“And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo.” (Acts 21:1–3)
Following the Apostle Paul’s encounter with the Ephesian church elders (Acts 20:17-38), Luke resumed his record of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. Again, it should be observed that Luke inserted himself in the narrative by using the personal pronoun “we.” It is very possible that Luke, along with the other companions (Acts 20:1-6), were passive observers to Paul’s final words to the elders.
Departing from Miletus (Acts 20:17), the missionaries came by a straight course to the Island of Cos. Cos was an island of the Sporades group in the Aegean, containing a city of the same name. Located off the coast of Caria in Asia Minor, it was a major shipping center, famous for its wheat, ointments, wines, and silk. It eventually became one of the financial centers of the eastern Mediterranean.
Hippocrates, the “father of medicine,” was born and practiced medicine there in the fifth and fourth centuries bc. Under King Herod’s rule, Cos received perpetual revenues, and a statue was built there to honor his son Herod Antipas.
The following day, Luke records that the group sailed to Rhodes. The island of Rhodes, an area of more than 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers), is situated near the southeast coast of modern Turkey.
The Tyndale Bible Commentary states, “In Paul’s time the island had long been an important establishment of Dorian Greek culture, with several cities. Rhodes, the capital, lay on the busiest ancient sea route between the ports of Italy and the province of Asia to the west, and those of Syria and Egypt to the east. It was distinguished for its natural harbor and public works. Rhodes was a prominent center for business and supplied most of the precedents for Roman law of the sea.”
From Rhodes, Paul and his companions sailed for Patara, a seaport of the ancient region of Lycia, now located in modern Turkey. The ancient city, one of the largest and most prosperous of the region, was a center of trade and commerce. A temple to Apollo stood in Patara. Remains of a theater and baths still exist. Prevailing winds made Patara a convenient place for ships to begin their voyages to the eastern Mediterranean.
Finally, setting sail from Patara, the group journeyed to Phoenicia, which was a strip of land on the coastal plain of Syria. It was there that the city of Tyre existed. Tyre was an ancient Phoenician city-state located on the Mediterranean coast 20 miles (32.2 kilometers) south of Sidon and 23 miles (37 kilometers) north of Acre. Tyre consisted of two major parts: an older port city on the mainland and an island city a half mile (.8 kilometer) from the coast where the majority of the population lived.
Paul was coming ever closer to his destination of Jerusalem. More to come as we witness the Lord’s providence in the life of the apostle.
Soli deo Gloria!