"When it was day, they did not recognize the land; but they observed a bay with a beach, onto which they planned to run the ship if possible. And they let go the anchors and left them in the sea, meanwhile loosing the rudder ropes; and they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and made for shore. But striking a place where two seas meet, they ran the ship aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the violence of the waves. And the soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim away and escape. But the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, and the rest, some on boards and some on parts of the ship. And so it was that they all escaped safely to land" (Acts 27:39-44).
At last daylight came! Although none of the sailors recognized the land, they are determined to get to it. They dispose of the anchors which served no purpose anymore except to weigh them down. They have no plan to save the ship, only their lives. Less weight would result in the boat sitting higher in the water, which would only help them achieve their goal of running the ship aground on the beach and carefully avoiding the jagged rocks along the way. Unfortunately, on their way to the beach, they struck a reef (or a sand bar) and the ship was stuck fast with still some distance to shore. Because the front of the ship was not moving, the powerful waters began breaking down the back of the ship. As the timbers creak and snap, it was clearly time to abandon ship! The soldiers, who knew that if any prisoner escaped it would cost them their lives, were determined to prevent that possibility from materializing. They were of the mindset to dispose of all the prisoners. Julius the centurion, however, desired Paul to be spared and thus commanded that all the prisoners be allowed to live. It seems that some of the soldiers would go to land first (i.e., those who could swim) and could then secure the prisoners as they came to land. Those who couldn't swim had plenty of options for things to hold on to in order to float to the beach, since the ship was literally being torn apart. As predicted by Paul (via the power of God), the ship and cargo were lost, but not a single person perished! Such is incredible really, when one considers the turmoil they experienced for such a lengthy duration. God's promises never fail, though they are typically conditional.
"Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness; for they kindled a fire and made us all welcome, because of the rain that was falling and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bunch of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, 'No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow him to live.' But he shook the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god" (Acts 28:1-6).
They soon found out they had landed on an island called Malta. The natives were very kind to them on this cold and rainy day. They prepared a fire to help their shipwrecked visitors warm up and dry out. Paul, who was not afraid to work, was among those gathering sticks for the fire (it would have been a large fire to warm nearly 300 people). A deadly viper attached itself to Paul's hand and the natives took note. Normally, when such occurred, it would not be long before the individual would become dreadfully sick or simply fall down dead. The inhabitants of the island certainly were familiar with that species of viper and had experience with the power of its venom. The natives jump to an incorrect conclusion by assuming that Paul was a violent criminal (a murderer) and that divine justice would not allow him to live any longer. However, Paul merely shook the creature off and was not injured in the least. This is one example of a fulfillment of Jesus' words in Mark 16:17,18. As time wore on, and nothing happened to Paul, the natives changed their thinking about the apostle. Anyone who could survive such an attack and manifest no signs of harm must be a god (cf. Acts 14:11,19)! It evidently didn't occur to them that a god likely would not be a prisoner. It seems likely that this event may have increased the level of hospitality offered to the shipwrecked men (as the following verses detail).