Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Jonah 1:4 - 1:4

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Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Jonah 1:4 - 1:4

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Jonah'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 (סַעַר, rendered appropriately κλύδων by the lxx) arose, so that “the ship thought to be dashed to pieces,” i.e., to be wrecked (הִשֵּׁב 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” (לְהָקֵל מֵעֲלֵיהֶם as in Exo 18:22 and 1Ki 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 Amo 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 אֳנִיָּה, is the usual word for a ship in Arabic and Aramaean. Nirdam: used for deep sleep, as in Jdg 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.