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English Bible Dictionary

Melita

 

(honey), the modern Malta. This island lies in the Mediterranean 60 miles south of Cape Passaro in Sicily, 900 miles from Gibraltar and about 1200 from Jerusalem. It is 17 miles long. by 13 or 10 broad. It is naturally a barren rock, with no high mountains, but has been rendered fertile by industry and toil. It is famous for its honey and fruits. It is now in the hands of the English: McClintock and Strong. This island has an illustrious place in Scripture as the scene of that shipwreck of St. Paul which is described in such minute detail in the Acts of the Apostle. (Acts 27:1)... The wreck probably happened at the place traditionally known as St.Paul's day, an inlet with a creek two miles deep and one broad. The question has been set at rest forever by Mr. Smith of Jordan Hill, in his "Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul," the first published work in which it was thoroughly investigated from a sailor's point of view, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The objection that there are no vipers in Malta is overruled by the fact that Mr. Lewin saw such a serpent there and that there may have been vipers in the wilder ancient times, even were none found there now. As regards the condition of the island of Melitu, when St. Paul was there it was a dependency of the Roman province of Sicily. Its chief officer (under the governor of Sicily) appears from inscriptions to have had the title of protos Melitaion, or Primus Melitensium and this is the very phrase which Luke uses. (Acts 28:7) Melita, from its position in the Mediterranean and the excellence of its harbors, has always been important in both commerce and war. It was a settlement of the Phoenicians at an early period, and their language in a corrupted form, was still spoken there in St. Paul's day.

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