|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:4-7 God sent a pursuer after Jonah, even a mighty tempest. Sin brings storms and tempests into the soul, into the family, into churches and nations; it is a disquieting, disturbing thing. Having called upon their gods for help, the sailors did what they could to help themselves. Oh that men would be thus wise for their souls, and would be willing to part with that wealth, pleasure, and honour, which they cannot keep without making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, and ruining their souls for ever! Jonah was fast asleep. Sin is stupifying, and we are to take heed lest at any time our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of it. What do men mean by sleeping on in sin, when the word of God and the convictions of their own consciences, warn them to arise and call on the Lord, if they would escape everlasting misery? Should not we warn each other to awake, to arise, to call upon our God, if so be he will deliver us? The sailors concluded the storm was a messenger of Divine justice sent to some one in that ship. Whatever evil is upon us at any time, there is a cause for it; and each must pray, Lord, show me wherefore thou contendest with me. The lot fell upon Jonah. God has many ways of bringing to light hidden sins and sinners, and making manifest that folly which was thought to be hid from the eyes of all living.
Verse 5. - The mariners (mallachim). Those who have to do with the salt sea. The word is used by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:9, 27, 29). Cried every man unto his god. They were either Phoenicians from different localities, or men of various nations; hence the multiplicity of their gods. The heathen are represented throughout the book as devout and sincere according to their lights. They cast forth the wares; Septuagint, ἐκβολὴν ἐποήσαντο τῶν σκευῶν, "cast out the furniture, or wares," as Acts 27:18, 19; Vulgate, miserunt vasa. They threw overboard probably both all spare tackling and movables, and the cargo. The freight may have been corn, which was exported in considerable quantifies from Joppa (comp. Ezekiel 27:17), or manufactured articles from Tyre, which were exchanged with Spain for silver and other metals. To lighten it of them; literally, to lighten from against them; i.e. to ease the ship of its burden, or to ease them of their trouble, is Exodus 18:22. The LXX. takes the former interpretation, τοῦ κουφισθῆναι ἀπ αὐτῶν, "that it might be lightened of them;" Vulgate, ut alleviaretur ab eis. The sides of the ship. The innermost parts (interiora, Vulgate) of the ship; τὴν κοίλην (Septuagint); "the hold" (comp. 1 Samuel 24:3). Jonah hid himself there before the storm arose. The Hebrew word for "ship" (sephinah) is found nowhere else, and, probably from its derivation (saphan, "to cover"), implies that the vessel was decked. He lay, and was fast asleep; ἐκάθευδε καὶ ἔρεγχε, "was asleep and snoring," (Septuagint); dormiebat sopore gravi (Vulgate). The word used implies a very deep sleep, as that of Sisera (Judges 4:21) or of the Assyrians (Psalm 76:6). He was fatigued and worn out with mental anxiety, and now being, as he thought, secure, and longing for solitude, he lay down to sleep, unconscious of danger. Contrast this sleep in the storm with that of Christ (Mark 4:38), and that of the apostles who slept for sorrow (Luke 22:45).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then the mariners were afraid,.... Perceiving that the storm was not an ordinary, but a supernatural one; and that the ship and all in it were in extreme danger, and no probability of being saved. This shows that the storm must be very violent, to frighten such men who were used to the sea, and to storms, and were naturally bold and intrepid. The word used signifies "salters", so called from the salt sea they used, as they are by us "mariners", from "mare", the "sea"; though R. Japhet in Aben Ezra thinks the commodity they carried in their vessel was salt:
and cried every man to his god: to help them, and save them out of their distress. In the ship it seems were men of different nations, and who worshipped different gods. It was a notion of the Jews, and which Jarchi mentions as his own, that there were men of the seventy nations of the earth in it; and as each of them had a different god, they separately called upon them. The polytheism of the Pagans is to be condemned, and shows the great uncertainty of their religion; yet this appears to be agreeable to the light of nature that there is a God, and that God is to be prayed unto, and called upon, especially in time of trouble:
and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them; or, "the vessels" (c), a word the Hebrews use for all sorts of goods, utensils, &c. it includes, with others, their military weapons they had to defend themselves, their provisions, the ship's stores or goods it was freighted with; finding their prayers to their gods were ineffectual, they betook themselves to this prudential method to lighten the ship, that they might be able to keep its head above water. So the Targum,
"when they saw there was no profit in them;''
that is in the gods they called upon, then they did this; the other was a matter of religion this a point of prudence; such a step the mariners took that belonged to the ship in which the Apostle Paul was, Acts 27:18;
but Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; into one of its sides, into a cabin there; the lowest side, as the Targum:
and he lay, and was fast asleep; even snored, as some versions have it: it may seem strange he should when the wind was so strong and boisterous; the sea roaring; the waves beating; the ship rolling about; the mariners hurrying from place to place, and calling to each other to do their duty; and the passengers crying; and, above all, that he should fall into so sound a sleep, and continue in it, when he had such a guilty conscience. This shows that he was asleep in a spiritual as well as in a corporeal sense.
(c) "vasa", V. L. Vatablus, Grotius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. mariners were afraid—though used to storms; the danger therefore must have been extreme.
cried every man unto his god—The idols proved unable to save them, though each, according to Phonician custom, called on his tutelary god. But Jehovah proved able: and the heathen sailors owned it in the end by sacrificing to Him (Jon 1:16).
into the sides—that is, the interior recesses (compare 1Sa 24:3; Isa 14:13, 15). Those conscious of guilt shrink from the presence of their fellow man into concealment.
fast asleep—Sleep is no necessary proof of innocence; it may be the fruit of carnal security and a seared conscience. How different was Jesus' sleep on the Sea of Galilee! (Mr 4:37-39). Guilty Jonah's indifference to fear contrasts with the unoffending mariners' alarm. The original therefore is in the nominative absolute: "But as for Jonah, he," &c. Compare spiritually, Eph 5:14.
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