Then the men were even more afraid and said to him, "What have you done?" The men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the LORD, because he had told them.
I. THE MARINERS RESOLVE TO CAST LOTS. (Ver. 7.) This is a striking step. They might have given themselves up for lost, perhaps drowning their feelings, as sailors have often done, in intoxication (if that be not an exclusively modern practice); but they resolved to make another effort to save their lives and their ship. This proceeded on the belief that this storm was caused by some man's sin; and to find out who was the offender they determined to cast lots. A dangerous generalization, to ascribe a calamity to one man's sin, though in this case correct. Perhaps there were unusual circumstances in the storm that led them to reason thus. "If anything should happen strangely, as while we are in this mortality we may very well expect, we can take no better course than these shipmen presently to fear lest iniquity be the author of it" (Abbot). Casting lots was a peculiar device to ascertain a secret; religious use of lots, however, is very different from the careless appeal to the lot often made (see Joshua 7:16; 1 Samuel 10:21; Acts 1:26), The lot becomes legitimate only when all the ordinary methods of settling a difficulty have failed, and nothing remains but to make a solemn appeal to God.
II. THE LOT FALLS UPON JONAH. Picture his anxiety while the lot was being cast - his despair when it fell on him. This seems to have brought him to a sense of his sin: it was God's voice, "Thou art the man!" Jonah now broke down, prostrated by the little arrow from God's quiver. In walking through a hospital after a battle, two remarks are sometimes made - How easy to kill! and - How difficult to kill! Some bodies almost entire, yet killed; some fearfully shattered, yet alive. So we say - How difficult it is to humble! and How easy it is to humble! difficult for man, easy for God; man may reason, expostulate, apply truth, yet the offender may not in any degree be touched by it. A word, a look, a lot from God, makes one quite prostrate and helpless. What a power of rebuking and prostrating God may use at the last day!
III. JONAH QUESTIONED. All eyes are fixed on Jonah with eager curiosity to ascertain what he had done. The running fire of questions indicates desire for light on the strange transaction. They were chiefly anxious to know his crime, his occupation, and his country; either his personal guilt, or the guilt connected with his occupation, if it was an unlawful one, or with his country, or with his people; for there might be some horrible sin, perhaps committed of old by the people of his country, exposing them and him through them to the wrath of the gods. Why did they not act at once on the decision of the lot, and throw Jonah overboard? Probably they desired confirmation of it; it must be a painful transaction, and. they would like more authority for the step they were to take. It would be satisfactory to get Jonah to confess. It might throw light on the origin of storms, and be a useful hint for the future.
IV. JONAH'S ANSWER. The nobler aspect of Jonah's character now comes out - perfect ingenuousness and honesty; he knows his fate - death stares him in the face - yet there is no shrinking or fencing of any kind. He tells them:
1. He is a Hebrew, a member of the race that had so much to do with the powers above.
2. The God whom he worships is the God that made the sea and the dry land, and has absolute power over both.
3. He has fled from his presence, has offended him, and now God is showing his displeasure. Humiliating position, yet not without a certain grandeur - Jonah under the rebuke of God, his own conscience, and the heathen mariners. In reference to the mariners, he who might have been expected to bring them blessing has brought them trouble. His mouth is shut; he can say nothing for himself. There is something very striking in his undergoing the condemnation of the mariners. He had been afraid, apparently, of the bad opinion of the Ninevites, and had shunned his commission; but now he encounters the bad opinion of the mariners - with nothing to fall back on - his conscience and his God both against him. Yet there is a grandeur in his honest confession, in his attitude of thorough humility; there is a noble truthfulness now about him; he conceals nothing, though he must be the victim.
V. EFFECT ON THE MARINERS. They were exceedingly afraid. They felt a sense of the reality and nearness of a supernatural power - the power of the God who made the sea and now raises it in storm. The supernatural must be always very impressive - must have subduing effect whenever God is felt to be near, as in time of pestilence. The men now felt God near, in character of the righteous, holy Judge, punishing an offender - not like heathen gods, jesting at sin, but in terrible earnest against it. They seemed to have been impressed, and converted to God, for the soul may move very rapidly; deep impressions may be made very suddenly in time of great excitement. A great lesson to Jonah; if these rough heathen sailors were so deeply impressed by the fear of God, might not the Ninevites have been so too? They said to Jonah, "Why hast thou done this?" Strange aspect of sins of God's servants in eyes of world! God's servants have no cloak for their sins. The question must have cut Jonah to the quick. He could only echo it in blank amazement - Why have I done this? Observe the hollowness of all apologies for sin in the hour of judgment; sin, however sweet in the mouth, is bitter in the belly; "lust, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." The horror and misery of the ship's company are a type of the effects of sin, of one sin, by a servant of God. "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins." O sin, what a monster art thou! what tragedies come out of thee I how dost thou involve others in ruin, as the drunkard's family! God give us a true sense of it, and teach us to hate it in every form, and guard against its minutest seeds, lest, like the dragon's teeth, they breed against us hosts of armed men! Let each one often put the question, in reference to his sins, "Why hast thou done this?" Sinned against God and man, and against thine own soul, and against thine own children? Better we should put the question and answer it in time, than wait till God puts it in the day of judgment. - W.G.B.
Now the Word of the Lord came unto Jonah.
I. IN ITS SOURCE. It is —
1. Supreme, as the Word of the Lord.
2. Peremptory; it is absolute, imperative, final.
3. Honourable. As associating the commissioned with the commissioner.Investing him with royal rights, privileges, honours.
II. IN ITS RECIPIENT. Jonah.
1. In his filial relationship: the son.
2. In his official capacity: prophet. Learn —(1) That in the economy of moral purposes God makes use of creature agency.(2) That appointments in this economy are specific and sovereign.(3) That the rewards of faithfulness in Christian service will be promotion here, and coronation hereafter.
III. IN ITS PURPORT. "Arise, go to Nineveh." It is —
1. A summons to activity. Shake off dull sloth. Rouse thee from careless ease.(1) The physical plays an important part in the execu tion of Divine purposes.(2) The will too must give its sanction, or all the activ ities will be held in restful subjection. Where there is no will-power a man is a mere tool in the hands of others.
2. A call to arduous duty. Note —(1) Its sphere. "Nineveh, that great city." In God's great busy world there is a definite sphere for everyone.(2) Its spirit. "Cry against it." Energy was to rise to its highest point. To cry requires energy of soul; a vivid realisation of sin, and moral courage.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
(Joseph Parker, D. D.)
(H. J. Foster.)
1. The first point at which the narrative may be said to touch the personal character of the prophet is the flight to Joppa. Here is a man, conscious of special inspiration and authority, doing direct violence to the Word of the Most High! We must begin our study with this conviction — Jonah meant nothing throughout like determined rebellion against God. From the first he seems to have understood the mission to have been one of mercy, and not of destruction. The man had laid hold of the thought of Divine goodness and compassion. Jonah's sin was not apostasy from God. He simply shrunk from the mission. The struggle in Jonah's mind must have been the result either of personal feeling or of mistaken ideas. It may have been personal feeling that lay at the root of his conduct. There was personal danger. He did not care to preach to heathen. But his feelings were founded on false ideas about God, and about the people of God, and their vocation. Another view may be taken of Jonah's mind. He anticipated the result of his mission, and did not like it. His prediction would be falsified in the result. And a mission to the stronghold of heathenism seemed quite a new departure in the religious history of Israel. It seemed to Jonah a change in the Divine action, so stupendous that he could not drive out of his mind doubts as to the authority of the message.
2. Look at another point, — the sleep into which the prophet fell instantly that he went down into the ship is quite consistent with a state of perplexity and fear. He was so wearied with the mental strain and struggle, so burdened with the weight of a reproachful conscience, that he gladly hid himself from the faces of his fellow-men, and sought the darkness and solitude of his sleeping place, where nature asserted its demands, and he was soon wrapt in unconsciousness. When he was awakened he had no crime to confess, such as heathen men would understand, and condemn by the light of moral law. Jonah's character was defective rather than corrupt. Like the Apostle Peter, he needed a great deal of teaching, but the root of his piety was sound and deep. He put himself at once into the hands of the chastising Jehovah.
(R. A. Redford, M. A.)1. In his solemn discovery and apprehension. Sin hath entered among us, and the Creator is angry. Some victim is awanting to pacify His just indignation; but where is the sacrifice to be found? At length a merciful Heaven interposes, and the sacrifice is revealed.
2. In the generous self-devotement of the prophet. Applied to the doctrine of substitution, everything is plain, everything is instructive.
3. In his descent to the place of the dead. Two circumstances in the descent of Jonah.
(1) (2) 4. In the doctrine of Messiah's resurrection. 5. In the mission of Jonah to the Gentiles. His was just the commission of Jesus. To the lost sheep of the house of Israel He first turned His eyes; then He sent His disciples to the four winds of heaven, saying, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." (James Simpson.) Christian Graces. Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful? The Careless Sinner Awakened. Sovereignty and Human Responsibility Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved. Nature of Covenanting. Jonah
(2) 4. In the doctrine of Messiah's resurrection. 5. In the mission of Jonah to the Gentiles. His was just the commission of Jesus. To the lost sheep of the house of Israel He first turned His eyes; then He sent His disciples to the four winds of heaven, saying, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." (James Simpson.) Christian Graces. Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful? The Careless Sinner Awakened. Sovereignty and Human Responsibility Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved. Nature of Covenanting. Jonah
4. In the doctrine of Messiah's resurrection.
5. In the mission of Jonah to the Gentiles. His was just the commission of Jesus. To the lost sheep of the house of Israel He first turned His eyes; then He sent His disciples to the four winds of heaven, saying, "Preach the Gospel to every creature."
Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful?
The Careless Sinner Awakened.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
Nature of Covenanting.