Then said they to him, What shall we do to you, that the sea may be calm to us? for the sea worked, and was tempestuous.…
Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous, etc. A new stage of spiritual progress has been reached - yet the sea not calm. There had been prayer - but no calm followed; now there is frank confession of sin, and doubtless repentance, and acknowledgment of God even by the men, but the sea still wrought, and was tempestuous. Was it "no use" to pray and repent? No; but God's plan was a large one, not yet completed. See the danger of impatience and despair when a blessing is delayed: "Though the vision tarry, wait for it."
I. JONAH IS MADE HIS OWN JUDGE. "Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?" They seem to have felt, "There is one God, and Jonah is his prophet." Fearing God, they recognized the claims of his servant, and appealed to him to pass judgment on himself - "What shall we do unto thee? Doubtless they had their own ideas, but they respected him as a prophet, and were slow to lay bands on him, and thought that, as a servant of God, he would know best what would appease his wrath. I see chiefly in this language an appeal to the true God and the true man. Wherever the knowledge of God is clearly and truly communicated, heathenism and idols have no chance. Let God be clearly known as he is revealed, and, with very few exceptions, men cannot but believe on him.... So, too, when the true man appears among men, although it may be, as in this case, coming out of untrueness and unfairness, staggering beck through the storm and penalty that he may at least die in the right way, men must yield that man reverence. The image of God is shining in him once more. He is a living and true man - son of the living and true God - "What shall we do unto thee?" (Raleigh).
II. THE SELF-IMPOSED SENTENCE. "Take me up, and cast me into the sea." The coward now become a hero shows a noble and self-sacrificing spirit - contrast to former spirit. And now comes to the front the instinct of retribution. Jonah does not propose that he should be granted an opportunity to go to Nineveh and execute his commission; he felt that he was causing death to others - it was just that he should die to prevent them from dying: "I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you." But he will not be his own executioner: "Take me up, and cast me into the sea." No man is entitled to take away his own life; no countenance either in nature or in Bible to suicide. Jonah's death must be a judicial act, executed by others, "Cast me forth into the sea, for that is the will of God; it is my will also, for I cannot endure to see you in such danger and distress any longer on my account. You have already lost your goods because of me, and you have been for some time in peril of your Ryes; that you may suffer no more, take me up, and cast me into the sea" (Jones).
III. ANOTHER PULL FOR LIFE. "Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land." These men gain upon us - rough seamen by profession, tinged by Oriental barbarity in all likelihood, they become generous, and eager to save Jonah. Jonah's humility, candour, and ready self-sacrifice had impressed them: "They rowed hard to bring the ship to land." A self-sacrificing spirit draws men's hearts - turns the heathen - Livingstone's influence with natives of Africa due in no small measure to this feature - remember the self-sacrifice of our Lord: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." "Every good thing in our spirit and action has a tendency to reproduce itself in others who are in any way related to it, especially, of course, if it is called forth for their advantage. Jonah is true and noble at length. The sailors, having responsive qualities in themselves, are nobler for his nobleness, are more self-forgetful because, when the moment of stress came, he did the noblest thing a man could do for fellow men - offered his life for theirs" (Raleigh). Another step is thus gained in moral progress - "the men" have become full of reverence toward God, and full of regard for his prophet - but to no purpose apparently; "for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them." A sacrifice, is indispensable. (In the men "pulling hard" some have found an emblem of sinners trying to save themselves before they resort to God's way of sacrifice; but this lesson seems far fetched.)
IV. THE MARINERS TO GOD. "Wherefore they cried unto the Lord, and said, We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee," etc. The tender conscience and devout feeling of the mariners are very remarkable. Observe:
1. Vehemence of their prayer: "They cried - they beseech God once and again.
2. They appeal to God's justice: Let us not perish for this man's life."
3. Their concern for life: "Lay not upon us innocent blood." Shedding of blood was little thought of in those times - massacre of innocent and guilty alike were common enough.
4. Their submissiveness to God: "For thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee." Thou hast shown thy sovereign will in the past; let it rule us now. Most profitable lesson for us all: "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6). Especially in reference to any step that, once taken, cannot be recalled. For if they threw Jonah overboard, it was an irrevocable act.
V. JONAH IS CAST FORTH. "So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging" They took him up, tenderly and respectfully, not pitching him overboard in a tumultuous manner. The prophet offers no resistance; one great heave, and he is eungulfed; in a little moment the sea closes on him - the men gazing after him with sorrowful, anxious faces, thinking, perhaps, "Poor man! where is he now?" It is an awful testimony to the righteousness of God; one offence has forfeited Jonah's life. No wonder they are anxious. But their anxiety does not last long; God reveals himself at once, and very wonderfully: "The storm ceased from her raging." The men are relieved from a double anxiety - anxiety about the storm, and anxiety whether or not they have done right. "Thus died Jonah, to them, at least, the death of a criminal pursued by justice; yet the death of a repentant and righteous man; in death triumphing over death; committing himself to God in singular meekness and faith; acknowledging the justice of his doom, and relying on Divine pardon and protection; committing his body to the sea and his soul to the God whom he feared, the God of heaven, and of the sea, and of the dry land" (Martin).
VI. THE EFFECT UPON THE MEN. At last the storm ceases. What neither prayers, nor repentance, nor the change in the mind of the men had accelerated by one iota comes at once and completely after the sacrifice of one man. Fresh token of nearness of God; but not this time vindicating his justice or executing his wrath; showing his mercy and his love. Great power of mercy and love to move the heart: "The men feared the Lord exceedingly." Awed by his presence, reassured by his mercy, they "offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, and made vows;" showed their deep sense obligation, and took steps to keep it up. The vow was probably to be performed at some future time. Thus they took precautions against evanescence of grateful feeling - a useful lesson. Men "soon forget his mercies;" vows tend to keep sense of them alive after times.
VII. JONAH NOT LOST. "The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah." "Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps." God had shown himself the Lord of reanimate nature; now he shows himself Lord of animate nature. The storm had been his messenger; now his messenger is the fish. This is duly in accordance with the idea of God which the whole transaction and the whole book present. Jehovah claims to be not only the God of the Hebrew, but the God of Nineveh, and of the whole earth. He is the God of heaven, "which hath made the sea and the dry land." "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof;" "So is this wide and great sea, wherein go things creeping innumerable, both large and small beasts." He shows his sovereignty over the land by preparing a great fish. He bends it to his own purposes - makes the devouring monster a means of protection and preservation. The whole story has a supernatural air. If the presence of the supernatural be once admitted, the form of miracle is a mere matter of detail. Objections arising from the apparently grotesque character of this miracle am obviated if it be considered that God wished to convince Jonah of his power to protect and preserve him even in Nineveh, amid hordes of furious enemies, roused perhaps to fury by his message. He that had protected him in the body of the fish, surging up and down through the depths of the stormy sea, was able to protect him at Nineveh. The unusual character of Jonah's mission justifies an unusual miracle. God's manifold resources of preservation - Noah in the ark - Moses in the cradle of bulrushes - Elijah by the ravens - Jesus by flight into Egypt - Paul through his nephew finding out conspiracy, Many more are found in Christian biography. All the powers of nature, all creatures rational and irrational, men, devils, and angels, are subject to him; and now subject to Christ: God "hath put all things under his feet, and given him to be Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." - W.G.B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous.