Jonah 1:6
So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.
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(6) The shipmaster . . .—Literally, the chief of those who work at the rope. Jewish nautical terms are infrequent and therefore obscure. The word mariners, in Jonah 1:5, correctly renders a term which seems, from its use in Ezekiel 27:8; Ezekiel 27:27; Ezekiel 27:29, as well as from its derivation (from salt; comp. the term “old salts”), to denote seafaring men generally. “Those who work the ropes” may be either “steersmen” or “topmen” as contrasted with rowers.

What meanest . . .—Literally, What to thee sleeping? i.e., How canst thou sleep so soundly? The motive of the question was no doubt partly the need of sympathy, as in the case of the disciples (Mark 4:38), partly a belief in the efficacy of the prophet’s prayer. This belief seems to have sprung not solely from superstitious fear lest any deity should be overlooked, but from a vague sense that the God of Israel was pre-eminently great and good. The term used is ha Elohîm, “the God.”

Jonah 1:6. So the ship-master — Who had the conduct of the vessel, and from whose mouth such a reproof was seasonable; came and said to him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? — A just and necessary reproof this. We cannot but pity Jonah, who needed it: as a prophet of the Lord, if he had been in his place, he might have been reproving the king of Nineveh; but, being out of the way of his duty, he himself lies open to the reproof of a sorry ship-master. See how men, by their sin and folly, make themselves mean! Yet we must admire God’s goodness in sending him this seasonable reproof; for it was the first step toward his recovery; as the crowing of the cock was to Peter. “Those that sleep in a storm,” says Henry, “may well be asked what they mean.” Arise, call upon thy God — We are here crying every man to his god, why dost thou not get up and cry to thine? Art thou not equally concerned with the rest, both in the danger dreaded, and in the deliverance desired? If so be that God will think upon us — With pity, care, and favour; that we perish not — That the ship, goods, and men also may not be lost. The word rendered God being in the plural number, and the ship-master, the mariners, and others in the ship being, it appears, idolaters, and knowing nothing of the one living and true God, this clause should undoubtedly be rendered, If so be that the gods will think upon us, &c.

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.What meanest thou? - or rather, "what aileth thee?" (literally "what is to thee?") The shipmaster speaks of it (as it was) as a sort of disease, that he should be thus asleep in the common peril. "The shipmaster," charged, as he by office was, with the common weal of those on board, would, in the common peril, have one common prayer. It was the prophet's office to call the pagan to prayers and to calling upon God. God reproved the Scribes and Pharisees by the mouth of the children who "cried Hosanna" Matthew 21:15; Jonah by the shipmaster; David by Abigail; 1 Samuel 25:32-34; Naaman by his servants. Now too he reproves worldly priests by the devotion of laymen, sceptic intellect by the simplicity of faith.

If so be that God will think upon us - , (literally "for us") i. e., for good; as David says, Psalm 40:17. "I am poor and needy, the Lord thinketh upon" (literally "for") "me." Their calling upon their own gods had failed them. Perhaps the shipmaster had seen something special about Jonah, his manner, or his prophet's garb. He does not only call Jonah's God, "thy" God, as Darius says to Daniel "thy God" Daniel 6:20, but also "the God," acknowledging the God whom Jonah worshiped, to be "the God." It is not any pagan prayer which he asks Jonah to offer. It is the prayer of the creature in its need to God who can help; but knowing its own ill-desert, and the separation between itself and God, it knows not whether He will help it. So David says Psalm 25:7, "Remember not the sins of my youth nor my transgressions; according to Thy mercy remember Thou me for Thy goodness' sake, O Lord."

"The shipmaster knew from experience, that it was no common storm, that the surges were an infliction borne down from God, and above human skill, and that there was no good in the master's skill. For the state of things needed another Master who ordereth the heavens, and craved the guidance from on high. So then they too left oars, sails, cables, gave their hands rest from rowing, and stretched them to heaven and called on God."

6. call upon thy God—The ancient heathen in dangers called on foreign gods, besides their national ones (compare Ps 107:28). Maurer translates the preceding clause, "What is the reason that thou sleepest?"

think upon us—for good (compare Ge 8:1; Ex 2:25; 3:7, 9; Ps 40:17).

So the ship-master, who had the conduct of the vessel, and from whose mouth such a reproof was seasonable, came to him; missing him, when all the rest were toiled with labour, and had been crying mightily to their false gods, but Jonah appeared not.

What meanest thou, O sleeper? a very decent yet sharp reproof to him: What metal art thou made of? or, What god dost thou fear? or, Art thou deaf to all the menaces of Heaven?

Arise, awake, get up, call upon thy God; pray to that God thou worshippest, as we have already each done, for possibly thy God may be mightier than our gods, and may lay the tempest that lieth so heavily upon us. They had lost their labour seeking to other gods, yet think it advisable that Jonah should try his God too; if so be, &c.: see Joel 2:14; and so Amos 5:15.

Will think upon us, with pity, care, and favour, and do for us in this our strange distress, that we perish not; that ship, goods, and men too, may not be lost.

So the shipmaster came to him,.... The master of the vessel, who had the command of it; or the governor of it, as Jarchi; though Josephus (d) distinguishes between the governor and the shipmaster: "the master of the ropers" (e), as it may be rendered; of the sailors, whose business it was to draw the ropes, to loose or gather the sails, at his command: missing him, very probably, he sought after him, and found him in the hold, in the bottom of the ship, on one side of it, fast asleep:

and said unto him, what meanest thou, O sleeper? this is not a time to sleep, when the ship is like to be broke to pieces, all lives lost, and thine own too: thus the prophet, who was sent to rebuke the greatest monarch in the world, is himself rebuked by a shipmaster, and a Heathen man. Such an expostulation as this is proper enough to be used with professors of religion that are gotten in a spiritual sense into a sleepy and drowsy frame of spirit; it being an aggravation of it, especially when the nation they are of, the church of Christ they belong to, and their own persons also, are in danger; see Romans 13:11 Ephesians 5:14;

arise, call upon thy God; the gods of this shipmaster and his men were insufficient to help them; they had ears, but they heard not; nor could they answer them, or relieve them; he is therefore desirous the prophet would pray to his God, though he was unknown to him; or at least it suggests that it would better come him to awake, and be up, and praying to his God, than to lie sleeping there; and the manner in which the words are expressed, without a copulative, show the hurry of his spirit, the ardour of his mind, and the haste he was in to have that done he advises to: every good man has a God to pray unto, a covenant God and Father, and who is a prayer hearing God; is able to help in time of need, and willing to do it; and it is the duty and interest of such to call upon him in a time of trouble; yea, they should arise and stir up themselves to this service; and it may be observed, that the best of men may sometimes be in such a condition and circumstances as to need to be stirred up to it by others; see Luke 22:46;

if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not; the supreme God; for the gods they had prayed to they looked upon as mediators with the true God they knew not. The shipmaster saw, that, to all human probability, they were all lost men, just ready to perish; that if they were saved, (as who knew but they might, upon Jonah's praying to his God?) it must be owing to the kind thoughts of God towards them; to the serenity of his countenance, and gracious acceptance of prayer, and his being propitious and merciful through that means; all which seems to be the import of the word used: so the saving of sinners in a lost and perishing condition, in which all men are, though all are not sensible of it, is owing to God's thoughts of peace, to his good will, free favour, and rich grace in Christ Jesus, and through him, as the propitiatory sacrifice. The Targum is,

"if so be mercy may be granted from the Lord, and we perish not.''

(d) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 2.) (e) "magister funalis", Munster; "magister funiculaiorum", so some in ;Mercer; "magister funis", Calvin.

So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy {h} God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

(h) As they had called on their idols, which declares that idolaters have no rest nor certainty, but in their troubles seek what they do not even know.

6. the shipmaster] Lit., the chief of the sailors, i. e. the captain. The word here for sailors (which is singular and used collectively) is not the same word as that rendered mariners in Jonah 1:5. It is formed from the Hebrew word for a rope, and means properly those who handle the ropes. Both words occur again (and it is the only other place in the O.T. where either of them is found) in the description of the maritime greatness of Tyre in Ezekiel 27. The word used in this verse is there rendered in Ezekiel 27:8; Ezekiel 27:27; Ezekiel 27:29, pilots, and the mention of their wisdom in Jonah 1:8 has been thought to justify this distinction. It should be observed, however, that the contrast there is between mere rowers (for so, and not mariners, the other word in that verse should be rendered) who were hired from Sidon and Arvad, and skilled sailors, who were the product of Tyre herself. The word rendered mariners in Jonah 1:5 of this chapter and in Ezekiel 27:9; Ezekiel 27:27; Ezekiel 27:29, appears to be a more general word, including all seafaring persons. The Hebrews, not being a maritime nation, make but little use of nautical terms. We have in addition to the words just mentioned the expressions, “shipmen that had knowledge of the sea” (lit., “men of ships, knowing the sea”), 1 Kings 9:27 (comp. 2 Chronicles 8:18); “They that go down to the sea in ships,” Psalm 107:23, or simply, “They that go down to the sea,” Isaiah 42:10.

What meanest thou, O sleeper?] Lit., What (is there) to thee, sleeping? i.e. What reason hast thou for sleeping? The A.V. and R. V. apparently take the participle “sleeping” as a vocative, “O sleeper?” What meanest thou by sleeping! would perhaps be the best translation. It is an exclamation of indignant surprise at the unreasonableness of Jonah’s conduct. The word for sleep here and in Jonah 1:5 means heavy or deep sleep, such as Adam’s (Genesis 2:21), or Sisera’s (Jdg 4:21). LXX. τί σὺ ῥέγχεις;

God] This abstract use of the word (lit., “the God”) immediately after “thy God” in this verse, and the mention in Jonah 1:6 that the mariners “cried every man unto his god,” is remarkable. It would seem to imply, as Calvin argues, that behind and above the many gods whom the heathen invented for themselves, they retained the idea, vague perhaps and indistinct for the most part, but starting into prominence in times of danger and distress such as this, of one supreme God by whose providence the world is governed, and in whose hand are the life and safety of all men.

will think upon us] Some would render, “will brighten, or shine upon us,” i.e. will be propitious or favourable to us; but there seems no reason to depart from the A.V., which the R.V. retains.

Verse 6. - The shipmaster; literally, the chief of the ropemen; Vulgate, gubernator; Septuagint, ὁ πρωρεύς, "the look out man." The captain. What meanest thou, O sleeper? How canst thou sleep so soundly when our danger is so imminent? If thou canst help us in no other way, at least ask the aid of Heaven. It was the duty of a prophet of the Lord to take the lead in prayer; but here the prophet's stupor is rebuked by the heathen's faith. Call upon thy God. The sailors' prayers had not been answered, and they arouse Jonah, noting something special about him, perhaps his prophet's dress, or observing that he was an Israelite, and therefore a worshipper of Jehovah, of whose power they had heard. If so be that God will think upon us. They use the word "God" with the article, ha Eiohim, as if they had, in spite of their Polytheism, a dim notion of one supreme Deity. Vulgate, Si forte recogitet Deus de nobis; Septuagint, ὅπως διασώση ὁ Θεὸς ἡμᾶς, "that God may save us." From the apparent use, of the Hebrew word (ashath) in Jeremiah 5:28 in the sense of "shining," some translate here, "if perchance God will shine upon us," i.e. be favourable to us. But the meaning given in the Anglican Version is best supported. So the psalmist says, "The Lord thinketh upon me" (Psalm 40:17), implying that God succours and defends him. Jonah 1:6When the danger was at its height, the upper-steersman, or ship's captain (rabh hachōbhēl, the chief of the ship's governors; chōbhēl with the article is a collective noun, and a denom. from chebhel, a ship's cable, hence the one who manages, steers, or guides the ship), wakes him with the words, "How canst thou sleep soundly? Arise, and call upon thy God; perhaps God (hâ'ĕlōhı̄m with the article, 'the true God') will think of us, that we may not perish." The meaning of יתעשּׁת is disputed. As עשׁת is used in Jeremiah 5:28 in the sense of shining (viz., of fat), Calvin and others (last of all, Hitzig) have maintained that the hithpael has the meaning, shown himself shining, i.e., bright (propitious); whilst others, including Jerome, prefer the meaning think again, which is apparently better supported than the former, not only by the Chaldee, but also by the nouns עשׁתּוּת (Job 12:5) and עשׁתּון (Psalm 146:4). God's thinking of a person involves the idea of active assistance. For the thought itself, compare Psalm 40:18. The fact that Jonah obeyed this awakening call is passed over as self-evident; and in Jonah 1:7 the narrative proceeds to relate, that as the storm had not abated in the meantime, the sailors, firmly believing that some one in the ship had committed a crime which had excited the anger of God that was manifesting itself in the storm, had recourse to the lot to find out the culprit. בּשׁלּמי equals בּאשׁר למי (Jonah 1:8), as שׁ is the vulgar, and in conversation the usual contraction for אשׁר: "on account of whom" (בּאשׁר, in this that equals because, or followed by ל, on account of). הרעה, the misfortune (as in Amos 3:6), - namely, the storm which is threatening destruction. The lot fell upon Jonah. "The fugitive is taken by lot, not from any virtue in lots themselves, least of all the lots of heathen, but by the will of Him who governs uncertain lots" (Jerome).

When Jonah had been singled out by the lot as the culprit, the sailors called upon him to confess his guilt, asking him at the same time about his country, his occupation, and his parentage. The repetition of the question, on whose account this calamity had befallen them, which is omitted in the lxx (Vatic.), the Socin. prophets, and Cod. 195 of Kennicott, is found in the margin in Cod. 384, and is regarded by Grimm and Hitzig as a marginal gloss that has crept into the text. It is not superfluous, however; still less does it occasion any confusion; on the contrary, it is quite in order. The sailors wanted thereby to induce Jonah to confess with his own mouth that he was guilty, now that the lot had fallen upon him, and to disclose his crime (Ros. and others). As an indirect appeal to confess his crime, it prepares the way for the further inquiries as to his occupation, etc. They inquired about this occupation, because it might be a disreputable one, and one which excited the wrath of the gods; also about his parentage, and especially about the land and people from which he sprang, that they might be able to pronounce a safe sentence upon his crime.

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