Summary: Jonah had run out of "wiggle room." He had run, slept, hid and remnained out of sight long enough. Now he stood before seasoned sailors who, in kindness and sympathy demanded an explanation from him.
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The scene on the high Mediterranean Sea centuries ago was not one from which one could draw comfort. The Sea was still rolling and tossing while the winds blew unceasingly. The sky was still dark with angry clouds and the ship was tossing and turning trying to stay afloat. The sailors had ceased their praying and had gone to casting lots. The people stood as best they could, holding on to the sides of the ship and onto anything else that was not moving. All eyes had now turned to the Hebrew who stood facing everyone on board and his God whom no one saw, but he knew, nevertheless that He was there facing him. While everyone waited on hearing from him, he suddenly felt the weight of the world had fallen on his shoulders.
Jonah faced a dilemma, “What should he do?” If he lied to the people, they would soon know it and yet to tell the truth, was even more dangerous due to what possible consequences awaited him. Here he was-at the end of his tether. He knew he had brought this calamity on these innocent people. He knew that it was his fault that the ship had to toss over all of its wares. He knew that at any moment the ship could go down and it would be his fault. What was he to do and furthermore, what would be the response of the sailors as they heard him tell the reason. In that fraction of a moment, the surprise of a life time comes to the surface. In place of anger on the part of these sailors, he sees compassion and kindness something which he was not prepared to witness. Yet, there it was and the kindness came in the form of a series of questions posed by these people who did not claim to serve the God of all gods. As he stood there looking at these sailors he had to realize that these men were kinder to him than he was to them. These sailors showed him more compassion than what he showed the people of Nineveh and what he showed to those who were on this troubled vessel.
As I study the verse before me, I see three things about these sailors which shows some great personal traits and even eclipsed Jonah who was supposed to be God’s man at this time. The first thing I note about these sailors is their SIMPLE ways. This word is meant in the kindest way and it is in no way used in a derogatory setting in describing these sailors. Next, I note the utter and childlike SINCERITY of these sailors. Then, I note the kindness of these sea going men, how SEASONED they were when faced with a problem at sea. Taken together, they outshone Jonah that day and with these good characteristics, it is easier to see why these sailors later came to believe in and confess God to be their new God.
I. SIMPLE: These sailors, in all likelihood, were probably men of the working class. It is unlikely that they were educated and they probably never had much schooling-if any in their lives. They were no doubt born to poor working people and began their working days at an early age. What learning they were able to acquire was probably that of the lower class. In all probability, they were not expected to achieve much in this life and they really had little in life to anticipate except hard labor. Such was the common lot of the common man. All of this is not to belittle these men, it is just meant to state what was the fare of so many workers in that day and time.
Along with their “schooling” or lack there of, it can be safely assumed-based on the text-that these sailors were Superstitious. The casting of lots meant that they were believers in forces which were beyond their control. They turned from their religious prayers and began to cast lots to seek an answer to their dilemma. There is also a high probability that their religion was based in a great deal of illogical beliefs and practices. It is also a fact that people who practice such Superstitious practices can be very irrational and can do things which are not logical. However, these sailors-if they were Superstitious certainly behaved in a most commendable way towards this Hebrew as he stood there before them. They treated him with respect and dignity as they asked him several questions. They did not harm him as they could have done, but they treated him with respect and dignity-more than what he treated them.