Jonah 1:5
Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.
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(5) And cried every man unto his god.—If Phœnicians, the sailors would have their favourite deities in the national Pantheon; but they may have been a motley crew composed of various nationalities. For the panic comp. Psalm 107:23-30, and Shakespeare’s Tempest,

“All lost! to prayers! to prayers, all lost!”

Wares.—The Hebrew word is of general import for furniture of any kind, and so including all the movables in the ship. The cargo would probably, as in the case of St. Paul’s shipwreck, be reserved till the last extremity.

To lighten it of them.—This gives the sense, though the Hebrew idiom appears to mean, to give themselves relief. (Comp. Exodus 18:22, “So shall it be easier for thyself;” 1Kings 12:10, “Make thou it lighter unto us.”)

Sides.—Rather, recesses. The word is used of the inner part of the Temple (1Kings 6:16), of a cave (1Samuel 24:3), of a dwelling-house (Psalm 128:3).

Ship.—The Hebrew is different from the word used earlier in the verse, and is peculiar to this passage. Its derivation from a root meaning “to cover with boards,” indicates a decked vessel. Jonah had gone below into the cabin, the natural course for a man flying from a disagreeable duty. To stand on deck and watch the slow receding shore would have been mental torture.

And was fast asleep.—The fatigue of the hasty flight to the sea-shore accounts for this deep slumber. The same expression is used of Sisera (Judges 4:21). Besides, when a resolution is once irrevocably (as we think) taken, conscience ceases to disturb with its wakeful warning, and the restlessness of remorse has not yet arrived. There is a brief time during which “the exile from himself can flee.”

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.And cried, every man unto his God - They did what they could. "Not knowing the truth, they yet know of a Providence, and, amid religious error, know that there is an Object of reverence." In ignorance they had received one who offended God. And now God, "whom they ignorantly worshiped" Acts 17:23, while they cried to the gods, who, they thought, disposed of them, heard them. They escaped with the loss of their wares, but God saved their lives and revealed Himself to them. God hears ignorant prayer, when ignorance is not willful and sin.

To lighten it of them - , literally "to lighten from against them, to lighten" what was so much "against them," what so oppressed them. "They thought that the ship was weighed down by its wonted lading, and they knew not that the whole weight was that of the fugitive prophet." "The sailors cast forth their wares," but the ship was not lightened. For the whole weight still remained, the body of the prophet, that heavy burden, not from the nature of the body, but from the burden of sin. For nothing is so onerous and heavy as sin and disobedience. Whence also Zechariah Zechariah 5:7 represented it under the image of lead. And David, describing its nature, said Psalm 38:4, "my wickednesses are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me." And Christ cried aloud to those who lived in many sins, Matthew 11:28. "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will refresh you."

Jonah was gone down - , probably before the beginning of the storm, not simply before the lightening of the vessel. He could hardly have fallen asleep "then." A pagan ship was a strange place for a prophet of God, not as a prophet, but as a fugitive; and so, probably, ashamed of what he had completed, he had withdrawn from sight and notice. He did not embolden himself in his sin, but shrank into himself. The conscience most commonly awakes, when the sin is done. It stands aghast as itself; but Satan, if he can, cuts off its retreat. Jonah had no retreat now, unless God had made one.

And was fast asleep - The journey to Joppa had been long and hurried; he had "fled." Sorrow and remorse completed what fatigue began. Perhaps he had given himself up to sleep, to dull his conscience. For it is said, "he lay down and was fast asleep." Grief produces sleep; from where it is said of the apostles in the night before the Lord's Passion, when Jesus "rose up from prayer and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow" Luke 22:45 . "Jonah slept heavily. Deep was the sleep, but it was not of pleasure but of grief; not of heartlessness, but of heavy-heartedness. For well-disposed servants soon feel their sins, as did he. For when the sin has been done, then he knows its frightfulness. For such is sin. When born, it awakens pangs in the soul which bare it, contrary to the law of our nature. For so soon as we are born, we end the travail-pangs; but sin, so soon as born, rends with pangs the thoughts which conceived it." Jonah was in a deep sleep, a sleep by which he was fast held and bound; a sleep as deep as that from which Sisera never woke. Had God allowed the ship to sink, the memory of Jonah would have been that of the fugitive prophet. As it is, his deep sleep stands as an image of the lethargy of sin . "This most deep sleep of Jonah signifies a man torpid and slumbering in error, to whom it sufficed not to flee from the face of God, but his mind, drowned in a stupor and not knowing the displeasure of God, lies asleep, steeped in security."

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 Phœnician 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.

Then, when this preternatural tempest fell-with all its violence into the sea, the mariners; passengers are not here named, who, unaccustomed to sea, might be too apprehensive of danger; but the men that were acquainted with the sea, and had seen many a tempest, and weathered many a storm,

were afraid, heartily afraid, full of apprehensions that they should be wrecked.

Cried, with loud voice and earnest petitions, as the manner of such men is, when danger awakens them to the duty they neglect whilst safe. Every man; not a man of them but feared, nor a man of them but cried out, by which it is evident it was a most dreadful storm.

Unto his god: by this it appears that the ship’s crew was a mixture of men who worshipped several gods, and every one doth now cry to the god whom he worshipped: whatever god it might be, it was not he that did raise nor could allay the tempest. Cast forth the wares that were in the ship: when prayer to their false gods doth no good, but their danger continued and threatened them with foundering in the sea, to prevent this they lighten the ship, as is usual in such cases, and cast the wares out; not as sacrifice to the god of the flea, or as repenting of piracy, by which the goods were gotten, though some conjecture so, but the text tells us it was

to lighten the ship that it may bear up its head and work with the sea better than when heavy laden.

But Jonah, the greatest weight, and only danger to ship and seamen,

was gone down into the sides of the ship; was under the hold in some cabin or other in the side of the ship, whither he went before the storm arose;

and was fast asleep; in a very deep sleep, as the word imports.

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.

Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down {g} into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.

(g) As one that would have cast off this care and concern by seeking rest and quietness.

5. the mariners] The Hebrew word is formed from the word for salt, and denotes those occupied with the salt sea. So we sometimes speak of a sailor as a “salt.”

See note on next verse, and for the whole description of their terror and their prayer comp. Psalm 107:23-30; Matthew 8:23-27.

every man unto his god] They were probably Phœnicians, who had the carrying trade between Joppa and Tarshish. This would account for their multiplicity of gods. The crew, however, may have been composed of men of different nations. Comp.

“All lost! to prayers, to prayers! All lost!”

Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I. Sc. v.

the wares] It is doubtful whether this includes the cargo. It may only mean the furniture of the ship, moveables, spare tackling, etc. In St Paul’s shipwreck a similar course was taken (Acts 27:19), but the cargo was not thrown overboard till a later period (Acts 27:38). Jonah’s ship may have been, like St Paul’s, a corn ship. The export of corn from Joppa was very considerable. See 1 Kings 5:9; Ezekiel 27:17; Acts 12:20.

to lighten it of them] Rather, to lighten (the burden) from upon them (the mariners), i. e. to make matters easier for them. Comp. Exodus 18:22, where the same Hebrew phrase is rendered “it shall be easier for thyself.” Unto them, R.V.

the sides of the ship] The Hebrew word is not the same as that rendered “ship” earlier in the verse. It occurs nowhere else in the O.T., but the verb from which it is derived signifies to ‘cover’ or ‘board over’ (1 Kings 7:3; 1 Kings 7:7), so that it is probably used to denote that it was a decked vessel in which Jonah sailed, and that he had, as we should say, gone down below. The “sides of the ship” are what we should call the bottom of the ship, the part in which the two sides meet. The same expression is used of the innermost recess of a cave, the point of meeting of the two sides (1 Samuel 24:3). Innermost parts, R.V.

was fast asleep] Jonah had probably fallen asleep before the storm commenced, and slumbered too deeply to be roused by it, or by the commotion on board. Our Lord’s sleep amidst the storm on the lake (Mark 4:38) furnishes at once a comparison and a contrast. Kalisch quotes in illustration of the heavy sleep of sorrow the case of the disciples in the Garden; “He found them sleeping for sorrow,” Luke 22:45; and the words of Sallust, “primo cura, dein, uti ægrum animum solet, somnus cepit,” Bell. Jug. c.71.

5, 6. The conduct of the heathen mariners stands in striking and favourable contrast with that of the Jewish prophet. They call upon their gods and use every effort to save the ship. He, moody, miserable, and weary with mental conflict and bodily fatigue, is sunk in deep sleep, and has to be roused to consciousness and prayer by the reproaches of the heathen captain.

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). Jonah 1:5Jonah's foolish hope of being able to escape from the Lord was disappointed. "Jehovah threw a great wind (i.e., a violent wind) upon the sea." A mighty tempest (סער, rendered appropriately κλύδων by the lxx) arose, so that "the ship thought to be dashed to pieces," i.e., to be wrecked (השּׁב used of inanimate things, equivalent to "was very nearly" wrecked). In this danger the seamen (mallâch, a denom. of melach, the salt flood) cried for help, "every one to his god." They were heathen, and probably for the most part Phoenicians, but from different places, and therefore worshippers of different gods. But as the storm did not abate, they also resorted to such means of safety as they had at command. They "threw the waves in the ship into the sea, to procure relief to themselves" (להקל מעליהם as in Exodus 18:22 and 1 Kings 12:10). The suffix refers to the persons, not to the things. By throwing the goods overboard, they hoped to preserve the ship from sinking beneath the swelling waves, and thereby to lighten, i.e., diminish for themselves the danger of destruction which was so burdensome to them. "But Jonah had gone down into the lower room of the ship, and had there fallen fast asleep;" not, however, just at the time of the greatest danger, but before the wind had risen into a dangerous storm. The sentence is to be rendered as a circumstantial one in the pluperfect. Yarkethē hassephı̄nâh (analogous to harkethē habbayith in Amos 6:10) is the innermost part of the vessel, i.e., the lower room of the ship. Sephı̄nâh, which only occurs here, and is used in the place of אניּה, is the usual word for a ship in Arabic and Aramaean. Nirdam: used for deep sleep, as in Judges 4:21. This act of Jonah's is regarded by most commentators as a sign of an evil conscience. Marck supposes that he had lain down to sleep, hoping the better to escape either the dangers of sea and air, or the hand of God; others, that he had thrown himself down in despair, and being utterly exhausted and giving himself up for lost, had fallen asleep; or as Theodoret expresses it, being troubled with the gnawings of conscience and overpowered with mourning, he had sought comfort in sleep and fallen into a deep sleep. Jerome, on the other hand, expresses the idea that the words indicate "security of mind" on the part of the prophet: "he is not disturbed by the storm and the surrounding dangers, but has the same composed mind in the calm, or with shipwreck at hand;" and whilst the rest are calling upon their gods, and casting their things overboard, "he is so calm, and feels so safe with his tranquil mind, that he goes down to the interior of the ship and enjoys a most placid sleep." The truth probably lies between these two views. It was not an evil conscience, or despair occasioned by the threatening danger, which induced him to lie down to sleep; nor was it his fearless composure in the midst of the dangers of the storm, but the careless self-security with which he had embarked on the ship to flee from God, without considering that the hand of God could reach him even on the sea, and punish him for his disobedience. This security is apparent in his subsequent conduct.
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