1 Now when they had escaped, they then found out that the island was called Malta.
2 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.
3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 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 to live.”
5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
6 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.
Melita (v.1) = “honey” — now Malta. They probably actually landed in the bay now called St. Paul’s Bay. Malta is 60 miles south of Sicily. The island is 17 miles long and nine miles wide at its widest point. At the time, it was part of the Roman province of Sicily. The inhabitants were originally Phoenician, but had since mixed with many other nationalities, as the island had been ruled by the Greeks and Romans.
natives (v.2) — The word Luke uses is the word the Greeks used for all who didn’t speak their language.
cold (v.2) — It was mid-November.
There are currently no poisonous snakes on Malta. It is a small island with a dense population. Most of the land is either occupied or cultivated, and very little “wild” remains, so the snakes have obviously been eliminated. That is was a poisonous snake is easily seen by the fact that the natives expected Paul to die.
justice (v.4) — The Greeks worshipped “Justice,” personified as a goddess (Dikee), reputed to be the daughter of Zeus and Themis. The Maltese may either have adopted her or have had a corresponding deity of their own. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 570