Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Jonah 1:8

Then they said to him, "Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Jonah;   Superstition;   The Topic Concordance - Fear;  
Dictionaries:
Holman Bible Dictionary - Divination and Magic;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jonah;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Israel;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Jonah, the Book of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Tell us - for whose cause - A very gentle method of bringing the charge home to himself, and the several questions here asked gave the utmost latitude to make the best of his own case.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/jonah-1.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Tell us, for whose cause - Literally “for what to whom.” It may be that they thought that Jonah had been guilty toward some other. The lot had pointed him out. The mariners, still fearing to do wrong, ask him thronged questions, to know why the anger of God followed him; “what” hast thou done “to whom?” “what thine occupation?” i. e., either his ordinary occupation, whether it was displeasing to God? or this particular business in which he was engaged, and for which he had come on board. Questions so thronged have been admired in human poetry, Jerome says. For it is true to nature. They think that some one of them will draw forth the answer which they wish. It may be that they thought that his country, or people, or parents, were under the displeasure of God. But perhaps, more naturally, they wished to “know all about him,” as people say. These questions must have gone home to Jonah‘s conscience. “What is thy business?” The office of prophet which he had left. “Whence comest thou?” From standing before God, as His minister. “What thy country? of what people art thou?” The people of God, whom he had quitted for pagan; not to win them to God, as He commanded; but, not knowing what they did, to abet him in his flight.

What is thine occupation? - They should ask themselves, who have Jonah‘s office to speak in the name of God, and preach repentance. “What should be thy business, who hast consecrated thyself wholly to God, whom God has loaded with daily benefits? who approachest to Him as to a Friend? “What is thy business?” To live for God, to despise the things of earth, to behold the things of heaven,” to lead others heavenward.

Jonah answers simply the central point to which all these questions tended:

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/jonah-1.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Jonah 1:8

What is thine occupation?

What is thine occupation?

In secular life God intends every man to have an occupation. So too in the Christian life. The world of sin inquires of the Church, “What is thine occupation?” A religion that cannot give a valid reason for existence will and ought to die. God’s calls to duty are all Special calls. So are His calls to us. What is our response? The Church has been sent into this world on a special errand, with a special message; but many of her members are fleeing from duty; many are asleep over a volcano of human hate; are tossed skyward and hellward by the tumultuous waves of social unrest, every lift of the wave bearing them further from duty and Divine destiny. The Church should be a nursery--not a nursery for adults, but for babes. Men and women in the Church should be nursing fathers and nursing mothers. Then “what is your occupation?”(F. A. Swart.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jonah 1:8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/jonah-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; what is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?"

There would have been no need whatever to elicit any confession of guilt from Jonah, if the sailors had had any faith, absolutely, in their casting of lots. But with that, as a starting point, they plied the suspected prophet with a series of urgent questions; and Jonah did not disappoint them.

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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 1:8". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/jonah-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then they said unto him, tell us, we pray thee,.... They did not fall upon him at once in an outrageous manner, and throw him overboard; as it might be thought such men would have done, considering what they had suffered and lost by means of him; but they use him with great respect, tenderness, and lenity: and entreat him to tell them

for whose cause this evil was upon them: or rather, as the Targum,

"for what this evil is upon us;'

and so NoldiusF6Concordant. Part. Ebr. p. 182. No. 828. renders the words; for their inquiry was not about the person for whose cause it was; that was determined by the lot; but on what account it was; what sin it was he had been guilty of, which was the cause of it; for they supposed some great sin must be committed, that had brought down the vengeance of God in such a manner:

what is thine occupation? trade or business? this question they put, to know whether he had any, or was an idle man; or rather, whether it was an honest and lawful employment; whether it was by fraud or violence, by thieving and stealing, he got his livelihood; or by conjuring, and using the magic art: or else the inquiry was about his present business, what he was going about; what he was to do at Tarshish when he came there; whether he was not upon some ill design, and sent on an unlawful errand, and going to do some ill thing, for which vengeance pursued him, and stopped him:

and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou? which questions seem to relate to the same thing, what nation he was of; and put by different persons, who were eager to learn what countryman he was, that they might know who was the God he worshipped, and guess at the crime he had been guilty of.

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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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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/jonah-1.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

The guilty individual being discovered is interrogated so as to make full confession with his own mouth. So in Achan‘s case (Joshua 7:19).

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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 1:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/jonah-1.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

Tell us — What hast thou done, for which God is so angry with thee, and with us for thy sake?

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/jonah-1.html. 1765.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

There is somewhat very interesting in this history, simply as an history, but considered spiritually it riseth in importance. When in the threatened shipwreck of our whole nature by reason of the fall, and when the Lord's lot, in the person of Jesus, fell on him, every eye, and every thought, is directed to enquire into the cause. When the sons of Jacob went down into Egypt, and were all detained there by reason of Benjamin, how strange and mysterious was it to the whole to find the cup in Benjamin's sack. Genesis 44:12-13. In the Patriarchal history, we see the hand of Joseph to detain his brethren. In Jonah's history, we behold the hand of the Lord to bring Jonah into the state for which, as a type of Jesus, he was to be brought, and in both the hand of the Lord bringing mighty things to pass.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/jonah-1.html. 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Jonah 1:8 Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil [is] upon us; What [is] thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what [is] thy country? and of what people [art] thou?

Ver. 8. Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause, &c.] He confessed not till urged and necessitated. Sin gags people, and prompts them to hide their faults, as Adam; or at least to mince, extenuate, shift them upon other persons and things, as Eve. Sin and shifting came into the world together; and Satan, that old manslayer, knowing that there is no way to purge the soul but upwards, holds the lips close, that the heart may not disburden itself: God, by this means, is often put to his proof, and must bring the malefactor to trial; who, refusing ordinary trial, must therefore be pressed, Jeremiah 2:35.

What is thine occupation?] For that thou hast one we take it for granted. At Athens every man was, once a year, at least, to give account to the judges by what art or trade he maintained himself. By Mahomet’s law the Grand Signior himself must use some manual trade; Solyman the Magnificent made arrowheads; Mahomet the Great horn rings for archers, &c. That which the mariners here inquire after is, whether Jonah’s occupation be honest and lawful? whether he "laboured the thing that was good," Ephesians 4:28. For if any man overreach or oppress his brother in any matter, by the use of any ill arts, he shall be sure to find that "the Lord is the avenger of all such," 1 Thessalonians 4:6; though haply they lie out of the walk of human justice, or come not under man’s cognizance.

And whence comest thou?] Art thou not of an accursed country? and is not thy people a people of God’s wrath, as England was in the time of the sweating sickness, pursuing the English wherever they came; which made them like tyrants, both feared and avoided by all nations? How the Jews are to this day hated and shunned as an execrable people is known to all.

What is thy country? and of what people art thou?] Notanda brevitas, saith Jerome here, note the brevity of these questions, nothing short of those in Virgil so much admired (Aen. viii. 112).

-- “ iuvenes quae causa subegit

Ignotas tentare vias? qua tenditis? inquit,

Quod genus? unde domo? pacemne hue fertis, an arma? ”

Note also here, how these Pagans proceed not to execution till they have fully inquired into the matter, This was far better than that ugly custom of some people in Europe, mentioned by Aeneas Sylvius: that if any one among them be suspected of theft or the like crime he is presently taken and hanged. Then three days after they examine the business; and if the party be found guilty they suffer his body there to hang till it rot down; or, if otherwise, they bury him in the churchyard, and keep a funeral feast at the public charge.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/jonah-1.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jonah 1:8. For whose cause Wherefore, or on what account. Houbigant.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/jonah-1.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Then said they unto him; when the lot pointed out Jonah, these mariners all are satisfied that he was the man, that heaven had determined that grand inquiry, and accordingly they treat with him.

Tell us, we pray thee; they try what fair means will do with him, and desire to have the account from his own mouth; so Joshua dealt with Achan, Jos 7: satisfied in the person, next they do, with commendable justice and calmness, inquire into the thing.

For whose cause this evil is upon us: what hast thou done, for which God is so angry with thee, and with us for thy sake? sure thou canst not but know what it is, and now frankly tell us what is thine occupation, what course of life hast thou lived, or what employment dost thou now profess to follow, that we may guess by that whether thou art one of flagitious or of honest life.

Whence comest thou? ere he give answer to this, probably another asketh whence he cometh, what company he had kept; by this they conjecture at the man.

What is thy country? another starts a third inquiry, what country or nation he is of; to those ports persons of different nations flocked; possibly they hoped some or other in the ship might be his countrymen, and so fittest to examine him. Of what people art thou? this seems to be the same question repeated, or else an inquiry where he dwelt. These are the heads of the questions asked him.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/jonah-1.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘Then they said to him, “Tell us, we pray you, for whose cause this evil is on us. What is your occupation, and from where do you come? What is your country, and of what people are you?”

Convinced that they had now found the culprit they asked him to explain why this evil had come upon them, and in doing so asked him for details of his occupation, nationality and native land. They wanted to know what kind of a God they were dealing with..

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/jonah-1.html. 2013.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The sailors proceeded to interrogate Jonah when they believed they had identified the culprit responsible for their calamity. Had Jonah been involved in some situation that had brought down a curse from someone else that resulted in the storm? Possibly the reason for their trouble had some connection with Jonah"s occupation or hometown. His national or ethnic origin might also prove to be the key they sought. Finding the reason for their trouble was what they wanted. They did not ignorantly assume that doing away with Jonah would solve their problem.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/jonah-1.html. 2012.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

for whose cause, &c. = for what cause. The lot had told them the person, but not the "cause". So they appeal to Jonah.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/jonah-1.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?

Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us? ... of what people art thou? - "For whose cause?" literally, 'For what to whom?' - i:e., For what evil? and done to whom? Their questions must have stung Jonah to the quick: "What is thine occupation?" A prophet, yet a runaway! 'Whence comest thou? what is thy people?' A fugitive from the country of God's people, to take my portion among pagan, not in order to convert them, but to avail myself of their help to flee from God. The guilty individual being discovered, is interrogated so as to make full confession with his own mouth. So in Achan's case (Joshua 7:19).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/jonah-1.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(8) For whose cause . . .—The Hebrew idiom is peculiar, on account of which to whom; but in this verse, when addressed by the sailors to the prophet, it is expressed in a more elegant form than when used to each other in the preceding verse, one among many touches marking the artistic perfection of this narrative. It is true some MSS. omit this repetition of the question, and it is therefore by some commentators treated as a gloss. But the repetition is quite natural. The sailors seeing the lot fall on one whose appearance was so little suspicious, are anxious to have it confirmed by his confession. Not less natural is the rapid and excited leap from question to question. (Comp. Virg. Æn., 113.)

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/jonah-1.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
Tell
Joshua 7:19; 1 Samuel 14:43; James 5:16
What is thine
Genesis 47:3; 1 Samuel 30:13
Reciprocal: Genesis 46:33 - What is

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/jonah-1.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

After the lot fell on Jonah, they doubted not but that he was the guilty person, any more than if he had been a hundred times proved to be so: for why did they cast lots, except that they were persuaded that all doubt could thus be removed, and that what was hid could thus be brought to the light? As then this persuasion was fixed in their minds, that the truth was elicited, and was in a manner drawn out of darkness by the lot, they now inquire of Jonah what he had done: for they took this as allowed, that they had to endure the tempest on his account, and also, that he, by some detestable crime, had merited such a vengeance at Gods hand. We hence see that they cast lots, because they fully believed that they could not otherwise find out the crime on account of which they suffered, and also, that lots were directed by the hidden purpose of God: for how could a certain judgment be found by lot, except God directed it according to his own purpose, and overruled what seemed to be especially fortuitous? These principles then were held as certain in a manner by men who were heathens, — that God can draw out the truth, and bring it to the light, — and also, that he presides over lots, however fortuitous they may be thought to be.

This was the reason why they now asked what Jonah had done. Tell us, then, why has this evil happened to us, what is thy work? etc. By work here I do not mean what is wrong, but a kind of life, or, as they say, a manner of living. They then asked how Jonah had hitherto employed himself, and what sort of life he followed. For it afterwards follows, Tell us, whence comest thou, what is thy country, and from what people art thou? They made inquiries, no doubt, on each particular in due order; but Jonah here briefly records the questions.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Jonah 1:8". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/jonah-1.html. 1840-57.