Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jonah 1:6

So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Converts;   Jonah;   Minister, Christian;   Prayerlessness;   Superstition;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ships;  
Holman Bible Dictionary - Shipmaster;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jonah;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Jonah, the Book of;   Master;   Ships and Boats;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for August 27;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The shipmaster - Either the captain or the pilot.

Arise, call upon thy God - He supposed that Jonah had his god, as well as they had theirs; and that, as the danger was imminent, every man should use the influence he had, as they were all equally involved in it.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

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.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Jonah 1:6

So the shipmaster came to him.

A model sea-captain

The shipmaster was a good workman. The spirit and manner in which he went about his work deserve our imitation. He was intensely in earnest. At any risk he wished to arouse this slumbering passenger to a sense of duty. Death was staring them in the face, and he was anxious that every person on board should be doing something to assist the ship, or to save his life. Seek to imitate--

I. His earnest solicitude. When we remember that millions of our fellow-men are actually slumbering on the very verge of perdition, the first desire of every Christian heart should be to awaken them out of sleep. The conversion of men to God is the ultimate and immediate aim of all truly Christian effort. If we fail in this we fail altogether. This is the spirit of the age. In business, politics, and science, men may be as fanatical as they please, and society will applaud their zeal; while in any undertaking which is strictly Christian and spiritual, an ordinary amount of earnestness will not be tolerated.

II. His rational appeal. “What meanest thou, O sleeper?” Give us a reason for this strange conduct. This inquiry is equally appropriate and rational as applied to unconverted men. In reference to a matter of such importance we cannot do rational men the injustice to suppose that this subject has not received their most earnest attention. The fact may be, that though there is so much nominal belief in the world, there is also, even amongst ordinary Gospel hearers, a wide spread spirit of scepticism.

III. His simple exhortation. “Arise, and call upon thy God.” Straightforward, honest, manly, and emphatic, the man came right to the point, and discharged his soul. Such a man as a Gospel preacher would be sure of success. Let us aim at the heart. Let our theme be the Gospel. This earnest sea-captain is an example for every Christian professor. (W. H. Burton.)

The good shipmaster

Jonah behaved at once like a very presumptuous and a very ignorant man. Jonah’s slumbers were unaffected by the danger, and unbroken by the noise above and around. The shipmaster, seeing that he was quite unconscious of his peril, and might probably be engulphed in the yawning abyss below them, before ever he knew that there was danger, came near and aroused him. The shipmaster had no very accurate ideas of Jonah’s God, of His character, grace, mercy, long-suffering, or providence. Yet in the darkness of heathenism he had not absolutely lost sight of every glimpse of the truth. Amidst all the obscurity and ignorance in which they were involved many a heathen retained the knowledge that a power there certainly is that made heaven and earth, and all things therein;. and that in evils which mock the weakness of human devices, the only probable road to safety is in appeal to that invisible Being, who certainly has the power, and may have the will, to save to the uttermost. (W. H. Marriott.)

Men aroused by unexpected means

If Jonah had been told one year before that a heathen sea-captain would ever awaken him to a sense of danger, he would have scoffed at the idea; but here it is done. So now, men in strangest ways are aroused from spiritual stupor. A profane man is brought to conviction by the shocking blasphemy of a comrade. A man attending chinch, and hearing a sermon from the text, “The ox knoweth his owner,” etc., goes home unimpressed, but crossing his barn-yard, an ox comes up and licks his hand, and he says: “There it is now--‘the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib,’ but I do not know God.” The careless remark of a teamster has led a man to thoughtfulness and heaven. The child’s remark, “Father, they have prayers at uncle’s house,--why don’t we have them?” has brought salvation to the dwelling. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Remarkable awakenings

By strangest way and in most unexpected manner men are awakened. The gardener of the Countess of Huntingdon was convicted of sin by hearing the countess on the opposite side of the wall talk about Jesus. John Hardoak was aroused by a dream, in which he saw the last day, and the Judge sitting, and heard his own name called with terrible emphasis--“John Hardoak, come to judgment!” The Lord has a thousand ways of waking up Jonah. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Man’s interest in God

To the end the Lord may discover the guilty man, and cause of this tempest, as he made the mariners sensible themselves, so the shipmaster is set on work to awaken Jonah, to try his interest with his God (whom they knew not yet to be the true God), if possibly He had more power or goodwill to such as worshipped Him than theirs had. Which is the first step to His discovery. Doctrine--

1. A child of God may sometimes miscarry, so far through infirmity, negligence, and temptation, that even a pagan, by nature’s light, may see him reproveable and blameworthy, for so is Jonah reproved by the shipmaster.

2. It is deeply censurable and absurd, even to nature’s eye, to be secure in trouble.

3. Variety of false gods hold men in suspense and uncertainty. Therefore every “man having cried unto his God,” yet they are not settled, but will have Jonah to essay his God, if He be better than the rest.

4. Nature’s light will acknowledge that He who is the true God hath power to deliver in most extreme dangers; for in this great tempest they assert it,--“If God think on us, we will not perish.”

5. Howsoever in a calm day, nature conceit and boast of merit, yet in a strait, natural men are forced to have their recourse only to the favour of God. For this pagan shipmaster hath no ground of hope that they shall not perish, but in God’s thinking (or being bright and shining, as the word also signifies, that is, looking favourably) on them. (George Hutcheson.)

Arise, call upon thy God.

Asleep in sin

These were the words of the shipmaster to Jonah, and they present to us the strange anomaly of the reckless seaman upbraiding with impiety the prophet of the Lord. Jonah could not at that hour have possessed a conscience void of offence. At that time he was flying in the face of God, disobeying His Word, betraying His trust, and he could not have thought of Him without dread. He could not have dared to bend the knee to Him in prayer without conscience flying, like a scorpion, in his face. Was it the conflict of his feelings which overpowered him, and nature sunk exhausted under the dreadful struggle? Or was it that Jonah had succeeded in silencing the remonstrances of conscience? Only by way of accommodation can this passage be improved.

1. Apply it to the careless and ungodly. Thousands are rushing onward in the broad way which leadeth to destruction. Many a man, in the midst of the most awful realities of life, is locked up in fancied security, and not a pang, not a misgiving, not an apprehension is entertained. Well may it be said to such, “Awaken, thou that sleepest.”

2. Apply to the backslider. Those who once knew the Lord, and who, remembering the blessedness of knowing Him, have nevertheless fallen from their stead fastness; who, by sin, have inflicted a deadly wound upon their souls. They may be, like Jonah, sleeping, insensible to the perils around them. But the words admit of a more extended application. They come, in a greater or less degree, pointed to us all. It seems to say to us all, “watch and pray, arise and be doing.” (Dennis Kofly, M. A.)

“Sleeper, arise”

Notice the character of Jonah’s sleep. It could not have been the sleep of innocence and confidence. Jesus Christ slept in the calm confidence of a mighty faith which knew that the elements were powerless to injure the Holy One of God. Jonah slept to escape from himself. He had already fled from the presence of God, but he could not escape from the sound of God’s voice in his conscience. May we not see in this sleep of Jonah a type of the condition of many souls? As with him, so with us. God has given us a work to do for Him. But the work grows distasteful; so we gradually slacken our efforts, and perhaps at last abandon them altogether; and then try to escape from the presence of the Lord We lull ourselves more effectually to sleep by the expressed intention of making our peace with God at some far distant time, when we are less distracted by the world’s claims upon us. But what are such intentions save as the dreams of an unhealthy sleep? Every landmark of our lives which tells us that another stage is reached, and our journey is so much nearer the close, is in point of fact as the voice of that heathen sailor who roused the sleeping prophet. It is no new or striking thing to say, that the time and manner of your death is uncertain. We need to take homo to ourselves the common-places of religion before we can actually realise them. How can we dare to continue to live in such a state as we dare not die in? (F. R. H. H. Noyes, D. D.)

The sleeper called to awake

The prophet, jealous, as some think, for the honour of Israel, and unwilling that the Gentiles should partake of the benefits of prophecy; or fearing that, as others imagine, notwithstanding all the denunciations he might utter against them, the merciful God might still spare them, and thus tarnish the veracity of his predictions,--subjecting him, moreover, to the ignominy of being despised and punished as an impostor; or apprehensive, as is the opinion of a third class, of the perils to which this journey and message were likely to expose him, refused obedience to God’s authority. What could the prophet mean by attempting to flee from the presence of the Lord? Possibly Jonah thought that by removing from Judea the special place of Divine revelations, he would remove from that presence of the Deity which was peculiar to it. During his passage he does not appear to have thought of the folly or sinfulness of his conduct. He fell fast asleep. Did not this splenetic seer know that it is in vain for a man to contend with his Maker?

1. It must be obvious to every one that this impassioned inquiry into the conduct of the sleeper speaks it to be fraught with extreme folly. Man is placed under the regimen of a moral and an equitable administration, in which God deals with him as a rational creature. A door of hope is set before us. The awful consequences of refusing to accept God’s mode of deliverance are fully displayed. Now, does the sleeper act the part of a wise man; to remain locked in the embraces of a most sluggish inaction, when affairs of such moment are to be decided? Surely no frenzy is half so desperate as this! The sleeper’s conduct is fraught with extreme folly.

2. This awakening salutation intimates that the sleeper’s conduct is full of danger. See the appalling and perilous position of this ship. Far more appalling and perilous is your condition, O ye spiritual slumberers. You are embarked on the ocean of Divine wrath. The vessel to which you have committed yourselves is frail and shattered, yet an ark of safety has all along attended you, but you will not be at the trouble of accepting its aid. By neglecting the great salvation, your peril is increased a thousand-fold. Jonah’s condition in the ship gives but a faint idea of the danger you every moment run while without Christ, and “without God in the world.”

3. The earnestness of the interrogatory imports that now is the proper time to awake. It should be a rule with every man who wishes to regulate his conduct wisely, to put off nothing till to-morrow which is necessary to be done to-day. The present time is always the best, and, what is more, it is all that we can call our own. The circumstances of this case demand that you decide instantly.

4. The vehemence of this call tells us, that the business for which the sleeper is called to awake is of the utmost importance, and well deserves his attention. Inconceivably greater than Jonah’s is the business to which we now solicit your attention. By nature you are lost and undone; but we now announce to you a message of peace and reconciliation with God. We tell you of a Saviour. Will you, through the pride of your heart, banish from your mind that deep and mysterious project? Will you, through the listlessness of your inaction, discard, as not deserving your serious contemplation, that unrivalled event which filled the world with wonders?

5. The question here put to the sleeper may also be viewed as the language of reproof and astonishment. These sailors were heathen, yet in time of strain they called on their God. The one man who professed to fear the God of heaven remains fast asleep, makes no attempt to call upon his God. (W. Nisbet.)

The sleeper awakened

Like all who endeavour to frustrate the designs, evade the commands, or flee from the presence of God, Jonah found his hopes miserably disappointed. The address of the shipmaster to the slumbering prophet is equally applicable to those who are yet in their unregenerate state.

1. Like the prophet, you are exposed to the storm of Divine wrath, which every moment pursues and threatens to overwhelm you.

2. The inspired writers employ various figurative expressions to describe the situation and character of impenitent sinners. Persons of this description are represented sometimes as foolish, mad, or infatuated; sometimes as blind and senseless; sometimes as dead in trespasses and sins; and sometimes as slumbering or asleep.

Apply to unawakened sinners, and then to those whom God has been pleased to awaken. (E. Payson, D. D.)

The sleeper aroused

The circumstances connected with this message of the prophet are very striking. We may trace a parallel between those circumstances and man as we now find him. Every man, from the least to the greatest, is charged with a mission from God; every man comes into the world charged with this one great business, the bringing glory to God; and every man who goes forth, in the exercise of the faculties which God has given him, influenced and regulated by Almighty grace, fulfils his mission. But the greater part of mankind shrink from it; they flee (as it were) from the presence of the Lord; they go forth from the round of duty in which He places them, and seek to escape. Every soul who is not fulfilling his mission will sooner or later be convinced how fearful a thing it is, as well as vain, to seek to depart from God, and to neglect the one great business of life. The subject suggests one aspect of the unconverted man,--he is in a state of deep sleep. All his faculties whereby he might glorify God are inactive, or if employed at all, are employed unwisely and unfitly. He slumbers in sinful indulgence. There is an absorbing power in this; it holds the heart fast, it subdues the whole being, and brings it into entire subjection. He slumbers in spiritual feeling. What should be done in this case? Two things. “Arise.” “Call upon thy God.” To every slumberer in sinful indulgence and spiritual ignorance we say, “Arise.” Awaken to serious thought. Respond to the call of the Divine Spirit. Call upon God with all the lowliness of humiliation, and in the exercise of a simple faith, of a faith which He will give, of a faith which is even now tendered. And let me remind you that every day spent in the dangerous slumber of sinful indulgence and spiritual ignorance increases the difficulty of your awakening. (George Fisk, LL. D.)

Arousing voice to moral sleepers

Three practical appeals to the morally indifferent are suggested.

I. Jonah was in imminent peril; so are you. What are the perils of the material shipwreck to the perils of a corrupt and disobedient soul?

II. Jonah was unconscious of his peril; so are you. You say to yourself, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” If you were aware of your position, you would give no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids.

1. Jonah’s unconsciousness was foolish; so is yours. How unwise was the prophet to sleep under such circumstances; he should have been on deck, alert, all ear and eye, and with hands ready to grapple with the emergencies of the terrible hour.

2. Jonah’s unconsciousness was wicked; so is yours. For the sake of his companions on board he ought not to have been fast asleep it indicated a shameful lack of interest in his fellow-men. Your indifferentism is wicked. You ought to be spiritually alive and awake, not only for your own sake, but also for those around you who are in similar peril.

III. Jonah had a messenger to warn him of his peril; so have you. There are certain points of analogy between this “shipmaster” and the godly ministers that are warning you.

1. He believed in the existence and power of God; so do they. “Call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us.”

2. He believed in the efficacy of human prayer; so do they. What soul does not pray when in conscious contact with overwhelming dangers? Your ministers believe in prayer; they pray for you, and urge you to pray for yourselves.

3. He believed it to be his duty to sound the warning; so do they. Your ministers have a right to warn you; they are bound to warn you. They are commanded to “cry aloud, to lift up their voices like a trumpet.” Do you say, when godly men speak to you about your moral condition, What business have they to interfere? My soul is my own; if I choose to throw it away, what matters it to them? It does matter to them. You are not your own, you are not an isolated unit, you are a member of the spiritual universe; you have therefore no right to be dishonest, corrupt, ungodly, and throw your soul away. You were made to serve the universe, not to curse it; you cannot sin without injuring others. (Homilist.)

An alarm to the careless

Observe the goodness and mercy of God. He would not punish without a warning, and affording opportunity to forsake their sin and turn unto Him. Jonah was to warn Nineveh, but instead of obeying he fled, hoping to hide himself from the eye of the Almighty. Consider Jonah as representing the state of the great bulk of mankind, the state of every unconverted sinner.

I. The expostulation. “What meanest thou, O sleeper?” Sleep implies a state--

1. Of insensibility. Jonah has no sense and feeling of his desperate condition. Sinners are dreaming, they are fast asleep.

2. Of insecurity. No one is more defenceless than he who is asleep. He is exposed to every danger, without anything wherewith to shield him. Just such is the state of the case with every impenitent sinner.

3. Of inactivity. Notwithstanding all the evils to which Jonah is exposed, he makes not one effort to escape. He is fast asleep. So is it with the souls of the unregenerate.

4. Of inability. What can a man that is asleep do to preserve himself, to save his property, or protect his life? The sinner cannot rescue himself from danger.

II. The advice. Open thine eyes, and see thy danger. Look, and behold the remedy. “Call upon thy God.” Prayer is a haven to a shipwrecked mariner; an anchor to them that are sinking in the waves; a staff to the limbs that totter; a mine of jewels to the poor; a security to the rich; a healer of diseases, and a guardian of health; prayer at once secures the continuance of our blessings, and dissipates the cloud of our calamities.

III. The. Encouragement. “If so be that God will think upon us that we perish not.” It may be that God will hear us. At least we can try. Such was the encouragement which the shipmaster held out. We can add more to this. Our God can and will hear and answer prayer. He is “thy God.” Address--

1. The careless sinner.

2. Those who are beginning to awake to a sense of their awful condition.

3. Those who have complied with the advice given. (Robert Simpson, M. A.)

The awakening influence of light

A young lady was carried to the hospital of St. Lazare in a sleep that had continued for a week. All the chemical and medical appliances had been used, and yet she slumbered. There was an expert among these French doctors that awoke her. The last resource! On the cones of the eyes that have dropped into insensibility is light. He focussed into the eyeball of the sleeper the rays of the sun. Hardly had the concentrated ray touched the eyeball when she awoke. Is it in sight of this physical principle that Paul uttered without knowing it, or is it not a marvellous testimony to God’s Holy Spirit and His guiding when he says that the last resource for the slumber, even of death, is Christ’s light,? When Christ shines into your soul you can’t slumber. (John Robertson.)

A troublesome cabin passenger

I know a shoal upon which I have seen several vessels come to ruin, but upon which I have never seen the remains of any two ships at the same time. It has been remarked that as long as the mast of a sunken wreck was to be seen above the water, another vessel was never known to strike on that bank. But it is seldom that that place is without its mournful beacon. As one ship thus becomes a beacon to another, so, in the voyage of life, one man’s faults and failings should become warnings to all the rest. God has given us many such beacons by the way; for the very fails and weaknesses of His people are made to subserve our highest good. The rock of disobedience, upon which Jonah split, is one of the most dangerous. Some who have grounded thus have managed to get off again into deep water, but it has always done them permanent injury, and has maimed them for the rest of the voyage. Jonah never did much after this misfortune. We see in Jonah a type of many round us, both in the Church and in the world.

I. Indolence in the midst of activity. “He lay.” Ease--rest--to be down in the sides of the ship, fast asleep in the bunks of formality and carnal ease, is the fullest realisation of the ordinary professor’s dreams. Respectable Jonahs are the curse of our churches.

II. Unconcern in the midst of danger. Men sleep on the very verge of eternal ruin. How is it possible to describe the sad condition of those who “will not” be aroused by all the Gospel admonitions which from time to time they hear?

III. Detection in the midst of flight. Jonah little dreamed, when he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, that the Lord was marking his every step. God knows us through all our disguises. We must all “appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,” and He who is to be your Judge has watched all your doings right throughout. (W. H. Burton.)

Of the dispositions becoming men in the times of very threatening and impending danger

1. That apprehensions of the displeasure and vengeance of God, on account of sin, are apt to arise in all ingenuous minds in times of very threatening and impending danger.

2. That notwithstanding there is a just foundation laid in the human mind, for apprehensions of this sort, in a state of distress, or great danger, yet many of those who are most criminal and guilty are, in such a situation, quite unaffected and secure.

3. That a sense of the displeasure of God, manifested in present or apparently approaching calamities, would naturally excite and urge men to devotion, humiliation, and repentance. (J. Orr, D. D.)

The history of Jonah

Jonah is justly no favourite with us, though conspicuously a prophet of the Lord. Hardly one prophet’s name is pronounced with so little respect. He was a real saint, with too much of the remaining elements of a sinner. His conduct on receiving his commission does appear very strange. We must accept his own explanation, given in chapter 4., which seems to amount to this,--he felt in danger of being disgraced as a prophet, the denunciation being to be uttered in positive, not conditional, terms. How abominably considerations of self may interfere with obedience to God! The purpose of his voyage betrays a most unworthy conception of the Divine Being, whatever was exactly the prophet’s notion. He may have been under the influence of a notion, that God maintained a peculiar jurisdiction over Judea, and a less absolute one beyond; though he knew that it must extend, with awful authority at least to Nineveh. He may have thought that, if he went far enough away, God would do without him, and appoint some other agent. He slept, but it is not wise to sleep in guilt. The God that is disobeyed on land can make the sea avenge Him. There is no situation more pitiable than that of a religious man who has disabled himself to take the benefit of his religion. Jonah’s associates had various gods, but they could all pray earnestly to their objects of adoration. He could not; he who knew the real Lord of the land and the ocean. There must soon have been manifested some peculiarity of circumstances in the storm, indicating that it was of a nature extraordinary and judicial. The mariners referred it to the avenging power to point out the criminal by “casting lots.” There follows the decision of the lot, a Series of questions and expostulations. Jonah’s answers were perfectly explicit. The honesty he showed made the mariners think it best to inquire of himself what they should do to him. His ready, explicit answer and self-devotement, no doubt, made them much more reluctant to do what he directed them, it would strike them as generous and heroic. They rowed hard. But the necessity became imperative at length. Jonah was sacrificed, but he was a willing sacrifice. Think of the prophet in his living tomb. The “belly of hell,” that is, the grave. Short of death, is it possible to conceive so strange a transition of state and feelings? By degrees the amazing fact that he did really live, and continue to live, would bring him to the distinct sense of a miraculous and protective Providence over him. Every moment would add strength to his impression of the Divine presence, and he came at length to a state of thought and faith and hope capable of prayer. What is given as the prophet’s prayer is doubtless the brief recollection, afterwards recorded’ of the kind of thoughts which had filled his mind during his dark sojourn, with the addition of some pious and grateful sentiments caused by the review. The final result of these mental exercises no doubt was a full consent of his will, that He who had sent him hither should send him anywhere else He pleased, even to Nineveh. Our Lord declares all this to be a type of Him. We may trace the analogy in the being consigned to the deep, and to the grave, in order that others might be saved;--the duration of time the same in the dark retirement;--the coming to light and life again, for the reformation of mankind. (Hercules was fabled to have had the same three days in a fish.) We follow Jonah to Nineveh, and there leave him, It does not appear that he showed any “signs and wonders.” There was a speedy humiliation and repentance, to which God graciously responded, but at which Jonah was angry. (John Foster.)

The sleep of Jonah, and the sleep of Christ

(taken with Matthew 8:24):--Our Lord has taught us to associate His name with that of Jonah. Christ taught us how to find high teachings in that which is outwardly mean and insignificant. We may be permitted to observe an incidental resemblance between them, which appears to be fruitful of suggestion. There is a study for us here, in this sleep of Jonah and this sleep of Christ.

1. The physical conditions of human life are the same in all cases,--in the case of the good and of the bad. There is one law which makes sleep a necessity for all. In both these cases the immediate cause of sleep was bodily weariness and exhaustion. One had toiled in glad fulfilment of a ministry of love and sorrow; the other had angrily refused to obey the voice of the Lord. But both slept. Thus we see the check which the universal and mysterious law of sleep puts upon every form of human activity. This limitation of bodily energy puts its restraint on human wickedness. It enforces a perpetually recurring pause in the activities of the sinful, the thoughtless, the worldly. But we sometimes cry that the activities of the noble and the good should thus be stopped. Alas! that these must lay aside so often and so soon their toils, their consecrated tasks, their questionings, their search for truth. In discouragement and distress the Christian man at times longs for some exemption from the general law. But we may take heart again when we see Christ asleep. He sleeps, and His work stands still.

2. There are instances of peril in which physical causes conduce to the absence of alarm, both in the case of good men and bad. Jonah, fast asleep, was as untroubled by the threatening fury of the storm as Christ Himself. Sometimes the vigour and robustness of a man’s bodily constitution contribute largely to indifference to dangers, which, if he regarded them, might fill him with dismay. Here is a physical cause largely helping to make a man altogether indifferent to the awful peril of irreligion. Often, when the time to die comes, the avenues of the soul seem to close up; the powers of expression fail; the whole man sinks into a lethargy and unconsciousness, in which he finally passes away. It is so with the good and bad, the prepared and unprepared.

3. This sleep of Jonah and sleep of Christ are indicative of two widely different spiritual conditions and processes issuing in strikingly similar results. We do not wonder that Christ should calmly resign Himself to sleep without apprehension or consciousness of peril. He knew that He was in the Father’s hands. But how could Jonah sleep, whatever his weariness, in the very act of such unfaithfulness to God? In both instances the spiritual condition may have contributed to the soundness of the sleep and the consequent unconsciousness of danger. With what thought Jonah went to sleep we are not told. In proportion to the success which Jonah had in quieting conscience would be the ease with which he would drop off to sleep and the probable soundness of his slumber. There was no uneasiness at the heart of Christ, and so He slept. There was not uneasiness enough at the heart of Jonah to keep him awake, and so he slept also. Misery comes to men in gusts; it is not the permanent condition of life’s atmosphere to any one. If a man refuse to be a Christian it by no means follows that he will live in a state of perpetual excitement and alarm. We almost wonder how it is that God lets men thus sleep on. It is not God’s plan to compel men to His service. He never so speaks that we may not refuse to answer. He never so compels us to attend that we may not settle ourselves to sleep again. But the time of awaking comes. In most Christian congregations it may be there are some who are suffering from the pangs of an awakened conscience. For such Christ waits with infinite compassion and concern. But the probability is that the condition of the majority of those who habitually listen to Christian preaching is like that of the ten virgins, of whom Christ speaks in His parable. “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” We slumber and sleep. Is it because we are finding our rest in reconciliation with God, or because we have dismissed the thought of God, and comforted ourselves with an opiate? (Thomas Stephenson.)

Call upon thy God.--

Terrors of conscience

1. How natural it is to mankind to fly to God and to call upon Him in seasons of distress. If nature, dark and doubtful, and trembling with a sense of guilt, can yet fly to the Almighty and call upon Him, shall we, who are enlightened by grace, be careless and indifferent about this high privilege of drawing near to God in prayer? Shall we, as long as we can find any earthly satisfaction and enjoyment, give them the preference to God; think much of them, and little or never of Him? Who that has a real concern for his own welfare and happiness will not perpetually call upon God?

2. The folly of contending with God. He sent the prophet one way; but because this prophet liked not the errand that he was charged with, he endeavoured to go quite a contrary way. The folly of such an attempt we are all ready to acknowledge; but are all, who would not hesitate or doubt to pass sentence upon Jonah, free from this very folly? Jonah disobeyed an express order of God; and in doing so somehow satisfied himself that an all-discerning Eye would not see perverseness in him, nor an almighty Hand reach him in his flight. Do not thousands practise the same deceit upon themselves?

3. Conscience hath its power and authority and terrors derived from God; with which it will surround the sinner in the day of trouble, forcing him to confess and acknowledge his guilt.

4. These terrors of conscience, if they seize the sinner in due time, are most blessed and desirable. For the most unhappy of all conditions is security in sin, without any feeling or apprehensions of danger from it. But an humble and contrite heart, confessing its unworthiness, bewailing its sins, fully sensible of its own inability to rid itself of this burden, is in the fit and only fit disposition to return to God: such a soul is not far from salvation. 5, The Almighty, who bringeth good out of evil, ordained that Jonah should set forth a type or sign of the burial and resurrection of Christ. (T. Townson, D. D.)

Natural religion--its strength and weakness

The pilot not only rebuked the prophet, he had a proposal to make to him. “Arise, call upon thy God.” And he backs his proposal by a reason, a motive, an expectation of benefit. “If so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.” All this, as coming from a heathen, is peculiarly instructive. The two great truths conveyed are these.

1. That in man’s inmost nature, originally and radically, there are certain principles of religion most strong and ineradicable.

2. That these, without the guidance of revelation and faith, are altogether insufficient as guides in his real relation to God. Man’s natural helplessness, and his natural conscience, necessarily imply a capacity for religion and a certain religiousness, appertaining, of necessity, to human nature, and developed, in peculiar strength, even in heathen worship. In the progress of modern civilisation man may emancipate himself from the solemn awe with which the heathen contemplate the powers of nature, but if he rise not to a holy veneration of the one Supreme Author of nature, as a revealed and reconciled God, it is very questionable whether he does not become in some respects a more shallow and trifling being than the worshipper of idols. We might very easily maintain and prove the assertion, that godless men, in the days and in the state of society in which we live, are more thoroughly irreligious than the heathen are: that covetousness, which is idolatry, is more contemptible than the worship of stocks and stones. Two facts conspire to make man naturally and necessarily a religious being.

1. His observation of the powers of nature.

2. His experience of the powers of conscience.

I. What can natural religion do for us? What is it that reason, unenlightened by the Word and Spirit of God, can do towards furnishing man with a religion?

1. It may tell us that there is a God, that God is one. The existence and the unity of God may be proved by reason. These heathen mariners had many gods. Jonah, they took for granted, would have a God too. The whole herd of inferior deities whom the heathen worshipped were only so many sectional representatives of a portion of the powers believed to reside in a God, to whom might fairly be given, even by reason, the lofty designation, “God over all.” The wisdom, power, and goodness which man sees to be requisite for creating, preserving, and controlling the visible universe, are felt to be unbounded, infinite. One such Infinite Being is felt to be necessary to account for things as they are. But not more than one is felt to be necessary. Indeed, more than one such Infinite Being, possessing all knowledge and power, is felt to be impossible. The same result follows from our connection with the moral world. Conscience tells of a Ruler and Judge, but only of one.

2. Reason, fairly interpreted, assures us that this God is a Being capable of intercourse with His creatures. The creation of an intelligent Being is manifestly the work of a Being who Himself is intelligent. Hence reason itself demonstrates the possibility of a revelation from God, and of the possibility and efficacy of prayer.

II. Reason’s limit, and reason’s weakness.

1. Reason knows that God exists, but it does not know God. We need revelation to make us acquainted with Him. You never really know any person merely by discovering his intellectual or scientific abilities. You never do know a neighbour save by knowing his moral character and his heart.

2. Reason tells us that prayer is possible, yea reasonable, but revelation alone puts us in possession of the terms on which God actually hears prayer,--puts us in a condition actually to pray. Reason, therefore, without revelation, is sure fatally to err; and whether in ancient paganisms or in modern rationalisms, which are heathenisms, or in popery, or in nominal, formal Christianity, the error at bottom is identically one and the same. (Hugh Martin, M. A.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jonah 1:6". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"So the shipmaster came unto 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."

"Shipmaster ..." This officer was actually "the captain," or as the literal import of the word implies, "the chief of the rope-men." The nautical terms used in this book were doubtless well known to the inhabitants of Galilee who lived in close proximity to the Phoenicians, who were a sea-faring people, and from whom the inhabitants of the northern kingdom would have adopted many words, due to their contact with the Phoenicians who carried the burden of Israel's foreign trade. Criticism of Jonah based upon the appearance of a few such nautical terms is petty and irresponsible quibbling.

How sin degrades and reduces God's servant. Behold Jonah, who, had he been doing his duty, might have been reproving the king of Nineveh, is instead himself here upbraided by a heathen shipmaster!

"Call upon thy God ..." Jonah had evidently mentioned the God of Israel at the time he boarded the ship; and, as many ancient nations had heard of Jehovah's power, there seems here to be some hope on the part of the shipmaster that the feared God of the Israelites might be enlisted to aid them in their extremity.

"If so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not ..." These words vividly recall Psalms 40:17, "The Lord thinketh upon me," which has the meaning that God succours and defends those who call upon him.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

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 JosephusF4Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 2.) distinguishes between the governor and the shipmaster: "the master of the ropers"F5רב החבל "magister funalis", Munster; "magister funiculaiorum", so some in;Mercer; "magister funis", Calvin. , 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.'

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

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

think upon us — for good (compare Genesis 8:1; Exodus 2:25; Exodus 3:7, Exodus 3:9; Psalm 40:17).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Will think upon us — With pity and favour.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

The Lord sometimes sends preachers like this ship-master, from even the unawakened, to rouse his own people. But had Jonah considered it: what a reproach was this to him; that he, whom the Lord of heaven had sent to reprove a great prince and his people, should be brought down to the humbling state of being called to account for neglect of prayer by the master of a little vessel? Reader! what can any man mean, that is asleep in the present hour to all the concerns of eternity, while death is opening before him in every view?

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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.

Ver. 6. So the shipmaster came unto him] God might have come himself with his drawn sword (as Baanah and Rechab did upon sleeping Ishbosheth) and taken off his head, or have sent an evil angel to arouse him in a fright, or have thrown him into the burning lake, as Agrippa did his dormouse (a) into the boiling caldron; but such is not God’s manner of dealing with his people, though he be deeply displeased. Correct them he will, but with judgment, not in his anger, lest they be brought to nothing, Jeremiah 10:24. Instruct them also he will ("Corrections of instruction are the way of life," Proverbs 6:23) by one means or other, as he did here Jonah by a rude mariner, and as long before he had done Abraham and Sarah by Abimelech, a heathen prince, to shame them.

What meanest thou, O sleeper?] Heb. what is come to thee? Genesis 20:9. What a senseless stupidity hath seized thee! Are we all in danger, and dost thou sleep? as the philosopher (in danger likewise of shipwreck) said to one that made light of it, - Do we all stand upon our lives, and dost thou play the fool? ημεις παντες κινδυνευπμεν. και συ παιζεις; The spiritual sleeper, in like sort, may he be but warm in his own feathers, regards not the danger of the house. He is, saith one, a mere mute and cipher, a nullity in the world, a superfluity in the earth, Jeremiah’s rotten girdle, good for nothing, or like the branches of a vine, Ezekiel 15:3.

Arise, call upon thy God] For our gods will do nothing for us. The gods of the heathen are "silver and gold, the work of men’s hands; they have mouths, but speak not," &c., Psalms 115:4. But if God’s Israel trust in the Lord, he will be their help and their shield, Jonah 1:9. Forasmuch as there is none like unto him, Jeremiah 10:6; neither is "their rock as our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges," Deuteronomy 32:31.

If so be that God will think upon us] The Chaldee hath it, will be merciful unto us; the Hebrew word signifieth will clear up, and behold us with a serene countenance; granting us a calm, and taking care that we perish not. So shall we acknowledge him to be Haelohim, that God by an excellency. Queen Elizabeth (that Regina Serenissima most unruffled Queen), for her merciful returning home certain Italians that were taken prisoners in the 1588 invasion, was termed Saint Elizabeth by some at Venice; who also affirmed to the English ambassador there, that though they were Papists, yet they would never pray to any other saint but that Saint Elizabeth.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



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.

PERHAPS in all the sacred records there is not to be found a more strange and inconsistent character than the Prophet Jonah. That he was on the whole a good man, we have every reason to believe: but his spirit was on many occasions so contrary to what we might have expected to find in a prophet of the Lord, that, if we did not know from our own hearts what is in man, we should not have conceived it possible that such contrarieties could be combined in the same character. The very first we hear of him is, that he so conducted himself as to bring upon himself a severe and just rebuke from a heathen mariner. Having received from God a commission to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and there to proclaim the indignation of God against them for their impieties, he fled to Joppa, and from thence took ship for Tarshish. hoping that he should thus avoid the necessity that was laid upon him of delivering a message so replete with pain to them, and of danger to himself. But the Lord sent a storm to arrest him in his impious course: and so violent was the storm, that all hope of saving the ship by human efforts was taken away, and no resource remained to the mariners but prayer to God. Whilst all the crew were crying to the gods which they worshipped, Jonah was indifferent and unconcerned, and had fallen fast asleep in the sides of the ship. In this situation he was when the shipmaster came to him, and administered the reproof which we have just heard.

Let us consider this reproof,

I. As addressed to Jonah—

The occasion of the reproof you have already heard in few words. But there are two things which call for more particular attention; namely,

1. The state of Jonah at that time—

[How can we account for his being so supine in the midst of such imminent danger? One would have supposed that he, a prophet of the Lord, would have improved that occasion for the benefit of the mariners, (as the Apostle Paul did afterwards, in similar circumstances,) and that he would have employed himself in directing the poor ignorant heathens to Jehovah, as the true and only source of all good: or if, from the low state of his piety at that time, we might conceive him to be indisposed for such an holy exercise; and that, when in an act of rebellion himself, he would be ill fitted for the office of calling others to repentance; we should at least expect him to be alarmed with a sense of his own guilt, and to be deprecating the Divine displeasure on his own soul. Yet, behold! of all the ship’s company, he alone is unconcerned; and makes that, which was to all others a season of terror and dismay, an occasion for laying himself down quietly to sleep. That Peter was sleeping quietly on the night preceding his expected martyrdom, we do not wonder; because he was suffering for righteousness’ sake, and knew that death would be to him the gate of heaven. But we wonder that Jonah was able to close his eyes in sleep, when death was apparently so near at hand; and he must know, that, if he died, he would be cut off in the very act of wilful transgression. But his insensibility at that time shews us, in a very striking manner, the true effect of sin; which hardens the heart, and stupefies the conscience; brutalizes the soul, and renders it indifferent to all that concerns its eternal welfare. St. Paul tells us this; “Take heed,” says he, “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin [Note: Hebrews 3:13.].” He speaks also of our “conscience being seared by it, as with a hot iron;” and of our being made “past feeling.” Thus it was with Jonah at this time: and all who are acquainted with their own hearts, will see that this stupidity of his was the proper effect of his wilful transgression. Repentance takes away the heart of stone, and substitutes a heart of flesh: and sin, in proportion as it is indulged, re-converts the heart of flesh to stone.]

2. The sentiments contained in the reproof—

[We are amazed to hear such sentiments proceed from the mouth of a heathen mariner: but we are convinced, that there are much stronger notices of truth remaining in the heart of fallen man, than is commonly supposed. There was not indeed in these people any distinct knowledge of Jehovah: but there was a belief in a superintending Providence, who ordered every thing according to his own sovereign will, and was able to interpose effectually in behalf of those who sought him; yea, moreover, that even though we sought him only in our extremity, there still was reason to hope that he would hear our cry, and vouchsafe to us the desired deliverance. What god the ship-master had an eye to, we do not know: but supposing him, though under some mistaken name, to be looking to Jehovah, his views are precisely such as were avowed and inculcated by the Prophet Joel, when he said, “Rend your heart, and turn unto the Lord your God: for who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him [Note: Joel 2:13-14.]?”

This we consider as encouraging to those who go forth to convert the heathen: we consider it as shewing, that, however obscured by superstition, there are in the minds of the most ignorant heathen some notices of truth, which, if duly improved by an instructor, will greatly facilitate the admission of other truths, which can be known only through the medium of a special revelation. The existence and attributes of a Supreme Being are here acknowledged; and the duty of his intelligent creatures to call upon him is also declared: and whoever diligently improves these more obvious truths, will, we doubt not, be gradually guided into all truth. But when we behold a prophet of the Lord, who should have been a teacher of others, himself thus reproved by a heathen mariner, we blush for him; and blush also for ourselves, well knowing, how much we ourselves need to have these truths impressed more forcibly on our own minds, and how rarely they operate on us to the extent that they did on those uninstructed mariners.]

With these feelings it will be profitable to us to consider the reproof,

II. As applicable to ourselves—

We are not indeed altogether in the situation of Jonah; yet we approximate more nearly to it than may at first sight be imagined.

We are all in some degree sleeping in the midst of danger—

[God has given to us, as he did to Jonah, a work to do: and it is a work which we do not naturally affect: we are averse to engage in it: there are some considerations operating in our minds to deter us from it: we think it may expose us to difficulties, which we would gladly avoid; and subject us to troubles, which we care not to encounter. Hence we “flee from the presence of the Lord;” and are glad to go any where, and engage in any thing, that may afford us an excuse for our wilful neglect. In this state the curse of God follows us wherever we may go, his judgments hang over us, and “his wrath abides upon us.” The children of disobedience, wherever they are, are objects of his heavy displeasure.

Yet, whilst under these circumstances, what is the state of our minds? Are we striving like the mariners, to obtain mercy at his hands? Are we not rather, for the most part, like Jonah, sunk down into a deep sleep? Yes; this is the case with the generality altogether; with the better part of us, in great measure; and with the best amongst us, in some degree.

Behold the generality, how careless are they and indifferent, though on the brink and precipice of eternity! — — — Even the more considerate part have no such activity and earnestness as the occasion calls for — — — And where is there one amongst us, who does not fluctuate in his zeal for God, and sometimes, like the wise virgins, give way to slumbering and sleeping, when we should be watching for the coming of our Lord? — — —]

To all then may the reproof in our text be well administered—

[What meanest thou, O sleeper, whoever thou art? Art thou not in danger? Search the sacred records; and see, whether the wrath of God be not revealed against all the children of disobedience? What if thou be insensible of this danger? art thou therefore the more safe? Was Jonah’s life the less in jeopardy because he was unconscious of his peril? Neither then is thy ruin a whit the less certain, because thou art not conscious of thine exposure to it.

Is there any way for thine escape, but that of crying mightily to God for mercy? No other way is provided: all your own efforts will be as ineffectual as the mariner’s labour was. Thou must betake thyself to prayer; for none but an omnipotent arm can save thee: there is no deliverance from thy guilt, but through the blood and righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, no acceptance with the Father, but through his beloved Son; no other name given under heaven whereby you can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ.

Once more—Is there not abundant encouragement to pray? Look at the promises contained in Holy Writ: see how “exceeding great and precious they are;” and then say, whether thou hast any reason to despond. Hadst thou but a peradventure in thy favour, it were a sufficient reason for all possible earnestness and prayer. That was all the hope which these mariners had. But you have the strongest assurances, of a “God that cannot lie,” that you “shall not seek his face in vain,” but that “whatsoever you shall ask in his Son’s name shall be done for you.”

What meanest thou then, O sleeper? What excuse canst thou offer for thine unreasonable conduct? Art thou dreaming of future opportunities to call upon God, when, for ought thou knowest, the ship may sink with thee the next instant, and thy soul may be plunged into the depths of hell? “Arise,” I say, “and call upon thy God,” and lose not another moment in a concern of such infinite importance.

In the mean time, use all the means that thou canst for thyself. “Cast out all that thou hast” in the world, rather than suffer it to sink thee into perdition. If thou hadst all the wealth of the universe, it would but ill compensate for the loss of thy soul. Nor let it be thought that I speak to those only who are determined rebels against God: no: if there be a Jonah here; a professor of godliness, who is in a state of departure from his God, him I would more especially address. Know, thou unhappy fugitive, that God will not let thee pass unpunished: on the contrary, he will the rather follow thee with some tremendous storm, and send thee into the depths of hell (if I may so speak) in this world, to deliver thee from perdition in the world to come. “Awake then from thy slumber, that Christ may give thee light.” Surely “it is high time for thee to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Professors, “let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch, and be sober.” With the exception of the terror with which they were agitated, the state of the heathen mariners should be ours; nor should we cease from our pleadings, till we are brought in safety to our desired haven. We must not give occasion for that sarcastic reflection, “In trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them:” no: we must pray without ceasing;” we must “pray and not faint:” and then we may be assured, that, whatever storms or difficulties we have to contend with, “our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.” Only let us think upon God, and God will most tenderly “think on us:” he will maintain towards us “thoughts of good, and not of evil, to give us an expected end.”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘So the shipmaster came to him, and said to him, “What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise, call on your God, if so be that God will think on us, so that we perish not.” ’

The shipmaster was concerned to see that while his mariners were doing all that they could to persuade their gods to rescue the ship, their passenger did not appear to be interested. And he woke him up and asked him what he meant by sleeping at such a time. Then he called on him to ‘arise, call on your God’, just in case his God might think on their predicament so that they did not perish. It is clear that to him this was a last desperate venture, in which he did not put much hope, but was prepared to try because of the circumstances.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

6.The very fact that Jonah remained sound asleep and did not join the others in their frantic efforts to relieve the situation would direct attention to him and arouse suspicion.

Shipmaster — Literally, the chief of the handlers of the ropes (Ezekiel 27:8; Ezekiel 27:27-29); the captain.

What meanest thou, O sleeper? — How can any man sleep, with doom so imminent?

Call upon thy God — The gods implored by the others had failed to still the tempest; perhaps the God of Jonah can bring relief.

If so be — Perhaps.

God — Literally, the God. “It is not clear that the speaker identified Jonah’s God with the God’ Perhaps all that the shipmaster meant was, that, if they all called, each man upon his god, the fruit of their piety might perhaps be that God, whatever god was the God, would spare their lives.” Only later events led the men to identify Jonah’s God, Jehovah, with the God.

Will think upon us — Literally, will bethink himself for us — that is, for our benefit. An anthropomorphism (see on repent, Joel 2:13). The above is a possible translation of the verb, but Cheyne proposes to substitute a slightly different verb, used, in the same sense, in Psalms 40:17. Some translate the present verb “will brighten,” or “shine upon us” — that is, will show himself favorable to us. The thought remains the same.

Whether Jonah arose and followed the advice of the captain is not stated; probably he did, but in vain, for the storm continued. 7. There could no longer be any doubt that a desperate sinner was on board, on whose account the calamity had fallen (see concluding remarks on Amos 4:6-11; compare Joshua 7:1 ff.; 1 Samuel 14:36-46). If he could be discovered and removed from their midst the divine wrath might cease; hence they proceed to discover the guilty.

Cast lots — Only a deity could reveal the culprit; therefore appeal was made to the deity by the casting of the lots, which was an ancient method of determining the will of a god (Ezekiel 21:21). It is used even in the New Testament (Acts 1:26), but not again after Pentecost.

For whose cause — On whose account.

The lot fell upon Jonah — Jerome’s comment on these words is worthy of quotation: “The fugitive is taken by lot, not from any virtue in lots themselves, least of all the lots of the heathen, but by the will of Him who governs uncertain lots” (Joshua 7:18; 1 Samuel 14:42).


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

It took a presumably pagan sea captain to remind Jonah of his duty. The words the captain used are the same as the ones God had used ( Jonah 1:2, Heb. qum lek). Jonah should have been praying instead of sleeping in view of the imminent danger that he and his companions faced (cf. Luke 22:39-46). The normal reaction to danger, even among pagans, is to seek divine intervention, but this is precisely what Jonah wanted to avoid. Jonah did not care if he died ( Jonah 1:12).

"It is well known how often sin brings insensibility with it also. What a shame that the prophet of God had to be called to pray by a heathen." [Note: Feinberg, p16.]

What the captain hoped Jonah"s God would do, He did. He is the only true God, and He does show concern for people (cf. Jonah 4:2; Jonah 4:11). This demonstration of Yahweh"s concern for people in danger is one of the great themes of this book. God showed compassion for the Ninevites and later for Jonah, but Jonah showed little compassion for the Ninevites, for these sailors, or even for himself.

Whereas the first pericope of the story ( Jonah 1:1-3) illuminates the lack of compassion that characterized the prophet, this second one ( Jonah 1:4-6) reinforces it and implies, in contrast, that God is compassionate. Not only was Jonah fleeing from God"s presence, but he was also displaying a character that was antithetical to God"s. Such is often the case when God"s people turn their backs on Him and run from His assignments.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

shipmaster = chief of the rope. Phoenician for captain. Hebrew. rab hachobel. Not a "later word", because a "captain" is not mentioned earlier. Rah = captain, or head. See 2 Kings 25:8. Esther 1:8. Daniel 1:8. Chobel occurs in Ezekiel 27:8, Ezekiel 27:27, Ezekiel 27:28, Ezekiel 27:29, where it is rendered "pilot".

God. Hebrew. Elohim.(with "eth) = the true God. With "eth, in the second occurrence. App-4.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God. The ancient pagan in dangers called on foreign gods, besides their national ones (cf. Psalms 107:28, "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses"). While they pray, he sleeps; while they are all active, he does nothing who is the guilty cause of all the danger. Maurer translates the preceding clause, 'What is the reason that thou sleepest?'

If so be that God will think upon us - for good (cf. Genesis 8:1, "God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle, that was with him in the ark;" Exodus 2:25, "God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them;" Exodus 3:7; Exodus 3:9; Psalms 40:17, "I am poor and needy ... the Lord thinketh upon me;" Jeremiah 29:11, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end"). God - literally, 'the God.' The shipmaster, having found his own gods powerless to save, turneth to THE GOD of Jonah as the true God.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(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.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
Isaiah 3:15; Ezekiel 18:2; Acts 21:13; Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14
Psalms 78:34; 107:6,12,13,18-20,28,29; Jeremiah 2:27,28; Mark 4:37-41
3:9; 2 Samuel 12:22; Esther 4:16; Joel 2:11; Amos 5:15
Reciprocal: Genesis 20:16 - thus;  Exodus 4:13 - send;  Proverbs 20:13 - open;  Joel 2:14 - Who;  Jonah 1:5 - cried;  Jonah 3:8 - cry;  Matthew 8:25 - save;  Matthew 25:5 - they;  Matthew 26:43 - for;  Mark 14:37 - Simon;  Luke 22:46 - Why sleep ye;  Acts 8:22 - if;  Acts 20:9 - being;  Acts 27:27 - the shipmen;  1 Corinthians 15:34 - Awake;  1 Thessalonians 5:6 - let us not;  Revelation 18:17 - And every

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Jonah relates here how he was reproved by the pilot or master of the ship (18), inasmuch as he alone slept, while all the rest were in anxiety and fear. “What meanest thou, fast sleeper?” The pilot no doubt upbraids Jonah for his sleepiness, and reproves him for being almost void of all thought and reflection. What meanest thou, fast sleeper (19) , he says; when thou sees all the rest smitten with alarm, how canst thou sleep? Is not this unnatural? Rise, then, and call on thy God

We see that where there is no rule of faith a liberty is commonly taken, so that every one goes astray here and there. Whence was it, that the pilot said to Jonah, Call on thy God, and that he did not confine him to any certain rule? Because it had been customary in all ages for men to be satisfied with some general apprehension of God; and then every one according to his own fancy formed a god for himself: nor could it have been otherwise, as I have said, while men were not restrained by any sacred bond. All agree as to this truth, that there is some God, and also that no dead idol can do anything, but that the world is governed by the providence and power of God, and further, that safety is to be sought from him. All this, has been received by the common consent of all; but when we come to particulars, then every one is in the dark; how God is to be sought they know not. Hence every one takes his own liberty: “For the sake of appeasing God I will then try this; this shall be my mode of securing his favor; the Lord will regard this service acceptable; in this way shall all my iniquity be expiated, that I may obtain favor with God.” Thus each invents for themselves some tortuous way to come to God; and then every one forms a god peculiar to himself. There can therefore be no stability nor consistency in men, unless they are joined together by some bond, even by some certain rule of religion, so that they may not vacillate, and not be in doubt as to what is right to be done, but be assured and certainly persuaded, that there is but one true God, and know what sort of God he is, and then understand the way by which he is to be sought.

We then learn from this passage, that there is an awful license taken in fictitious religions, and that all who are carried away by their fancy are involved in a labyrinth, so that men do nothing but weary and torment themselves in vain, when they seek God without understanding the right way. They indeed run with all their might, but they go farther and farther from God. But that they, at the same time, form in their minds an idea of some God, and that they agree on this great principle, is sufficiently evident from the second clause of this verse, If so be that God will be Propitious to us. Here the pilot confines not his discourse to the God of Jonah, but speaks simply of a God; for though the world by their differences divide God, and Jonah worshipped a God different from the rest, and, in short, there was almost an endless number of gods among the passengers, yet the pilot says, If so be that God, etc.: now then he acknowledges some Supreme God, though each of them had his own god. We hence see that what I have said is most true, — that this general truth has ever been received with the consent of all, — that the world is preserved by the providence of God, and hence that the life and safety of men are in his hand. But as they are very far removed from God, and not only creep slowly, but are also more inclined to turn to the earth than to look up to heaven, and are uncertain and ever change, so they seek gods which are nigh to them, and when they find none, they hesitate not to invent them.

We have elsewhere seen that the Holy Spirit uses this form of speaking, If so be, when no doubt, but difficulty alone is intended. It is however probable, that the pilot in this case was perplexed and doubtful, as it is usual with ungodly men, and that he could determine nothing certain as to any help from God; and as his mind was thus doubtful, he says, that every means of relief were to be tried. And here, as in a mirror, we may see how miserable is the condition of all those who call not on God in pure faith: they indeed cry to God, for the impulse of nature thus leads them; but they know not whether they will obtain any thing by their cries: they repeat their prayers; but they know not whether they pass off into air or really come to God. The pilot owns, that his mind was thus doubtful, If so be that God will be propitious to us, call thou also on thy God. Had he been so surely convinced, as to call on the true God, he would have certainly found it to have been no doubtful relief. However, that nothing might be left untried, he exhorted Jonah, that if he had a God, to call upon him. We hence see, that there are strange windings, when we do not understand the right way. Men would rather run here and there, a hundred times, through earth and heaven, than come to God, except where his word shines. How so? because when they make the attempt, an insane impulse drives them in different ways; and thus they are led here and there: “It may be, that this may be useful to me; as that way has not succeeded, I will try another.” God then thus punishes all the unbelieving, who obey not his word; for to the right way they do not keep: He indeed shows how great a madness it is, when men give loose reins to their imaginations, and do not submit to celestial truth.

As to the words, interpreters translate them in different ways. Some say, “If so be that God will think of us;” others “If so be that God will favor us. עשת, oshit, is properly to shine; but when put as here in the conjugation Hithpael, it means to render one’s self clear or bright: and it is a metaphor very common in Scriptures that the face of God is cloudy or dark, when he is not propitious to us; and again, God is said to make bright his face and to appear serene to us, when he really shows himself kind and gracious to us. As then this mode of speaking altogether suits this place, I wonder that some seek extraneous interpretations. (20)

He afterwards adds, Lest we perish. Here the pilot clearly owns, that he thought the life of man to be in the power of God; for he concluded, that they must perish unless the Lord brought aid. Imprinted then in the minds of all is this notion or προληψις, that is, preconception, that when God is angry or adverse, we are miserable, and that near destruction impends over us; and another conviction is found to be in the hearts of men, — that as soon as the Lord looks on us, his favor and goodwill brings to us immediate safety. The Holy Spirit does not speak here, but a heathen, and we know too how great is the impiety of sailors, and yet he declares this by the impulse of nature, and there is here no feigning; for God, as I have already said, extorts by necessity a confession from the unbelieving, which they would gladly avoid.

Now what excuse can we have, if we think our safety to be in our own hands, if we depend not wholly on God, and if we neglect him in prosperity, as though we could be safe without his help? These words then, spoken by the sailor, ought to be weighed by us, ‘If so be that God’s face may appear bright to us, and that we perish not. (21) It now follows —

“If the professors of religion do an ill thing, they must expect to hear of it from those who make no such profession.” — M. Henry.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.