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Fetching a Compass

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

And from thence we fetched a compass, Acts 28:13.


If there was only one verse in a King James Bible we would probably think that during Paul's disastrous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, somebody asked the cabin boy to go get a compass and that he fetched one for them. If a person was familiar with his King James Bible he would have seen the word 87 times before Acts 28:13 and 4 times afterwards. It meant something other than a nautical instrument. It meant to purposely circle something. The ship that Paul was in circled about.

The compass as we know the navigating instrument had not been invented yet. Whether we see the word "compass", "compassed", or "compasseth", it is never the instrument but instead shows us something of intent, place, and action.

To compass something is to make a circle around it by intent. Evangelist Timothy McVey, an infrequent contributor to this blog makes this point with great force in his excellent series of podcasts on the 17th psalm. (Click Here to Listen.) Those podcasts are available in many formats, you can find out more on his website. If you are homeschooling, the podcast would make an excellent way to listen to bible teaching. Each segment is about 20 minutes long.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives a couple of meanings for compass. Each one listed below is used in our bible and depends on the context to differentiate.


  1. To come round, close round, as a multitude; to form a circle about, surround, with friendly or hostile intent; to hem in; sometimes spec. ‘to beleaguer, besiege, block’ (Johnson).

2. To go or come round, put round, encompass.


We see defintion number 2 in Deuteronomy 2:1; Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. Israel had traveled around the mountain, they did not surround the mountain, they traveled around it.

We see defintion number 1 in 2nd Kings 6:15, And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?. In this case the entire city was surrounded with hostile intent.

May I also take this opportunity to make some of Brother McVey's preaching at the Black Creek Baptist Church available? (Click Here) Brother McVey who is a member of the Manassa Community Baptist Church of Blain Pennsylvania has become an integral part of this ministry through his outreach. I am often reminded of the Apostle Paul's commendation of Timothy; For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state, Philippians 2:20. If your ministry needs change, it has been said of Brother McVey that he has the gift of taking a church right where it is, and moving it slightly forward without blowing people away.

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