be small or large.

Build and ornaments of the hull. - It is probable that there was no very marked difference between the bow and the stern. The "hold,"  Jonah 1:5, would present no special peculiarities. That personification of ships which seems to be instinctive led the ancients to paint an eye on each side of the bow. Compare  Acts 27:15. An ornament of the ship which took Paul from Malta to Pozzuoli is more explicitly referred to. The "sign" of that ship,  Acts 28:11, was Castor and Pollux; and the symbols of those heroes were doubtless painted or sculptured on each side of the bow.

Under-girders. - The imperfection of the build, and still more (see below, 6) the peculiarity of the rig, in ancient ships, resulted in a greater tendency than in our times, to the starting of the pranks, and consequently to leaking and foundering. Hence, it was customary to take on board peculiar contrivances, suitable called "helps,"  Acts 27:17, as precautions against such dangers. These were simply cables or chains, which, in case of necessity, could be passed round the frame of the ship, at right angles to its length, and made tight.

Anchors. - Ancient anchors were similar in form to those which we use now, except that they were without flukes. The ship in which Paul was sailing had four anchors on board. The sailors on this occasion anchored by the stern.  Acts 27:29.

Masts, sails, ropes and yards. - The rig of an ancient ship was more simple and clumsy than that employed in modern times. Its great feature was one large mast, with one large square sail fastened to a yard of great length. Hence, the strain upon the hull, and the danger of starting the planks, were greater than under the present system, which distributes the mechanical pressure more evenly over the whole ship.

Not that there were never more masts than one, or more sails than one on the same mast, in an ancient merchantman; but these were repetitions, so to speak, of the same general unit of rig. Another feature of the ancient, as of the modern, feature of the ancient, as of ship is the flag at the top of the mast. Isaiah l.c., and  Isaiah 30:17. We must remember that the ancients had no compass, and very imperfect charts and instruments, if any at all.

Rate of sailing. - St. Paul's voyages furnish excellent data for approximately estimating this; and they are quite in harmony with what we learn from other sources. We must notice here, however - what commentators sometimes curiously forget - that winds are variable. That the voyage between Troas and Philippi, accomplished on one occasion,  Acts 16:11-12, in two days, occupied on another occasion,  Acts 20:6, five days. With a fair wind, an ancient ship would sail fully seven knots an hour.

Sailing before the wind. - The rig which has been described is, like the rig of Chinese junks, peculiarly favorable to a quick run before the wind.  Acts 16:11;  Acts 27:16. It would, however, be a great mistake to suppose that ancient ships could not work to windward. The superior rig and build, however, of modern ships enable them to sail nearer to the wind than was the case in classical times. A modern ship, if the weather is not very boisterous, will sail within six points of the wind. To an ancient vessel, of which the hull was more clumsy and the yards could not be braced so tight, it would be safe to assign seven points as the limit.

Boats on the Sea of Galilee. - In the narrative of the call of the disciples to be "fishers of men,"  Matthew 4:18-22;  Mark 1:16;  Mark 1:20;  Luke 5:1-11, there is no special information concerning the characteristics of these. With the large population around the Lake of Tiberias, there must have been a vast number of both fishting boats and pleasure boats, and boat building must have been an active trade on its shores.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

Israelites were not seafaring people, partly because the Mediterranean coast south of Mt Carmel had shallow waters and sandy shores, with no good sites for harbours. North of Mt Carmel, however, there were good harbours at Tyre and Sidon. This was one reason why the Phoenicians became a famous seafaring nation in Old Testament times ( Ezekiel 27:2;  Ezekiel 27:25;  Ezekiel 28:2; see Phoenicia ).

In the time of the Israelite monarchy, King Hiram of Phoenicia and King Solomon of Israel established a fleet of ships to operate between the Red Sea port of Ezion-geber and India. Because of the Israelites’ lack of seafaring experience, Solomon had to rely on the Phoenician seamen to guide and teach his men. The ships used on this route were known as ‘ships of Tarshish’. This was a technical name for a certain kind of ocean-going cargo ship, not an indication of the port to which or from which a ship was sailing ( 1 Kings 9:26-28;  1 Kings 10:11;  1 Kings 10:22; see Tarshish ).

‘Ships of Tarshish’, like other large ships, may have been driven by oars or by sails ( Isaiah 33:21;  Isaiah 33:23;  Ezekiel 27:6-8;  Ezekiel 27:26;  Ezekiel 27:29). River boats, which were much smaller, may have been made of papyrus reeds ( Isaiah 18:1-2).

God’s judgment on the greedy commercial giant Phoenicia (Tyre) was pictured by the prophet Ezekiel as the sinking of a great ship. The ship had been beautifully made of the best materials from all parts of the trading world. Its planks, masts, oars and decking were made of the best timbers, its sails of the finest linen, and its colours of the most expensive dyes. The rowers, sailors and craft workers who made up its crew were highly skilled people from many countries. Tyre’s trade, however, became so great that the ship became overloaded. When caught in a storm at sea, it sank. All its cargo was lost and all the crew drowned ( Ezekiel 27:1-9;  Ezekiel 27:25-27;  Ezekiel 28:2-8; cf.  Revelation 18:19).

In New Testament times huge grain ships sailed from Alexandria in Egypt to Greece and Rome ( Acts 27:6;  Acts 28:11). They were capable of carrying large cargoes and several hundred people ( Acts 27:18;  Acts 27:37). Being sailing ships, they had to stay in port during winter months, when severe storms were likely to wreck them ( Acts 27:9-20). During the stormy season the ship’s crew wrapped strong ropes or metal bands around the hulls of the ships to hold their timbers together ( Acts 27:17).

The smaller boats that sailed on the Lake of Galilee were used mainly for fishing or carrying passengers ( Matthew 4:21-22;  Matthew 8:23-27;  Matthew 9:1;  Luke 5:2-7;  John 6:22-23;  John 21:3). They were driven either by sails or by oars, depending on the weather conditions ( Mark 6:48;  John 6:19).

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [4]

It was among the prophecies of the dying patriarch Jacob, ( Genesis 49:13) that Zebulun should dwell in "the haven of the sea, and be an haven for ships" And how distant soever this allusion may appear to some concerning the days of Christ, and the eventual dispersion of the gospel to the Gentile islands of the sea, yet from subsequent prophecies to the same amount, when illustrated by each other, I confess that I am inclined to believe that some great maritime power, such as our own, may be fairly referred to in the several prophecies to this amount. I beg the reader before he goes farther to consult  Numbers 24:24;  Matthew 4:13-16;  Ezekiel 27:1-36; Eze 28:1-26;  Daniel 4:13; Dan 11:30. No doubt, The Tyrus spoken of is mystical as well as other places mentioned in those prophecies. The limits to be observed in this Poor Man's Concordance will not allow me to enlarge.

I cannot however dismiss the subject without first observing that, however partial we may be to our own country as to fancy the great maritime power alluded to means our British Zion, the present æra is highly unfavourable to the character of faithful worshippers. Whoever takes a fair and impartial statement between the purity of our faith and practice, and the period after the Reformation, will be struck with astonishment in the sad change. I was much pleased with the perusal of a paper which lately fell into my hands, entitled the Bill of Lading for a Ship. From the beautiful simplicity of style, as well as the evident marks of grace in which it is written, I take for granted that it was first in use in that glorious period, when the pure doctrines of the gospel were as much known and valued as they are now forgotten or despised. I mean from about the year 1560. I shall venture to believe the reader, if he hath never seen a Bill of Lading for a Ship, will thank me for inserting it under this article. It is in my esteem a precious fragment of the devotion of our Navy, as well as our fathers at that time in this kingdom engaged in commerce.

"Shipped by he grace of God, in good order, and well conditioned, in and upon the good Ship called the...whereof is master, under God, for this present voyage, A. B. and now riding at anchor in the river Thames, and by God's grace bound for...such and such goods. And which said goods are to be delivered in the like good order, at the said port (the act of God, the king's enemies, fire, and all and every other dangers and accidents of the seas, rivers, and navigation, of whatever nature and kind soever, excepted.) And so God send the good ship to her desired port in safety. Amen."

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

The ships of the ancients were very imperfect in comparison with modern ones. Navigators crept carefully along the shores, from one headland or prominent point to another, making a harbor if practicable every night; and when out of sight of land, being ignorant of the compass and quadrant, they guided their course by the sun and certain stars. Even in St. Paul's time, vessels passing from Palestine to Italy, sometimes wintered on the way!

  Acts 27:12   28:11 . The ancient ships were in general small, though a few large ships are on record. They were often highly ornamented both at the prow and the stern; and the figurehead or "sign," by which the vessel was known, was sometimes an image of its tutelar divinity. They were usually propelled by oars often in several "banks" or rows one above another, as well as by sails. In war, the galley tried to pierce and run down its antagonist.

The Phoenicians were celebrated for their ships and their extensive commerce, as appears from Ezekiel's description,  Ezekiel 27:1-36 , as well as from numerous ancient historians. Though Joppa and in Christ's time Caesarea were Jewish ports,  2 Chronicles 2:18   Jonah 1:3 , yet the Jews were never a maritime people, and most of their foreign navigation would appear to have been carried on by the aid of Phoenicians,  1 Kings 9:26   10:22   22:49,50 . Paul's graphic and faithful description of his voyage and shipwreck in  Acts 27:1-44 , discloses many of the peculiarities of ancient navigation. For the "ship of Tarshish," see Tarshish .

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( v. i.) To engage to serve on board of a vessel; as, to ship on a man-of-war.

(2): ( v. t.) To receive on board ship; as, to ship a sea.

(3): ( v. t.) To engage or secure for service on board of a ship; as, to ship seamen.

(4): ( v. t.) Hence, to send away; to get rid of.

(5): ( n.) Specifically, a vessel furnished with a bowsprit and three masts (a mainmast, a foremast, and a mizzenmast), each of which is composed of a lower mast, a topmast, and a topgallant mast, and square-rigged on all masts. See Illustation in Appendix.

(6): ( n.) Any large seagoing vessel.

(7): ( v. t.) To put on board of a ship, or vessel of any kind, for transportation; to send by water.

(8): ( v. t.) By extension, in commercial usage, to commit to any conveyance for transportation to a distance; as, to ship freight by railroad.

(9): ( n.) A dish or utensil (originally fashioned like the hull of a ship) used to hold incense.

(10): ( n.) Pay; reward.

(11): ( v. t.) To put in its place; as, to ship the tiller or rudder.

(12): ( v. i.) To embark on a ship.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

The Israelites were not a maritime people. Solomon had a 'navy of ships' at Ezion Geber, the eastern branch of the Red Sea; but Hiram sent his shipmen 'that had knowledge of the sea' with the servants of Solomon. Ships of Tharshish are also mentioned both in connection with Solomon and Jehoshaphat.  1 Kings 9:26,27;  1 Kings 10:11,22;  1 Kings 22:48,49;  2 Chronicles 20:36,37;  Psalm 48:7 . The ships so often mentioned on the Sea of Galilee in the Gospels were what are now called fishing boats, and were used as such. The ships in which Paul sailed on the Mediterranean were of course larger; those in which he was taken to Rome are well described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles: the ship wrecked at Malta was evidently an Alexandrian wheat-ship. The nautical terms employed by Luke show that he was well acquainted with maritime subjects.  Acts 27 . The word for Galley in  Isaiah 33:21 is the same as that translated 'navy' in the Kings.

King James Dictionary [8]

SHIP, as a termination, denotes state or office as in lordship.

SHIP. See Shape.

SHIP, n. L. scapha from the root of shape. In a general sense, a vessel or building of a peculiar structure, adapted to navigation, or floating on water by means of sails. In an appropriate sense, a building of a structure or form fitted for navigation, furnished with a bowsprit and three masts, a main-mast, a fore-mast and a mizen-mast, each of which is composed a lower-mast, a top-mast and top-gallant-mast, and square rigged. Ships are of various sizes and are for various uses most of them however fall under the denomination of ships of war and merchant's ships.


1. To put on board of a ship or vessel of any kind as, to ship goods at Liverpoll for New York. 2. To transport in a ship to convey by water.

The sun shall no sooner the mountains touch,

But we will ship him hence. Shak.

3. To receive into a ship or vessel as, to ship at sea.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [9]

 Proverbs 30:19 (b) This indicates the remarkable guidance of the Lord in directing His own through the trackless lanes of life and bringing them safely to the desired haven.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [10]


Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [11]

SHIP. —See Boat.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

2. Merchant Ships In The Old Test. The earliest passages where seafaring is alluded to in the Old Test, are the following in order:  Genesis 49:13, in the prophecy of Jacob concerning Zebulun (Sept. Κατοικγ῎Σει Παῤ Ὅρμον Πλοίων );  Numbers 24:24, in Balaam's prophecy (where, however, ships are not mentioned in the Sept.);  Deuteronomy 28:68, in one of the warnings of Moses ( Ἀποστρέψει Σε Κω῏ / Ριος Εἰς Αἴγυπτον Ἐν Πλοίοις );  Judges 5:17, in Deborah's Song ( Δὰν Εἰς Τί Παροικεῖ Πλοίοις ). Next after these it is natural to mention the illustrations and descriptions connected with this subject in Job ( Job 9:26, Καί Ἐστι Ναυσὶν Ἴχνος Ὁδοῦ ) and in the Psalms ( Psalms 47:7, Ev irvsfiaaVrL 3Stai:avvrpiEtc 7 Ἐν Πνεύματι Βιαίῳ Συ& Copyright Statementthese Files Are Public Domain. Bibliography Informationmcclintock, John. Strong, James. Entry For 'Ship'. Cyclopedia Of Biblical, Theological And Ecclesiastical Literature. Https://Www.Studylight.Org/Encyclopedias/Eng/Tce/S/Ship.Html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.