"I am a Hebrew," replied Jonah. "I worship the LORD, the God of the heavens, who made the sea and the dry land."
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.
I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord.I. THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING BORN AND EDUCATED IN SOME COUNTRIES ABOVE OTHERS. Consider them both in a natural and in a spiritual sense. Some countries place their inhabitants under serious disabilities. The conditions are most deplorable when men's bodies draw the yoke of slavery, and minds are destitute of common civility, as well as of all true conceptions concerning God or religion. What then are the natural advantages into which we are born? And how great are the spiritual advantages?
II. THE GREATEST HAPPINESS MEN CAN RECEIVE DOTH ARISE FROM THEIR BEING NUMBERED AMONG THOSE PEOPLE WHO FEAR THE LORD. This happiness is best demonstrated by comparison with the enjoyments of other people and nations. That this happiness may abide for ever with us, we are obliged —
1. To keep up a friendly society and correspondence with all men.
2. We are more particularly engaged to love and help one another, as fellow-countrymen.
(John Hartcliffe, M. A.)
1. The interrogators. Heathen sailors.
2. The prisoner at the bar. A prophet of Israel. A degrading position to be in.
3. The investigation. It was kind, considerate, circumstantial.The verse 9 sets forth the elicited confession., Confession is a relief, a necessity, and a Divine condition of forgiveness: Here it was ingenious, contrite, humiliating, God-honouring. Verse 10 suggests that God's terribleness, as seen in His judgments on sin, inspires the greatest terror. This prompts to earnest inquiry. Verses 11-15 set forth the humanity of the jeopardised heathen crew and the self-sentencing of Jonah. Their conduct shows great caution, tenderness, sympathy, moral change. There was earnest prayer; reluctance to touch God's anointed; recognition of the Divine Sovereignty. The self-sentencing of Jonah was the result of conscious demerit. Learn —
1. That no sinner visited with Divine judgments is justified in taking his own life.
2. When God intends to execute judgments.
3. That in executing sentence against transgressors we should be certified it is in harmony with the will of God. Verse 16 indicates the moral effects of the whole phenomena on the sailors. They feared, sacrificed, vowed.Verse 17 sets forth justice attempered by mercy through miracle. Learn that —
1. Irrational creatures, as well as inanimate creation, are subject to Divine control.
2. That we may alight on the mercy of God at the most unexpected hour and in the most unlikely place.
3. That partial deliverance is Divinely intended to exercise and develop faith.
4. That salvation shall be wrought for the penitent if it necessitate a departure from the ordinary course of things.
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
PeopleAmittai, Jonah, Tarshish
PlacesJoppa, Mount Esau, Nineveh, Tarshish
TopicsDry, Fear, Heaven, Heavens, Hebrew, Reverencing, Worship, Worshipper
Outline1. Jonah, sent to Nineveh, flees to Tarshish.
4. He is betrayed by a great storm;
11. thrown into the sea;
17. and swallowed by a fish.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJonah 1:9
1235 God, the LORD
LibraryGuilty Silence and Its Reward
Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great, city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me. 3. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. 4. But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Whether Divination by Drawing Lots is Unlawful?
The Careless Sinner Awakened.
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
Nature of Covenanting.
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