on Acts 28 :1
They knew that the island was called Melita - There were two islands of this name: one in the Adriatic Gulf, or Gulf of Venice, on the coast of Illyricum, and near to Epidaurus; the other in the Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and Africa, and now called Malta. It is about fifty miles from the coast of Sicily; twenty miles long, and twelve miles in its greatest breadth; and about sixty miles in circumference. It is one immense rock of white, soft freestone, with about one foot depth of earth on an average, and most of this has been brought from Sicily! It produces cotton, excellent fruits, and fine honey; from which it appears the island originally had its name; for μελι, meli, and in the genitive case, μελιτος, melitos, signifies honey. Others suppose that it derived its name from the Phoenicians, who established a colony in it, and made it a place of refuge, when they extended their traffic to the ocean, because it was furnished with excellent harbours: (on the E. and W. shores): hence, in their tongue, it would be called מליטה Meliteh, escape or refuge, from מלט malat, to escape.
The Phaeacians were probably the first inhabitants of this island: they were expelled by the Phoenicians; the Phoenicians by the Greeks; the Greeks by the Carthaginians; the Carthaginians by the Romans, who possessed it in the time of the apostle; the Romans by the Goths; the Goths by the Saracens; the Saracens by the Sicilians, under Roger, earl of Sicily, in 1190. Charles V., emperor of Germany, took possession of it by his conquest of Naples and Sicily; and he gave it in 1525 to the knights of Rhodes, who are also called the knights of St. John of Jerusalem. In 1798, this island surrendered to the French, under Bonaparte, and in 1800, after a blockade of two years, the island being reduced by famine, surrendered to the British, under whose dominion it still remains (1814.) Every thing considered, there can be little doubt that this is the Melita at which St. Paul was wrecked, and not at that other island in the Adriatic, or Venitian Gulf, as high up northward as Illyricum. The following reasons make this greatly evident:
1. Tradition has unvaryingly asserted this as the place of the apostle's shipwreck.
2. The island in the Venitian Gulf, in favor of which Mr. Bryant so learnedly contends, is totally out of the track in which the euroclydon must have driven the vessel.
3. It is said, in Acts 28:11, that another ship of Alexandria, bound, as we must suppose, for Italy, and very probably carrying wheat thither, as St. Paul's vessel did, (Acts 27:38), had been driven out of its course of sailing, by stress of weather, up to the Illyricum Melita, and had been for that cause obliged to winter in the isle. Now this is a supposition which, as I think, is too much of a supposition to be made.
4. In St. Paul's voyage to Italy from Melita, on board the Alexandrian ship that had wintered there, he and his companions landed at Syracuse, Acts 28:12, Acts 28:13, and from thence went to Rhegium. But if it had been the Illyrican Melita, the proper course of the ship would have been, first to Rhegium, before it reached Syracuse, and needed not to have gone to Syracuse at all; whereas, in a voyage from the present Malta to Italy, it was necessary to reach Syracuse, in Sicily, before the ship could arrive at Rhegium in Italy. See the map; and see Bp. Pearce, from whom I have extracted the two last arguments.
That Malta was possessed by the Phoenicians, before the Romans conquered it, Bochart has largely proved; and indeed the language to the present day, notwithstanding all the political vicissitudes through which the island has passed, bears sufficient evidence of its Punic origin. In the year 1761, near a place called Ben Ghisa, in this island, a sepulchral cave was discovered, in which was a square stone with an inscription in Punic or Phoenician characters, on which Sir Wm. Drummond has written a learned essay, (London, Valpy, 1810, 4to.), which he supposes marks the burial place, at least of the ashes, of the famous Carthaginian general, Hannibal. I shall give this inscription in Samaritan characters, as being the present form of the ancient Punic, with Sir Wm. Drummond's translation: -
Chadar Beth olam kabar Chanibaal
Nakeh becaleth haveh, rach -
m daeh Amos beshuth Chanib -
aal ben Bar-melec.
"The inner chamber of the sanctuary of the sepulchre of Hannibal,
Illustrious in the consummation of calamity.
He was beloved;
on Acts 28 :1
They knew - Either from their former acquaintance with the island, or from the information of the inhabitants.
Was called Melita - Now called "Malta." It was celebrated formerly for producing large quantities of honey, and is supposed to have been called Melita from the Greek word signifying honey. It is about 20 miles in length from east to west, and 12 miles in width from north to south, and about 60 miles in circumference. It is about 60 miles from the coast of Sicily. The island is an immense rock of white soft freestone, with a covering of earth about one foot in depth, which has been brought from the island of Sicily. There was also another island formerly called "Melita," now called "Meleda," in the Adriatic Sea, near the coast of Illyricum, and some have supposed that Paul was shipwrecked on that island. But tradition has uniformly said that it was on the island now called "Malta." Besides, the other "Melita" would have been far out of the usual track in going to Italy; and it is further evident that Malta was the place, because from the place of his shipwreck he went directly to Syracuse, Rhegium, and Puteoli, thus sailing in a direct course to Rome. In sailing from the other Melita to Rhegium, Syracuse would be far out of the direct course.
on Acts 28 :1
28:1 Melita or Malta, is about twelve miles broad, twenty long, and sixty distant from Sicily to the south. It yields abundance of honey, (whence its name was taken,) with much cotton, and is very fruitful, though it has only three feet depth of earth above the solid rock. The Emperor Charles the Fifth gave it, in 1530, to the knights of Rhodes, driven out of Rhodes by the Turks. They are a thousand in number, of whom five hundred always reside on the island.