Having been found asleep, Jonah must now endure a very public scrutiny. No longer can he travel incognito; there must be a full disclosure of his background, identity and role. Jonah’s bold, though belated declaration fills the sailors with fear. And his suggestion that he must be sacrificed to encompass their salvation is too much for them to accept. Yet in the end there is no choice and fearfully supplicating Jonah’s God they cast him overboard, with amazing results for him, and for them!

1:7,8 Jonah Marked by Lot and Interrogated

“And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah.”

With the storm raging unabated, the desperate mariners, by common consent decide that, having had no direct communication from their various gods, they will have the matter of guilt decided by the casting of lots. For it is very clear to these men that this is no ordinary storm, and its cause lies in the circumstances of someone on that vessel. By the casting of lots, Divinely directed, judgment and decision had been exercised in Israel’s history, for example in the case of Jonathan (1 Sam. 14: 40–42). It was in such a manner, following devout prayer by the apostles, that Matthias came to be “numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:22–26). And as we have noted, Proverbs adds the observation: “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (16: 33).

So the lots are cast and by a process of elimination, the second miracle of this book takes place as finally “the lot fell upon Jonah”. And as Jonah is marked out, the whole group starts firing questions at him. We can picture the turmoil and hubbub of voices as from every direction the questions come thick and fast:

1:8 “Tell us we pray thee—For whose cause this evil is upon us?—What is thine occupation?— Whence comest thou?—What is thy country?—Of what people art thou?”

Before we review Jonah’s response, note this very evident fact. They knew nothing about him. There was nothing in his dress, speech, demeanour or anything else which identified him as a man of Israel, and a worshipper of Israel’s God. Jonah’s identity was buried deep; his affiliations undisclosed. Could it just be that sometimes this is true of us. That on at least some of the pathways of life, we travel incognito, our affiliations undisclosed? Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”. Then let it be so with us.

Jonah’s innate courage and forthrightness are now revealed as he plainly describes himself and his belief, but as we shall note, in every bold statement he makes, there is a reminder of his rebellion and failure!

1:9 “And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew…”

The expression has its origin in Genesis, being used first to describe Abram, the Hebrew (Gen 14: 13). It is from the root abar to “cross over” or “pass through”. “And Abraham passed through the land” (Gen 12:6). The sense is of a transition (from the world to the service of God). Now the word is used generically of Israel and hence of multitudes. But it is interesting to note that it is used specifically of only four individuals in all Scripture. Abraham (Gen 14: 13), Joseph (Gen 39:14,17; 41:12), Jonah (Jonah 1:9) and Paul (2 Cor 11: 22, Phil 3:5). And each of these were prominently noted in being involved in salvation for Gentiles. So to be identified as an Hebrew was to emphasise the universality of the Gospel, not any Israelitish exclusivity! We can be sure Jonah did not have that thought in mind as he declared his Hebrew background.

Ironic too that Jonah emphasises an expression which is so tellingly the opposite in intent to what he is doing. Abraham “crossed over” into the land in courageous obedience to his God. Jonah is “crossing over” out of the land in utter disobedience. “I am an Hebrew”, he declares. Hmm… perhaps not quite!

“and I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven.”

The sailors had cried out to gods many and lords many, but Jonah points out now there is only one true God, that is Yahweh, who is the God of heaven— there can therefore be none to compare to Him. An excellent point Jonah… but then if Yahweh be God of heaven, does that not mean He is the God of “every creature which is under heaven” (Col.1:23), Ninevites included, and if that be so…. Well the implications are obvious and again Jonah’s bold declaration condemns his own actions.

“which made the sea and the dry land”

A pointed comment this, and Jonah perhaps deliberately introduces the reference to the sea first to highlight his own consciousness of the reasons for their plight at sea and also to admit that his flight was in vain. Yahweh who “made the sea” has stopped him in his tracks. But there is a further unconscious irony here. Jonah refers to God’s sovereignty over both sea and dry land. These terms too emphasise the universal scope of God’s involvement with His creation—He cannot be limited to one place, one land, one people, even though it is true that Israel is the apple of his eye.

Moreover this forceful declaration becomes a personal challenge to Jonah. “The sea is his and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land” (Psa 95:5). In each arena of Divine activity, Jonah’s failure and disobedience was evident.

So it is that in every single point of what we might call Jonah’s declaration of allegiance, he is personally challenged and found wanting. Yet doubtless his intentions now are honest and focussed on the sailors who are suffering on account of his rebellion.

1:10 “Then were the men exceedingly afraid”

It may be that earlier, perhaps when boarding the vessel, Jonah had given as a reason for his journey that he was in some trouble and had to get away from “Yahweh”. They assume this is some other person. Or in the course of his explanation he now has revealed to them that he is a disobedient prophet fleeing from duty to his God. Whatever the circumstances, they now understand exactly what has happened and are terrified. “What have you done?” they cry. You have brought these terrible circumstances upon us, is the clear implication.

1:11–16 Jonah Sacrificed, the Sailors Converted and Repentant, Make their Vows to Yahweh.

1:11–13 “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. And he said unto them, Take me up and cast me into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought and was tempestuous against them.”

Jonah’s confession and explanation had made the situation plain, but did not solve the problem. Things got worse. The tumultuous sea raged ever more fiercely. And the sailors realised what Jonah had surely already concluded—that while ever he was on board, there was no remedy. “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us” is their plaintive cry. Perhaps they are not yet at the level of, “Men & brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37) But the verbal allusion is compelling, and the answer in each case involves immersion!

Jonah’s response indicates a preparedness to sacrifice himself on behalf of Gentiles, though it would still involve frustrating his Divine commission. His suggestion to his mind involved certain death since he had no idea what was in store. Perhaps fearful of causing the death of the man they now knew to be a prophet of Yahweh, the sailors extend themselves in a vain endeavour to row the vessel to land, but their efforts are fruitless in the face of Divine power.

1:14 “Wherefore they cried unto Yahweh, and said, We beseech thee, O Yahweh, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou O Yahweh, hast done as it pleased thee.”

See how far these men have come in such a short time. There is a pointed contrast in these words of verse 14, to the expression in verse 5: “… cried every man unto his God”. The incoherent, superstitious utterances to their “gods” gives way to an intelligent supplication to Yahweh the God of heaven. “We beseech thee, O Yahweh, we beseech thee.” This repeated statement in this form only appears elsewhere in Psalm 118:25, a Messianic psalm of salvation and thanksgiving, perhaps particularly appropriate to the ‘type’ being worked out here in Jonah.

There is even a foreshadowing of the words of Pontius Pilate: “Lay not upon us innocent blood”, they said. “I am innocent of the blood of this just person,” he said (Matt.27:24). So they acknowledge, too, the innate qualities of Yahweh’s prophet despite the aberration of his current disobedience. We cannot fail to see that a process of conversion is taking place on this storm tossed boat. There is prayer to Yahweh, there is a plea for mercy, there is acknowledgment of God’s power, and a breathtaking recognition of Divine sovereignty: “for thou, O Yahweh, hast done as it pleased thee”. There is here a simple, humble recognition that God’s way and will must prevail, while puny mankind can but look on. Whence came this knowledge and attitude but from the unrecorded words and teaching of Yahweh’s servant Jonah, at last risen to the occasion.

1:15 “So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.”

With no other choice the men throw Jonah overboard. The expression “cast him forth” is the identical Hebrew word translated “sent out” in verse 4. And there is an immediate response to this fearful act of faith. The sea stopped its raging. At once. From mighty storm to flat calm in an instant. Here is the Divine power shown in this third miracle of chapter one. This is the power that can change mortality to immortality. How long will it take? “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye”, is the apostolic reply. And for those sailors there was the final proof, if it were needed, that here was the one true God; they need look to no other, and they “feared Yahweh exceedingly”.

1:16 “Then the men feared Yahweh exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto Yahweh, and made vows.”

At the first opportunity they offered sacrifices and made their vows to Almighty God. In chapter 2:9 Jonah declares his intent: “I will sacrifice…I will pay that I have vowed”. But while Jonah is promising, these Gentiles are doing. The first Gentile converts of Jonah are made, and the stage is set for Nineveh!

The Eight Miracles of the Book of Jonah

1 Ch.1:4 “But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea.”

2 Ch 1:7 “… and the lot fell on Jonah.”

3 Ch 1:15 “… and the sea ceased from her raging.”

Note in miracles 2 & 3 though Yahweh directs the miracles, His Name is not used. Perhaps, since Jonah has abandoned Yahweh’s presence, so Yahweh will not associate His name with him.

4 Ch 1:17 “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.”

5 Ch 2:10 “And the Lord spake unto the fish and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” What an irony that God spoke to a fish and it obeyed him, when His own servants will not.

6 Ch 4: 6 “And the Lord God prepared a gourd.”

7 Ch 4: 7 “But God prepared a worm…”

8 Ch 4: 8 “… God prepared a vehement east wind.”

cp 1:4 “great wind”—also an east wind? (Psa 48:7) “Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind.” A Kingdom Psalm. Yahweh will save and establish His Kingdom. He needs no ships of Tarshish!